Friday, October 28, 2011

FFS Friday...

It's that time again. Sarah has, as always, led the charge.

A short one this week.

  1. My internet has been shaped, for no good reason. because I download a lot. because I'm addicted to the Internet. FFS.
  2. My dear, sweet angel is teething. Perhaps? Finally? Is it really teething? I swear I rue the day I left my 'Secrets of Babies' book at the hospital. All I know is Millie's grumpy and can't sleep. Ergo, neither can I. FFS.
  3. I spent an inordinate amount of time on the telephone to my service provider this morning trying to change my internet plan, because it's always used up for no good reason because I download a lot. After 25 minutes of trying to understand a thick accent across a crappy phone line and 15 minutes of that was on hold silence, said sweet angel woke up. I hung up. FFS. Plan B: Praise jeebus for Telstra on Twitter. They rock my world. 

Dear Baby G

A Family Affair

When Mr S and I moved to Tasmania it didn't really phase us that we weren't close to our families. Not that we don't adore them, but we needed to live our own lives where we chose. My parents were still in Goulburn, and Mr S' in Young. My brother, sister and I haven't lived in the same house together since 1995ish, and they have made their lives in Canada, London, Mt Hotham, Airlie Beach, Margaret River, Sydney... pretty much everywhere.

But now there's a Millie involved? I miss them all. A lot. My phone bill is testament to this and Skype gets a heavy workout. I wish they were close. I want to drop in and say hi, have birthdays and Christmases and public holidays together. But short of Mr S and I uprooting our lives to live somewhere we don't love as much as Tasmania it's not going to happen.

My Dad was one of five brothers, all of whom I spent time with growing up. Now that my Dad has passed on, I love speaking to my Uncles because they remind me of Dad.

My Dad's youngest brother Matt and his partner Cheryl were in Tasmania this week and popped in to see us and Millie. They were only here for a few hours and I wished they could have stayed a lot longer.

Here's a few snaps that make me long for my family more and more...

With her Great-Uncle Matt.

Too cool for Pre-School.

Great-Uncle Matt, Millie & Great-Aunty Cheryl.

The look on Matt's face? Divine.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

One year ago...

One year ago today I mumbled something so softly into a microphone no one but Mr S could hear me.
Mr S spoke clearly into a microphone and made me sniffle with his words.

Then, after 10 years of our lives together, he became Handy Husband and I became Preggo Wifey.

Happy Anniversary to us!

Friday, October 21, 2011

FFS Friday

This week I said to myself 'No, I won't do it again, I'm focussing positively.'

Now, I scream say 'This is a healthy vent so I don't throw something at the wall.'

Millie learned to crawl properly this week. It's SO amazing that she's been wanting to celebrate Maggie-style by having a few drinks most nights. Some nights every 90 minutes or so. FFS.

In my scheduling mayhem at work it appears I forgot to schedule to prepare a press advert. I was probably too busy scheduling. Thus, I'm instructing a colleague how to do it from home with a baby who keeps hitting her head on the coffee table. FFS.

The cat has starting sleeping with us again. In the middle of the bed, which means Mr S gets no blankets and I get far too many and wake up hot every night. FFS.

Our teeny tiny car service turned out to be teeny in duration and absolutely massive in cost, wiping out the car account, when car registration is due this week too. FFS.

I really want Blogger to be supported by Apple, so I may blog from my iPad2. FFS.

Everything, everything appears to be a baby hazard. My entire house appears to be unsafe. FFS.

I get telemarketer-harassed at least three times per day. We are now on the Do Not Call Register but they're still ringing at the moment. And to Priceline Insurance, you keep ringing my mobile and not leaving a message. I googled your number, and until you leave me a message, I'm not calling you back. FFS.

No one calls me at home, then I'm on the phone to my mum, my mobile rings & call waiting goes off. All at once. Then M hits her head on something. FFS.

But really, all in all, this has been an amazing week. Millie's mastered crawling, says 'Dadadad', hands me things and is such a joy. Truly.

Dear Baby G

Mrs Smyth... bakes Bretzels.

A couple of years ago our German friend Thomas invited Mr S & I over for a traditional German breakfast. Weisswurst, beer, saukraut and bretzels. Being the carb fiend that I am, I discovered where you could buy said bready pretzel-like treats and began to frequent my local German bakehouse.

Fast forward to now, where I got my hands on a copy of Can It, Bottle it, Smoke It and other Kitchen Projects by Karen Solomon. Yet another beautifully designed cookbook, this had so many easily laid out quirky projects. But what caught my eye? The Soft Pretzel (Bretzel) recipe. I marked it and began to eye it off weekly, wishing for time that I wasn't holding a baby, patting a baby to sleep, patting a baby to sleep on my chest... you get the idea.

