Lifelong assistance

Lifelong partnerships come in many and varied forms. Generally, somewhere in that public declaration of intention to hang out with one person for a really long time there is something about helping each other in all sorts of circumstances. It is usually anticipated that such help will be gratefully received.

The other night I was in the garage doing some garage-type jobs. Without warning I was grabbed from behind. I whipped around, arms flailing. To the untrained eye, this may have looked like senseless flapping. What I discovered was an extraordinary ability to protect myself. My mind recalled ninja moves I did not know I possessed. Such was the adrenalin pumping through my veins I felt confident of my ability to defend myself such that my assailant would have no idea the attack was coming.

A rather startled chief recipe tester stood before me as I turned to attack. In his hand was my mobile phone, line open. Like me, he was mute, and flapping somewhat wildly for me to speak into the phone.

This week the chief recipe tester and I will celebrate ten years of wedded bliss. I am glad to report our union did not end in the garage when I killed him with a ninja chop I had not previously rehearsed.

In a bid to facilitate my communication he had answered my phone before it rang out. He then ran it (quietly) to me so I could seamlessly speak into the phone as if I had answered it. The plan was somewhat thwarted by my gladiatorial response to his assistance.

I am grateful for his assistance. I am relieved that my pause reflexes are more developed than my mercenary ones.

If you find yourself under attack this week, may I suggest next week's menu? Next week will be our last delivery before we take a short break. Look out for the next menu in a couple of weeks.

As always, please contact me with queries, for lists of ingredients or for recipes.

Order by Friday night for dinners delivered the following Tuesday.

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We launched... with a few blow outs

We have been desperate to get back into the kitchen and start cooking for you again. And this week we have finally done it! We have cooked in our new premises in Carrington Road, Castle Hill (32/7... do stop in and say hello!)

You all know that our kitchen renovations took much longer than we anticipated. But the result was worth it: what we have to work in is so much more than we anticipated. And we couldn't be more excited.

If I'm being really honest, it has been a week of highs and lows. In any move there are bound to be teething problems. ...Yep.

Our oven cooked itself when it was being plugged in. We hadn't even had the chance to break it yet. The repair required a part. The part was in Melbourne, and no we couldn't have it in the next half hour. In the days waiting for the part we cooked teeny tiny quantities in our second, but teeny tiny, oven. A lot of times. And hoped we'd laugh about it one day.

When the part finally did arrive the oven required the expertise of Dean. It was Dean who conducted open heart surgery to fix it. By the time we had finished all the cooking, the oven was working again. Excellent.

Our dishwasher carked it entirely. The defibrillators were hollered for. They were employed on several occasions. In the end Dean had to call it. We held a memorial service in the expansive wash up area of our new premises. The burial will be held at the Castle Hill metal recyclers, its soul laid to rest without a single wash cycle completed.

The staff were distraught. We are still weeping tears into the large sink in which we have hand washed every pot, pan and stirring implement this week. We're expecting a replacement next week. In the meantime we're spending the weekend purchasing more rubber gloves.

Yesterday afternoon, the front of our bratt pan inexplicably fell off. By itself. Without provocation. One team member was heard to cry out in religious fervour, "Jesus, this place is falling apart!"

Again, we called on the ever patient Dean for assistance. Fortunately, he was still on site from the last disaster. He begged us not to cause any more trouble. We're trying our hardest.

But the place isn't falling apart. It's fantastic. And we're so excited about our new home.

For me, this week has highlighted how much the Dinner on the Table team love to cook for you, how they love to be working together, and how adaptable (and cheery!) they are in the face of big challenges. I am so grateful for them, and I know you are too.

I'm grateful for Theresa and Dylan from Nuance Food, whose kitchen we share. You couldn't ask for a better set of 'flat mates', and to have someone to help shoulder the trials and celebrate the triumphs has been invaluable.

We're just getting started. And next week we'll be a little more familiar. But we can't wait to welcome you to our new home.

I shouldn't be surprised... but I always am

I know I shouldn’t be surprised. But I always am. Despite my significant experience, I never ceased to be amazed.  And then I never cease to be irritated. I sometimes cease from shouting, but never cease from gritting my teeth and speaking. Simultaneously.

