Category Archives: Uncategorized

What’s been going on?

I’m too busy to have much interesting to say but here are some pictures of what’s been going on about these parts of late:

I’m reading more. Lots more. I have been really enjoying it.

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I’ve been moving the boys’ bedrooms around and redecorating. A bit of early spring cleaning too.

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I’ve been supervising the baking cakes for charity with my big little man. He did these mostly by himself. I’m so proud of him.

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I’ve been relishing the time I get one on one with each of my boys. Mr 1.5 and I spent an hour playing with these coloured pom poms. I love watching them learn.

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And cooking of course! As I’m working so much the focus has been on easier meals and healthy snacks for work in particular…slow cooker butter chicken, hot dogs with pickled cabbage and home made chips, super yummy chicken stroganoff and my favourite bran and fruit muffins have been very much enjoyed.

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I for one, have been avoiding the news – the election campaign here in Australia is driving me crazy and I can’t process the horrors happening in Syria and Egypt in particular.

As busy and tired as I am, I’m happy to be living in my cocoon.

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Loverly books: Just between Us – a review & giveaway

ImageEDIT 4th June: Thanks to random.org I’ve generated two winners.  Congrats to Pip and Kate (thelittleredhen) whose “numbers” came up!  Thanks to all who entered, I’ve got so many new authors to check out now.  I’ll be having book giveways from time-to-time so please do stop by again.

I’m not usually mad about reading non-fiction books.  I used to read a lot of short essays when I was at Uni – think Virginia Woolfe, Simone de Beauvoir and John Paul Sartre and you get my drift but it’s fair to say that in the last ten years I’ve drifted away from non-fiction.  I think my share of non-fiction reading comes through the copious amounts of reports and proposals I’ve written and read in my career and reading for me has been about escape.

In the last little while though, I’ve found myself drifting back to non-fiction and particularly towards the type of non-fiction which gets me thinking.

“Just between Us”  – set for release in June – was sent to me by the publishers, Pan MacMillan and as it’s ticked all my boxes – short essays and stories by women on an area of real interest to me – female friendships.

That it’s full to the brim with mini-post-it-notes marking out phrases that resonated with me is testimony to how much I enjoyed reading this.

There are some well known Australian women writers – Nikki Gemmell, Clementine Ford (who I have a major girl crush on!), Melina Marchetta, Jan Caro and Cate Kennedy to name but a few.

Each story or non-fiction examines an aspect of female friendships in a different way from each other.  Some of them made me smile, others weep and others again made me wince.

In her introduction, Helen Garner says,

This collection of writing about the trevails of female friendship is a feast of things that women do not consider trivial. Again and again in these stories, whether memoir or fiction, we come across a woman’s sense that female intimacy is sacred.

And I believe it is sacred.  The women who mean the most to me are dear to my heart and I hold their shared feelings and thoughts very close to me.  It’s intimacy I’d never betray.

Julienne van Loon says,

The French term mon semblable (my friend) implies that my friend is in some way similar (semblable) to me. So, at the root of friendship is sameness, a recognition of likeness.

I think that’s true. I’m attracted to people who hold similar values to me, are interested in similar things and see the world sufficiently like me but sufficiently different that we have things to discuss too.

Like most people, I’ve had all manner of friendships and some previously very close friends are no longer so.  There are always reasons for this on both sides of the equation. Each chapter investigates in it’s way, the ending of a friendship and though it feels voyeuristic in a way to be reading of the death of closeness it’s also wonderful to know that this has happened to others too.  The ending of friendship is not something often discussed.

In her nonfiction piece Julienne van Loon says,

It is curious that friendship is most often written about after it has gone, as if death legitimises the discussion of what was previously too private or fragile a territory.

I particularly enjoyed Nikki Gemmel’s chapter in which she investigates online bullying, mother’s groups and the difficulty her five year old daughter is having with an alpha female in her pre-school.  I found it fascinating to hear the teacher’s view on how young girls behave towards one another. Nikki speaks of a book, The Female Brain in which the author explains that,

it’s programmed into us (women) to connect intensely with each other in the childbearing years because we need the support and protection of other women around us during such a momentous time, when the males of the species are often away (hunting in the old days, working in the modern age). The flipside of this urgent biological need for bonding is the way women want to, need to, control one another – if everyone acts and thinks the same way the group will stay intact and everyone will be protected. If we can’t control someone – if an individual acts differently, in a way not expected – the other women turn on her….An attempt is made to….make her change and conform.

