When I spend the cash I worked hard to earn on food that disappoints I get angry… When I realised the pretty green hue of the olives I had been buying was fake I thought “fair suck of the sav“… “sav” being short for saveloy, a type of sausage. And it’s not rude. It’s an Australian saying that means “give us a fair go”.
It reminded me of the importance of continuing my ongoing food due diligence, and led me to spend some time in that playground of information: Google, where I do regular home schooling in what’s good to eat.
Why do I care about good food? Because Big Food and Supermarkets no matter how high their profits are this year, aim to make higher profits next year, the year after and so on. Where do the profits come from? The money we spend. I don’t know about you but my income is modest and I don’t earn more and more money each year.
It’s gratifying to see food issues get airtime. In Australia there’s been a egg campaign (“that ain’t no way to treat a lady”, pork & bacon awareness (“consumers are unaware more than 75 per cent of bacon sold in Australia is made from imported product”), seafood labelling, as well as the packaged food labelling campaign that’s ramped up since the frozen berries recall of Creative Gourmet and Nanna’s frozen berries from China putting consumers at risk of contracting Hepatitis A and John Bull tinned tuna imported from Thailand linked with suspected Scromboid poisoning.
The call for fairer food is gaining momentum. Particularly when people are getting sick. While in Australia there is outrage and call for food labelling reform as industry, government and lobbyist are fighting over what’s appropriate & fair, consumers can make a big difference with very slight changes in their thought processes and behaviours.
Big companies spend more money to make more money. Their profits and executive salaries take them out of the real world realms of their target consumers. Wiki states Pepsico’s gross profit for 2014 at US$38.33 billion and “while CEO of PepsiCo in 2011, [Indra] Nooyi earned a total compensation of $17 million which included a base salary of $1.6 million, a cash bonus of $2.5 million, pension value and deferred compensation of $3 million“.
Big Food and Supermarkets don’t care about us. They want our dollars, and they spend millions to get them. Small food producers also want us to buy their product but those sellers at the farmers markets who have often made a 10 hour round trip to be there are more likely to be doing it for love as well as money.
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
Dr. Seuss, The Lorax
I didn’t get caught up the recent Australian food debacles: recall of Creative Gourmet and Nanna’s frozen berries from China putting consumers at risk of contracting Hepatitis A; nor the John Bull tinned tuna imported from Thailand linked with suspected Scromboid poisoning.
I’ve seen recent comments on social media such as Definitely worth reminding ourselves…Aussie barcode is 93. However a quick Google search clears that up… “The first two or three digits of an EAN-13 barcode identify the country in which the manufacturer’s identification code was assigned. They do not necessarily indicate the country in which the goods were manufactured”. Nor does it necessarily indicate the country origin for the ingredients. Australia’s barcode begins with a 93 but it’s no guarantee the product is Australian sourced.
When I couldn’t purchase fresh local berries I’d been buying frozen but because of an earlier recall I switched last year to Omaha organic blueberries grown in New Zealand. Scattering a small handful of berries into yoghurt each weekday means they last months. Tuna & salad from home has long been my standby work-day lunch but after the usual supermarket tinned tuna offerings began to smell like cat food I changed to Good Fish Tuna in Olive Oil. It’s pricey so I restrict myself to one tin per week and split it over 2 days, supplementing with tofu, goats cheese, nuts, olives…
Do you prefer black or green olives? At Chez EllaDee & the G.O. any olive is a good olive. We love them: black, green, Kalamata, Spanish, pitted, stuffed, organic… We eat them alone, with cheese, in salad, in casseroles & pasta, on pizza. We buy them in tubs, jars and loose.
My latest food revelation was about olives. I’ve far too had many of these revelations… because I assume everyone has my best interests at heart. They don’t. Assumptions are the boon of food manufacturers and marketers who want to influence our purchases.
There was a recent SMH newspaper article Things you didn’t know about your food I just had to read.
