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.