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!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Unfettered by exercise

I loved The Rosie Project.  I probably need (*need*) more Rosie Projects in my life.

Look at the cover, even.  I don't read deliberate comedy very often.  But I giggled, properly giggled, my way through this.  It's a better tonic than vitamin C. 

I also went to Christchurch and had a minor spending spree - two lovely bras and a beautiful scarf later, I closed my wallet for all but food and petrol expenses.  I went driving out at Greenpark (near Lincoln and Tai Tapu) and looked down behind Greenpark School.  It is going to close at the end of this year, but it was here that my Grandma began her formal schooling, and it was in a paddock at the back of the school that she tethered the pony which her father bought for her to ride to school (taking her younger brother with her).

Then I went to Tai Tapu and played lady lunching.  Nice gf roulade (yes I mentioned food, AND gf - it may get worse as the blogpost continues) and I got great value out of the meal as I read my way through the posh lifestyle magazines provided free for customer browsing.

All good things must be short if bankruptcy is not desired though, so now I am back in Wetville, trusting we don't need to build an ark because all the other times it rained heavily for days, it stopped before we needed an ark, so I figure that this too shall pass.

I made gluten free muesli slice, pulling and hiffing from various recipes, but mostly adapting from Anabel Langbein's birdseed bar (she endlessly republishes her recipes and people still buy her new books).

My version looked about like this:
2 cups rolled oats (I'm not that fussy on gf regarding oats)
a scattering of frozen blueberries
1 cup pumpkin seeds
maybe more than 1 cup of sunflower seeds.

Put all that in the oven for about 15 minutes on 180 degress celsius, stirring it quite often.  Use a dish which spreads it out.  Take it out of the oven, put in a bowl to cool and add dried apricots and dark chocolate which you have whizzed together to a chunky crumb.  Also throw in whatever new age superfoods you have in your pantry.  I put in chia seeds and some LSA mixture.

Meanwhile, put about 200g butter, half a tin of condensed milk and 1/3 cup of nut butter (I used almond butter) in a saucepan and heat it all together so it melts.

Mix everything together and then press into a large dish with sides which is already greased and waiting, and then put it in the fridge to chill overnight.  It is completely acceptable to eat sections before the morning as a scientific study of how the chilling and flavour revealing project is going.

Of course, buying all this from scratch costs a bomb.  Maybe you feel that way inclined, though if you are, you should really use a more reputable recipe than mine.  As I'm in the habit of buying new age superfoods and sometimes forgetting to eat them, I had all of it waiting.  The sunflower seeds and the LSA and the almond nut butter were all past the pristine fresh newly opened/picked/ground stage which the superfood superstars decree, but in my book, it tasted much better than KFC and had more nutrition to boot.  And I didn't waste the food.

Michael Pollan was in the Sunday Star Times yesterday.  Superfood superstar extraordinaire - there is more of an industry sharing his secrets than any music star.  There were two whole pages devoted to his suggestion that we cook and eat together as a family more often.  Padding in the print if not in the waistline.  I found the image styling annoying.  Most of the two pages was dominated by a sepia-toned image of a 1950s family sitting around the table, replete with period wallpaper. Is it really that retro to eat together at the table?  We always do, and did before we had the children, and whenever we share food with our friends, that happens round the same table they use every day for their family meals.

I've been knitting. It's a good holiday from sewing.  Quite a lot of thinking in sewing.  Mum asked me if I was knitting a poncho.  It may be homespun (not by me) and home dyed (also not by me) thick wool being knitted in a simple pattern, but it is not a poncho.  A poncho might be ugly, but a shawl?  I think a shawl is less likely, considerably less likely, to be ugly.

Now I shall go to bed.  Common sense decrees that I should have gone to bed an hour ago, and common sense has a proven record regarding getting enough sleep.  But maybe there would be room to start the new Kate Atkinson which I found at the library last week.  Just a page..