Monday, July 30, 2012

Nearly five years

The Kings Seed catalogue is late!  As tomorrow marks five years since I began blogging, I've been looking back at those earliest posts (from my first blog) and it turns out that at this time in July of 2007, I'd received my Kings Seed catalogue, salivated over every page and written and rewritten my shopping list a squillion times and sent the order off. 

This year the catalogue is delayed, apparently, but nevertheless I did get into the garden yesterday.  I buried the hedgehog, who had been dead and smelly for some time, but the weather and the busyness meant I'd forgotten about it.  I weeded a bit, planted some polyanthus, some iceland poppies and sowed some broad beans.  I transplanted the naked ladies from Mary K's garden which have been patiently waiting in a bucket for weeks.  Frankly, it wasn't nearly as much gardening as I longed to do, but small pleasures are still pleasures.

FH is sick, which means I have to turn into super-person.  Like Cinderella, I was up before dawn this morning, lighting the fire, making the breakfast and the lunches.  I went to work for money and then I went erranding and shopping and then I came home and cooked dinner and organised the children for homework and bed.  Now I am in a zombie state, part of me concerned for FH's health in the bigger picture, and the other part merely longing for him to return to sufficient good health to resume his role as the nightly washer of the dishes.  Maybe Cinderella married for better or worse, in sickness and in health too. 

It's the gala on Saturday.  Perhaps I shouldn't bake for it after all in case I bake FH's flu germs into the cakes.

Really, can the world exactly turn upside down if the dishes remain untouched this evening?  Probably a bit disastrous in the morning, but going to bed and starting Goodbye Sarajevo seems a better idea.

Anyways, the world, even my privileged majority world warm house plenty of food existence, is not entirely winter-washed grim at all. Tomorrow I go to the hairdresser and get my hair coloured by the professionals for the first time since long before I had children.  I decided that it is my treat in lieu of drinking wine, which I have confined to special out of the house occasions rather successfully of late.  Also, I'm past the au naturel commitment I had a few years back - there is too much grey in there and I feel drab every time I look in the mirror.  Maybe I will even do something about the style, which is currently (and historically, as usual), non-existent.  Above is my 'before' photo, taken only ten days ago on our lovely short holiday at Franz Josef Glacier village.

Latest deal with myself: if I empty the dishwasher, then I can leave the rest and go to bed.... g'night.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The great lies of childhood and a special old lady.

Bluemilk (Andie Fox) has just written another fabulous article, published at Daily Life, on The Great Lies of Childhood.  The title alone is excellent, but I loved the article.  If you are procrastinating enough from whatever else you know or imagine you should be doing now to be reading my blog, then I recommend you upgrade the nuanced analysis aspect and read her entire article.

This is my favourite quote:
"Longing for the simplicity of the past leads some of us to pursue a more traditional parenting approach, but even then you can fall prey to hyper-parenting. Throw away the flash cards and turn off the educational iPad games and find yourself just buying a different brand of unattainable idealism. Because now the kids can climb trees, but only while wearing the organic cotton clothing you sewed yourself. Grow vegetables, make your own bread and try to summon the energy to teach the children knitting. This revisioned domesticity can be just as reliant on an intensive and unsustainable kind of mothering as that of the hothousing Tiger Mum."

In the above paragraph, Bluemilk puts into words something I've been feeling and not quite articulating for a long time.  The intensity with which we parent is a wonderful reflection of the love we have for our children.  But the difference between the joy of packing towels and some food into the car and heading for the beach, and signing up for swimming lessons, is that one can happen when the inspiration takes us and the other, after the first week or three, seems to coincide exactly with a complete lack of inspiration for taking the children anywhere, or it coincides with when childcare arrangements or work hours or the other child's activities suddenly have to change.

As someone who worked part time with my first baby, and wore myself out almost completely working a long way from home and insisting on making home made food, using cloth nappies (i.e. including at the child minder's) and various other organic and home made projects, I find it quite a relief to read the phrase "revisioned domesticity".  Look!  There is a name for it!  The way in which my feelings of love for my child and the sense that natural products and traditional activities coalesced to do something both lovely and ridiculous.  Second time round, with a much more manageable job situation in terms of hours, geography, partner support and the older ages of my children, I've been more relaxed about some of my revisioned domesticity.  But a new kind has taken its place: extra-curricular activities.  Somehow, due to loving my children and figuring that I do need to occasionally say 'yes' to them on something more than whether they can have cornflakes for breakfast, they are doing what feels like 55 different activities outside of home.  They are enjoying them, while I operate in a state of despair, fuelled by my own intense desire to spend my non-paid-working life at home.  Not, funnily enough, watching 40 kids attempt to learn a ballet dance, or watching my kids bloody their noses on the league field (I did manage to miss that, but Fionn was rather proud of himself, like it was a badge of honour to end up with the blood which should be circulating around your inner body, all over your face, hands, clothes and presumably the grass as well).

