Archive for the ‘domesticity’ Category

Mystery solved

May 31, 2016

Our house has been in disarray as we ready for a move.

For a couple of weeks I have been mystified by a terrible smell in my bedroom.  Had I stepped in something and walked it inside?  Was it the smell of manure drifting in the window from the neighbours’ gardening?  Had I had an accident?  There were some suspects.  I eliminated them, no matter how unlikely, but the odour persisted.

Sometimes I noticed it, other times not.  I’ve read of studies about how quickly we filter out olfactory stimuli. These have been about how quickly we stop appreciating pleasing fragrances such as perfume. It works both ways.

This morning, tidying up ready for more packing, I found the culprit.  Neatly folded in a tea-towel and resting on a chest of drawers was an opened bag of once-frozen peas that I had used as a cold-pack.  It must have been some weeks ago – my best guess, for a cooking burn.

Another lesson for life: always put the frozen-pea cold pack back in the freezer.


Self portrait with stationery

January 26, 2015


Patriotism does not greatly attract me. That is not to say that I am any more free than anyone else of an attachment to where I was born or where I live, but the clamour of the nation state holds less appeal.

I have observed Australia Day as it originally appeared to me at the time I was first able to notice such things: the last day before school – a kind of delayed end of the old year.

It’s just over 2 years now since I moved to my present house. I still believe the previous house was nicer, and perhaps it was.

Meanwhile, I decided today to sort through the above oddments which, as part of my last move, I gathered up from one of my desk drawers. So far (ie, since the picture was taken) I have managed to throw out the pens which didn’t work.

There is at least one object there the nature and use of which (even if ever so slight) remains a mystery to me.

Signs of the times (2)

May 8, 2014



Our new car doesn’t have an ash tray.


Searching at the supermarket the other day for bars of soap, I could scarcely spot them amidst the shelves of shower gell and liquid soap.


The weather has taken a nippy turn.  Last winter in a retro and frugal mood (our house in Ashfield is electricity-only and so expensive to heat) I bought a hot water bottle.

As a heat-seeking child  I resented the covers on ours. I finally learnt their rationale after a winter’s night in the (unheated) lumber room in Shanghai sleeping up next to an uncovered and not even particularly hot hwb when I awoke with two enormous blisters on the back of my calves.  In fact you can get closer to a covered hwb when it is hot and it will keep its heat through the night better.

D has knitted a cover for me using yarn of his own devising.



October 23, 2013


Fires have surrounded Sydney.  Last Thursday was probably the most dramatic day for smoke and eerie light.

At Ashfield station, this flame tree is past its prime but seems appropriate:


In the city, the white westward-facing buildings gleamed against the jaundiced sky:


Upstairs (not that I have ever take the stairs up) you could see the smoke heading out to sea:


Meanwhile (OK: it was a later day of less extreme conditions):


Middle aged

July 8, 2013

Our weekend was quiet.

On Friday, I was exhausted.  I could barely manage to cycle home, though I managed a stop at a liquor shop on the way.  I sautéed some onions in anticipation of a beef stew to be made on the weekend.  I must have eaten something; I certainly drank something (Sauvignon-Blanc, as is all the rage these days) as I propped my feet up in front of the television.  It was my eyelids which really needed propping up; I was in bed by 8pm.  My last conscious act was to telephone D from my bed with my mobile to ask him to turn the hotplate beneath the onions off.  It was ridiculous, but I have a capped plan.

I meant just to have a nap, but if there was an alarm, I slept through it.  I woke at about 1 am and after paying tribute to the Sauvignon-blanc went back to sleep.  Perhaps I woke a few times in the late early morning but I was up by 6am.  For me, on a Saturday morning, that is pretty unheard of.

I did the laundry (coloureds; woollens); I sautéed more onions; diced celery; washed up and had a bath.  By about 10 am I was at the supermarket – things are still quiet on a Saturday at that hour. At the greengrocers I bought vegies and banana bread. Back home, D emerged by about noon and we had coffee and banana bread together.  We decided to get to Newtown to replenish our coffee supplies at Campos Coffee (if you buy 4 bags they give you a nice little woven nylon-ish carry bag – we find them useful though perhaps by now we have all that we need.)

I contemplated a film at the Spanish film festival but then noticed a missed call from a friend St and a message inviting us to dinner with St and Kx at their relatively recently moved-to house in Rockdale.  They are gym-goers and dine and retire early (the invitation was for 6) so this pretty much accounted for the day in prospect.

After a dash to Newtown (D checked out Vinnies but is disappointed at how expensive it is getting) we were back in time for me to have a short swim at Ashfield pool which is a short walk from our place.  You can get a lane to yourself and it can also be sunny if you choose your time carefully so as not to clash with the shadow cast by the setting sun and the roof to the spectators’ risers.  Two of the lanes (by then not in the sun) were taken up with the Korean children’s swim school which has now taken up residence.  The children’s energy was awe-inspiring and the young male coach, I thought, rather handsome.

By about 5.30  we were on the road to Rockdale, with a stop off at the liquor shop again to buy a bottle as our contribution.

Dinner was splendid even and belied its billing by our hosts as low key: a clear chicken and corn and vegetable soup and rice-paper spring rolls with pork; chicken or duck with rice and a side of green beans; a dessert involving puff pastry, lemon curd, meringue and passionfruit.  The only other guest was staying with them, so it was up to us to make the move to leave when they started to show signs of sleepiness at about half past nine.

