What does the last of the housewives do?

Category: Shopping

Honest to Goodness

I miss going to the farmers market. I really loved the beautiful eggs you could get there, the organic carrots, the kindly raised meat. And I missed getting my pantry staples from the Honest to Goodness stall there. I haven’t been going because, I may have mentioned, I’ve been on crutches and it’s hard enough sliding through the crowds with an old lady shopping trolley in tow. Now I’m mobile again it’s soccer season, which means my Saturday mornings are now spent trying to get the kids to four different venues across the city at the same time. I have tried to find markets on at times that suit me better, but during school hours the farmers seem to be getting on with farming rather than selling stuff to me, so I’ve been going without. Today I thought I’d seek out the Honest to Goodness factory outlet and get myself stocked up on grains and dried fruits.

The address in Alexandria gave me some hope. Parts of Alexandria have become very hip, with specialty delis, annoying little coffee shops and lots of warehouse conversions. But not Maddox Street. Maddox Street is still full of giant trucks and industrial estates and fastener factories and swarthy men in hi-vis vests squatting on the kerbside smoking. A bit daunting. In one such industrial estate is a little corner full of jute bags and hipsters and I’ve found it. And you can park there.

I’m a bit equivocal about organic food. On the one hand, I don’t mind a bit of being nice to the land. On the other, I don’t actually think conventional farmers are terribly evil and rapacious and are poisoning our food. So basically I buy organic if it tastes better. The sultanas, currants and cranberries from Honest to Goodness do taste noticeably better than the stuff in tubs from Norton Street Grocer, and they in turn are better than the wrinkled husks pressed into rectangles that the major supermarkets purvey. In other words, worth it. I’m also rather fond of their crystallised ginger, hazelnuts and coconut products. Speaking of which, coconut seems to be a thing at the moment. They had coconut oil, coconut syrup, coconut sugar, coconut soap and coconut water. But not the coconut flakes I’d been rather hoping to purchase. Desiccated will have to do.

I also wanted to get a variety of grains for either making flour in the Thermomix or for the rather complex porridge I’m planning to make in the colder months. Oatmeal porridge makes me feel like I’ve foolishly eaten a woollen rug, so I’m going to have to come up with something more exotic. To that end, I got some hulled buckwheat, rolled spelt and whole wheat grains. I reckon if I team that lot with some green apple and hazelnuts and some other bits and pieces I may be onto something. I’ll keep you posted.

Of course I also love looking at the wackier stuff too. Activated brown rice protein powder. Super jam, which looks down its super nose at ordinary jam. I think it has goji berries in it, or whatever the hell is the current ridiculously overhyped fruit of the moment. Acai berries? I can’t keep up. Dried bananas. Why? I’ve had the preservative free dried apricots and they taste as disgusting as they look. And what is it about the organic set that means tiny hats for the men and no personal grooming for the women? Not that I can talk, but I occasionally put on lipstick and wear non-ironic dresses. Also, what would you do with a kilo pack of agar powder?

I’m still a bit conflicted about the flour. I do buy flour in five kilo packs, so that’s not the issue. It was one and a half times as expensive as my normal flour. Would it have been one and a half times as good? There would have been one and a half times as much self satisfied smirk in my baked goods, but would there be any more tangible benefits? I don’t kid myself that white flour is terribly nutritious, but would it have produced a springer bread, a crunchier Anzac biscuit, a more delectable slice base? I don’t know, because I didn’t buy it in the end. If you’ve tried organic flour, let me know if it makes any difference at all. Maybe I should have asked to buy a half kilo sample. Maybe next time. If I bring someone with me who does that kind of thing.


Sydney Stitches and Craft Show

I love to go to a craft show, because I’m always delighted, surprised, inspired, amused, bewildered and ultimately creeped out by them, at which point I go home, exhausted. And so it was with the Sydney Stitches and Craft Show, held at Rosehill Gardens Racecourse at Rosehill, not Randwick, stupid Google Maps. I’d been there before, so I wasn’t fooled.