But this afternoon I did find some zen.  People often offer me zen-like thoughts, and I mostly manage to suppress my profane, invective-laden first response.  But Mary K, 85 years old and now in a rest home, opened up the sense of pleasure in really little things just by hanging out with me doing some jobs.  I took her back to my place where she didn't care about the mess but she did care about the wonders of facebook, which enabled her to see a photo of her newest great grandchild.  Then I took her up to the primary school with me to collect the kids.  It took much longer than usual but it was approximately twenty billion times special.  When you live in a rest home you don't get to be surrounded by smiling happy children, or even snivelling grumpy children or really anyone youngish at all.  But when you get to go up to the school your sixty year old son was a foundation day pupil at and see the new developments and look forward to gala day, it turns out that ordinary stuff is fabulous after all.  My kids sat around for a bit talking to Mary and then we chatted to another very young lady she knows and eventually we all got down the hill and took Mary home.

I turned down the opportunity to get some more paid work done in order to visit Mary.  I also missed supermarket shopping which meant I had to go this evening.  I missed going to Brighid's school swimming trip because they had enough transport and I had so much on at work, but it may just be possibly time to admit that although I hate it when work stops me from going on the kids' school trips, they are not all rivetting and it ain't child abuse not to go to every single one.  I missed going home and doing more washing or burying the bokashi which has been overdue for weeks.  But that was the best thing, because with Mary I slow down and I smell the roses.  With Mary, the children and I look at ordinary things in different ways and we don't expect to go rushing around a-c-h-i-e-v-i-n-g things.  There is all this quite interesting and rather timely craze for slow living.  Old people know all about it, even without the internet, that fast highway I use to read up on slow stuff.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Franz Josef Glacier, Lake Mapourika, Lake Ianthe

It was truly utterly fantastic weekend.  I'll not be tarnishing this post with any links to non-holiday reality.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Breaking news! Men demand more opportunities to care for the elderly for no pay, make cakes for the school gala and clean floors.

Over at A Bee of A Certain Age, Deborah has posted a review of the reports looking into the absence of women in the top police jobs.  It's a good post and the issues are worth reading about and I really hope the culture changes in the police force.

It's just that I can feel a rant of my own coming on. 

Why is it that I never see articles about the under-participation of men in caring sectors?  Yes I know many of us mention it in private discourse and it can be found on feminist websites etc., but why doesn't it look like:

Grave concern over lack of men in kindergarten structure.


Report identifies that only 1% of cleaners in schools and hospitals are men.  X from the Advisory Board of Hygiene Careers is very concerned about the messages this sends to young boys.  "Boys, explained Mr X, are hugely shaped by the roles they see around them.  When they grow up surrounded by women cleaning at home and at school, they feel excluded from the skills which help make a home or workplace pleasant and welcoming.  Mr X has called on the government to introduce a programme in schools to show boys in cleaning roles."


Men disappointed that they get so few opportunities to participate in unpaid caring. 

I've never had a hankering for a career in the police force.  I'm bossy enough without a uniform to endorse it.  But when I read such perfectly reasonable articles as those which A Bee of A Certain Age quotes from, I still have that feeling of tired guilt.  I had the skills and the education to pursue a career and yet I went to live in the provinces and gave up full time work to raise my children.  I wonder who I expect to pursue these lead roles given my own choice to downsize my commitment to the profession I trained in while my children are young and middle-sized.  Some magical other person?  Kind of like the magical other person that raised the children and ran the household and cared for elderly relatives for many if not most successful career men? 

