Monday, October 17, 2011

What I cooked for Tom Kime

We are lucky to have a visit from Tom Kime this week.  Tom is an internationally renowned chef and cook book author.  He’s passionate about sustainable seafood and loves Asian street food.  He’s doing four days of cooking master classes and demonstrations at Pinetrees.  The smells from the boatshed, where we’ve set up the demonstrations, have been incredible.  

Luke called at about 7:00pm to say that he’d invited Tom for dinner at our house.  I was totally unprepared.  The house was in complete chaos.  Little Pixie has started to roll around, which makes nappy changing a challenge and there was nappy changing stuff and pooey baby clothes everywhere.  Elsie had refused to eat her dinner and thrown most of it on the floor with a cup of water.  She was about to get into the bath.  There were toys on every surface – on the rug, on the couch, on the floor and all over the dining table.  Before her bath, Elsie had dragged out every sheet and blanket with the intention of building a cubby house.  There was damp washing on a clothes horse.  The sink was full of dirty dishes and the dishwasher was full of clean ones.  The bathroom was full of dirty clothes.  The bed wasn’t made (no excuse).  

Worst of all, there was no food in the house.  There was a box of eggs in the fridge, but I wasn’t really sure how old they were.  I wish I was the sort of person who could put together an appetising meal made of nothing but stale crackers, peanut butter and dried pasta, but unfortunately I just don’t have the knack.  In fact, the adjective that would best describe my style of cooking is “survival”.  Think Bridget Jones, not Julie & Julia.  

The only reason I’m still talking to Luke is that he appeared with a basket containing 3 steaks and immediately took Tom out to light the wood barbeque.  I put some potatoes in the oven and scrounged a rocket salad out of the garden - and opened a bottle of good red wine. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A visit from the Cooks

The Cook family are staying at Pinetrees this week.  It’s a long family tradition.  The little kids, Edward, Alexander, Toby, Joel and Lizzie, are 4th generation Pinetrees guests.  Their parents came to Pinetrees as kids and their grandfather, the late John Cook, used to come with his parents for holidays in the 1950s.  John was an adventurous soul and I remember seeing his old leather photo album with photos of him fishing and climbing Mt Lidgbird and goat hunting with his friends on the island.   

John Cook was the central character in one of my mum's favourite stories.  Pixie loved to tell the story of how she and her sister Kerry once decided to short-sheet all of the beds in the guest house.  I suppose they were about 9 and 10 at the time.  It took them most of the morning, because they were laughing so hard and they had to sneak around and hide from the guests.  Unfortunately, they were discovered by John, who was a few years older than they were.  He promptly reported them to their father and Pixie and Kerry were forced to re-make all of the beds.  They vowed to get revenge and every time John came to the island after that he found a different surprise in his bed – dead muttonbirds, smelly seaweed, little white ghost crabs, buckets of sand…

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


There’s no dentist on Lord Howe and when we employ new staff, I tell them very sternly to go to the dentist before they travel to the island.  I’m pleased to report that the younger ones usually do as they’re told.  Our executive chef, on the other hand, arrived with a temporary filling.  They’re called “temporary” for a reason.  Predictably, it all fell apart a few days before Christmas.  It was the busiest time of the year, Warren was in a lot of pain and he couldn’t get to a dentist in Sydney because flights to and from the island were booked solid.  I could cheerfully have killed him. 

Luckily, dentists need holidays too.  One of our regular Christmas guests is a dentist called Quickie who loves fishing.  I called him to warn him about the disobedient chef and to apologise in advance for interrupting his holiday.  He was philosophical – it certainly wasn’t the first time he’d been asked deal with an emergency at Lord Howe.  Quickie told me that one of our staff members used to be a dental nurse (I had no idea!).  We had a frantic afternoon on Christmas Eve arranging for the hospital to open the clinic and then trying to find Warren, who went into hiding as soon as the dentist arrived, but eventually the tooth was fixed.  

