Tuesday, 31 December 2013

happy are the tea makers...

Making a cup of tea for mum must be one of life's essential lessons, don't you think?!  I don't remember the first I made, but know how lovely it is to have my own young tea maker on board.  Such concentration on that 10 year old face!
Making tea from scratch requires much patience - waiting for the kettle to boil, then the added delay while the leaves brew in the pot…  and all worthwhile for a very willing recipient, I can tell you.  Thank you Tom, can't wait for the next one!

Saturday, 28 December 2013

christmas 2013

Christmas 2013 photos are pretty light on - but perhaps it's not too surprising to find that it's hard to host dinner and take one million and one pictures…  Even without the photographic evidence, I can attest to a very successful day - more than enough presents and food for everybody - phew!  Joe and I feel as though we're grown-ups now we've finally hosted our first Christmas.  Luckily I was very organised, having pre-prepared a lot of food, which made the day all the more easier.  A great first run through before next year, when our numbers will surely grow with extra family around.
Perhaps my greatest relief was not being woken by Tom when he went to the toilet around 2 o'clock in the morning and decided to go through his stocking.  I don't know whether I would have recovered from that one…  Nor the early start at 5.30am when he woke again and pulled his sister from a drowsy sleep, enticing her to check her own stocking…  Don't you just love these cheesy grins prior to opening their main presents from us?  And below, the intense work that followed - putting the Lego sets together…
Tom was given a building on fire and Sophie, a cargo plane - both very well received gifts.  Jono now has a Lego starter kit - the beginning of quite an obsession, if his siblings are anything to go by!
 Can you believe this is the state of the table once the dishes were all cleared?  As one of my friends said, it looks too clean!  Lucky for me though, as I'm not too keen on spending hours in the laundry removing stains...
My Christmas miracle is the beautiful gardenia bloom - my older sister's family gave me money for my birthday last year and I bought gardenias.  This is the first of them to bloom - and on Christmas day!  It made a sweet smelling centrepiece on the table, along with my homegrown roses.
One of the most exciting recent additions to our house is our childhood piano.  Both Tom and Sophie are now learning little bits and bobs from me - we're on to Hot Cross Buns and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star at the moment.  Along with the beautiful tunes, we're loving its dual purpose as a stand-in mantelpiece.  I've always loved a well-cluttered space in the house for family photos and assorted memorabilia - not so much the dusting, but I think it's worth the effort - don't you?!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

on the day before christmas...

Christmas finally arrived in our house when the tree went up on Friday.  I was lucky to buy the last one in our local supermarket, with the added bonus of home delivery.  The kids were delighted to find it waiting for them when they came home from school - what a way to start the holidays!  They were beginning to think they were living with the grinch with no decorations around - there just hasn't been a spare moment to do anything.  I'm just as happy as they are to see a tree in the house - and nothing beats the smell of a real Christmas tree!
We're hosting Christmas here this year - after mum and Errol's big move, it is far the easier option.  The kids are very excited about having Christmas in their own home and not having to budge on the big day.  The menu is planned and I started on food yesterday - an unintentionally boozy ice-cream Christmas pudding.  I soaked the dried cranberries and apricots in brandy and may have added more than was needed.  Lucky I am so good at tasting as I work, so I was able to round out the flavour with a bit of vanilla, cinnamon and sugar.  With the honeycomb, chocolate and slivered almonds, this will hopefully be a hit!
This morning I've been roasting vegetables for our gravy and separately roasting beetroot for a salad.  Our menu is looking pretty tasty and I'm hoping to get a lot of the preparations knocked over today.  There's cleaning to do as well, I don't know how long my efforts will last with three kids, two dogs (babysitting mum and Errol's dog Bear) and a cat around, but we will keep our fingers crossed...

