It’s Life Darling But Don’t Call It Bucolic

It’s a shiny, misty morning. Clouds criss cross the sky, leaving gaps for the glaring sun to pierce through on occasion, illuminating a landscape green with recent rain and cast in shadow by the low fog that wisps across the valleys.

Dew is heavy on the ground and, although we have had unseasonably warm days during May, the fact that winter is no longer coming, is in fact here, is evidenced by the stubbornness with which the dew clings to the lengthening grass. In a short week our yard has gone from growing green grass to forming a jungle of marshmallow weeds and native grasses that grow in thick tufts. The boggy ground will make using the mower difficult and we may have to bring out the whipper-snipper.

The local farmer has dropped off another couple of rams, making that five now, and they’ll winter on our hilly back paddock, leaving the ewes alone while they lamb and suckle. He said he’d happily come and look after our chooks for us if we went away, let the sheep roam in the front paddock too, maybe they’ll eat some of that grass we never got to mow. And I’ve finally convinced him that I’m not a vegetarian and neither is my wife (anymore), so next time he kills a lamb there’s half of one coming our way.

Life in our sleepy country town may not be bucolic* but it sure is uplifting to know that there’s people willing to help where they can.

* For my wife – Alternative definition: that sickening feeling you get when your plans turn to dust because of treachery and mansplaining.

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Just A Morning’s Musings

I’m back again. It seems a lot of you have stopped looking for me though. Sorry, I’m expending a lot of energy trying to pass my uni subject and while not exploding at the fourth years who are sharing the class with us. I can’t believe how laissez faire they are; no shows at lectures (which are done in day blocks, so easy to plan for), railing against the lecturers who gave them a grade that reflects their effort and understanding and now an email asking that their ‘role play’ go first because some of them have important stuff planned for the afternoon. Really? The whole day has been set aside, your lecturer has done this for a reason, you have been told that your part of others learning is to be there and give feedback and now you want to go first so you can leave early for ‘important stuff’.

I know, I know, they’re young and life is full of parties (a generalisation but a high probability). I can remember my youth, I can remember my callous disregard for others’ feelings or plans, I can remember this and still be appalled at their own entitled, privileged manifestation of my own behaviour and hope that they grow up soon because we have a role play to do and my mark depends on your commitment.

Okay, enough youth bashing, onto other things: Maya Angelou. As you read this I’m sure, if you are a reader, literary, poetically inclined, interested, feminist, womanist or concerned with the liberation of your fellow human beings you may have heard of this wonderful, powerful woman. Yesterday she died. She was 86, a life lived to the full despite the horrors she experienced and witnessed. Who among you has read I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings and not been left gasping, crying, reeling by its power?

I found out about another sorrow this morning too, a relative across the seas has also passed from this world. Much younger, not famous but no less valuable in their place in the world. Parent, sibling, beloved and caring family member, this individual takes with them a little piece of all who’s lives they touched. Go well and with love.

This Euphoria Won’t Last, Will It?

Today I stand before you all as a mother of a 21 year old. It’s a big day for me and for the pup. She has survived 21 years in my care and I have survived the caring years. I remember when she was born, the post labour euphoria was amazing, and I stared in wonderment at the little life before me.

You might be thinking what’s all this survival stuff? Well, for all of you out there who have yet to have a child, I have a secret to let you in on; parenting is an endurance sport. Luckily, for me, I can see where my and the pup’s father’s endurance has started to reap benefits. It feels like an amazing accomplishment to have helped a small soul become a unique being, with their own will and thought and passion.

And the pup’s survival. Well, I was a complete novice at being a parent before I had her, and every step of the way was new to me. She continues to be my most enduring experiment. As she is my only child I can’t use any of the lessons I’ve learned from her on any other children. This is probably a good thing.

I’ve collected presents for her for this birthday over time, things that reflect her personality and taste, things that reflect the lovely person she is growing into, with interests varied and weird (but endearing). She asked me how I knew what to get her and then answered her own question, “because you’ve known me for 21 years?” To which I replied that I only know the bits she has chosen to show me. That she has many more facets to her than just her mother’s view of her.