It's not that I lack support from the father of my children.  FH has indeed been supportive and as the children get older, the sharing of roles has become easier and more practised.  We have long talked about swapping the full-time/part-time roles and I expect that this will eventuate.  But it's bigger than just that.  Anne Marie Slaughter said something I recognised when she acknowledged that:
Still, the proposition that women can have high-powered careers as long as their husbands or partners are willing to share the parenting load equally (or disproportionately) assumes that most women will feel as comfortable as men do about being away from their children, as long as their partner is home with them. In my experience, that is simply not the case.
Here I step onto treacherous ground, mined with stereotypes. From years of conversations and observations, however, I’ve come to believe that men and women respond quite differently when problems at home force them to recognize that their absence is hurting a child, or at least that their presence would likely help. I do not believe fathers love their children any less than mothers do, but men do seem more likely to choose their job at a cost to their family, while women seem more likely to choose their family at a cost to their job.
Many factors determine this choice, of course. Men are still socialized to believe that their primary family obligation is to be the breadwinner; women, to believe that their primary family obligation is to be the caregiver. But it may be more than that. When I described the choice between my children and my job to Senator Jeanne Shaheen, she said exactly what I felt: “There’s really no choice.” She wasn’t referring to social expectations, but to a maternal imperative felt so deeply that the “choice” is reflexive. 

Does it have to be that way for you? NO!  Crumbs, we'll never get female parents into the top of the police force if everyone feels that when there isn't enough parenting time going into a child or a family, then it is the mother who needs to change.  Frankly, and this is where my commitment to a capitalist career model is revealed to be direly low, I wouldn't want to partner someone who was always at work and I cannot imagine why someone else would want that arrangement with me.

Leave that girl in the provinces.  Somewhere where it rains a lot.  May as well.  All she does is witter.  Someone remind her to get moving with the gala baking too.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

slow writing, fast food

Prudent and sensible lost.

The mechanic's bill arrived and it wasn't as bad as I'd feared and I went ahead and booked a weekend in a rainforest.  I like being married.  It means I get to organise birthday presents which involve great pleasure for myself.

I still want to write like Deborah Challinor.  I lay awake at night plotting a West Coast historical drama, one with a strong and likeable female protagonist whose main aspect is not sexual gorgeousness.  I feel like I'm swimming upstream a bit on this, even just thinking about it.  Last time I wrote more than five pages, I was in Santa Marina de Valdeon, a tiny hamlet in the Picos de Europa in Spain.  My obsession at the time was the marriage of my Irish great great grandparents in Canterbury in 1880.  They lived in two quite separate parts of Canterbury, one in Lincoln and the other in Chertsey (which is near Ashburton).  I was sure that the travelling Catholic priest had arranged their meeting and marriage and I wanted to tell that story.  There is one surviving photo of them, or at least we think that is who the photo is of.  He is older and kind of distinguished looking (albeit in a working class rugged style rather than aristocratic distinguished) and she is young, still in her teens, and with her (greasy) hair down rather than tied up.  Was she at risk of marrying a Protestant? Or too far from home and been found drinking rather than praying?  Had he asked the priest to find him a respectable Irish wife who would cook and clean for him?  We know very little about their marriage, except for whispers, rare and quiet whispers, that she drank and was a scold.  One of their sons refused to have alcohol in his house later on.

Santa Marina de Valdeon was a most suitable and romantic place to play novelist.  While Favourite Handyman went tramping into the hills (on which the animals were loose for the summer, just like in Heidi), I would sit in the restaurant with my glass of red wine and write.  The camping ground staff were impressed because, perhaps with the veil of another language and culture, they thought I was a 'real' writer.  I wrote three chapters, chapters which I threw out with disgust a few years later.  That was in 2001.

Back in reality land, fast food.  I'm feeling rather jaded on the anti fast food judgementalism which pervades our media (none of which mind accepting the advertising buckaroos of fast food corporations).  I eat 21 meals per week, which is 84 meals for my family which is about 336 meals per month.  I really don't think it constitutes gross neglect or financial mismanagement if we buy something quick and fatty 3-4 times out of 336+ meals.  When we lived in Auckland, in a fashonable suburb (double income no kids days), we sometimes bought souvlaki or felafel.  I love them and find they are only a little more costly than fish and chips (certainly no more than McDonalds) and yet they contain a satisfying amount of vegetables and good quality protein.  I'd like to see more souvlaki bars as an option for buying fast food which has more than one tiny shred of lettuce in it.  Not more judgement on those evil OTHER people who buy and eat KFC.