The tone was set by an elderly gentleman outside the entrance, shaded by a large black umbrella who was playing, to the accompaniment of a boom box, panpipes. He would put them down occasionally to attempt to flog a CD to anyone that got too close, but most of the time it was continuous panpipes at a pretty high volume. Carefully avoiding him I waded through a sea of excited pensioners all filling in the form for the lucky door prize to get at the treasures within.

For those who haven’t been to the Stitches and Craft Show before, its bread and butter is this kind of thing.

These are fat quarters, and are used in quilting. Apparently you cut them into shapes and sew them to other bits that you’ve cut into other shapes until eventually you get something big enough to either give to your loudly protesting nieces and nephews at Christmas, or to hang on the wall. They’re not much use as bed coverings now that everyone has doonas. Needless to say, I have no interest in quilting and do not wish even to know why they are fat or what they are a quarter of.

You’ve also got your scrapbook and paper craft shops, a couple that are threads and wool, including one that was selling this:

Pre-felt! The possibilities!
Also shops specifically for your nanna to buy supplies to make nanna rugs,

Shops where Professor Umbrage bought her cross stitch kitten,

And sadly only a few bead shops, and even more sadly they were only selling cheap Chinese stuff. The one that was selling Swarovski and brand name stringing materials was doing so at a vastly higher price than I could get them at Fusion, so I didn’t bother. If I wanted cheap Chinese stuff, and it definitely has its place, I would go to I Love You Beads on Parramatta Road, then I could get cheap organza bags too.

I’m putting this one in to make my sister laugh.

Possibly they should have had the arrow up the other way, but that’s all I’ll say about that.

There was even a stall flogging needlework cruises. Needlework cruises. Surely they couldn’t get a whole boat load of embroiderers? I didn’t stop to ask.

I did love some of the cutesy stall names, like KimoYes ( selling kimono fabric), Punch with Judy, Picklemouse Corner, the Status Thimble, Crafty Frou Frou and Miss Rose, Sister Violet. Actually, those last two were the only ones I bought anything from. Some black and white stuff from the former,

And some outrageous trimming for the dream handbag I started making for myself about this time last year from the latter,

But eventually the crowd takes its toll on me. The mob that makes up the crowds at this kind of show is principally senior ladies with a good handful of teenage girl school groups. Neither group has any respect for personal space and after a couple of hours I have been jostled more than my system can tolerate and I must away for an hour or two of peace before picking up my little darlings from school. Now all I need is a few free days to get some serious crafting done. I might have to ignore my committee duties for a bit.

Shaun the Bee Man

I don’t get out much. There’s quite a lot of kid driving, food shopping, food preparation, washing and spreadsheet wrangling for my various committees in my life. So an invitation to lunch in the city with my busy husband was a very bright spot in the diary. I put on a frock, some lipstick, shoes that weren’t thongs and even some product in my hair so I didn’t bear as much resemblance to a poodle attacked with a scourer as I usually do. And caught the train into the City of Sydney.

Now we did have delightful time, but that’s not what I’m going to tell you about. On our way to lunch we saw a swarm of bees making themselves at home under the glass eaves of the Dior shop right near Pitt Street Mall.

I wanted to pause for a while to watch the startled reactions of passersby who, intent on their phones, suddenly found their eyebrows full of bees, but we didn’t have all day. On our way back we saw that someone had thoughtfully barricaded off the footpath under the swarm zone. I had to know more.

So after delivering my husband safely back to his skyscraper I hurried back to the action and was delighted to find that Shaun the Bee Man had arrived and was taking control of the situation.

He had a partner who looked far more prepared for the job than Shaun, but he turned out to be a mere offsider, almost superfluous to the operation despite his impressive suit.

He made it look so simple. He merely puffed some smoke at the bees, ascended a ladder and scraped them into a bee box WITH HIS BARE HANDS.


His only audience that stayed for the whole show were me and a couple of English backpackers, who agreed with me that it was the most amazing thing we’d see all week. Come on, week, prove me wrong.

