Heading south

We have been relatively unaffected here by the flooding in Brisbane – we live on a different river system, and while it did experience flooding (and we had to take rather convoluted routes home at times due to roads being closed), it did not approach the severity of the flooding in the Brisbane river system. My CBD workplace has been shut for the past few days due to the power being shut off (and potentially the building being flooded, I suppose – I’m not sure how high the river got there). My brother and sister-in-law were stuck for several days in their apartment without power, although they have a kayak and were able to venture out that way.

Me, driving somewhat randomly through the Gold Coast, peering at road signs: “Hmm, I wonder if that suburb is north or south. Do you think we’re heading north?”
Dad: “No, I don’t.”
Me: “Oh, how do you know?”
Dad, sarcastically: “Because we’re on the east coast of Australia, and that’s the sea there on our left. If we keep going this way, we’ll end up in Melbourne.”
Me: “I guess I’d better turn around then.”

It’s raining on and off again today, which I’m sure is adding an extra element of unpleasantness to the flood clean up process. It also means further delay to the construction of Chickendome, my chicken pen. Unless I feel like sitting out in the rain cutting chicken wire, which strangely is not an activity that particularly appeals.

My Lonely Planet book for our planned trip to New Zealand’s south island arrived in the mail yesterday, and I have been happily browsing through it, occasionally coming out with outbursts like, “Glaciers!” and “Seals!”. I enjoy the planning process for holidays. Although I think with this trip it will be a difficult narrowing down what we’re going to do during our 10 days. Maybe we need a little longer.

End of the line

We have had so much rain recently that the dams are perpetually full, and the driveway is beginning to get soft and muddy underfoot (which it has never done before, it generally drains fairly well). Mud and thongs – generally the only footwear we wear when perambulating around the garden – are not a nice combination.

(Just to demonstrate my psychic powers – I know my mother is looking at that photo, focussed not on the level of the dam but on the car hulk, and grinding her teeth. Don’t do that Mum, it’s not good for your blood pressure.)

We had a technician come out today to inspect the phone line, as for the last week we have had NO INTERNET. It has been most distressing. It was so distressing, in fact, that I was forced to go and buy a wireless modem so I could have a little bit of access to tide me over until it was fixed.

We were a little concerned about a technician inspecting our phone line, as we have done some slightly unorthodox things to it. This, combined with our general laziness, means that the phone socket in the house is not actually in the wall, but is hanging out by some wires, residing on a stool. I was standing behind the technician trying to come up with a good story (“It was like that when we moved in… the cats pulled it out of the wall and we can’t figure out how to put it back in…”) but he didn’t comment, not even when one of the cats strolled over and vomited a hairball next to his feet. Welcome to our house, Mr Technician. He did look slightly puzzled while tromping around under the house looking at our “improvements” to the phone line and getting his boots covered in mud, but he clearly didn’t feel the need to ask any questions.

However he established, much to my relief, that the fault with the line was not on our property, but up on the road, and therefore Telstra’s problem and not ours. And then he fixed it, restoring sweet sweet internet access. I have been glued to my computer ever since.

I was hoping that the water and wasp nest that he removed from part of the telephone pole would improve our somewhat slow and erratic internet access. It has already ground to a halt once since its restoration, but behaved again once the modem was rebooted, so perhaps there will be a slight improvement. And if there’s not, there’s very little we can do about it – that’s what comes of living at the end of a street a considerable distance away from the exchange.

Winter colds

I am getting over my second cold of the year, after slowing the healing process by the scientifically proven method of resorting to the cocktail recipe book.

People in books are always drinking hot toddies and feeling tremendously refreshed and invigorated, and I agree that the mixture of whiskey, lemon juice and honey does tend to take your mind off the fact that your head is filled with so much mucous that you can’t actually breath. Unfortunately, this effect tends to wear off, leaving you feeling much worse than before. My mother advised me that perhaps leaving the whiskey out of the recipe might result in a drink better suited to curing yourself of a cold, and I tend to agree. Although I don’t think it would have quite the same spirit-lifting qualities.

Hannah & the cats

Hannah, our friends’ two and a half year old daughter, was visiting with her parents last weekend, and enjoyed playing with the cats. I’m not sure that they really enjoyed playing with her – she liked to chase them, rather than patting or scratching.

It’s interesting to see the difference in six months, when we last saw her – she’s much more vocal of course, and much more self contained. Her inner life and imagination is much more apparent (to me, at any rate) – in this photo, she and the cats are afloat on a giant boat, and she is using the rope to steer.