Tonight's fast food at home:
4 groper flaps, chopped into pieces, marinated with the juice of one lemon and some finely choped ginger (for how long?  Until I got the veges chopped)
rice, cooked.
savoy cabbage and leeks and a carrot, sliced finely.

Heat some olive oil and a nice big piece of butter in a frypan.  Then add the veges.  Then add the fish mixture.  Put a lid on the mixture.  Stir it quite often.  Slosh a bit of soya sauce on it.  Serve on the rice when the fish is cooked.  The fish ends up steamed rather than fried.  Tasted good.  The short girl didn't like it.  What's new?  The rest of us liked it a lot, and we still love the short girl, even if she is a particularly infuriating type of eater.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Holiday plans

My strongest response to the end of a holiday is to plan another one.  Prudent and sensible persons might not do anything of the sort.  P & S persons would observe the imminent need to replace the 21-year old car, the looming mechanic's bill to repair the aforementioned 21-year old car, and probably other tiresomely viurtuous aspects and stay at home and wash the kitchen floor and repair the toilet cistern.

But there is a birthday in the house soon and I don't think 'prudent' and 'sensible' were words in the marriage vows we wrote and exchanged.

So today, the last day before term time madness begins, I stayed in my jammies all day, napped for part of the afternoon and researched options for a weekend in a rainforest.  I looked at what other people have been sewing on their sewing blogs as well.  I watch sewing about ten times more often than I actually sew.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Turmeric muffins, blogging friends & bodice ripping

Turmeric.  It relieves inflammation and it chelates iron and there are plenty of high quality scientific studies showing this.  As a magical substance, it sure beats rain dancing, and is more useful.  This afternoon I was in whipping up a storm in the kitchen in preparation for term time (storms in my kitchen often look more like mess than completed food items).  I'd made some chocolate brownie and was contemplating pumpkin muffins.  Then it occurred to me that I could slip some turmeric in.  This, with approximate measures for the spices as I simply tipped them from the packet, is what I made:
2 C self raising flour
3/4 C sugar
75g butter, melted
3/4 C milk
1 egg
3 small-medium pieces of roast pumpkin (which I didn't think to weigh)
1 Tablespoon cream cheese
1 teaspoon each of powdered ginger, cumin, turmeric & cinnamon
black pepper

Mix flour, spices and sugar into a bowl.  Melt butter.  Beat egg.  Mix egg, butter and milk.  Mix cream cheese and pumpkin and black pepper together roughly.  Add liquid mixture and pumpkin mixture to flour and mix til just bound.  Put in muffin tray (I use paper cups because anything else is too infuriating) and bake for 14 minutes at 200 degrees celsius.

Turmeric is fat soluble, so the cream cheese and butter offer that.  The black pepper also increases the absorption rate of the turmeric significantly.

Taste test?  They were very nice.  I will make them again.

This morning I had the great pleasure of meeting up with Anna from The End is Naenae and her family.  In a celebration of provincial life, they were on their way back from family time in Central Otago and chose to stay last night in Greymouth.  As a 70s baby who grew into early adulthood without the internet, I'm more confident of my ability to discern friendship compatibility in a physical room.  But today my confidence in my online people-reading skills was boosted - Anna has all the thoughtfulness and vivacity in a cafe setting that I've long enjoyed on her blog.

I was disappointed that I forgot to tell them about the Rotary book sale, where they could have stockpiled Virginia Andrews, Shirley Conran and Stephen King to read on the ferry.  In amongst the 80s bodice rippers are sometimes some gems.  I, for example, now have my own copy of Sandra Cabot's The Liver Cleansing Diet (I do object to books with the D word in the title, but was curious given my current interest in liver health), another Joanna Trollope, another Alexander Mccall Smith and a slightly random pick by someone called Jane Rogers.  I also bought up on the classics of my own childhood for when Brighid is older - some Anne of Green Gables, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Noel Streatfield and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.

There is no better way of finishing a holiday than with a novel.  I'm off to bed soon with Kitty by Deborah Challinor.  I've read Union Belle before, and the signs portend for some bodice ripping already, but bodice ripping on the mission stations in the Bay of Islands?  Loving it so far.  Enjoying stories set in Enzed doens't have to be confined to Lit. A. Ra. Ture.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Bits of brain scattered along the curtain mending...