It was hard to make my recipe book holder keep the book level for four whole hours.
She kept saying 'Dadadada get me out of here.'

Sunday was my 'Day Off'. Mr S & I have just begun having one Sunday per month each of family-free time. He's been hiking, and I asked him & Millie to leave the house so I could craft and bake up a storm. However, roll around Sunday and Mr S is sniffling with a cold and it's been raining torentially. He valiantly began packing bottles and thermoses... but I asked if they'd like to stay put instead. So they did and he MilWrangled (tm) whilst I baked.

I put on my best cupcake apron and began to blatantly disregard the finer points of the recipe. I used a Sourdough Rye bread flour packet, instead of white all purpose flour. I also didn't have any vegetable oil, so olive oil it was. No kosher salt, so flaked sea salt for me.

I started the mix in the Kitchenaid with the dough hook and then the recipe asked me to take it out once it had come together and hand knead for 5-10 minutes. Really? Isn't that precisely why I have a Kitchenaid with a dough hook? But I thought it might be fun. It was not. So I huffed and puffed, kneaded and thought of England, and lo and behold 5-10 minutes later the dough was ready to go in it's bowl for a rise.

I've been baking bread in this house for the best part of two years and the dough only rises if the temperature is nice and warm inside. Now, this is southern Tasmania, so this means that the bowl gets covered in gladwrap, snuggled up in a towel and sits in front of the fire. However, the recipe called for a damp towel in a warm place. I covered the bowl with a damp tea towel in front of the fire. An hour later there was no rising whatsoever. Bollocks. I covered in gladwrap and snuggled the bowl in a towel in front of the fire, and it was fine. Lesson learned: trust your instinct on dough rising matters.

After the dough had risen I followed the directions and created a long rope, which I then cut into twelve. Which I then rolled out into a 22inch rope and shaped into dog poo shapes pretzel shapes. At which point Mr S wandered into the kitchen and remarked that they resembled dog poos. True, but get out of my kitchen.

The dough then rested for 20 minutes whilst I got the remaining water and baking soda boiling. Apparently the difference between bread rolls and bretzels is the baking soda boil.

So I dipped and timed. Dipped and timed. Dipped and timed. Thanked my lucky stars I didn't have a Millie to wrangle whilst this was happening.

Dipped, eggwashed and salted. Ready for the oven.
With a quick eggwash and sprinkle with sea salt the Breztels were ready for a bake.


The recipe suggested sitting for 30 minutes to allow the crust to develop. I could not wait. I chewed thoughtfully and was mildly impressed. Then, I had another with a smidge of mustard and I realised precisely why you wait 30 minutes. Oh my. OH MY.

They freeze like a dream and I've been eating them for lunch with some ham, cheese, mustard and spinach, baked in the oven for 10 minutes.

I really enjoyed making these, and I'll do it again. I love baking bread and being able to do this has just bolstered my confidence further to try different types of yeasted treats.

Here's the exact recipe from the book's blog...

Soft Pretzels Recipe

Yield: 12 pretzels
Total time: About 4 hours

  • 6 cups (1 pound, 13 ounces) all-purpose flour, plus more
    as needed
  • 1 packet (21/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 8 cups water
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 1 egg

  1. In a food processor fitted with the dough blade (or a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook), whirl together the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt. The dough will come together and grab onto the dough hook.
  2. With the motor running (at low speed for a stand mixer), drizzle in the oil, then 2 cups of the water. 
  3. Dust a countertop with flour and knead the dough, pushing it in from the sides and then over from the bottom, for 7 to 10 minutes. It will become less sticky, more cohesive, and slightly shiny, and it will have the texture of an earlobe to the touch. (If it doesn’t, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.)
  4. Lightly oil a large bowl and dampen a clean kitchen towel. Heat a cup of water in the microwave and remove it. Roll the dough into a ball, transfer to the oiled bowl, and cover the bowl with the moist towel. Move the bowl into the microwave and let it sit for 1 hour. 
  5. Transfer the dough to a countertop lightly dusted with more flour. Stick your finger directly into the center to make a small hole. Use your fingers to widen the hole and work the dough, hand over hand as if you’re pulling on a rope, into a large O-shape about 2 inches thick.
  6. Cut the dough into a long rope and then into 12 equal pieces. Working with 1 dough piece at a time, roll into a 22-inch-long rope and fold into a pretzel shape: first, make a tall, skinny U shape, then cross the ends down and across each other to the opposite sides of the U. Pinch the pretzel to hold its shape. Form the other pretzels and let them rest for 20 minutes.
  7. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  8. Bring the remaining 6 cups of water and the baking soda to a rapid boil in a wide-mouthed Dutch oven or other large pot.
  9. Remove the pretzels from the water with a slotted spoon and hold them over the pot to drain well, then place them on the lined baking sheets. Beat the egg with 1 teaspoon of water. Brush the pretzels with this egg wash and sprinkle with salt to taste.
  10. Boil the pretzels, one at a time, for 30 seconds each. Don’t skip this step: it’s what sets a pretzel apart from a doughy roll. 
  11. Bake both sheets of pretzels for 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the baking sheets and swapping their places in the oven halfway through. When they’re done, the pretzels will be golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack and allow them to cool for a full 30 minutes—really: this sets their texture.