Bondi Junction Westfield

My children have unexpectedly taken a shine to tennis camp. It’s a little unbelievable, actually. It’s close, cheap, you don’t have to book. The kids don’t even have to cross a road to get there. So I found myself today, for the second day in a row, unexpectedly child free. Yesterday I did a great deal of washing and made a rather ham fisted attempt at attaching a spring to our side gate. Today I thought, bugger it, I’m going shopping.

Junkies, as my sisters affectionately call it, is always a little closer than I expect, I feel like it should be miles aways. It’s a lavish and complicated mall that I like to go to a couple of times a year, just to see what rich people are wearing this season and what the Eastern Suburbs are up to generally. I can tell you that nose piercings appear to be going mainstream, I saw a number of otherwise conventional looking women sporting them. Some of the piercings looked rather new, or in need of some antiseptic. I was very pleased to spot not one, but two moustaches waxed on the ends, both accompanied by natty little goatees. I saw a young woman teetering along on a spectacularly high pair of bright red platform shoes. I had to hold my arms firmly behind my back to resist the urge to push her over. And quite a lot of very smartly dressed grandmas who had obviously had the kids dumped on them for the holidays, kids in the eastern suburbs use a lot more product in their hair than the scruffy lot around here.

There are many shops in this mall that are fun to wander around, and also some fairly useful ones, unlike the complete waste of time that is my local mall. The useful ones include the Cancer Council shop which I visited to buy myself a white zip up rashie. I had one of these handy items, but I put it on the balcony to dry at our last holiday and it saw its chance and flew away to freedom. I also bought the Horror a long sleeved rashie to replace the current one that has caused a circumference of tan to form around his midriff. They have one of the few Nespresso outlets in Sydney, so I stocked up on Indriya and Livanto. The purchasing method was very odd. You could join the line that went out the door. Or you could present your club card to the lady who looked like an air hostess at the tasting desk out the front and she would take your order. I’m not sure why she couldn’t then just duck into the store and grab your capsules, but she told me the procedure was that I hang on to my receipt for half an hour and come back to collect. Whatever. I had many more sparkly things to look at.

There are all the big designer stores that never ever have anyone in them except the sales girls who all look like over made up praying mantises. I can’t believe anyone can really walk anywhere in Jimmy Choo shoes, I think you’d put them on to pose a bit, then slip back into your ballet flats. I love Metalicus outfits and had a lovely browse in there, but I’ve got enough clothes for the moment. I went to David Jones to look at Bobbi Brown lipsticks. I got one on sale at and shorty afterwards managed to buy exactly the same one again, also on sale. I was sure that there are other colours than Plum Rose, and if I’m going to be wearing lipstick all the time from now on it might as well be a nice one. Isn’t it funny that if you want to buy shoes at David Jones you get treated like a bothersome semitransparent insect, but if you go to the makeup department they seem to have found some humans to staff it? The girl at the Bobbi Brown counter was so nice and helpful that I almost didn’t mind paying over twice the price of, and besides, I’m sure they don’t stock the colour I bought.

Well, that’s my shopping itch scratched, and all in under the two hours they allow you to park there before going for your wallet. Good clean fun and not as scary or discombobulating as Chatswood Westfield. I may have to pay for my jaunt by wearing the ankle boot again tomorrow, but it was all worth it. Besides, I’m seeing the physio on Saturday, she’ll put me back together again. It’s good to have a team of professionals keeping me moving.

Shopping with the girls

Shopping is always better with girlfriends, especially if they’re taking you somewhere you’ve never been before and it’s not a shop you’d find on your own. Now I’m as fond of shoe and handbag shopping as the next girl, but this was a special experience. We went to Chef’s Warehouse.

The are many reasons I’d have never gone there by myself. It’s among the vomit splattered streets of Surry Hills and I’m allergic to driving in the Eastern Suburbs. It has a small and self effacing entrance that I’d probably miss. It says “trade only” on the door, and I always take these things very literally and slink away without making enquiries. Apparently it’s to stop locals from wandering in to buy the overproof rum they sell for Christmas cakes. So I was very pleased to be escorted.