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

winterfold: saying goodbye

I didn't mean to step away for so long, in fact I didn't even mean to step away...  it's just been one of those ridiculously busy times where something has had to give - and my poor neglected blog has been the very thing...  A few months ago, my mum and step-father made the very hard decision to sell their farm.  This started off a chain of busy-ness - much like a whirlwind, maybe even a tornado - from which I haven't yet been put down. 
 If I think of the months since then, it's been one of those busy times at home anyway - kids' sport on weekends, establishing new garden beds, running around after three children, my Poppies project coming to fruition... add in the sale of 'Winterfold' and there's not been a moment to draw breath.  Mum and Errol bought it in 2000 and it's become a much loved home.  Set in rugged granitic ranges in some of Victoria's most beautiful scenery, it's been the place of many adventures for our family.
The garden is just stunning and I spent many hours taking hundreds of photos of it and the house to add to the real estate agent's images on the internet.  There was much mowing, pruning and sprucing and we did the best to help with that as we raced around with our own commitments.  When the property sold, it went with a five week settlement - that time is up today!  All of a sudden the sheds had to be cleared and this meant the huge pile of belongings we had in storage had to be dealt with - and to do that we had to make room at home...
We've had a lot of family come home to say goodbye and even pulled bon bons in lieu of a final Christmas on the farm.  Family and friends have been terrific and my mum and Errol are blessed to surrounded by such lovely people.  The support they've had has been tremendous.  Thirteen years in one place doesn't sound long, but this is the place they've put their hearts and souls, much love and effort has made 'Winterfold' what it is today.  It was the place where Joe and I made our commitment to each other, marrying under an ash tree in December 2001.  The place we returned to having spent the first years of marriage living in Ireland.  The place where we have welcomed and farewelled beloved family members.
The stunning crepe myrtle has created a backdrop for beautiful family photos - this one a few years ago, with a preschool Sophie and a young looking Tom!  Joe has dug up a few suckers from the tree's base and we're doing our best in this heatwave to nurture them through.  We've brought home many cuttings from the garden and will grin and bear the season's high water bill to get everything going!  Hopefully we will keep it all alive, adding to the plants we moved up here earlier in the year.

I kept planning to come back here to this space - my blog - and document these last moments as they occurred, but it's been impossible to finish a thought, let alone put finger to keyboard.  There hasn't been any writing - the only work I've sat down to is the paid kind, much needed at this time of year!  With school holidays commencing on Friday, it doesn't seem likely to quieten down anytime soon - and if it wasn't for Avril's kind comment this morning, wondering how I was getting on, I may not have returned for a while longer.  But as a blog reader as much as a writer, I, too, have pondered on people's absences and unexplained ones can be troublesome.  It's with much pleasure I can report all's well, if only ridiculously chaotic...  Stay tuned over the next little while for a catch up of what we've been doing around the house and garden...

Until then, thank you for reading - and Avril, thank you for asking!

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

the trouble with library books...

... is that they have to be returned!  I would have loved to have kept each and every one of these books - not that I need any of them, if need should have anything to do with it!  From Meredith Kirton's Grow, Harvest, Cook to Bob and Sophia Palmer's amazing culinary tour of Morocco, I could happily while the hours away with these tomes.  Each of them is so beautifully presented, confirming for me I would only build a digital collection of books if every hard- and paperback book in the world disappeared.  It appears that producers of real, actual, hold-them-in-your-hand-and-love-them books are working harder than ever to put together attractive bundles of papery delights - and it's working.
Just look at these images, for example - cute animal toppers from the aptly named Sweet Paper Crafts, one of the many delicious collections from The Flower Recipe Book and one of the proliferous fabulous paintings from Watercolor.  It seemed wrong to return the books on time when they just needed a little longer in my home.  We've become well acquainted, they're on my wish list and one day when the budget stops slipping in to the red, they will grace my bookshelves - I hope!  Long live books - preferably those you can hold and snuggle up on the couch with, no electricity required!

PS All are returned now, if you're hoping to reserve them from my library!!

Monday, 28 October 2013

taking a walk on the wild side...

This post was meant to be about the legendary Paul Kelly, about whom the documentary 'Stories of Me' aired on ABC last night.  A quick glance at the headlines this morning, however, revealed the death of Lou Reed.  This iconic man of music will be forever remembered through his songs, particularly 'Walk on the Wild Side', one of my all-time favourites, even though the lyrics only revealed themselves in their entirety as I grew older!  One of my high school boyfriends was a huge fan, particularly 'Romeo had Juliette', 'Dirty Boulevard' and 'Vicious'.  Funny how music takes you back... not to said boyfriend however - shudder!!

