December 31, 2011


I am quite a good cook.  I don't say that in a conceited way, because it wasn't that long ago that I didn't know how to do much more than boil an egg, but over the last 15 or so years, I've learned to cook reasonably well, and I know what goes with what in order to make a meal that most of the time, tastes good.  I think it's an intuition thing, and I realise now that it's just inexperience that has let me down in the past, and now that I cook all the time, it's mostly good.  Except, that is, for Indian food.

And that's a bit odd because my mother and her mum, my nonni are great cooks.  I know most people say that about their mothers but I have my husband to vouch for my mother's obsession with making things just right and knowing how to turn a simple main ingredient into something so delectable.  She hasn't ever followed a recipe (except for the odd cake, and even then she thinks she knows better) and if I ask her how to make something I know she does well, her response is usually 'well, you just throw everything into the pot'.  She's not trying to be difficult, it's just how she cooks.  And she cooks the most sublime Indian food that I find myself daydreaming about.  Thing is, while I've learned most of what I know about western food from watching cookery shows and reading books, I never spent any time in the kitchen watching my mum - she always insisted school work was more important, and I suppose it was pretty important and has stood me in very good stead but it's not that useful when there's an aubergine and an onion in the fridge and I can't remember how to make them taste the way she does by just 'throwing it all into a pot'.

When mum came to stay just after Max was born last year, she cooked almost every day.  Wait no, she cooked almost every meal, and I was determined, even though I was exhausted from the new baby fug, to learn how to cook Indian food, at least a couple of dishes, so that I could expand our repertoire and satisfy our cravings for home-cooked Indian food.  I watched her cook and wrote down exactly what she was doing in order to elaborate on her rather loose instructions.  I think she thought I was a bit crazy, who needs to write this stuff down?  Everybody knows what to do!  I wish I'd done it sooner as we've been able to enjoy some fantastic food since she was here, almost as good as she'd produce herself.

This dish is one I decided to try without having really observed the master in action, just rang her one day and accepted her instructions were never going to be that helpful, but broadly worked out what to do in order to come up with a version that I think is arguably better than hers.  I mean I wouldn't say that to her outright.  Well, ok, I probably would.  But only because I'd be so proud to feed it to her.  It's bhajia, or pakoras, or bhajis as they are known in balti houses... except in balti houses they are over-battered, soggy oniony balls of grease, so to give them the same name would be wrong.

Anyway, I'm sharing the recipe as it goes in my head.  Unlike it's restaurant counterpart, it's wholesome, full of vegetables, totally kid friendly (in our house, anyway) and snacktastically moreish.  It's also crispy, a feature I often look for in food.  I have no qualms with serving it with ketchup, although the kids prefer it with plain yoghurt (also good).  Try it.  It seems a hassle to do all that deep frying, but I love that my children eat it happily, and that Will always says 'this is great' when I cook it.  But as I said, I'm quite a good cook so that happens all the time.  Hah!

Bhajia (these quantities make a lot, and as it's best fresh, it may be best to halve these quantities unless you are feeding lots of very hungry people.)

3-4 medium potatoes, thinly sliced
1/2-1 whole cauliflower, depending on how big and how gassy this makes you, cut into small florets
250g (or a big bag) of spinach, shredded
a tablespoon or so of minced ginger (I add a little more as I love it)
about 3-4 cloves of garlic, crushed
a green chilli, minced (as much as you want - I often use none because the kids don't like it)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 heaped tsp ground cumin
a couple or three good handfuls of chickpea (gram) flour
a couple or three tablespoons of natural yoghurt
lemon juice - from maybe 1-2 lemons
1 tsp of baking powder
sunflower oil

Put everything into a big bowl (I don't have one big enough so I use the biggest saucepan I have), and mix together with your hands.  Add more chickpea flour if needed to bind everything together, but I think less is more as you want to eat crunchy vegetables, not soggy batter.  You may need a splash or two of water as the yoghurt and lemon juice might not be enough to moisten the chickpea flour into a batter.  You don't want the batter too loose, it needs to be thick enough to keep the vegetables together but then you also don't need much of it.