“Black olives aren’t ripened the way you think
Black and green olives aren’t different varieties. Green olives are the more unripe version of black olives. Olives can age on the tree, and will shrink and become darker, however commercially produced olives are not harvested like that. Instead they are picked green, treated with caustic soda and spun in oxidised water to speed ripening. Once they’re shiny and black, a black substance called ferrous gluconate is added to make sure they stay that way.”
Curious, I began reading olive jar labels at the local supermarkets. They are reminiscent of the Castrol GTX advertisement of the 70 & 80’s promoting ‘man made’ synthetic motor oils…The tag line “oils ain’t oils, Sol” has become part of the Australian vernacular. Fine for motor oils, not for olives.
Turns out one of our go-to salad olive selections [on the right in the photo above] are that lovely shade of green courtesy of food colouring… well of course now I see it now but I trusted they were natural… how naive did I feel!
If it looks to good to be true, it probably is.
My Pinterest page tag is “I love old objects and ways; local food and markets; home made, grown and cooked.” I’ve dedicated a board to Oldies But Goodies: Not getting older just getting better…
I opened a bottle of Tetsuya’s Wasabi Mustard, a Christmas gift from a friend, because best by dates aren’t the only reason for not saving lovely things for a special occasion.
At the end of February we had a weekend away to collect an EBay purchase… I rarely bid on eBay and when I do I’m rarely the winning bidder.
After Saturday night out in Canberra with friends we spent Sunday morning at the Old Bus Depot Markets at Kingston, ACT.
Back on home turf, I’ve been doing the weekly grocery shopping most Saturday mornings at Eveleigh Farmers Market and browsing the retro/vintage/op-shops/markets of Newtown.
I’ve had one eye on the calendar holding off posting so as to include the latest addition to my kitchen, a book I’m a little bit excited about but it hasn’t arrived yet, so will have to wait until next time.
In the meantime, in my kitchen is a gramma which we were given by country neighbours early in the year that is waiting for me to turn it into the gramma my Nanna used to make that you’d put into a pie, only the G.O. prefers it plain without pastry! Recipes vary but I’ll share mine next time too.
The Australian Federal Government Treasurer Joe Hockey reckons Australia’s aging population is going to run out of cash and have to live on the cheap… funded by the government.
“Australians to live longer and be poorer in 2055, Intergenerational Report shows”
I hope it’s simply a cack-handed way of encouraging people to contribute to superannuation, responsibly consider their future, and the country’s budget. A message well meant [albeit for political effect]. Poorly expressed.
Worries me not, if it did I’d stay chained to my desk rather than actively nurturing plans to move to Taylors Arm and live simply & creatively as it’s likely we’ll be less well off financially than we are living and working in the city.
Apparently to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle you need “$42,158 a year, or $57,665 for a couple… and according to the ASFA Retirement Standard, a comfortable lifestyle enables an older, healthy retiree to be involved in a broad range of leisure and recreational activities and to have a good standard of living through the purchase of such things as; household goods, private health insurance, a reasonable car, good clothes, a range of electronic equipment, and domestic and occasionally international holiday travel.”
Some people, like our friend, have certain priorities, in this case to have sufficient superannuation to drink bottled wine rather than cask…
I’m going to say this quietly, so Joe Hockey doesn’t hear me letting the cat out of the bag, but we’re acquainted with quite a few people who have a good life living on the pension (“As at September 2014, the maximum rate for an age pension is $776.70 for a single person per fortnight. If you are a couple, the rate is $585.50 each per fortnight”) or modest self-funded income.
They don’t dine at fancy restaurants, take overseas holidays or buy new cars annually but were they wealthier, they wouldn’t anyway. They own their homes. They have pastimes, gardens, take walks, cook nice meals, drink bottled beer & wine(!), travel domestically and spend time with family & friends. They spend money on goods and services when required but they don’t update their smartphone every time a new one is released… if indeed they own a smartphone… most don’t.