WOW huh? I even highlighted that passage and I never deface my books.

There is so much food for thought in this book that I’ll come back to it in the future too.

As I’m sure you can tell, I really enjoyed this book.

Thanks to the publishers, Pan MacMillan I have two copies of this book to giveway! YAY! All you need do is comment and let me know who your favourite female author is. Easy peasy.

The boring bits:

– open from today – 31st May through to Tuesday 5th June

– only open to Australian residents

– the publishers will send this directly to the winners so your name and address will be passed on to them

Lessons in Mama-hood: Babies & sleep

 

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Photo by Amelia O’Connor

I just put my Little Lion, who is now 19 months old, to bed for his nap. His brother sang him a song, we read a book, I cuddled him and kissed him goodnight, tucked him in and left the room.  He’s drifted off to the land of nod by now.

It doesn’t seem like a big thing right?  Children sleep right? 

I cannot tell you how hard fought this has been.  Every day of his life for the first 18 months of his life…and I mean every….he screamed.  Not just a little cry, full blown screaming.  It has been exhausting. 

In addition to the screaming, he didn’t actually sleep long and at night he woke at least 4 times for the first year – sometimes I had the joy of his company 15 or 16 times a night.  This happened for the majority of the first year and a bit of his life. We had the mantra of “whatever works” to get us through things.

We tried everything…..and I mean everything!  Some things worked short term…cuddling him to sleep worked the longest though he did scream still, just in our arms. We then moved our mantra to, “Whatever works until it doesn’t work then let’s try something else.” 

Bebito wasn’t a fabulous sleeper but we worked out he was a “routine” loving child (he still is truth be known) and he responded really well to a routine and within a few days of starting this, at around 10 months old, he mostly did quite well.

Little Lion’s sleep issues impacted all of us….settling and resettling….not enough time with Bebito….not enough time with each other…..and then there’s the whole sleep deprivation exhaustion.  It IS TORTURE – your brain plays tricks on you.  I felt alternately useless, stupid, like it was my fault, angry, resentful and mostly run-down.

In the end, what worked for Little Lion and us was engaging a professional who tailored his routine and settling approach to our family situation and his needs.  I cannot recommend this approach more highly.  It has however taken 3 months of consistent, solid work to get to this point. 

I’ve been asked by some friends with new babies to share what I have learned after coming out the other side (mostly!) of crappy sleeping small people:

– Don’t compare your baby/child’s sleep with other people’s – it will make you jealous and cranky.

– People who say your child is the book are right. BUT I never got the decoder for the code my boys’ books were written in.  What I’m saying is, it’s great to watch out for tired signs and act accordingly but putting the baby to bed but I sucked at the “having instincts for taking care of a baby” thing and it didn’t make sense to me, especially in the beginning.   

– When people say, “that’s not normal” ignore them – unless you hear those words from a GP or trusted Child Health Nurse or you genuinely feel like there is a medical problem. Every single baby is different.  What worked for one of my boys hasn’t worked for the other.

– Lower your expectations of what you can achieve.  Concentrate on the important things – for me it was always giving the boys my attention and cooking.  The rest be damned!

– Do whatever works for you – if you can handle co-sleeping and it works do it, if it works to have the baby/child in their own room do that.  Whatever makes you feel better will help the baby too.

– Don’t expect a miracle solution – a small improvement is still a good one!!!!

– Find like minded people to seek advice from and ignore those whose way of doing things doesn’t feel right.  There are studies that show “cry it out” is bad news and there are others that say it has no impact.  Horses for courses and don’t you dare feel bad about it either way!

– Get some help! Lots of help if you can – seek it out where you can until you find something that works for you all. We sought help from the local Parent & Child support groups, read lots of books for ideas and talked to friends. 

– I’m going to go against convention and say that it’s worth looking at books for ideas – we skimmed lots – buy them second hand or borrow them from the library.  If you don’t find it “speaks” to you in the first chapter…close it!  

– As much as coffee was my friend in the worst of times the best thing is to look after yourself with your diet.  It’s hard, really hard when your body is screaming at you that you, “just want to sleep”.  