Heat a large pan of sunflower oil.  Drop spoonfuls of the batter into the oil (I do this, like my mum, with my hands so you can make sure you get a good mix of all the vegetables in each piece but it's hazardous) and fry until golden brown.  Serve hot, with ketchup, or natural yoghurt, or a minty chutney.  Ring your mum and tell her how great she is.

December 30, 2011

christmas food

Christmas food.  It's arguably the thing I look forward to most of all.  Will's family has tended to do the roast turkey thing but it's not the same for me without stuffing, sprouts, bread sauce and cranberries.

This year though, we didn't roast a turkey.  It was just me, the boys and Kate, so we glazed a ham (essential - Jamie's jerked), cooked a beautiful piece of ocean trout (tahini dressing), breaded and roasted some pumpkin (a la Ottolenghi) and prepared a nice, fresh green bean and tomato salad.  Finished with a fresh cherry pavlova (my first).  No fancy seafood but no traditional spread either.

It was spectacular, but even after eight holiday seasons here, I miss the real tree, the freezing cold, the traditional roast, the bottles of red wine, the Queen's speech and pudding with brandy custard.  Still, it was all so delicious, the kids joined in, we had home made crackers and party hats and a couple of tantrums.  It wouldn't be the same without.

And in other news, Kate left yesterday for the next phase of her enviable world tour.  After almost four weeks of experiencing life as it is for us, things are almost back to normal.  The space that was Max's room is now an empty spare room, but apart from that, we're picking up where we left off.  Having Kate here was pretty awesome, like having a live-in best friend/nanny/home-help.  Incredible how quickly the four weeks went by and in the middle there it did get tricky, juggling work, life and our guest... but on balance it was ace.  (That's a word she'd use.)  And now that I have time to reflect a little, having Kate here has now forced me to think about how we do things, and how we might be able to do things better.  But that's a story for another day.

So the holidays are almost over.  There has been no turkey and I ache for the company of my parents and proper roast potatoes.  Maybe next year, we'll have Christmas at home.

a walk around the houses

Yesterday, we went for a long walk with the boys and pups around the houses where we live.  Here's what we saw.

December 15, 2011


Much as I would have liked to have done so, I didn't make advent calendars this year.  I saved up the toilet roll inners that I thought I would need and asked my friends to do the same when it became apparent I wouldn't have enough but they are sitting where I left them a fortnight ago, untouched.  It's not that I didn't want to, it's more that of the hundred things I wanted to do this year, it wasn't top of my list to make something that Ollie would barely understand let alone show the patience for (no, you can't open another one), so I decided to let it go, and do it next year, when he and Max will be a little older and I will definitely be more organised.  Hah!

But we have done a cracker of a job on the tree, which we decorated with our visitor Kate, who is more that just a visitor, she is somewhat of a sister to me, and therefore auntie to the boys, and I do love that they call her Auntie Kate.  I love that.

Not only does the tree look splendid, but so do the 800 or so fairy lights that are adorning our back garden in preparation for this weekend's birthday celebrations, during which we will mark my sweet husband's 32nd birthday with friends.  I have everything crossed for good weather, because we are due a hot sunny birthday after the last two were so very rainy and very grey.  Is it really a year since the floods?

And apart from that, there are holidays to come.  This season is such a wonderful time.  Despite the obvious chaos, it's one time of year I feel still and peaceful, the time of year I think about everyone I know, the time of year I decorate the tree and love the way it looks and makes the house feel so warm and centred.  It's that time of year that I miss England, the snow, the frost, the rain, the dark winter days.  Crazy I know, but it's what I grew up with and it will always feel like home.  But actually this year, for the first year, I'm actually hoping for sun, for seafood and for the beach.  It could be the influence of having Kate here, knowing we need to make this, her first southern hemisphere holiday a memorable one, or it could be that this time next year, I want to be back home and there's a pressure to make the most of this summer... or maybe it's just that I'm finally turning Aussie.

(Not a chance.)

November 29, 2011


Last weekend, we made the bold step of asking our boys to share a room for the first time in their little lives.  Both boys have always had their own rooms, right from the very first day we brought them home from the hospital, their only experiences of sharing have been limited to the three and then four of us crammed into a little room at Straddie or similar.  Not always successful and not always (if ever) enjoyable.

But, with the arrival of a dear friend who's staying for almost four weeks imminent, we thought it was an opportune time to take a step we've been talking about taking for some time.

