The Cat and the Mattress


After two years of insomnia, one day it occurred to me that a new mattress – one that was not 10 years old and looked like two inverted graves side by side – could possibly help me sleep.  That was 3 years ago. 

Lately SH has had trouble sleeping and it occurred to him that a new mattress might help.  I’m not sure if it was steam that came out of ears – indicating my temper boiling, or if it was smoke indicating my brain burning.  Either way, SH went to leave me at home to purchase a surprise mattress, and I was having none of it.  A mattress had to be tried, I said.  It had to be agreed upon by both parties, I said.  Yeah, yeah – he may or may not have said.  The hour trip into the other side of town meant I was quite ready to give mattress testing a really solid go, and SH made straight for the same mattress he bought from this store 15 years ago, ready to tell the young salesman to wrap it to go….

I had a bit more small talk with the salesman however (it was a slow day for him, poor mite) and next you know, we (I) was being shown into the Bellissimo room.  Room!  It was posh and the beds were soft and luxurious and felt like posh hotel beds.  It felt like I was a square of butter melting into a lovely thick piece of toasted white bread (can you tell I’m missing gluten much?).  Sadly, this lovely mattress cost twice as much and bit more, than the mattress clone in the other, boring room…but then I discovered something…

When I rolled over, SH didn’t get the ripples!

You know? No? Well, some technology stuff and things meant that the individual springs weren’t tied together or something or nothing…end result being, if one person moved the other was hardly the wiser.  This is a big deal in a relationship where one person’s insomnia/ipad use/restlessness directly affects the poor wife’s sleep and drives her mental.  And mean.

And so the luxurious bed was put on laybye.

Fast forward 4 months to last Friday night: Mattress delivery Friday at 10am.  Home and in my anticipatory pajamas by 6pm.  Looking good.  Fast asleep and snoring by 9.20pm apparently. A completely somnambulist ‘ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh’.


‘Merrrrp’ is the sound our largely silent, small cat makes – if she was human she’d be Nina Simone.  She hides when it is “into the laundry time for dogs and cats” so that she can sneak back to lie in front of the fire unaccosted by silly, licky dogs and massive, murderous Maine Coon foster cats.  She rarely disturbs us except to let us know that the fire is getting low at around 4, when she would prefer it to be roaring, thanks very much.  However, I suspect there’s an evil side to her and that she’s a good candidate for being the monster under the bed, just for the pure entertainment value of it.  She gives the appearance of being a sweet, smart, tiny cat who rarely meows – instead she utilises the bell on her collar as it turns out it’s much more effective at rousing humans from sleep in the early hours.  She knows we can ignore her low pitched ‘Merrrp’ if we are deeply asleep, but the bell….the bloody bell…


You know how good our new mattress is?  Despite being the lightest sleeper in the world, I was able to incorporate her Merrrrps and dingdings into the dream I was having, and I was quite happy to do so. There were big buttery slabs of thick homemade white bread toast in that dream.  And lemon curd.

Dingdingdingdingdingdingdingdingding Merrrrrp?!

Awake.  And straight into that age old relationship bugbear: “I always have to wake up and do the cat/baby/vomitting child…I’m going to pretend to be alseep and let HIM get it FOR ONCE!”

After 20 years, you’d think I’d remember he can play possum much longer and better than I.

I lay listening to that dingdingdingding and growing more infuriated by the minute, wanting nothing more than to melt back into my inaugural sleep on the new mattress and SH, apparently, slept on!

Until he gave himself away by sneezing. 

I maintain, you cannot sneeze in your sleep.  He says otherwise, but he has been sucking up an awful lot since then.

Irate, I climbed down off the bed (Bonus: the mattress has a topper and it’s really high: makes me feel all petite and wee – those who know me, know how hard that is) and attempted to collect the cat…little tart, the fire was fine, and we had a merry (not!) game of cat and idiot around the house, before I caught her and dumped her in the laundry and returned to my toast, err mattress, I mean bed!

On my old mattress, I would’ve harrumphed and climbed into bed noisily and disturbingly, and SH would have possumed right through that too, mongrel, although I’m sure (I hope) he’d be at least mildly irritated…but on the new mattress all I could do was add the noise…there was no disturbation at all, at all.

And the flipping thing was so comfortable I got over myself and went to sleep!

Guess who is getting collected every night from now on in, for Laundry bed time (surprisingly not the possum) no matter how cute she is by the fire?!

And sneezing – tell me reader – can you sneeze in your sleep? Do get back to me, I’m pretty sure there’s some score settling to be done!