It was a small and perfectly formed wonderland. I tried not to look at KitchenAids, I’m really not ready to go there yet. Every size of chopping board, serving dish, mixing bowl, baking tin, sieve and knives were there. Callebaut chocolate chips in flour sack sized bags. I didn’t even know they made cocoa powder. Proper recipe books, I was very tempted to buy some to even out the ratio of joke cookbooks to useful ones in my collection. I wondered why there was such a thing as a Chef’s saw, surely they’d get a butcher to deal with any bone issues? Then I thought, some of those chefs you see on TV get very cross, perhaps it’s to process recalcitrant kitchen hands into the goulash without anyone knowing. Here’s a picture of my purchases.

The baking tins are two small square ones and a longer loaf one, and my burst of mental arithmetic tells me that their volume added together will equal my square cake tin. So next time I make a fruit cake I can make three gift sized ones to chase people down the street with. I had to get the chocolate and the cocoa powder, and a peppermint essence because it’s difficult to find. As are recipes that use it, as it turns out. I’m going to have to get inventive. The little bat thing is a gnocchi paddle, every kitchen should have one. Come on, I didn’t get the tomato corer. And check out the tomato sauce bottle. I am going to be so popular when the kids get home. They may insist on sausage sandwiches for dinner. I did get a raised eyebrow from one of the gang for buying it, but they had clearly never seen Bunfight at the OK Tearooms and are therefore Missing Out.

Birthday Presents

There comes a time in every housewife’s life when she realises she’s behind on the birthday presents.  And so it was today, when upon awakening I realised I must immediately go and purchase four presents.  Immediately after making lunches, dropping kids at school, having breakfast, entering the orchestra cheques into the choir accounting program and going to the physio.

The presents are for a niece, a nephew, a Grampa and Muffet’s brainy friend.  The Moose tells me that brainy kids get tired of receiving science packs for their birthdays but has nothing constructive to offer as an alternative, so I ignore him completely and head straight for Terrific Scientific.  I pick up two packs, one for the brainy friend and one for the nephew who has shown a vague interest in science that must be pushed along.

Then I take a peek in the store next door.  It’s one of those shops full of cushions, and pink and gold throws made by unemployed yaks, and jingly strings to hang on the curtain to startle the cat.  Who shops there?  How on earth do they stay in business?  I can only imagine buying something there as in a last minute rush present for a husband’s secretary or a grandmother-in-law or something, and how often is that?  Yet there must be people out there who stand with a hand on one hip and say to their partner “you know, what our house really needs is a verdigris donkey.  We could put it next to our collection of oversized candlesticks”.

Next door to that was my next stop – coffee.  You can’t shop uncaffeinated.  This turned out to be a hipster cafe.  I could tell because the (male) baristas were, reading from left to right, bearded with Buddy Holly glasses, dark and thin with a black beanie and a large hole in the ear, tattooed with long red hair tied in a messy bun.  Also the counter was constructed from mismatched dresser drawers.  I’m sure there’s a hipster term for that kind of thing.  Ironic?, except it isn’t.  Ecocycled?  The word that sprang to my mind was rickety, but the coffee was good.

I thought I’d get the niece a funky item of clothing for her entry into teenagehood.  You know how people talk about having a great novel in them?  Or a long distance runner, or fashion designer or something?  Well inside me is a crazy cat lady, and shops like the Tree of Life are very bad for that side of me.  I did try on a gorgeous purple velvet jacket with a lace collar and through an enormous act of will managed not to buy it, even though it was on sale.  I walked out of there with only a crocheted top in a colour the Muffet tells me is my niece’s favourite, so a success all round.

To finish it off I found a rather tailored grey cardy for Grampa, the man has really got to stop wearing beige.  Now I have to talk the kids into wrapping my haul.  It’s quite possible that I should have bought wrapping paper while I was out.  But that coffee just wasn’t strong enough.