The Idiot’s Guide To Homemade Muesli

Who’d have thought that one day I would be smug enough to make my own Muesli? And brave enough to brag about it? But in these days of health madness, it’s not just Pete Evans who can be radical in the kitchen; you can be too. You might even get a modicum of respect for your domestic prowess when you pour this amount of wholesomeness into the kids bowls each morning. 

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Process the nuts unless you know someone who can do the Heimlich Manoeuvre

Not if your kids are anything like mine, admittedly. There was a united ‘eugghhh’, followed by a collective sigh as they watched me throw my Muesli all together and then begged the old man to buy the boxed Sanitarium version from Aldi instead.

 

But at least you’ll know you tried.

 

I find breakfast very uninspiring typically, mainly because I’m not a morning person and frankly the last thing I want to do (other than sex) is eat at 7am, unless it’s a hot “all you can eat” English breakfast buffet in Scotland; secondly, I can’t actually coordinate my limbs before my coffee, which makes breakfast complicated.

 

I’ve stuck faithfully to porridge with some sliced banana since winter set in here in Sydney a month or so ago, for comfort really, but it’s getting a bit monotonous now and I can’t seem to prevent those fears creeping in about what we don’t know about microwaves….

 

Then, when we were on our mini break recently in the Hunter, what should I find in the kitchen cupboard but Alpen sachets; the type that we used to get in English B and Bs, and I got all excited and melancholy.

 

Because Muesli always did have a certain class about it, didn’t it? It recaptures Switzerland perfectly and all the really good stuff about it like its freshness and chocolate and Roger Federer and snow-capped mountains, and chocolate, and Heidi… and definitely not skiing, because we all secretly hate skiing.IMG_2626

 

Just me?

 

Anyway, according to www.mindbodygreen.com, the benefits of Muesli are:

 

  • Muesli typically has less sugar and calories than most breakfast cereals on supermarket shelves.
  • It is high in fiber and whole grains, which regulate the digestive system, are filling and can aid in weight control.
  • Muesli is a potent source of antioxidants.
  • The addition of nuts provides a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids (especially walnuts).
  • Milk or dairy alternatives that usually accompany muesli is a source of dairy and protein.

 

And if that isn’t enough, it probably helps you poo daily which can be a concern at our age, because all that healthy stuff does that. The moment I tore open my first sachet it reminded me how partial I am to the odd bowl of Muesli, especially when I’m in a healthy phase because I need to get back in my swimming costume soon.

 

The only problem with Muesli is that it can be a bit harsh on the budget, having to be carried down mountains by goats herded by Heidi and Peter, and the old man does have a newly revised and very tight food shopping budget.

 

So I did some research and realised quickly that a) muesli does not require a degree in cooking or really any cooking techniques whatsoever, and b) it uses up all those dredges of nuts, raisons and seeds that have floated around in your kitchen cupboards for decades sending out mating calls to moths since that time you made protein balls in 1902.

 

So here’s my recipe… stolen from generations of online Swiss Museli-Makers and then adapted to suit what I had in the cupboard:

 

Ingredients:

 

1 cup Almonds or walnuts

4 cups of rolled oats

1 cup coconut flakes

3 tbsp of Chia

1 tsp of cinnamon

2 cups of dried fruit (I used dried cranberries and dates)

1 cup of bran

1 cup of sunflower seeds

1 cup of pumpkin seeds

½ tsp salt

 

NB. Process the nuts unless you know someone who can do the Heimlich Manoeuvre, then mix it all together and feel the smugness wash over you. Add milk, or yoghurt if you’re a little bit fancy.

Why I’ll Never Be A Good Cook

e2e2de800ad56d879c5de0e59c3b423aI always won the ‘progress’ prize at school – never the ‘outrageously gifted’ or abundance of academic and sports prizes that the beautiful head girl with the double-barrelled name won – the girl that all of us boarders had a secret crush on, because she was not only gifted, but surprisingly nice.

 

No, mine was always the prize for trying hard.

 

And deep down it was galling, not because I needed to win first prize to buff up my self-esteem because I’ve always been quite easy on myself, found it easy to convince myself that trying my best is what’s important, but deep down I knew that my dad’s chest would have inflated with pride to know that he had a ‘winner’ for a daughter.

 

It might also have given him with some justification for the fees.

 

I’ve grown up a bit since then and realised that you can’t be great at something just by wishing for it, or trying hard; that talent and ability actually count for quite a bit in the real world.

 

And that is the sad realisation I’ve been forced to come to recently with cooking.

 

You see, I’ve got this shelf of lovely, glossy recipe books that tempt me on a daily basis to do a ‘Gwyneth’ and knock up something perfect that everyone will hate me for; that trick me into believing that I can make something wonderful if I go all Disney and simply believe…

 

In fact, so keen am I to impress the family with my culinary skills, I’ve even managed to adapt to the Borrower-size limitations of the tiniest kitchen that isn’t part of a caravan – yet still nothing goes right.

 

Because you wouldn’t believe the things that can go wrong in my kitchen.

 

I mean, how hard can it be to follow a recipe? I hear myself shout at Masterchef almost every evening. It’s not like I’m trying to make Anna’s Mess or a Croquembouche with all seventy-four fucking instructions and a limited amount of time to knock them up in. I stick to simple, Nigella/Jamie home-style, throw-it-all-together cooking. Yet even that evades me.

 

I’ve never shaken off the reputation I got ten years ago when I made some new, exciting dish, threw the leftovers in the bin, and found a dead fox by the side of it the following morning.

 

After much deliberation I’ve decided that here’s where it all goes horribly pear-shaped:

 

The essential ingredient that I always forget and have to go without or replace with something nothing like it. It’s one of the fundamental reasons for my cooking ‘fails’, and one I’ve found can alter the outcome of a recipe quite dramatically, especially because my first rule of cooking is that a recipe should never have more than six ingredients in the first place. I always have the wrong flour, the wrong sugar, or in the heat of the moment I used the ‘close as’ approach eg. when I substitute a lime for a lemon, syrup for honey…

 

I never have the right equipment. Take the banana and peanut butter muffins I made last week, when I couldn’t be arsed to mash up the banana, then realised that I probably should and used a soup blender to crush them, filing down the inside of the plastic mixing bowl at the same time, so Kurt ended up with a shard of plastic in his mouth.

