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Showing posts from December, 2005


If Port Phillip Bay is a clockface, Melbourne lies, smug, maybe even complacent, at twelve o'clock. The suburbs extend to maybe four o'clock and then the vineyards and ti-tree of the Mornington Peninsula begins. Sometimes I take the road around the coast instead of the inland freeway. It's prettier. After Dromana, it edges past a cliff that reaches right down to the water and sometimes sheds rock. Houses cling impossibly to the cliff, picture windows the size of cinema screens staring vacantly at the stupendous view, the vast blue that sometimes turns grey, sometimes silver. Now we're at six o'clock on the big clockface, where the peninsula narrows to a few kilometres in width, the bay on the inner side and the roaring angry ocean on the other. Here for a few days, up on the hill in the little beach house with the aganpanthuses grinning stupidly in the sunshine and the ti-tree creaking in the heat. It's heading towards forty degrees. * Christmas was the usual am

The painting.

My friend had an exhibition. Said he wanted to clear his artroom, which is probably his loungeroom. Darren lives on his own because he doesn't like people. He likes painting and surfing. He is probably one of the nicest people I know, in that paradoxical manner of the likeable curmudgeon. So he had the exhibition and I went along to the opening and most of the paintings sold. Everyone seemed to think they were underpriced. 'I just wanted to get rid of them,' he said, viciously, as if he knew each painting too well, like a nasty aunt. They are idiosyncratic and strange and modernistic and populated by odd stretched-out people in vast land- and seascapes. I bought one that was blue. I planned to put it in the beachhouse, in the room where we sleep, the room that catches the roar and howl of the ocean at night when the wind is up. Each painting had an anecdote attached, typed out on a piece of paper. The anecdote on my painting was about surfing. Darren surfs all over the worl

Chicken and corn on udon noodles.

Lesley emailed me this recipe - perfect comfort food at a time like Christmas when there's far too many parties and far too much heavy food - particularly in our climate (it's 34 degrees and humid outside right now). Simmer some chicken pieces in a litre of water. Throw in a packet of chicken noodle soup, a can of creamed corn or corn kernels, some sliced mushrooms and broccoli and whatever else you have in the fridge. Cook until the chicken's done. Pile some snow peas and udon noodles in a bowl and spoon the soup over them. Yum. Thanks Lesley.

The Shortbread Dilemma.

Every year old Mrs Hartney makes shortbread for mum. She's been doing this for years, it's a Christmas tradition. She brings it around in a tin. (Mum looked after her children during the school holidays in the late '60s as Mrs H. had to work - our backyard was always full of kids, us and other peoples' - and Mrs H. has remained eternally grateful.) So Mrs H. rocks up with the shortbread, only to find mum not home. She doesn't leave it on the doorstep or near the back door or under the potplant, she takes it to a neighbour, Mrs Snaith, who lives two doors away. Mrs Snaith is also not at home, but Mr Snaith is. So Mrs Hartney leaves the shortbread with Mr Snaith with strict instructions to look out for mum and drop it in when they can see she is at home. Only problem is, Mr Snaith has Alzheimer's Disease. Maybe Mrs H. doesn't notice. Maybe Mrs H. is heading that way as well. Then, later that evening, Mrs H. rings mum and she's like, Did you get the shortbr


Is this weird or does everyone do it? We swap leftovers. Mum had a large piece of corned beef that she couldn't use. She had someone coming for dinner, I don't know, an aged aunt or someone, and bought a piece of corned beef the size of two footballs. So they have their corned beef dinner and mum hardly eats any meat anyway and the aged aunt or whoever it was has a bird-like appetite and eats probably two slices of corned beef sliced so thinly you can see the roses on the plate pattern (Grindley, England, 1927) and so there's a corned beef left over in the fridge and when we visit mum says, 'There's a corned beef in the fridge for you.' Just like that. * I boiled up some peeled, quartered potatoes with a carrot and dropped a few cloves and some peppercorns into the pot along with a bay leaf (because there was a sprig of them there, drying on the wall). After the vegetables had boiled for a while I added some chopped cabbage. Savoy. Then I sliced some the corned


