Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Home Thoughts

During and after a little orgy of window washing and table-polishing, I made a list of things I don't notice until I do them, at which point they are disgusting.

The wall behind the kitchen bin. I don't think we lob things in from a distance, but forensics say otherwise.

The cutlery drawer.

The handle to the fridge.

The sides of the dishwasher door.

The top of a cooker hood.

ANY portion of a barbeque.

We also seem to pour coffee down the cupboard fronts quite regularly, and put trays onto lumps of food, which set.

The only area where I shine is the front door. I keep mine washed, and few people do. It makes me feel better when I visit a domestic paragon and stand at her dusty, dirty door. I think my mum pointed out to me that we don't really SEE our own front door. Mine is hung around with cobwebs though, because I haven't the heart to harass the little sisters outside as well as in.

My lovely real sister sent me a link to her latest tv commercial:
We are very proud of her.

Monday, November 27, 2006


The soap I am currently using smells strongly of eucalyptus, reminding me of Sydney and Vick's Vapour Rub. It doesn't linger, which surprises me. I would have thought it more robust.

Stefan has been working solidly and hard, which puts me on tenterhooks rather. I don't want to gallivant too hard, seems to be rubbing it in, but on the other hand if I stay in (sorting, cleaning, cooking, reading) all the while tracking his progress with one ear, it boils down to MORE EATING, which equals more of me.

On the other hand the house is now battened down for winter, I have completed all the sewing I have fabric for, found some interesting projects in my scrap chest, and have even stirred myself to invite dear friends old and new to dinners. Here I shudder a little, because of course this will eat into Stefan's customary fourteen hour day. It would be even better if I could drag him out for walks, for both of us.

The vast soup I made with the turkey carcass is delicious, better than expected, but my lads are surfeited with turkey and won't touch it, so it will go into the freezer in small cartons, for a series of solitary meals a la bonne femme. I am beginning to feel I do a great deal of this sort of ducking and weaving around the running of the household, eating what others won't, plumping pillows, smoothing blankets, wiping cat sick, scraping cat litter, in a strangely concealed way. I don't expect Stefan to housekeep beyond his allotted role of feeding the cat, but I can't help but wonder if I'm the only one who cares. He did say the house looked welcoming and lively when the Monster dragged some investors over, and that gives me absurd pleasure.

I need to buy a table, as Caroline can now fit her precious French farmhouse table, on loan to me, into her new house. The one I want is 106 inches, just short of nine feet, so longer tablecloths are in order.

I'm underoccupied aren't I? Hanging about like a knotless thread, not helping all that much but at least able to intercept phone calls and fill in odd orders, make lunch. Could a grown woman perhaps do better?

I had a fleeting return of meaning, debriefing an investor of his expectations and letting him know where we are. I used to be a woman of business.

Monday, November 13, 2006

A Delicious Cowpat

I don't think it was meant to turn out quite like this, I think the dough was too wet, but the taste, texture and crust are perfect! Pretty good, especially when you consider I used two cups whole wheat to one plain.

Yes, I have been eating it, and I am unrepentant. I was boring myself with my virtue.

Recipe: No-Knead Bread

Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Last night watched Falling Down for the first time, then drugged myself as much as I dared and slept wonderfully. I worked from bed this morning before tackling the sewage pump once more, then worked some more, a little sewing, a little writing, and so the day goes.

I am making bread to the minimalist recipe from the New York Times, that should be satisfying even though I can't eat it. I am getting fed up with my dietary restriction, I can feel a grumble at the back of my throat even though I do feel healthy on it, apart from one episode of hypoglycemic shock which at least proves it's working.

I enjoyed Mary Wesley's mix of conceit and self-loathing but she is not a great writer, and the editor should have been ashamed - windows which were nailed shut on one page were flung wide a few pages later (and show me the London terrace which has casements!) And more. It was mainly interesting for her dated take on aging (her heroine has given up at fifty) and her unflinching focus on it.

She also paints a London in which country ladies up for a few days unhesitatingly head for the Ritz, the Dorchester, the Connaught, even though they have no means of support visible or invisible, and dress from jumble sales and hand-me-downs. I think that era has passed.

She is saved by her unapologetic nastiness, no martyr's crown for her. I'm glad her books are short though, because time spent in her characters' company is abrasive. That one is going straight back to the Salvation Army.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Well, I have finished the bedskirt apart from the violet gussets, the silk for that has vanished, and I have made the two silk velvet banners after several false starts. Can there be a more contrary fabric to work with? Then when I finished one I found a tiny nick from my scissors in it, so had to start all over again. Caroline can use it as a scarf, the colours are wonderful.

As you can probably tell I feel very dreary, don't like my red hair as it reminds me too closely of the dreaded Miss Kelly. She wore swishy chiffon dresses with cross-over bodices and peep-toe pumps - to off-set the moustache I suppose. I fear the same mechanism in myself - dyed red hair wildly signaling insecurity and insignificance.

