Weekend Coffee Share

If we were having coffee you’d notice I’m deep in comfort cooking mode as the weather cools. Have a piece of chocolate cake and a cup of tea.

The weekend ended up being full of family and home and small comforts. After going to the ballet on Friday night with DH who is invited to EVERYTHING (this was a really beautiful Gershwin-inspired show, with ballet and tap and some gorgeous gorgeous orchestrated Gershwin and some of the most lovely costumes I’ve seen in AGES), I prepared a letter of recommendation for my PhD supervisor (she’s up for an award). Hubby was off with stepson visiting Sydney on Saturday, so I parked myself on the couch and enjoyed putting together the 500 word written commendation. One of my great joys is writing, and I’m beginning to do a lot more of it. Starting can be a bitch, but once I’m into it, I hate to stop.

I spent the rest of Saturday doing Very Useful Things. Earlier in the week I’d bought some fresh herbs and gardening equipment. I’m determined to grow herbs the possums can’t reach. So after spending the morning going to a yoga class, shopping, and cleaning the chookhouse, in the afternoon I covered an old concrete laundry tub with bird netting and stakes. Earlier on Friday I’d prepared the tub with a combination of potting mix, perlite, coco-peat and cow compost. I planted and watered the plants, and covered them in this new chew-preventer. It seems to have worked. I’m pretty sure that if they were determined the possums could get into the tubs, but they’d have a hell of a time getting out from under the netting – it’s very tangly stuff.

In south-east Queensland, the subtropical climate means that you can plant almost anything nearly all year round. Keep the plants well watered and they grow like topsy. I’ve been enjoying adding some interior plants to our house in the spare corners. It makes the house feel so friendly and house plants are once again back in fashion. My only problem is remembering to water them!

I also prepared a ham and potato soup. Now, I’m not normally a recipe sharer, as most of my recipes can be located online, but this was widely regarded by my family as a soup to beat all soups. Here’s the recipe. I omitted the cream because it just doesn’t need it, I used a smoked ham hock, and I used Campbell’s salt-reduced real chicken stock. I cooked the crap out of the ham hock before adding the (red-skinned) potatoes, because ham hocks need longer cooking. And by setting aside some of the potatoes before blitzing the soup means that the soup has lovely chunky pieces, as recommended. I like this soup much more than split-pea and ham soup.

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One of the things my stepdaughter and I like to do if we’re at home together in the evenings is watch a silly rom-com and eat snack-food. I made some nachos because we had been given 5 ripe avocados by a student, and we watched Bridesmaids again, hysterical when the pooping scene began. DH arrived home just in time for the scene, one of his all time favourites. One of the reasons I love this movie is that it has an all-woman cast of comedians (and Rose Byrne, who is delightful, and funny). Even the subsidiary male characters are comedians, and Jon Hamm SHOULD be a comedian. Gosh he has a goofy smile.

Sunday was spent with the whole family. It was a lovely day. Step kids and my daughter all behaved themselves, the day was a gorgeous autumn, south-east Queensland at its best. Bright sun, cool, crisp mornings and chilly, still evenings. Stepdaughter was singing in a choral concert at a local festival, so we watched this very good school choir perform 3 lovely songs. I ate my favourite market food: Turkish Gozleme, and then hubby and I went home for a bit before heading out to the local shopping mall, where I bought two pairs of new shoes (flats. I’m sick of wearing high heels, and I can’t walk in them any more), and my stepdaughter tried in vain to persuade us to replace her broken phone with a brand new one (nope. She broke it when she SAT on it, and there’s still 6 months on the contract, so I’m not spending more money on it). She got my old iphone 4S instead.

Later that day I made a flourless chocolate cake for dessert. It really looked like this, and it’s a beautifully light and moist cake. Made with real chocolate, butter, almond meal and eggs, it’s sinfully easy to prepare. Serve it with icecream, cream and raspberries.