During the dinner, D had affected plans to go out to Oxford Street, but by the time we were home it was a quiet after-night in front of the telly (an average-ish Midsomer murder; Chopin saved my life ) and the benefit of my previous early night was all-but undone – it was 1 am before I went to bed.

Sunday up at about 9.30 – I can rarely keep my body clock to any early adjustment.  More cooking ensued: it is the time of year for winter stews so vegetables of one sort or another need to be readied for that.  The whites were washed.  After D arose, we headed to Dulwich Hill with a craving for The Valley Lebanese Bakery’s cheese olive and tomato pizza.  Sadly, it was the day the proprietor’s parents hold the fort and the oven was already off.  You have to respect a business that is confident of its success in this way.

D had dipped into Vinnies – he says the Dulwich Hill branch remains relatively true to the original spirit.

Emboldened by a few big cheques in the previous week, I bought some fancy bread and cheeses at The Larder, which was running a promotion with an appropriate regional cheese for each day of the Tour de France.   Our choice, Livarot, was for Tuesday, when the race goes to Normandy.  The other was a Gruyere which doesn’t make the grade for the Tour:  the courtly proprietor told us that the race does go very close to Switzerland the week after next.

We then pootled down to Addison Road markets still in search of food.  Who would have thought I would turn into a market-goer?  D and I both find these markets very congenial – they feel quintessentially “inner west.” It’s hard to nail down, but children, dogs, bicycles and piercings all play a part.

We were back in Ashfield again just in time for me to steal another swim in the last lanes of the dying sun, punctuated by whistles from teenage girls’ water polo and a larger contingent than on Saturday of young Koreans.  Back home, while it was still light, I mowed the lawn.

I cooked (even more) to Rossini (Lady of the Lake – the first Walter Scott opera) from Covent Garden on ABC FM.  When the cooking did not require my immediate attention, I sat down to listen.

Dinner was the resulting chicken stew (with leek, mushroom, carrot, celery: it will resurface later this week as the quantity made was large) with a side of cauliflower ($2 each at present: it is the season) and some of the Livarot. Quinces, bought a while ago and probably past their best, were finally tackled (it’s a bit of a job to core and peel them) and furnished my dessert (D is not so keen on them).  It was again too late for D to bother going to Oxford Street.

That is the first weekend in about 6 weeks that I haven’t gone into work for some part of at least one day and mostly some part of two or (on the long weekend) three. That’s good for the cheque flow (which helps for the fancy cheeses of course) but it can wear you down.  It was good to take a break.

Sign of life

February 13, 2013



On the floor of our car. A blurrier image below. Presumably there are some moisture issues there.


A bad start

June 1, 2011

This morning, I accidentally poured water into the coffee grinder instead of into the water reservoir of my coffee machine.

I blame my caffeine-addicted matitudinally withdrawn state.

This must be close to a textbook example of catch-22.

Domesticity V

November 22, 2010

I have a bit of a fetish for crested crockery.

Pity about the coffee-ground-encrusted wiping-up cloth in the background and the yet-to-be-washed milk jug. Domesticity is always a struggle for me.


March 11, 2010

Sorting through my socks today, I managed to muster 26 reasonably plausible pairs. And there are about as many (or do I mean twice as many?) odd socks again after that relegated to the “odd socks drawer”, as well as a few in the wash.

In my 20s, I used to darn my socks. It was one of those Sunday-afternoon pastimes, like writing letters, that seems to have gone the way of the dodo.

Note to self: don’t buy any more socks.

At least, not for a while.

A machine for living

January 2, 2009


Our house is normally home to just D and me. Over Xmas it has housed my two sisters and my nephew. My father, who slept elsewhere, also attended daily.

At any time this would be a challenge to the household resources of sleeping accommodation, and for gathering, storing and preparing food and all the other incidents of what might broadly be called the consumption and excretion function of a house. At Christmas it was even more so.

One of my sisters has become a (quite unlikely, in view of what I know about her domestic past) champion of hygiene. As long-disused bed-linen has been pressed (though definitely not ironed) into service, remarks have been made. A towel was described as “manky.” To top it all off, cause was identified for what we hope was early intervention against nepotal nits.

This is the fourth time my sisters and my nephew have stayed with me in this way at this house, and I am grateful that my sisters do not presume on any dignity as guests. They both pitch in. I spot vestigial traits of my mother’s housekeeping. The sister who made the “manky” accusation, for example, has a particular zeal for hanging up towels to dry in the sun which I recognize as coming from our mother, even though it’s a habit I now only intermittently observe. Incidental to their pitching in, they make their own little contributions to domestic order. Some of these have just involved putting in order little often-overlooked spots or aspects; the most spectacular has been the finishing touches required to restore the back yard to its proper role as a living space. This transforms the house, and the extra space helps us cope with the extra numbers.

And of course, all the other functions of the household – laundry, tidying, cooking, had to be ramped up a notch or three. [Can you ramp up in notches? Just wondering, but too lazy to rewrite.]

There were temporary crises: in the picture above you can see the old Atomic coffee machine brought out from retirement when the espresso machine packed up shop. The one new year’s resolution I am prepared to disclose is that I have resolved to attend more regularly to that machine’s maintenance.

The storm has temporarily abated whilst my sisters and nephew travel to Canberra to spend time with father and step-mother. Our house as machine-for-living has coped with the load, but when I contemplate myriad other possible new year’s resolutions I can’t escape the conclusion that the most important machine for living is the one inside your own head.