Sunday, 30 December 2012

2012: Other bloggers' best bits

I was going to write about all the things that stand out for me this year – finding a local food co-op that supports my ideals on food, green smoothies that have become a good habit, spending the day with awesome sourdough makers, time alone just the two of us in the Hunter, the garden. Oh, my garden

But rather than harp on about me and what all of this has meant for my happiness, I'm going to mention instead the best bits I've enjoyed from other writers. This band of bloggers (and there are too many to list here) are a support network in many ways. Knowing there are other people who do things the way I do, who think the way I do is exhilarating. It's togetherness.

These are some of my favourite reads this year. The tender, the funny, the inspiring, the informative, the beautifully written... all of it. I'll do more of this type of post next year so I can include more from my band of bloggers.

  • The beat of my drum from Maxabella Loves. "Beautiful music is playing within you." I always have danced to my own beat, but it's good to see it written so well in black and white.
  • In pursuit of simple from Inner Pickle. "Turns out there's nothing at all bloody simple about it." So true.
  • Some day from Foxs Lane. "Some day they'll be just down the hill." Just like my mum.
  • High from Typically Red. "... as high as the glass of wine I'm about to pour myself right now." Oh yes.
  • Memo from Che & Fidel. "Please keep yourself fit and healthy. I need you." I need to pin this on my wall.
  • Natural alternatives around the home from The Little Gnome's Home. "Coconut oil is used as sunscreen." Going to try this.
  • The cost of buying supermarket brands is too high from Little Eco Footprints. "... someone is paying..." And paying a very high price.
  • Can ya dig it? from Happiness Stuff and Nonsense. "Love this stuff. It's getting into my veins." My sentiments exactly.
  • Buying plants from This Brown Wren. "... large glass bottles of 'happy cow' milk." I live in Steph's bubble too.
  • Conversation inducing from The Beetle Shack. "... busy hands and a still mind." Collecting seeds, just like mum and I did yesterday with the coriander. My first year collecting my own seeds.

If you like coming to my little place, you'll love reading these posts. It's funny, now that I look at them all together, I see that they sum me up perfectly. I like that.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Turning two

Our luscious, bumbly, tender-hearted little boy is two. Two whole years. It was a rocky start – it's hard to imagine the tiny baby and toddler are the same person – but I can't get enough of him now.

I love how he yells for me first thing in the morning, how he likes to sleep on my chest and wake me just to kiss me all over. I love the way he loves his brother, his lip-flapping sound for a horse and the way he can talk to me without saying a single word.

Please don't grow up too fast.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Wishing you...

... a wonderful Christmas. One where you get to slow down and notice the important people around you. One where you get to dance and be silly, eat and be very very merry.

Thank you for coming here over the past year. I've loved it.

Monday, 17 December 2012


An unusual moment of winter coats and gumboots in the middle of December. We ventured out in the rain to jump in puddles. I'm getting to the point where I can hardly tell the difference between my boys if they've got their back to me or if their eyes are hidden. I can't quite believe that last picture of Kian – he's not even two. I was in two minds to put it up here, because whilst I think it's beautiful, it's a reminder that he growing up so fast. Too fast.

A lovely moment at the end of a strenuous week. Mummy, Mummy, please can you take a picture of me with my orange beetroot?

The moment we found a cicada with its glassy, veined wings on our doorstep, followed by several moments of giggling and whispering between two brothers as they discovered its chirping, buzzing sound whenever they gently touched it. It was as fascinating for me as it was for them.

More fleeting moments.

Joining in with Lou here.

Friday, 14 December 2012

He who picks

My mum used to make savoury pancakes for dinner when we were kids. Stuffed with something like tuna and cheese, I think. I always like adding to our repertoire, especially if it means Kian has more than two mouthfuls. A wrap of sorts has so many possibilities: a Mexican-inspired filling of beans, chilli, avocado and coriander; sweet, buttery onion with chunks of spiced meat; pumpkin and ricotta; curried vegetables...

But we never have wraps. The trouble with bought wraps is their list of ingredients. I can't bring myself to buy anything I don't want to put into our tummies. I make flatbreads but they crisp and crumble and it's not quite the same.