So far (four nights in) so good.  Their little room which is little more than 3mx3m is a bit crammed full of their beds, toys, clothes and books but it's definitely cute and cosy (not so appealing when it's 29c at 6am) and it's freed up a whole room that Max did little more than sleep in.  They have always played together in Ollie's room and all the toys have lived in there, we really only had to work out how to cram Max's cot and his change table in there.  They have been going to bed reasonably well, although we still put Max down first while Ollie reads on his own for a bit and then gets another story or two or three before he tip-toes into Max's room and clambers into bed before very quietly stalling for the usual 45 minutes or so, asking for more water, to go to the toilet, for another Tigger, another hug...

And so, we now have space for Kate who arrives this weekend.  It's a mess right now but every evening this week we are embarking on 'Project Arrival' which involves moving furniture, setting up a bed (if we can find all the bits) and making things pretty so by Saturday, we should have a comfortable room for Kate and some semblance of calm.

I'm so excited but nervous too.  It's been a long time since we've played host to anyone, I don't think we have since mum visited 20 months ago, just after Max was born.  She stayed for three weeks and we were so preoccupied with looking after the boys and getting to know Max, it was a bit of a blur.  Kate's staying for almost 4 weeks, which is longer than anyone has stayed with us and I'm a little worried about the chaos that she will be contending with when she's here and how well we will be able to make her stay memorable and for the right reasons.  We've known each other for 17 years, but in that time, my life has changed dramatically, and it's been some time since we've spent more than a fleeting evening together, let alone four weeks.  Sometimes I think I can't really remember what's it's like to be myself, the person I was before I became a mum and my life became a list of endless tasks and chores.  What will I say and do when she is here?

But more than anything, I'm excited.  I'm excited that she will be here to make Christmas with us, help us adorn the tree, cook delicious food, share hot, humid summer evenings together on our back deck, talking about where we are in life, her incredible experiences seeing this world, and the trivialities of life.  She'll be here when we celebrate Will's birthday (weather permitting with an afternoon of drinks, fairy lights and music in our back garden) and she'll be here on Christmas morning when Ollie is going bananas over presents and Santa.  She'll be here when he's throwing tantrums, she'll be here when we are too exhausted to do anything after the kids are in bed but sit very still, she'll be here when we are folding piles and piles of laundry and she'll be here when I am thinking about her.  She won't be 10,000 miles away, or asleep when I'm awake, or working when I'm dreaming.

She'll be right here, in our home.  And we'll be together.

November 17, 2011

jumping on the bandwagon

Yes, I too love Instagram but no, I'm not going to turn this into a blog of all my Instagram shots because (a) I love our real camera too much and (b) most of my Instagrams are a bit naff.

But the occasional badly exposed and wonkily framed Instagram is sweet, isn't it?

November 15, 2011

new banana bread

I made banana bread, to use up the very black bananas that have appeared since our kids decided they don't like bananas after all and thank goodness, because who wants to pay $8 for three bananas?  It feels a little extravagant to be using bananas in a cake when we should be savouring them in the monkey style but let's face it, we all like cake way more than we pretend to like the bananas.

I have posted a recipe for banana bread before, and it's a good one, but I think I've found one better, lighter, more flavoursome.  Here it is, based on a recipe from the good old Beeb. I added the milk choc chips, and beat the dickens out of the butter and the sugar so it was fluffy light and white in the KitchenAid before plonking in the rest of the ingredients.

285g/10oz plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
110g/4oz very soft unsalted butter
225g/8oz caster sugar
2 free-range eggs
4-5 ripe bananas, mashed (I used 5 quite big ones)
85ml/3fl oz buttermilk (or normal milk mixed with 1½ tsp lemon juice or vinegar)
1 tsp vanilla extract
A couple of handfuls of chocolate chips (milk or dark, but milk was good)

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl.
In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  REALLY light and REALLY fluffy.
Add the eggs, mashed bananas, buttermilk and vanilla extract to the butter and sugar mixture and mix well. Fold in the flour mixture.
Grease a 20cm x 12.5cm/8in x 5in loaf tin and pour the cake mixture into the tin.
Transfer to the oven and bake for about an hour, or until well-risen and golden-brown.  (Ours took about 65 mins.)
Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before serving.

