Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Years Eve Review

Twelve months ago I was jumpy and scared.  My thyroid bulged, I was tired despite being on holiday and being very well cared for.  I snapped at the children and sometimes consequently burst into tears.

It wasn't nice.

Today, I'm not jumpy and I'm not scared.  The medical peoples were useless but thankfully I did find some other things which helped.  I did three months without any alcohol and then was mostly alcohol free for another three months.  After that I had maybe one, occasionally two glasses of alcohol per week.  It helped.  I took increasing care about what I ate at night before bed and that helped with insomnia.  I cut my sugar intake back.  I set out to cut my bread intake back but that is always my health-kick nemesis.  I'm not sure if the alcohol elimination  is specifically a "cure" for the thryoid difficulties - I suspect that my liver is challenged because of haemachromatosis and this is linked to the arthritis (so 2012 for me!!) and the thyroid (2013).  Whatever the reason, less alcohol has turned out not to make my life miserable.  Less insomnia has improved my life massively!!!

My latest challenge (there's always one...) is a kind of carpal tunnel like pain in my right wrist.  Should be good for a few blog posts in 2014.

I've taken on a lot more at work in the latter part of 2013 (after jumping up in the earlier part compared to 2012) and although the multitasking at home is challenging, I am enjoying my new paid role.  In 2014, Favourite Handyman and I switch roles and he will work part time and I will work full time.  We're all feeling positive about this.

This has been a great year for sewing.  I hadn't thought so until I realised that I made four dresses, two skirts and five tops, and handbag and - tonight, on the last day of the year, my first pair of leggings.  This list only counts those items which were successful enough for me to wear them and it excludes the many circle skirts I made for little girl birthdays.  That averages one per month, but most items were made in the school holidays.

Although I've rarely blogged this year, it has been a great year for writing.  I've got the final draft awaiting feedback from a friend for my chapter on goldfields women hotelkeepers and sly grog sellers for a book to be published by Otago University Press in 2014.  There have been times when the volume of things I'd committed to was too much, but with support from many quarters, including an extension of time for the chapter, I made it through the year in better health than the beginning and with many goals realised.

Last week we had the most wonderful holiday at Akaroa.  On the way home I bought a lovely recipe book as a keepsake: The Edible Journey, a fundraiser for Tai Tapu School.  I'm keen to try a number of the recipes.  Lots of family friendly recipes, many gluten free, and many suitable for lunches.  I've got breakfasts and dinners sorted for the most part, but lunches which are not centred around bread are still a challenge for me and too many days I end up eating filled rolls from the work canteen which in no way meet the kind of vegetable intake I prefer.

Over the next fortnight, I plan to blog a little more, sharing photographs of the garden, sewing endeavours, maybe some book reviews.  Sometimes I've questioned the purpose of this blog, but rather than ponder its role in term time right now, I'm going to carry on charting our summer days.  I know I'm not producing in the volume and style required for a regular
audience, but reading back over past posts, and charting our family days in the sun (and rain) is worth it for me.

Brighid at the Giant's House in Akaroa.  Seriously fabulous art and garden.  So much to fall in love with.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Manui and Lesili

Today we wept.  We wept for Lesili Langi, 15 years old, and his mother Lavinia Manui Langi, 43 years old, who died in a car accident earlier this week.  In a beautiful service at the local high school hall, hundreds of people from our small wet town honoured two short and beautiful lives.

I wept for the challenges of their lives.  I wept to hear of Lesili selling his fish so he could buy a loaf of bread so his little siblings could have lunches for school.  I wept at the honouring of Manui's efforts to have the seven children looking beautiful for church.  Her dear friend Atu spoke with grace and power of Manui's secret - she went to the Salvation Army and then she took home the clothes and washed and ironed them so the children had nice clothes for church.

Frankly, I felt profligate with my takeways and fancy foods and the material wealth of my children's lives.  Afterwards, Brighid and I went home and chose some pretty dresses and also black clothes for the mourning period, and some other pretty skirts and tops, and we delivered them to Atu for passing onto Brighid's school friend Meleane, who this week lost her mother and her biggest brother. 

Our small town has rallied to help a lot this week.  This death has brought out the better side of us as we think outside of our needless present shopping to help those in solemn need.  Atu asked us all to step up as a community to support the Langi family, and to learn from this experience.  We will do our best Atu, and I hope my best will be of real help.  No one should ever die without someone else learning something from that life, and the deaths of Manui and Lesili offer our whole town a lesson to live more generous and understanding lives.

When Brighid and I took food and a card around to the house earlier in the week, I was unsure what to expect and hadn't anticipated the bodies being in the house.  I was so proud of Brighid who handled the beautiful Tongan singing and prayers so well and cuddled her friend's Dad and gave him the card.  I was so pleased that my daughter who has never lived outside of an English speaking community could learn that her school friend has a whole rich and wonderful world which we are not knowledgeable of and confident in. 

Our local newspaper, the Grey Star, has opened a relief fund for the Langi family, and through the generosity of local people, it already totals $4500.  I put money in yesterday and will put some more in next week.  The ANZ account number for people wishing to make a donation directly to the relief fund is: 01 0841 004153600 ( http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11174635 )

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Tutus on Tour

Tonight we all went to the ballet.  The Royal New Zealand Ballet right here in our small wet town.

It was magic.  I felt so very lucky that we could afford tickets - if it was the only thing we did for the Christmas spending season, it would be the best choice.

I just want to record the magic, even if I don't stay up long enough to try and recreate it in words here.

Monday, November 18, 2013


I had banned myself from sewing.  I have deadlines spilling out every corner of my life and the only way to get the book chapter done was to ban myself from reading novels or sewing.  Or so I figured.  But this weekend my superwoman cape fell off.  It lay in a puddle somewhere near me for most of the weekend while I worked out how to manage without it.

I've written to the editor of the book my chapter is for and explained just how much extra responsibility I have taken on at work since we were last in contact.  I can get the chapter done close to the end of November, I explained, but not by the end of November as originally agreed.  He was fantastic.  I don't like the extension of deadline route as everything has to be done some time and more deadlines stockpile behind the first very easily until everything is out of control.  But paid work has to take priority over unpaid writing.

Handling the line between home life and work life has been quite challenging and I'm sure there are more challenges ahead.  Yesterday I decided that for my own sanity, I needed to make something entirely unrelated to any deadline.  I can report that I'm pleased with both the experience and the finished product.

I had made a muslin for the Cake Patterns Red Velvet dress (good dress, but I need to make alterations in the bodice) and while I will make a 'pure' Red Velvet one day, for this time I wanted to make something which would go together easily and which had a non-round neckline. So I went half way and made a Tiramisu bodice and a Red Velvet midriff and skirt.

Not hemmed yet - that's tonight's project. 

I'm still blogging my sewing projects, but the wider reflection on life via this blog is on hold for the forseeable future. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

The riot of paisley top

I only bought 1.5 metres of this fabric, which starts out pale paisley and moves to bold paisley colours across the width of the fabric.  I originally planned a hummingbird top, but decided the crossover was a longer lasting option - I think the peplum will be a one season wonder and I already have two wearable hummingbird tops (and one unwearable first make).  So this is a Cake Tiramisu pattern, with the skirt pieces cut shorter for a top.  I like it, and wish I'd bought enough for a dress.  I've got it on with the skirt I wore to work today, but it does need something narrower underneath it ideally.  I think I've got the best first up fit with the neckline and this is my fourth Tiramisu make.  This time I stretched the band tightly the whole way along and snipped the excess off at the end.