11 Signs You Are a Homebody (or 11 reasons to have your soft pants on).

My name is Alyson, and I am a hermit homebody – not that there’s anything wrong with that.  I semi-justify it by saying I have an extremely public work persona, so it makes sense that I balance that by being a total hermit, err, homebody.  Having said that, of course, homebodies aren’t necessarily hermits like myself…but if you can relate to a good number of these – you, my reader, are as close to a card-carrying homebody as you can get…and there’s nothing wrong with that!

1. You prefer online shopping: You don’t have to leave home for on-line shopping, in fact, you can sit in the comfiest, sunny spot in the house and suck down a coffee or a wine at the same time.  Best shopping experience ever.

2.  You don’t mind ‘pop-in’ friends: If they come to you, it means you don’t have to go out – plus it assuages the need to be sociable (or, if you are as bad as I am, the sense that you should, probably be sociable).

3.  Similarly, entertaining at home is more appealing than going out to dinner.  Especially in winter.

4.  You have got ingredient substitution down to a fine art:  Up to step 5, and realise you don’t have an extra egg?  Substitute a tablespoon of chia soaked in a tablespoon of water.  Homebodies are all over not having to go to the shop to finish that dish with a neat little substitution tip….”Sugar-booger! Let’s try honey/maple syrup/ caramel topping and see what happens!”

5.  You bake: Rather than going out to shop for school snacks on the weekend, you bake Weetbix Slice at home, listening to your favorite music, drinking tea and playing ‘Words with Friends’ at the same time.  It’s less about being a domestic god/dess and more about staying in your soft pants.

6.  Your house smells good: not necessarily in a sparkling clean kind of way (or is that just me?), but in a baking/scenty candle/incense/slow cooker dinner kind of way (- plus for extra points you may have figured out how to make your own scenty candles!).

7.  Within 5 – 10 minutes of arriving home from work you have lost the bra/shoes/structured clothes and you are in soft pants, holey tops and bed socks with grippy stuff on the bottom.  Or Uggies.

8.  You have a cohort of friends that pass no judgement on the state of your house/what you may be wearing, that are welcome any time! (See no.2)

9.  You like the idea of, and practice to some degree, self sufficiency: growing herbs, having chickens, a vegie patch, making scenty candles…means you don’t necessarily have to go out for herbs, veg, eggs. (See no. 4)

10. At some level, you relate to the cat: feeling like you ‘should’ go out, but knowing as soon as you are out there, that you’d rather be back home.

11.  You honestly think you might not do so badly in a Zombie Apocalypse. Self explanatory.

I didn’t even put anything in there about procrastinating because I am mature enough (I am SO mature) to acknowledge that that may just be my issue and not necessarily one for across-the-board homebodyness.  Homebodyness is a word.

I do not dispute that the need to wear soft pants can also be attributed as an effect of every one of the 11 signs, but soft pants are quite in now anyway, I’ve learned that through online shopping.

So, tell me truthfully, are you a homebody? Any tips about general Zombie Apocalypse survival?


Duck eggs, Baby!

I promise I’m not being a smug-arse when I say that we are relatively healthy eaters here at Fivehills. Mostly, it’s because I behave like a Depression-era housewife and we eat cheap, which it turns out is quite healthy: we slow cook cheap meat cuts, grow what veg and herbs we can, bake our own bits and pieces, use up stale breads/cheeses and leftovers creatively, run our own chooks and ducks for eggs and feed them back all the scraps that cant be composted.

There was a time when I would swap excess eggs for veg with a friend, but now we rarely have excess our kids can go through a half dozen between them in a day. A day, people. That’s right. I work so that they can eat. The boys have a brunch fry up, and our daughter gets her Masterchef on and bakes treats that mysteriously disappear into her bedroom with her 15 minutes after they’ve come out of the oven and tantalised me to forget whatever it is I’m doing with their rich inevitably chocolatey fragrance. It’s just cruel plus our kitchen is a mess.

The ducks are a boon, as they take over laying when the chooks start to slow down in winter. And they are prolific….but I noticed the kids weren’t using them and asked them why. Turns out they are highly suspicious of the fact the eggs are blue, and the kid whose job it is to collect them thinks they are too dirty to use (although I do wipe off the muck on them). Funny, coming from a kid who looks at me suspiciously when I ask him why none of his socks have been near the washing machine for a while.

Duck eggs are goopier than chook eggs, by which I mean, the white is seriously thicker and more gelly like. This makes for great baking because the white has a lot more fat. In fact, according to Jamie O, duck eggs are great to use in gluten free baking because they provide some of the structure that gluten flours normally create.