My heart sank when Ryan, another staff member, had a broken tooth this week.  We called the local hospital and emailed all of the other lodges to see if anyone had a dentist.  I even put a notice on the chalkboard outside the community hall, but no luck.  Ryan told me that he could go to a 24 hour dental clinic near Sydney airport, but I sent him to see Quickie instead. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

That sinking feeling

Ever had that sinking feeling that you’ve done something stupid … again?  There’s nothing worse than failing to learn from your mistakes.  

When we first arrived at Lord Howe, we ran out of water at home.  It was the beginning of summer and it could have been very nasty.  We were lucky that my dad took pity on us and gave us some of his water.  He said that for someone of average intelligence, I was pretty stupid.  I was crushed.    

There’s plenty of rain at Lord Howe in winter.  You can afford to do lots of washing and stand in the shower thinking about what to cook for dinner tonight and how to get more sleep.  But when I was getting ready to go to Sydney a couple of weeks ago, I had that sinking feeling.  There was no water pressure in the shower.  I couldn’t have run out of water again … could I?

It turns out that you need to clean the filters on the rain water tanks.  Otherwise, they get blocked with dust and silt and gunk and all of that lovely winter rain just runs down the hill.  Hmmmm. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Bon voyage Pixie Rourke

If you’ve been reading this blog since the beginning*, you probably already know about the Pixie Rourke.  The Pixie Rourke is a QantasLink Dash-8 aircraft.  She was named after my mum, in recognition of her work to promote tourism on Lord Howe.  

Since September 2010, the Pixie Rourke has been flying to Lord Howe regularly.  My little girl, Elsie, thinks that all Qantas planes are called Pixie Rourke.  Whenever we go to the airport, she shouts at the top of her lungs: “Look everybody, it’s the Pixie Rourke!” 

We haven’t seen the Pixie Rourke on Lord Howe for a while.  QantasLink has a partnership with The Captain’s Choice Tours and it seems that Pixie is about to head off on a 19 day adventure to Horn Island, Cape York, Kakadu, the Bungle Bungles, Mitchell Falls, Broome, Uluru, Coober Pedy, the Flinders Ranges and Kangaroo Island.  Bon voyage Pixie! 

* Thanks, Ed – you’re the best. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Nappy Saga

I did my first online Woolworths order last week.  The most important thing on the order was three packets of nappies for little Pixie.  Our cargo ship, the Island Trader, has been on the slip and there’s been a five week layover between voyages – so I’m running a bit low on everything.  Especially nappies! 

The ship loads in Port Macquarie on a Wednesday and unloads on Lord Howe on Saturday or Sunday, depending on the tides and how long the voyage takes.  My order was in and confirmed last Thursday.  So imagine my horror when I checked my email last night (after the ship had loaded) to find this: 

Woolworths Out-Of-Stock Notification
We are temporarily out of stock of the following items from your order.
Unit price
Huggies Ultra Dry Nappies Infant Girl Convenience 32pk

The refund amount for the Out-Of-Stock product(s) is $45.12 and will be credited to your Woolworths account and will be automatically deducted from your next order.

Has Woollies really run out of nappies?  That sounds sort of serious.  What is Grant O’Brien [new Woollies CEO] doing?  And couldn’t they have told me about it 6 days ago so that I could order them from someone else?  Help! 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Moods

The Moods are here! 

A fabulous jazz band with a weakness for really bad puns, The Moods are a Pinetrees institution.  They first played at Pinetrees in 1992 and they’ve been coming every year since.  They’ve become a part of Island life.  Their songs are played on Lord Howe radio.  And there are quite a few people who come to Pinetrees every night when The Moods are playing and then disappear for the rest of the year. 

The school kids love them too.  Every year, The Moods play a concert at Pinetrees for the school kids.  One year, they marched the kids all the way from Pinetrees across the cricket ground and back to school, playing “When the Saints Go Marching Out”. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A good G&T

My mum made the best gin and tonics.  She was scathing about pub G&Ts with half-melted ice and post-mix tonic, served in a middy glass.  She said that there was no point having a G&T unless it was a good one. 

