Boireannach: A Place of Her Own

Boireannach

boireannach: ( /ˈbo.rə.nəx/) noun woman, female (from Scottish Gaelic)

I live with boys. Lots of boys. I have a husband, three sons and a male cat. Then there’s me – the lone female in the house. (If you don’t count the resident spiders some of whom must be of the feminine persuasion. I don’t love spiders. I’m just not a fan of housework.)

It’s not a major problem. I suspect the universe gifted me such a plethora of testosterone because I can take it. Probably better than I’d take a plethora of oestrogen. I am not a girly girl. Never have been, never will be. I was quite happy to have boys. Not sure I’d know what to do with a girl. Admittedly, I was lucky they turned out to be geeky boys rather than sporty ones. Science fiction and fantasy I get. Football bores me to tears.

However, as much as a family of boys suits me, there have been times when the testosterone load gets a bit much. Especially as they have got older and messier and smellier.

One day, a bit over a year ago, during the long summer holidays, I went looking for somewhere to sit down for a while. As I wandered around the house, I found the Eldest Son sitting at the dining table eating his lunch, the Middle Son watching Japanese anime on the television in the lounge room and the Youngest Son playing video games on the computer in the family room. Oh, and the Husband sitting on my side of the bed in our bedroom listening to the cricket on the radio.

There was nowhere to go that didn’t contain testosterone. And that includes the kitchen. Even if there weren’t any boys in it at the time, all it reminds me of is endless requests for food.

It was a breaking point of sorts.

For a number of years I’d toyed with the idea of taking over the cubby house in the backyard as my own space. The boys didn’t use it anymore and it was a usable size. Unfortunately, it was full of junk and the very thought of clearing it out gave me an attack of the procrastinations. I did try. I pulled everything out one day, sorted it, threw out rubbish. Then had to put it back in when it started to rain. The next time I went to tackle it, there was more in there. Sigh.

Moaning about the situation to a friend one day, she suggested that I ditch the cubby house idea and just build something new.

This was an attractive idea.

It would entail some expense. Some studio/cabin options were in the vicinity of $20,000. They were commonly around the $8,000-10,000 price range. This was not so attractive.

Eventually, after extensive research, I settled on the idea of a basic timber shed that I could upgrade. It would mean more work but it was less than half the cost of other options.

Designashed

The people of Design A Shed deserve a plug for their helpfulness, friendliness and patience.

I ran the idea past the Husband, couching it in terms of being for my 50th birthday (he went to New York for his) and adding value to the house. He agreed to the proposal.

In fact, he more than agreed and this is my favourite part of the story. He not only agreed, he got it. As I listened to him explain what we were doing to his family and our neighbours, I knew that he’d heard me.

And so began Operation She-Shed. It was long, it was arduous, it was frustrating and it took well over a year from purchase to completion but I made it. And I made it.

Following is a pictorial history of the journey from pick up at the factory to the last brush stroke. Along the way, I’ve learned to do so many things. I’ve driven a truck, constructed a kit shed, installed insulation, cut down and fitted a door, lined a ceiling, laid a floor and a deck, cut and installed skirting boards and beading, built furniture, designed and constructed planter boxes and done an awful lot of painting. I’ve used a drill, a circular saw, an impact driver, an orbital sander, a drop saw and a nail gun. I got to know my local hardware store really well. The only job for which I called in the professionals was plastering the walls. I thought about doing it myself but I was getting impatient and having it done in an afternoon was easier than figuring that one out myself.

So, as I sit here in my new space writing this blog post, I still can’t really believe it exists and it is mine. Really mine because I made it myself.

A shed load of love and thanks to all the family and friends who helped me realise this dream through practical help, moral support, lending me things and making the appropriate wow comments whenever I shared my latest achievement on Facebook. You all rock.

Picking up the shed

I must thank my friend Kath for coming to my rescue and driving the truck to Melbourne to pick up the shed. The cost of delivery was phenomenal so there was nothing for it but to collect it myself but I didn’t think this was the trip on which to learn to drive a truck. She did make me drive it back to the rental depot after we unloaded for which I am grateful because now I can say, “I drove a truck”.

Preparing the site and putting in the elevation kit

We don’t live on an easy block to put things in the backyard. Everything has to be carried up steps. We also live on clay so digging holes is a mammoth task in itself. I’m incredibly grateful to my husband for taking on the task of putting in the elevation kit.

Building the shed

Oh boy. Or oh boys. Thank heavens for three boys. Carrying all those pieces of shed around the garage and up the steps and past the clothesline and up a path to the spot in the backyard was no picnic. They worked hard. And I’m still traumatised by the act of getting the roof on. (And yes, it’s a tad off-centre. Close enough.) I must also thank my friends Kris and Meg for lending me their impact driver and cordless drill. We would never have got it together without them.