I think more dresses are in order.  I have the Cake Red Velvet pattern on order, and fabric ready to go.  I've got plain black for the trial, and a soft black with pink dots for version two.  I really really like how dresses require no coordinating.  A cardigan if it's cool, and some footwear, and GO!  Which is the only option for my mornings.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

flax and twirls

Above: big flax.  Very big flax.  We were so excited when we were gifted these little flax bushes six years ago.  We were broke, the fence was ugly and suddenly we had attractive vegetation.

Six years later, they had overtaken the area and were so big that we only got them out through the kindness of a neighbour and his crane.  Down at the recycling centre, the second load was do big we couldn't even slide it off the trailer yesterday.  Today we came back armed with forks, a machete and a hatchet.  We won!  Even better, the neighbour helped us get them out as he wants to change and paint the fence. 

Birthday party season continues.  Brighid models today's birthday present, which I made for her friend who is teeny tiny and quite a bit shorter than Brighid.  I didn't have enough bias tape to do the hem in one colour, so the front is navy and the back is red.  The fabric comes all the way from Brixton, London, where I went looking for an authentic and strong African print to use for babywearing.  Fionn was a bit big and fidgety for my newbie wrapping skills, so I stuck to the ergo baby carrier and this fabric has lived in my fabric stash since.

Tomorrow I start a new job.  Best I get some sleep and wake ready for action. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

sewing notes

I made a successful top out of my black merino fabric.  It isn't the pavlova top, which is sitting in disgrace back in its box after I triple stitched the neckband on backwards.  It is the hummingbird peplum top which I made from the leftover merino fabric.  Without another layer, then it's a little thin but this afternoon as soon as I finished it, I added a lovely wrap top I was gifted which is also not quite enough clothing on its own and now they work together just fine.  I do need to make the neckband smaller.  I thought I did this time, but clearly not smaller enough to help it lay flat.

No photos.  Some days, I can pretend this blog communicates to a world beyond my own head.  Others, like today, it's my personal journal working at its most basic level - completed a top.

There is lots more sewing I would like to do, but there is the smallish (maybe not so small) matter of a chapter for a book to finish, so I may have to ban myself from the sewing machine until the chapter is done.

Drove to Punakaikai this afternoon and saw a baby seal on the beach not very far away from us at all.  More lovely than the dead baby seal we found on the beach at the beginning of this week.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

tulip love

I read Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In and I loved it.  I had quite a lot to say about it and started writing this morning, but whereas I blogged happily about gardening for years and still can about gardening and sewing, my responses to Lean In are both personal and also linked to my work.  I realised that I wasn't comfortable posting a full response to Sandberg's book online.  Such is life.

But as I'm still blogging about sewing, I can report that I made progress with the merino pavlova top I cut out many months ago.  Until I didn't.  I made darts successfully and then I sewed a complicated piece on back to front using a stretch stitch on my machine which isn't easily unpicked.  Unpicking black triple stitched thread from black fabric without a quick-un-pick is im-poss-ible.  I don't know where my quick-un-picks go.  I lose them all the time.  Not through lack of use during sewing time, that's for sure.  So tomorrow I will buy a-noth-er one.  One day when I die or get dragged off to a rest home, my children may find 23 quick-un-picks when they get the house ready to put on the market.

So with the remainder of the black merino I have nearly finished cutting out a hummingbird top.  I'm having to cut the peplum in two pieces and the stretch runs different ways on each.  Maybe later this week there will be a photograph with evidence of whether or not this works.

No camera today.  But my eyes feast on my red tulips.  I have two clusters of them and they are the most beautiful sights.  More tulips next year, for sure.  I've been weeding and sowing mesclun, phacelia and misome.  I also planted some gladioli.  Today I even raked the grass clippings and fed the chooks because our child labourers are far away, having fun and being spoilt by their grandparents and aunties.  In my windowsill mini-greenhouse, the tomato and basil seedlings are poking through and outside, I ponder where to build a tomato garden. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

spaces in paradise

So, Sarah Wilson is my new favourite blogger and health guru.  I like to have myself a health guru, sometimes three.  Today she wrote Build gaps in your life.  Pauses.  Proper pauses, which I really liked.  She quotes someone called Thom Yorke who if you like Radiohead will mean something to you.  It didn't mean something to me, but nevertheless I could see the value of his comment (also quoted by Sarah Wilson):
I think what makes people ill a lot of the time is the belief that your thoughts are concrete and that you're responsible for your thoughts. Whereas actually — the way I see it — your thoughts are what the wind blows through your mind.

Then I found a link at the bottom to an older post from Sarah which is also pretty good: Sunday life: on the importance of having space. and then this: Sunday life: in which I plunge into mess.  There were more but you get the picture - Sarah Wilson is an inspiring read.  This is a great title as well as post: Sunday life: the gorgeous value of strangers.  Below are some pictures of the places where I make some space and life feels special as a result.
 Pictures from paradise.  It's not an award-winning photograph, but it was a beautiful sunset.

After several years without tulips, I have tulip beauty in my life again.  In the right background is part of my garlic crop.  In the left background is a jungle.  But it's a jungle with a red fence, and there are wayward roses, lemon balm, lemon verbena and some tropicanna lillies and red hot pokers in the jungle at various times of the year.

 Irises, with flowering kale behind and beside the irises, and some iceland poppies amongst them.  The silverbeet is still growing without going to seed, and there is some rocket growing in the gaps as winter vegetables get eaten up.

Yesterday I came home at lunchtime and planted aquilegias and basil.  The basil went underneath and beside my cloche-which-used-to-be-a-plastic-bin and the aquilegias went to the forefront of these irises, to replace some eaten-up crimson kale.  Aquilegias are also known as granny's bonnets, and it was my grandma who introduced them to me, about 20 years ago at the Royal Show in Christchurch. 

Today, after the sport-and-swimming whirlwind and a quick trip to McDonalds (treat of the year for the short people), we ate our takeaways by the beach and then collected lots of spent cabbage tree leaves from the public walkway near the beach to use as kindling for the fire (yes, Aucklanders, the fire is still on each night!).

Those ready-made pizza bases?  Which the food purists look down on?  I've only discovered them in recent months and I think they are at least as 'good' and definitely as useful as sliced bread.  For round #2 of dinner (Maccas never suffices for long), we had meat lovers pizza with freshly picked spinach hidden under the cheese and everyone was happy.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Family weekend

In which my baby boy went away for a hockey tournament without any of us because he desperately wanted to go with his team and without any of his whanau and he was sick on the way over Arthurs Pass and he still played four games and got player of the day this morning and now he is safe and sound in bed.

In which his sister missed him and wailed that the last time she saw him she was brushing her teeth and she wanted to go with her father to pick him up from the turf but actually for most of the weekend she had fun being the only child until this afternoon it seemed to get a step too lonely for her.

In which the Village Milk outlet opened in our small wet town (it rained to celebrate the occasion - we are proper dairying country here, no pilfering of water needed for basic amenities on this side of the alps) and we got to have a good look through and really enjoyed talking to the farmers involved (both our local farming couple and the Village Milk pioneers from Takaka) and had sausage in bread and lovely raw milk smoothies and Brighid and her friends got their faces painted and the newspaper photographer took their pictures and we practised using the new machine by buying lots of milk.  It was all round wonderful.  Goodbye supermarket milk!  I went home feeling so energised about growing and buying local that I started rearranging the kitchen cupboards, putting the baking tins up high and out of the way and making room for our lovely new glass one litre milk bottles.

