Friday, August 14, 2009


A few things have taken me by surprise recently (and not just the kilo per month I've gained while living on a diet of beer, salty bread and potatoes). Like, for instance, Mads and I are getting on a plane tomorrow night and flying to Melbourne. I really should pack.

I also knew, but have only just taken seriously the fact that I have five days of book week school visits ahead of me (including one session with a group of 120 high school students, which is making me feel a little queasy). And then there's this event (it's at 10 am by the way Sally). I need to work out what I'm going to do for that because surely I can't just read for an hour?

I think the reason I haven't really let myself dwell on any of these events until now is because it would require me to think about the thing I am fearing most of all: the long haul flight, on my own, with my not-great-traveller three year old. I have packed books and toys galore but I suspect I will spend most of the time pretending that my arm is a sea slug called Celina which is what I can be found doing most afternoons on the train home from kinder. Still, hopefully the pain (and the RSI) will be forgotten shortly after we disembark and I hand Mads to the grandparents.

The blog will be on holidays too until mid September when we return as hopefully I'll be catching up with the two of you who read this blog in person shortly.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Real or Not Real?

So let's just move along from my culinary attempts of the other weekend. I didn't give anyone food-poisoning (as far as I know), which surely counts for something. And let me present instead a gameshow concept I've been working on called 'Real or Not Real?' based on the characters Mads' tells me about and my attempts to work out which ones actually exist.

Emily Rude.
This is an easy one to start with. Not real, or at least, not in a breathing kind of way. Emily lives in our cutlery drawer. Also clearly not real is her associate, Emily Nice who lives on the kitchen shelf and looks like this.

Holly Honda.
Also almost definitely not real, although I have a strong mental image of her looking a little bit like this but with a manga-esque modernity to her. Her grandma is called Polly Peugeot.

Bim Bim.
Not real. Bim Bim has been with us for years now. Bim Bim swaps effortlessly between genders, ages and degrees of naughtiness and bravery, depending on the role he needs to fit.

The Girl Who Says No.
This is where things start to get tricky. She was supposedly a girl at Mads' kinder who would always say 'no' whenever Mads went near her. But then surely she'd be the girl who says 'nein'? One day when I was dropping Mads off she pointed excitedly to a girl and said 'that's the girl who says no!' She has left the kinder for school but she still looms large in Mads' stories of her day - apparently coming for visits or even staring through the kindergarten fence just so she can say 'no' to Mads occasionally.

Last week Mads started telling me about a boy who liked to pinch the other kids at kinder. I asked what he was called and Mads said 'I call him Naughtius.' I hope Nautius is not real, because otherwise his parents have a lot to answer for giving their child a name like that. It was asking for trouble. All the same, I have grown rather fond of Naughtius, especially as his bad behaviour escalates. It's become one of the first things I ask Mads when I pick her up: what did Naughtius do today? Sometimes he's been piffing food around at the teachers, sometimes it's pooing on people's heads. And according to Mads the teachers are powerless to stop him. I picture Naughtius as a miniature Roman emperor, despotic, horrific, feared by all. Unfortunately I fear that Naughtius may be ficticious, or at least exaggerated. Her kinder teacher does not strike me as someone who is likely to put up with such antics.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Guess who's coming for Abend Essen?

We have a German family coming over for dinner tonight and I'm nervous. Not being the best cook even when cooking for my Best Beloveds, when I'm cooking for others - particularly new acquaintances - I get a little rattled. It's just a BBQ, which in theory should be straight-forward but it's the first time we've used the BBQ in question and all the knob-labels are in German. When we first moved into the flat Thieu sat in front of the washing machine for an hour with a dictionary, working out which was the gentle cycle and which was for the coloured clothes. I hope the BBQ will be a little less complicated.

No supermarkets are open on Sunday and, naturally, I woke up this morning and realised all the things I don't have which may be required by our German guests. These include:

Bottled water, with gas and without. Whenever we've visited the locals they always seem to have a huge range of bottled waters to offer us. Not just with still or sparkling, but with varying grades of bubbles - from very fizzy through to just a couple of bubbles. I still baulk at the idea of paying for water at all, and Thieu, well, he thinks it's all a worldwide conspiracy and next they'll be charging for air etc etc. But serving tap water here would be the equivalent of scooping water straight out of the toilet. Just not done.

A wide range of condiments. At least two varieties of mustard and two types of ketchup are required, preferably with one of the mustards coming from a farmers' market. We have only one of each. I also realised we are missing another important condiment, especially as we're having potatoes:

Herb butter. Not just an interesting addition to a meal, but an essential part of one. I have only normal butter. Social disaster is imminent.

Actually, while I'm on the topic, there's a whole lot of dairy things that flummox me whenever I'm in the local Rewe supermarket. Staring at them fills me with both anxiety and desire. Quark, for instance, which sounds like something a posh duck might say. What does one do with Quark? Then there's creme fraiche. ANd buttermilch. I know, of course, that these things are readily available in Australia, but there aren't usually entire cabinets in the dairy cabinet devoted to varieties of buttermilk. So I sense that these things are important and every good hostess should have some of each on offer. In desperation the other day I bought a small tub of creme fraiche. But I have no idea what to do with it. Offer it with the potatoes? With the summer pudding? With both? Neither?

Buying wine is also intimidating because I don't recognise the bottles. I often don't even recognise the grape varietals. There are a few Aussie wines in the supermarket, but they are ones I'd never buy in Aus and wouldn't inflict on anyone else. And anyway, serving supermarket wine to anyone other than your immediate family is frowned upon.

Oh dear. I think I may have to have a large glass of (supermarket)wine before they arrive.