Kelly, whose former band The Coloured Girls were apparently named for a line from 'Wild Side', could be considered our Australian Reed for his prodigious songwriting talents.  His anthems form odes to our country - 'Leaps and Bounds', 'To her Door', 'From Little Things Big Things Grow', 'How to Make Gravy' to name just a few.  I remember my best friend being given the album 'Under the Sun', probably for a birthday or maybe just because.  I was so jealous - I knew all the words of 'To her Door' and she didn't - it should have been mine!!

Last night's documentary reminded me I don't have enough Paul Kelly songs in my collection.  As Megan Washington said, 'he was the guy who wrote all the songs'.  For me - somebody who's trying to make and find both time and energy to write  - I am in awe of a person who truly lives out their creative desires, always chasing the next song.  It must be so satisfying to so fully express oneself - I look forward to the day when I can say the same thing about myself...

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

vege gardening - communal style...

This is the sum total of our home vegetable garden efforts.  It's not for the lack of wanting more, it's just that setting up these raised beds is sooooooo expensive.  This planter alone was around the hundred dollar mark and I think I filled it with nearly that much worth in soil and straw alone.  The poppy project has introduced me to our local community garden - my project partner is a keen gardener, her raised beds are producing in abundance.  I have now taken up some beds of my own and today planted out seed potatoes - kipflers, nicolas and other randoms that sprouted at home.  I've added some sugar snap pea seeds to the edges of the bed - they're past their plant-before-by-date, but I didn't think there was any harm in trying.

Jono came along and occupied himself by trying to help with digging, planting and watering.  At 2 and a half his attention span is rather short, so I was amazed I got away with spending nearly a couple of hours there - I don't think I'll always be that lucky!  I brought home a basket filled with herbs that are grown for everyone to share and a lovely fresh leek that I look forward to frying in a little butter and having with dinner.  I can't wait to start eating our own produce and so much sooner than had I waited til we could afford to set up something here... which is just as well, because between Joe's car breaking down last week (battery AND fuel pump!) and our washing machine finally dying this morning, that home vege patch is looking a lot further away!!

Friday, 18 October 2013

afternoon tea

The kids came home with holes the size of bowling balls in their stomachs earlier this week.  A quick flick through the Women's Weekly Biscuits and Slices book and it was on - baked chocolate slice.  Tom and Soph made quite a team, although fights over licking the bowl ensued.  One had the slice mix bowl, the other, the icing...  And mum had to try a little herself!  This was their first joint effort at cooking and hopefully something that will continue.  By Tom's age, I was baking cakes by myself, so I feel remiss I haven't let him run wild in the kitchen before now.  If the slice was anything to go by, I will be encouraging Tom's (and Sophie's) presence in the kitchen a bit more regularly!!

PS.  Sibling bliss is often short-lived.  The next day, Sophie cut their pieces of slice to take to school and was quickly accused of short-changing her brother.  I stepped in, adding a couple of extra bits to make sure each received the same size.  Then Sophie was upset because she thought Tom was getting more...  I took out the scales and weighed their servings and that was the end of that!

PPS Help!!

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

bill's sweet peas

It was almost like winning the lottery today, meeting the owner of one of my favourite local gardens.  It's down by the creek, a rambling old garden treasure with old classics - roses (climbing and bush), chinese lanterns, pansies and the most beautiful sweet peas you can imagine.  We exchanged greetings and comments about the weather which lead to me professing my love for his garden.  Tickled, he chatted on - he had always loved gardening and enjoyed trying new things.
His sweet peas were about my height, climbing yards up a frame made from what appeared to be old tomato stakes and chook netting.  He had bought them as seedlings, not knowing what colours he'd get, but hoping for some two-tone specimens.  He's not sure how they grow like that and would like to find out more.  Perhaps he'll work it out one day, he thinks.  Bill says the bees don't go near them, so he can't work out how they're pollinated - perhaps it was the wind?
'Would you like some?' Bill asked and sweet peas being sweet peas, there was no way I could refuse. They were one of the first things I grew as a newly-wed on the west coast of Ireland, right on the edge of the Atlantic.  They survived the wild winds in their little planter box - not quite gales as it was summer after all.  I just remember the sheer joy I took from that little offering of my first garden.  I have some growing this year too - seedlings, so like Bill I'm not sure what colours will spring up.  Bill has inspired me to grow more next year and I know just how as well...  tomato stakes and chook netting anybody?!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

bake offs, challenges and competitions...