In which we had lunch by a gorgeous lake with my parents and my super clever sister who is off to Melbourne to take up a scholarship there to do her PhD.  Not only is she very intelligent and savvy and driven, but she also looked very swish in a gorgeous scarf and a coat that retails for $700 but she bought it on trademe for $80, in great condition.  Sharp indeed.

In which a highlight of my weekend was that instead of going in to work on Saturday afternoon, I had a sleep.  Sleep, I'm realising, may be more important than any vitamin supplement or therapeutic massage.  And early morning hockey tournament starts where we wake up at 5.30am after a late Friday night create a deficit that a responsible person has to correct.  Did I call myself responsible?  Why yes.  Because I am a super lucky woman, Favourite Handyman saw me asleep and stayed home instead of going off to do weekend work himself so that Brighid didn't wake me up.  We've come a long way on this sleep thing since the children were babies.  I feel like sending a message to me ten years ago, saying "yes, you will get to sleep again.  uninterrupted.  it will happen.  I promise."

In which I bought a windowsill plastic house and planted 24 seeds of sunflowers, tomatoes, zucchini and basil in the peat coils.  I buried a bucket of bokashi under a wood shavings/chicken poo mound in the garden and got back inside just before the rain intensified further.

In which Brighid got dressed up in her dancing competitions outfit for special practice on Saturday morning and got the most exciting news that she has to wear bright red lipstick on the competition night.  Should go well with the neon green braces and black top and bike shorts.  She's having a ball with it all, and so far not adversely affected by her mother lacking the proper attributes of a Dancing Mother.

In which I finished a cowl top from Simplicity 1945 and I'm finished with that pattern.  Four tops and none of them really wonderful and this one will be given away because the slinky fabric made the whole top way too big for me.  I'm still keen to make a cowl top like my bought one and may even make a separate post on just exactly how one day.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

celebrating womens suffrage

Today is 120 year since women gained the vote in New Zealand.  Twenty years ago I was an enthusiastic history student at a conference celebrating the centenary of women's suffrage in Wellington.  My strongest memory is not of the conference itself (though I remember enjoying that) but of the function at Government House where the first female governor general, Cath Tizard presided.  I was unsure of what I would do after I finished my honours year, just weeks away at the time, and made jokes about growing sheep to make wool and knit jerseys when very kind and well meaning people asked me.

Tonight I didn't make it to the function celebrating 120 years of female suffrage in Kumara, fabulous though it sounded.  After a day at work, my two lovely children and I ended up stepping off the whirl of activities which usually settles on kung fu on a Thursday night.  I made them endless toast for their post-dinner hungry tummies and then we read Whacky Wednesday and The Lorax in the big bed upon their request and laughed and also spent ages picking things from the Flybuys catalogue.  Brighid wanted salt and pepper shakers.  I pointed out that we already have salt and pepper shakers but she has the genes of both of her grandmothers running strong in her veins, and probably will collect 23 salt and pepper shakers over the next century, maybe more.

This weekend is the open day for a local farm which has installed a raw milk dispensary and is about to open for business.  It's so exciting to have this opening here in our small wet town where too often businesses blow up or close down.  I'll be very interested to see how Fionn fares with raw milk in terms of his eczema.

Monday, September 16, 2013

oxtail and merino

1. Remember this pattern?  It's the Cake Patterns pavlova skirt and wrap top:
I've made two circle skirts from this pattern, but the top, which I cut from lovely fine black merino many months ago, is still in unassembled pieces.  Tonight I took it out of the box and had another look at it.  I drew the lines in on the dart markings as per the suggestion of some reviews I've read online.  It's time to make it, not least because the weather will get too warm for merino if I wait much longer.  I'm putting it up here to record the pledge to complete it.

2. oxtail.  It cooks up beautifully in the slow cooker and even Brighid liked it.  Now I need to work out what to put in the slow cooker for tomorrow night's dinner.  Maybe some concoction with bacon, anchovies, chickpeas and pumpkin?  With greens added in the last hour...

Anyways, I'm back on a blog roll, so another kitchen report is likely.  I'll keep writing until I have something to say - knocking women back for frivolous writing is how the blokes squashed female voices for centuries. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

useful skills

Useful skills or knowledge from the past few years, in action today:
1.  sewing presents.  Brighid went to two sixth birthday parties today, and each little girl got a pink knit circle skirt which I made last night and this morning.
2.  more sewing.  I altered the waistband of one skirt this morning, and am part way through altering another now.  Inwards not outwards.
3.  gardening with compost.  The tumble composter we bought two years ago is made of plastic, which turns out not to be strong enough for the job when the compost is heavily wet in the West Coast spring.  It refused to rotate for me this week.  I emptied some of it out onto the garden today.  Favourite Handyman cleared the chook coop out and put fresh wood shavings in it.  I made two spots in the garden for piling up the wood shavings/chook poo mixture and put a big dollop of compost/worms in it to get it going.  I'm thinking about how to disassemble the composter and make it work better.  If we took the barrel off the stand, then we could just roll the barrel round the lawn quite easily for aeration.
4. chicken stock.  I've made chicken stock with water lots.  But when I roast a chicken, the juices turn to gel in the roasting pan, indicating very good things.  Some tragic nights I forget to collect it and it is wasted.  Last week I collected it in a cup and then added it to the slow cooked chicken curry a few days later.  Tonight I lifted the chicken out of the pan to rest for 15 minutes (utterly essential according to the fancy cookbooks) and then turned the oven up to 220 and put in three large potatoes which were cut into chip sized pieces.  They cooked up to taste lovely and soaked the juices as they cooked.  Then we ate the chicken and chips/potatoes and broccoli and pumpkin for dinner and nobody complained.  No children ate pumpkin either, but at least they didn't grizzle.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

To the food purists

To the people who want all foods made from scratch and like great grandma would have eaten (shame if Great Grandma was poor and had to make do on awful food, huh?) and have as their third hobby to find a new food travesty to uncover or read about every fortnight, I want to say...

It's not all KFC and health disaster if I reach for the pre-prepared curry mix.  I may not be at home to make everything from scratch and nothing was certified organic, but we're rocking along in good food land nevertheless.  Detailed breakdown:
1. Before bed, Monday night: pull frozen chicken pieces out of large bag of chicken pieces which was on special two months ago and put in slow cooker to thaw (slow cooker off).
2. Tuesday morning, 6.15am: spoon chicken stock and fat left over from last roast chicken over the pieces.  Spread spoonfuls of shop-bought red curry paste over chicken pieces.  Scrub and slice potatoes, peel and chop garlic and shallots and carrots, peel and finely chop ginger, and spread over chicken pieces.  Tip can of coconut cream over everything.
3. Put all this in the fridge because it doesn't need to go on just yet. 
4. Scramble to do everything else with children who got up late.  Parental organisation should always be inversely matched by child motivation.  I think it's a mathematical theorem.
5. Drive husband to work and get there just very slightly late.  Remind children of the wickedness of this.
6. Buy part of school lunches at the lunch food place. 
7. Dash to supermarket to buy fruit.  The plan to make sure there was an orange each for the morning was dashed by eldest child's unendorsed late night snacking.  Not in my Bible to send children to school without fruit or at least vegetables.
8. Supermarket checkout person makes small talk about a race.  Retrospectively, it was about some rich person's race on the television.  I respond that I'm racing right now.  Nicely, y'know, but there you are.  The America's Cup ain't my thing.
9. Children finish assembling lunches in car.  Drop them off at school.  Now 15 minutes until I have to be (paid) working.  Remember that the slow cooker meal is still in the fridge.
10. This can't happen.  Thank all Gods in the entire world that we live so close to work and the children's school.  Drive home, rush in, put slow cooker on to low.  Go to work.
11. 8.54am: Arrive to earn money.  It's a triumph!  I'm there!

