Vanilla Pavlova with Berries and…Window Cleaners

I honestly do like tradesmen.  I don’t have an issue with any of them it’s just, I’ve had a few difficulties with window cleaners and I’m sure they’re not all hard to deal with, I just think I’ve had the misfortune to run into a few doozies.

Vanilla Pavlova with Berries

The first one we hired to clean the windows on a fortnightly basis at Carl’s place of business was no trouble at all.  He would do his thing while I continued working, then he’d let me know he’d finished, I’d hand him the cash and say, ‘Thanks for that, see you in a fortnight’.

But then he moved to Queensland.

Grant was the next one we hired.  Grant wanted me to sign a six-month contract.  He loved paperwork.  Used to email it through to me and ask for signatures and come around to collect it and it was all very serious like we were signing off on something for the High Court.  I just wanted the windows cleaned.

It was impossible for me to get any work done while he was there.  That’s because Grant liked to talk me through the process of cleaning the windows.  I would try to bury my head in my computer and look very busy but he was immune to the signals.

Within two minute he’d be talking.  ‘Oh, these windows are a lot dirtier than I thought.  Have you had a lot of people in here?’

‘Not really.’

‘I can see finger prints on this set over here.  It looks like kids have been in here.  Are you sure you haven’t had young kids in here?’

‘Oh, yes, some kids were in here last week’.

‘Well, that’s going to take a bit of time.  Just come over here and take a look at this.’  And I’d be pulled over to have a look at the finger prints like it was a crime scene.  And he’d continue, ‘That’s a sticky substance there and that’s going to take a bit of work.  That’s not just going to come off with my brush.  I’m going to have to get that by hand.  And you see that mark on the other side of the glass?  That’s tar.  That’s from trucks.  When they pass by here at high speed they throw tar up onto the windows.  And that’s not easy to come off either.  That could take me a while.  And look up there.’  And he’d point to the corner of the room.  ‘You see that?’


‘That’s cobwebs.  You’ve got them in all the corners.  Have you had the pest people in?  Because you don’t want cobwebs getting on your windows.  Oh no, they’re on the fly screens too.  I’m going to have to take those off and wash them by hand.  I’ll hose them down outside, wipe them dry, then bring them in.  I’m glad I brought some extra towels.  I won’t bring them in while they’re wet, I’ll make sure I dry them off and…’

And with a bit of God’s mercy the phone would ring and I could excuse myself and pray the person on the other end would keep talking until Grant had finished with the finger prints and the tar and the cobwebs.

At the end of the six months Grant wanted me to sign another contract.  That’s when I took the opportunity to tell him we no longer wanted to sign contracts with window cleaners.

The Pavlova emerges from the oven

Then there was Max.  I didn’t get his name out of the paper, I saw one of his vans parked outside a cafe in Palm Beach, wrote down the number and gave him a call.

The phone call started out fine.  Max was very nice and professional but everything faltered when he asked me how I came to have his number.  I told him where I’d seen his van.  Well this brought on a set of questions like he was a barrister cross-examining me in the witness box.  He said no one at his company was in Palm Beach on that day, at that time.

‘Did you see the van?’

‘What time was it?’

‘Where exactly was it parked?’

‘How long was it there for?’

‘Did you see the driver?’

‘Was he wearing a uniform?’

‘Are you sure it was my business name?’

‘Was the website address written on the side of the van?’

‘Which side?’

On and on and on.  That was my red flag right there.  But no, I let him go ahead and quote and he said he’d phone me back later in the day with what it would cost.  Well at 8.40pm the phone rang and it was Max, clearly working back.  The fee he quoted was 10 times higher than what Grant was charging me so suddenly Grant didn’t seem so bad after all.  I told Max I couldn’t understand how it could be so expensive.  That statement made sure I wasn’t off the phone before nine.  I had to hear about how his team wears a smart uniform, how he’s insured, how much he pays in insurance, how he complies with OH&S, how the job requires two people, how he’d have to bring his longest ladders, what would be involved in the removal of the fly screens and, how he’s looking for a commercial property just like ours and would we like to sell it to him.

I wondered if he was trying to send me barking mad.

We solved the problem.  Carl now cleans his own windows.  He went out and bought a thingy that you attach to the end of a long pole, dip in solution and wipe over the windows.  They’ve never looked better.

Have you had a tradesman make you feel like you’re going mad?

Since posting the food images from my post Australia Day Re-Cap I’ve had a lot of comments from my American friends asking if I would post a recipe for pavlova.  So here it is…


Vanilla Pavlova with Whipped Cream and Berries

Serves:  8

Degree of Difficulty:  2/5

Cost:  This is a very inexpensive dessert as it requires just a few ingredients that you probably already have on-hand.

  • 6 egg whites
  • 1 1/4 cups castor sugar
  • 1 tspn vanilla extract
  • 1 tspn malt vinegar
  • 1 tspn corn flour (plus extra for sprinkling)

Pre-heat oven to 120C (250F).