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And then I prepared a lamb leg roast with gravy, roasted root vegetables and green beans. I added a tiny slosh of fish sauce to the gravy and it worked a treat. Added necessary body and salt. Told you I was in a cooking mood! Today I’ve made a macaroni cheese dish to cut up and freeze for lunches and side dishes, and later on I’ll make a quiche or two.

I’m making all this food because I love the weather. It reminds me of my hometown weather, all cold mornings, rainy afternoons and frigid winters. I very nearly made scones yesterday afternoon too, but then there would have been no dessert and the dog would not have been walked.

So today’s share is about food. I hope your weekend was similarly full of family comforts.

Today’s post brought to you by Diana, here.

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Weekend Coffee Share

If we were having coffee (or a brew), I’d be inviting you to sit with me on our small enclosed porch, which I’ve recently dressed with some fresh greenery and new cushion covers. It’s amazing how awesome a nook can look with some palm fronds and a pot plant or two. And a stray climber to add some hipster greenery chic. (No, I’ve not done that deliberately: it grew all by itself.) Sorry about the image size: WordPress used to have small, medium and large sizes but they’ve taken out the medium one. Bad, bad WordPress.

 

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I’ve been doing some cushion updating recently. Diabolical for my DH, who thinks the following scene is an appropriate reminder of what I’m doing to him:

I think they look quite nice but I concede I may have reached the limit:

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The stabby Ben Stiller limit. The truly sad part is that the old cushions are still on the bedroom floor awaiting repurposing!

While I’m waiting for my job interview, I’m doing some soft furnishing upgrades. I’m not yet ready to start painting the interiors again but it’s getting close! In the meantime, I’ve created rooms of colour stories. The master bedroom is and will be a combination of soft blues and greys, navy and white soft furnishings married with warm antiques and soft white walls. The lounge room is the winter room, best enjoyed with a comfortable rug and a glass of red wine. It’s warm reds and autumn colours married with dark wood furniture. The kitchen has splashes of red but I’m not being precious about the colours there. The dining room is a bright mish mash of primary colours, turquoise, orange, blues, greens, pink and yellow. It sounds too much but they’re mostly paintings and glassware, riotous pops of colour. I’m loving colour right now, but it’s best enjoyed with bright white walls and that means house painting. Not yet.

If we were having coffee you’d notice I’m rather enjoying some home time right now. I’m cooking a bit more; I’m baking, I’m loving the chookies. It’s easy in my household to be so outward looking that we don’t get to spend time making our home lovely. The DH, who it must be said is not a homebody, has finally mown the front lawn and we’re slowly cleaning up the garden in preparation for some landscaping. This morning DH cleared away a garden disaster zone near the house in the backyard and I have a cunning plan to level the area and pave it, giving us a bit more usable outdoor space while we wait in vain for the next lot of funds to renovate the remainder of the house.

As the wife of a VIP who runs a music school, I reached my functions threshold this week. Last night, to be precise. Sometimes I just need some quiet nights at home and this week was one of them. Never mind we’d been out Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings! This weekend is an ensembles festival. I begged off. Hubby has in no way tried to persuade me to accompany him, luckily.

Tomorrow is Mothers’ Day in Australia. I’m truly hoping I get to wish my mum a happy day, because it’s all getting a bit difficult to stay in touch from far away. You’d think birthdays and special occasions would become more important away from family. Truth is: life gets in the way and I often forget to plan for special times. I always swore it was due to busyness. Nah. I’m just forgetful, and the birthdays and special moments just seem to get closer and closer these days. The older I get, the faster they go by.

Screw you, old age.

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Nah. Seriously. Have a great day, ladies. May your young children give you a piece of pottery they made in Art class; may your teenagers do the dishes, laundry, wash the floors and clean the bathroom and kitchen; may your adult children give you something really really special. Like a gift card for a massage or something. And champagne.

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This post was brought to you by Diane, at Part Time Monster. There’ll be a linky very soon!

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Of chooks, waistlines and Things to Do.