The Great Wedding Cake Experiment

“Oh, we’re not planning on having a cake anymore,” said my brother. “But! Cake! Wedding! Cake!” I spluttered at him incoherently. And that’s how I came to be researching wedding cakes prior to his wedding, which is three weeks away.

I knew I didn’t want to do the traditional fruit cake under hard icing, because fruit cake isn’t really my area of baking expertise, and cake decorating really isn’t. I am of the rustic school of icing cakes (slap it on, she’ll be right). But thankfully for anyone looking around online wondering how to make a wedding cake, Smitten Kitchen baked a cake for a friend’s wedding and wrote a series of posts detailing the recipes, the experiments, and the grand feat of engineering that is creating tiers of cake. So in an honourable effort of plaigarism, I decided to follow closely in her footsteps.

This was the test run of what will be the top tier of the two-tiered cake – a vanilla buttermilk cake with mango curd and buttercream icing. Gloriously rich, with a tang of tartness from the mango curd.

Putting it all together with the icing was a bit more difficult than I anticipated. I think I may have overwhipped the icing, which was a little lumpy, and parts of the cake kept emerging from the smooth blanket of icing that I was attempting to create. But apart from lacking skill with a spatula, the rest of the construction went well, and I feel reasonably confident about doing it again (along with the bottom tier, which is chocolate cake with a ganache filling) in a couple of weeks.

In the dark midwinter

The coldest week we’ve had this month was probably the worst possible time for our hot water heater to stop working. Thankfully, due to our granny flat we have a separate hot water heater. Unthankfully, this means we have to dash over to the other building in the freezing dark every morning to shower. And I can never find my slippers.

In sepia

I knew when we decided to move from a suburban block to semi-rural acreage that there would be a lot more work involved in household maintenance, but when you move into a well maintained property it’s all a bit theoretical to begin with. As time passes, however, entropy asserts itself. We don’t have access to town water, so there are water tanks and septic tanks and pumps and an increased likelihood of things breaking. There’s a “greywater system” which is not in fact a greywater system because it involves no filtering whatsoever, but instead gathers all our water into a (festeringly horrible, due to aforesaid lack of filtering) tank which then gets directed over our patch of lawn with yet another pump. And we spend a limited number of hours at home during daylight. I’m sure you get the idea.

Occasionally I feel a little overwhelmed with the never ending list of maintenance tasks that need to be done. After heavy rain some months ago, the driveway needs a truck load of gravel spread down it. One of the water tanks has sprung a slow leak and needs to be patched, before our entire water supply trickles away. The garden and the paths host endlessly renewing clumps of weeds which spend their time laughing derisively at my sporadic attempts at removal, reminding me of those nasty flowers in Through the Looking Glass.

It is all rather oppressive, not in the least because my natural state is that of genteel laziness and I would prefer not to spend my weekends on Big Jobs, the sort that chew up an entire day. However, this is the trade off. In order to spend at least some of my weekend mornings peacefully sipping coffee, looking over the dam and listening the occasional sound of human habitation (the dulcet tones of my neighbour screaming “fuuuuck orrrrf” – aaaah, the serenity), there’s Big Jobs that need to be done. A bit of quality time spent with Google has provided a solution to the leaking tank and potential suppliers of rocks for the driveway. Soothed, armed with information, and making lists – onwards, ever onwards.

Keeping cool

Using some of the limes I bought on the weekend, and cooling down with water filled with sliced limes and mint leaves. I was drinking this while watching news of the terrible bushfires in Victoria. My parents (and me, although I was far too young to have any memory of it) left their home behind to be destroyed in the Ash Wednesday fires, and I always think of their stories of that time when I hear news of bushfires.

Apples & limes

At the fruit & vegie store this week – cheap limes, and lovely green apples. They look beautiful in the big blue glass bowl that I use for our fruit.

Mum, living in the midst of the floods that are covering half the state, told me that last time she went to the supermarket all the lights turned off in the fresh produce section – no fresh supplies have been able to get through the flooded areas. I am glad she has her vegetable garden.

Springtime Lunches

The weather’s warming up, the wild ducks have herds of fluffy baby ducklings following them around, and there are gangly calfs lolloping around in the fields.  It’s springtime, and that means it’s time for lunches that stretch into the afternoon and cool concoctions in jugs.

This is an apple and berry punch – a mixture of thawed frozen rasberries, slices of lemon and orange, mixed with apple & strawberry juice, some lemonade, and several heaping handfuls of ice.  Deliciously sweet and cool, I particularly liked the addition of the raspberries.  While they tend to go mushy and disintegrate after a while, I think it just adds a nice raspberry tang to the drink.