Things always take longer than you think.


It is currently school holidays. And I am someone whose life needs to be arranged around such peculiarities. These holidays the junior recipe testers and I have had some spectacular adventures. One day included a plane watching tour, starting from Mascot train station. On foot.

That took much longer than I thought. Mascot train station is nowhere near the plane watching platform. I can, however, highly recommend taking your juniors to the airport to watch planes. But take the car, for preference.

But I digress.

Once upon a time, in our house, we had a study. Then we had a junior recipe tester. And then a couple more. And then we didn't have a study. We have more juniors than bedrooms, and so some are required to share. Over the past few weeks the juniors have been debating whether there should be a realignment of bedrooms and who shares with whom.

This week they finally decided, and so our task was to rearrange furniture. It is incumbent upon me as a parent, I believe, to ensure that the clothes of the junior residing in a bedroom, also reside in that bedroom. I rallied the troops and revved them up for the task: we move these clothes from here to here, these from here to there and rejig a few books and toys. 

No problem.

The chest of drawers two juniors have shared are extraordinarily large and extraordinarily heavy. I picked up a clothing-laden drawer and headed from here to there. After scraping the skin of my knuckles on both sides of the doorway I wavered under the weight. The drawer slid from my now skinned hands.

There wasn't a very big noise to accompany the fall. Just a great deal of daylight between the sides, the bottom and now the drawer front. Clothes tumbled out through the daylight.

I stood in the hall and contemplated the position. I considered the clothes now tumbled about the place. I weighed up the short trip down the hall from here to there, from one bedroom to another. I realised these few small steps could now only be completed via a trip to Ikea.

I gritted my teeth and started to speak...

The Dinner on the Table kitchen has made a small trip from here to there. Baulkham Hills to Castle Hill isn't very far. But sometimes that small trip can take far longer than you ever imagined possible. But we're making progress: we have a freezer room built and an enormous extractor hood.

The equipment is being rearranged and reinstalled (we haven't dropped any yet). And soon we will be, once again, cooking and delivering your dinners. Our new kitchen is shared with our good friends at Nuance Food. We're excited about our role as flat-mate. We're going to have a busy and vibrant kitchen, and that extends everyone's creativity.

We can't wait. Some of us are considering gritting our teeth; but we're not shouting. There are also some exciting new things we can't wait to share with you, like extended pickup hours, no need to preorder for pickup (and you'll be able to swing past and get a great cup of coffee too - more about that soon!), and a brand new venture bringing dinners to busy working people (yep, we're coming to you!)

When we're finally in you'll hear the shouting at your place. We're so grateful for your patience and we can't wait to cook for you again soon. We'll keep you posted!

Our new kitchen being renovatedNew freezer room in our new kitchen premises

The week that is...

This week has almost got me beaten. Almost. That I'm here typing is evidence. That I wince from time to time as I type is just a symptom of this week. This afternoon I dropped my big kitchen grill plate on my finger. Setting up a new big kitchen, I am discovering, requires the moving of equipment from here to there and then back again.

The grill plate is very heavy. My finger is not. My finger is slightly flatter than it was when I woke up this morning. My fingernail is purpling up nicely.

This week the senior recipe tester is in China. When, on Sunday night, I considered the activity of this week I thought China was an excellent choice. When he kissed me goodbye on Monday morning he did not offer to take me or the junior recipe testers with him.


Yesterday was the much anticipated day when the cast that went on the broken arm about six weeks ago could finally be doffed. As would be expected, the appointment at the clinic coincided with school photo day. I arrived at the junior's classroom to collect him and found his room empty. Of course, the junior would be having his photo taken right then.

I legged it across the playground, located the class, begged the photographer and shoved the junior in front of the blue merle school-photo screen for a mug shot. At some point, and not unusually for me, I removed my sunglasses and placed them on top of my head.

Photo complete, I grabbed the junior's good arm, and we ran across the playground. I attempted to put my sunglasses back over my eyes and found that the nose supports were well knotted into my hair. Without the time or patience to stop and sort it out, I sprinted across the playground with my sunnies and lengthy fringe slapping me in the chin. Like the purple nail, the bald patch will no doubt grow over soon.

