Fake it 'til you get found out

There must be some in our community who can fake it 'til they make it. I am not one. I fake it 'til I get found out. At that point I'm generally a long way from making it.

Take sophistication and that certain suave that some effortlessly possess. I was once asked to take a part in a play. My assigned character was the alter-ego "fashion conscious". I took this casting as an endorsement at one level and I was smugly pleased. My performance anxiety promptly set about to right my misplaced self-confidence.

During the show I tripped up the stairs onto the stage. I narrowly missed head butting the narrator as I plunged forward, arms flailing. I did manage not to hit the floor and avoided serious injury. A number of other cast members, however, suffered internal injuries as they tried to stifle their hysterical laughter.

Some years later, and a more refined faker, I decided to put myself to the ultimate test. I was to attend a venue that epitomises suave and sophistication.

I had never been to the races before, but a hen's invitation arrived in the mail. This was one of those tricky social occasions. I had met the bride on only a couple of brief occasions, but our respective partners were friends. I'm sure she felt as much obligation in inviting me as I did in attending. I knew no one else going, but, I reasoned, I could wear heels and a hat so surely I'd manage it.

The first hurdle I encountered was the 40 hens' parties lining the concourse. Many of the brides were in fancy dress, obscuring their true selves. I found the group and commenced charm and sophistication, introducing myself to other guests and making small talk. I didn't know a soul at the gathering and was determined to make an effort. It soon dawned on me I'd never before laid eyes on the bride at the centre of this affair either. I replaced my drink on a passing tray and excused myself.

Finding the right bride, I tackled charm and sophistication mark two. It was going pretty well. The races started and some of the guests began placing bets. I have never been much of a gambler. I lack knowledge of horses and am miserly with money. I blindly plunged ahead.

I wasn't especially surprised to see the horse I had selected finish last. "Oh well," I mused to my companion, "Perhaps my horse will do better on the run back." She looked at me quizzically. "You see," I felt the need to explain, "I had a bet each way."

If your horse is coming last and you could use a break, may I suggest this week's menu?

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School holidays and climbing the roof (but not the walls!)

A red and a blue door of adjacent terrace housesSchool holidays are, for me, a break in routine and a chance just to hang out. They're also a time to climb on the roof. I should point out that I didn't include that on my original school holiday plan.

The work-life juggle can become ever more acute when junior recipe testers are not at their regular places of educational attainment. Last week I fielded a call from my brother who needed assistance with his three junior recipe testers as he and my sister-in-law had a work roster crisis. Their juniors are not of educational institutional age... and all of their usual babysitting stand-ins were out.

Depositing one of my juniors at a friend's house, I packed up the other two and headed to the fabulous inner west to spend a relaxing day in a beautiful, petite, attached house. With five junior recipe testers. All boys.

The day, somewhat miraculously, proceeded without incident. That is, apart from the bleeding lip after a nasty collision with a broom handle, but we won't mention that. My sister-in-law arrived home and all was relatively calm. The youngest junior there present was tucked up soundly for his afternoon sleep, and the lip had mercifully stopped bleeding.

We packed our things, said our goodbyes, and all sneaked past the sleeping baby's room: some of us to hop in the car and go home, others of us to wave those departing. As six of us stood on the front doorstep, a powerful gust of wind blew. The front door slammed shut.

My sister-in-law's eyes bulged. "Oh," she said. "Um...," I helpfully added. All was not lost, however. "The back door is open," I said. "I'll go round."

"Except that the only way to the back door from here is over the roof."

"Oh. What about down the side of the house?"

At my house, the sides are about 3 feet from the fence. And you can walk down them. Easily. But this was the fabulous inner west. The sides of the house are either attached to another house, or approximately half an inch from the fence. Even on my thinnest days, there was just no way.

We dragged a wheelie bin as close to the roof as we could and, leaving my sister-in-law with four juniors to monitor, I climbed up. Perching atop the paling fence I managed to hoist myself onto the roof. Walking across the roof, away from the edge was relatively easy. It was the getting down again that caused a few problems.

In the courtyard at the back of the house, a retaining wall stood alongside the fence. When my brother has found need to complete this task (yes, apparently I'm not Robinson Crusoe) he simply lowered himself off the roof onto the retaining wall. "It's not that far to drop" assured my sister-in-law.

How far something is, or how high something is, is entirely a matter of opinion. I sat on the edge with my legs dangling over. I talked calmly to myself. I breathed deeply. I conjured every feline instinct I could muster (cats always land on their feet... even on the skinniest of ledges), but the fence, nor the top of the retaining wall got thicker or less far away. I panicked. In the distance I could hear a baby starting to cry.

I walked back across the roof. My eldest junior looked up, "Mum," he helpfully suggested, "You have to go the other way!"


"I can't jump down. It's too high."

There was another way. It involved walking the paling fence, holding (lightly) on to the gutters of the two houses who shared the fence. As I cruised past the neighbour's kitchen window I observed their dishes, clean, and sitting on the draining board.

I was grateful they had not chosen that moment to start the washing up.

An award winning weekend!