 

I always think I can improvise. I added potato to a curry last night, which was some kind of mutant potato that had the die-hard properties of a cockroach and refused to soften even after a desperate blasting in the microwave.

 

Timing – I’m a bit of a ‘wing it’ person, forget to put on the timer and still convince myself that five minutes here or there won’t make a difference. It does.

 

Instructions – Who knew that every instruction was important? I miss out certain instructions in the recipe’s method when I think they’re unnecessary, not time-efficient or I’ve already lost interest.

 

I’m a bit sketchy on my cooking techniques and believe that ‘stirring’ is fundamentally ‘stirring’.

 

I get distracted, because I pride myself on being a great multi-tasker – which I am – in any other location than the kitchen and in any other situation than cooking.

 

 

14 Ways To Achieve Fuck All On A Rainy Day

You might have gathered from the news that it’s been raining kangaroos and funnel web spiders here in Australia over the past few days. rain-360803_1280

 

There’s this giant myth around the rest of the world that it’s sunny all year around here, and if you live in states of the country fortunate to have crocs and deadly jellyfish as opposed to Zara and WIFI, that’s probably true. Fortunately for us Sydneysiders, we get seasons, because living in God’s country, we need to be reminded about the harshness of life, to keep our feet firmly planted on the sand.

 

Mind you, they’re only mild seasonal changes – just enough of a dip in temperature to teach us the difference between bitch hot and a bit chilly.

 

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Obviously I photographed the bra that I ONLY wear to watch Poldark and Chris Hemsworth movies.

Australia probably lost a bit of credibility in the weather stakes last weekend, and if our political stability hasn’t already put them off, I imagine that thousands of Brits are cancelling their visas at this very moment while the climate change doomsday mob rub their hands with glee, such was the Armageddon we experienced at the hands of nature.

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The turtleneck jumper – one of the best fashion inventions EVER!

 

And while there are tons of great suggestions on the Internet about what to do on rainy days in Sydney, unfortunately most of them involve actually leaving the house, like this one:

 

50 Things To Do On A Rainy Day In Sydney

 

IMG_2261And we were strictly told by our government NOT to go anywhere unless there was an emergency, such as running out of wine, so faced with two whole days at home, with hatches well and truly battened, rugged up, and thanking God that our parents forked out vast sums of their hard-earned money on swimming lessons, (just in case), I made up my own ‘To Do’ list.

 

If your glass is half-full, you’ll know that the good news about days like these is that they give you time to reflect, to catch up on house stuff or even spend some quality time with the kids. Then there’s my preferred option, of doing fuck all.

 

Here are my top tips for making the most of a rainy day:

 

  1. Remove your bra and make up and on no account wash your hair
  2. Ignore your husband until his Neanderthal exterior cracks with anxiety
  3. Wear those fugly turtle necks and holey leggings that you normally reserve for the anonymity of the slopes
  4. Wear your oldest, biggest, most comfortable undies because there’s no chance you’ll end up in the ER
  5. Cook up naughty foodstuffs that you’d never normally allow your body to partake of… because it is a temple. It’s raining. It might even be the end of the world. I made these butter and banana muffins, which didn’t quite meet health and safety regulations when both kids found a tiny slither of plastic in theirs. SO entitled!
  6. Simultaneously laugh at the jokes and rub your thighs at the sight of Ryan Reynold’s gloriously firm buttocks in Deadpool – there to remind you just how much you hate Blake Lively – then confuse your hormones and mix up the whole gamut of emotions by watching a weepy period drama – explain first to your teenage son that it isn’t a film about menstruation
  7. Paint your toenails, even though it’s winter and you did them three months ago
  8. Take the fridge leftovers out of the mouth of the dog and play an cooking invention challenge by knocking up the most amazing chicken soup to remind everyone how perfect you are and how you can rise to any challenge
  9. Say ‘no’ to your adult son when he implores you to play Monopoly with him and watch him crumble as you remind him you have no parental obligation to do that shit any more
  10. Prank call Optus and Telstra for all those times they’ve called you at 6pm at witching hour, when you’re only just managing to hold your shit together
  11. Delight in the therapy of a chin/mole plucking session
  12. Hide the Foxtel remote to ensure hubby does his 10,000 steps
  13. Do a family towel wash and lay them wet on the floors of your teenagers’ bedrooms
  14. Adele karaoke, anyone?

Any better suggestions?

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Chicken soup made with a touch of smugness

And Now For Some Food Porn From London

IMG_2121The old man lost weight while we were away – which is obviously grounds for divorce – and as far as I can see there can be no biological culprit of this inequality, other than my old friend menopause.

Because we ate mostly the same quantity of food while we were away – if you don’t count that afternoon tea I scoffed with my tiniest girlfriend who managed to put away almost three tiers of cakes as well as vats of bubbly and still looked enviably Hobbit-like the next day – BITCH!  He also drank a fuck-load of bitter and became particularly partial to the Magnums my dad had foolishly left in his freezer. He’s SO out of the will.

 

LIFE’S SO UNFAIR!

 

Since we’ve been home, the scales flinch every time I go near them, and I’ve decided that Sunday night is bad enough without that added level of pain. And if I’m honest with mysef, the extra kilos were probably worth the two weeks of gluttony enjoyed in a capital city not usually known for its gourmet food fare.

 

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Camden Market, innit?

 

So while the jet lag continues to mess with my thought processes, and in particular with an contemplation I have about writing anything meaningful, I thought I’d indulge you in some food porn from our trip, because the food was Poldark good, if you know what I’m saying…and I’m sure any Brits out there most certainly will.