Even in the city the G.O. and I have had a bit of practice living simply, creatively and economically… on our level of income if you want to pay off your house quickly, that’s what you need to do.
My MiL, an age pensioner, isn’t convinced – she thinks we’re a bit extravagant, and assures us when we make the sea-tree-change she’ll give us lessons how to live frugally. She wastes nothing, accounts for every cent, has a nice home and enviable bank balance. Most importantly she is happy with her life.
How do we plan to live viably at Taylors Arm, a rural area where employment and financial earning opportunities are less than the city’s?
- Own our house.
- Have no debt.
- Utilise our space to grow food.
- Cook our own food.
- Re-use, recycle, up-cycle.
- Utilise the resources of our own time, skills and energy.
- Amuse ourselves.
- Forgo consumerism.
- Think of wealth in terms other than monetary.
Do we think we’ll be missing out on good things in life?
No. On the contrary. We believe our realistic expectations and our ability to live within them is every bit as important as our superanuation balances.
I agree it makes sense for employed people to contribute superannuation funds they will access at the end of their working life. What doesn’t make any sense to me is the mandatory contributions unless invested in a cash fund at negligible interest are subject to the vagaries of the share market… essentially a gamble, as was proven during past GFCs when many people lost considerable amounts not just from their superannuation earnings but from their original investment.
The current system doesn’t adequately cater for self-employed whose contributions are not regulated, and also begs the question of fairness to non-paid-work contributors to our society.
Australian superannuation reminds me of The Cat in the Hat…
“And this mess is so big
And so deep and so tall,
We cannot pick it up.
There is no way at all!” ― Dr. Seuss
My family history research journeys are seldom linear. They often provide opportunity for side trips. Most recent, the culmination of almost a decade of stop-start-meandering. It got me thinking about family and friends who keep company with us on our life journey and at the same time are journeys in themselves.
Families we are born to, friends chosen: guided to each other by our higher selves.
Since I met the G.O. in 1990, he’s called me Ol’, short for Ollie. I mentioned this in Ollie & Vin, as part of the coincidence in the story of our house’s original owners. But that’s not the origin of the nickname I feel honoured to have.
My part in this journey began with the nickname. Then the ring. In all the years I knew him, the G.O. wore a gold ring on his left hand, married or not. I knew the ring was special though it was many years until the G.O. told me the story of it, and about Ollie & Rudi.
The G.O.’s part of the story began in a 1960’s world that lingers only as a memory. Life was simpler and slower. What are nowadays expensive respectable inner west suburbs of Sydney were modest working class outer western suburbs. Neighbours knew each other and talked. Kids played on the streets.
The G.O. was a wild child but not a terribly bad one. He was close to his family and good to them, befriended stray cats, dogs and people. Amongst whom were a neighbouring couple: Ollie & Rudi.
Their story began even further in the past. Online records detail some of it.
Olga and Rudolf-Alois Stroher arrived at Melbourne, Australia on 27 April 1948 after departing Bremerhaven, Germany two months earlier on the ship USAT General Black. Among 817, officially listed as:
International Refugee Organisation Group Resettlement to Australia
This passenger list contains individuals and families that migrated to Australia after World War II from various European Countries including Germany, Hungary, Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, etc. Most passengers are World War II refugees or displaced persons.
Columns represent: Sequence number, surname, forename
683 STROHER Olga 684 STROHER Rudolf-Alois
The G.O. recollects Ollie & Rudi talked about day-to-day happenings rather than the past. Especially not the war, other than a few fragments. Olga had been a translator. Rudi had refused to join the German Army, and had a previous partner from whom he’d been separated by the war; searching for her to no avail prior to immigrating.
This part of their story is also part of Australia’s history.
The Fifth Fleet is the name that I have given to the ships which, chartered by the International Refugee Organization (IRO), brought about 164,100 Displaced Persons from Germany to Australia after World War II, between 1947 and 1951… More came by ship and air during 1952-54. There was a total movement of 182,159 people up to the end of 1951–more than the number of convicts sent to Australia in the first 80 years of our modern history.