We arrived at the hospital and waited in the queue at the administration counter. Announcing our arrival we were bid to present to the X-ray department. X-ray has a ticketing system, much like the deli. We took a ticket and waited. When our ticket was called we announced our arrival at the X-ray administration desk. We were then bid to wait until our name was called.

We waited.

The junior's name was called and he had an X-ray. We went back to the original clinic. This time there was a significant queue at the administration desk. 

We waited.

We got to the top of the registration queue and announced our return from X-ray. We were bid to wait until our name was called.

We waited.

Eventually the junior's name was called and we saw the physio. The cast was removed and a scrawny, somewhat grotty looking arm emerged. We found the blob of jam that inexplicably disappeared into the cast last week. It should also be noted that an arm that emerges from a cast after very many weeks smells like a foot.

We were then bid to return to the waiting area, where a doctor would at some point in the near, or not so near, future, call the junior's name.

We waited.

By the time the doctor called us we had waited such a time that the junior required a haircut. We went in to see the doctor. Mercifully, given the pong we had endured for the past few hours, she offered us a sink and a large quantity of soap.

"It's a little tricky to see what's going on through the cast," she said. "I'd like you to have another x-ray."

I may have given her a disparaging look. In my defence, when the cast was put on in the first place, perhaps by now some ten weeks earlier, we were informed that its great benefit was that an X-ray could be taken through it.

We headed back to X-ray and took a ticket.

We waited.

I wondered if, when the junior's hair was cut, there would be enough to cover my bald patch...

Is it really working mothers' fault... again?

Overweight and obesity is a significant public health concern. More than 60% of Australian adults are obese along with at least 25% of our children. So where do we apportion blame? Well, working mothers apparently.

We’re spending around 32% of our weekly budgets on takeaway food and eating out, according to a recent report by Deakin University. For Hungry Jacks owner and Domino’s Chairman Jack Cowin, this figure is directly attributable to women working more. Not his fault that the dinners he dishes up contribute to the national epidemic; it’s your fault for working.

Whacking working mothers yet again is boring. It particularly smarts when it comes from the head of a fast food chain with the worst scores on commitment to healthy eating in the country. The convenience food industry can do a better job of providing real, healthy food choices. We do. Every week. We’re also working closely with some forward thinking managers to provide meaningful support to their employees in the everyday juggle between work and home. Stay tuned… we can’t wait to tell you about it!

We know you struggle to cook a perfectly balanced dinner for your people every single night of the week. Because we do too. That’s why we appreciate it when someone cooks for us. We just demand convenient food that doesn’t make us or our kids feel miserable. And doesn’t contribute to the obesity epidemic.

Women's Agenda :…/women-are-working-so-were-ea…/

If you'd like to see the interview #abcthebusiness:…/extended-interview-with-jac…/9809328

Sweating the small stuff and frying the big fish

Tell me it's not just me? I mean the big deals, they can be pretty stressful. But it's the small stuff that can really push you over the edge. The small stuff uses up your emotional energy but sometimes there are bigger fish to fry.

One of the junior recipe testers needed a haircut. It should be said that the haircut was badly needed. The junior in question would put Australia's finest merino to shame. He wasn't overly chuffed with the idea of having his haircut, but his hair was ridiculous. Even the barber commented.

Haircut complete, he continued to grizzle about how he hated haircuts. And his smart new hair. Give me strength.

We finally got over it long enough to get home. Fortunately, because he now can't see his hair, he forgot about it. We carried on.

Some time later that day this particular junior took himself to the bathroom. At this point it should be noted that this is the junior who also has the broken arm. Tasks such as attending to one's personal hygiene needs are somewhat more difficult one-armed.

A short time passed and an enormous cry came from the bathroom. "He's fallen on the floor," I thought. "He's cracked his head open on the edge of the bath and is bleeding," was the next thing to enter my head. "Are you alright?" is what I shouted down the hall, picking up my pace.

"I hate my haircut!" came the response.

Standing up from the toilet the junior had caught sight of himself in the bathroom mirror...

At this point I began to wonder how many years I'd get for grievous bodily harm.