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Meals that were stand out were not necessarily the most expensive – take the falafel kebab I demolished at Camden Market or the Tuna Salads from Pret A Manger that became our staple lunch in an effort to save money and calories, but it was the diversity of food we tried that made it so memorable. That’s the great thing about holidays – how all your usual disciplines float away in a sea of ‘don’t care’ petulance once you look at a menu.

IMG_2026There was the hangover food, which after classier nights was usually a croissant or two, posing in front of one of the trendy bread shop/cafes, dotted down the Kings Road.

And then there were the not so classy mornings when we had both lost the will to live and only animal fat would reach the spot, courtesy of a good old-fashioned ‘that’s what Statins are for’ English breakfast.IMG_2117

 

 

The dinner at the wedding of the year was pretty special and included this wonderful dessert which I had two of because (sadly!) my brother was so nervous about his speech, he couldn’t eat a thing. I might have also had his beef and lobster!

 

And talking of cakes, can you believe I freaking well MADE these macaroons at a cooking class with my sister? Although if you speak to her she will say that these perfectly round ones were in fact her batch because me and piping bags…well, let’s just say that we’re not the best of friends. But I won’t give too much away about that day because I have to dedicate an entire post at some point to our cooking class and how we finally managed to make our Chef smile…at us, rather than with us. IMG_2142

Seared tuna is my current foody passion and I managed to source ocean loads on this trip – this school came from a little French restaurant in Earls Court.

 

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But the repas extraordinaire has to go to the tapas we shared with my brother and his family at a little place in Chelsea called Tendido Cero. Of course I knew it would be a memorable experience as soon as I saw the art work …IMG_2180But even that much promise didn’t prepare me for the quality of the food. Even traditional favourites such as Patatas Pravas were pimped into these tempting bites of potato encrusted deliciousness with the mayo and tomato sauce inside.

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Patatas Bravas, if you please…

 

The Gambas Al Ajillo were frankly sex on a plate, as was the Tortilla Patata and I haven’t even got photos of the lamb because by that point the old man was giving me that ‘put your phone away’ look, which was the most succulent, young meat I’ve tasted since my twenties.

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Garlic Prawns!
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Tortilla Patata

 

 

Entitled Gen Y And ‘No Dinner For Me, Thanks!’

It’s such a relief to reach Friday night and know that it’s take-out tonight.

 

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We’re going through this stage with Kurt and NC at the moment, as they transition between wanting to live at home and us wanting them to fly the nest, where we’re never quite sure how many we’re cooking for. All we can hope, is that their decision not to partake of the family meal symbolises the next step in their journey to full independence, which will ultimately push them out of the free parenting vessel.

 

I’m not insinuating that our offspring are thoughtless, selfish or ENTITLED, it’s just that they’ve never had to think about anyone but themselves.

 

Some days the whole family appears at the dinner table – (Who am I kidding? Collect their meals from the kitchen to eat off trays in their rooms) – typically when there is fuck all in the fridge to get anyone’s digestive juices flowing, and only a Happy Potter spell could conjure up a Masterchef masterpiece – Other days it’s just the two of us.

 

On more days than we’d like, the kids decide to eat at home along with every starving, waif and stray student from Newtown, all desperate for a taste of home cooking, and we’re supposed to become the parenting version of Jesus and turn some tiny bowl of out-of-date leftovers into a feast.

 

Long gone are the days when the family used to squish side by side, dubiously content on the sofa, hot food burning our laps, to catch up on the latest episode of The Project together. The traditional event of eating as a family has long been replaced by this new system more fitting to our entitled progeny, that we call, ‘no dinner for me, thanks,’ or what I like to call, ‘taking the fucking piss’, that usually manifests itself about five minutes before we dish up.

 

It’s the old man I feel sorry for, because since he took on the very important role of primary cook – except for those scary days after his latest drama queen kitchen meltdown (he finds cooking stressful, apparently) when I have to step in and rescue the situation – he’s the one that gets fucked over.

 

Having said that, I have to micro-manage any new recipe so thoroughly, I may as well cook the damn thing myself.

 

With more cash in their pockets these days (because what’s the point in saving for a deposit for a unit, derr?), a mature taste for international cuisine and a fine selection of affordable take-out on offer in the hood, Gen Y now weigh up their options after a hard day grafting at further education, and it’s dependent on the appeal of the food on the menu at home.

 

Kurt would prefer to eat toast and Marmite any day rather than salmon (wild or not), and NC needs her daily five portions of vegetables to maintain her brain power, so the old man’s staple meal of meat and rice just doesn’t cut it, and is more often than not replaced by some lavish veggie stir fry from the local Thai.

 

Which is fine, when our bundles of joy are thoughtful enough to give us some notice. Not so fine when we roast a chook big enough to feed the suburb and it turns out that there are only two of us eating, plus one rather over-nourished dog who no longer complies with her ‘small breed’ categorisation.

 

Even more frustratingly painful for the old man, (and something that could lead to his fifth mid-life crisis in as many years), is that this system is not budget-conscious, something he has been working hard to perfect since he took over the role of house bitch.

 

And lest we dare forget the saying: Happy husband, happy shopping

When You Can’t Be Fucked To Cook Quinoa…Keep It Simple

I giggled evilly behind my laptop screen last night as I listened to the old man have a domestic melt down in the kitchen over cooking. weight-loss-850601_1280

 

Apparently, he finds cooking stressful. I’ve already got that tee-shirt, so felt little empathy.

 

Admittedly, we’re not the easiest family to plan meals for. I’m always on the latest ‘get-thin-quick’ diet, Kurt doesn’t eat, NC is fussy, and in spite of every medical journal telling him that meat is bad for him, the old man needs animal fat on his plate. He’s still grieving for sausages.

 

I admit to being pathetically influenced by the minimum of ten articles I ingest a day that pertain to know the secret of how to lose weight. And before you judge me, I don’t want to lose weight because I’ve been subliminally influenced by women’s magazines or the Kardashians to feel that I need to be thin or look like Elle McPherson to be successful of feel fulfilled; it’s for the sake of my health, and because I hate it when my clothes are tight.

 

And even though I know that most of what I read is a load of cock and bull, and that weight loss is not exactly rocket science, I still get sucked in.