The door

When it came to putting on the door, I held it up to the spot to check the fit and instantly lost a lot of light. Urgh. Hm, I thought. Wouldn’t a window be nice? So I went hunting through demolition yards and found a new door which I then had to cut down to fit. Still quite proud of that effort.

The verandah and deck

When it came to putting up the verandah, it was only when it weirdly sloped upwards that I realised I was supposed to cut down the railing posts to the right height. I’d already screwed them in so there was an interestingly unsafe exercise of cutting through them with a circular saw vertically while the boys held up the roof. Installing the deck was much more fun. I rather like banging in nails. Once more, thank you to the boys for carrying, lifting and holding.

Outside painting

One day I had a vision of my shed in dark purple and white. Cruising around the paint charts at the hardware store, I dismissed one colour as too dark and too blue but then read the name. “Dark Heather”. Well. Nothing for it but to ask for a sample pot. When she opened the tin, I knew it was exactly the colour I’d been looking for.

Insulation, ceilings and walls

The one thing about timber sheds with a corrugated iron roof is that they are hot. I knew I was going to have to insulate and I also came to realise that I was going to have to install some sort of ceiling with insulation even if it meant losing the skylight. My solution was to cut the leftover insulation in half to make it thinner, glue it to the back of some plywood and screw said plywood to the roof frame. It came up better than I could have hoped. Thank you to my friend Carolyn for solving the issue of “how do I get massive pieces of plywood home in a sedan?” by lending me her tray truck. When I got the quote for plastering the walls, I nearly had a heart attack and I wondered if I could repeat the same process on the walls as the ceiling but by the time I added up the materials, I was only a few hundred dollars short of the quote. I figured that $300 was worth the ease of getting someone else to do it. Thanks to Craig at Feathers Plastering for doing the job that many other plasterers turned down as not worth their while.

Beading and inside painting

Craig had asked what I was going to do about the join between the walls and the ceiling and I told him not to worry, I’d find and install something. Part way through installing the beading when I’d broken my drill bit drilling guide holes, banged my fingers, dropped the hammer from the ladder about five times and uttered numerous four-letter words, I was wishing I’d added it to Craig’s quote. But I got there in the end. And my solution to how to meet the pieces in the weirdly angled corners was to just keep the edges straight and then hide it all under putty and paint. Worked a treat. Painting the inside white added so much lightness that I didn’t miss the skylight at all. I also discovered I am not a fan of painting. I don’t have the patience. Although, using the roller was quite fun.

Floor and skirting boards

Soon after starting on the floor, I realised it really needed three people to be able to click in the whole length properly. Thanks to the Husband and Middle Son for helping out. I tried cutting the first end board with the circular saw but it was ragged so for all the rest I used a hacksaw. Yep, cut them all by hand. When it came to installing the skirting boards, I knew I was going to need a more accurate method of cutting 45 degree angles than the ‘protractor, pencil and hacksaw’ method I’d used for the beading with limited success. I put the call out for a drop saw and am grateful to my friends Julie and Cam for lending me not only the drop saw but also a nail gun. No more banged fingers. Using the drop saw was so amazing, I wished I’d thought to ask for one when I was doing the floor. I’d have had it done in half the time. I really want my own now. The nail gun was efficient but nerve-wracking. I blame that WorkSafe ad.

Steps, planters and painting the deck

For some reason, when we put the shed together on top of the elevation kit, it didn’t fit properly and we ended up with the front stumps exposed. This presented a problem for installing steps so I had to extend the deck. I think this was probably my favourite thing about this project – coming up with creative solutions to problems. From a decorative disc to hide an off-centre door handle hole to shoving a piece of timber up the inside of the door when the bottom hinge wouldn’t attach properly to building planter boxes to hide the posts sticking out the front, it’s been gratifying to find ways to hide the flaws.

Decking it out and connecting power

Ooh, the fun bit! I had a highly successful trip to Ikea for a shelving unit and a place to store tea and coffee supplies. And putting together Ikea furniture seemed a breeze after the various challenges with building the shed. It was a fun, if very wet, weekend. (You should have seen the mud I had to clean off the deck…) The desk is an old work desk that the boys used as a computer desk until we rearranged the family room and moved the pc to a smaller desk. I sanded it back, painted it and attached some new handles to the drawers so it wouldn’t look like the place that boys had sat at for years. And there were all sorts of bits and pieces sitting around waiting for a home, especially my series of coffee-themed pastels by artist and friend Jill Shalless. But my favourite item is the chaise-longue. I must thank my friend Naomi for spotting it on an op shop’s Facebook page and letting me know and then driving us to the town more than an hour away to pick it up in her station wagon.

Power at this stage is connected via an extension lead from the garage. Probably a more permanent solution is warranted but it’s working quite well at the moment. (I’d considered a solar system but couldn’t justify a system that cost more than the shed.)

What’s with the name?