... like dandruff.
I've mended the curtains and attached the blackout lining which Mum made for them.  In this photo, the right hand side solar system curtain has been mended (the tape across the top replaced) and the lining added.  The left side is relatively sloppy and see through, but I've done that side since I took the photograph.

I'm half way through niece knitting, i.e. one item finished (apart from sewing in the ends).

I read Barbara Anderson's autobiography Getting There a few days ago.  Interesting without being challenging, so a perfect read for when I was sick.  I'm reading Gavin Bishop's Piano Rock to Brighid at the moment, partly for my own pleasure.  I bought the Winter 2012 issue of New Zealand Books yesterday, and the most memorable line so far?  "Denis Glover told me it was my job to look decorative.  I smiled but didn't tell him I'd observed how carefully he combed his hair in a shop-window reflection that day as I followed him up Woodward Street to the meeting." (p.27).

I've been eyeing up two movies: Le Havre and The Door.  Both look worth seeing, which is more than I could say for the trailer of What to Expect When You Are Expecting.

Metservice have issued a severe weather warning for this weekend, and the forecast is relentlessly wet for tomorrow and for days beyond.  So obviously, it was a good idea for me to arrange to have six children at my house tomorrow, aged ten years to eight months.  Of course the house isn't clean.  Of course I'm not sane.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

When Santa Claus came to town

Uncle Pete came to town.  A much anticipated trip by the shortest people, who were spoilt rotten by their grandparents and uncle in Hanmer recently.  The pictures above come from the animal farm at Hanmer Springs.  I squandered much of my child-free time by being sick.  Now I'm squandering an evening mending curtains.  It's true that they will look better afterwards, and Fionn really likes the solar system pattern on them They were rather worn out when I first found them at the Sallies, but my Mum has kindly made blackout lining for them which I need to hang tomorrow. 

We went op shopping today, the kids and I.  Brighid persistently requested we buy another copy of Sleeping Beauty.  I was more interested in buying her the picture of Tabitha Twitchett.  Op shops are good.  Low stakes so less intensive arguments.  We bought both.  I also bought a packet of about four metres of blue fabric for $2.  I hope I turn out to use it.  It is nice and possibly sensible, rather than flamboyant and gorgeous.

Most of my recent vehemence has faded before I could articulate it.  But this week's Listener has a good article on Health At Every Size and this post in response to that article, and the comments afterwards, are also worth a look.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Vitamin C & iron overload

Now that I have a nurse, I am sick.  I was a little lurgied when I was home alone, but once Favourite Handyman came in on his white horse (which looked remarkably like the West Coast Shuttle bus), I descended, almost in a faint, into his arms, replete with that scary white river of cold down my chest which in my experience indicates an infection.

I am pleased to report that his excellent nursing means I am mostly out of bed now and showing signs of improvement.  I've been drinking lemon drinks, miso soup, spicey chorizo soup and blackcurrant syrup with vitamin C.

I'm still trying to learn more about vitamin C and haemochromatosis.  The received wisdom for persons with haemochromatosis is that they should not take supplemental vitamin C.  Vitamin C asssists the absorption of iron in the human body.

Which seems simple and straightforward enough, except that I have had such good success in improving my own health with supplemental vitamin C.  Given my dramatic history of, following a huge dose of antibiotics for mastitis, developing a debilitating round of arthritis which no one could explain, I'm very wary of taking antibiotics.  Aggressive use of vitamin C staved off the need for antibiotics when I had a chest infection two years ago and it has helped me conquer many a lurgy since.  I suspect it is helping today.  I've also found it helpful as a response to my arthritis flare ups.  What is most definitely a possible cause of the arthritis in the first place?  Iron overload.

Literature about the health benefits of high vitamin C intake show it reduces diabetes and cancer rates significantly.  (For example, see here)  Diabetes and cancer risks go up significantly with untreated haemochromatosis.  I've read speculation online that vitamin C helps regulate iron rather than just assists in the absorption of it.  I'm inclined to speculate the same thing, but there are no studies done that I can find any whisper of that look at that.  There is the slightest reference to capacity for further research in this direction in this footnote:
1) Bendich A, Cohen M. Toxicol Lett. 1990 Apr;51(2):189-201. Ascorbic acid safety: analysis of factors affecting iron absorption. “Three parameters associated with iron absorption were identified: (1) a relatively shallow slope for the dose-response curve relating ascorbic acid dosage (1-1000 mg) and percent iron absorption; (2) no significant effect of ascorbic acid on the absorption of high (60 mg) iron doses; and (3) an inverse relationship between iron absorption and plasma transferrin saturation. Ascorbic acid did not increase the incidence of 'high' iron absorbers (greater than 2 SD from population mean) above control levels; limited data for ascorbic acid doses greater than 100 mg/d indicated no change in the distribution of iron absorption values.” PMID: 2184546
from this source. Now I have put the reference details into google search, it appears that only the abstract may have been read by the authors I linked to.