She still tries to shock me, it’s not worked yet. If she actually went to university and completed a degree, that might do it (I’m ever hopeful of that shock). I’m trying to dare her to be her best self. I hope the next 21 years are a grand adventure, that she gives herself the chances to take, the challenges to surmount and the joys to cherish, and I hope I’m there to see them all along the way.

Strangely the euphoria hasn’t really worn off from that first moment I laid eyes on her. It’s ebbed at times, in those hard teenage years the euphoria was difficult to capture but it snuck through on occasions, showing in unexpected times, and now, watching the adult she is becoming, it’s just rumbling under the surface, swelling my heart and heightening of my senses. I grew this child. I helped make this adult. She is lovely and kind and smart and fierce. She is grabbing her life and making it hers. I’m so relieved.

Today I am angry

The flip side to my ‘I’m in pain’ rant. We make a fine pair. Luckily, we have each other.

Snoringcat's Blog

Yes, today I am angry. This will not come a complete surprise to my Facebook friends and family. It’s a combination of things, but I suspect the cumulative affect of rejection emails/letters/calls and dealing with slightly patronising and shallowly sympathetic account staff is part of it. I know I’m not the only one who isn’t working, but the system is broken.

Let me tell you a little about what not working means. ‘You have all the time in the World’ you might say, and that is kind of true but I can’t do a lot with that time because I don’t have income. So yes, I could paint the house (if I had paint), redo the garden (if I could afford mulch, plants, etc) or take up great hobbies (if I could afford the basics of getting started). So what do I really do?

After waving my wife good bye…

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Fine, I’ll Make My Own Up! Experimenting With Green Tomatoes.

It’s been a busy couple of days on the cooking front. Today I finished off a batch of Green Tomato Pickles. Call outs for recipes didn’t actually present any, maybe my followers aren’t cooks. Nonetheless, I pulled together a recipe using my mother’s memory of her pickle triumph and an internet recipe (from the site called Gourmet Getaways) for some of the proportions.

Below is the recipe for your experimentation. I don’t like sweet pickles so the sugar in this recipe is quite low, for even more tartness use half the amount I’ve used. If you want sweeter you can go up to 900 gms sugar (too sweet for me).

2 kg green tomatoes (washed, de-stalked and dried)
400 gms onions
9 tbsp salt

Dice the tomatoes and onions to similar sizes but keep separate. In the pan you will later use to cook everything up, layer 1/3 tomatoes, 1/3 onions and sprinkle 1/3 salt evenly over, repeat with remaining ingredients. Cover and leave this to sit overnight to help remove the excess liquid.

Next day drain your tomato and onion mix. Boil 2 kettles of water. Pour one over the mixture and drain again. Repeat with the other kettle of water, this is to try to get all the saltiness out of your pickle base.

Return your thoroughly drained tomatoes and onions to their pan and add:
450 mls white vinegar

Put on to stove and bring to boil. Once boiling cook for 10 mins (put the timer on) with the lid on.

Meanwhile mix:
3/4 cup flour (can use rice flour for gluten free)
1 tbsp turmeric
3 tbsp curry powder
300 mls white vinegar (added to dry ingredients to form a paste) in a separate bowl.
My paste was quite runny, I think the rice flour didn’t absorb the liquid as readily but it still worked as a thickening agent.

Once your tomatoes etc have cooked add:
1 cup sugar and dissolve (this is where you can change the sugar proportions for sweeter or tarter pickles).

Remove from the heat and add the flour and spice paste slowly to the hot mixture, making sure it’s all mixed in, no lumps etc, and stirred through. Once it is all added put your mixture back on the stove on a low heat and simmer gently for 10 mins, stirring or until you have your desired thickness.

Turn off the heat and let it cool a little before putting it into your sterilised jars. These proportions make 6 jars.

I think you can eat this almost immediately but I would let it sit in the jar for about a month to let the flavours settle and mature. It’s perfect for roast beef and cheese sandwiches or as a condiment with some of my favourite winter warmers, corned beef or pickled pork. I’ve already dropped one off to my sister and I have to give one to my other sister, who grew the tomatoes.