Very nice indeed.

November 13, 2011

childcare update

There's been some progress on the childcare front.  We've managed to get Ollie into a local community childcare centre that we all (that's all of us) love.  It's walking distance from our home and the local train station, the staff are kind and cheery, the centre directors are happy, proactive people that want to do the best they can for the centre and for the families that go there and the centre itself has very lovely open gardens and play spaces.  Sounds too good to be true, right?

It is, a little.  We've only got Ollie in there for now, and for 1 day a week.  We still have no place for Max and we need 3 days for each of them.  The centre directors are doing what they can to get us the care we need as soon as possible but it's looking unlikely that we'll get both boys in until late March 2012.

So, some of the stress is abated, but we need to work out what we are doing after Christmas until March, assuming both boys will have places by then.  At least we are in somewhere.

Oh, and we had to start straight away to get in (we've been on the waiting list for over three years there), so Ollie had his first day there last week.  He had a great day.  He played, didn't cry when we left, slept when he was supposed to and ate most of his lunch.  In fact, when we both arrived to take him home, he wasn't too happy at the thought of leaving.  This week he was a little more cautious, his carers told me he asked to go home a few times, but he still had a good day.  I'm a little nervous for him tomorrow, he's back there, all on his own, the little guy, no friends yet, unfamiliar faces, toys he's yet to discover...

And Max?  Dear little Max, he had his first ever day in the whole of his life without his mum or brother when he went to Sue's on his own.  After being a little lost initially, he soon found his stride, and he too had a good day.

As I write this, my little boys are sleeping.  I am so proud of them, their tenacity, their stubbornness, their sweet natures and their ability to stand their ground even when everything and everyone is working against them.  And of course, their willingness to try new things.  It wasn't long ago that I would have doubted Ollie's ability to just walk into a new childcare centre and fit in.  But he did it and seemed to take it in his stride.  It might not always be smooth going, and I know this period of transition has yet to take its toll on him and our family, but we've started a journey we had to take.

November 10, 2011

party in the park

Another successful birthday party, this time in our local park, which has recently been revamped after it was flooded in January.  The kids love that place, the play equipment is fantastic, there's a little toy firetruck that the kids love to go and rescue people/things in, and plenty of trees for shade.

It was a mammoth organisational feat to get everything ready for this morning's party.  Not because we over-complicated anything, but because we don't have grandparents or aunts or uncles to call upon to lend a hand, so it's all down to the two of us, from baking the cake to blowing up the balloons before cramming everything into our car and getting down to the park before everyone arrives whilst at the same time keeping the children safe/entertained/fed and ready.  It's not just food, it's chairs, tables, decorations, picnic blankets... so much to think about.  That said, we did have some help on the day from a neighbour, and there were plenty of offers once we were at the park to help with the kids/food/setting up, so we know some wonderful people.

And so we did it, we made hoummus, sausages (from the only butcher we know and love), home made cheese and potato pies, salads, cupcakes (store bought - I'm not a martyr), there was cheese, crackers, chips and drinks, sunshine and almost everyone we invited came along.  We blew up 40 balloons and tied them to the trees.  Oh, and the highlight?  Ollie's dump truck birthday cake, his Tonka truck cleaned out and filled to the brim with rich chocolate brownies. It was as simple as a triumph can be, if a little rich for the kids, inspired by a link from a friend at work who looks after me.

The boys, their pa and I spent the afternoon after the party the garden, going through all the gifts Ollie was so lucky to receive.  Lucky doesn't even tell you the half of it.  Those kids are blessed.

October 28, 2011


Ollie.  Three years old, today.

"It kills you to see them grow up. But I guess it would kill you quicker if they didn't."
(Barbara Kingsolver, my hero) 

October 27, 2011

damn you, amazon

I've never been 100% sure of what I want to do with my life but I've always harboured a desire to run my own little bookstore, selling the books I love, about cooking, art, design, and there'd be a special wing devoted to my hero Barbara Kingsolver.  I would sell great coffee, let people mooch about, flick through books, offer gift wrapping and hand made cards, home made cake and maybe even host the occasional cocktail evening when Barbara was in town on her regular sojourn.  It would be awesome.  Kind of like a Black Books with snacks.  And customer service.