It’s likely Ollie & Rudi’s first stop was Bonegilla Migrant Centre in rural north-eastern Victoria.
Between 1947 and 1971, over 300,000 migrants from more than 50 countries called Bonegilla their first “Aussie home”. They arrived by train to Bonegilla railway siding where they were met, in the early days, by army personnel who provided transport, security and catering services… Bonegilla was the largest and longest operating reception centre in the post-war era. It was a place where new arrivals lived while they were ‘processed’ and allocated jobs. It was also a ‘training centre’ where non-English speakers could begin to learn the language and about Australian ways. Its intention was to help people make the transition to a new life in a new country.
Later online electoral roll records show:
Name: Olga Stroher
Residence: 1958 – city, Lang, New South Wales, Australia
Name: Rudolph Alois Stroher
Residence: 1958 – city, Lang, New South Wales, Australia
[electoral division covering southern suburbs of Sydney]
Name: Olga Stroher
Residence: 1980 – city, Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia
Name: Rudolph Alois Stroher
Residence: 1980 – city, Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia
[electoral division located in west of Sydney & the Blue Mountains]
Between those years, in the late 1960’s Ollie & Rudi moved into the house next door to the G.O.’s family. The G.O. was a young teenager. They were middle-aged and had no children. Ollie later commented they had chosen between travelling the world and having children. In their travels they went to Indonesia where Rudi worked overseeing a factory owned by a friend.
Ollie & Rudi spent a year tidying up the property and turning the overgrown yard into a garden. They didn’t have a lawnmower, so the G.O. lent a hand and the friendship was forged. After that first year Ollie & Rudi went to work: Ollie in an office at Burwood, and Rudi in the leather garment manufacturing industry.
Before their retirement in the early 1980’s Ollie & Rudi moved to the Blue Mountains west of Sydney where they continued to be devoted to their garden, their dog Moystie & cat Mousie, and a tropical fish collection which from Ollie’s efforts became a thriving enterprise.
Ollie & Rudi kept mostly to themselves, had a few friends including the grown up wild but not terribly bad G.O. for whom they set aside a bedroom in their modest house, and considered the son they never had. Rudi once confiding that in the early days Ollie had perceived the G.O. neglected by his working parents and wanted to adopt… or kidnap him!
Ollie & Rudi remained close to the G.O., giving him the gold ring as a token of their affection. The G.O. continued to visit until one day Rudi rather than Ollie came to the door. That, and the look on his face conveyed wordlessly to the G.O. the terrible news. Ollie died on September 7th 1988, sitting at the table near the back step looking out at the garden. Rudi had been unable to bring himself to contact the G.O. to tell him.
Prior to Ollie’s death Rudi incredibly received communication from his previous partner, and the amazing news that he had a son. Both of them were thrilled, however Ollie died before they could fulfil plans to meet. So the other news Rudi had to tell the G.O. was that he was returning to Germany. Therefore on a subsequent visit, the G.O. wasn’t surprised to find the house changed and Rudi gone.
By 2005 when the G.O. and I started living together the gold ring given to him by Ollie & Rudi had worn thin. To preserve it I convinced him to let me take it to a jeweller and have a new ring made based on its design. The G.O. has Ollie & Rudi’s ring safely stored in my jewellery case, wearing the new ring -now his wedding ring- in its place as a legacy.
At the time I had the ring made, conversation around it sparked my interest, and I discovered by telephoning Pinegrove Memorial Park which Rudi had mentioned to the G.O. as being where Ollie was cremated, that Rudi had collected her ashes rather than having them interred.
This appeared to be the end of the story, yet something continued to niggle. From time to time I would Google search Rudi’s name in the hope of finding record of him in Germany.