Image of Rachel with Peace Mitchell & Katy Garner, AusMumpreneur founders

It has been a big weekend. On Friday night I was honoured to be awarded the Women's Business School Excellence Award at the AusMumpreneur Awards for 2017. It was a night of celebration of the many, many remarkable achievements of entrepreneurial women in Australia. I certainly spent the evening in the company of greatness.

Image of Rachel, Kimberley and Jay with their awards

My huge congratulations to my fellow finalists, and to especially to Kimberley Colquhoun, Handy Communications and Jay McClure, The Invaluables who took second and third place.

Image of Kate & Irish with the Hills Shire Council Locals for Locals business awards

But that wasn't where it ended. Across town, Dinner on the Table received the Hills Shire Council Mayor's commendation Locals for Locals Business Award for community contribution. Kate and Irish, who work in the kitchen cooking your dinners were there to accept this award.

We are just a little beside ourselves with excitement - and are so grateful for this recognition. I am so very proud of the Dinner on the Table team. They pour their hearts and souls into cooking your dinner and are committed to changing the daily lives of all those we cook for.

I certainly wouldn't be without them.

We've launched our own #waronwaste

Image of pumpkin and someone cutting it up in the background

We buy veggies for your dinners from a local vegetable farm. When I first went to the farm to talk to the farmer about this arrangement we gazed out across his fields. "Well," he said to me, "You'll have to give me a couple of days notice of your order."

"Ok," I replied.

"So I can pick 'em."

When the veggies get to our kitchen they have often just been plucked from the ground. We need to wash them, then we trim them, before we chop them up for you. They don't come in plastic bags, they're rarely neatly cubed, and they never have a 'washed and ready for use' sticker on the pack.

But all this chopping and trimming means we fill up our bins with vegetable scraps.

Like many of you, we recently watched the ABC's War on Waste in horror. Compostable waste, put into the bin might actually create a bigger problem than other kinds of garbage. We were dismayed at this, and decided we just couldn't carry on.

The Hills School just down the road from us, in Northmead, caters specially for the educational needs of children and young people with disabilities. They also participate in the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program. They have the most beautiful productive gardens.  AND they compost. ...We got an idea.

We're really excited to tell you that each week students and staff of The Hills School now visit our kitchen and collect our veggie scraps. The scraps feed the school chickens and their herb and veggie beds. School students participate in the gardening program, learning how to grow, and then cook food.

In the spring, these same veggie beds will provide us with herbs that we'll cook into your dinners (just quietly, we can't wait!) We'll keep you posted!

Parenting on display, and the case of the sore... um...


There are times when you find your parenting on display for those around to observe. This will oft invite opinions from others: thought, if you're lucky or they are kind. Spoken, if you, and they, are not. It is perhaps most disconcerting when you need to deal with the goings on of a more sensitive part of the anatomy. In public. In this situation, the stakes only get higher.

We strongly encourage our junior recipe testers to play sport. So they do. The eldest of our juniors plays soccer, and so on a Saturday morning, along with the rest of the parent and sibling martyrdom, we go along to watch. It should be stated that for those juniors not actually engaged on the field, there is something less than delight expressed about attending a game.

On Saturday, however, one of the juniors finally had good reason for his chagrin.

While we stood on the sidelines cheering and attempting not to provide too much refereeing advice, the non-playing juniors, along with some other long-suffering siblings, sat on grass at the side of the field playing. Sometime into the second half we were distracted by some yelling. The youngest of our juniors walked towards us with a pained expression.

"My penis hurts," he announced in his loudest voice.

I walked towards him, mainly in an attempt to get out of earshot of the gathered parent-crowd. If we were going to commence a discussion of a sensitive nature, I figured this best done without an audience.

By the time I reached him he had his hand down the front of his jeans and was looking more distressed. I picked him up and walked further away, attempting to soothe and comfort. I may have suggested a small drink of water? He shrieked and became rather distressed.

There are some items of clothing that civilised folk don't usually remove in polite company. Your jacket, for instance, may be perfectly acceptable to doff. Your pants not so much. It was however, quickly apparent, that no amount of soothing talk was likely to aid the situation. The clothes were going to have to come off.

Now, in my defence, my reluctance to believe there was any real problem does stem from the junior in question and his propensity towards histrionics and hypochondria. So you will understand my surprise when I found a large black ant in his small pair of undies. The ant was quickly squashed and the soothing recommenced.

Given the commotion we were causing, several parents enquired after the poor unfortunate junior's wellbeing. Four spectator fathers winced when we informed them of the predicament. One watched the remainder of the game with his legs crossed.

Thank you to the parent martyrdom who managed firstly to locate an icepack, but most heroically, didn't flinch when they realised where it needed to go.

Last minute orders are here... for when you're begging for mercy!

Black and white image of children's hands on a table topRecently, I had one of those days. Not the good one. I had a bit to get through, so I made a list. Lists are good. They keep you on track. And there's that sense of great personal fulfillment when you tick something off.

My big problem is, I lose little pieces of paper on which I write lists. But I will not be deterred. I now write them on my phone. And then they do not get lost. Very often.

