12 litres of milk…

Mother and Son was a delight, and I remember the anticipation of waiting for the next episode. My family always watched it together when I was a child, and I was thrilled to find out recently that a friend owns the series on DVD. We’ve been watching from the beginning, and we saw the episode below last week. Ruth Cracknell was such a joy, and Garry McDonald the perfect son.


American Things That I Don’t Miss #1

Unnaturally Orange Processed Cheese

It being a lazy-Sunday-type day HL and I went to McDonalds for coffee and breakfast. We wanted to get one of those ‘limited time only’ McAmerica Bagels before the Olympics start and they go the way of all brilliant and yummy ‘we’re-only-going-to-stock-this-for-a-while-even-though-it’s-delicious-and-better-than-anything-else-on-our-regular-menu’ menu items.

Well, it was brilliant and yummy – just the right amount of sauce and meat and egg and etc – but, while eating, I noticed the cheese hanging off the edge of the bagel and I immediately journeyed back in time to one of my first trips to an American grocery store.

One of my very favourite things to do in the States – at least in the first few months of moving there – was to wander around the supermarket agog at the surreal, almost-familiar-but-not-quite selection of food on offer. There’s something very ‘olde worlde’ about American grocery products. I think it’s something to do with the packaging – very homey and welcoming and a little naïve (deliberately I’m sure). It makes me feel like I’m living in a different era, it’s sweet.

But I digress…

On one of these ‘grocery field trips’ I was wandering through the Dairy Foods section (aisle upon aisle) and I came across a huge block of lurid orange…stuff. I examined it. I inspected the packaging – no clues. I squeezed it. I sniffed it (hmmm…plasticky). I hefted it (heavy, very heavy). I still couldn’t (really, I promise, the packaging didn’t actually specify) figure out what it was.

I took the block over to HL with a quizzical look.
“What the hell is this?”
“That’s cheese…”
“No, seriously, what is it?”
“I assure you, it’s cheese, processed cheese.”
Incredulous look…

Cheese should NOT be this shade of orange: 

American Cheese

American Cheese

Cheese should look like this:

Aussie Cheese

Aussie Cheese

I’m a shoplifter

HL and I were down town shopping yesterday and we walked past an upmarket homewares store. HL nudged me and said, “Try not to steal anything this time, huh?” I blushed, having completely forgotten my shameful connection with this store.

About a year ago HL and I were window-shopping amongst the ridiculously over-priced, but drool-worthy, stock in this Upmarket Homewares Store (UHS) when my cheap side won out and I wandered over to the ‘CLEARANCE’ section to check out some (Embarrassing Confession: I adore Christmas and all the paraphernalia that goes along with) marked-down Christmas ornaments.

I hummed and hahed for about 15 minutes, but ultimately decided not to add to my already overwhelming collection of what I like to call ‘Christmas Crap’ (and HL enthusiastically agrees with this name) and we left the UHS to go in search of a gift for my dad. The lady at the counter gave me a searching glance as we walked out and I thought she was a bit rude, but, whatever, this was a snooty store.

We were actually on the look-out for a cocktail shaker for my dad and they were proving incredibly difficult to locate in our small city, so, when I thought of a Gifts and Engraving store on the other side of the CBD we decided to walk all the way there on the off chance that they might have one.

On arrival, the G&E store was terribly crowded, so we sidled in and, using our ‘shopper-on-a-mission’, highly-focused eyeballs, tracked down a small selection of cocktail shakers. We started to examine our options and, wanting to pick them up and see how they felt and how much they cost, etc., I set down my over-the-shoulder wallet on the shelf so I didn’t have to worry about knocking something over with the wallet if I turned around suddenly (yep, I’m awfully clumsy, and I was just trying to preclude a disaster).

For just a moment I experienced a strange disconnection and surreality as I noticed that this store was selling the EXACT SAME CHRISTMAS ORNAMENT I’d been examining at the UHS. And it didn’t seem like the kind of thing that would be likely to be found here. Weird, huh? Waaiiittt a minute (it was literally that slow – like in a cartoon)… I think, no, I KNOW, I brought this with me, attached to my purse.

Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap… I’m a thief, a shoplifter, a criminal…What if the lady has sent the police after me, and, right this second, they could be closing in on me? (yeah, over-reaction, I know) I have to return it, but, what if, when I try to return it, the lady just thinks I stole it, but had an attack of conscience? Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap…

I turned around, and with a grimace, showed HL. He laughed, loud and hard, and said he’d walk back with me to return it. Which he did. Laughing at me. The whole way. Joking that his wife was a thief.