 

TV programs such as The Biggest Loser are proof that anyone can lose weight with the aid of a fierce and hot trainer to keep you on track, time to dedicate to the challenge and some guidance with nutrition. In other words, all you really need is bag-loads of discipline to enforce those smaller portions, to put the biscuit tin in the bin, to eliminate pasta late at night, to drink less alcohol and more water, to eat less red meat and sugar…and prayer; lots of prayer.

 

Simples.

 

The problem that none of these diets forewarn us about is that that life gets in the way of the very best intentions. Which is why you shouldn’t take it THAT seriously unless your problem is affecting your health or the quality of your life.

 

Life is for living.

 

And I don’t take it really seriously. I discipline myself when I can – like when I eat at home on week nights – but if I have to break the diet for a good reason, I will. On Saturday night I devoured a massive wedge of chocolate cake because it was my friend’s birthday, and last night I sank three glasses of wine during a mutual ‘my life is worse than yours’ therapy session with another friend.

 

We all know our weak points, where we’re prone to fail, and mine is stress.

 

And a lot of these faddish diets don’t make it easy; in fact they make a real dogs dinner by over-complicating what should be easy recipes. They suggest recipes with foreign-sounding ingredients, or sprouts and veggies that real people can only find in pricey organic shops or some market in Southern France. The sort of ingredients that are not going to be a priority for working people who get home late and all all they can think about is parking their bum on the sofa and pawing at the remote control.

 

I love healthy food but I can’t be fucked to prepare it most of the time, and I certainly don’t have the time to soak or activate, when I could be watching Netflix.

 

I believe you can follow a healthy diet using standard, supermarket ingredients. Admittedly, I’m still waiting for that magic moment when my scales light up with a definitive deficit, but hey, I’m also fighting the battle of menopause… which can be very cruel.

 

Here are a few new ideas I’m trying out:

 

  1. My biggest ‘fail’ time is that time at the end of the day between work and dinner. I don’t even like chips that much but if they’re in the cupboard they’ve got my name on them. Recently I’ve replaced them with a teaspoon of Hummus and either cucumber slices or carrot sticks. They take the edge off – I promise. But if you can’t get through witching hour without that salt fix, Popcorn is better than chips.

 

  1. I’ve replaced a couple of my Flat Whites with mint or green tea.

 

  1. Dinner is strictly protein (fish or chicken) and salad.

 

I still have a (smaller) glass of wine a night with a couple of cubes of dark chocolate and we still eat out at the weekend – I just try and choose healthier options, such as Japanese or a Thai stir fry without the rice.

 

If I can be fucked, and the idea of a limp green salad isn’t doing it for me anymore, I try to spice up my salads by adding exotic supermarket ingredients like beetroot, bocconcini, feta, nuts, lentils or chickpeas.

 

However, trying to get ‘girl food’ over the line with the old man is always problematic and he has been known to choke if I dare add anything as hipster as a fresh herb.

 

So imagine if I suggested quinoa?

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone Needs A Token Baby Jesus At Christmas

I’ve got earache.

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The Princess was too mature to adorn the silly moustache. Obviously, mine is real!

It’s either payback for jumping into the pool for that revitalising swim on Christmas Day, (sometime between dessert and cheese), to celebrate the end of a glorious lunch that finally made it to the table in spite of my oven’s best attempts at sabotage when it decided to switch off halfway through cooking the turkey.

 

Needless to say, I remained calm, if ‘calm’ can be defined as drowning in a bottle of Moet. You can only imagine the military operation to get it going again – thank you God, Google and the Bosch forum.

 

Or it might have been caused by the swim on Boxing Day morning to help clear the Whisky cobwebs and give the locals a good laugh at my first attempt to glide gracefuly through the water with my new flippers.

 

It was a memorable Christmas Day.

 

If I’m honest, I’ve never understood those people who get super-stressed about cooking what is essentially a posh roast. It’s not the food that maketh the day, it’s the people you share it with. And we were lucky there. Good friends, who have become surrogate family here in Australia, with their new addition this year of the cutest token baby Jesus ever to grace our table and Instagram.

 

You need small children around you at Christmas, especially when your own children have grown up and disappoint you horrbily by sleeping straight through the morning, which left the old man and I twiddling our thumbs, wondering how to start Christmas without them. 

 

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NC tolerating our token Baby Jesus, the closest she will get to a baby, or so she tells me.

NC engaged Santa to deliver the old man and I both a stocking this year – my first since I was fourteen – and I might have shed a tear. The old man surprised me (hmmm) with the best handbag EVAR…as well as some new kitchen scissors (!), and Kurt bought me a mystery book, whose clues to its genre included the keywords ‘humor’, ‘perversion’, ‘sex’ and ‘women.’

 

If ever a son knew his mother….

 

Not everything went perfectly according to plan, OBVIOUSLY. The custard on my trifle never set and had to be sucked up with a straw; there was mild panic when the ‘pigs in blankets’ were still pink inside; Kurt scared the fuck out of our token baby with his impression of Mr Napkin Head, and no-one apart from me touched the Brussel sprouts or red cabbage and so avoided the obligatory flatulence afterwards.

 

Even the fact that the next generation thrashed us at Trivial Pursuit (who the fuck knows the names of the Transformers) couldn’t spoil the day, and nor could Kurt and one of his ‘in between sofas’ mates who turned up at 11pm and drank my entire bottle of Vodka between them. 

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The trifle might have been a tad runny…

 

The old man spent the day clearing away wrapping paper, tutting as he emptied the bottle bin, humming ‘Christmas Is Nearly Over’, and intermittently yelling at Kurt to PUT THE VODKA BOTTLE DOWN. But I’m sure I caught a couple of smiles of near-contentment when he thought I wasn’t looking and he hasn’t started counting the receipts from Myer yet.

 

And new BFFs for this one day of the year, NC and Kurt entertained us towards the end of the evening with their annual drunken dance off; the only time they truly bond, with their joint ‘garden sprinkler’ and ‘filling the shopping trolley’ moves.