Have you been watching The Great British Bake Off?  The whole tone is so much more pleasant than the Australian version!  Yes, everybody is in a competition, but they seem very supportive of each other, unlike the rivalries that occurred on ours...  Also, they have fascinating tidbits about the origins of various baked goods - pork pies last night which was really interesting.  Feeling inspired by last week's macaron episode, I got to baking with Sophie on Saturday.  I must admit, they're not particularly exciting to make if you're a child - too much waiting!  It was interminable for the poor girl - firstly having to wait while the little circles were traced on to the baking paper and then the horror of having to patiently wait for the shells to harden prior to baking.  And then they still had to cook and cool down and... you get the picture!  Worse still was the realisation that she didn't really like them - next time, Soph, it's cupcakes!

Now these are footless macarons - I don't know whether my mixture was too wet or if I piped them out too thick and inhibited their rising in the oven?  I do know, however, that I'm not going to make it a challenge to find out how to perfect the macaron.  The way of perfection, I feel, is a slippery slope with far too much tasting and testing involved than is good for the waistline.  No, they will only be tested again with purpose - if I know I am going somewhere or have people coming here who can share the goods.  Just making them for the family is not going to happen!!

Sunday, 6 October 2013

the writer's edition: month 7 check-in

Seven months in (plus however long it took all those years ago before I lost confidence and shelved my project) and I have just over 20,000 words left to write.  And to be honest with you, I've only just written once this month and that was today - 441 words to be precise.  I've done some editing - so easy when it's just a matter of picking up an A4 folder and opening up to a chapter, usually the first which I have been over and over and over.  But of course, being the first, it has to be just right.  If it doesn't grab the reader's attention - and especially a publisher's - it's all over, red rover!

And whilst not writing at full speed this past month - well these past few months - I continue to read, read, read.  I will be in the middle of reading a sentence from a random book and a small piece of text will come in to my head.  This morning, for example, I was reading dialogue between a couple skirting around a relationship - something completely unrelated to the thought it triggered which was a new scene between Emily and her mother.  Bizarre, I know, nothing to do with the 'will they or won't they' that I was reading in the book.  I think it's almost a matter of seeing beyond the writing and in to the method, if that makes sense?!

I'm hoping to write more consistently this month.  Term 4 begins on Monday and I have my fingers crossed that the warmer weather will mean less lurgies and more opportunities for writing new content. All in my own time of course, there's no place for superwoman here!  My original deadline is March - this is to have the 80,000 words finished and ready for editing.  That means about 4,000 words per month between now and then...  I think I will take it month by month and see.  Until next time!

Friday, 4 October 2013

the books beside the bed...

It's a delight to be able to say that great reads are coming in from the library thick and fast.  As soon as my holds come in, I'm back on the library's database ordering more.  It's a great way of ensuring a quick wait for new releases - often I'm first on the list.  This week I have absolutely devoured Margot, Jillian Cantor's imagined tale of the survival of Anne Frank's sister, now posing as a Gentile and living in 1950s Philadelphia.  It is one of the best books I've read lately and possibly ever.  Checking reviews on Amazon, there were a couple of readers who questioned this novel, one who said she thought it didn't convey the depth of Margot Frank's (now posing as Margie Franklin) experiences.  Another doubted she would have remained in hiding and felt she would have contacted her father to say she was alive.  To those readers I say every work of fiction is a hypothesis.  Who of any of us could say how we would feel in that situation?  That moving to America from the horrors of war, only to find synagogues were being firebombed in the very city you moved to, wouldn't make you hide your religion?  This is a truly magnificent read, fast-paced, well-written tension - please let me know what you think!

It's been interesting to read two other fictionalised accounts of World War II recently, Liz Tolsma's Snow on the Tulips (set in the Netherlands) and The Time Between, Karen White's novel which contains flashbacks to war-torn Hungary.  As with the recollections in Margot - and of course the true account of The Diary of Anne Frank - Snow on the Tulips features people in hiding.  The young widow Cornelia is already sheltering her younger brother Johan, when he arrives home one morning with Gerrit, a man on the run.  I am going to seem slightly hypocritical here when I say that I think these people were not careful enough with their attempts to hide from their oppressors - when really, as in the comments I made above, who am I to say what people would do in that situation?  But there were so many moments - from Cornelia making cups of coffee with multiple cups on the benches (what if her house had been searched at that moment?) to Gerrit going undercover so he could support Cornelia at a funeral - when I thought the characters were too blasé about their own safety.  Having read Anne Frank as a schoolgirl, I saw real people who spent their time in an attic, not leaving until they were found...