It's a shame I can't order up new medical research like a Happy Meal at McDonalds.  I have been looking into ways in which I am unwittingly imbibing extra iron though.  This is the Australia New Zealand Food Standards code as it relates to fortifying foods.  I may start coughing up the extra cash to buy organic bread.  My response to crappy commercial bread a few years ago was to make my own, but I don't have the time resources to make that commitment now.  I stopped making it because it was so yummy that I was eating too much of it.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The red edged floral apron

One apron complete.  One altered dress finished.  The sewing of one blue crossover top begun.  More photos and detail tomorrow.

Friday, July 6, 2012

thinking in quiet

When everyone is home and it is term time, I crave silence in the evenings.  I've been immersed in noise all day.  Having no television suits me fine as in the evening I prefer to read, sew, knit or read or write online. 

Tonight, after a quiet day to myself, I have a different set up.  I have set FH's computer up to stream Radio Four live while I knit/read/write online.  Just fifteen more minutes to Womans Hour.

1. I thought I would sew all through these solo days, but it turns out I want to read and think.
2. I went to see Laksmi, my treasured complementary therapist.  She did some visceral manipulation work while we talked at length about haemochromatosis, food, symptoms and next steps.  She strongly encouraged me to be more assertive with my doctor.
3. Inspired by Laksmi's pep talk, I made another attempt to get an appointment with a locum who FH recommended.  Wonder of all magical wonders, I got an appointment today.  TODAY!!  Unprecedented.  This doctor was fantastic.  Now I have a larger panoply of tests to get done, she is going to talk to a haematologist, she has me ready to see a rheumatologist if the arthritis gets even a little bit worse and she has written a referral to the ophthamologist regarding the chalazia on my eyes.
4. Forgetting to cook the fish roe last week wasn't so clever.  But the chooks are now turning it into omega 3 rich eggs as they sleep.
5. Elizabeth Bard's Lunch in Paris was a great read.  Then I found her blog today and devoured that as well.  Her blog is lovely, but it is very happy - the contented new mother who has found her niche writing.  In Lunch in Paris, Bard reflects on her difficulty finding her own goals and career path in France and I loved that bit.  For example, "Once again, I was a charming cog in someone else's wheel.  I was once again forced to confront (with the accompanying self-loathing) the fact that I had the goods, but not the discipline or perseverance to create something for myself.  How could anyone so ambitious be so inert?"  p.312 and "What if I stopped to ask myself what would make me happy, instead of what would make me successful, respectable, worthy?  If that answer had to come from the inside, rather than the outside, what would it be?" p.318-9.
6. I'm half way through Anne Else's thesis now.  There is so much in it which is interesting and which I could relate to the world in which I grew up, that I hope to distill something of my thoughts in a separate post when I have finished.
7. I've been pleased that our better supplies of wood this winter have meant we've rarely reached for coal.  When FH was sick and the weather was particularly bitter, we added a little coal to the wood to get sufficient heat.  Other years we have been mostly dependent on coal from July onwards.  But today, and a bit yesterday, the wood isn't firing up the way it should.  I recall my Dad saying that when they had a wood fire (the one at Redwood Valley which I referred to as their fourth child given how often they talked about it), he would have to clean the chimney 3-4 times each winter.  When I talked about this with our chimney sweep (It's pick and choose Good Life here, despite some people managing to clean their own perfectly successfully), he said that when you burn coal, the sheer heat up the chimney pushes all the soot out.  So tonight I have loaded up the fire with coal with this burning/cleaning out in mind.  The fire of coal and wood is certainly going well right now.
8. For almost two years, I saved my flybuys to buy a le Creuset iron skillet.  It's a great piece of kitchen kit and I had been loving it.  Until.  It turns out that cooking in iron is problematic for iron overload.  Given that I have a deep suspicion of 'non-stick' surfaces, and a great enthusiasm for cooking in frypans, I'm not sure where to next.  We own a large size stainless steel frypan which my parents passed on to me, but I still want a small one for scrambling eggs for one or two people in the morning.
9. To take to bed:  Getting There by Barbara Anderson.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Writing the West Coast?