Then, early in February my search for Rudolf-Alois Stroher came up with a result for Rudolph Alois Strother, and a search of the Ryerson Index provided a crucial (and as we’d thought he’d gone to Germany a somewhat unexpected) clue…
STROTHER Rudolph Alois Death notice 23MAR1998 Death [age] 80 late of Glenbrook, formerly of Czechoslovakia Sydney Morning Herald [newspaper] 24MAR1998
I checked again with Pinegrove Memorial Park, who had no details of Rudi. I searched online Australian Cemeteries Index. There were no matching records. I made a list of local cemeteries and memorial parks. Of them, on a gut feeling I telephoned Leura Memorial Gardens.
After querying the various spellings, the woman who answered my call confirmed Rudolph Alois Stroher’s ashes were in row 7 of their Rose Garden, but they had no record for Ollie. And, anticipating further inquiries, that the arranging funeral director had closed its business.
Suddenly, it seemed we were close. On the next Saturday events transpired for us to drive to the Blue Mountains to continue the search in person. Alas the outcome we anticipated wasn’t accomplished so easily. Within the Gardens there were few signs, lots of roses & rows which complicated the simple instructions to go to row 7 in the Rose Garden. The G.O. searched the whole complex without success. We left consoled knowing Rudi’s remains rested in pleasant grounds, we believe chosen because Ollie’s were scattered nearby at one of the scenic Blue Mountains places she so loved.
On Monday morning, once again I called Leura Memorial Gardens, and spoke to a different woman, Kath, who reiterated what we already knew, clarified “there are several rose gardens”, and offered to check and get back to me. Later in the day she emailed me a map… it confirmed we’d walked directly to the correct location adjacent to the bridge over the chain of ponds, somehow missing Rudi’s spot. Later she messaged me from her phone several photos of the site, including a close up of the plaque “In Memory of Rudolph Alois Stroher, 5.5.1917 – 23.3.1998, At Rest”.
We’ll make another trip to the Blue Mountains to properly pay our respects, and are very grateful for the assistance we received to finally also put our search to rest.
With the advent of the internet and various ancestry and genealogy websites, depending on the depth of research you want to undertake, web searches can offer up information previously only obtainable via considerable effort, investigation and cost. Should you endeavour to undertake this type of research be prepared to get side tracked and spend endless time clicking on links and sources leading you to snippets of various information which do not necessarily exactly correlate necessitating the approximation and cobbling together of a story. And even if you think the trail has gone cold, keep searching and asking questions. I’ve found people are happy to help. With more material coming to light be prepared for revisions, updates and sometimes conflicting & varying information, spelling and versions. Don’t give up.
From time to time I dabble in short story writing. For the past few years I’ve entered Country Style Magazine’s short story competition. The theme for 2015 is ‘branching out’, and I’m stumped!
Last year, inspiration came to me via a dream. But so far this year my dreams have been the crazy fare of perimenopause… no writing material!
Adjacent to our Sydney apartment balcony is a huge eucalypt. I gaze at its long pale branches in an attempt to invoke wisdom. The tree is a source of food & shelter for numerous birds and butterflies, but has yet to proffer creativity!
I know the muses are hanging around, not goofing off in Ibiza: they’ve been amusing me with blog post ideas but enigmatically silent on ‘branching out’, even during 3 am wakefulness when bright writing ideas usually coalesce necessitating employment of scribble-in-the-dark-decipher-later skills.
When I think of ‘branching out’ the only things humming through my brain are misheard Rick Springfield lyrics
“…Speak to the
skytrees and tell you how I feel
and to know sometimes what I say ain’t right,
It’s all right
cause I speak to the
skytrees every night…”
interspersed by lines from the poem Trees by Joyce Kilmer
“I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree…
…Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.”
If you are an Australian resident and so inclined, details are:
Country Style Magazine Short Story Competition. Concludes on May 29, 2015 at 23:59 (AEDT). Entries no longer than 1500 words and previously unpublished.
