Saturday, October 9, 2010

Afternoon Cooking Project

Toffee apples, yes indeed. With Natalie being called out a lot, extended sessions in the garden, out of earshot of the house, didn't seem such a good idea. I got most of what I wanted done, but it became clear that the remainder of the job would have to happen another day.

And so we decided to answer Younger Son's curiosity regarding the tray of Toffee Apples he spotted in Woolworth's this morning. The tray was empty, so I tried to explain - but then I thought: no, how difficult can a stupid toffee apple be?

Not very, would be the answer. Sugar, water, a little cream of tartar for flavour, a dash of colour, a heap of boiling, and periodic drops into a bowl of icewater. When you hear the syrup make crackling noises as it hits the water, turn off the heat. Dip your apples (this stick goes in first!) and swirl until coated. Leave stickside-up on greased baking paper. Done.

Note: probably wasn't clever of me to refrigerate the apples. Those beautiful specimens do NOT have a delicate, crumbly toffee coating. They have about two millimetres of sugary armour. Eating the bastards is a hell of a job that has taken all three children outside, with a small hammer...

Something Of A Blur

Healthwise, things aren't so great around here. Oh it isn't me. Nor Natalie. No, it's the three kids, with their persistent, deep, wet, racking coughs that send them into spasms so violent that on a couple of occasions they've vomited.

Wouldn't be so bad if it came and went. But Elder Son has now been coughing like this for more than two weeks. Younger Son has something like asthma, and we had to aggressively up his meds to bring his cough under control. And the Mau-Mau... when she coughs, it sounds like there's a small, elderly truck somewhere in her lungs, attempting to start after a long, cold winter. And so it has been for two weeks.

Naturally, this doesn't do much for sleep. The chorus of strangulating, rattling coughs drifts up the stairwell, and keeps a couple of parents on edge pretty much all night.

They are getting better, definitely. Younger Son is mostly over his dose. Elder Son is clearly better than he was a week ago, when we even had to keep him back from school. And even the Mau-Mau, whose case is the youngest, is getting no worse and certainly shows improvement during daytime.

What's the cause? Who knows? They're not really 'sick'. They have plenty of energy, and their appetites are undiminished. They do not have fevers. They just have a filthy goddam cough. So it's most likely viral.

So that's the backdrop, for the last couple weeks, to everything I've been doing. Very entertaining indeed.

Wednesday was a bit excessive. I dropped the boys at school, then shopped like crazy because we had a going-away party in the evening for a young, visiting doctor much liked by the surgery staff and the community - as well as me. (Hi, Rob! You gonna drop by and finish that absinthe, or what?) But being Wednesday, it was problematic. I ran up a couple of salads, a bunch of khofta, and some roulades of smoked salmon with cream cheese/lemon/black pepper/capers/dill as filling. I also prepped some spiced chicken kebabs, and set up the barbecue because of course I had to be gone from 1430 to 1900 at ju-jitsu training.

The plan was that the sixteen or so visitors would bring bits of stuff of their own to put onto the barbecue, plus maybe a few salads, etc. No drama, right?


The ju-jitsu training went well. Couple of newcomers for the older group (yay!) who were smart and motivated. Hopefully they'll return, because it's always good to have more people to train with. However, the real problem with The Plan cropped up halfway through the second training session: lightning, distant thunder, and rain.

Whoops. Really doesn't work for a barbecue, does it? Damn.

I made it home around seven, after dropping the Viking Boys (who attend the martial classes, naturally) at home. And then it was cooking and eating and drinking until the wee hours. Yep.

Thursday was a public holiday. Naturally, I'd made the foolish promise to the lads that we could have a day of gaming in Shattered Worlds. So much for most of Thursday.

Friday was unallocated, so I took the Mau-Mau and the trailer, and I went to Launceston. I bought $50 of spent mushroom compost and grabbed some framing timber, came home, and put some more work on the strawberry patch. I do believe that today I should be able to actually put plants in the ground, after I'm done here... but of course, yesterday was all about hauling wheelbarrows of mulch down from the big mulchpile to the strawberry patch, to build a nice slug-repellent and weed-reducing barrier on the inside of the (wallaby-proof, rabbit-proof, field-mouse deterrent, locust-deterrent, bird-proof) fence.

And of course, Natalie's on call all weekend, so I'm mostly Parent In Charge too.

Today I dig in a couple of uprights to make the frame for a gate to the strawberry patch. And I put the last of the fencing in place. Later, I head down to the Viking House and collect a bunch of strawberry runners (theirs are acting like triffids: overrunning the place aggressively. I like that in a strawberry plant, myself.) then set them nicely into the newly mushroom-composted secure zone, water them in, and heave a sigh of relief. After that, I only have to add the gate, put a light frame around the top of the uprights and sling bird-netting over the lot... the meantime, I've got an MS to read and assess. Beer money. Usually it takes me about eight hours work to read an MS and prepare from five to eight thousand words for the author. That makes it a reasonable rate of return, but it's still beer money. Or computer-upgrade money. Or whatever. Still, I like doing it and I'm good at it, so why not?

Signing off... got another vast day to get through. At least spring is here, in all its green and gorgeous glories. Of course, that means the lawnmower needs an overhaul, and the whippersnipper has to come out of hibernation. And also, that stupid birds begin to fly into the glass of the sunroom once more. The last one was some kind of cuckoo/thrush thing (I'd identify it positively, but the bird-identification books have long since subsided into the morass of printed matter in this house. Bugger.) that the Mau-Mau found on the verandah on Friday.

It didn't show any real signs of damage, but it had clearly knocked itself into a kind of stupidity excessive even for feather-brains of that sort. The Mau-Mau promptly gathered a lot of grass and built a 'nest' for it on the deck, surrounding the 'nest' with a motley wall of ... stuff... including a watering can, a plastic tub, and a child's bicycle. This was supposed to keep the dog at bay.

I gathered up the bird (and young Jake just brought me the birdbook -- it was a Fan-Tailed Cuckoo) and brought it inside to rest in a warm, dark place. A couple hours later, it still wasn't showing signs of flight - it just sat, blinking stupidly.

Eventually, I made a perch for it high up in the kitchen, where it rested for the entire night. In the morning, Natalie took it outside - and it flew away! Score one for the goodguys, eh?

Hmm. That last sign-off failed, didn't it? I'll try again.