 

To crown the day, a moment as pure as ‘Silent Night’ when drunk as a skunk NC moved us all to tears and reminded us of the true meaning of Christmas with her beautiful rendition of Phoebe’s ‘Smelly Cat’.

 

How was your day?

Do Mothers Ever Stop Worrying About How Much Their Kids Eat?

So, my son turned eighteen this year and I still worry about how much he eats.

Knife and fork with white plate on red background
Knife and fork with white plate on red background

While I try to limit my own calorific intake a little more every day, I face an ongoing battle to shove as many calories as I can down my son’s throat.

 

I hate the word ‘nag’, but I DO nag Kurt about not eating, and when he does pig out, I then nag him about not eating healthily.

 

It was the one aspect of visiting my mother-in-law that drove the old man up the wall once he’d left home for good; when she nagged at him incessantly to eat more food and shoved seconds of every meal in his face at every opportunity.

 

Up until the age of four, NC refused to eat anything solid and survived on yoghurt. I tried every delicacy to tempt her – enticing homemade vegetable purees, interesting finger foods and exotic fruits – but she would have none of it. And if I forced her, she gagged. I swore that she would never eat normally and that we would be serving yoghurt as the main course at her wedding.

 

But survive she did, and now eats Jungle curries with the enthusiasm of a drunk rugby player.

 

I have a new niece and I watched her put my sister through her food torture paces a few months ago, just as I was put through that same form of toddler terrorism by her cousin twenty years ago.

 

The problem is, Kurt is actually dropping weight, because the only meal he eats with any regularity is dinner. It must be hard for him to prioritise eating, with his very busy schedule of sleeping through breakfast, using durries as a substitute for lunch and the exertion of so much teenage energy watching back to back ‘Bones’ episodes. I listen to myself pester him about food the minute he first enters the kitchen, trying not to betray the panic in my voice, but at the same time offering him all manner of gourmet feasts to encourage his appetite to kick in, that no-one else apart from the Princess is privy to in the family.

No-one ever made me breakfast at eighteen, but such is the innate fear I have of my son being the only teenager on the North Shore to die of malnutrition, it is a battle I must win.  There is no doubt in my mind that the litheness of Kurt’s Mick Jagger physique (without the muscle tone ), is due to his hyperactivity, the ease with which he replaces most meals with fags, his incessant chatter at mealtimes and a genuine lack of interest in real food, nevertheless, I will go to any lengths to get some vitamins and minerals down him.

 

NC never actually developed all those hideous conditions like Rickets and Skurvy that I worried so much about during her first decade, I missed her childhood. I need to remind myself that every doctor I consulted told me that NC ‘wouldn’t starve herself,’ and ultimately, they were right.

 

 

Superwomen, And How I Wish I Was A Woman Who Can

Superwoman (Kristin Wells)
Superwoman (Kristin Wells) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not a woman who can, but I know they exist. They’re not those ‘nauseating’ women who pride themselves on being seen to be perfect and stand outside the school gates at 8.30am looking polished; they are the women that drop everything to muck in and help out in a crisis.

They are the friends you know you can always rely on.

I don’t wish to sound defeatist, because there are a lot of things I CAN do very well – I’m actually quite practical around the house and good at fixing household stuff. I can change light bulbs, know where the fuse board is, I can hang pictures and eat a whole box of Jaffa cakes without vomming – but I don’t have the natural confidence or intuition of a woman in the kitchen.

(I can’t fix technology, either. Obviously.)

On Saturday we hosted a Spanish-themed luncheon for the old man’s new wine club, which sounds way more pretentious than it is, and is actually more akin to a women’s book club, where everyone discusses the book for all of five minutes and then gets onto the serious business of drinking, bitching about husbands, kids and housework.

We are new members of the wine club and eager to impress offered to host this meeting to get our feet well and truly under the table… because we love drinking wine. We thought that if we offered to host, it might put us in favour with the long-term members, who are much younger, trendier and far more interesting than the two of us.

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In my wisdom I decided that Spanish tapas would be an easy, stress-free choice for the menu. That was, until I found out on Friday afternoon that I would have to work on Saturday morning, which is when my carefully laid plans and sang-froid decided to fall apart.

You see, although I’m generally calm in a crisis – a bit worryingly calm, if you know what I mean – when twelve drunken, hungry faces are staring up at you from the dining table, even the coolest cucumber in the world can be shredded.

In hindsight, I should have made a casserole. Casseroles are perfect for catering for large numbers and I’m quite good at them. But no, I decided to do the one cuisine where everything has to be cooked in the last five minutes prior to serving.

I arrived home at 1pm and our guests were due to arrive at 2pm. Inevitably, the old man had not completed EVERYTHING on the MUST DO list I had left him that morning and was wandering up, dripping from his relaxing swim in the pool as my melt-down began to detonate in the kitchen.

Yet somehow I got through the next two hours, the canapés and a bottle of wine; the useful strategy of ‘denial’ helping when it came to any thoughts about the impending main course.

Eventually, of course, I had to go into my wardrobe-sized kitchen and produce something. Anything. I took a moment at the doorway, and stood there inwardly cursing myself for letting that last glass of wine slip so eagerly down my neck, feeling shell shocked at how much cooking chaos one person can create on one square metre of bench top when heating up a couple of boxes of Coles ready-made canapés. What would the judges on Masterchef say, I thought to myself, as I digested the fact that nothing was ready and it was already 4.30pm.

But luckily, I had a woman who can. A Superwoman.

‘What can I do?’ she gushed confidently, as she strode into the wardrobe and rescued the dripping, uncooked prawns out of my sweaty palms. ‘Ooooh, garlic prawns? My favourite. I make these all the time.’

I would have given that woman anything at that moment by way of thanks; even my husband if she’d wanted him. I offered.

And so she proceeded to take over my kitchen, as well as my luncheon. She had Kurt on the lamb kebabs before he had the chance to run away, while I stirred the meatballs to a pulp and peeled off all the potatoes that were stuck to the baking foil. Meanwhile, she knocked up the most perfectly seasoned garlic prawns I’ve ever tasted while tossing two salads, cutting bread, frying churros for dessert later and organising the men, who couldn’t even seat themselves without direction.