So the chickens are going well. I love my chookies. They are terribly cute, cautious and  scare easily. Divine. Poppy my groodle wants to eat them. Not pretty, so we’re planning a fox-and-dog-free chook run so that Poppy can hang out in the back yard again. Not fair to confine her to the front yard when the chookies barely use the back.

We’ve had the first few eggs. They’ve quite a pale yolk: more butter-coloured than orange. So I’ll be supplementing their feed with some appropriate food to give their yolks a colour lift. I ate some for the first time today. Scrambled, they were remarkably creamy. Much more so than the free range eggs I normally buy. And even better, one of the eggs was a double yolk. Win!

After I took my folks to the airport on Tuesday I realised my capacity to lose weight was in direct proportion to my care-factor. It’s never going to happen unless I get all serious about it again. Which I can do, I promise. Just not now. The weather is STILL too hot and I’m not really prepared to get out of bed before 9.00am. So I took me shopping and finally succumbed grumpily to the needs of my expanding waistline: I bought 3 pairs of size 12 trousers, and half a dozen t-shirts and tops. In QLD clothes deteriorate really fast because they’re always being washed. I looked at my own clothes: they looked tiredly at me and promptly sagged into grottiness and worse still: torn in parts. Plus, I only had about 3 pairs of sad old pants I could wear (2 pairs of WHITE pants, y’all, and 1 pair of 2-years old totally grotty navy pants that I wear EVERY SINGLE DAY when I’m not wearing the white ones), and it was beginning to get desperate. I’m not paring back my wardrobe to bare bones: I WEAR IT ALL.

Every so often I buy a bunch of t-shirts but 6 months later they’re always pretty woeful. Doesn’t matter which brand, either. They can be super-dooper expensive or quite cheap. They just lose shape and look old. On the plus side, I rarely throw out my t-shirts because I repurpose them either as pj tops, painting tops, or cleaning cloths. So there you have it. Instead of removing the fat from my body I’ve taken the easy way out. At least now I’m comfortable in my clothes again, and mildly stylish.

Things to do for the end of March and all April: finish off some book editing (tomorrow’s job), finish my book chapter (tomorrow as well), create a chook run, and go to the gym. Perhaps write some job applications too. I’m learning how to keep busy, and I’m starting to enjoy slowing down a bit. Perhaps I’ll write some fiction, as I promised myself so many moons ago. And I’ll definitely read a book. I’ve not read a single novel since I joined Goodreads. Unlike me. And I’m starting to think about being artsy-fartsy again. Perhaps I’ll join an art collective and do some arty-crafty things.

Happy Easter everyone. See you on the other side.

Mum and dad go home and I get to go to the gym again

Oh my fricking god. Can’t do up my bloody pants. The weather seems so be cooling down slightly: so much so that the doona was dragged up from the base of the bed where we fling it each night because fricking hot weather. Imma gonna get me to the gym; imma gonna stop eating all the things; imma gonna stop drinking all the things. Imma gonna eat my homegrown free range eggs and get my sorry fat arse to the fricking gym, y’all. Jaysus. 

Folks are flying home today. It has been fun, I’ll miss them. We discovered Mount Tamborine. That was fun too. Right. Time to take folks to the airport. 

Weekend Coffee Share

If we were drinking coffee, you’d be in the backyard with me meeting my new additions to the fam. Introducing Euphemia, Josephine and Iolanthe. New members of the menagerie and my birthday gift. Which possibly explains why no posts for several days. Plus, mum and dad flew up to see us and that’s added another level of busyness to the weekend.

   
    
  
And our first egg. I’m a proud mama but have to watch out for vampire teddy bear Poppy the groodle who will eat the chickens, sadly. We’re planning a chicken run. Gotta go, driving to Tambourine today with the olds for a gentle day out. 