And here's what I found when I wandered out of the kitchen...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Silent Sunday

Found! One family!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

FFS Friday...

Gorgeous Sarah from Dear Baby G has started FFS Friday. What it stands for... well, I'll leave it to your imagination. (Hi Mum!)

I've tossed up whether or not to participate, because I'm really trying to be a font of positivity. But there's a few little niggles that popped forth in my sleep deprived brain...

On the highway to Hobart the sign that says 'Keep left unless overtaking' is fairly self explanatory, no? Tootling along at 80 in the overtaking lane when I'm consistently running late makes me wave my arms and want to tailgate. FFS.

While we're at it, when I overtake you doing 100 (the posted speed limit) you, in the left hand lane, realise that you've been doing 70 the whole time and decide that now is an opportune time to do the speed limit. FFS.

If you have to tap your brakes repeatedly to avoid hitting the car in front of you, you're driving too fast and you're tailgating. Three second rule. THREE. SECONDS. FFS.

Pray tell, why do the baby and the cat decide that 5pm is dual Arsenic Hour? FFS.

Dear Bogan Neighbour Across the Road,
I know you love your car. I can tell by the way you drive in the driveway and idle it for at least half an hour, twice a day. Sometimes I know you want to show it even more love by coming out and revving it for a little bit. Maybe you're wondering if it's actually working? Let me tell you... it works. P.S. Your dog barks. A lot.

I discovered this week that it seems to be true that big names in most professions have no ego. Small fry in most professions have massive egos. FFS.

This is cathartic.

Thanks Sarah!

Dear Baby G

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Texts between new parents...

I'm sure we used to talk about more interesting things via text. But now...


Mr S: Coffee please yes?
Mrs S: Eleventy thousand please.


Mrs S:

Mr S:

Mrs S: Klass.

Mr S: <text silence>

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What do I do all day?

Aside from the manis, pedis, facials and sunbathing?*

Gorgeous Sarah over at Dear Baby G asked me to take part in her 'What Do You Do All Day?' Wednesday. And I was chuffed!

Go and check it out over here...

*code for do washing, put a baby to sleep, clean up vomit and wish I was asleep.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Mrs Smyth... bombards you with pictures...

When I was pregnant I was lucky enough to meet lots of other women due around the same time. Some of them, I already knew. And some of them, I sort of knew by association but our burgeoning bellies cemented the deal.

Millie's friend Archie came over on Monday with his Mum Neidra, and we spent the whole day lolling about the house drinking lattes whilst our babies tag team napped, then we had lunch down by the river in the sunshine and went for a big walk through some abandoned orchards. I thought I'd share some snaps with you of our day, because seriously, our kids are far too cute.

Millie... check out that massive duck. And my spotty pants.

All is well Mummy, I've got my yellow ring.

Wow Archie, those pants are awesome. Can I eat your shoes?

If Oobi want me in their next catalogue, I'd consider it.

The Orchard. The ErgoBaby. The sunshine.

With my pink Dunlop Volleys I'm ready to run. Or crawl. Whatevs.

My sunshine.

Friday, October 7, 2011

On the subject of home...

What I see from the driveway... 

In the middle of a discussion about moving (not us!) the other day, Mr S said to me the 'Could you imagine never seeing Cradle Mountain again?' 
Initially I said 'Well, yes...'
'Like, never being able to go there and see Cradle Mountain again?' and I realised that the very thought made me sad.

I always thought I wasn't that fussed about where I lived, so long as Mr S & I were together (Millie now too). He probed this thought further with questions like 'Would you want to live in <dodgy suburb>?' and 'You say you need to smell eucalyptus trees - you could live in America?' No.

Which brought me to my navel gazing bus ride home musing... what do I need to have that sense of home? 

Really, I'm not sure. When I say 'home' to myself I'm immediately taken to the north west coast of Tasmania, where the seas are rough, mountains green, hills rolling and dirt deep red. That feels like home to me. The briskest of sea breezes. A room with a view of the water.