I got quite nervous when we got close to the UHS, wondering if the lady would detain me until the police arrived and took me in for questioning (too much tv in my life, not enough actual criminal behaviour). HL said he would return it and explain that his wife had accidentally taken it, but I thought that that might sound a bit like he was covering-up for his klepto wife, so I went in by myself.

As I walked up to the counter the lady had her mouth pursed very tightly and was glaring down her nose in my direction so my words didn’t really come out right. “Umm…I was in earlier…and I was looking at things on the clearance rack (gestured in approximate direction)…and I think…when I turned around…this thing (gestured at offending ornament)…seems to have gotten caught on my…ummm…purse-strappy thing here…see? I’m so sorry…It was an accident.” I stammered, and ended with a weak grin.

I was hugely relieved to watch a smile grow on the lady’s face as she took ‘the item’ and giggled understandingly. Even though I was still embarrassed, I almost skipped out with the feeling of a burden having been lifted. It didn’t even matter that HL was almost doubled over with laughing at me.

I haven’t gone back in since, though.


Little boy (’bout 8 yrs old) at the table next to us in the restaurant: When I first heard about it I thought it was called ‘sour crap’.

Our table: *hearty guffaws*

Me: Yep, that’s an accurate way to describe sauerkraut.

Movie-Going Fun Times

In a supremely poor act of scheduling today, our local movie theatre did not open the doors to this afternoon’s showing of Get Smart  until 15 minutes after the listed show time, leaving a crowded foyer of formerly excited movie-going patrons to become increasingly tense and claustrophobic and irritated with staff.

The murmuring began about 5 minutes before the movie was supposed to begin, and grew into muttering and nervous giggles at 5 minutes past scheduled time, until, at 15 minutes past, when we had originally thought we would be sitting inside with our popcorn and choctops and Diet Cokes, there was a feeling of growing crowd-crushing hysteria and, somewhat edgy, supposition as to what could be holding them up.

At first people thought that the staff were simply incredibly stupid and had forgotten to open the door – there seemed to be no logic in letting hordes of people congregate outside when we could all be out of their way and comfortably seated. As time went on though, it was obvious that this could not be the case, and so we concluded that some dolt had been unable to figure out when the previous movie would end and schedule the next screening accordingly.

Finally the exit door opened, people streamed out and we were allowed to go in. Fortunately, from this time on things got (mostly) better. We were able to settle into good seats – in the middle, towards the front, with foot-rests and no-one in front of us (yay!) – and wait.

As the lights were going down a lady scrambled over and sat in the seat next to me. My tension level immediately rose a notch. Theatre showings are rarely full here, so you mostly don’t have sit next to anyone but the people you’ve gone with. Consequently, the people that one fights with for the arm-rest tend to be friends/family, so when a stranger sits next to one, one hardly knows what ‘correct procedure’ is…

Being very much a ‘movie-enjoyer’, and quite detail-oriented, and, let’s face it, pretty selfish, I like to be comfortable and have everything ‘just so’ when I sit down to watch a movie (I’m SO fun!). It’s bad enough to have to figure out which bit of the arm-rest belongs to HL and which bit is mine, so, when my other neighbour is somebody I’ve never seen before, but whom I have to sit next to for the next two hours, I find the whole social conundrum of ‘polite, polite, we’re both so polite, which bit’s yours?, sorry, I just bumped you, is my arm too close for comfort?, ‘scuse me, but your arm seems to be taking up three-quarters of the space’ a bit tricky.

We played ‘push forward to claim territory’ and ‘pull back to maintain polite social conventionalities’ for a few minutes until we both seemed to find comfortable ground and were able to settle into the movie-going experience, phew.

One of the previews at first seemed to be a joke, a spoof, but after watching for a little bit, I finally concluded that they were serious. The new attempt at producing more income from the Star Wars empire appears to be a poorly animated movie/tv series The Clone Wars. This, to me, looks like nothing more than a pathetic grab at a few more dollars from a dwindling and increasingly grumpy fan-base. *disgusted grimace*

I’m trying to withhold judgement, but it looks so bad I don’t even think I could watch it to find out. What a way to continue to spit on the already-tarnished (probably irrevocably) reputation of a beloved and originally ground-breaking phenomenon. *sigh* (Though I reserve the right to apologise and change my mind if it turns out to be better than the ad indicates it will be.)