[Work very hard.  Be a good girl. Not guaranteed every day, but today counts]

12. 4.55pm: collect husband from work
13. 5.00pm collect children from our lovely childcarer
14. 5.10pm enter house, wash hands, harvest lots of silverbeet, wash and chop it and put it in the slow cooker.  Mix it all up and switch to high.
15. 5.15pm: drive to supermarket.  Buy a week's worth of groceries.  Buy lots of oranges and mandarins.  Consider hiding some of them.
16.  5.40pm: home again.  Favourite Handyman helps bring groceries inside and unpack them.  Serve dinner.  It's a success.  Everyone eats it, even the fussy one.
17.  6.20pm: FH and children go to kung fu.  The house is quiet.  I alternately read facebook and write this blogpost instead of folding washing.

Not from scratch?  I'm standing by my own verdict:  it's a RESULT!

Monday, September 9, 2013

guest post

Once upon a time there was a woman called Rose.  She owned a shop.  She made shoes and dresses to sell in the shop.  They were so pretty that everyone bought them.  Rose was rich until one day Rose had children.  They were twins.  One of the twins was a girl, the other was a boy.  One day a robber stole her children and kidnapped them.  When Rose found out that her children were gone she closed the shop down and started to look for them.  She looked everywhere but she couldn't find them anywhere.  Then one day she found them.  The same robber that stole them was guarding them so Rose rang the policeman to come and put the robber in jail and he did.  Rose rescued her children and they lived happily ever after.

Brighid, aged 6 1/2.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

reflections on an intermittent voice

Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.  It's fantastic and really important and I'm so glad we got it as part of the Book Discussion Scheme for the local book group I go to.  Thinking about what to do next in terms of the challenge to action against injustice to women (specifically, sex trafficking, maternal mortality and female genital cutting) and how to involve my own children in understanding and making links.

I'm not quite ready to give up blogging.  I started six years ago and that's a pretty good haul in my view.  But whereas then my blog gave me an outlet for my thoughts and to develop ideas and responses to my world while I was in the thick of nappies and kindy, my situation has changed a lot over time and staying up late to reflect on this blog is something I opt not to do, favouring instead getting some sleep or going it to work to get things done at a time when no one is around to give me more jobs, or doing laundry or organising hockey trips (not the whole team, just our little section of it!).

So at the same time as I opt not to share much at all in terms of deep reflection, I also get less satisfaction from the blog experience.  Gut instinct says not to give it up completely.  When I read yet another magazine article or book review on feminists and/or 'career' women giving the workplace up to embrace a home-centred life of gardening, making food from scratch, etc., I'm pleased for all those women - I did that to a large degree myself.  But given I've been reading these articles at least as long as I've been parenting, I wonder, what happened to those women?  Some of them have chosen large families and the project continues.  Some have chosen to home educate and the project continues.  But what of those women who made those choices and now their children are at school?  Are they now more involved in the community and still keeping themselves distant from the workplace?  For those women who are back at paid work in whatever form, what are the changes they have taken with them from their home-based experience?

I do get it that they may well be in a different kind of busy track in terms of blogging or sharing their stories.  I absolutely get that.  But it's the interest in those stories, and therefore in trying to share the tiniest bit of my own, that I choose not to close my blog or my blogging days.  If anyone has something to share on this in the comments, or blogs to direct me to, I'd love to know.  One example which does spring to mind is Pea Soup, a really gorgeous diary of a beautiful knitter, paid worker and Steiner School supporter.  In terms of working woman/feminist/home life sharer, another blog I enjoy is A Bee of a Certain Age.  A feminist blogger who joyously embraces crafting and shares her own raw and powerful stories who I like to read is Craft is the New Black.

Not quite in the same vein, but a new favourite nevertheless is Sarah Wilson's A Sweeter Life.  Her post How Hiking Heals inspired me to go walking along Rapahoe Beach this afternoon.  Beautiful it was too.

George Bernard Shaw is quoted in Half the Sky
Reasonable People adapt themselves to the world.  
Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves.  
All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people.

and Derek Bok is also quoted in Half the Sky:
If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Ruhlman's salted chicken

Michael Ruhlman is my latest food/blog/writer discovery.  I tried his recipe for roast chicken today (the key new thing for me was putting lots of salt on the skin) and the result was very very nice.  I haven't worked out the science of why the meat was so juicy with the salt on the skin, but that it was.

I've also been gardening in the sunshine.  No photos, but much pleasure.

I also challenged myself to a weekend laundry marathon.  My challenge was to get through the household laundry (including the many odd socks I found when I cleaned our bedroom) which had built up all week, carried on through the weekend AND get it all folded and away.  Only one basket left to fold.  I don't record it because it was or is interesting, I record it because it was such a big challenge.

My other challenge for the week is to get lots of sleep every single night.  Which is not compatible with further pontificating here.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

apron etiquette

You can take multi-tasking too far.  Maybe you can't.  I did.  I cooked dinner and organised the laundry and considered the news on Syria and tried to organise the smallest child to make herself useful and mostly laid the table myself and we all ate dinner and I dropped Favourite Handyman off at kung fu and the children and I collected Mary K (86) from the rest home and we were unfazed by the potential meltdown over unmatching stocking-socks (anyone looks, Mary, you poke them with your stick and tell them off) and we got to the local high school hall and I put the kids in the queue to pay to get us in to the Talent Show and skipped the queue to get Mary safely inside and sitting down and the kids joined us soon enough and with programmes to boot and all was going pretty well.

Then I noticed red checked fabric on my knees.

I was still wearing the apron I'd put on to cook dinner.

I was grateful indeed for the coat I  was wearing over the apron. 

In other news, I went to Christchurch for a work training day earlier in the week and while I wasn't at work training, I spent up at the bra shop and the fabric shop.  Maybe I'm not quite ready to be an adult after all.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Circle skirts aren't just for skinny girls

They are for absolutely anyone who fancies one.  Or two.  I finished this last weekend.  Yesterday, thinking that I might look in the posh shop with the 50% off sale at black skirts as my usual funeral skirt has a torn (beyond repair) hem.  I can't find a picture online, but it's a David Pond black skirt with red side panels and some lovely detailing back and front, and I bought it.