Karen White's novel is set in America in present day.  The Time Between has three narrators: sisters Eve and Eleanor and elderly Helena, who escaped Hungary during the war.  This is the first of Karen White's novels I've read and I'm delighted to think she has written many others - now it's just a matter of ordering them in to my local library.  Eleanor becomes a kind of carer/companion to Helena, set up through the older woman's nephew Finn.  Eleanor works for Finn already and comes to this new position after a tragedy.  This is another highly readable novel, Helena's recollections of wartime Hungary keeping the trauma of the World War II alive, another account of another family in another country.  As Joshua - Margot's employer - says: 'You know what scares me most?'........ 'That people will forget, and it will happen again.'  Let us hope that through reading - whether it be fiction or non-fiction - and other accounts, that we will remain forever horrified at these experiences and guard against similar such atrocities into the future.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

the ring thing...

Last week I looked down at my engagement ring only to see a little black hole where one of the stones should be.  I'd been weeding - gloveless - and prior to that cooking dinner.  It could be anywhere and at that miniscule size, it could even have been in our dinner, a chewy little peppercorn that escaped unnoticed.  I've been regarding my ring and its worn down setting and thinking I must get something done about it, must get something done about it...  but it's in such dire need of rebuilding, I could only see dollar signs and turned the other way.  Now, though, I've added even more dollar signs, so I am turning away from it completely.  I slipped the ring off my finger and will now rotate through the odds and sods, the crumbs of my jewellery box if you will.

But this first one, this engagement ring came to us via an antique shop in Kati Kati, New Zealand.  Joe and I had been skirting around 'the future' on this trip to see my sister and her then boyfriend in 2000.  He bought the ring and took until 24 hours later to pop the question in the campervan in which we were staying, suffering the worst flu imaginable.  Can you remember the flu around that time?  In Australia, we called it the New Zealand flu and over there, the Australian flu?  Wherever it evolved, it was nasty. We had waited in such anticipation for this trip and spent it huddled by the fire, sweating out the illness, noses draped in tissues.

When Joe asked me to marry him, I found it hard to take seriously the pyjama-clad, Kleenex laden, unshaven man in front of me.  I said to ask me again when he'd showered.  And then again when he was dressed.  And then said yes.  We figured if we wanted to marry each other when we felt so sick and looked so dreadful, that it was a good omen.  I do laugh when I hear about other people's engagement stories, in contrast so romantic to our fluey tale, a camper van rather than a rose petal filled hotel room.

But I digress... Uninscribed, we know nothing of the ring's origins.  And now a small piece of it is missing.  It's kind of like losing a tooth, but if I put it under my pillow, there will not be something there in the morning.  One day we will fix this ring, but until then, it will be remain, gap-toothed and safe from further losses.  Only valuable in terms of the immense meaning behind it, not a calculation of however many months' worth of Joe's wage, just a little something picked up in a far away place and something to join us for eternity.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

the chocolate wagon...

I lasted four months without lollies, cakes etc. but on Father's Day I fell...  The kids were making Joe luscious chocolate desserts and I lost my will.  The chocolate self saucing pudding won and I have not been able to hoist myself back on the wagon again, losing my bet with Joe that I could last until December without any of life's delicacies.  Which was just as well, because today Sophie and I made Alice Medrich's cocoa brownies and they were delicious... gooey soft centres and terribly moreish.  Click on the link to Smitten Kitchen's adaption of the recipe - I defy you to resist temptation!

Friday, 27 September 2013

recent library books...