I wish I had the supreme confidence and likability of the woman who can walk into a kitchen, assess the damage and panic and command control without sounding like a c..t, to give the hostess the time to sober up pull herself together.

Melbourne Cup, At Home, In Our Active Wear

It was simply impossible to choose between the multitude of invitations to Melbourne Cup lunches that floated through my mailbox this week, so I opted for the private party instead. 

Melbourne Cup, At Home, In Our Active Wear
Champagne, darlinks!

For my non-Australians readers, the Melbourne Cup is one of Australia’s most prestigious horse races, ie the biggest horsey event in Australia each year, akin to the Grand National in the UK or the Kentucky Derby in the US (according to Wikipedia – don’t quote me). It is the exhibitionist’s excuse to wear ridiculous hats, get off their faces on champagne and spend their annual salaries on over-the-top dresses, that frankly they’ll probably never wear again.

No-one really likes horse-racing, but we all love an excuse to get plastered.

Melbourne Cup, At Home, In Our Active Wear
‘The Spread’

My private party included NC – who happened to be at home studying for exams – and our little Princess, who we let out of the doghouse for this very special occasion.

Fortunately, the old man had been invited to some corporate event in the city, which meant that there was no Grinch to spoil our fun, and more importantly, I managed to rack up 7000 more steps than him on our step challenge before our celebrations began.

The great thing about entertaining at home is that there’s no-one to impress or be judged by, so us three fillies decided that we would take full advantage of our informal surroundings and celebrate the Cup in our active wear; comfort being the ultimate ingredient of every enjoyable celebration.

The organisation involved was overwhelming and at one point I thought we might be forced to cancel. The local robbers at the fish shop decided to raise the price of their prawns to $42/kg on the day, (and an image of the old man shaking his head disappointedly haunted me as I handed over the cash), the selection of dips n’chips proved impossible to choose between at the local deli, and the restrictions imposed by my ‘ugly face diet’ made the task of stuffing my face BIGTIME quite a challenge.

Melbourne Cup, At Home, In Our Active Wear

But when have I ever turned down a food challenge?

I justified that if I ate vaguely within the limitations of my new diet, I could quaff a few glasses of Champagne as a fair exchange and then provide the entertainment for the evening as the family watched my cheeks explode to a new scarier, shade of scarlet.

It’s called diet/life balance, bitches.

And who were we wearing?

NC was in Cotton on yoga wear, because she loves the idea of yoga even though she doesn’t know one end of a downward dog from another, while I wore vintage leggings (complete with trendy hole in the leg), a Lorna Jane fitness bra that has always been too small but makes my tits look massive, and a Cotton On top. My hat was statement Byron while NC chose a sweet little fascinator that I wore to MC a couple of years ago when I was popular the old man had a job and we were happy and we used to be invited to corporate events. 

Melbourne Cup, At Home, In Our Active Wear
When it comes to food presentation, no-one comes close.

The champagne flowed for about an hour, (until NC started moaning about revision), the most expensive prawns in the world were devoured with gusto and we even ate that putrid-looking jelly on the top of the pate.

And to cap a truly, splendid time, we witnessed the first female jockey, Michelle Payne, ride to glory and into the history books.

Hurrah! I’ve realized that I may never have to leave the house again.

If I Can’t Eat Cheese, Surely That Means That Life As I know It, Is Officially Over?

English: Avocado with its cross section. Pictu...
English: Avocado with its cross section. Pictured in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. App 18 cm (7 inches) long. Français : Un Avocat entier et en coupe. Photo prise à Dar es Salaam, en Tanzanie. Longueur 18 cm environ. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I admit that I may have ridiculed friends in the past who have been sucked in by fad diets, and for this I bow my head in shame.

Because I’m about to bore you again with the downhill progress of my middle-aged facial skin condition, Rosacea.

I’m also ashamed to admit that I never realized before just how much I took my looks for granted in my previous life.

Over the past ten years, I’ve been forced to come to terms with fading looks, ‘invisibility’ in public, out-of-control whiskers and general tubbiness, but it’s a real kick in the scrotum when what the ageing process has left of my face has become a red, blotchy horror show.

The old man’s empathetic words of “At least I don’t have to worry about you leaving me now,” have been far from comforting.

Even worse, is that after a lengthy hypochondria-fuelled research session with my best mate Dr Google and various international quacks of certain ill-repute, it appears that the diet I need to go on to make my face acceptable to the public again is bordering on inhumane.

I have always been a healthy eater, so I never considered that being forced to become more ‘clean’ with my food choices would be that difficult, but below are just some of the yummy foodstuffs I am supposed to eliminate:

Avocados – We all know that all gut street credibility goes back to zero these days unless you have at least one avocado crammed in your gob at every opportunity. Avocados have assumed super, super-food status now; let’s face it, they are bordering on becoming the God of the food kingdom.

They’ve also shown up quinoa to be the fad we all hoped it was.

So how exactly will I be able to show myself in my local café again if I can’t flaunt my superior healthiness with avocado on the side of every order? And the thought of the breakfast perfection that is smoked salmon, toast and poached egg, WITHOUT their perfect green sidekick, is already giving me sleepless nights.
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Dairy – not so hard for me to relinquish, I thought, as I’ve never been a huge dairy fan due to scientific misconceptions about cholesterol that cemented an innate fear of premature mortality.

But then I remembered cheese.

I may need to take a moment….

I can’t pretend that giving up cheese, one of the major keys to happiness in life, will be easy. ‘Cheese’ deserves a proper grieving period, a moment to reflect on what it has done for me throughout my life. Hell! even scientists admitted that it is addictive this week, so it must be good.

How exactly are me and my mates supposed to survive PMT, women crises, man-bitching and The Bachelor without a Frisbee-sized slab of the fullest-fat Brie on the coffee table, to temper our white wine?

