Lazy days

It’s been a slow start to the new year.
The crows are creaking outside against a background chorus of buzzing insects.
I’m watching tennis with the sound muted because the tv antenna needs fixing and hearing the pop and crackle as the picture fades in and out is way too annoying.
I’ll start reading a new book soon, my kindle is waiting for me on the coffee table.Books waiting in many forms The fan is keeping things cool, but there’s also a nice breeze flowing through the house.
Even though I haven’t been writing much lately, I had two articles published in December.
There’s also another little snippet of mine here.
I’ve been reading hungrily and have worked my way through lots of great books.

Remedy Quarterly - Issue 11 Comfort
MAEVE Magazine - Issue 9 Christmas

I’ve just finished up a course with the Australian Writer’s Centre (highly recommended).
My pursuit of new writing work will begin in earnest again very soon, but for now it’s enough to surround myself with words, even if they’re by other people.
Hopefully my return to the day job for another year won’t be too much of a shock.
Happy new year. :)

Domestic Ingenuity

Apart from writing as much as I can, I’ve also taken primary responsibility for management of the household. But let’s be honest, ‘household management’ is really just a fancy way of saying that I’m doing laundry, cleaning, cooking, shopping, looking after the pets, balancing the budget, and taking care of anything else that comes along which smacks vaguely of responsibility (with the exception of ironing … I. don’t. do. ironing). In a household of two humans and three pets, sometimes it feels like a struggle to get anything done and make everything work … I have no idea how people with children cope (you have my complete admiration).

A Dyson would be better ...

I think about one quarter of the things on my ‘to do’ list are pretty straightforward and relatively painless to complete, which leaves the remaining 75% of tasks placed firmly in the not-so-fun category. For a long while there my solution was simply to never do the not-so-fun things … but that’s not really a sustainable long-term option, is it? So after tripping over an unsorted basket of clean clothes for about the thousandth time, noticing the layes of not-so-fine pet hair gathering in piles on the floor, and worrying that my bathroom may begin to revolt even itself … well something had to change.

I’ve now got a schedule of things that need to be done and when they need to be done by … yes really, a dead set ‘tick the box when completed’ schedule. I respond well to lists, so this may be the only way that I will actually start doing all the things that need to be done. It’s still early days, but I’m quietly confident of success. However that’s not to say there haven’t been setbacks on the domestic front. A few days ago I had grand plans to mop the bathroom floor. All I needed to do was buy a replacement mop head and I’d be all set. Easy, right? No. Not easy at all.

Well the buying of the mop head was easy, filling a bucket with hot water and floor cleaner was easy, but do you think I could get the replacement mop head on to the &#%!@#! mop?!?! You’ve probably gathered that no, no I could not.

Try as I might I could not get the clips on the mop head to fit into the allocated slots. I’d like to tell you that I handled the whole situation calmly and maturely, by taking a step back and carefully assessing the situation … and if that’s what you choose to believe happened, well  bless … that’s really lovely of you. But it wouldn’t be quite true.

There was much banging, knocking about, and cursing of that damned mop. After something like five minutes (which on anger time felt more like half an hour) of trying to wrangle that mop head, I accepted that it just wasn’t going to happen. But admit defeat? Never.

My version of a mop head attachment

There was no way some fancy pants replacement mop head was going to beat me. So what was my solution? Well figuring that I just needed to find some other way to attach the mop head, I wound a rubber band around each end of the mop head to hold it firmly in place. Success!

So for those of you keeping score – I ended up with one brief (and intense) episode of rage, one clean floor, a schedule that is still on track, and a win for low-tech solutions. Who says problem solving doesn’t begin at home?

Munching on some grindage (an adventure in homemade granola)

Do you like to start the day with a big breakfast? Personally, unless it’s combined with going out and socialising, I’m not really one for a proper sit-down breakfast. It tends to be an ‘active’ meal for me, so whatever I eat has to work around everything else I’m trying to do at the same time. So that means it has to be easy to prepare and not take too long to eat. The only essential which each and every one of my mornings MUST contain is a cup of strong, hot coffee.