It's 7pm, long the craziest time of night at the messiest house in Wetville.  For the first time in almost ten years, I have the house to myself for more than a few hours.  The music is my choice and my volume, I eat to my own rhythm, wine is back on the menu and the fire is warming the house nicely.

Last time I had more than five seconds without multi-tasking, I committed to me-made-May '12, an online project where participants wear at least one piece of clothing they have made themselves each day for the entirety of a month.

All 31 days.

That turned out to be a misguided attempt at commitment on my part.  Tonight, I'm wondering about something else.  Could we create a book of poetry and prose related to the West Coast?  I've speculated on who to talk to to create a 'we'.  I've thought of what I would write about. I also know that when term starts this is going to seem a ridiculous idea in terms of finding time to make it happen.

But on every other level, it is a good idea.  Hmmmmmmm.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Things I have learnt recently

1. If I am whizzing eggs with my whizzy stick, if I switch to the turbo function then half of the mixture will splatter all around the kitchen in a wide radius very quickly.
2. A single fix trip to the mechanic is never a single fix.  I may have learnt this before but I've learnt it more this week.  The car spent two full days at the mechanic's.  This afternoon, too late to add it to the mechanic's fix-list for the day, FH finally remembered to tell me that the front right headlight bulb isn't working.  Timing, I presume, is not the sole secret to a long and happy marriage.
3. Anne Else's thesis is an amazing document which is already giving me a framework to understand some of my own vexed questions about my world.
4. Computer screen reading isn't all that reading has to offer.  I won't be signing up for a kindle any time soon.  In the library today I found Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard, which is a lovely holiday read.  I've been trying to skive off and read it ever since, but with limited success.
5. If I can discipline myself to packing the children's gear tonight, then tomorrow night I have all to myself.  Letting the children pack their own gear is forbidden by their host, due to the odd things and significant gaps in the bags on past trips.  I think my mother is being reasonable on this; one time Fionn arrived mid winter in Hanmer with not a single top beyond the one he was wearing.
6. Craft night at my place last night was lots of fun.  I made everyone look at my clean oven.
7. Dishes grow.  All by themselves.  Maybe one day I will climb right out of the kitchen on a staircase of dishes, up to a castle in the sky.  Up there I will find and bring back a golden dishwasher, one which stacks and empties itself.
8. In the process of cleaning my oven, I may have damaged the seal.  At least that appears to be an explanation for the steam arising out of the oven door and permeating the entire house this afternoon when I cooked roast chicken.
9. Setting the timer on the oven is only useful if I can hear when it goes off.
10.  I am lucky to have really wonderful friends in Wetville.  Getting to spend time with them these school holidays is the best gift.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

the shaping force of gender

There is more baking soda paste on the oven, we had Dominoes pizza again for tea (is that how to get more time - never cook?), the children and I had a fabulous day, the eczema improvements are starting to show (credit to my extensive use of the new laundry regime today plus more epsom salts and baking soda in the bath and of course acres of expensive emollient), the sick hedgehog is now the dead hedgehog and we have a new heater.

Eventually the children went to bed and to sleep.  I continued my transformation of a $2 Hoki op shop dress into a skirt.  It's not screaming elegant success, unhelped by my cheerful disdain for careful measurement (the centre seams no longer run through the centre of the skirt, front or back, but I am keen to se it through to something wearable.  Once again I have failed to match my stated desire for more work-friendly clothes with a commensurate care for detail.

But no matter.  Because as I sewed (the pinning and unpicking parts at least), I read Anne Else's doctoral thesis, On Shifting Ground: Self-narrative, feminist theory and writing practice.  So far, completely fascinating, and I'm only going to bed instead of reading further because I know I won't get all the way through tonight.  The introduction is heavy on academic speak, though not impossibly so.  I kept going and I'm glad I did.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

In search of a red slip

I've had a splendid start to the school holidays.  Last night I went to a 40th birthday party and had a marvellous time.  Parties are good.  I like them a lot.  They're as scarce as hen's teeth for me for the most part, due to no longer being a young university student, and I find I leave somewhat earlier and less inebriated when I have a babysitter to return to. 