But it's hard to see how that could ever be a reality.  Do people even buy books from shops any more?  I know I rarely do.  I am an Amazon junkie.  If often complain that there is no such thing as Australian Amazon; here, you order from the UK or the US and pay the postage and wait a couple of weeks before you get the stuff you had almost forgotten you'd ordered (when the poms and yanks get their stuff delivered Free!  Next Day Delivery!) and brush aside the cost to the environment of getting your $8 book.  But that doesn't stop me from ordering again, and again, spending more than I need to because $8 for another awesome book that I've always wanted seems too good to pass up and the dollar is so strong at the moment and who knows when I'll next place an order?

It's a love hate relationship.  I love it because you can buy anything, but more importantly, any book, and usually very cheaply.  I don't love it because even with the prices as they are, I spend a lot there, and it seems too good to be true, and it probably is when you think about the demise of places like Borders (if they couldn't make it, who can?).  It doesn't sit comfortably with my feelings on mass consumerism and the demise of the owner managed business, yet I can't stop myself.  I've ordered plenty from Amazon, and always been happy with my purchases, the customer service (because things don't always go right) and the price, no less now that the dollar is so strong and has for the past year or so offered free delivery to Australia.  Online shopping, it's the future, you shop from your couch, you pay using credit, you can have anything you want and find anything you need.  When you are buying books at the rate we are, and they are so much more expensive in the shops here, what's not to like?

The idea of the losing our little bookstores, like this one, Folio Books, the one place in Brisbane CBD I can while away a whole afternoon, where every book seems to be the one I've always wanted, every book looks so readable, so inspiring, so necessary.  The little store is crammed full and is a haven in the city full of children's literature, design classics and staff that make you want to wave your hands around a bit and have a sit down.  The day that little store is no longer there, I will cry.  (I almost did yesterday when I couldn't for a moment see it amongst all the hustle and bustle and thought it had gone.)

I spent my lunch time there yesterday.  I wandered around, bumping into the other people that know it to be the gem that it is, looking at books, and then thinking, 'I must order that from Amazon one day' before realising what a hypocrite I am.  So I bought a book.  Not a cheap one either, but one that I knew I could get from Amazon for way cheaper but that's not really the point.  And in fact when I look back, I have never left that store without a book, and I've just made it my prerogative to never do so in the future.  I'm going to carry on ordering from Amazon, but I'm also going to support the shops and places I love, because unless I do, I may as well kiss goodbye to that dream of having my own little bookstore one day.

Damn you, Amazon.

October 26, 2011


Sometimes, things happen that force you into making change.  For someone that is so averse to change, someone that actually enjoys a routine, predictable life with well planned deviations, those events that force you out of what you know best can be difficult to deal with.  Then again, doing new things, especially unplanned new things has more often than not been nothing but positive.  Take Sunday for example.  A day as predictable as any other ended in the sweetest way when we dropped by our neighbours' place for the Backyard Sound Exchange, a gorgeous little afternoon of talented friends singing, playing instruments, chatting, drinking pear cider and sitting amongst the chickens and toddlers.  It was one of those evenings that made me realise you don't need much to be happy, to feel content, just seeing your children running around with other children, chasing chooks, hiding in the hen house, eating carrots and revelling in the party lights that lit up the garden moments before we left to come home to dinner and the grown ups were just getting started.

Then there are those events that might force you to make a change which could be for the best but feel so painful in the process.  Losing a job, dealing with illness, battling with the internal conflict that tears you between being what you want to be and what you have to be to keep your family afloat... they all bring out decisions that would otherwise stay away, decisions that are more often than not for the best, but ultimately, they are decisions that you don't want to make.

A couple of days ago, Sue, the lady that I have trusted with my sons for the last 2.5 years told me that she would be finishing up her childcare responsibilities by Christmas.  That's 8 weeks away.  To say that I am gutted is an understatement.  It's not just because we are going to have to give up personalised care for our little boys that's on our doorstep that they love, it's not just because it's so convenient for our daily commutes but it's that I feel so personally let down by someone I have considered to be part of our family since our boys started spending time with her over two years ago.   Everyone is entitled to make their own decisions in life, but that we only have a couple of months to work out what we are going to do...