So after telling you all that, you may be wondering why I would then decide to make granola? Well my lovely friend ‘lucent imagery‘ set us both a challenge to make our own version of granola before the end of the month … and so here we are.

The inspiration for my granola recipe

I don’t know about you, but whenever I think about granola, two things quickly come to mind. The first is an image of a rustic cabin deep in a forest – it’s early morning, the wood pile has been neatly stacked with freshly chopped timber, there is smoke happily tumbling out from the cabin’s chimney, and two bowls of toasted muesli sit waiting on an old wooden table. I guess in my mind, people that live a self-sufficient life in the woods would need a substantial breakfast.

The second thing I think of is a line from the (pretty awful) Pauly Shore ‘Son in Law’ movie, where his character says something like ‘I’m gonna munch on some grindage’. With its chewy texture and healthy reputation, I’ve always thought that granola equals ‘grindage’.

Post-mixed, pre-baked granola

Anyway, in case you’d like to join in with my homemade granola adventure, here is my sugar-free recipe (modified from the ‘Breakfast, Lunch, Tea’ Rose Bakery cook book):
* 150g mixed muesli bits (whatever you like – I hate dried fruit so included a mix of rolled oats, sesame seeds, almonds, barley flakes, pepitas, rice flakes and sunflower seeds)
* 50g shredded / flaked coconut
* 60ml cloudy apple juice
* 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil

  1. Pre-heat oven to 160°C.
  2. Mix the ingredients in a bowl, spread out on a baking tray and pop into the oven.
  3. Stir every 7 minutes or so to help everything toast evenly.
  4. Bake for approximately 30 minutes (depending on how toasty you like things to get).

The end result ... crunchy and delicious!!

I served mine with a few spoons of vanilla bean ‘five:am’ yoghurt and some sliced green apple … delicious! I know I’ll be back to my quick breakfasts again next week, but every once in a while it’s nice to slow down and imagine yourself sitting at an old wooden table in a rustic old cabin. Perhaps I’ll see you there?

PS. Be sure to pop over to lucent imagery and see her granola magnificence too. Oh, and if you’re interested in joining in with our next monthly food-related challenge, let me know and I can email you the details.

 

Shadows in the Garden

Hello dear reader, are you having a good week? I certainly hope so. If I push to one side all the deep thinking I’ve been occupying myself with (because that’s all rather exhausting and ho-hum), things are pretty OK with me. As I sat down to type this little message to you, gentle rain was just beginning to fall, a gathering of rainbow lorikeets were screeching in colourful happiness just outside my window, and I was enjoying a very welcome cup mug of tea.

Hey carnations, you're beautiful! :)

So what’s up with that title then? Well I’m rather fond of pretty things in the garden and shadows are something that I always find fascinating. I actually thought that ‘Shadows in the Garden’ would make an excellent title for a Virginia Andrews book, and wouldn’t you know it? There is actually one that is very similar, rather ominously titled ‘Garden of Shadows’. I’ve never actually read one of her books, but I know they were incredibly popular with a lot of my high school peers back in the day.

Anyway, I digress … I bought myself this bunch of flowers earlier in the week, and I really wanted to share them with you because (a) they’re lovely, and (b) you deserve this bunch of flowers too. I’m sure I’ve told you before of how partial I am to carnations … yes, I know they’re a bit old-fashioned and dated, but they really have the most wonderful blooms, and as cut flowers they last for a really long time.

Flowers and shadows make for a pretty picture

At the moment I have so much to say, and yet at the same time not much of anything to say … so rather than wait for me to gather my thoughts, let’s just enjoy these flowers instead. While the flowers are clearly beautiful, most of all I’m loving the shadows which form a part of this floral arrangement … I hope you like it too!

PS. My Sparkapolooza piece for this fortnight’s brief ‘Throwing Shapes’ features shadows too … fancy that! Oh, and the Mr has also submitted his own artistic and wonderful creation … featuring ninjas! :)

February … flat or fab?