It's no secret that I love our local library.  I'm a great user of their internet search, in which they're linked to other libraries throughout Victoria.  Simply by adding '2013' into the publication date field, I'm able to reserve new books left, right and centre.  Then it's just a matter of running into the library and picking my books up from the reserve shelf - brilliant!  There have been more than a few gems lately and I feel very spoilt...
Real Homes offers a beautiful glimpse of stunning places around the world - nothing overdone, just images of places filled with items their owners love.  They really are...  real homes.  Just gorgeous.  I've taken lots of pictures of the pages for inspiration - outdoors and in.  Here's an example above - I love the artworks featured against the crisp white walls.
From the books in this pile and in the top, I would highly recommend Until I Say Good-Bye.  When she was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease), journalist Susan Spencer-Wendel set about living a year of joy - holidays with family and loved ones and living positively, rather than dwelling on the impending downsides of her incurable illness.  Susan wrote this book with her THUMB on an Iphone and presents an extraordinary view of resilience.  It's an amazing story and made even more so with Susan's wonderful sense of humour.

Another worthy mention is Just What Kind of Mother Are You? by Paula Daly - see what happens when a young schoolgirl goes missing.  The fact that she was meant to have been picked up by a school friend's mother adds another twist to the tale.  I wouldn't recommend reading the end first - don't ask me why, but I did.  Somebody else I know has the same bad habit...  Not recommended!!  Anyway...

Shoot the Moon by Billie Letts is an older book that I picked up off the shelves.  It's a tale of a young man's return to the town from which he'd disappeared as a baby.  He has only recently found out that he was adopted and goes in search of his mother.  When he finds out his disappearance coincided with her murder, he starts looking for answers.  It's another beautifully written novel and well worth searching out.

Anita Hughes' Lake Como is a quick and easy read based in the world of Italian aristocracy.  Hughes is an Australian living in America and this is the first time I've read her work.  A classic beach read and one for the school holidays when it's hard to concentrate on anything heavier.  Great work!

Gardening in Miniature is a favourite book of Sophie's and I think she'd like to see it appearing in her Christmas stocking.  She was inspired to make a miniature garden at her nana and pa's place and would like to make a few at home.  She wants you to know it is a very fun book and she really liked it.

What about you?  Any recent recommendations or old favourites??

Monday, 23 September 2013

the colour coded bookshelf - want, want, want!

Have you fallen for it too?  The colour coded bookshelf?!  The bane of people who like to sort their books into genres (for they seem to have no colour boundaries), you will find yourself fossicking through your bookshelves to create a kaleidoscope of colour and intent.  My mum and step-father are on the move and we're been helping to declutter - I'm sure my work on mum's bookshelves in her study will sell the place!
I kept it simple - just the blue, red and green - and was able to merge excess books into two other sets of bookshelves in the house.  I just love how it looks and will have to vicariously enjoy it while I still can - we only have one set of bookshelves in use at the moment and they're in Tom's room.  I'm hoping that one day we can have something similar to these shelves, also incorporating my computer and office 'stuff'.
It's amazing what a great effect it has for not too much work - and it creates such a restful scene with them all sorted further into height order.  It really appeals to my latent organised side, the one I'm trying to let come to the fore... and declutter my own house...  What about you?  Have you tried the colour coded bookshelf?  Did it last?!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

poppies - take your pick!

Today's all about the poppies - Flanders rather than mum's beautiful Californian poppies out in full bloom on the weekend.  I'm heading to our local community garden to pot up Flanders poppy seedlings to be replanted in newly constructed council garden beds.  These new planting areas have been made for our Poppies for Remembrance project to commemorate our Victoria Cross winners and former service personnel - hopefully they will be out in full bloom in November for Remembrance Day.  Meanwhile at home I have a lovely collection of donated knitted and crocheted poppies just waiting to be made into bunting - with only just over seven weeks to go, it's time to get crafting!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

the writer's edition: month 6 check-in

I was going to subtitle this post 'The Opposite of Writing' because that's what I've been doing: reading, not writing.  After last week's post, happily thinking to myself that both kids were at school, I had a phone call to say there was a sore tummy and could I come and do a pick up?  So yeah, another month like that hasn't done much for my productivity!  Instead, I've been reading again and have found a few gems I will pass on to you.  It's been good then to turn around from books I've really loved and pick up my own work in progress afresh...  and discover that I really love it too!  Proving that really, you have to write what you love, otherwise what's the point?