Otherwise for both Australian and non-Australian residents is the 2015 ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize. Single-authored short story of between 2000 and 5000 words, written in English. Stories must not have been previously published or be on offer to other prizes or publications for the duration of the Jolley Prize. Entries close at midnight 1 May 2015
Romantic that I am, for Valentine’s Day I gave the G.O. a print-out of a news article… Johnny Cash penned quite possibly the greatest love letter of all time because it reminded me of us, and a box of his favourite Ferrero Rocher chocolates.
The article details the top 10 greatest love letters and John’s love letter to June Carter.
“We get old and get used to each other. We think alike.
We read each other’s minds. We know what the other wants without asking. Sometimes we irritate each other a little bit. Maybe sometimes take each other for granted.
But once in a while, like today, I meditate on it and realise how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman I ever met. You still fascinate and inspire me.
You influence me for the better. You’re the object of my desire, the No. 1 earthly reason for my existence. I love you very much.”
The thing is, I would’ve printed the article and given it to the G.O. anyway. Ditto for the chocolates.
The G.O.’s gift to me was better: a no work Saturday. We slept in, drank coffee and wandered up King Street to see what we could see at Newtown Community Markets. The G.O. bought me a bunch of flowers. He does that from time to time. Rainbow roses on this occasion. My favourite colour.
Happy Valentine’s Day from King Street, Newtown.
It’s always a good day when the G.O. doesn’t go to work on a Saturday; it doesn’t take much to transform the ordinary into extraordinary. That’s what happened last weekend.
We didn’t set an alarm. We got up late, drank coffee and instead of cleaning, grocery shopping or errands we decided to set off to the Blue Mountains west of Sydney to follow the crumbs in a trail of family history research I’d unearthed.
Our route past Victory Motorcycles and its lure even though he’s not in the market to buy was too strong for the G.O. to ignore, plus the traffic on Parramatta Road was barely moving so a 15 minute browse wasn’t going to make much difference.
We headed for Wentworth Falls for a late lunch at the deli-café Fed, which we’ve enjoyed before. Shortly after we arrived and were strolling down the street, a large strikingly orange butterfly flew straight up to the G.O. and fluttered determinedly in front of him. We looked meaningfully at each other, both with the same thought “we’re on the right track”.
After eating lunch then wandering through the shops we set out for our destination, Leura Memorial Gardens with vague instructions to go to row 7 in the Rose Garden. The gardens were beautiful, the afternoon was sunny, as we headed down through unnumbered & unnamed tiers of gardens to a bridge and chain of ponds. It was peaceful (in between noisy gunshots from the neighbouring rifle range…) and pleasant but frustrating as we attempted to discern our treasure without the help of signs that made any sense. We searched to no avail but consoled ourselves that we were close, with handfuls of sun-warmed wild blackberries growing at the perimeter, and the agreeable company of King Parrots and wild ducks. We encountered only 2 other lots of visitors, each of whom were helpful but had no more idea of the site that we were looking for than we did.
The search, and the story, will keep for another day while I make further enquiries.
So as to make the most of the rest of the day the G.O. who has spent much more time in the Blue Mountains than me suggested a tour of the sights. Even though it was late afternoon we had plenty of time and daylight left so we drove to Wentworth Falls Lake & Wentworth Falls lookouts -new to me- where we walked around the vantage points, and on to Katoomba, Echo Point & the Three Sisters I’d visited previously.
Having in mind a specific purpose for the trip we hadn’t come the slightest bit prepared so did no proper bushwalks, nor browsed any galleries. But seduced by the fresh air and scenery we lingered.
Most stunning of all was the drive out along Narrow Neck, which in his words is the “most special out of a few special places” for the G.O. Prevented by locked gates from driving its full extent, we walked for a while in the late afternoon sun along out-of-the-way dirt tracks and climbed to vantage points to take in the views of the Jamison Valley to the east and the Megalong Valley to the west.