Still.  Despite the lack of childcare spaces in Brisbane, and my fear of not getting into a centre that I'm 100% comfortable with, this is going to force us to make a change.  I wish we could afford for one of us to be at home with the boys, but being in the family day care environment has been good for Ollie.  More recently, we have recognised that Ollie will probably benefit from even more structure to his day, more friends to make, more variety.  He's never been a very adaptable child, so that's my main concern with making the change.  Unlike his brother who goes with the flow.  But Max is still just a little baby boy, only 18 months old, and it's been so nice for him to be at day care with his brother.  All that will now change, as we'll probably end up in a big childcare centre, one with different rooms for different ages and... it makes me sad that the little boys I love so much will be apart when they have spent every day together... every day since Max was one day old.

Change.  I guess we have to embrace it.  There's no other way.

October 18, 2011

white chocolate and raspberry cupcakes

What do you do on a Friday lunchtime when your kids are asleep?  Fold laundry?  Catch up on emails? Write another chapter of your novel?

Make raspberry and white chocolate cupcakes, of course.  Because you know everyone will thank you for it.

October 16, 2011

another invitation

Here it is, an invitation to Ollie's third birthday party.  (That's right, in less than two weeks he'll be three.)  Yet again, the invitation has been weeks in the making.  Weeks of procrastinating (not because we've been sitting around doing nothing, mind), then all the indecision over whether to do this or that, then finally deciding on a design and then agonising over colours, fonts, whether the trucks should be solid colour or whether we should use scans of fabric swatches.

In the end, I'm really happy with the simplicity of the final design:  Three (his age), trucks (his favourite thing) in red, yellow and green (he loves traffic lights too).  We also went for both solid colour and fabric swatches, and it will be pot luck as to who gets which one.  I'll email a .jpeg to a few people, but most will get a little card in the mail, because as much as I want to be green, I can't resist the sweetness of sending little invitations addressed to the little people in my son's life.  Little people that he's known since the day he was born.

I have been thinking for a while now that it might be nice to frame the little invitations that we've made for the boys' birthdays, maybe in a couple of years' time when they have a few behind them.  This lovely lady beat me to it, but her post reminded me that I want to do it, and it's the reason I've kept copies of the sweet little cards that both Will and I have laboured over.  The post also reminded me that I used the exact same design for Ollie's first birthday that she used for her daughter's first and it was her quilt that inspired me to make one just like it for Ollie and then another similar one for Max (finished, no less, a post on that soon).  Since then though, I've become less of an ideas thief and a bit more original with my creative efforts, although I still take inspiration from the many blogs I read and I still love Sharilyn's blog.

I don't know what my little boys will think of these invitations and their quilts and the parties and the other little things we make and do for them.  I wonder whether they will even notice that their mum and dad tried so hard to make their birthdays a little more special and personal, but I hope they will.  Not because I want thanks or recognition for any of it, but because I want them to know they are my everything, I would do anything for them, and by putting my all into their lives, it fulfils me.  Maybe they will be inspired to do the same for their kids because while it seems like hard work, there's nothing like feeling the way you do when you do your best.

October 14, 2011

a house in a box

Ever since I saw this post, I knew I wanted to do the same for Ollie and Max.  Ollie loves the idea of a cubby house and he loves to climb in and out of boxes, providing a little commentary as he goes.  So, when we ordered a new fridge a few months ago, we asked the delivery men to leave the box behind.  Unfortunately it meant leaving all the packaging and polystyrene behind too, and I've only just finished disposing of it... but last weekend, we managed to do what I had been looking forward to doing for ages... building a little house for the boys.

Will was the architect (of course), and I helped with the building and we even managed to fashion a little garage out of another box that came with the fridge box with proper garage doors (although that was after I took these photos).  The kids, they love it.  They chase each other around it, they sit and read in it, they open and close the door, run in and out of it, poke toys through the windows...  a hit.  I love that Ollie loves to sit in it with his beloved Tigger and Lambie, sun streaming in through the windows.  It's less nice but also very sweet that Max loves to run around it, squealing.  It's less than a week old but already looking worn, but I'm going to milk this one for all it's worth.  I'd love to make little curtains, window boxes and make a little doorbell, but it won't happen before it collapses.  In the mean time though, I'm going to let Ollie paint it this weekend if the weather's good.  Maybe even if the weather's not.