Have you noticed that it’s possible to squeeze all sorts of antonyms out of words beginning with the letter ‘F’? They’re commonly seen hanging around on the cover of magazines, acting all flashy and obnoxious in an effort to grab our attention as we walk by. Things like from ‘flab to fab’, from ‘fat to fit’, and from ‘fact to fiction’. I’m going to jumble those around a bit and come up with a new one, from ‘flat to fab’ because that’s kind of what I’m hoping the rest of February becomes. More fab, less flat.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but my February has certainly been feeling a bit flat and not in a nicely-toned-stomach kind of way, it’s been more in the manner of a punctured-bicycle-tyre-that-gets-you-nowhere kind of way. Perhaps it’s the crash that comes after all the planning and goal-setting that happens in the shiny new month of January? Whatever the reason for this feeling, there’s still some time to turn this month around and end it in fabulous fashion. I thought I’d start things off by sharing five nice little somethings that have happened so far this month.

Number One ::: Here are some of the pretty things I currently have hanging on my wall to mask some of its ugliness. Until we prepare to paint, there’s no way I could be bothered filling all the screw holes kindly left in the walls by the previous owner … so I cover them with art instead. One day white paint will fix everything, but for now, there is delight to be found in collected prettiness.

Some collected pretties on my wall ...

Number Two ::: The Mr and I don’t really ‘do’ Valentine’s Day, but he snuck in a little gift for me anyway. I’ve spoken before about how fussy I am with my pyjamas, and while I’m sure it would be wonderful to elegantly swan about in nightgowns of silk and lace, I like men’s cotton boxer shorts best. Before the Mr gifted me the two pairs below, I was wearing old pairs of his. Aside from being brand new these are much fancier, but they’re still super comfortable.

My new (boy) boxer shorts

Number Three ::: Long-term readers of this blog would know about ‘Pasta‘ (my resident birdie friend) and his baby ‘Noodle’. Well I’m happy to say that there is now a new kid in town. I’ve christened this little fellow ‘Penne’. Just before I took this photo all three of them were sitting in a row, taking a moment to shelter from the rain … so cute!

Pasta's new baby bird

Number Four ::: I always thought the line between cat owner and crazy cat lady would be quite clearly defined, but perhaps things are a little hazier than I thought. Now I’m not a big make-up wearer, but I just happened to be looking for a new blush and lipstick when I discovered these kitty cat inspired designs. Aside from the pretty packaging, the lipstick has little embedded pawprints and as you can see the blush has a lovely neutral palette in the shape of a cat. These are ‘almost’ too good to use, but use them I must.

Crazy cat lady makeup

Number five ::: I’m coming towards the end of my ‘couch to 5k’ running program, and while at times I’ve thought I might die, I’m actually really happy with the progress I’ve made. However the road has not been easy, and was made more difficult because my heels are prone to blisters. But thanks to the wonders of the internet, I discovered a new way of tying my laces to limit heel movement, and also found an ace brand of socks that have made ALL the difference. No blisters for you!

Tying my laces properly

A happy bonus of conducting this little exercise is discovering that there have actually been some pretty fabulous things about February. Here’s hoping I can add quite a few more to this list before the month is out. Thankfully it’s a leap year, so I’ll have an extra day to work with. Are you on the ‘flat’ to ‘fab’ program too?

Ode on a White Jug

My kitchen is filled with an eclectic mix of utensils, appliances and accessories – few of which match the other, and are about as far from ‘designer’ as you can get. I kind of like that though. It feels right that the building of a room as dynamic as a kitchen, should evolve naturally over time, to reflect the random and often changing tastes of those that make that space their own.

While I love my palette knife (it makes icing cakes so much easier and more fun), and I will always have a special place in my heart for my glass Pyrex measuring cup, there is one kitchen item which stands above all others as a clear favourite – this humble white jug.

Ode on a white jug

We bought this jug about seven years ago from a discount variety store, for a grand total of $4. The Mr and I hadn’t set out to buy a jug that day, we were actually there to buy a few kitchen essentials after moving into a new house. After stocking up on pots, pans, plates, knives and forks, we spotted this jug in the clearance section and thought it might come in handy one day.