The sun hovered in the bright hazy sky for much longer than it seems to do in the city. Time seemed to stretch. The G.O., not wearing a watch thinking it was about 4.30 pm was surprised when I suggested as it was 7.30 pm we should start heading back. But still we couldn’t leave so we detoured via Mount Victoria to the grounds of newly restored Hydro Majestic Hotel to watch from the escarpment the sunset over the Megalong Valley.
Heading home at 8.30 pm we pronounced it a successful day regardless, and dubbed it the Oli’day in memory of the G.O.’s friend Ollie, who so loved the Blue Mountains and so loved her friend, the G.O. It was for her we made the trip and we are quite certain the orange butterfly was her message to us, so we’ll keep looking.
“Once we discover how to appreciate the timeless values in our daily experiences, we can enjoy the best things in life.” Jerome K. Jerome
My favourite colour is rainbow. It’s also apparently in favour with our home at Taylors Arm, the house of many colours. That the G.O. selected the hues, and painted the walls before I ever thought of setting foot in it gives me a wonderful sense of meant to be. Indeed walking into that house for the first time felt like coming home. I wonder if other people’s homes have favourite colours?
It’s also evident in the garden, which began its existence back in the 1930’s with Ollie & Vin, tended by ensuing caretakers, evolving into hardy but colourful surrounds. At night if I can’t sleep instead of counting sheep, I wander its circuit in my mind.
A walk through the garden last weekend…
Being absentee householders & gardeners can be challenging but we’re approaching our goal and ticking off projects. Over our summer break as well as the G.O. gifting me & the house for Christmas the set of wall ducks he’d been wanting! we hung yet another retro flower picture and Sheila’s calendar on the kitchen walls, did the usual maintenance and gardening, erected awnings over the west side windows, signed the contract for the shed & carport to be built, and installed a gas stove.
We’re not looking at our house and future full-time life in the country through rose-tinted glasses, we’re fully aware of the realities of our polychromatic plans.
“Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high,
There’s a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby.
Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true…” The Wizard of Oz
I could cover it off by simply re-blogging one of my very early posts, dear holiday houseguests, from December 2011… but more than a fortnight has passed since the same houseguests’ most recent visit, and my temper is still snaky…
There was some improvement in their style: Stepson wielded a tea towel as sidekick to his washer-upper father; and I didn’t have to yell “don’t run through the house” (1) or remind “put the toilet lid down” (2) more than a dozen times during their 2 night/44 hour stay.
But what is rankling me will be forever known as “The Great Sugar Debacle”. It started quietly and caught us unawares. Granddaughter was coming solo to Taylors Arm with us for 6 days pre-Christmas so we suggested packing a water bottle for car trips, pillow, swimmers, and a book for entertainment in light of absence of internet coverage.
That was accomplished but also in her bags were 3 x 3 packs of chocolate flavour Up&Go (3) “liquid breakfast” drink, and 2 largish packets of lollies. I put a single 3 pack in the back fridge and left the rest in the bags.
Granddaughter is lovely and like most 11-year-old girls naturally has aspirations to behave much older than she is. We enjoyed her company and she enjoyed not having parents and 2 younger brothers cramping her style. An unfussy person in every way she hung out with us, herself or took advantage of the single item of modern technology, the TV, which at least has free-to-air channels including ABC3 Kids via the satellite dish.
The only things inexplicable were Granddaughter’s sudden bursts of manic activity or chatter particularly late afternoons. An easy houseguest, Granddaughter availed herself of the contents of the fridge & pantry, ate with us, ate well, and as we have little junk food-drink in the house, appeared to not overindulge her stash of lollies or when visiting her great-grandmother the endless supply of biscuits & sugary tea. She consumed a single Up&Go, preferring to join her grandfather in whatever he was having for breakfast, or a small bowl of rockmelon. Neither of them were interested in my breakfast of muesli (4), homemade plain yoghurt & local banana.
Initially we didn’t realize the moderate amount of sugar as we gauged it was cumulative in effect & desire. It’s consumption earned Granddaughter the nickname “Sugar” and better supervision of her intake. Which she took on board with good grace and improved self-moderation.