Towards the end of last week I had a long list and, arriving at my first of many ports for the day, I reached for my list. It was not in my handbag. It was, I then realised, plugged into the charger. On the kitchen bench. At home. My second port of call for the day was home. My third port was my first port. Again.

I played that sort of scenario on repeat, pretty much all day. I finally fell in my front door and started loading up the mixmaster with the requisite ingredients to make pizza dough. Predictably, given what had gone before, we had no yeast.

Now bread dough for pizza is not tricky to make. But it is made inordinately difficult without yeast. I pondered this for a minute when my phone beeped.

The text was from the mother of a friend of my eldest junior recipe tester. Her name is Nancy. I do not know Nancy well, and I promptly replied to her text. Autocorrect saw fit to amend her name. To my horror, I referred to her as "noncustodial". I have no reason, nor, presumably does she, to think that perhaps she is not her child's mother.

I was begging for mercy...

We get it. On Monday, when we brow beat you to get your order in, you feel bright and breezy - and you figure this week you just don't need help with dinners.

And then Wednesday afternoon rolls around. You fly out of the office to battle the traffic, arriving just in time to pick up the kids and then you remember that you forgot to take the meat out of the freezer. Or perhaps you have run out of yeast (we've heard that can happen). And you really don't want to feed your people takeaway. Again.

Well, now you don't have to! We're now offering same-day delivery on top of our usual delivery options.

We're starting this new service in the Hills District. Our Hills customers can now order same-day delivery on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Just order by 3pm and we'll deliver same-day.

We're still offering our usual Tuesday delivery for the Hills and Outer West - just get your order to us by 8am Tuesday and you'll have dinners delivered as usual.

And for our other regions, we're extending order cut off times:

  • if you're on the North Shore, in Northern Sydney or the lower Northern Beaches, order by 8am Wednesday for delivery on Wednesday
  • all other eligible suburbs* should order by 8am Thursday for Thursday delivery.

We can do nothing about autocorrect. We cannot retract embarrassing, insensitive text messages. But when you're begging for mercy, we'll bring you a real dinner.

Confident in my capability... Challenged when proving it

Image of a sunset across a paddock

I blame it on the time. Actually, I blame it on the time of day. And the lack of sleep. And the fact that I felt a little fraught at the time.

I am not generally inept at public transport. I do not usually have difficulty discerning sign boards and timetables. A very long time ago I lived in East Africa, and managed to negotiate the public transport system there. On one notable occasion I shared my seat with a live chicken, while a panic stricken goat was hoisted past my window and onto the roof of the bus upon which I sat. When it comes to transportation, I have runs on the board.

I was, on those occasions, travelling alone.

Last week, the junior recipe testers and I had the opportunity to travel to the most senior recipe testers' (AKA Mum & Dad's) farm. By train. The train left Central Station at 12.19pm, a perfectly decent time to travel. It was when I went to book the tickets I made the horrifying discovery that there were no seats left on the train.

The juniors were dismayed. There were tears. And gnashing of teeth. The only alternative was a train leaving Central at 7.04 AM. This meant that we had to be at the bus stop near home at 5.30. AM. The juniors were not the least deterred. And so the senior recipe tester dropped the four of us, and our four wheelie suitcases, at the nearest bus stop, at a time at which is it both very dark and very cold.

We travelled to Wynyard on the bus with little incident. During that first leg, I felt it incumbent upon me to educate the juniors about commuters. They are travelling to work, I instructed. They are busy, and in a hurry, and won't be pleased if they trip over a Spiderman wheelie bag. And if you cannot swipe your Opal card very quickly at the turnstile... I will have to do it for you.

The juniors dutifully watched out for commuters, stayed close, didn't get lost, and got remarkably adept at swiping efficiently. Even those who aren't tall enough to be able to see the touch pad.

We then struck a small hitch at Wynyard train station. The trouble with being responsible for small children, is that you not only have to convince yourself you are capable of caring for them, you may, on occasion, be called upon to convince random members of the public too. But when your holiday travels start well before dawn, I think you could perhaps be cut a little slack if you occasionally sound like a complete lunatic.

"I'm looking for platform 2, please," I enquired of a uniformed man.

"There isn't a platform 2," came the reply.

"What about the train to Epping, leaving from Platform 2?"

"The train to Epping leaves from platform 4. Do you want to go to Epping?"


"Where are you going?"

"I need to get to the city."

Given that we were in fact standing in a city train station, I should not have been surprised when the gentleman raised his eyebrows.

"The next city circle train leaves from platform 5."

"Doesn't the train to Epping leave in about 2 minutes?"

"I thought you weren't going to Epping. Where do you want to go?"

"Central. But I thought the Epping train would be quicker."

There was a pause, while he considered me and my three progeny and their significant suitcases for a journey of only two stops. "Where are you actually going?"


At this point I believe the gentleman was making mental notes. He noted what the junior recipe testers were wearing. He memorised what I was wearing... all things he would need later to explain to some authority, either law enforcement or child protection, about the missing passenger who, together with her three charges, had not the first clue about where she was going. 

I'm not sure of the final destination of the train we eventually got on. Fortunately for me, it stopped at Central.