Everyone knows that cheese is comfort on toast

And let’s not forget all those traditional cheesy faves we were bought up on, before dairy and carbs were excommunicated: cauliflower cheese, macaroni cheese, lasagna, quiche…

The good old days… before we told that anything that tasted really good would give us cancer.

Allow me to welcome bacon, sausages, burgers and red meat into that group this week, too.

Spicy foods – I’ve served my time with hot food. I’ve earned my chili stripes. After two years of the roof being taken off my mouth, feeling as though my whole body was about to lift off, I’ve finally found an appreciation for the not-so-subtle thrill of wasabi. Sashimi without wasabi is like wine without cheese, Will without Kate, Kurt without….Hmmm…and let’s also remember the Thai green curry, Indian Dahl, and the piece de resistance of spice, Mexican food, which combines just about everything my Rosacea reacts so violently to.

I just don’t know how I’m going to sing along to the El Paso adverts anymore, without feeling a fraud? Is it even possible to make a taco without cheese, avocado, tomato or spicy fill?

And finally, to tomatoes…

Anyone ever nailed an appetising, tasty salad without tomatoes or cheese?

Thought not.

I’ve tried. In a moment of insanity, I went all out last night and added some fresh, sugar-snap peas to my pathetic-looking green salad.

It was a fucking riot.

Which leaves me with a choice of chicken, fish and lettuce.

So can you now understand that why I am destined to become that grieving, twisted, mad woman who hates everyone and mumbles curses under her breath to any innocent shopper in the supermarket who dares venture towards the deli counter.

My life is officially over. Goodbye world.

Sunning In Sydney, Bondi-Style

Sometimes us middle-aged folk like to remind ourselves what it was like to be young, hip, irresponsible and living close to poverty on the edge, like we did all those years ago when we were students.

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We’ve enjoyed a long, hot weekend here in Sydney, so the old man and I decided to do something a little different this morning and ignore our embarrassingly white, middle-aged, middle-class beach in suburbia and groove on down to Sydney’s iconic Bondi.

Not that Bondi is synonymous with poverty – far from it – but there’s distinctly a more earthy, soulful vibe to be had there than in the Lower North Shore.

The old man and I are so far up our own arses about fitness at the moment that we try to combine exercise with beach at every opportunity these days, and although a temperature of 34 degrees might have scared off the sensible most Sydneysiders, we foolishly saw this as a challenge.

Out came the fitness gear – or the old man’s interpretation of fitness gear, which is a subtle melange of Mexican and Hawaiian influences – we lathered ourselves with layers of factor 50 sun cream, topped up the water bottles and set off on our weekend adventure.

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For those who have never ventured to the shark-infested, turquoise waters and hot white sands of Australia’s beaches, Bondi is iconic in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs for several reasons:

  • It is only a few kilometres from Sydney’s CBD, which means it is feasible to surf in your lunch hour.
  • The surf… is apparently really good.
  • Although only beautiful, young people are truly allowed onto the beach, occasionally they let old gits like us on it, to keep the local economy going.
  • The beach can be super-dangerous even by Australian standards. Possible threats to life include rips, massive breakers, jelly fish and rogue surfers who cut across to the swimming section and target innocent backpackers with their boards, which gives us a means to keep our quota of tourists down.
  • Once a working class area, Bondi has become a middle-class enclave with some of the most expensive real estate in the Eastern Suburbs to ogle.

Aesthetically, it’s certainly not the most beautiful beach in Sydney, but if you want a sense of what Australia is really about, it’s a great place to start.

And not just for the beach.

For us cougars, there are a satisfying number of near-perfectly gorgeous male specimens complete with Aussie-stereotypical, rippling brown surfer muscles and tight boardies to gawp at through the cameral lens of your Iphone, while you pretend to take photos of the landscape. IMG_9557

The local cafes and restaurants offer a smorgasbord of every style of cuisine imaginable, although the archetypal Aussie breakfasts are still a standout. Frankly, there ain’t nothing a good Aussie chef can’t do with an avocado. And if you’re well-to-do, there’s Bondi Iceburgs restaurant where lots of famous people who have lots of money hang out and feel superior to the proletariat sweltering below them on the beach.

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And did I mention the beautiful people?

Or the barely-there swimwear?

To truly nail the Bondi-style, all you need is an itsy-bitsy bikini with an itsy-bitsy body-type to match, voluminous hippy dress or super-short cut off denim shorts, and wide-brimmed hat. 
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My Jane Fonda work-out gear might have looked a little dated – the leg warmers possibly too much on such a hot day – but I don’t care anymore because I’m over fifty now and with that comes the perfect excuse for poor taste.

‘Gross Soup’ And The Male Meat And Two Veg Mentality

I’ve recently become a Humble Tart Kitchen Blogger, a food representative for a fantabulous food website. I might have bent the truth slightly about my cooking know-how, but obviously they recognised my skills as a … tart. Here’s my first post for them:

Possibly THE MOST SOUL-DESTROYING comment any mother can hear after hours of labour and justified resentment in a hot kitchen, and after dishing up a homemade feast of chicken and vegetable soup is:

Is that dinner?” *sigh* from the males in the family.

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Which is why the image above is so ridiculously unrepresentative of mealtimes in our house. Where are the sullen, sulking faces? Why is no-one carefully trying to conceal anything vaguely healthy under a mound of something else?

Admittedly, the soup was what my kids commonly refer to as ‘Gross Soup’, (and what I secretly think of as ‘leftover’ soup), but in my defence, it was fashionably ‘clean’, tasty, full of goodness and surprisingly filling.

And I had made it with love, and from scratch. Sort of.

The problem is, the boys in my house don’t count certain meals as ‘proper food’.

Such foods include:

Soup

Vegetarian food

Fish (unless it’s battered, deep-fried and fully exorcised)

Omlette

Sushi

How do we rid the male population of their ‘meat and two veg’ mentality when it comes to food?

We live in Sydney, a wonderfully cosmopolitan city where the fusion between Australian and Asian cuisine is a marvel to the taste buds. There is Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese and Malaysian food on offer in our hood, yet my son gags at the mention of a prawn Tempura or the sight of rare meat.