Fine until the rest of the family arrived on Boxing Day, descending upon the house with numerous plastic shopping bags (5) containing several more multi-packs of Up&Go, breakfast cereal – Coco Pops, Nutri-Grain & Fruit Loops, a six-pack of Powerade, 2 x 2 litres of fruit juice, 2 litres of raspberry cordial and copious packets of lollies & biscuits which were deposited on the kitchen table (6).
The G.O. made the new arrivals a late lunch of Christmas leftovers sandwiches before they proceeded to dive in to their sugary haul, dipping into the bags which I left unpacked in situ as we were eating at the outside table, or snacking on biscuits conveniently toted around the house by Daughter-in-law along with her bottle of Powerade.
Dinner was simple but homemade, Christmas leftovers: local pasture raised ham & roast chicken, pasta salad, mango salsa and green salad. Everyone enjoyed it (7) except Youngest Grandson who wanted lollies or dessert -got neither (8) , and Daughter-in-law who gratefully liberally applied to her food the bottle of fancy BBQ sauce they’d given us as a gift the previous year.
Next day the weather was miserable but we were out & about so a visit to the bakery made an easy lunch, and being a sensible woman I’d booked us into our local Pub With No Beer for dinner, which the houseguests prepared for by consuming more biscuits & lollies.
At the pub (which does have beer and thankfully, wine & spirits) the G.O. and I relaxed, had a few sanity restoring drinks and lovely meals. Despite the dreary weather the kids played in the Cubby With No Cordial, had a red “fire engine” fizzy drink each, ate their dinners except of course Youngest Grandson who wanted lollies or dessert -got neither. The parents couldn’t have cared less about food or drink… OMG the pub has WiFi… they were glued to their latest iPhones.
As the miserable weather settled into possible flood rain the decision was made by Stepson to decamp early the following morning as they’d, in his words “hate to be stuck in the boondocks”. I was sympathetic, I’d hate it too if they were stuck.
That morning the houseguests packed while ingesting Up&Go’s and breakfast cereal. I assisted by roving the house discovering discarded items, and restoring to the plastic shopping bags the remains of the sugar haul, assuring the houseguests probably unnecessarily “we don’t eat this, take it home”.
- Kids running through a 1930’s house built on raised “stumps” and full of old furniture-stuff creates an effect similar to earth tremors.
- Leaving the toilet lid up creates the possibility of a close encounter between a bare bum and a frog. Hilarious if it’s not your bare bum.
- Daughter-in-law works for the manufacturer. Linked product review dispels any illusions Up&Go is healthy.
- Homemade muesli ingredients: Organic if possible – oat bran, pepitas, sunflower seeds, mixed raw nuts, shredded coconut.
- The G.O. suggested as there are no shops (10) at Taylors Arm they come prepared with kids’ necessities and not to worry about food for meals as we had plenty of food but limited space in the fridges.
- Rendering unnecessary the tin of homemade Christmas biscuits I’d baked: usual Snap Biscuits recipe plus chopped dried sour cherries, macadamia nuts and white chocolate nibs.
- Eldest Grandson ate everything on his plate & licked it clean.
- Therefore no-one got dessert, which comprised leftover components of the deconstructed trifle I made for the G.O.: homemade custard; Aeroplane jellies – port wine with vodka poached cherries & passionfruit with vodka poached mango; Pandoro; tinned peaches; and Sara Lee vanilla ice-cream.
- The G.O. assisted with tidying up, collapsed on the verandah futon and didn’t move for the rest of the day. I did four loads of washing and drying (11). Wine o’clock was early but reverted to wine spritzers with homemade fizzy water.
- The new managers at the pub now sell their own homegrown eggs, meat, produce and a few basic grocery items.
- 5 houseguests = 6 bath towels even with the parents showering only once, plus 4 sets sheets & 10 pillowcases.