– Be willing to go to bed early, like REALLY early! For us, the early part of the night was the time when Little Lion slept best so I went to bed not long after he did.

– Try to explain your situation to your loved ones.  Hopefully they’ll understand but they may not.  Don’t really expect people to if they haven’t had a really crappy sleeper.  If they don’t understand at least you tried and if they do, you may have some extra help around the place – BONUS! 

– ALWAYS use the same wind down routine with them – start that as early as you can. Tell them it’s time for bed soon, change a nappy, read a book, swaddle/sleeping bag, sing and tuck in is what worked for us and it’s still what we do every single day.  We also have some soothing music playing to block out the noise in the rest of the house.

If you’re a parent, what’s your best advice for sleepy nights?  

Two dollars twenty

The drunk teen got up from his seat. His equally drunk girlfriend grabbing on to him for dear life as the tram wobbled to a stop.

They seemed oblivious to the judging eyes from the pensioners around them. Drunk at 1 o’clock in the afternoon. The sin!

He left behind $2.20 on his seat. I know that amount of money would count in their lives.

The man across the aisle tried to grab the loose coins but as I moved from my backward facing seat to the one formerly occupied by the teen his window of opportunity closed.

I picked up the money, carefully placing it off to the side of the seat. $2.20 can be a lot of money. At this moment, I know someone needs it more than me. As I hold the money in my hand for a brief second, I wish on it. I hope for it to fall in to the hands of someone who does need it. I’m trusting the forces of the universe, as I do often.

Real food + GG Bread Revolution

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There are few things I feel more strongly about than feeding my children “real” food (reading to them being the other).

Bare with me as I tie a few thoughts together here …..

If you have been around these parts a while or you know me, you’ll know I have a reputation for being organised. I have in no way been that way my whole life. I taught myself to do that. Some people like a bit of chaos but me, I like making “room” for chaos by taking a whole heap of guess work out of things by way of planning our meals and our shopping, thinking about when I can fit chores in around work, play dates, coffee with friends and you know, sleep! It just helps me feel better to be that way.

I truly feel that in being a teeny bit organised there is no reason anyone can’t make their own bread, curry paste, pastry or anything that they want. My kitchen skills when I moved out of home were limited to rice-a-riso (remember that stuff?) and kantong cooking sauces, seriously! Trust me, if I can teach myself to cook, anyone can! Isn’t that right Mum? Truly, I had no interest in food until I was well in to my 20s in any real way.

On my way to work the other morning a family boarded the train….a baby in a pram…mum, dad and a little boy of about 3. The little boy was drinking a 2 litre bottle of Lift soft drink directly from the bottle….at 8am. He proceeded to drink most of it. I’ve said before that I’m far less judgemental of other parents now I am one (the only perfect parent is a non-parent in my opinion) but that kind of thing makes me SO sad.

For me, it boils down to this…..you make time for what is important to you. And for me, food is important.

When both my boys started on their journey of eating solid foods, it was the first time I really thought about what kind of relationship I wanted them to have with food. I want them to know that things grow, we pick them, we cook them, we work hard to provide the food that is presented on the table. That food is FUN! That it’s great to have cake but that cake should be enjoyed only sometimes and that it’s more fun because it’s not something we eat all the time. For the first 18 months of both their lives neither of my boys ate any sugar that didn’t naturally occur in the fruit and other natural foods they were given or a small amount in their weetbix. I’m not lauding myself as some kind of saint….it was just what we felt was important. To keep their diet (and ours!) as close to the source from which it was provided as possible. That they try a variety of food was equally important…..establishing a “healthy” relationship with food that will help them as they grow older. Don’t get me wrong we still partake in the fish and chips style outings but it’s not often and these are treats.

Going to children’s parties was the first time my boys have ever encountered any kind of food in a real way beyond what they’re used to having at home….I am one of those parents who lingers and assists with food choices in the beginning. Now, my 4 year old self directs , telling me, “I’ll have 2 sometimes foods and a lot more all the time food ok Mama?” I’m one of those parents who will politely smile and decline offers when visiting other people’s homes (as an aside, my friend Amy sent me this awesome post earlier in the week about this very issue) and I have had all manner of judgey as a result of these decisions. Frankly, I don’t care though!