I knew I wanted a name for my place. It’s personal to me. Boireannach is Scottish Gaelic for woman. It was perfect. It looks like the name of something, it represents my Scottish heritage and it signifies the importance of my ‘no boys allowed’ space. Thank you to my friend Margaret-Rose (aka M-R) for the nameplate.

Wondering how to pronounce it? Here’s a fun video that may help you.

The End and the Beginning

So there you have it. If you’ve stuck with me this long, thank you. It has been important to me to document this journey officially. It’s been a long road but I got there. There’s still some landscaping to be done but at last I’m in situ. I’m looking forward to the many creative adventures ahead in a place of my own.

Christmas Morsels

In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it “Christmas” and went to church; the Jews called it “Hanukka” and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say “Merry Christmas!” or “Happy Hanukka!” or (to the atheists) “Look out for the wall!”
~ Dave Barry

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It’s going to be 35 degrees on Christmas Day. That’s in Celsius, by the way. As in, Bloody Hot. Needless to say, lunch will not be a hot roast. And you can keep your pudding and brandy custard. Ice cream all the way, baby.

Now, I can imagine my Northern Hemisphere friends are trying to wrap their heads around a Christmas Day with sunshine, heat, a cold lunch and flies. And why wouldn’t you? It’s not the common conception of Christmas, is it?

See, we here in the Southern Hemisphere have the advantage of being able to simultaneously understand both a hot and a cold Christmas given the plethora of snowy Christmas TV specials and movies that abound in the global culture in conjunction with our actual experience of Christmas. Pity, then, those in the wintry Christmas lands who are spared the equivalent televisual experience of a baking Christmas (and I’m not talking about cookies). I imagine one can count on one hand the number of Christmas movies set down south of the world.

So you may or may not understand this song.

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I do like Christmas on the whole…. In its clumsy way, it does approach Peace and Goodwill. But it is clumsier every year.
~ E.M. Forster

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Last year someone suggested to me that I should be developing my own Christmas traditions rather than just perpetuating the ones from my childhood. I found this mildly confusing as I thought that was the whole point of tradition. Also, given my boys were already teenagers, it seemed a bit late to be starting new traditions.

Then, at an event this year, we were asked to bring along something that represented a Christmas tradition for our family. Uh oh.

I conveniently forgot to take anything.

But a few days later, as we decorated the Christmas tree, I realised that we had established a new Christmas tradition. Introduced two years ago, we have our own special tree-topper that minds our Christmas tree each year now.

Why have a standard star or cutesy angel on the top of your tree when you can have one of the most terrifying monsters ever to come out of Steven Moffat’s frightening head? #ChristmasWeepingAngel #WeAreNotInsane

I can’t wait for the next opportunity to share that Christmas tradition.

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In a wonderful book I was given for Christmas by a dear friend, I learnt that you can learn the twelve cranial nerves to “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. It might be my new favourite carol.

On the first nerve of the cranium,
my true love gave to me:
My sense olfactory.

On the second nerve of the cranium,
my true love gave to me:
Two eyes a-looking,
And my sense olfactory.

And so on, the last verse being:

On the twelfth nerve of the cranium,
my true love gave to me:

Twelve lovely lickings, (Hypoglossal)
Eleven heads a-tilting, (Spinal accessory)
Ten heartbeats a minute, (Vagus)
Nine quick swallows, (Glossopharyngeal)
Eight sounds, and balance, (Auditory)
Seven funny faces, (Facial)
Six sideways glances, (Abducens)
Mas-ti-ca-tion! (Trigeminal)
Four superior oblique muscles, (Trochlear)
Three cross-eyed glances, (Oculomotor)
Two eyes a-looking, (Optic)
And my sense olfactory. (Olfactory)

Just because.

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Santa knows Physics: Of all colors, Red Light penetrates fog best. That’s why Benny the Blue-nosed reindeer never got the gig.
~ Neil deGrasse Tyson

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Half the parcels I’ve been waiting on (stocked full of Christmas presents for the boys) haven’t arrived. It’s a common phenomenon apparently.

Sucks to be a postie at this time of year.

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Mail your packages early so the post office can lose them in time for Christmas.
~ Johnny Carson

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To all my friends, family members, fellow bloggers, and random strangers who came here by mistake, I wish you all the appropriate greetings for the celebration of your choice and hope that the coming year brings all of the things you want and none of the things you don’t. And may we all find peace on earth.

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I sometimes think we expect too much of Christmas Day. We try to crowd into it the long arrears of kindliness and humanity of the whole year. As for me, I like to take my Christmas a little at a time, all through the year. And thus I drift along into the holidays – let them overtake me unexpectedly – waking up some fine morning and suddenly saying to myself: “Why, this is Christmas Day!”
~ David Grayson

 
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Sailing Away From Sailing

I used to sail. In a boat. On the water. Really.