Until I started thinking more about mum's pancakes in Egypt and back to my time in France when I used to wander the main square in Montpellier looking for a bite to eat. There were always sweet crêpes filled with chocolate spread and savoury galettes made with buckwheat flour and oozing cheese.

A couple of weeks ago, I filled a big paper bag with buckwheat flour at my local organic shop and came home and made the batter. I let it sit in the fridge for an hour or two, and then cooked ladlefuls in a knob of butter till brown and set.

The perfect wrap. Soft and delicious and better than all those tortillas out there. I can't believe I haven't made them sooner. A couple of weeks ago, I made 'snails' with a mixture of softened onion, grass-fed beef mince spiced with cumin and coriander and a little grated cheese. Luca's had his smeared with avocado. He-who-picks-out-anything-green didn't.

Yesterday felt like another pancake day, except this time I ground the buckwheat groats myself to make the flour – much cheaper that way. A quick blitz of the batter ingredients*, a rest in the fridge and all you need is a good pancake pan. Slices of free-range ham and grated cheese for the boys with a bowl of tomatoes on the side; added wilted spinach and lots of basil for us. I folded the pancakes in half and popped them in the oven long enough for the cheese to melt.

I was in France again.

Except, hang on, I don't remember anyone there picking out the ham and squishing their noses...

Can someone please tell me I'm not alone with a fussy discerning eater? I was always of the belief that picky eaters weren't born picky; that they're somehow conditioned through what they get fed and the choices they get. But it's not true. I have what can only be described as a home-cook-and-food-writer's dream child and... well, one that isn't.

I know his unadventurous ways won't last forever, that it's most probably to do with attention or control, but right now I just want to hear that your child couldn't care less about your cooking either.

Please? It'll make me feel so much better.

* 1 1/4 cup buckwheat flour, 1/2 cup plain flour, 2 eggs, 2 1/2 cups milk, good pinch of salt

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

My drug of choice

I am tired but obviously I haven't been listening. So my body shouted a little louder last week when the hand, foot and mouth virus hit me. A very dark cloud seemed to hang over us for a little while there – someone's mood was almost unbearable. But the cloud has cleared.

I feel like taking it really slowly now, going to bed early and just doing what we have to.

Except, wait, it's Christmas. Am I the only one who thinks the timing could be better?

I stuck my head in the sand yesterday and left the house and all its jobs. We wandered down to the garden in-between rain showers. We picked tomatoes and snipped speckled beans. When we put it all together, I almost cried.

Then Luca found an orange beetroot in amongst the beetroot basket. He raced upstairs, gave it a wash and sat and drew his prized beetroot. He's always had a thing about orange.

All of this in the garden, it's like a drug. It gets me all emotional and I realise when I'm juggling a push on the swing, a brief pause to watch the boys' snails on the driveway and a quick dash to harvest some worm castings, that I'm well and truly addicted.


Thank you by the way for your beautiful comments and emails last week. I'm still thinking about that whole issue. It's obviously something we all question from time to time. What's important for me is to come at it from a centred place and not because of what it might look like: if it feels right, then I do it. If I'm not inspired by anything (last week was a case in point!), then I don't do anything. With any luck, the lull just passes.

How do you deal with your lulls? Do you have a 'drug'? Do you find your head's clearer on the other side? 

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Blogging vs real life

I went out on Friday night and had a lovely evening. Not only did I get to see some familiar faces, but I met another blogger (hello Kate), which brought home even more that real life interaction is so much nicer. You get to see a person's eyes and hear them laugh, and you can comment on things that you wouldn't be able to online, such as a striking skirt they might be wearing. It's real and the conversation flows and you open up to things that you wouldn't ordinarily confess to (please Kate, don't tell anyone what I do on trains), because the connection is different. A better different.

I know these are camping pictures but bear with me.

I was introduced to someone else that evening, someone I could have talked and giggled with all night. We had lots in common: we both have two children, we both like gin and we both agree that it's perfectly acceptable to answer the door in our nightwear in the late afternoon and jump up and down when it's a case of wine being delivered. Not sure what else we share, but I'm sure that's enough for a friendship to begin.