 

Weekend Coffee Share

If we were having coffee, you’d be squeezing yourself in amongst the folk sitting round the kitchen table: my husband (DH), my step daughter and her friend, my stepson, and me. We are “studying” together. My DH is helping his daughter and her friend with some music homework (we’re musicians but I tell you what, reminding oneself of Fugue subjects and episodes is both doing our heads in). I am trying to finish off an article about the use of video data in qualitative narrative inquiry, and my step song is finishing off his RSA certificate (for alcohol serving). We’re all here with computers and textbooks and notebooks. It’s lovely. It’s the rarest thing we’ve ever done together. Just hanging, studying. My daughter brought home a stray friend (name and gender unknown), and for a few hours today the house was full of quiet busyness.

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(Copyright O’Rorke Hall)

It’s a quiet, family house this weekend. Rarely, our event attendance finished yesterday (2 concerts in 2 hours. Mega), and we went to a post event where I drank stupid amounts of champagne and ate pulled pork sliders. Yummo.

This is what I heard last night from the wonderful musician Daniel de Borah:

 

Then we went to this:

 

Today and tomorrow is event free. Almost unbelievable. DH has laid plans to mow the lawn (gentle reminders from me that his in-laws are arriving this week and I’d rather not have them gasp at the new savannah appearing in our backyard). I’m doing minor housework that involves little more than looking at the floor and deciding not to sweep it. We’re sitting around chatting, doing homework and spending time in a room together.

Bliss.

What are you up to this weekend?

 

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Weekend Coffee Share is brought to you by Diana, at Part-Time Monster. Join in the conversation!

 

 

Friday filibuster

Hiya. It’s been a couple of weeks. I’m a hopeless blogger in that I lose track of days and then it’s a week between blogs and before you know it, October’s here already.

I don’t mean to do this, but I get busy sometimes. Even when I’m not “work busy”, other things such as birthday shopping get me otherwise occupied.

So, hello. I’m back. Last week was a fairly shitty week, when I had to accept I was not offered the job – they DID get back to me eventually, and it confirmed my supposition. But the letter was lovely and apparently I WAS impressive and had excellent skills – I just didn’t match the skills they needed for the job right now. There may or may not have been retail therapy.

Back to the drawing board. I’m doing some editing work, and applying for a DECRA, and eventually I will actually start my monograph. It’s a slog, so I’m ignoring it for now.

It’s a news blog day today!

In renovation news, all the electrical work is now done and I’m just waiting for the final bill. I still have to paint some of the sections and gap fill etc, but it’s not far off completion in the bathroom at least! (excluding the oil paint on the windows, for which I actually have to wait until it’s cooler). IMG_2974IMG_2981IMG_2969

The room looks quite chic but the tiles, lights, mirror and fittings were typical Australian prices and we didn’t go for the most expensive selections at all. Perhaps the most expensive element was the vanity unit, but I don’t have a break-down of the actual cost as it was built into the total price. The really fun part, after selecting all the bathroom fittings, was finishing off the decorations. It’s lovely to get some plants in the house: I’m a truly terrible plant keeper so these are surviving despite my best attempts to neglect them. Choosing vanity-ware, towels, bins and toilet brushes was ridiculously fun, too, and I’m so happy with the end result.

The other day I actually washed the floors throughout the whole house, so we’re nearly at normal again.

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Personally I think housekeeping is a Sisyphean task for which I am singularly unqualified, so I prefer not to do it much. We are tidy people and I do clean up after myself on a daily basis, but I don’t count that as housekeeping: that’s more about managing personal cleanliness. (Put it back where you found it, or find a better spot for it!)

When DH and I were both working long hours I hired a fortnightly cleaner. The cleaner was rather passive aggressive, complained a lot and would try to destroy my vacuum cleaner through little vicious acts of sabotage. She went.

Anyway. Cleaning out other areas of my life: I’m over the pity party, so I’ve switched my brain back on and I’m determined to maintain a gritted teeth joie-de-vivre. Which is rather contradictory but what the hey. I’m almost at the “I really really need to tackle the tax” thought, and the creative and academic writing will continue now. I’ve had to accept that I won’t see any money for my efforts, but we can mostly cope. I AM gigging and teaching a bit, which is good, and I’ll keep trawling job sites for more work.