(You would know this if you’ve read the extensive list of what I’ve attempted to be good at on my About page.)

Hidden in a shed at my parents’ house there is a boat. My boat. The “Eleanor Rigby”. (I was a big Beatles fan from about the age of nine.)

She hasn’t been sailed in…. oh…. I don’t want to think about how long. Decades.

It’s time to let her go.

I haven’t sailed her since my teens but I’m finding it unexpectedly heart-wrenching to part with her.

I developed a passion for sailing after reading Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome when I was twelve. I think part of the reason why sailing, in the end, didn’t stick was because it was never (and was never going to be) like it was in the book. I wanted to sail with hearty mates. I wanted to sail on a lake to a private island. I wanted secret adventures and seed cake and tea cooked over a fire. I wanted to be friends with John and Susan and Titty and Roger. I most especially wanted to be best friends with Nancy and Peggy, the Amazon Pirates.

But it was fantasy and this was reality.

So I sailed in a not-a-clinker dinghy on a bay (well, technically a lagoon off the bay) by myself and there were no private islands on which to camp and make parley with the natives.

It was never quite the same as the dream I held.

But I think it’s mostly hard to let her go because she reminds me of my father.

A father who understood the weird dreams and desires of his youngest daughter and bought her a boat even though money must have been tight.

A father who drove his daughter every week to the lagoon and waited on the bank while she tried to fulfil that dream.

A father who travelled hours around the bay towing the boat so his daughter could share her sailing passion with her school friends at camp.

A father who continued to pay the registration on the boat trailer for years after his flighty daughter had moved on to other things just in case she wanted to come back to sailing.

Life changes. Dad is gone. Mum needs to move on. And the boat must go.

Anyway, she needs to feel the wind in her sail again. Feel the water lapping at her sides. It’s only fair.

But I’ll miss her.

 

 

 

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Move Over Etsy….

….there’s a new craft business taking the world by storm!

Okay, so maybe it’s only taking Australia by storm.

Okay, so maybe it’s just my town that’s getting stormed.

Okay, okay, so it’s only my immediate circle of friends and family.

And there’s no storm.

It’s not even a business.

It’s just MOSY Creations – my new initiative to explain the weird handmade gifts I like to give to people.

mosy-creations

I have, for many years, rather enjoyed making things as gifts. I’m pretty sure there’s still a couple of small framed watercolours I gave my parents for Christmas when I was about 13. I know. You may pity them.

I especially like making things when babies are born.

I went through a period of making animal gift baskets with themed baby items including embroidered singlets. eg, a duck basket with ducks embroidered on socks, singlets, etc.

Then, each of my nieces and nephews received a handmade teddy bear for their first birthday. (The absolute tragedy of this commitment is that I never did the same for my own children. I still feel bad about that.)

Then, in the throes of raising my own children, I got a bit slack. My apologies to any friends whose babies received a store bought present. I owe you one.

I did, however, keep my hand in by making costumes for my kids when required for various school events.

The Youngest Son dressed as some explorer whose name escapes me for a ‘Wax Museum’ exhibition of his work. Some of it made from scratch, some just a clever use of what was in the wardrobe. The jacket was a lucky find in an op shop that just needed the sleeves adjusted to look like they had cuffs. (Smoke and mirrors, people, smoke and mirrors.)

But recently, I’ve been reinvigorated to make things again, inspired mostly by a creative friend whom I knew would fully appreciate a handmade gift.

First it was Mr Snuffleupagus when her son was born.

A year later, I dragged out the knitting needles for the first time in about ten years to knit him a beanie. (It’s Rowlf, for the Muppet-uninitiated.)

imag0452s

And there have been capes and wallets and Muppet Money (very valuable on the Puppet Exchange).

But the thing about all these creations is that I really had no idea what I was doing and was mostly just making it up as I went. Snuffy was based on an elephant pattern but I had to adjust his head. And his trunk. And his tail. (I think it took three trials to get the tail right.)

The beanie was made up of four different patterns.

So they’re never perfect. There’s always a slightly dodgy element to them all. But I never really thought of giving them a label until recently.

Another friend was expecting her first baby this year and she’s a Doctor Who fan. So, it occurred to me that a really cool present would be to make a Tenth Doctor doll (David Tennant being her favourite Doctor). I figured I’d try and knit one but when I went looking for patterns, I didn’t like any of the knitted ones. I did, however, love a crocheted one I found:

img_1496

Image courtesy of Allison Hoffman at craftyiscool.com

In typical fashion, I took to this project with gusto despite not actually knowing how to crochet. (Sometime in my deep dark history I must have learnt because it felt familiar but let’s just say YouTube is a wonderful thing….)