My time in a rural restaurant taught me that some people (often of a certain generation) think duck eggs are a delicacy, whilst others freak out at the size and density of them sprawled on a plate. So after a year of duck eggs sitting alongside our chook eggs in the fridge, these are how we choose to use them (or if you are one of my kids reading this…the non-negotiable rules):

Duck eggs to be used for:
Impossible pies (gluten free quiche)
And other eggy bakes – like the ham and egg bake, (otherwise famous here as the hashbrown casserole)
Breads (great for brioche!)
Hard boiling for turning into egg salad/curried egg for sandwiches

Omelettes/scramble according to personal preference

Chook eggs are for poaching, soft boiling and frying.

Duck eggs seem a little hard to give away, due to their size and suspiciously pretty color, but if you can get your hands on them, give them a go. They are used one for one for a hen egg in a recipe despite their size, and their thicker shells mean they have a longer shelf life.

See that fat dog belly there? That’s full of a duck egg that ‘got away’…as in, I dropped it while collecting and she grabbed it and ran off, conveniently deaf to my scolding! Little tart! Makes me wonder how many she helps herself to through the day…could explain the obnoxious farting….

Ever tried duck eggs? Got any recipes to share?

Writer Incognito

A friend interviewed me for his podcast and introduced me as a writer. When I scoffed sheepishly, he queried it (never misses an opportunity to hold me accountable to myself this Dude). I said that it just wasn’t where I was at, at the moment. Which got me to thinking: who AM I? How did I get into this mess? No, seriously – I started wondering what I was really doing as a writer and the answer is, right now, not very bloody much.

BUT (and there’s always a big but in my experience) I don’t think I am done with it. Because I love it. I love the idea of it:

I occasionally have the opportunity to discuss and encourage writing with young people (which I enjoy way more than I imagined).

I am obeying my personal rule of always, always having a book to read especially when I’m not writing (and the kids have given me the complete series of the Game of Thrones books to read which should keep me sorted for the next 12 years – thanks very much bloody mongrels.

Because of my goldfish-like memory and under advisement of my home technogeek SH, I have about seven apps too many that each have various random bits of weirdness in them, that possibly won’t make sense to anyone but me.

I have also got another three apps with further random weirdness that either I can’t recall how to access, or I can access them and they make no sense at all…possibly as a result of in the middle of the night typing….possibly.

And I have a story fledged back from the bastard NaNoWriMo some years ago, that is sitting like a red-headed stepchild feeling alone and unloved, in the recess of the computer or the icloud just waiting for me to give it a spruce and a kiss and a cuddle, and cheeses help me, one hell of a makeover before telling it that ‘Luke. I am your father’..What mixed metaphorses? Metaphori?

I don’t feel done..

Any tips or hints to keep my finger in the pie? Anyone else have their otherness on hold? Gah!

What to Pack for Singapore

What the…? Yes, it’s me. Can you tell that I’m working full time, that we have 2.9 teenagers (with lives of their own, dammit) in the house, that my garden is growing and that the dog ate my homework?

But also, i hitched a ride to Singapore with SH, because he had a conference to attend. Wheee! Anyhoo, seeing as the last time I went to Singapore, there was a toddler at my knee and a baby on my back, and the photographic evidence shows I wore cheesecloth shorts and mens polo shirts, I decided I wanted to return somewhat more as the ‘lady’ (…I’ll just wait for the sniggering to die down…..) ahem, I’ve become. Surprisingly, googling ‘what to pack for Singapore’ didn’t turn up any advice.

My delicious sister Em asked me to write this as she will be visiting within the month on the back of a trip to Sri Lanka, and the lovely Robin asked me on FB whether I was still writing on my blog – all of which has combined with a quiet (dont say the q word out loud) Sunday morning – hence me writing the longest sentence of the year…at the start of this post.

I love Singapore – it’s clean, arty, friendly. Most people speak English, the food is fabulous, the food is open 24 hours in many places…and is cheap, and I love the way it seems like the jungle is trying to reclaim the city – or like the city is springing up in the jungle. And the key word here…is jungle. Singapore is hot and humid – and here lies the packing trick.

I don’t know if I’m the only one, but what generally happens is I will pack thoughtfully and then return from the trip having only used half of the suitcase’s contents. This trip was the same:

2 maxi dresses (one unworn)

1 maxi skirt (worn one full day)
Bathers (regrettably unworn)
Cropped black pants (worn constantly)
2 black tshirts (one worn)
A gold tank (worn for a posh dinner)
Teal tank (worn)
2 black tanks (both worn)
A very light cropped, short sleeve black cardi (worn constantly)
Gladiator sandals (worn until my ankles were too swollen to cope)
Gold sequin sandally thongs (worn see right at Marina Bay Sands)
Black ballet flats (worn once I couldn’t wear the sandals any longer and for travelling)

Plus to travel from Canberra’s chilly early morning autumn to Singapore’s balmy 32 degree evening: black cropped leggings, a black tunic, with a long sleeved layering top and a longsleeved black cardigan, and patterned cotton scarf.