If you’re wondering, a good G&T involves:
  • a generous slug of Gordon’s or Bombay Sapphire gin straight from the freezer. Often there was so much gin in the glass that it made your eyes water; 
  • Schweppes tonic water from a 300ml bottle.  Pixie didn’t approve of large half-flat bottles of tonic kept in the fridge door;
  • fresh ice cubes.  Occasionally, if Pixie really wanted to impress, she made the ice cubes from tonic water too; and
  • a generous chunk of lime. 
If a guest asked her to mix a cocktail, she always delegated the task to someone else saying: “I’m the gin and tonic lady”. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Wet, windy and wild

We’ve had some wild weather this week - about 8 inches of rain over a couple of days.  It was so wet that the airport was closed on Thursday. The airport road closed on Thursday too and hasn’t yet re-opened. 

The airport road is between home and Pinetrees so, obviously, I’ve been stuck at home, right?  Wrong!  I’ve been driving to work as normal.  People often say that Lord Howe Islanders have a “healthy disrespect for authority”.  It’s a nice way of saying that we completely ignore rules.  The LHI Board workers are probably the worst.  Although they’re responsible for the road and made the decision to close it, they were the first ones to drive around the "road closed" sign, tearing up the grass in the process.  One of them told me: “Off you go, Dani.  Just stay in the middle of the road.  You’ll be right”. 

Here’s a photo of the “road closed” sign.  Great sign, very official-looking!  Hang on, what’s happened to the grass on the right? 

Here’s the Somerset bus getting stuck in the water.  That’s happened two days in a row. 

 Wait a minute; here comes a bus tour…  

Friday, June 3, 2011

Lord Howe on Kerri-Anne

A little while ago, I was invited to do an interview about living at Lord Howe on Mornings with Kerri-Anne.  In spite of being utterly terrified, I said yes.  It’s not often you have a chance to talk to thousands of people about Lord Howe.  Also, I have a theory that women, not men, make decisions about holidays and lots of women watch Kerri-Anne.  

In the end, Kerri-Anne was away for the week and the interview was with Sophie Faulkner.  When I looked her up on Wikipedia, I discovered that she was born in the same year as me and has a son who is the same age as Elsie.  That made me feel a lot less nervous.  I’m guessing that even supermodel mums spend a lot of time dealing with poo, wee, snot and vegetable refusal.  Having kids is a great leveller.      

So, anyway, here’s the interview.  I hope you enjoy it!  (Personally, I can't watch it.  It's excruciating.  Ever heard a recording of your own voice and winced?  TV is much worse!) 


What you can’t see in the interview is Allan, my father-in-law, who drove me to the interview through very nasty Sydney peak hour traffic and waited patiently in the green room with little Pixie, who fortunately slept through the whole thing.  Thanks Allan! 

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Orange Pages

Yesterday I saw the draft 2011 Lord Howe Island phone book.  The phone book is produced by the P&C Association.  It’s orange, about 20 pages long and includes surnames, first names, kids’ names and nicknames.  The phone book is full of illustrations.  The school kids draw pictures of their families and lots of Lord Howe scenes. 

The phone book I’m using at the moment is dated 2009.  It’s hopelessly out of date and my copy is heavily annotated with new listings and numbers.  Since 2009, people have died, babies have been born, there have been marriages and divorces and lots of people have moved house.  If you’re looking for someone’s number, you need a fair bit of local knowledge.  It isn’t a good idea to rely on an out of date phone book.  Once, when visiting the Island a few years ago, I called a friend on the number listed in the phone book and found myself speaking to her ex-husband.  Very awkward! 

I’ll feel like a real local when my listing has a nickname. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

She smiles

Before Elsie was born, Luke bought his first and only baby book.  Ever the scientist, he chose Baby Watching by Desmond Morris.  Morris writes about the evolutionary reasons for human behaviour.  In one chapter, he examines a baby’s survival mechanisms.  Human babies are helpless.  New babies can’t walk (like baby antelopes) and can’t hold onto their parents (like baby monkeys).  Their only survival tools are crying, which is hard to ignore and smiling, which keeps the parents nearby.    

Pixie’s growing so fast.  When she was a tiny little baby, I used to wrap her up and put her down to sleep immediately after feeding her and changing her nappy.  It’s impossible to do that now – she keeps smiling at me.  The smiles are just irresistible.