It was far from perfect. I honestly had no idea what I was doing. So, this time I really felt I needed to attach a tag to clearly indicate that this was made by a Jack of All Trades who definitely had not mastered crochet. And thus MOSY Creations was born. It seemed easier to declare at the outset that this was something you would not find on Etsy or Ravelry or even some sort of “Crafties Have Talent” excruciating audition episode. “This is just between you and me”, it says. “It’s not perfect but it’s made with love.”

I was still pleased with the result of my efforts. You know, in that “Gee, that was hard, but I did it” kind of way. And as long as I didn’t keep going back to look at the picture of what it was supposed to look like….

I should perhaps explain that this is a baby-friendly version of the pattern. The original required a piece of dowel in the neck and wire in the limbs. These were obviously omitted in this rather wibbly wobbly Doctor.

My dear friend loved it and she paid me the ultimate compliment. On opening the gift she exclaimed, “Where did you find it?!”

Oh, in a very exclusive establishment.

A Boy and his Doctor (Photo used with permission.)

A Boy and his Doctor
(Photo used with permission)

 

 

 

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An Imaginary Friend

Imaginary Friend

Me and My Imaginary Friend

Have you ever had an imaginary friend? Do you have an imaginary friend now?

If you once had an imaginary friend, I feel very happy for you.

If you have an imaginary friend now, I feel even more happy for you. (You thought I was going to say I feel worried for you, didn’t you?)

I think I’d rather like to have an imaginary friend now, at my age.

But that’s a discussion for another time. It’s not actually what this post is about.

Sometimes, a random thought will come wandering into my head like a lost tourist, plonk itself down on its suitcase in the middle of my thoughts and wait for me to ask if there’s anything I can do for it.

The latest one was this:

“I wonder what it would be like to be an imaginary friend?”

Let’s think about that, shall we?

You’d never have to feel guilty for being in the wrong place at the wrong time or the wrong place at the right time or the right place at the wrong time. An imaginary friend always has perfect timing.

You’d never have to take your foot out of your mouth or apologise for saying something thoughtless, hurtful or stupid. An imaginary friend always knows the right thing to say.

You’d never have to agonise over a gift, wondering if it’s appropriate or too much or too little. An imaginary friend always buys awesome imaginary gifts with his/her imaginary millions.

You’d never have to second guess yourself about whether you were a good friend or not. An imaginary friend has absolute confidence.

You’d never have to make conversation with other friends or relatives of your friend, especially those with political views that make your blood boil. An imaginary friend is invisible to everybody else.

You’d never have to worry about posting the wrong thing on Facebook or Twitter or forgetting to reply to an email from your friend. Imaginary people don’t have Facebook or Twitt….er….acc…..ounts….. Okay, you might have to wear that one.

What would it be like to be an imaginary friend?

I reckon it would be freakin’ awesome!

How about you?

 

 

 

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The Crumb Wars: A Special Report

The Crumb Wars web

It is now more than eighteen months since our correspondent, Heath Dempster, was evacuated from the Central Republic of Kitchen in the wake of sustained attacks from wardrobe terrorists and continued unrest in the rebel Northern States of Boys Rooms. In this special report, Dempster returns to the region to discover how the people of CRK are faring. He spoke to our presenter Nigel Havestock yesterday.

Heath, it’s so wonderful to speak to you in the CRK again.

Yes, thank you, Nigel. It’s wonderful to be back here.

So, how are you finding it?

It’s very interesting, Nigel. In some ways, things haven’t changed but in others they have changed dramatically – both good and bad.

What’s been happening since you were last there?

Well, you would recall that my earliest reports were in regard to battles between the rebels and government forces in the Bench areas of the country.

Yes, the beginning of the Crumb Wars.

Precisely. There have been some interesting developments. Approximately six months ago, the Leader of the CRK, Mother, initiated a new Sourdough industry in a bid to improve the wellbeing of her citizens.

That sounds wonderful.

One would think so. Unfortunately, what it has done is exacerbate the conditions in the Bench areas and guerrilla attacks of toast crumbs have increased dramatically.

And what has been the response from the government?

That is what is interesting, Nigel. It seems that in order to support the fledgling Sourdough industry, the government has been tolerating these attacks, entering the area only when the rebels have moved on and initiating clean up before the rebels return. This seems to be maintaining some semblance of order while minimising the chance of increased hostilities. And, of course, the Sourdough industry is thriving in response.

What about other areas in the region, Heath? How are they doing?

Unfortunately, the Northern States of Boys Rooms have descended into complete anarchy and chaos. There was some attempt early on to enforce civic order but following extensive carpet bombing by leaders in the Northern States, this has been abandoned. It is unknown just how the citizens are surviving in such conditions but they have been sighted outside the States searching for food.

Heath, last time you were in the CRK there was some tension between the Leader and the Deputy Leader, is that correct?

That’s right, Nigel. Mother had sacked the Deputy Leader, Father, as the Secretary of Cleanliness on suspicion of siding with the rebels.

How is that relationship now?