It was very pleasant sitting round the fire last night yarning. Interesting political things are happening at Felix's college so he was filling us in, and Cissy has changed the subject for her paper and is all enthused. Stefan is so drained by the effort of working in tandem with the opinionated and ignorant that he sloped off early, and I tackled Mary Wesley in the spirit of open-mindedness. Her nastiness suits me this time round. Thinking: when does sweetness become anodyne. Do we need our faults, and those around us. Does it matter. Is practically all effort misguided.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Little Bitty Tear Let Me Down

After an, um, difficult start to the day, I tried unplugging my iPod from its charger (the sign said "WARNING! Do Not Disconnect!"). I wanted to master it, since I carried it with me on my two most recent trips and by the time I switched it on (airport, way home) it was flat. I am brave enough to start again, but no matter what I try it only plays Burl Ives! Much as I like Burl Ives, and I do, I want more.

Somewhere in this little pink slab is Eva Cassidy, Diana Krall, Jessye Norman... Oh Mister In-Between! Lavender Blue Dilly-Dilly!

At least I am drinking champagne (Jimmy Crack Corn and I Don't Care), the Democrats have taken the House, maybe even the Senate, and Stefan's article has been accepted for publication at a healthy fee.

I wanna go where there ain't no snow, where the rain don't fall and the wind don't blow - or am I here already?


Our little white queen is herself again, thanks to cortisone and oatmeal baths, and homeopathic Silicea, for "fatique and irritability brought on by overwork". The great bloody gouges on her sides have healed, and the seizures, spacey look, bedragglement and peeing are gone.

I was searching for the right words to describe her recovery, and it think they are: she has recovered her composure. She does not really have sparkle, more a quiet authoritative presence. She is deliciously soft and sweet-smelling; I shall continue the baths. The shaved side might take a long time to grow back, her fur is about three inches long there - thank goodness it wasn't further back where it is easily five inches for the top hair.

Her sweetness of nature continues. I was brushing her last night, and arranged her chops into Cap'n Slocum whiskers, then brushed her brow forward into a wierd buzz-cut so overall the effect was of the old professor chimp in Planet of the Apes. I rounded it off nicely by brushing all her fur the wrong way so it stood up wildly, and she purred throughout. I couldn't wish for a more dear familiar.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Home Again Again

Back to find it had rained, so the garden is fresh, but I can't say the same for the house. Before I left I sprayed fly spray which made a greasy sheen on the polished floor - waited to see if it would dissipate but instead I forgot about it, skidded and fell, so I mopped it up. Nasty cloudy smear. Mopped it again with special Orange Floor Stuff, and it is slightly better, but coming into the room with fresh eyes I know it is there. Don't feel like doing the definitive strip and wax the floor right now, so I am left with an uncomfortable niggle, like a wedgie.

Wonderful book I intend to buy, "Nourishing Traditions", Sally Fallon. Recommended to one and all.

Really enjoyed meeting people in Tijuana this trip. And the Cantina! there were four bands in one room - but they played only two at a time. Not the same tune, of course. Very energising, third chakra. Guadala-Hara.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Pregnant in Tijuana

We arrived last night, and went out with Chuck and Stewart to la Cantina de los Remedios which was rollicking good fun, very noisy, mariachi band with busted double bass, the works (I had tongue). Then this morning delicious tripe for breakfast before the stem cells, which was quick and painless, so now I am pregnant, figuratively speaking.

During the operation Gustavo was talking us on with guided meditations and relaxation, and I was thinking of Clancy my darling dog, Gilly my favorite horse, the beautiful garden I created at Park Village... plaiting Cissy's hair for St Christopher's, William as a jolly rollicking baby and jolly again now, the last precious 2 a.m. feeds with Felix when I was keenly conscious of my good fortune as an older mother who could relax and enjoy them.... it was meant to relax me but it made me cry and I had to switch to more robust pleasures. Who would have thought I could be so soft.

So many wonderful memories are loaded, that's the trouble. I was thinking how much I loved the section of the long ride home from Kambala when we swung around Botany Bay to the wetlands by the airport, and the air and water was full of birds. It's all gone. I neglected Clancy, and bitterly regret that he wasn't with us to enjoy the garden. I miss my garden still. I could smell Cissy's hair, and feel it under my hands while she fidgettedas I did it in the neat, complicated cornrow plaits I love.

I really love and miss children, that's the truth, and why I enjoy Cian and Ariana so much. They don't have to be biologically mine, and I do enjoy the freedom of handing them back. I drifted in a pleasant fantasy of grandmotherhood, with cousins playing happily together, and myself suitably lavender-scented, apple-cheeked and grey-haired. Maybe with a paddock for a horse, and room and time for a noble-hearted dog, and some chooks.

I am leary of travelling now, maybe that is why I am more content with home pleasures. And the wherewithal to indulge them.

Stefan professes himself ready to reform his nutrition, take his supplements (as long as I assemble them), but then delayed drinking his foul tasting vegetable juice. It is no good agreeing in the abstract if it is battle on every particular. I am so literal-minded myself, I have real trouble getting my head around such double-think. No cure for it now.

P.S. He drank it.