Line a baking tray with baking paper and sprinkle with corn flour.

In a clean stainless steel bowl pour in egg whites and beat until stiff peaks form.  Add sugar 1 tbspn at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat until glossy (about 5 minutes) then fold in vanilla, vinegar and corn flour.

Use a spatula to spoon onto tray.  Pile meringue into a circle.  You don’t want to flatten the meringue.  Keep the meringue high and in a fairly tight circle as the meringue will flatten slightly and spread during the cooking process.

Cook for 60 minutes, then check to see if it’s cooked by touching the pavlova.  It should feel dry, not sticky.  If still sticky, cook for an additional 15 minutes then re-check.  When cooked turn off oven and allow to cool with the oven door closed.

Remove from oven and slide onto a platter.

Decorate just before serving with whipped cream and fresh fruit.  (Or berry coulis or lemon curd or whatever your prefer).  NB:  The weight of the cream and fruit can flatten the pavlova because it’s a very light dessert so best to decorate as close to serving time as possible.

Have a go at cooking a pavlova and do let me know how you fared.




  1. Dear Charlie Louie,

    For me, I would just tell the tradies point blank to shut up and get on with their work. At the end of the day, I’m sure your time is just as valuable if not more so! The pavlova looks beautiful and we made a mille feuille once with raspberries and blueberries and it looked fabulously French with the combination of those red, blue and white colours!

  2. I’ve never dealt with window cleaners before but they do sound like they require patience! The tradesmen that we used for our place were fine, some very good even. Except the guy that did our bathroom. I’d like to wring his neck but I’d probably have to stand in line!

  3. What a gorgeous pavlova! I actually never had this dessert before and I’ve been curious about it since I learned a couple of months ago. We have a house cleaner who comes to clean our house but she does nice job and she’s nice lady. Only problem is that she sometimes bring her own daughter who’s probably early 20s or younger than 20? She does not clean so well… but it’s so hard to tell the cleaner because that’s her daughter… Oh well. Maybe if it’s worse I have to clean the house more often myself! =P

  4. I was remembering this tile guy I had in my home for what seemed like forever!! He too would not leave me alone and chatted on and on. He was in my home while I was at work but every night I came home to him. Guess he had no one to talk to all day so he got it all out as soon as I stepped into the house!!
    Your pavlova is gorgeous! I’ve only made it once, years ago and really do need to make it again. Not sure why it makes me nervous!!

  5. Hilarious! I have never had any contact with specifically window cleaners, but I will remember that the forbidden thing is letting them talk 😉 Your Pavlova looks terrific!

  6. I want to know what kind of thingy on a long pole that is dipped in solution makes your windows look great. I need one desparately! Can sympathize with the paperwork issues. People seem obsessed with it nowadays.

    • hotlyspiced says:

      Hi Renee, I’ll have to get back to you for the official term. Couldn’t for the life of me remember what the man in the hardware store called it but I think it’s just your regular window cleaning apparatus.

  7. What a beautiful dessert!

    Right now, it’s Sunday morning and I have two heating and cooling men in my basement. These guys (father and son) have done a lot of work for us over the years. They are the best! They even offered to come on Saturday night to get our heat back on (it’s winter here). Some tradesmen are heroes!

  8. I’ve always wanted to make a pavlova. Yours looks fantastic with the berries!

  9. Cute story, albeit frustrating for you. Gorgeous pavlova as well. The last time I made a pavlova, I tried using raspberry vinegar and loved the subtle flavor it imparted. I have never used malt vinegar, but then I am not Australian and thus had no idea! I love learning something new!

  10. My grass cutter/snow removal guy is also a “chatty Cathy” but he’s reliable and very reasonable and after the horrors I’ve had to deal with before him, I’m not going to complain. 🙂

  11. The insurance agency has given me a house cleaner for2 months because if my arms, and I requested a new one after the first day. The lady talked nearly the whole time- and stood still while she did so, got me with casts and sling to move furniture, got asthma from dusting- it really wasn’t that bad, left terrible streaks on the blinds and floor, wouldn’t use my ego and allergy friendly cleaning products- which meant she used nothing but a wet cloth, and the final straw was when I saw her use the cloth straight from the toilet bowl onto the bathroom vanity with out pause. And she was from a professional cleaning company!
    Pavlova is my very favorite dessert, yours looks delicious! I wonder if I could whip one up before breakfast- or for breakfast?

    • hotlyspiced says:

      That is a shocking story! But funny though! How are you going with your shoulder? I can’t believe you managed to post that oven-roasted ratatouille – all that chopping. Hope you’re getting better.