All of my packing was soft, jersey type fabric that could be rolled up without side effects. And clearly the theme was black – useful for sweating freely in, not as hot as you might think, easily mixed and matched and dressed up with scarves or necklaces.


If you have generous thighs, as I may or may not have, wearing a maxi skirt or maxi dress all day can be a mistake. After a full day of walking at Gardens by the Bay, my poor upper thighs were bruised and I regretted laughing at the friend who recommended talc for chafe. A half day or going out to do the dinner walk would have been manageable.

Tanks are good: pretty ones, layering ones, posh ones, a couple per day will keep you fresh as a daisy.

A really light cardi or wrap can be handy to counteract the air-con that sometimes aggressively counteracts the humidity..after all it can easily be chucked in a bag if not required. I also layered my tanks with a short sleeve cardigan as I wasn’t certain at first about how my tattoo would be received (I didn’t see many around), also as my own respect for modesty in some cultural areas.

Leggings and tunics are great comfort wear for Singapore or any travelling – take your favorite non crushables.

I did see some chic travellin’ ladies in their fisherman pants – if you are a fan, these would be comfortable and appropriate assuming your thighs behave (see above).

Comfortable cool shoes! I was gobsmacked at the young women walking rapidly and businesslike in their spikes – I will never have that talent. Conversely, I wished I’d brought my Birkenstocks or my Dr Scholls (although they are suede and probably not recommended due to the flash rain showers) and envied other travellers who had…they would have been perfect!

Stretchy clothes…OK it might be just me, but my skin seems to swell up a bit in the humidity so constricting clothes like denim are not going to make the cut for me here. Even tight sleeves bother me once I start to get my sweat on. Sorry. The up side is that then you are more comfortable when you are eating and walking and then eating and eating.

If possible, I’d recommend a bra extra to what you think you’ll need, or a bunch of sports bras if you’re smaller like myself. If you don’t have time to wash, it can be a little gross discovering how much sweat a bra can hold. Just keeping it real.

Long summer pjs are great for frigid hotel rooms – you can always take them off if you don’t need them.

If you’re that way inclined, and I am if I am wearing variations on all black day after day, a few nice scarves are easy, useful and less irritating on a hot damp neck than chains. Having said that they also make the best personal souvenirs…I bought two Desigual scarves (squeee) as a memento of my time in Singapore. They make me happy.

Luckily, our return to our 2.9 teenagers, horse, chooks, ducks, dogs, cats and daily lives coincided with a little Indian summer – and at its warmest Murrumbateman, Australia was only 10 degrees cooler than Singapore. It did help us adjust before autumn frosts came laughing at us a lazy week and a half later. That was a gift.

But that is certainly not the last you have seen of me Singapore. Next time I’ll be better packed and prepared…oh yes. I will be back.

It’s not all about me, apparently. After a number of wine fuelled conversations with people over the last couple of weeks it turns out everyone has had a crazy weird year…from 7 year olds to the 70 year olds…and we all think it went way too fast as well. And this apparently had nothing to do with me just wishing it were over already…but if it did, apologies. Truly.

WordPress sent me a lovely email to tell me which bits of writing were the most interesting from my piece of the interwebs…4 out of 5 posts were from 2008 and 2009. So if you knew me back then, that may have been as interesting as I got. I’m OK with that.

Why I Love Living on Acreage:
I still love it, but I think I’ll love it even more when our 17 year old gets his licence…or I may have a nervous breakdown, either way.

Sweet – A Sugar Free Christmas Part 2
Hey, highly successful – I still fit into all my clothes post Christmas, plus I’ve had all the get up and go to do things around the place in the heat, when usually my get up and go has gotten up and went by now.

A Recipe Book of One’s Own:
It’s nice to know that there are other crazy people nostalgic for a time they never even lived in. I thought I was the only one. True story.

The Jerusalem Artichoke and I:
They will save/rule the world one day. And they do make you fart – that’s all I’m saying.

Tattoo You:
No matter how many times I go back over this one, I never stop agreeing with myself.

Thankyou reader for stopping by to read me over the years, I’m going to see if I can give it one more red-hot go before life interrupts again, keep your fingers crossed for me one way or the other! May you have a happy and healthy 2013 :)

Year in Review