Monday, October 4, 2010

Chapter 19: raindrops, ice cream and magic hats.

The rain is tumbling down outside, here in the mountains. The water tank is overflowing and the resident puddle at our back door has become best friends with G and her gumboots. With the onset of  at least 100 ml of rain in the last 24hours, we have pulled up stumps and come inside.

 As any parent can appreciate, rainy days are a wonderful opportunity to spend hour upon hour waiting until bed time. You've pulled out all your best paternal tricks; they have played with play dough, coloured in, watched a DVD, made a cubby house, dressed up, made pancakes, forced the children to perform menial tasks such as polish the floorboards with baby wipes and played hide and try and get away from the kids, and its only 9am.

So what do you do when your repertoire runs dry on a wet old rainy day?

You pull out ...THE MAGIC HAT! you can see it really is magic.
This is something that Joe and I invented on the eve of the school holidays in sheer desperation to stop our 4 year old organising our every move. The magic hat is something that basically makes all of your old activities suddenly new and exciting again. Here's how it works. You make a list of all the activities you have in your repertoire and write them on to little cards...yes they go in the hat. Then you give your children a spiel about how the magic hat is magic and that it will magically decide for the whole family which activity the children will take part in that day.

Our hat magically appeared (in a black garbage magical) hanging on the back gate, sent down from the magic folk that live in the 'faraway tree' (gumtree) in our back yard. The kids were impressed. The activities inside included chess, bush walk, painting, a bike ride, a treasure hunt, colouring in, a board game, and a trip to the library as well as many other mind blowing exciting possibilities.

But its important that the parents themselves don't get sucked in by this magical spiel and instead realise this as an opportunity to rig the system. For example. It is 3pm on a rainy Sunday afternoon, you don't want your child to reach in and pull out the 'family bushwalk' activity (so you slip that one in your pocket) and secretly drop in several duplicates of 'quiet reading time in your rooms' or the 'awesome: popcorn and DVD...wild card!' Get the drift? No complaints...what the hat decides, the hat decides and everyone must accept its magical will. Suckers!

Thankfully it has only been raining for 3 days so far and last week we enjoyed gorgeous Spring days. The wisteria is in full bloom and the air has been laden with syrupy scents of wisteria, Jasmine and lavender. We took the opportunity to fix the rickety old side gate and give it a fresh coat of paint, from mission brown to a lovely lolly pink.

Painting gives one time to ponder on the important things in life such as, 'why are we here?' , 'where did we come from?' and 'how many eggs have our chooks laid in the last 12 months?'. My mind started the calculation. An average of 2.8 eggs per day, times 365 days in the year, that's 1022 eggs in the last year. Or 85.1666666 reoccurring dozen eggs. So if an average dozen costs around $5, that is $425 we didn't have to spend on eggs this past year. Which is exactly why we went out on Friday and bought ourselves two more chookens. Introducing 'Thelma and Louise'. Thelma is the tall, dark chick...and her side-kick, Louise, is the stumpy blonde ;) 

Whilst the pecking order has been an issue for Thelma and Louise, being put well and truly in their place by our older three hens, G on the other hand has mysteriously been accepted into the feathered flock. G and N have taken to spending countless hours playing with the 'chookens', to the point now where they happily allow G to hold their tale feathers as both child and chook wonder around together. Quite a funny sight.

With less than 100 days to go before our FFFC the gravity of doing without some of life's little luxuries has begun to weigh more heavily on certain members of the family. Inevitably it is going to be a challenging week attempting to get by with little more than a bag of flour, some coffee, milk, oil and produce from the yard. Surprisingly Jo hasn't questioned why my increasing stock of home brew in the garage is also one of the few items allowed during the challenge week. I thought I was home free when the unfortunate penny dropped. "But I MAKE my home brew", I argued. " and you can have one every now and then too..." I pleaded in defense. But a compromise needed to be made. I knew her weakness. Its brown, white and pink, or if its been a really tough day sometimes it comes with rocky road lumpy chunks and caramel swirls... that's right Jo's frosty little Achilles was going to be my saving grace."But Darling, we can make ice cream for the challenge week". We had a compromise, I could keep my home brew so long as Jo could have her ice cream. Consequently we have resolved to add a tub of honey to our shopping list of things we will buy for the challenge. 

Of course Jo wouldn't be entirely convinced unless we gave it a try first so we put some of our eggs to good use and made some delicious home-made vanilla ice-cream. It was surprisingly easy. The recipe includes 3 eggs, with the egg whites and yolks separated, 1/2 a cup of  honey, 4 cups of light cream, and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.

Firstly we separated the egg yolks and whites and mixed the yokes with the honey until smooth. In a
separate bowl we beat the egg whites till they were stiff. Mixed the two together then added the cream. Poured into a saucepan and mixed constantly on a medium heat for 15 min. We added vanilla and allowed it to cool. Then it went in to a bowl in the freezer and was mixed every couple of hours for the first four hours or so. Then frozen overnight. It was actually great fun making it with the kids and they woke up the following morning to a spoon of homemade ice cream. We are looking forward to being a little more adventurous with flavours, maybe a lavender and macadamia nut ice cream for the challenge.

On the garden front all of the seedlings are just about in the new garden beds and fingers crossed they won't all be eaten by the snails over these very rainy days. The war on snails has officially been relaunched with the unfortunate casualties of two of our pumpkin seedlings and one defenceless zucchini. Cowardly pot shots have also been taken at our new strawberries. After Joe's snail hunt tonight we've hit back collecting 60 slimy snails and one slug. The housing prices for snails has just hit rock bottom with 60 new shells on the market. I told you we're not greenies!

Next blog we prepare for bigger pests, its time to put some hosiery over those grapes and we will  let you know about some possum proof veggies.