October 12, 2011


A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned to Will that I was keen to take the boys out to Seaworld.  Of course, Will has been wanting to do this for months.  He is the Number 1 Big Kid in my life so he needed no persuasion.  Then I discovered it was the last day of a sale on VIP Passes to the Gold Coast theme parks, giving us entry three different parks to June 2012 for not much more than the cost of entry to one park.  So we did it.

I'm not a huge fan of theme parks, but Seaworld is different.  It's a little dated, but it's full of awesome sea creatures that I knew my little Octonaut wannabes would love.  And they did.  The aquarium was an amazing, cool tunnel of sharks, little fishes (why don't the sharks eat them?), stingrays, coral... we spent a while in there, the kids were mesmerised.

The highlight for me, and possibly the children was the dolphins.  The dolphin show was awesome (Max squealed, actually squealed with delight at every twist and turn) and it was the perfect opportunity to get the kids to eat their packed lunches while they were distracted (not a fan of theme park food and prices).

And beyond that, it was all that you'd expect it to be.

October 7, 2011


Here, we have our new sand pit - now almost three weeks old.  Built by pa using a kit from Bunnings.  I fashioned a tarp cover for it (the one it came with wasn't so great) and it is very popular with our boys, who seem most comfortable when their socks are full of sand.  I bought a couple of cheap, plastic shovels, but really, all they really need (and want) is trucks, garden tools and cups.  And that's not just when they're in the sand pit.

Summer time is nearly here.

September 27, 2011

trucks, trucks everywhere

In our house, there are trucks everywhere.  Trucks live under couches, in bedrooms, under duvets, on dinner tables, under pillows, in the kennel, in the garden, in the sandpit (yes, we have a new sandpit, more on that later).  We draw trucks, make them out of Lego, colour them in, drive them around, sleep with them, eat with them, don't go anywhere without at least one for each hand.  We are crazy for trucks.  I say we, because it's infectious.  I can't go anywhere without wildly pointing out the cement truck, or the garbage truck, or the skip truck...

And it's all because of my dear first born.  Amazing what these little people open your eyes to.  Before him, trucks didn't even exist in my world.  He'll be three soon.  And so the birthday preparations begin.  It's still just over a month away, but when you take away the time spent at work, doing chores, preparing meals, looking after house and home, it really doesn't leave that long to get organised.  And God knows I could never be anything but.

Invitations, food, decorations, venue and the all important cake... yes, a truck cake.  Although he's on the fence as to whether it should be a garbage truck cake or a dump truck cake or a ladybird cake.  Don't ask me where that last one came from.

September 17, 2011

the men in my life

When I went to university at the age of 18, it was my first experience of living away from home and doing what I wanted to whenever I wanted to do it.  I went to a girls' school (two, actually) and I made some of my dearest friends there (sure I lost touch with some of them but thanks to facebook, these wonderful people are back in my life and it seems nobody knows me better).  But when I left home, naive, inexperienced, fresh faced and solitary, my world opened up.

The highlight of that time... well, there are many.  I didn't know how to cook - years of being told to go and study rather than hang out in the kitchen with my mum didn't seem like such a great thing when I was suddenly alone and devoid of any kitchen skills.  That said, I learned quickly, and now I love to cook (because I love to eat) and I became exposed to food I didn't even know existed.  Then there was discovering freedom and all the things that come with it.  The music (oh, the music), the parties, video games, the drugs, the financial irresponsibility (which thankfully is now financial responsibility), self discipline (that one comes and goes) and boys.

As someone who'd always been surrounded by girls (not only did I go to all girls' schools, but I also have two younger sisters), it was quite the thing to now be in this liberal place where everyone was the same and everyone treated everyone else with this cool, educated respect, and we were free to be and be with whoever we wanted.  It was a first for me to have platonic, respectful relationships with boys, and also romantic ones too.  I suddenly felt like I was being myself for the first time in my life, free of the expectations of my parents, and the rules that had surrounded my childhood.