Half a can of red kidney beans and half a can of corn kernels sat on the middle shelf in the fridge along with not much else. Half a forlorn avocado, the glass jar we use to make dressings in, an almost empty and probably flat bottle of tonic water, some tired celery and a sad, soft carrot in the crisper. We've been busy and it's nearly Christmas and it's hot and we need to go shopping and the dog's arthritis has flared again and she needs to go to the vet to get some more Rimadyl and maybe we'll go shopping tomorrow. And maybe we won't. Maybe we'll just order takeaway until January. Or February. Imagine: crisp, delicious fish and chips all wrapped up in paper one night, followed by spicy Turkish adana kebab the next; maybe pizza on the third night - fragrant with melting cheese and salty anchovies and tart tomato and fresh herbs - then some spanakopita and cakes from the Greek shop; roast chicken and some baked potatoes from that chicken shop on the corner

Royal flush.

When we moved house recently, Queen Elizabeth came with us. I drove her down in the back of the Volvo, not exactly a limousine but comfortable and spacious enough. She had lived in a pot at the old house, with a sunny northerly aspect that seemed to suit her just fine. But here at the new house, there was a gap in one of the garden beds - a gap that catches the afternoon sun - and I thought of the Queen straight away. You have to be careful when transplanting roses, of course. Some say you need to prepare the hole months in advance. This hole was prepared a few minutes in advance, by throwing in some Black Gold branded compost (they swear it by at the nursery) and building up a little throne of earth in the middle for her to sit upon. Then I lifted her gently out of her pot, teased her roots a little and down she went, as gracefully as a crowned monarch can. Then I tramped on the earth all around her to make sure there were no air pockets, rocked her gently to and fro to make sure she

Sunday buffet.

Outside, the midday sun glared, but inside the church it was cool and still and dark, just like it always is in churches everywhere. Marble and polished woodwork. Statues and silence. Stained glass and last week's parish flyers on the pews. William slept through the whole thing. He woke momentarily when the priest poured the water over his head but was asleep again in seconds. Then the oil on the forehead. Then the blessing. Then it was over. William's baptism day. Then everyone came back to our place for what was a kind of cross between lunch and afternoon tea. And it was a bit of a mixture. All the usual things. Sandwiches of many kinds, T.'s mini sausage rolls, little bowls of this and that, cocktail frankfurts, cakes; and - outside help this time - for the curry lovers, I had ordered some food from my new favourite grocery/deli/caterer, the quaintly named Desi Needs. A huge bowl of channa masala, another of magnificently spicy pepper chicken and a platter of pakoras, pr

Another one!

One blog. Two years. Three babies. Now there's number four. My youngest brother has become a father for the first time. Darcy Rose is an adorable baby with the biggest blue eyes I've ever seen on a newborn. In her white cotton gown she looks like an angel in a Mirka Mora painting. She was 8lbs something (we've had metrics since 1972 but babies still come in pounds and ounces) and mother and baby are fine. Darcy becomes my mother's twelfth grandchild, the others of which have produced six great-grandchildren. Christmas is coming. It's back at Family Central this year. We need the space.

A few days at the beach.

I was out early to get the paper, around seven o'clock. I walked back along the beach and the water was silver glass as the sun rose over Arthur's Seat on a perfect day. * After breakfast, we drove along the bay and were in Sorrento in five minutes. Like weekend resort towns the world over, it's a sleepy village during the week. The main street stretches lazily up the hill from the beach, the cypress pines and the ferry terminus. We parked and unpacked the pram, lay gurgling William in it and set off for a stroll in the cool shade of the shopfront verandahs. The shops had that ten-o'clock-Monday-morning buzz. Not yet busy, just enthusiastic and waiting. A vacuum whirred in the darkness of one and further along, in the doorway of the real estate business, sat the resident staffordshire - Buster - with a giant grin on his face. Can't blame him. He's in real estate. A little shopping then back to Blairgowrie. Lunch at the cafe, under an umbrella. The bay winking i

One-sentence dinner.

Zucchini are coming in so I picked up some small pale green ones, about two inches in length, from the market and stewed them whole with some chopped onion, canned crushed tomatoes, a small amount of stock, a handful of rice and more herbs from the garden; and when they were done, I sprinkled them with sumac and served them with warm turkish bread and pickled turnips with tahini on the side.