I also juggled work and two sick children successfully this week and made all the commitments I had at work and got the children better and got to a funeral of the father of a good friend today and tonight I have made the most enormous shepherd's pie for Fionn to take on his hockey tournament trip to Blenheim and I think that
a) medals are in order, though some for my bereaved friend long before me of course.
b) my lovely childminder R is the most wonderful and special and helpful person and I'm so lucky that our respective part time work commitments dovetailed so well yesterday and today
c) I'm grateful for a workplace which is genuinely supportive of family needs.  Two children with us at our workplaces for 90 minutes Wednesday.  Today when R had to go to work at midday, she dropped a greatly improved Brighid off to my meeting and everyone welcomed her to join our table and understood when I had to leave 20 minutes early.
d) audio books are the best invention for long car travel.  We went to the library and got the audio book of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for tomorrow.
e) I should pack.  and sleep.  Probably in reverse order.

Monday, August 12, 2013


More kale, less hair. 

Yesterday's gardening: After weeding various places, I sowed beetroot, oriental mesclun and rocket, 'cos that's what I found in the shed which would work right now.  I also bought yellow primroses and yellow poppies and (Brighid's choice) pansies.  I'd not seen punnets of exclusively eye-popping colour splotches of yellow poppy before, and they were irresistible.  The children and I spent ages debating the merits of different colours of gladioli, but ultimately left them at the shop while I think about where to plant them so we can see them really easily and they won't be blown over by the wind. 

Today I had a present at my front door from a friend: two bags of perennial leek plants which needed a new home.  Yahoo!  Must magic some gardening time tomorrow to plant them.  Gardening by torchlight could work.  I'm sure I've done it before.
 A flowering succulent in the cactus garden.
 First crocus of the season!
 You can see it more clearly above.
This end of the front garden is almost themed in white. It is a very shaded part of the garden, and the polyanthus and snowdrops literally bring light to the area.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

reflections on select supplements

Just like pharmaceutical drugs, vitamin supplements are never guaranteed miracle cures.  I've a documented propensity for developing immune dysfunction symptoms which doctors have no idea what to do about, and I've spent a lot of time successfully dealing with these symptoms by alternative means.  I've no longer got arthritis and or bells palsy.  I've reduced my hyperthyroid symptoms significantly, but there is still a big bulge of a goiter on/in my neck.  This year, taking a multivitamin with no iodine (generally counterindicated for hyperthyroid persons) and no iron (no good for haemochromatosis persons) twice a day, every day, has made a HUGE positive difference to my general health.  I've had only one mild cold this year!

Tonight I thought I'd document what hasn't worked for me.  Mostly because I've trawled the net many a night looking for information which isn't there.  Here's one story.  Vitamin C is supposed to be bad for haemochromatosis persons, though slowly there is emerging a small group who note it for it's usefulness regulating iron rather than merely increasing iron absorption.  Vitamin C does lots of good things for me, has done since the arthritis phase which started six and a half years ago and is now a rare sensation.  But glucosamine never did.

I couldn't track down any adverse effects for CoQ10, including not from the very knowledgeable John Appleton.  But I started and stopped CoQ10 several times to work out if it was the culprit triggering my arthritis and all the symptom evidence said yes!

My most recent 'discovery' was l-carnitine.  I'd read many good things and only one significantly bad study about it, and it was an amino acid like taurine which had done good things for me in summer (but been rather expensive in terms of buying it outside the health shop remainder table).  But-carnitine, like glucosamine and CoQ10, turns out not to be my thing.  It was supposed to supress the symptoms of hyperthyroidism and it seemed to do the opposite.  I could feel everything get a little frantic, sleep was compromised, and I was missing a much needed base equilibrium to deal with life.  So that one is on hold for the moment, and maybe for the long term as well.

The medicine which helps me the very very most is the one I'm going to take very soon: a good night's sleep

Today was a very beautiful day and I spent it inside working.  I've just marked the beginning of spring by making my Kings Seeds order.  English winter thyme, two lots of mesclun, tomato sungold and edible violas.  Tomorrow, I think it's time to be in the garden.  No amount of supplements could do as much good as an afternoon digging, weeding and planting.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

more eating than blogging

Still blogging ... just.  I've compiled a few posts in my head about fundraising and the school gala.  I won't relive the buildup to the gala here after all, but the actual day turned out really well, we made $14 000 which is fantastic for a school of only 170 pupils in a town hard hit by recent economic changes.  I learnt that I still don't mind working hard on the day, and that making candy floss the night before is kind of fun, but that I should not volunteer to make cakes, buy the ingredients and then discover I cannot find the time to bake.

The Terrible Tragedy of the Healthy Eater is hilarious, even for me the kale afficcionado.

In the absence of a local butcher, and given my dissatisfaction with supermarket meat, I decided to try Gourmet Direct, on the recommendation of a foodie friend's stepmother.  Of course.  How else do you find a butcher?  All very Hansel and Gretel so far.  Armed with a free delivery code, I made a selection of meats I couldn't find easily elsewhere.  I ordered Sunday morning for Tuesday delivery and it arrived at 6.30am Tuesday, just in time for me to pack the meat in the freezer and put the lamb shanks in the slow cooker for dinner that night.  Gourmet Direct meat is more expensive than supermarket meat, but the quality of the lamb shanks surpassed any other lamb shank meal I've ever cooked or eaten.  The next night I made a kind of shepherds pie with the leftovers, so the price per meal was still not too bad.  They had a slow cooking rose veal pack on special which I decided to try.  I didn't let the fact I'd never cooked veal in my life deter me.  So tonight we had diced veal in the slow cooker with onions, kumara and spices.  I put that part on at breakfast, and then came home at lunch and added chopped kale from the garden and a few handfuls of quinoa.  It tasted very nice and [insert drum roll] ....... Brighid even ate it!

No sewing.  I've just finished the first book of the Hunger Games trilogy.  It's pretty cool that Fionn (10) wants to talk to me about what I'm reading.  He has read all three and loves to discuss them.

Health projects ... latest 'discovery' for me is carnitine.  I've been reading about the research on carnitine for benign goiters and for hyperthyroid symptoms.  There is some in courier van or on a plane towards me as I type.

Haven't forgotten my chapter for a history writing project, but it's close to impossible to do anything for it in term time.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Mokihinui River bliss

The most wonderful holiday, at the Rough and Tumble Lodge, on the banks of the Mokihinui River.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

goldfields poetry

Poll the Grogseller

by Charles Thatcher c.1860
Big Poll the Grogseller gets up every day
And her small rowdy tent sweeps out;
She's turning in plenty of tin people say
For she knows what she's about.
Polly's good-looking, and Polly is young,
And Polly's possessed of a smooth oily tongue;
She's an innocent face and a good head of hair,
And a lot of young fellows will often go there;
And they keep dropping in handsome Polly to court,
And she smiles and supplies them with brandy and port
And the neighbours all say that the whole blessed day,
She is grog-selling late and early.
She is grog-selling late and early.

Two sly-grog detectives have come up from town,
And they both roam about in disguise;
And several retailers of grog are done brown,
And have reason to open their eyes.
And have reason to open their eyes.

Of her small rowdy crib they are soon on the scent;
But Polly's prepared when they enter her tent;
They call for some brandy - "We don't sell it here,
But", says Poll, "I can give you some nice ginger beer,"
And she adds, "do you see any green in my eye?
To your fine artful dodge and disguise I am fly;
For if Polly you'd nail, you'd have, without fail,
To get up in the morning early."

 Widely available - this online version also has a recording.

and one from now:

Country Pub

They're changing the style of the pubs in the land,
They're trying to make each one look like the Grand.
From Queenstown to Kyeburn it's modern d├ęcor,
With wall to wall carpet across the bar floor.