Look, who knows where this will go, but if I don't try I will never know.  It's unlikely that it will happen overnight and, with my own family responsibilities, I don't even know whether I will make my own deadline.  It's hard to make plans with young children and achieve what I want to professionally without any kind of childcare for Jono.  He doesn't start kinder til next year and even then it's only a few hours a week.  There's plenty of time for writing yet, my kids being young will be over in the blink of an eye.  And that's what I'm going to savour - writing when I can, enjoying what I have here at home.  Life's too short to be superwoman!

Now, for the book recommendations:

Green Vanilla Tea - Marie William's husband is in his early forties when his personality changes immeasurably.  It takes a couple of years for him to be diagnosed with early onset dementia and motor neurone disease - a heartbreaking story, but a lovely read about an incredible, international cohort of friends and relatives who unite behind this family of four.

Far to Go - Alison Pick's Man Booker Prize finalist historical fiction novel tells the compelling story of the Bauer family's experiences as the Nazis sweep into Czechoslovakia.  It's a very interesting book and has a twist that at first slightly almost irritated me, but as I accustomed to the mechanics of the tale, I settled back down and enjoyed the story.  I'd be very interested to hear from you if you've read this book - I found I just had to keep reading, each paragraph lead so well into the next, a brilliant find!

Simply from Scratch - This is a very easily read novel from Alicia Bessette.  Rose-Ellen Carmichael Roy's husband has died in a post-Hurricane Katrina relief mission in New Orleans.  Despite the subject matter, there is a lightness and warmth to the writing - I enjoyed seeing new friendships develop and existing relationships at work.  I look forward to hearing more from Alicia Bessette.

I've just picked up another huge haul from the library, so hope to add to these recommendations as time goes on.  What have you read lately?  What should I reserve next?

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

painting and planting

Sunshine and spring have finally arrived!  We've had the most fabulous time over the past few days, creeping outside and enjoying the fresh air, kids bouncing wildly on the trampoline, making new garden beds out the front and back, even planting out a hedge.  The nurseries nearby are doing great trade from us, I can tell you that much!
Jono and I watered our new plants, then came inside for a painting session.  I just love watching him work, so serious!  He's so careful with the paint too - the other guys just used to mix the colours on the paint into a brown splodge.
There's nothing really to share from our morning's efforts - just lines, shapes, marks, swirls.  It's not really about painting something, but more moving the paint around - hard to do anything requiring any concentration with a toddler at my side!

Monday, 26 August 2013

later winter outtakes

It's lovely to look out the living room window at my budding flowers - a great distraction from the continued lurgies that are lurking in our home.  Last week I had my first ever trip in an ambulance, courtesy of a small one's croup.  It was described as mild to moderate, but enough to keep us in hospital overnight (I would hate to see moderate to severe croup, this bout scared me as it was...).  It's been hard to make plans and stick to them with either one or all of the kids sick over the past little while, so it's become easier to just let each day happen as it comes.  It's life with plenty of outtakes at the moment, like the spilled water on the bench and the flowers knocked out of their vase...  Beautiful, yes, but not as planned!

Thursday, 15 August 2013

new plants - good for the soul

Our nursery visit on Monday coincided with a quick storm and heavy rain, forcing us undercover.  I picked up the bargains I could find in a short amount of time, not wanting to get completely soaked.  My purchases have vastly improved the view from my bedroom window, which looks out on to a green colourbond fence - ew!  I'm hoping the ornamental quince will shoot up fast and stay in flowering mode year round - it's just gorgeous!  It's been joined by both red and yellow tulips and chinese star jasmine.  The dutch iris in the foreground was a gift from our lovely friends (along with a Chinese elm and a Japanese maple - lucky us!) and has been planted in full sun out in the back garden - can't wait to see it bloom.  Slowly, slowly, the garden is becoming ours...

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

laughing over broken eggs...

What do you do if an egg breaks and you're 6 and a half and full of mischief?  Squelch it between your hands of course!  It looks like thick homemade cornstarch paint and Sophie thought it felt terrific!
We're back from a quick break away in NSW, catching up with old friends and their two beautiful children.  We couldn't have asked for better weather on Saturday and Sunday - cold, but glorious blue skies and sunshine.  Perfect weather for picking jonquils!
Horse riding is now 'the' thing to do as far as my kids are concerned.  I'm about to sign off and find out about riding lessons - hideously expensive?  Here's hoping they're not!