Nigel, that is the most fascinating of the good news/bad news discoveries on my visit here. You may recall reading of the Leader’s humanitarian visit outside the CRK late last year?

Ah yes, in the wake of the recent earthquakes?

Yes. While she was absent from the CRK, the Deputy Leader was in charge and by all reports did a reasonable job of maintaining services and some civic order. He was particularly active in ensuring the continuation of hygiene and sanitation services, somewhat unusually as he has often spurned offers of ministry portfolios in these areas.

Within days of Mother’s return to the CRK, there was a shocking assassination attempt by a wardrobe terrorist cell, the Clothing Moths, that had been ravaging the country. Fortunately, the assassination attempt failed. However, the Leader was severely injured and unable to resume duties for some months. Father continued in the role, ensuring transport, food provision and sanitation services were maintained throughout the country.

What has been most fascinating, Nigel, is that while Mother has now resumed the leadership of the country, Father has retained his role in coordinating hygiene and sanitation services.

That is fascinating, Heath. Why do you think that is?

I’m not sure, Nigel, but I suspect Mother was not keen to resume control of those ministry areas and Father felt no option but to remain. It will be interesting to see if it continues in the longer term but it does seem to have brought some stability to the region now that the Leader and Deputy Leader appear to be working together for the betterment of their citizens.

Well, Heath, I wish you well on the rest of your visit to the CRK and do keep us posted.

Of course. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you, Nigel.

That was Heath Dempster, our correspondent, reporting from the Central Republic of Kitchen. Heath travelled to the CRK as a special media representative with the United Household Nations.

Want more information? Check out our Crumb Wars archives:

The Crumb Wars: Battle of the Bench

The Crumb Wars 2: Expansion Into The Northern States

The Crumb Wars 3: Abandonment of Civic Order

The Crumb Wars 4: Rice Wars

The Crumb Wars 5: Terror in the Skies

 

 

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Acting The Fool

April Fool

April Fool

April 1. This is the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four. ~ Mark Twain

I love an April Fool’s Day joke. There’s something thrilling about convincing other people that some piece of nonsense is true because you can say it with conviction and believability.

Mind you, the same applied during an election campaign is not quite so thrilling.

The trouble with practical jokes is that very often they get elected. ~ Will Rogers

One of the most famous April Fool’s Day jokes is the “Spaghetti Harvest” hoax. In these days of global communication, it seems ridiculous to think people could believe such a thing to be true but in the days when we were mostly only aware of things in our own backyards, who knew what went on in other parts of the world?

There has been an ‘iceberg’ towed from Antarctica into Sydney Harbour, a full page travel article about a non-existent island and last year, the airline Qantas announced it was correcting the spelling of its name to include the ‘u’.

April Fools Day Quantas

Here cometh April again, and as far as I can see the world hath more fools in it than ever. ~ Charles Lamb

I’ve pulled a few practical jokes in my time. When I was pregnant with my first child, my 19-week ultrasound happened to fall on April 1st. After the ultrasound, I returned to work and informed my colleagues of the stunning news – we were expecting twins!

Now, the key to a good practical joke is to be sure you have answers to possible sceptical questions. For example, why was this not picked up at the 12-week ultrasound? So, before the question could be asked, I added the information that the second baby was quite small and tucked in behind the other baby and that’s why it wasn’t detected on the earlier ultrasound.

Much like playing with scam callers, it’s a matter of putting on your acting skills and answering questions in the most open and convincing way you can muster.

At noon (the traditional time, I believe, that one must confess to one’s subterfuge), two of my colleagues appeared at my desk, gave me the look and said, “Okay, tell us the truth. Are you really having twins or is this a joke?” I looked at them seriously and then grinned.

They responded with the predictable, “I knew it!”

Yeah, sure….

It is the ability to take a joke, not make one, that proves you have a sense of humour. ~ Max Eastman

Once, a work colleague was complaining about the overflowing plastics cupboard in her kitchen. She had decided that she could not possibly buy any more Tupperware.

A few days later, on April 1st, I presented her with an invitation to a Tupperware party.

She bought it. She even accepted the invitation!

I’ll admit to a twinge of guilt when I went to her later in the day to inform her that the invitation wasn’t real.

Even the gods love jokes. ~ Plato

At university, I convinced my friends that I was dropping out of my course. Sometimes it still concerns me that they thought this believable.

I don’t have a joke planned for April Fool’s Day this year. Sometimes my life feels like enough of a joke as it is. But I’ll be avidly watching out for what others have in store for the gullible.

Suppose the world were only one of God’s jokes, would you work any the less to make it a good joke instead of a bad one? ~ George Bernard Shaw

What about you? Have you ever pulled an April Fool’s Day joke? How did it go? Or have you ever been taken in by one? Are you too embarrassed to confess?

 

 

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Don’t Get Mad, Get Even

scam alert

“Hello?”