I always thought home was where my family was, as in Mr S, Millie & our various furchildren. It's a lovely ideal - not needing anything but each other. And if everything turned sour in our lives and we needed to live in one room, we could. But that isn't home. You know, home; the yearning you feel in your solar plexus when you think of going there, or leaving there. 

I understand that home can come in many forms, and you can have more than one. For instance,  Mr S grew up on a rural block that backed onto a national park, and now as an adult, he gets a certain kind of tetchy over the course of a few weeks and I know he needs to go bush and hug a tree reconnect with the rainforest. But I also know he likes to return to his other home. To me, his family.

I get a pull towards my home town every few years. I need to fly back, walk around the town, go for a drive to the sheep station we lived on and smell the landscape that is so unmistakably rural NSW. Crunchy leaves underfoot, a disgusting heat haze, the smell of eucalyptus leaves and an outlook across pastures. But it's not home anymore. I don't want to live there right now. So after three days I like to get on a plane and fly to Tasmania, where I get off the plane and it smells like home. It smells like rainforest even though it's an airport. It smells cool, damp and green and feels oh so good to breathe in.

Mr S & I have been in Tasmania since 2005, and when we moved here it was such a great opportunity for a fresh start. No friends, no family, barely any belongings. We laid on the lounge room floor of our three story townhouse in south Hobart drinking cheap Pinot Noir and looking at the chandeliers hanging from the roof. Because we didn't have a TV or any furniture. We were beginning again. 

Then I got a letter from my mum with two clippings about my relatives. Turns out I'm a Hellyer - Hellyer College, Hellyer gorge etc. Henry Hellyer was my (number of greats unknown) grandfather's brother, I think. And my other relative got a ticket of leave to Hobart & built his house in Adelaide Street. The reason that sounded familiar to us is that it was around the corner from our joint. So, err, perhaps a few ties? Is this why I feel settled in Tasmania -  it's in my blood?

Mr S & I were lucky enough to be able to purchase our first home when the interest rate was so low, it was cheaper than paying inner city rent. We have a large house overlooking a river. It's a large house that is entirely liveable but has accents of Mission Brown on the outside, rotting window frames and  would love a champagne renovation.  Alas, we can't justify that kind of renovation right now, so we give it some cask wine love every now and then. Its a nice house, but still not where I want to spend the rest of my life. When I lamented this to Mr S, he chuckled and said 'Yeah. Terrible. How could you not nail your dream home first go?' Good point, Mr S. Thanks for the perspective.

So since then I've been daydreaming about what an ideal material home would be. I say material, because at the end of the day I recognise that this is a privileged problem to have, and really, perhaps I'm thinking far too much about this.

I spend hours perusing the real estate websites and daydreaming. The things I'd like in an Ideal Material House...
  1. A parents retreat
  2. Dishwasher (or a child old enough to fulfil this duty)
  3. A bathroom with a double vanity
  4. Skylights
  5. A kitchen with tall benches, ample cupboard space, massive benches, double deep sinks, gas cooker and electric oven
  6. Land that overlooks the Huon Valley 
  7. A sunroom and deck that overlook the land that overlooks the Valley 
  8. Solar hot water
  9. Cozy carpets 
  10. Ducted wood fire heating

But I don't think a physical house is what I'm looking for. I'm looking for my version of 'home'. The yearning, solar plexus pulling home. I've narrowed it down to Tasmania... but where to from there?

Is home a physical place or an emotional state? What do you think? 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Mrs Smyth... can't read. But she can bake.

On Saturday Mel from Honey, You Baked, her husband Ash1, our friends Ash2 & Erika got together to celebrate Mel's birthday with a Brownie Bake-Off. After a relatively disorganised morning where Millie couldn't sleep, the dishes needed doing, I hadn't baked my brownie offering yet, the fire went out and aliens crashed in the front yard*, I was ready for our guests to turn up. Millie finally asleep, I checked my phone to find a message from Mel with directions to Ash2's house. Oh...

It turns out that checking Twitter at 2am perhaps requires a) more attention that I was giving it and b) one to wear one's glasses. Oops.

Luckily my friends are wonderful and all happily relocated to the Huon Valley where they knocked on the door and I was lying on the couch with Millie halfway through a nap. 'Hi, welcome! Err... I'll be up soon.'

But brownies prevailed and I was in sugar shock for the rest of the evening. Millie had a great time talking to her future husband Oliver and I cherished having a houseful of friends. Friends who bake.

Mel wrote a great post about it all over here... so without further ado I'll leave you to go and bask in the glory that is several brownie recipes.

I baked these brownies again, with the addition of white chocolate, dark chocolate and dried cranberries. I also didn't undercook them this time, so they were just brownies. But still - yum!

*may or may not have happened. But you get the gravity of my situation.


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