And soon I’ll have a go at painting the bedroom and lounge room, because they need doing. I just have to buy some more ceiling paint, grit my teeth, and do it.

Plenty of teeth gritting this year!

In other news I’ve decided to keep live chickens for eggs. Huzzah!

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I’ve seen the hens and coop ($370) that will be perfect in our large backyard, and we don’t require a permit. It’s a stupidly expensive thing to do, given that we can buy a dozen free-range eggs for $6, and we rarely go through more than a dozen a week ($312 per year on average), but I want to control some of what I’m eating, from a purely ethical stance. In Australia while we have basic guidelines in place around free-range chooks they are not enshrined into law. The basic guideline states there should be 1500 chooks per hectare (1000m2), which gives them about the size of a queen sized bed each to scrabble around in. This is ok, but the powers that be (big food companies – is there a word that mimics “big pharma” for food?) want to make it 20,000 chooks per hectare. This is unacceptable.

Also, I want to know what my chooks are eating. We’ll feed them a combination of chook pellets (fish byproducts I’m told but there are vegetarian options), corn and wheat grain, and leafy green things. It’s not the cheapest option in the world – backyard farming – but it’s a fun thing to do and it’s not like I don’t have the time to keep my animals.

Our backyard is quite open. We will put the chookhouse in a shady area, but we also have to worry about foxes and snakes. Nevertheless, I’ve never seen a snake in our neighborhood, and Poppy the dog will kick up a ruckus if there’s a fox around. The possums don’t seem to have any natural predators here so they are fairly free with their wanderings, which makes me think the wildlife here is contained to birds and big-ass insects. I’m channelling my inner farmer here. My ancestors were farmers and I have kept chooks before. I love the gentle noises they make and the feel-good self-sufficiency of the backyard farm.

Of course, if I was a truly ethical eater I’d probably be a vegetarian. But it’s the little things that count. We try to buy bacon and pork products from a local butcher who sources ethical producers (those who don’t keep the piggies in little nasty pens, but give them room to move and live a short but hopefully happy life before they go to the slaughterhouse). And for years we’ve been eating free-range chickens, pole-and-line-caught tuna, farmed fish (we have a great farming industry in Australia that uses lots of efficient, earth-friendly practices), so on.

So I’m looking forward to naming my not-yet-purchased chooks, perhaps after Gilbert and Sullivan characters: Buttercup, Katisha, Yum-Yum? Ideas for names welcomed!

And now: I’m baking home-made muesli and spaghetti bolognese and delicious brownies. Hola!

Weekend Coffee Share

If we were having coffee you’d notice the beautiful new coffee machine in the kitchen. It’s cranberry red. Nuff said about coffee, except to mention I drink quite a lot of it. Black and strong and espresso, thanks.

If we were having coffee you’d notice it’s not at the kitchen table because I’m trying to do my tax. There are receipts all over the table. 2 years worth for both my company and my personal tax. I hate receipts. I finally found a new system: chuck all the receipts into a chic black tin box originally containing Aesop grooming products and close the lid. Do not open the lid for a LONG time. Hence the kitchen table has now become a hideous receipt-encrusted eyesore.

If we were having coffee you’d notice a few appointments in my diary this week: I have an interview coaching session on Monday with my DH’s work coach. I’m terrible in interviews and vivas, because I can’t think fast enough and I ramble. Conciseness and precision are not my allies. Hence why I am doing so many 100 flash fiction challenges: I need to edit better. The spoken word: I wish I was Aaron Sorkin and had his brain. But I am not. On Thursday I have a singing gig, yay, and on Thursday night I head south to Sydney for a job interview.

This interview is important because the job is a good one.

I really really want this job.

However, if we were having coffee you’d notice my hesitation about leaving my DH to go work in another state. It’s HARD WORK. I have no fear our relationship would fall apart but it would get one hell of a beating. I’d have to work hard to manage my work commitments alongside family commitments, and to balance weekends and travel plans. UGH. And I have NO extended family in Sydney. They’re all in Melbourne. I’d be all alone (all by myself).