It is these matters that consume my emotional energy. But this, you'll be pleased to learn, isn't the big fish we're frying...

The big news is Dinner on the Table is moving our kitchen. Our current premises on Seven Hills Road with the great kitchen and terrible parking has served us well for the past few years. But it's time to move on...

We're heading up the road to an exciting new premises in Castle Hill. You'll find us at Unit 32, 7 Carrington Road.

We'll have more space for cooking and more parking. This means that it'll be MUCH easier to pick up your dinners from our kitchen, and we can't wait to see you there. (And, stay tuned for some exciting new ways we're making it even easier to get dinner on your table.)

All this excitement means that for a short time we will need to pause deliveries while we get all our equipment out of our current home and into our new home. Order by 1pm Monday 28 May for delivery next week. All orders after this time will not be delivered until Tuesday 5 June.

We'll keep you posted about how we're going. Moving house is great... once it's done.

Work-life balance is a myth

Work-life balance is a furphy.

There. I've said it. Out loud.

Sorry to burst your bubble. Or perhaps you made that discovery ages ago (and if you did, why didn't you tell me?)

I don't think that's the end of the story though. While it might not be balance, it just might be something else.

Last week I had the great fortune of spending three days in Melbourne as part of an incubator program for entrepreneurs. Fabulous. Great discussion. Great coffee. Great brain food. (Must remember to pack more black clothes for next trip).

The day before I was due to leave, the senior recipe tester had to travel to Brisbane for work.

His was a particularly early start, but no big drama. The junior recipe testers and I went about our usual Wednesday things, culminating in soccer training for two of them. Miraculously, training occurs for both juniors at the same park at a very similar time. And so, last Wednesday night, the four of us went.

About half way through training one of the juniors fell over. He did not get up. He howled. And could not readily be comforted. We sat about for a bit waiting for the comfort to kick in. It didn't much.

He was complaining bitterly of a very sore arm, and so in the end I thought perhaps I should seek some expert advice. A&E at the Children's Hospital seemed the most likely place to get the advice we needed.

With one howling junior on my hip I trudged back to the car. A good friend offered to take the other juniors home with her at the completion of training until we could work out what the position was. At the news that one junior was going to hospital another junior also began to howl. I comforted as best I could with my one free arm and my somewhat pretzeled spine, and continued on my journey.

The initiated will know that children's hospital A&E departments are not the place to go for a good time. I found myself inspecting every person to come through the door, wondering what we might catch from them. It is particularly incumbent upon any parent, I believe, to give a wide berth to anyone on "trial of fluids". For the uninitiated: you don't ever want to sit next to the poor soul holding the plastic bag.

Many hours passed. The crowds built and the caring, if frazzled, staff met need as they were able. Eventually we made it to X-ray, to the doctor's consult and ultimately into a cast to begin the process of healing a broken arm. As the hours passed I began to wonder whether I should reschedule my flight for the following morning: I wasn't sure I'd be home in time to make it.

With the senior recipe tester back on tera firma he fast tracked himself home from the airport to rescue our friend and bundle our other juniors into bed. He then arranged for someone else to mind them at our place and came to the hospital to relieve me. I had a bag to pack...

We all finally made it to bed three hours before my alarm went off to go to the airport. The junior is mending. The senior and I would like a bit more sleep...

I'm so grateful for the three days I got to spend dreaming and strategising Dinner on the Table. But there's no balance between caring for my children through crisis, and an intensive work period. I know you know this story. Because it's your story too.

Is it time to stop talking about balance, as if it's something to aspire to?

At that particular time, we had just enough resources to fit the demands, both thrust upon, and chosen by us. We were able to meet competing needs, with help from family and friends, and, while exhausting, our work during those few days was meaningful, if unpredictable.

Ultimately, we could sustain the pace for those few short days. But ask us to expend those resources for a week, or a month, or a year? We may as well plan to fly ourselves to the moon.

And so, forgetting balance: how sustainable is your daily life? How long can you manage the competing demands of your work and home life? Do you have the resources to fit the demands? How long will those resources last? How predictable is your day to day?

I know your life is not balanced.

But perhaps it doesn't have to be.