Yesterday I also gardened.  Holy grail of wonderfulness, scarcely ever achieved during term time this year.  I pruned my blackcurrant bush, making a solid attempt to create a 'vase' shape like the gardening guides advise.  I planted three of the prunings in the garden so that I can have more blackcurrants in future.  At least this time I will know that they need three years from twig to fruit.

Today it occurred to me, as the scales of the outside world fell from my eyes and just after I paid a bill of $120 to get rid of 300kg of windows which were given to us, were torturously difficult to move to our house (not that I lifted them, but the lifters never miss an opportunity to remind me that I said 'yes' to the offer of rehousing them), that I could burn the huge mess of thin branches from the old sandpit.  In our fire which runs day and night at the moment, no less.  Why didn't I think of that before?  Possibly because I was never home.  Today I collected three buckets of twigs, snapping or loppering them into the right size, and feeding some of them into the fire.  It has only made a small dent in the bonfire-sized pile so far, but I have the rest of the week.  The twigs and branches come from when FH and his friend pruned the big back yard tree with a chainsaw in summer.  The biggest logs from it went into the wood pile and I stashed the rest on the grave of what was once a functioning sandpit.

Last night we had a new babysitter and she was totally fabulous.  Earlier in the day, I had thought of offering her some cleaning work as well, but then I changed my mind.  I changed my mind because she is such a good babysitter and we have such a disappointingly messy house, that I might ruin her willingness to babysit by exposing her to the extent of the cleaning needs.

This led to me beginning to clean the oven myself.  Crikey.  I found a container of commercial oven cleaner on a high and largely unnoticed shelf in the wash house, but by the time I'd read all the safety warnings, it seemed totally mental to put that stuff in the oven and then cook in it.  I do understand that you wash it off before using the oven again, but still.  So I hauled out the baking soda and after about three thousand circular scrubbing motions, the glass door of the oven is mostly clean.  The rest of the oven is untouched.  Naturally I can't cook and clean the oven, so Dominoes won the toss.

I have a new, albeit minor, obsession.  Slips.  I grew up calling them petticoats, but these days, if they are mentioned at all, they are called slips.  Given that I wear dresses or skirts with leggings for most if not all of winter, slips are very useful.  I have a blue one from the Sallies (50 cents) which is very useful, but I wanted more.  I wanted a fresh one each day, and overnight laundry isn't my preferred method of multi-tasking working parent survival.  The other day I decided it was time to throw budgetary caution to the wind, all for the cause of my slip wardrobe.  So now I have a medium length black slip with a lace top and bottom ($45) and a shorter black stretchy plain slip ($45).  The shorter one is a bit too short for perfection.  I'm on a quest.  I want a knee length red slip, ideally with a split up the back.  I don't want a super sexy negligee, though a quick trawl of the internet shows they are much more easily available.  I want a slip to stop the mega cling all the way to the hem in what happens to be my favourite, hot, colour.  If I had more choices, a purple one would be quite good, and a kelly green slip.

Trademe seemed a possibility, and so I bought a home made slip in a flesh (think Pakeha flesh) colour which arrived in today's post ($5 + postage).  It is a couple of sizes too big, and goes all the way to my ankles.  I'm thinking of hemming it to my perfect length, dyeing it red and adding red lace to the bottom.  Which is why I am now researching acid dyes.  I kept the last stock pot which I burnt to the point of near complete destruction in terms of cooking food and I'm hoping it will be serviceable enough to dye the slip in.  If I ever get as far as sewing my own slip, then the Ruby Slip would be my choice of pattern.

Another treat yesterday was a gift of home made laundry liquid and rye bread from the wonderful N.  Fionn's eczema has gone crazy again and my latest step in terms of trying to identify what prompted the outbreak is that Persil changed their laundry powder formulation earlier in the year.  Home made laundry liquid which isn't made by me is as close to a perfect strategy as I can imagine. Especially as now two friends have made the same recipe and both have given me some.  Tonight we mucked around with a baking soda and epsoms salts and lavendar oil bath, which hopefully will help ease the itching.  On last checking there is now a new skin aggravation in a new place, just for fun.  In respect to that discovery, I wonder if it is possible to get molluscum contagioso more than once...