“Hello, madam. I am calling from the Technical Department of [insert telecommunications/broadband company here]. I am calling you because we have noticed you have suspicious activity on your computer and people could be stealing your information.”

What do you do when you get these calls? Hang up? Get annoyed? Do you not even get this far, hanging up the phone as soon as you hear that telltale pause when you answer the phone?

In the MOSY household, we greet these calls with glee. Ooh, goody! It’s “Torture the Fake Technical Department Caller” time!

If I’m busy, eg in the middle of cooking dinner, my standard is to wait long enough for them to get to the point of asking me to turn on my computer and then I say “Okay. Hang on a minute.” I then put the phone down on the bench and walk away. I’ll come back later and hang it up.

Once, a very persistent caller rang me back after this procedure. He accused me of hanging up on him.

“I did not!” I said. “I went and turned the computer on and when I came back to the phone you weren’t there.”

“I was here!” he retorted.

“No, you weren’t!”

This went on for a bit. Finally, he decided to get on with the task at hand.

“Okay. Well, is your computer on now?”

“No. I turned it off when you weren’t there.”

Deep breath.

“Well, can you turn it on now?”

“Yep. Hang on a tic.”

He didn’t try to ring back a third time.

If I’m not busy and in need of some amusement, I try and keep them on the line for as long as possible. The best way to do this is to pretend your computer won’t turn on. I once had a call escalated up three levels as they tried to figure out why my computer wouldn’t work.

It’s important, also, to feign as much ignorance as possible. I managed to string out the instruction to press the Control key on my keyboard for about five minutes.

“Which button?”

“It says C-T-R-L. It’s on the bottom left of your keyboard.”

“Where?”

“The bottom left corner. Can you see it?”

“No. I don’t have a button like that.”

And so on.

But our all time favourite was this one:

“Madam, is your computer turned on?”

“Yes.”

“Okay, I need you to…”

“There’s smoke coming out of it!”

“Madam? I need you to…”

“My computer’s on fire!! What did you do??”

“I did not do anything, madam. I need you to…”

“Yes, you did!! You made my computer catch on fire!! IT’S ON FIRE!!”

The poor girl tried to stick to her script while I kept screaming about my incendiary technology. Then she hung up.

Sigh. Such simple pleasures.

So next time you get one of these calls, don’t get irritated. Get as much fun out of it as you can. It’s cheap entertainment and while they’re on the line with you, they’re not ripping off some poor unsuspecting innocent.

Have you got your own favourite method for dealing with these callers?

 

 

 

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Nepalese Food Quiz Answers

Breakfast with a view of Mt Everest

Breakfast with a view of Mt Everest

Winners are grinners and losers are boozers. (I couldn’t find anything else to rhyme with losers. And let’s face it, they probably need to drown their sorrows.)

Here are the results of “Best Black Tea – A Nepalese Food Quiz” posted a couple of weeks ago. Check out the answers along with a few tidbits about my experiences and then the winners will be revealed.

D

1. Tato Dudh – Hot Milk (or as one of our Sherpas called it, Hot Millick). Powdered milk never tasted so good. Offered at breakfast (into which one could mix instant coffee powder – shudder – or hot chocolate powder – that’s more like it) and also after dinner for that last warming drink before beddy-byes.

I

2. Anda Tarkari – Egg Curry. Admittedly, probably my least favourite of all the curries we were offered but still highly edible.

B

3. Saag – Spinach. But like no spinach you’ve ever tasted. Usually plucked fresh from one of the village gardens, I could eat this by the plateful (and occasionally needed to as my inherent low iron levels struggled with the lack of red meat on offer).

H

4. Alu Paratha – Flat bread stuffed with potato. One member of the group reckoned this tasted just like her Irish grandmother’s potato bread. I guess some food is universal.

E

5. Suji Ko Haluwa – Semolina Pudding. We were constantly spoilt with dessert after our evening meals – pineapple slices, chocolate pudding, apple pie – but the semolina pudding was the most Nepalese offering. One member of the group couldn’t bring herself to eat it as she was force-fed semolina pudding at boarding school as a child. Food has memories.

G

6. Chayote – Spiky Gourd. Our meals were a vegetarian’s delight (luckily for the one vegetarian in our group) with a multitude of different vegetables, most of them familiar but with the occasional new introduction. Chayote tastes a bit like zucchini (courgette).

J

7. Dal Bhat – Lentil Soup with Rice. This is Nepal’s national dish and is eaten in copious quantities. My absolute favourite dish of the trip. For our meals, the dal was poured onto the rice. One member of the group got most distressed when one of the Sherpas put some vegetable curry on top of her rice so there was no room for the dal. One must eat dal bhat as it is meant to be eaten.

F

8. Phini Roti – Fried Roti (also known as Tibetan Bread). We ate many different versions of bread but I think this would be my favourite. It is soft and slightly chewy with a hint of sweetness.