And not only do I think that it’s important from a sustainability perspective that my kids have a healthy attitude and understanding about food but it’s important for their health too. Obesity is an issue in our family and I want to give them the best possible start – for their bodies and minds (Pip from Just.b wrote a fabulous post about The Biggest Loser and much more about body image here).

Also, food, and cooking it, is an extra form of meditation for me….my friend Belinda wrote this post earlier in the week and I quote….

For me, reality-cooking shows overlook the loveliest part of cooking. The silence. The lovely, meditative silence of preparation. The silences of children eating with total focus something that can’t be bought from the shops. The chance to linger over a recipe, to focus on getting all the elements ready, the anticipation and hope of cooking something you’ve never cooked before. The satisfaction of creating something familiar in an unfamiliar place.

YES! The silence….even when I’m surrounded by my darling, noisy souls, the silence…the opportunity to think….process…..be. Food, it nourishes the body and soul. It’s unique in that way I think.

And so….baking bread will always be an important part of what happens in our home. Ruth has started a bread revolution and is urging everyone to try just one loaf.

The power of words

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I love words.

I was lucky to be born in a time and place where my love for words was encouraged and indulged.

I was extra lucky to have had a teacher who saw me for who I was and who I could be when I was young, brash, naive and more than a little sad.  She made a lot of difference in my life.

Today I’m celebrating a special birthday with her and her loved ones and I made this gift for her. It is my absolute favourite word.

I suspect she knows only a little of how much her words helped me grow taller, stronger, more confident to be me….more graceful.

Did you have a special teacher?

Casa be Loverly Recipes: Eggplant and fennel caponata

This is one of my favourite recipes and I can’t believe I’ve never blogged it! I love the acidity and sweetness balanced with the fennel and the eggplant and could eat a HUGE amount (truth be told I usually do eat a huge amount!).  It’s a Sicilian dish by origin and is usually served as a dip but I first tried it on my first trip to Italy some years ago at a gorgeous little restaurant in Rome with pasta and that idea has stuck with me ever since.  I love the idea of dip as a pasta sauce and that is what you can see in the pic above as I served it with some ricotta agnolotti. It’s great on bruschetta for lunch and it keeps well in the fridge for a few days too so is perfect healthy and quick lunch fare.

Like most of the recipes I blog it’s a dish that can be prepared in advance and pulled together at the last minute.

Ingredients:
1/4 cup sultanas (you’re supposed to use raisins but we always have sultanas in the house and close enough is good enough I reckon)
2 large eggplants, diced (some people like them peeled but not me! some people also like to salt them first but personally, I can’t be bothered!)
half a large bulb of fennel or one small one, diced or sliced, as per your preference
1 and a half teaspoons salt
olive oil
2 onions, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced/chopped finely
3 tomatoes, diced (some people like to deseed them, not me, too much fuss!) – or one tin of crushed tomatoes
good handful of pine nuts
1/4 cup sugar (it seems a lot but you kinda need it to balance out the acidity)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup chopped black olives (I prefer kalamata personally)
2 teaspoons capers, chopped (I like them chopped but you don’t have to
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Method:

  • Soak sultanas in a small bowl, just covering with water and drain after 15 minutes – you don’t have to do this but it does make them a bit plumper and yummier
  • If you’re keen on salting the eggplant, do so for half an hour, rinse and drain, then pat dry with paper towel
  • Heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a fry pan and saute eggplant until well brown. It takes about 10 minutes.  When done, place the eggplant in a bowl.
  • Heat another tablespoon of oil, saute the onion for a few minutes, then add the garlic and fennel, cooking for about 5 minutes, until soft-ish.
  • Add the tomatoes and saute for a few minutes til it looks all lovely and soft and they’ve made nice friends.  Then put in the same dish with the eggplant
  • Add the pine nuts to the frypan and toast, moving them about until lightly golden – add to the rest of the mixture in the bowl
  • Place sugar and vinegar in fry pan, stirring until the sugar dissolves, then add sultanas, olives and capers, heating through briefly.  Add the eggplant mix from the bowl.
  • Stir all together and let fry for a minute or so, adding parsley at the last minute.
You can eat it warm, room temp or straight from the fridge too!
YUM!

I’m also playing along with Stacey for Meatless Monday 🙂

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