      • Why thankyou Charlie! I have graduated to chopping with my left hand now- I’m getting quite ambidextrous! I lose the sling this week for home use, but I still need to be protected from jiggles when out and about. My arms still quite un-usable, so there’s still a ways to go. I guess slow but steady will be my motto for quite a while still 🙁

  12. Sometimes it can be inexplicably frustrating, when all you want is a simple job done. I used to have a cleaner but firstly I had to clean up before he came ….otherwise he couldn’t clean and complained and like intolerant chef’s experience, there were breaches of cleanliness……… he emptied the mop bucket in my kitchen sink!!

  13. I think I’ve been lucky with my window cleaner, he’s worked here for 12 years! I know he has two children but that’s all. He turns up, cleans and goes. Your pavlova looks great, thanks for posting the recipe. GG

  14. It’s funny how we all remember the horror tradies isn’t it! On the whole we’ve been lucky and had good ones but when we built our house we also come across our fair share of the not so good!

    The pav might I add looks great in its snowy looking deliciousness!

  15. Oh how I love pavlova.

    My air-con man gives me a lecture about how dirty my air conditioner is. By the end of it I felt like crawling into a corner in shame!

  16. My husband fancies himself as pretty handy, so we don’t have a lot of tradesman around. Sometimes I wonder if it wouldn’t be better if we did though; it took a good twelve months for him to finish a retaining wall down the side of our house.

  17. Your pavlova looks perfect! Mine always sinks in the middle 🙁

  18. The pavlova looks amazing 🙂 I’m craving some now hehe I miss meringue type desserts haven’t had some for a wile.

    Sighhh I know how you feel i’ve had some bad experiences with traders especially the pest controllers… but then i’ve met some really nice people, so I guess it depends if you’re lucky ~

  19. that pavlova looks really beautiful and perfect

  20. What makes me barking mad is being told the classic line: ‘I’ll be there sometime between X (morning) and Y (evening)’. So basically, you have to waste a whole day just waiting. I never understood why setting a specific time is so difficult.

  21. I can’t stand those guys, er, gals… they’ve broken a few of our windows but say they were like that to begin with… aargh.. oh, well, forget them and let’s look at your pavlova!! Wow, I’ve never had one fluff up and stay that high, what a beautiful site that is!!!

  22. I was going to suggest cleaning the windows yourself – what an awful and painful ordeal!
    🙂 Mandy

  23. I had no idea what a Pavlova was, let alone how one was made. Thanks for the tutorial!

  24. Lawnmowing men. That was our bugbear – the first one was great, but he sold his business after a year to Adam, who was actually a career fireman, so sometimes he just didn’t show up to do the lawns and when he did, the edges were dodgy. He was truly lovely though, kept trying to sell Pete tropical fish. I think he’s now a Station Master somewhere. Good guy, lousy lawnmower man. Then he sold his business to another guy who showed up for a year, then one day just disappeared. We suspect he might have died, but had no way to find out, his phone number just stopped answering.

    Oh, and house cleaners. Sigh…don’t get me started there. After the third cleaner with the “you know I’m only doing this to make a little money between jobs/uni/acting, I’m really much better than this, and how dare you criticize my work just because the toilet is still filthy when I’m finished?” attitude, I gave up, bought a Roomba and scrubbed the toilets myself. 🙂

    Now Charlie, aren’t you sorry you asked? 😉

  25. Hehe, my parents’ last experience with a window cleaner ended up with one of the younger workmen falling through their garage roof when he stepped on a part of the roof which wasn’t supposed by joists. Thankfully he was fine, and as luck would have it, his brother was a roofer, so the hole was all patched up by the evening, free of charge!

    Great looking pavlova – I haven’t had one of these babies in ages – it’s one of my favourite desserts!

  26. This looks amazing! I’ve never made a Pavlova before and have never seen malt vinegar used in a meringue recipe. Must try!

  27. Pavlova was my Scottish grandmother’s favorite dessert because – even way back in the ’70’s – she was smart enough to know that she needed to be gluten-free. My husband doesn’t like mereigne (sp!) so I’ve never made it, but it looks so gorgeous!!! I’ve tried to make it at Easter before, but it is often too humid by then so it didn’t turn out too well…

    • hotlyspiced says:

      Yes, humidity is a problem with meringue so it is easier to make during the cooler months. I had trouble with this pavlova and the meringues I posted recently. They go soft with the humidity. We have humidity going on here in a big way at the moment.

  28. Ehat horrible luck with the window cleaners! We recently replaced all of our old windows in our 1928 house, you can clean both sides from the inside!
    That pavlova looks incredible! I’ll have to try making one, I’ve never made one before!

  29. I’ve had various tradesfolk come to our place for estimates and repairs, and though I’ve always felt bad playing video games while they worked, I’ve not had problems, except for when one guy does e estimate, another does the work, and the first guy comes back for something else and notices it got done, but he didn’t do it. Which is awkward.

  30. I just watched someone make a beautiful pavlova on the Food channel. Not as gorgeous as yours, of course! I’ve never made one as was a little worried about whether I could pull it off. But if you’re going to give it a 2 out of a 5 on the difficulty scale – then I’m going to go for it! 🙂


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