Edited to add:
No riding lessons locally for under tens - Sophie will be very disappointed!  And the lessons for ten year olds are $50...  help!

Monday, 5 August 2013

the writer's edition: month 5 check-in

The leaps and bounds I'd hoped to make this past month have been largely affected by poor health.  I find this time of year is a real challenge, whether it be having kids home sick from school or else being unwell myself.  In fact, it was at this time of year Joe and I looked at each other and thought that three children really was enough, we couldn't manage having to deal with four sick kids in winter!  Snotty noses and sore tummies make for wonderful birth control!!!!!!!!  Anyway, the impact of poor health on my writing has meant I'm only just over 57,000 words and I haven't got as far as I'd hoped with my editing and re-writes.  I have transferred my manuscript into a folder though, with each chapter in a separate section.  This makes it easier to edit and work on my chapters as  I prefer editing by hand, then transferring those changes back to the file on the computer.  

Please cross your fingers that the winter lurgies flee and that the next month brings great health and productivity!  Until then...

Thursday, 1 August 2013

ch-ch-ch-changes...

We've spent the past seven months getting used to how we live in our new house and our set-up hasn't been quite right.  We had the couch positioned so you could only see inside, whereas I love lying on the couch and looking out into the garden.  We were watching television in our kitchen/living room and thinking we'd prefer to be in our sitting room at the front of the house (which is also my office, but more about that later)....  There was only one way to find out if another way would be better and on Monday evening we bit the bullet.  Please see our new dining area - open and spacious.  We love it!  I'm also really enjoying having my glass cabinet on display finally!  I bought it second-hand in about gosh, 2007 or 2008 and this is the first time it's working as intended.
And there, at the back, is our new sitting area, complete with couch readily positioned for gazing into the garden.  There's a lot more actual seating area than where we had it previously (see here), plus we don't have the kitchen table blocking the view to the back.  My double dining table has disappeared momentarily, as I've stolen our 'new' dining table for a temporary desk.  Yes, I've relinquished my office space!  It wasn't as big a sacrifice as I thought it would be.  In fact, in time when it's set up properly, we will have created a hot-desking type situation - a homework space for the kids and a workspace for Joe and I.  Photos will come when it's looking a little less paper strewn and a lot more aesthetically pleasing!
And we're not the only ones happy with our new kitchen/living/office space.  Minnie was caught enjoying a spot of sunshine - it looked like such a lovely place to chill out I lay there for a while myself!    I'll share more with you over the coming days - it's as much a revelation to myself.  It shows the benefits of having a very flexible living space, which is one of the things that was important to us when we built.  Now, it's proven just how valuable that kind of space is - and with the television in the front room, it's also out of sight, out of mind.  A bit easier to ignore when it's not just sitting there, staring at the kids and reminding them when it's turned off!

Monday, 29 July 2013

hard waste - really?!

Mum's eagle eyes spotted these lovely dining chairs in one of Melbourne's hard waste collections.  Now they weren't looking exactly like this at the time, but she could see the potential and whipped them in to the boot of the car.  My step-father did a wonderful job of attending to the fixing and painting and they're breathing some fresh air into our house.  The paint I chose was from Taubmans - Green Imp and Violet Eclipse.  I wonder what their old owners would say if they saw them now?!  Or how much they would pay for them if they saw the chairs for sale in a shop?!
And this child?  He will give you an idea of how delighted I was to hear our washing machine finishing a cycle only moments ago.  It flat out refused to work on Friday and I've had the technician tinkering with it this morning - for what will probably be the last time, unfortunately.  We've had the machine for over eight years and I've never been entirely enamoured of it, but I'm not quite ready to see it go.  I asked for brand recommendations and our technician said he doesn't really give them these days, as everything is so bad!  At a pinch, if you were going for something cheaper he would say LG, if not, it would be Asko or Miele...  roll on tax refund!  It's sad really, as I can see the connection between throwing out two perfectly repairable chairs and whitegoods that are really made to break down so you buy something new.  I see little point in introducing carbon taxes and other environmental initiatives when you know, at heart, it's not going to make any difference to the poorly made goods out there...  In the meantime, we will fix and recycle what we can, but it's pretty disheartening all the same.