A

9. Rajma Tarkari – Kidney Bean Curry. Probably my favourite curry, this was absolutely delicious. And yes, we all know what happens when you eat a lot of beans but we were all in it together. Sharing is caring.

C

10. Momo – Dumpling. We were always served vegetable momos but they can also contain chicken. The first night these were offered, I was not feeling well and so was able to eat only one. I had to wait more than a week for them to reappear on the menu. (I was beginning to despair that they would not reappear at all.) I ate six.

So, how did you go? Here’s the results:

15 Points to Lynn at Life After 50 for being the first to provide all correct answers. However, she loses 5 points for not answering in numeric-alpha format (Rule #1). “But you said nothing would happen if we broke the rules!”  Yeah. I lied. Don’t upset my system.

10 Points each to Joanne at My Life Lived Full, Cynthia at littleoldladywho.net and Sue at Travel Tales of Life who all managed to correctly identify every food item in the correct format.

5 Points to Bun at Bun Karyudo for providing answers to every item and getting two correct.

5 Points to Barbara at Barbara Pyett for her very creative answers. However, she loses 2 points for listing Dal Bhat as her least favourite.

1 Point each to all those who had a crack at identifying at least one dish and also to all those who commented at all because you know I love to hear from you even if you don’t want to play.

Congratulations to the winners. As soon as we’re all located in the same city, I will present you with your very large, very shiny trophies at an elaborate awards ceremony.

Now, I must leave you all to go and make suji ko haluwa for a family dinner this evening.

Namaste!

 

 

 

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Best Black Tea – A Nepalese Food Quiz

One thing you will do when you travel in Nepal is drink a lot of tea.

The teapot first arrives around 6am outside your tent with a cheery “Black tea!”. You struggle out of your sleeping bag or, more often, struggle in your sleeping bag to unzip the tent flap and grasp that boiling hot tin cup of tea either sweetened with three large teaspoons of sugar (the Nepali way) or not.

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Early Morning Cup of Tea

One of our Sherpas often called out “Best black tea!” We thought he was proud of his tea until we returned to Kathmandu and realised the stock in the supermarket was called just that – Best Black Tea.

The teapot will appear again at breakfast, then at lunch, then afternoon tea and lastly as a final note to the day after dinner. (While we were working in the village, the pot also appeared at morning tea time but in this case it would have ‘juice’ in it (otherwise known as hot cordial).)

Another thing you will do when you travel in Nepal is eat. A lot. Provided you’ve chosen your trekking company well, you will be suitably nourished in order to lift that hammer, shift that rock or climb that mountain.

Breakfast in the Sunshine

My friend Sue over at Travel Tales of Life likes to conduct a food quiz of the unusual delicacies she experiences on her travels. With her permission, I have pinched the idea for a Nepalese Food Quiz.

There’s just one teensy problem.

Sue is a highly regarded and experienced travel blogger and as such knows to take photographs of the food she eats just in case it comes in useful for a blog post. (Like this one.)

My first instinct when presented with a delicious plate of food is to eat it.

Sue also appears to travel in a slightly higher economic category than I and often has beautifully presented restaurant-standard single-named dishes with which to conduct her quiz.

My meals were presented on metal plates in a tent with up to eight different dishes on the one plate.

Like this one:

Food Plate

Actually, you’ll notice I had started to eat this one too.

That’s it. That’s the only photo I’ve got. (Well, that’s not strictly true. There’s one more I took when we picnicked beside a river during the trek. But I’ve already used that one in another post.) And you only got this one because I happened to have my phone in my pocket.

So I’m having to improvise.

Most of the images in the quiz are sourced from the Nepalese Cook Book I purchased in Kathmandu but am yet to tackle in an attempt to replicate in my own kitchen what our cook achieved over a two-burner kerosene stove in a tent.

Culinary delights await

But however the images have been sourced, I promise you I ate every single one in Nepal.

So. Rules.

  1. Each food name has been assigned a number and each photograph has been assigned a letter. Please list all answers in numeric-alpha format. This is to sooth my OCD Mathematician tendencies. Danke.
  2. Googling is permitted within reason. You may also Yahoo or Bing if you want to add an extra challenge. If you’re feeling radical, try DuckDuckGo.
  3. If you break rules 1 and 2, nothing will happen. We’re not playing for sheep stations, people.

I will publish the winners in a couple of weeks. Or, you know, when I feel like it. Get in early to avoid disappointment.

Ready?

Food Names

  1. Tato Dudh
  2. Anda Tarkari
  3. Saag
  4. Alu Paratha
  5. Suji Ko Haluwa
  6. Chayote
  7. Dal Bhat
  8. Phini Roti
  9. Rajma Tarkari
  10. Momo

Food Photographs

A

B

C

D

E

F

G

H

I

J

 

Good luck and remember it’s supposed to be fun.

 

 

 

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