There's wining and dining and neon and chrome,
And the comforts are better than those back at home.
And oysters and cray are the counter lunch grub,
To a band or the TV in an old country pub.

The high country musterer now takes off his boots
And spurs, and refrains from language that pollutes.
While the tired greasy shearer must shower and scrub,
Before he can drink in the old country pub.

Old Jackie the rabbiter came for a drink,
His clothes - blood and guts - bore a terrible stink.
As an escort for blow flies he was the main hub
And a dog or two followed him into the pub.

But Freddie the publican dropped in a faint,
And a tourist from Sydney turned green with the taint.
So Jack jumped in his jeep and took off for the scrub-
Now he's making home brew in an old copper tub.

Mixed drinking means changes a man cannot flout
For swilling and swearing and fighting are out,
While spitting or throwing a cigarette stub,
On the floor is taboo in an old country pub.

The top dressing pilot, the plumber and "Chips"
The pensioner, in for a couple of nips,
Will soon need a reference like some high-toned club,
Before they can drink at the old country pub.

By Blue Jeans
found on the Ancient Briton pub of Naseby website

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The archives box

Tonight I pulled out my archives box.  It doesn’t look like anything so formal as the descriptor “archives box” implies.  It’s a plastic box with no surviving lid that is full to overflowing with filing cards.  It’s the size and type which people sometimes used to use to organise their recipes.  The chaos is contained, just, by an ageing, plastic, tattered, pale green Pak’n’Save bag.

This box has been with me since 1995.  Back then, it was my workhorse of an organising tool for the details of the lives of women involved in the liquor industry in Central Otago between 1861 and 1901.  After I submitted my thesis in 1997, I moved on and became a secondary school English teacher, first in Auckland and then in London.  It came with me.  I became a parent and the box didn’t suffer for the vomit and mess which babies seem to bring with them, because the box was tucked away in a bookcase, or under a desk, out of my mind and the baby’s grasp.

I moved back to goldfields country and to another round of motherhood and more time in the secondary classroom.  The ebb and flow of an economy heavily dependent on extractive industry shaped the life of my new community just as it had the lives of the women who stayed in goldfields towns of Central Otago 140 years earlier.  Many left then, of course, just as so many have left my new home town of Greymouth in recent years as the price of coal mining has been counted in 29 deaths and hundreds of jobs.

I only noticed my box when I was cleaning the relevant room.  Regular readers know that’s rather infrequently.  Never, never, was I willing to throw my box out.  Those cards, organised by a woman’s name in the top right hand corner, and filled out by hand, represented hundreds if not thousands of hours of puzzle work.  Of reading newspapers on microfiche, of reading original books of licensing court records and police gazettes, of studying probates and magistrate’s court records.

Then earlier this week, out of the blue, I received a request to turn my work on women hotelkeepers on the Central Otago goldfields into a chapter for a book.  This afternoon I found a formal invitation in my inbox, and although I quake in my boots at some aspects of this (16 years out of date on historiography is a s-e-r-i-o-u-s deficiency), there is another part of me which is no longer willing to say no because I have child care responsibilities, or just lots of responsibilities at work as well as at home.  Here is the part of me that is excited to be ‘thinking history’ again. 

A new journey begins.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Hummingbird peplum top # 2

Well, that's much better, isn't it?

Cake Patterns Hummingbird top.  Size 40 with the following modifications: a forward shoulder adjustment of 18mm.  An extra 3-10mm on the sides (more on the front than the back).  A 1cm wedge out of the back.  The neckline is a bit wider than the green version, and the depth of the front neckline is in between the blue and green versions.  I dropped the arm curve about 2cm.

In another version (which I may well do), I would slice a tiny curve off the top of the shoulder.  I wouldn't mind trying the dicky version.  This gorgeous version from Leila of Three Dresses has convinced me that it's worth a try.  I bought some pale blue fabric, for reasons that I wasn't even sure of at the time, except that I was on a speed buying mission, and it didn't feel right to leave without some blue fabric.  For the dickey insert, I'm thinking of repurposing a striped blue shirt which Favourite Handyman has declared uncomfortable and unwearable.  Maybe stripe matching would be too hard, on closer inspection.  We'll see. 

Tomorrow, a new circle skirt.  From beginning to end in a day? 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The night time secretariat

There was a fashionable mantra a few decades ago, aimed primarily at working mothers, where it was all about working smarter not harder.  Haven't heard so much about it lately, possibly (I like to think) because someone clipped some smart-arse over the head for quipping this when said everyday superwoman was actually working smart and hard.

When I started a new working life in Auckland in 1999, it was pre internet banking and really difficult to find time to go to the bank.  Now, I can do almost anything online in financial terms and I can do it at 3am if I so desire.

Once upon a time, post internet banking and deep into the (earth)motherhood phase, I made hummous without electricity (e.g. here and here).  Just re-reading those posts is a reminder of another life.  All that home made bread - I'm so impressed with my four-years-ago self.  Now, as a mystery ghost cracked the top of my perfect-sized hummous making whizzy bowl which came with my super-whizzy stick, I'm oblivious to peak oil.  It's electricity and plastic (maybe glass and chrome the way I'm ogling the Kenwood brochure) all the way as I consider buying a food processor which can grate and whizz and mouli in nanoseconds.

It's all about saving a few minutes.  How fast could I whizz up stirfry ingredients in a food processor?  How useful to make threee cans' worth of hummous at once?  Although the slow movement is a fabulous thing, it's an aspirational thing now that might not even be quite aspirational, more like just distant but nice.  Like being skinny.  That's distant but nice.

I started writing about the night time secretariat because it seemed that my smarter rather than harder type strategy is that I run our family life via email at night.  I've emailed Fionn's school about a trip (hard working super teacher still working and replied within minutes), the cub leader about badges (the hard working super leader replied within minutes), a friend about holidays arrangements, another friend about swimming lessons and a sleepover later this week.  I've emailed a backpackers about pricing and availability for kung fu camp in August.  I've also looked at reviews for a Kenwood food processor.  Time management, you know.  Buy the best and save time by not having to replace it.  This was all once the children were in bed.  It was once I'd been down to (paid) work while they were at kung fu.  Three more days 'til the school holidays.

I've looked at my sewing.  My step towards sewing was to fold piles of washing so there was somewhere to lay the pieces out another night for cutting.  Then I put more washing in the machine, somewhat negating any possibility that the lounge would ever be free of washing.  Three more days of the school term.  Just three.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Hummingbird alterations

Forward shoulder adjustment, dropped armhole curve, a wedge out of the back, raised back and front necklines and a smidge extra on the sides of the front and back.  I found some tape (the label on the inside says "future protect") which is much easier to work with than sellotape.

I think I'm ready to cut out the Cake green hummingbird (with blue sleeves) peplum top for a second time.  The first version was ugly.  I've got a choice of fabrics which I purchased in a speed buying trip to Fabric Vision in Christchurch earlier this week.  I got to Papanui (the suburb where Fabric Vision resides) at 1.15pm, and had to be in town, parked and at the hospital by 2pm, preferably having had some lunch.  Not quite the perfect conditions for careful evaluation of the options, but I had thought ahead about what I wanted to use the fabric for.  The pink in the photo is what I think is known as 'slinky knit' and was very cheap.  The other pattern is a soft knit which I hope works well for the Hummingbird.  I also bought some pale blue (what's with the pale?  I don't know) and two lengths of black for Hummingbird skirts.