I hope you have fun experimenting with this recipe. My mum said it used to be very popular at the school fete.

Fried Green Tomatoes?

Gravy beef. It’s the one* consolation of winter. A rich, tasty piece of beef that, cooked slowly with mushrooms and veggies, a few herbs and spices, can make a cold winter night a feast fit for a royal personage.

A friend, last year, became obsessed with cooking the perfect gravy beef and mushroom pasta sauce on her glorious wood-fired stove. My wife and I were lucky enough to be part of the experiments and partook in one such evening, remembered fondly and concluded at 3am! (Ok, ok, some wine was drink too).

Why am I talking about winter? Well, it’s here already. No Indian summer for us this Autumn, hot, hot, hot, freezing! That’s what happened. I looked forebodingly at my wife in mid-March and said we were going to need wood early. She blithely stated we’d be alright but Easter was bitter and the wood guy has suddenly become really popular (in our lives and others).

Don’t get me wrong, the colours of Autumn are all around, but the gradual decent into frozen• was missing. It happened so quickly that our tomatoes were unable to ripen. Neither were other people’s and so it’s time to make green tomato pickles or chutney.

So, does anyone have any good recipes to help use our green tomatoes? Post them in the comments, I’d love to try something new.

*a lie and a generalisation for the purposes of emphasis. I also love roasts, layers, winter coats, warm hats, mittens and gloves, wood fires and soups.

•I know, in Australia we don’t really get frozen winters in the sense of the Northern hemisphere, but relatively speaking it’s cold.

Break-Up Songs Of The Late Twentieth Century

It’s been 15 days and several hours, since I put a post up here.
If that first line reminded you of a song written by Prince and sung by Sinéad O’Connor then well done, it was totally deliberate. As far as ear worms go that one isn’t a bad one. The album it was released on is 24 years old! I must confess to loving the earlier album The Lion and The Cobra with its rawness and passion and anguish writ large but I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got is full of more crafted and produced pieces that still manage to capture the chaos that is Sinéad and the beauty of her voice.
I’m not sure what this post is about but the fact that it’s been just over two weeks since my last post prompted the paraphrasing of Nothing Compares To You. I think I sang that song with feeling but without pathos. There was no-one that I was missing enough to be singing that about in 1990. I’m sure it was thousands, maybe millions, of people’s break-up songs but I wasn’t one of them.
Ah, break-up songs. That’s an idea. Oh, the highest rotation album for break-up songs for me was Melissa Etheridge’s self titled first album. It’s ironic that, at that stage, she was writing about a woman leaving her for another woman and I was singing it and listening to it about a man leaving me for another woman. It’s testament to the power of her words that they reached into my psyche then, or just that I was 19 years old and hurt, hurt, hurt! Now, of course, I love a woman, am married to one, and my break-up anguish over that man is long forgotten.
When I went through my last break-up
Melissa Etheridge was long packed away (I had it on tape) and instead I turned to a young singer from Germany, of Nigerian heritage, called Ayo, and her 2006 album called Joyful. The song Down On My Knees is far from joyful and suited my mood in mid 2007, one of fear and confusion. A long term relationship, that I had thought would continue forever, had ended with betrayal. I tried to be adult and mature about it all, accepting the decision of my loved one, but this song spoke about my inner monologue, the one I daren’t let out. Ayo was writing and singing about a man, I was grieving the loss of a woman. See, irony again.
I’m sure I’ve left a trail of break-up songs behind me, I’ve more often been the leaver rather than the left. I hope to never have to find another one. I’m fairly certain that my wife would prefer that too, we’ve made our commitment for our whole lives and we have every intention of seeing it through.
What have your break-up songs been?

As a short addendum I wish to say that my mother went through a phase of playing You’ll Never Walk Alone over and over again after my father died. This wasn’t her break-up song, it was her grieving song. I think there’s a close correlation but that ultimately a break-up song is situation specific but the grieving song (or songs) are often songs that have had significance in the relationship throughout. That’s my observation, for what it’s worth.