Anyway, she found my blog afterwards and wrote to me saying she was glad she met me before she read it, otherwise she would have been all 'oh god, she cooks and has pretty children and makes things and I don't do anything near as creative and her garden actually grows things'. (Hope you don't me quoting you, S.)

Which really got me thinking. How much of the real me comes across in this blog? Do people turn away because they think life here is beautiful moments from the minute we wake up to the minute we close our eyes at night? Surely not?

Yes, I cook, but Kian doesn't eat any of it. ANY of it. He would rather eat cream cheese on toast than the quinoa and roast pumpkin I presented him last night. Yes, I cook, but I don't clean up after myself, and so I only see my kitchen benches when someone comes to visit (the same approach I use for cleaning the house as a whole, actually). 

I grow a lot of food because it's something I believe in, but I have days when I'm so exhausted I don't want to do any of it. The cooking, the gardening, playing shopkeeper or pushing them on the swing.

It doesn't mean what I post here on my blog is any less authentic for it. Everything I write about and every picture I take is real and it comes from the heart. These are largely our best moments, much like a child's photo album or a collection of wedding pictures. 

It's focusing on the good bits so I keep striving forward and not end up on a heap somewhere all tired and miserable. It's remembering the good feelings so that it keeps inspiring me to do more, and hopefully inspire you who comes to read my words.

Like our camping trip, for example (you knew I'd get there eventually). If I wrote about the boys running through an old fire pit and walking the ash all over our beds, I'd probably not do it again. If I took pictures of the filth, oh dear god, the filth that comes with sticky hands and dirty bodies... If I gave any thought to those bloody flies that had me yelling at Graeme that we were mad to go... If I was reminded about how much hard work it was pack it all up and pitch the tent and find a clean plate amidst the filth in the tent and get any sleep on filthy sheets and find any shade in 37 degree heat and get through the washing when we got back...

No, instead, I'm going to look at that beautiful shot of Kian standing by the river playing with his fingers. I'm going to remember the sticks we collected together for the camp fire that got the boys so excited every night. The moment that we all sat down and toasted the marshmallows that Graeme made before we left... The time we spent cooling off in the water beside our tent and the hour that we spent on the canoe drifting down the river with Sydney splashing next to us...

If I just focus on these, it will mean the boys get to go camping again. Because that's what matters.

Monday, 3 December 2012

A relevant Christmas

Three years on and I'm still getting used to steamy days and stormy nights when Christmas is on everyone's lips. On the one hand I quite like it: swims in the ocean and hose fights on the decking are the furthest thing from my mind when I think of Christmas, so I've been happy to ignore all the festive chaos and just go about our days. 

On the other hand, it feels a bit muddled. Café menus are decorated with snow flakes and songs sing of a white Christmas. I've been pondering this lately as creamy sweat drips down our faces. Of course, it's not muddled at all for Graeme who grew up in New Zealand: we weren't confused when we were kids. We knew Santa was slowly making his way from the snow.

Yes, there is that.

I've always said I prefer a cold Christmas, but I might be changing my mind, especially as this will be our first Christmas in this house. I like the bright days. I like talking about what meat we'll cook in the barbecue on Christmas Day and the prospect of plenty of room in the oven. I'm liking glasses of bubbly outside to the sound of our neighbour's Christmas music (even if it means rubbing bite cream when we come inside). It's different, but that doesn't mean it isn't equally joyous.

Still, now that we live here, I'd quite like the celebrations to be grounded in our season, to be about our here and now. To be relevant. Holly sprigs and log fires aren't so relevant.

I'm looking around me to see what this time of year means to me. Tomatoes, slowly ripening in our garden, hydrangea blooms and bursts of purple colour on every street. Stone fruit in my co-op box and big, bright yellow sunflowers.

Christmas sings colour. Just like this tomato wreath.

Graeme and I have a tradition of adding something new to the tree each year – one year it was a playgroup creation from Luca and last year was a vintage buy I couldn't resist. This year, Luca and I sat down and played with air-dry clay. He stamped with buttons and I experimented with the end of a rounded pencil. Hearts, stars, angels and flowers – I left the snowflake cutter in the tin!

Some were hung on the tree and some will be making their way as presents to family around Australia.

What about you? What does Christmas mean to you? Do you like it to reflect what goes on around you or couldn't you care less?