Now I'm going to bed to read The Hunger Games.  Fionn wants me to read it and I'm treasuring that bit. Sharing his reading life with me might not happen forever.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The fundraising festival

They call it the school gala.  As a title, it seems to encompass a one day event.  In practise, the runup is akin to Lent.  Give something up every week and send it to school.  Read the list of what everyone has volunteered for and notice the gaps remaining.  Every week.  So far, I've not remembered to send corn chips, or butter, or sugar, or condensed milk.  I have volunteered to bake, and to help on the candy floss stall and serving the lunches.  I said that if they were short on the lunches, I would do the candy floss in the lead up the night before and on the morning, and then do lunches during the event.  My eyes were open as well as briefly noble.  They never have enough people for the lunches until the verrrrrrrry last minute.

Today, when one child was dressed in uniform and I was realising that my laundry strike this week meant the other had no clean school top, some bright relative remembered it was mufti.  Bottle-O Mufti.  They went off to choose outfits, while I pondered our bottle options.  Awake half the night with an over-extended bout of insomnia, I was in my dressing gown and very bleary.  The supermarket before school wasn't quite within my grasp.

I found three unopened bottles in the top cupboard.  They fought over taking the HP sauce, until Fionn noticed it was past its use-by date.  I overruled their squibbling (squabbling and quibbling - let me know if someone else has already patented the term) and gave one some expensive gluten free tamari soya sauce and the other some Heinz tomato ketchup.

There will be a new newsletter and weekly request next week.  Why do I try and play good brownie?  Partly because some part of me is a good brownie, and also because I'm so grateful that I'm not actually organising the event, which for all the hard work and crazy goals on the day (there are baking competitions for the kids and I have no idea whatsoever how I am supposed to coordinate rescheduled sport before the gala, helping at the gala, helping before the gala, baking for the gala, taking my elderly cousin to the gala AND enabling young children to bake in my kitchen that same morning), is a great community event and one I'm kind of proud to be sharing in.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

How does she do it?

You know when people say "I don't know how you do it?"  Whether it's having a child at all, or having more children, or studying while working, or working and parenting, or living on a very tight budget or [insert your permutation]....?

I haven't always chosen to share the first thought that used to come into my mind, which was "I simply don't do housework."  Sometimes my children wanted to play with the children of the speaker, and I didn't want to scare everyone off.

Anyways, I made the decision to pay for two hours cleaning each week this year and it has been brilliant.  I almost never mention it in conversations though - some sense that it isn't quite the thing to mention.  But now that we have that support from the wonderful H each week, I realise that of all the women I've wondered "how does she do it?" at work, they probably all have a cleaner, and nearly all keep silent, just like me.  Over the years, I have gotten better at doing housework like folding laundry and keeping all rooms and tables functional in terms of clutter, and FH now cooks once a week and does the dishes all the other nights, the children contribute a little more and H sorts out the cleaning stuff I hate the most, so life is semi-respectable at the once-was-messiest house in Wetville.

So what's your biggest challenge?  Mine is feeding.  Humans need/want to eat soooooo frequently.  And it turns out that chocolate doesn't solve everything after all.  So my contribution to the procrastinatorzone (some call it the blogosphere) tonight is my latest pumpkin soup discovery.

#1.  pumpkin soup in a saucepan.  Sweat onion/garlic/ginger/celery in oil or butter, then add cubes of pumpkin and sometimes some red lentils.  Add water or stock and boil gently 'til it's cooked.  Takes around 45 minutes from start to finish and requires constant presence in the house, preferably in the kitchen.

#2.  Pumpkins soup in the slow cooker.  Chop all the above ingredients, and maybe some bacon and kale, and cook all day in the slow cooker.  Takes around 10-15 minutes to prepare and then can be left in the slow cooker while you garden/do paid work/sew/study/whatever.  You don't have to be in the house.

#3.  Today Fionn wanted pumpkin soup for dinner.  He reminded me of this at school pickup (3pm), but we had to go out again at 4.15pm and FH and the kids wouldn't be back until 6.20, as it turned out.  So I used my handy dandy cast iron casserole, and sweated the garlic/ginger/onions in oil, then added chunks of punpkin, chopped kale and chopped bacon.  The oven was already on cooking those skinny bratwurst sausages for my starving children, and when I took the sausages out, the soup mixture had come to the boil and I could put in the oven (150 celsius) and leave there for a couple of hours.  I think it would have taken 20 minutes of prep and bringing the mixture to the boil, and then I could leave the house while it was in the oven.  It turned out great.  So well there was only four mouthfuls left for me when I came home from yoga at 8pm. 

Did I just slip in that I made it to yoga?  Why yes I did.  I even managed to do some of the challenging holding stuff for a while.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

hummingbird top experiment #1

Exhibit A: tired woman, late at night, in ill fitting sewing experiment.

Outcome 1: I am going to try again, with more flexible fabric and a forward shoulder adjustment (new addition to my alterations knowledge base) and possibly a full bust adjustment.

Outcome 2: I did go to bed very soon afterwards and rested my weary bones.

Outcome 3: I don't like ponte di roma fabric, despite the most exotic sounding name.  I won't use it for a top again, but I may use the rest up on a simple knit skirt.  I might even line it as I go.  Straight skirts hiking up leggings or tights in winter is a bad and uncomfortable look.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

slam poetry and London fiction

Earlier this week I fell in love with Carrie Rudzinski.  As it does, life had to go on in its 'normal' and relatively petty fashion, emails and teaching, parenting and washing clothes, meals followed quickly by more family hunger...  But out there are more people who also love Carrie Rudzinski, and one of them filmed her at a poetry slam and posted it on youtube.  For me and for you.  The fifth one who walked away.

I was going to post about Kate Atkinson's Life after Life.  It's a great novel, and her structural technique of the life which is lived again and again with small details making a very big difference, is brilliant.  I bet loads of authors want to copy it, but as it's so unique, it's a bit obvious to do so.  It's set in London, the Home Counties English countryside and Germany in both world wars.  I loved this kind of book from as soon as I was reading adult fiction, and then I loved the 'real' London when I lived there, and now this 'new' book which allows me to sink back into an era and setting which was my very favourite for so long.  I loved Ian McEwan's Saturday because it was a modern day setting of a London I had traipsed myself.

Life after Life made me realise that I'd always read up on the horrors of the German bombing of London without thinking that if the Germans lost the war, then their devastation must actually have been worse.  I also realised what a narrow time my experiences in London had been demographically, as I'd not known anyone elderly there in an intimate enough fashion to learn about their wartime experiences.  We made the beginnings of a friendship with Simi, our neighbour in Gants Hill, but asking an elderly Jewish man about World War Two experiences seemed far too invasive and crass, so I didn't.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Carrie Rudzinski in Hokitika

Carrie Rudzinski.  Performing here.  I got to hear her perform her poetry tonight in Hokitika and she was utterly wonderful.  I think I'm a bit in love with her actually.

So you're saved.  I was on the verge of blogging about buying bedlinen and my odd feelings about respectability.  I was even on the verge of confessing my interest, dating back to my childhood, in British Royalty, and what a weird and frankly sinful socialist that makes me.  Some people watch reality tv, or Shortland Street.  I can tell you that Kate the pregnant royal who spawned a thousand brown updos and probably caused sales of peroxide to plummet, wore a pink Harvey McQueen to a prestigious horse/birthday show the other day.  The linen is a worse story - best you are spared it.

