Back to my roots

Wild fennel, but not as wild as a dancing tuba player

And so we almost come to the end of another year. A year that has (almost) ended pretty much exactly how it began – with a sore lower back, tight calves and temporary but profound deafness. Monetise This’s 2013 started with one of its brave bids for youthful summer freedom – Hot Chip at the Enmore, and Two Door Cinema Club and The Vaccines at The Hordern. It lost its mojo through the middle (much like every year, really), then had a brief bolt for the door with the brilliant (but still irritatingly upper-cased) Cody ChesnuTT at The Metro, before crying ‘Hallelujah!’, leaping into the arms of Urthboy and The Roots (also at the Hordern) and galloping off into the sunset with the band’s dancing tuba player last Friday. In my dreams…

I would have liked to have taken an iSnap or two of The Roots show, we were that close I almost didn’t need to wear my glasses (not for us the dispiriting benches up the back of the Hordern full of 40-somethings, no sirree Bob), but that would have pushed my tragic, age-inappropriate behaviour one step too far.

So here’s pictorial proof instead that my year has not all been They Shoot Horses Don’t They?, and that I am not, in fact, a young Jane Fonda (though you’d probably guessed that already). The siren call of Aldi may have me in its evil grasp, but at least I know how to forage a decent crop of wild fennel when I see one.

Golf does have its use, it seems. This bunch was harvested from one of the many courses that suck up our local groundwater.

This year has brought with it trials – physical, emotional, political (occasionally all at the same time) – to many of my family and friends near and far (foraging being the least of these). For many of them it’s been a complete shit of a year (starting even before the eviscerating debacle that was 7 September) and I’m hoping that the next one will be a little happier, healthier and easier for everyone – unless you happen to be poor, old, young, sick, homeless or stateless, that is. ‘Fraid you’re on your own in that case – sorry, but I didn’t vote for the bastards.

So much for needing to talk about Kevin.

Don’t mess with the good stuff

Instead, I count myself lucky that I’ve been able to keep a roof over my head and a pavlova on the table when it matters most (when it’s raining, obviously, like on Christmas Day). As luck would have it, we’d been invited to spend the day with friends at an iconic Sydney mansion, where, as I’ve crowed previously, we would spend the day pretending to be deeply rich and fiercely glamorous by the sparkling waters of the harbour. Instead, we spent the day being deeply damp and fiercely resentful at the hand the weather gods had dealt us.

“I hope this isn’t my last Christmas,” whispered Mrs F, as I plied her with a dessert selection that ranged from said pavlova to a sugar-free raspberry cheesecake (a culinary abomination so unspeakable even Lucy the labrador shuddered and averted her eyes). Thankfully, I was able to assure her that the sugar in my pavlova should keep her (and Lucy, given half the chance) preserved long enough to see in 2016.

For Monetise This, the last few hours of 2013 will be spent with her peeling nose buried in a brick of a book, lying on a shimmering South Coast beach while Lucy digs holes by the water’s edge. Until we meet again, have a sweet new year, gentle reader(s). Wishing you health, peace and a well-calibrated oven.

Deep and crisp and even

Silent night…

All is calm, all is very, very bright here on the mean streets of Botany, whose inhabitants, especially Danny of Bay Street, and Kris of Daphne Street, seem to have put in a bit more effort into putting a dent into the electricity grid this year. That’s the Coalition government for you – Christmas decorations just got a whole lot better.

We had a slump for a few years, as the old Christmas-light show ponies moved out or dropped off the peg to make way for more sparkle-averse, aspirational residents without utes (ourselves included, although the silver fox and I are, in fact, very intimately in touch with our sparkly sides – and utes; I was once the doting owner of a 1961 Holden FB ute back in my glory days – so, not so aspirational really).

Indeed, our courtyard has its wall of sparkling lights (although many bulbs dimmer, such is our seasonal refurbishing ennui). The disco shed, while not requisitioned this year for our usual Christmas party, still has balls – mirror balls, that is – spotlit through coloured filters. We have made liberal use of these festive tokens over the past few days to entertain our continuous parade of overnighting visitors. They do so complement the EXTREMELY LOUD music we’ve been pumping through the disco shed speakers each night, to drown out the hellish, interminable, tear-our-heads-off screams of the excited, sugar-loaded little kiddies and their desperate parents next door.

So… not so silent, then.

But, praise be, while the halls have been decked with nought but a bowl of pine cones stolen from the golf course surrounded by a coil of tinsel (yup – it really does look as bad as it sounds), I have managed to send handmade cards to overseas friends and relatives. I had intended to send them to friends and family in Australia too, but an excess of red cardboard eventually defeated me.

So… not so calm, either.

A frenzy, actually, of shopping and cooking and washing sheets and remaking beds and shouting at each other over the music in the backyard. Just like everyone else really.

But now it’s Christmas Eve, and the tomato kasundi that roiled and boiled for an eternity on our outdoor gas ring in 35-degree heat this week has been dispatched in poorly decorated jars to deeply suspicious neighbours. It’s a recipe that will appear in an upcoming issue of ABC delicious. magazine, so I can’t give it to you as it is not mine to give, but verily, it is good and the neighbours will thank me for it, you mark my words.

The pavlova is cooling in the oven with the requisite wooden spoon sticking out of the oven door, irritating my uber-minimalist silver fox to distraction. He has refused to wrap the dog’s presents in protest and is lying on the couch watching Miracle on 34th Street for the 34th time. Sigh.

It seems I got it all wrong about bringing a salad (I was put down to bring dessert – the fools, the fools!). The pav is a Bill Granger recipe – and was recommended by a friend who had some success with it recently.

But I live in hope. The meringue is, so far, deep and crisp – if not even – and will be duly immortalised in its full splendour once slathered with whipped cream and piled with sharply rebuked fruit via Instagram and Facebook on the morrow – unless I’m too drunk and forget, or it’s a complete disaster (odds are the usual 50-50).

Queen of the street lights, Kris (her real name), of Daphne Street.

Merry Christmas, and may all your mince pies come true.