FINALLY we got to the actual movie. I laughed very hard. It was much, much better than I thought it would be. The writing was more sophisticated than I had anticipated, and the humour was just the right amount of obvious ‘see-it-coming’ punchlines, ‘ball-crushing, smack-into-a-wall’ slapstick, genuinely humorous ‘tickle-your-funnybone’ comedy, and ‘wink-to-the-audience’ homage to the original.

Max was cleverer and much more competent than he was in the tv series, and 99 wasn’t quite as overtly adoring of him, but, on the whole, it was a very adept rendering of an updated, 21st century version of a much-loved, cliché-producing tv institution.

We left the theatre (as crowded as it was when we were waiting – knock-on effect I guess) and I felt like skipping to the car with a very light heart. aahh…happy, fun movie-goingness…it’s a ‘good thing’


I have a bit of a thing about bugs around my head. I’m not quite sure how it began, possibly because of the following…

Buggy Story #1

I used to have very long hair as a child and I would have nightmares about grasshoppers and praying mantises (manti?) getting tangled irretrievably in my hair, and of being unable to remove them without squishing them into a tangle of carapace, guts and hair. This never actually eventuated (yay!) but I did have a boy once put a grasshopper on my head when I was about 11.

We’d just come back into the classroom after lunchtime and he had a lovely green surprise waiting. Fortunately, the bug disentangled itself quite easily when I flicked it off and it went on its merry way, while I was in a state of shuddery shock for the rest of the afternoon, hardly believing that my nightmare had almost come true. (In hindsight, I perhaps shouldn’t have mentioned my nightmares to schoolfriends as this was prob’ly the instigation of the ‘lovely green surprise’…)

Buggy Story #2 

We lived in a very old house in a very small country town, growing up, and one of the things common to both old houses and the country is the huge amount of bugs living in them, so, combine the two, and there is more insect life than you can poke a stick at (or point the Mortein at). Couple this with the fact that both my parents are of the hippie-ish, ‘No,-don’t-kill-that-nasty-thing-with-the-huge-fangs-that-could-very-conceivably-kill-you,-it’s-got-a-right-to-live’ variety, and spiders were certainly a very common element of life in my house.

Consequently, I would often have a ‘happy little spider’ living in a ceiling corner of my bedroom, directly where I could glance up from my book that I was reading in bed at night. Occasionally I would look up and notice that, in a remarkably short time, the spider had scuttled many metres closer to my bed. This led to all kinds of panicky thoughts about spiders creeping down from the ceiling in the middle of the night and meandering across my face.

Even after I turned the light off and tried to sleep the thoughts would frequently become too much and I would have to turn the light back on just to check that the spider was still there and hadn’t made a mad dash for my bed under cover of darkness. (Why it would want to do this I have no idea, the thoughts were hardly logical.) I never did find a spider creeping across my cheek in the middle of the night, but I’m still a little wary.

Buggy Story #3

The third in the trilogy of ‘bad bug experiences as a child’ happened when I was 5. I had just been sitting, eating my ‘play lunch’ (Whoever came up with this name that meant both the small school break mid-morning and the food that was eaten at said break should be embarrassed.) when I felt a horrible and forceful ‘bzz’ shoot into my ear. At first I thought there was just a fly buzzing VERY close to my ear, but when I couldn’t make it go away by waving around my ear I figured maybe my ear-drum had burst or something (I was 5, kai?).

At this point the bell rang and I had to head back to class with a persistent ‘zzz’ reverberating. The realisation horrifyingly stole over me that this was something that wouldn’t ‘fix itself’ and was most likely an actual fly in my ear. Obviously I couldn’t settle in class, and kept pressing my hand against my ear, feeling a disturbing vibration far enough in that it felt like it was my brain buzzing.

Finally I had to tell the teacher that there was something wrong. She didn’t believe me at first – s’pose she thought I had an over-active imagination – but when I wouldn’t stop fidgeting and looking anxious she sent me to the principal so she could deal with it.

Well, the principal was teaching her own class (it was a small school 🙂 ) and so she sat me in the ‘Book Corner’ to see if it would ‘go away’. This normally would have been a very pleasant and privileged treat, being able to be in with the ‘big kids’ and read book after book, but I could not shake the feeling of a sinister presence in my head.

After an hour or so the buzzing became fainter and less frequent but I still was aware that the problem hadn’t ‘gone away’. The school eventually called my mum, who picked me up and took me to the hospital. After a short ear inspection the nurse confirmed that no, I wasn’t making it up, I did, indeed, have an insect in my ear – a flying ant.