The meat my boys choose to eat has to be so over-worked, over-cooked and seasoned beyond it’s life that it metamorphoses into little more than an unappetising lump of leather on the plate. I have shed tears of grief over fillet steaks that have been fried to half their size.

The old man’s ongoing dad joke in a restaurant is, ‘I think I’ll go for the burger this time,’ because that’s what he orders EVERY FUCKING TIME we eat out. The man is an intelligent, fitness fanatic (excuse the oxymoron), who spends much of his free time in the gym, yet he has somehow managed to avoid reading any recent articles on the subject of diet and healthy eating.

It took me five years to get Fajitas over the line. Curries are still a work in progress.

So…want to pay your family back for being ungrateful little shits, here’s my alternative menu for Gross Soup:

Scoop out all crawling, out-of-date vegetables lurking at the bottom of the fridge drawer and chop haphazardly. Finger nails optional.

Sip wine.

Rescue any leftover chicken before the dog or migrant teens (who now seem to be living with you) get to it.

Sip wine.

Make your own bone stock…jokes…buy a packet of ready-made stock and cook veggies in it.

Sip wine.

Add liberal amounts of garlic, oregano, salt and pepper and chilli flakes –anything that will disguise the wholesome taste of healthiness.

Sip wine.

Add shredded chicken.

Sip wine.

Dish up and wait for the inevitable cacophony of groans.

Finish bottle.

The Secrets Of Trade Off Dieting

There are certain topics that even I won’t discuss on this blog, and one of them is ‘poo’. An article was doing the rounds on Facebook the other day that contained images of different poo textures and what they symbolise in terms of your health and I found it absolutely no problem at all to ignore it.

Secrets Of The Trading Off Diet
Vintage Balance Scale by Joie de Cleve, found on Flickr.com

When it comes to ‘poo’, I’m a great believer in the adage that if it floats, everything is probably okay.

The only time I might take more than a glance at my poo is if it changes in any way, which happened last night, when I was struck down by a rare bout of diarrhoea in Byron. Inevitably, I was away from home, sleeping in the crisp-white, freshly laundered sheets of my guest house, but hell, it made a change from the usual holiday period to worry about!

Any change in my bowel habits is a pretty unusual occurrence so normally I might have felt some concern, but on this occasion I have to admit to experiencing an inordinate surge of pleasure as I rid most of the contents of my intestines.

You see, only hours beforehand I had consumed a whole bag of Pods on my own.

This was an extreme example of my approach to weight maintenance, which I like to call Trade Off dieting.

Now I realize that example probably sounds slightly radical to you, but when it comes to the balance between what goes in your mouth, and how much weight you gain, I know there’s no rocket science involved, and that if you like your food like me, balance has to be about careful trade offs – particularly once you reach middle age.

So the moral of last night is, that if you pig out on a whole bag of Pods and then are lucky enough for your gluttony to induce a bout of diarrhoea, the gods are obviously smiling down on you.

After thirty years of a roller-coaster when it comes to weight gain and loss, I GET calories now; I know how the psychology of those pesky little critters work and I know what I can and can’t eat. I know that if I want to knock back two glasses of wine in an evening, I need to eliminate carbs from dinner and forego any morning or afternoon tea snacks, no matter how healthy they are. It’s simple mathematics. I know now that I can NEVER eat dessert or cake because I have to counterbalance my other, preferred dietary transgressions.

My personal vice is chips. Some people think you’re lucky if you prefer ‘savoury’ food to ‘sweet’, but that’s a fallacy put out there by the cookie monsters who are always looking for excuses for their own bad habits. Whereas they might take their comfort from a packet of biscuits (or five), put a vat of humus or a plate of cheese in front of me and watch it disappear quicker than a bat out of hell.

And the bigger issue is that I don’t feel anywhere near the same level of shame as when I eat an entire bag of Pods, so it takes the brakes a lot longer to engage.

I’ve always felt an innate shame linked to sugar, probably because I was raised in the Medieval times when lollies were a Sunday treat. ‘Guilt’ means I don’t experience that ‘high’ or ‘rush’ you’re supposed to feel after sugar, although that may also be because, in general, my diet has had to become boringly healthy these days.

There is no doubt in my mind that last night’s diarrhoea was a Pod-induced drive by my body to purge my system.

However, I resort to much more comfort-eating these days, which I could blame on menopause, because I realize that my body is kindly layering a thicker foundation of fat around my bones to protect them – (thanks Meno)– but is more likely due to the stress of trying to cross the psychological bridge of ageing. Apparently, that journey is called the u-bend of middle age, and is responsible for all those male midlife crises, too.

It’s a strange phenomenon, because although I have always loved food, I have never used food as a comforting mechanism or particularly enjoyed over-indulgence in the past. I had far worst vices like cigarettes and wine to get me through the angsty periods of my younger years, so biscuits never really stood a chance.

And up until recently, the self-imposed regulations of my Trade Off dieting have worked quite successfully. Sure, I’ve slowly gained what appear to be a requisite number of middle-aged extra kilos each year over the past decade, but an increase in exercise and brutal self-denial have kept some of that potential weight-gain at bay.

But recently I have noticed that something has begun to tamper with my will power and the trade-offs are getting harder to balance. As the big 50 approaches, a revolutionary ‘fuck it’ attitude has begun to compromise my judgement when it comes to food, causing internal confusion. The confusion of happiness versus weight gain. Eating is much more fun now we have more income at our disposal to go to nice restaurants and can get out more easily. Eating out has become a hobby that both the old man and I enjoy and we can even enjoy it together. With the wisdom of middle age, I realise that it’s important to enjoy the excesses that my body will still allow me to enjoy because happiness is one of the main factors to contribute to long life and so I want to make the most of every day; and sometimes that might include new food experiences and over-indulgence.

That first glass of wine of the day just isn’t the same anymore without a bag of Veggie Chips and some beetroot dip; and I’ve grown equally partial to an intravenous-drip of homemade hummus while I work.

How do you control your weight?