But it's okay.  I went out and got myself some seriously wonderful culture, learnt what poetry slam is, discovered codes for such a thing, discovered that I can drive, sort out offspring squabbling (well sort of), plan dinner and think about what I've got to do next at work all at once, but I cannot click my fingers in appreciation of great performance poetry at the same time as I am listening to and absorbed in the poetry.  

I've bought her books and her CD: The Endless Return Home, The Shotgun Speaks and the CD of her live at the Boston Poetry Slam.  Now I'm going to go to bed with Elizabeth Strout's The Burgess Brothers.  I finished Kate Atkinson's Life after Life and it was wonderful and deserving of its very own blogpost.  And scorched almonds. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

slipping prospects

New project.  Refashioning, re-laceing and making slips.  The photo doesn't show my blue slip to the left.  I bought it for 50 cents from the Sallies and now the lace hem looks grey and is unravelling.  I bought black lace to change the hem.  The back middle is an enormous slip I bought on trademe which I can probably turn into two half slips or more.  I've bought matching lace for the hems.  The lilac fabric on the right is nylon elastane and four way stretch and I'n going to make  stretchy slip drafted from a bought one I own, except a bit wider and longer.  The bought version doesn't come in a big enough size for it not to wriggle upwards to my knickers during the day.  I bought lace to match that as well but probably won't use it as it will restrict hem movement.

The green envelope in the foreground middle is my Cake Patterns Hummingbird which arrived today!  I'm in Susan's house for the sewalong.  I've just now realised the sewalong starts on Monday which I can't visualise doing at all.  I guess I could just ignore all the slip plans, but I don't know about ignoring the shawl I wanted to finish knitting first and the wonderful book Life after Life that I'm loving right now and the latest Elizabeth Strout which I have very kindly been lent which I want to read this coming week.  It's not quite kosher to abandon the husband/children/kitchen/laundry or not to go to paid work either.  Huh!  I'm off to bed to read my book.

But this is great, from the army chief in Australia.  I'll be using his quote plenty more:  "The standard you walk past, is the standard you accept."

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The phenomenal growth rate of laundry

One head of garlic planted.  Not all of this year's garlic bed is ready for planting - some of my buried bokashi hasn't broken down completely.  Though the many and large worms are testament to the goodness of the bokashi. Hopefully the rest will be ready later this month.

One only slightly forlorn gooseberry bush found in the sad and cheap section at the far end of Mitre 10 and planted.  I've had no success with my first gooseberry bush, but gooseberries taste so good and are rarely available outside of home gardens, so it's worth persisting.

Six celery plants and six soldier poppy plants planted.  I helped the celery along with some sheep dag and wool mix I found in the shed.  The soldier/ANZAC poppies should be flowering for Lou's birthday in October.  Lou was a Prisoner of War in WW2 and a very wonderful man and we like to particularly honour him on ANZAC day and his birthday.

Two full bins of bokashi buried, and much weeding done beforehand.  I think I dug out the biggest dock ever from this property.  Slack Sandra for letting it get that established, though I had cut most of the seed heads off a while ago.  I even sprinkled some rocket seeds on top.  Probably too cold, but it will be a worthwhile experiment, as the spot is quite sheltered.

There are more plants out the front waiting for me to plant out - some iceland poppies and a tray which Brighid chose of 12 overgrown polyanthus for only $3.

I continued my bargain buying at the supermarket.  I don't usually bother with red meat from the supermarket, but we have no independent butcher any more, and with a lurgied husband in the house I was thinking of mega-nutrition slow-cooker goodness.  Shin beef to be used immediately for only $3.50.  It's in the slow cooker now with lots of garlic, ginger, bay leaves, leeks, carrots and onions.  Should mean there is soupy/stewy goodness for lunch tomorrow while I'm at work, and maybe I can even come home for lunch and have some myself.

Laundry grows.  Faster than people, faster even than cars.  Possibly at a similar rate to dishes.  I hope FH gets well soon because I love him, but also because when he is well again I can go back to only dealing with laundry.  Dishes as well makes the working part of the evening too long.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Fat and the shawl

Here it is, the latest crafty project, draped over the chair back.  You can't tell the triangle shape as it is all bunched up circular needles behind the chair.  If it looks home made and home dyed and homespun, that's because it is, though the only homemade part that I have contributed is the knitting.

It's quite thick wool, which makes it grow fast and warm, and I quite like the colour.  But it's not going to adorn a ball frock anytime soon or a work outfit.  I see a great future for this shawl as I sit up in bed and read.

I spent much of the day practising for using the shawl by sitting up in bed and alternately reading my own book (Kate Atkinson Life after Life) and reading White Boots by Noel Streatfield to Brighid.  Thyroid care, you understand.  Preserving and nourishing my health so my children don't have to step forward into this world with an unwell mother.

Last night I attended a rather notorious organisation - the middle class ladies' literary league - and managed to consume beautiful cake and talk books without behaving too very badly.  In passing, off topic but after a respectable interval since the completion of the discussion of the actual book, someone mentioned the plethora, dangerous and worrying plethora, of obese women walking into The Warehouse recently.  And then on my facebook status feed the Child Poverty Action Group, a group I support wholeheartedly until today, posted a Herald article on tragic levels of childhood obesity.  A friend also brought this one to my attention which makes the point so very well: Don't Panic Everyone, I already know from The Ladygarden.

I wish more people would read Paul Campos' book The Obesity Myth.  Even if you disagree with the interpretation of the statistics, even if you are convinced that the world is going to hell in a handbasket if we don't all slim down at once, I think everyone should read the parts of his book which deal with the way fat is used as a code to stigmatise poor people.  I've responded to Campos' book here before. 

Something which I think I've written about before but I want to talk about again, is the way in which fat is so particularly visible on poor people, and the hideous ways in which we are invited to laugh at fat, poor people.  I'm certainly not going to link to the youtube links I've been sent before of the apparently disgusting display of flesh by people wearing revealing clothes while fat.  The subtext is hardly hidden: hide your gross body.  Personally, I think it's time people hid their prejudices about fat and poverty. 

So what do I mean about fat and visibility on poor people?  I mean that it costs plenty of money to drape and blend and mask fatness.  I started sewing because I was sick of so many of the RTW clothes I fitted being swampy polyester prints, and I have the relative privilege of being fat but still within the range of some cheap clothing chains.  Could I just scream at this point, that I could make these points without being fat because it isn't about fat defence, it is about an industry which mostly doesn't cater to women above a size 16 because it wants to perpetuate norms which mean far too many women hate their bodies.

I mean that bras for larger breasted women which don't leave your tits down at your belly button cost a bomb.  I mean that every time you look at a shop which specialises in larger sizes, the fashions and fabrics are ugly and the price is 2-3 times the equivalent quality in smaller sizes. 

I'm by no means the first person to make these points.  I'm probably not the 917th either.  But understanding of this is still far too slow to go mainstream.  Next time the NZ Listener goes shock! horror! new stats on obesity!, which undoubtedly they will again several times this year alone, I suggest we reinterpret that as shock! horror! advertising levels dropping! hate speech on fat and poor people disguised as 'health concern' needed!