Without a doubt, that $4 is the best money I have ever spent in the kitchen. The jug is called up to duty on a daily basis and serves many water-related purposes – from acting as a watering can in the herb garden, to filling up the coffee machine, evaporative cooler, and the dog’s water bowl. A jug of all trades, if you will.

Aside from practical considerations, there is also a simple elegance in the jug’s design that I find particularly pleasing – the curved shoulder, the wide pouting lip, and the streamlined body. Beauty and practicality all wrapped up in a plain white jug.

So, what about you? Are there any items in your home that have become unexpected favourites?

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PS. The Sparkapolooza brief this fortnight was a tricky one for me. It was all about getting visual with a rabbit, and goodness me, I drew something! You’ll find my contribution here if you’re interested, with all other bunny goodness to be found here.

Honey coloured memories

Surely there’s no better way to start a week then by reflecting on all that was wonderful about the weekend just left behind? I have to tell you that apart from lazily enjoying my two days off work, I discovered a most delightful homemade breakfast treat. I use the term ‘homemade’ quite loosely, as it really required very little effort on my part. Nevertheless, such home-based treats remind me that not all great breakfasts happen outside the home.

I think there are a few fundamental prerequisites in the creation of a delicious breakfast. (1) A toasted item of some description should be included – whether that be bread, coconut or muesli it matters not. The focus here is something made warm, slightly golden brown, and crunchy. (2) Fresh ingredients should be used – after all, everything tastes better when it’s fresh. (3) Contrasting textures – sure it may sound a little weird, but there’s real pleasure to be found in a layering of flavours and ingredients, so that the differences can be more readily observed and savoured.

A most delightful weekend breakfast

All three of my prerequisites were included within my weekend breakfast of choice – A lightly toasted english muffin, topped with butter, honey and slices of banana (drizzled with extra honey). Mmm, mmm … it was so good on Saturday that I made an encore meal of it on Sunday morning. If only every day could start this way.

Honey is rather delightful in its own way, don’t you think? I tend to use it in different ways to its sweet cousin, Golden Syrup (which I also love). When I think of honey I am transported to other times and places … I remember having honey sandwiches as a child, made on the freshest of white breads that my dad would bring home from the bakery. I am also reminded of honey smeared across big flat bread rolls following a weekend swim at the home of a dear childhood friend … Ahh, happy times indeed.

Thanks for the memories, honey. xx

Finding novelty in new places

Was it during the eighties that novelty (and often slightly naughty) items really came into their own? I seem to recall there being much humour associated with novelty aprons (highlighting various anatomical features), novelty ironing board covers (with scantily clad men), and novelty hats (equipped for beer-drinking) in circulation at the time. But perhaps my memory is failing me on the correct timeline?

One item I don’t remember seeing is novelty tea-towels (though I’m sure they existed). If there’s one thing that needs to have a bit more humour involved, it would have to be the dreaded task of washing / wiping up the dishes … Yuck! As far as domestic duties goes it’s one of my least favourite, ranking lower than clothes washing but far higher than ironing.

Tea Towels ... Dishes I'd Rather Be Doing

I recently discovered these tea-towels by Dear Colleen, and they did give me a giggle … I’m not sure what the Mr makes of these though. I purchased the original ‘Dishes I’d Rather Be Doing’ printed tea towel (featuring Jake Gyllenhaal, Johnny Depp, Owen Wilson, Brad Pitt and George Clooney), as well as the ‘Costume Drama Addiction’ version (featuring Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, and Sean Bean). HaHa! Do they make you giggle too?

Some dishes hanging on the line.

In a rare moment when I took some time to dwell on domestic issues, I found myself reflecting on how it’s difficult to find a good tea-towel. In the past I’ve gone for the cheap and nasty versions, and they are quite simply both cheap AND nasty – often failing to absorb any water and leaving a shedding a trail of fabric. Thank goodness that apart from providing me with some amusement, my latest pair of kitchen towels are sturdy and ready to do their duty to a very high standard.

In conclusion, I shall leave you with just one question … Could THIS be the time for novelty tea-towels?