 

 

If we were having coffee you’d notice I’ve put on a kilo or two – that’s too many sticky buns and lounging around work for me. Summer here is hot. I’ve been painting. Then there was Xmas. They’re my excuses. The reality I was depressed and I’ve been watching a hell of a lot of TV/ Netflix/Stan. Now I’m fat again. Time to get to the gym which I’ve not attended since September (hence the fatness).

*Note to self: New Year’s Resolutions, dammit.

If we were having coffee you’d notice I’ve started cooking again, and I planted a herb garden last week. It’s going well, thanks for asking. The brand new bathroom is now fully useable (if still missing an extractor fan), and I am using fluffy white towels. Brand new. It’s a luxury. Finally, I want to draw your attention to my bedside table – it has 3 books on it. I’m part way through all of them.

Life is pretty good this week. It might be because of the good coffee. How was your week?

Weekend Coffee Share is hosted by Diana at Part-time Monster.

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Today I feel like gardening.

It’s Monday morning here in sunny south-east Queensland and I’ve been awake since 6.15am. The new food plants have survived the possums for two nights although maybe not forever because the possums are hungry like raccoons without the smarts to get into rubbish bins:

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I planted sweet basil, rosemary, parsley, oregano, thyme, chilli, Vietnamese mint, and common mint. I wish I had bought some coriander but it usually goes to seed before I’ve harvested the leaves. The one plant that has survived ALL attempts to kill it was a wedding gift from the in-laws and sits on the chair. It’s super happy right now because I’m watering it regularly and feeding it. The petunia plant on the right of the stand is looking a bit sad but it’s not mine. I just rescued it from my daughter who had forgotten to water it.

When my brain finally clocks this as a good thing I’m going to move the old concrete laundry tub closer to the kitchen door and plant lemongrass and sage and lemon verbena and dill and stuff. And if I stay in this state rather than moving to another state such as NSW (because job), then I’m getting chickens and a veggie garden. We don’t have any (decent) food trees in our back yard. This makes me sad. Subtropical Brisbane can grow just about any tropical fruit, including avocado and guava and paw paw and bananas and mangoes, but I’m told mango trees are invasive because they seek water, and I’m just no good at picking (or eating) fruit. Nevetheless, I’m going to plant an avocado tree and a lemon and a lime tree because we inhale avocados and use a lot of lemons and limes in our cooking.

We DO have a compost bin but it’s ages since I’ve fed it and I never know quite what to do with it once I’ve composted stuff. I tell you what, though, when I finally move the bin the compost inside will be amazing. It’s been fermenting for 4 years!

The better half at 8.00am decided he wanted to Karcher (water-pressure-clean) the front fence in preparation for its second coat of paint. The first coat is already 3 years old, and is starting to come away from the palings, despite a great undercoat and primer job back in the day. Today is MONDAY. He should be at work. I’m not sure why he’s doing this now but the fence looks a lot cleaner. Not sure when we’ll get to paint the fence though. It’s hot out there in Brisbane land and the fence gets full sunlight all day. Yesterday DH created a rustic (read didn’t prepare the ground or lay sand or anything because why) brick patio by the fence for the rubbish bins. The lawn (it used to be called the weed) is looking really gorgeous, neat and green, and DH bought with his gift voucher a new petrol line trimmer, which works a treat.

We’re both a bit bored, I think. Yesterday we went to see Sisters, starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Which was hilarious, as you’d expect.

This year, if I don’t get any permanent work, I will spend the year gardening, and chook farming, and painting, and exercising, and getting my monograph published and NOT worrying about money.

Happy gardening to you!

PS here’s a picture of the dear little injured possum with a big gash on the head (old injury), who has come to the porch for a wee rest because it’s not coping in the sun. I’ve called the wildlife rescue and left a message but I’m not sure they will ring back.

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