The removal process was unpleasant. The nurse had to fill my ear with liquid (warm water?) and suck it all out with a big bulb syringe. It didn’t feel good, but I did feel relieved that I had been vindicated. *smile* I think the nurse even let me keep the bug in a specimen jar so I had proof.

Hence, I don’t think my ‘no bugs around my head’ rule is overreacting. 


Not a grape

Long time ago, when I was ’bout 9, my family and I went on an extended vacation around Europe and Asia. We needed to take quite a few flights to get from place to place and I (even though I’d never flown before this trip) was starting to think of myself as a ‘jet-setter’; a ‘woman of the world’; a ‘burgeoning sophisticate’, if you will.

The routine and rhythm of flying was something that I found both comforting and exciting, and I especially looked forward to mealtimes – the whole ‘sssh’ of the cart down the skinny aisles; the hoping they hadn’t run out of chicken by the time they got to me; the quick bathroom break before the stewardess reached my seat; the clearing off of one’s miniscule table; and, most specially, the perfectly-packaged, neatly-designed, compartmentalised meal-tray.

The whole meal-delivery process just filled me with joy. It was so efficient and wrapped and little – all specially purposed for lots of people in a tiny space. Each time a meal arrived (which is VERY often on a long flight) I would carefully and gently unwrap the cutlery and the food packets, and eat every morsel, even if the food was not something I would usually be that fond of. It was all about the experience. Somehow it tasted more interesting, more grown-up, more … just more.

Two particular meal incidents stand out from that overseas trip as a child. Unfortunately, they stand out because they both introduced a fly into the delightful aeroplane-meal-ointment.

The first meal-time that I recall so clearly proceeded uneventfully until the point when I decided that I was finished…  I must introduce an aside here: One of the things that I loved/love about flying was the fact that I had a large chuck of time that I could use however I wanted. I could get up and go to the bathroom, I could watch the movie, I could listen to the looped music channels, I could wander down the aisle, I could have a snooze – all when I chose (pretty exciting for a 9 year old).

After my meal was finished I thought about what I might like to do next in my grown-up flying journey. I didn’t have to ask my parents if I could leave the table, I didn’t have to clear said table of dirty dishes, I didn’t have to wait till my little brother was finished eating… On the other hand, it wasn’t that convenient to get up and go for a wander either, as the stewardess hadn’t yet cleared away the meal-tray, but I could stretch out and read and have a bit of a nap. I extricated my book, leaned back and reclined my seat.

There was a yelp from the seat behind me. As I’d pushed my seat back I hadn’t quite thought through the fact that there would be another passenger who was eating his own meal, which was balanced on HIS miniscule tray table, which, unfortunately, was attached to the back of my seat… The first course of this meal had been soup, which, needless to say, had ended up all over this poor gentleman, along with the remains of his second course.

I was, of course, hideously embarrassed as my, also mortified, parents tried to help the stewardess clean this man up. The rest of the flight was quite spoilt really, what with the not feeling game to recline my seat again, the shame every time I went for a walk and had to glance at the man, and the feeling very much like a child again.

When I went on another flight some years later I noted, with satisfaction (mingled with some righteous indignation), that, these days, the tray tables seemed to be attached to a common swivel point below the row of chairs, not directly to the back of the seats. I’m still nervous every time I recline though… 

The second of these stand-out meals was, if I recall correctly, on a flight into Greece. To prepare us for the spring weather – it was May – we were served a meal soon before descending which mostly consisted of a large salad. This was one of those menu items that I wasn’t normally keen on, but, when served it on a plane, I ate with gusto.

I’m usually an ‘eat-what-I-least-enjoy-first-and-save-the-yumminess-till-the-end’ kinda person. The yummiest part of this salad, I had decided, was the delicious black grape garnishing the top of the green salad. It was plump and dewy, indicating how recently it had come from the fridge. I ate my way through the lettuce and cucumber and tomato and cheese, looking forward to the lovely burst of crisp sweetness at the end.

I finally had nothing left on my plate but the grape, and so I popped it into my mouth and bit down, expecting the flavour of perhaps a muscat or seedless flame. The next thing I was aware of was that I was, involuntarily, spitting up/vomiting all over the gentleman in the seat in front of me. I wasn’t quite sure exactly what had happened until my, again mortified, parents shot out of their chair and tried to clean up, while questioning me as to what had made me do it.

I, at that point, realised that what had previously been in my mouth was not, in fact, a lovely grape, but a disgusting black olive. My very-first olive. On the way to Greece. All over another passenger – along with the rest of my lunch. How sophisticated was I?

I’ve never really been able to appreciate olives, as an adult…