I had been brought up to believe that relationships with boys were trouble and nothing else, that it wasn't possible to have a connection with a man other than my father or my future husband, that I would marry a man chosen by my parents and until that day, looking pretty, wearing make up, saying and doing what I wanted were not allowed, not possible.  Except everything I was now experiencing was the exact opposite of that.  I met guys who were into the same music, the same books, the same sense of humour as me and they weren't interested in having sex with me!  At least, I never knew it if they did.  These guys (and some gals too) became my best friends and I went from my first living experience at uni of an all girls on-campus flat to a shared house with three other boys and a girl who was never really around much.  It was then that I started to realise I was way better with boys than I am with girls.  

I met Troy, my dear friend Troy, the geezer that could drink anyone under the table and treated every event as an opportunity to enjoy himself.  Today he has boys of his own and he is someone I want my own boys to meet and look up to.  His friend Kris, the 7' giant with whom I shared a North London flat for many years.  There was Paul, the guy I was in a relationship with for almost seven years - maybe I'll write about that one day - for the most part, it was a happy time of my life, discovering what I wanted out of a relationship, and it was also a sad time of my life, discovering what I wanted wasn't going to be with him.  But through him, I met Ben, who is as dear a friend as anyone could have.  He too has boys of his own now too, shares his music with me, provides an ear when times are hard and has an imagination and ability with words that nobody else has.  His brother Toby, the geek with the video games, who was always up for a game of something and is one of the smartest boffins I know.  Seamus, the guy I was always a little wary of, didn't really know what to think of him until years into our friendship, when I realised he was a kindred spirit.  There was Neil, my funny French/Scot accountancy lecture companion who provided the inspiration to work hard and do my best and I am certain I owe a big part of where I am in my career today to him.  And Steve, who played the guitar, who liked the same music, who looked after me when I'd had a pint too many, and who made the best fried egg sandwiches.  I could go on.

There were girls too, and they too were and still are hugely influential in their own ways and I don't want to understate how important these friendships are, but it's the relationships with the boys that seem to stay with me.  With the exception of Paul (and I tried), I am still in touch with all of them to varying degrees, and it's been quite amazing seeing them go from university students, to ambitious, driven men, or fathers, or husbands, or older versions of their youthful selves or all of those things.  The experience of knowing them and seeing them become the men they are provides me with such a sense of optimism.

Since then, the trend has continued.  At work I have forged some of the best relationships with men, men who are smart, funny and loyal.  And then, of course, somehow, I got lucky and met the amazing man I was to marry, the man who somehow encompasses all the wonderful things about the other men in my life and more.  And after almost ten years together, we now have little men of our own.  Little men, who have so much to teach me about themselves, their aspirations, and little men that I hope one day will meet the big men in my life, the men that have shaped their mother and her idea of what a good man is.  And perhaps, if I am lucky, they will take note, and see what I see and become good men themselves.

September 9, 2011

boys dig flowers too

This last week or so, I've been deliberately spending as much time as possible outside, not just because it's what the boys prefer, but because spring is here, the weather is near perfect, and it's so refreshing to get out of the house.

For a while now, Ollie's been more keen to walk rather than sit in the pram, reminding us again that time is against us, and he's growing up so quickly.  He holds onto my hand (otherwise he knows the alternative is sitting in the pram and he doesn't want to do that) and walks along at his toddler pace, pointing out letterboxes and telling me to 'look at the cute little flowers', stopping now and again to pick one, and then another one for his brother, or poke his nose into someone's mailbox, telling me whether they've collected their letters or not.  It's cute, although it does take a lot longer to get anywhere and I am becoming more concerned about living on a main road.

Max, he sits comfortably in the front of the pram, with his muslin, thumb in his mouth, listening to the conversation between his mum and his brother.  I can't help but feel he loses out when Ollie is now so communicative and Max is not quite talking, but actually, I think it's good for him.  He hears constant chatter, which is more than Ollie had at that age and it feels as though any day now, his language will explode.  Speaking of 'that age', Max is the age his brother was when he came into the world.  17 months old.  It may sound crazy but it's making me think about how awesome it would be if there was another little soul in our lives... though it might be sensible to wait a little while.  Three kids under the age of three would be nuts.

So that's about all that's happening.  There's the usual too, piles of laundry, yearning for a hug from my mum, a wish for a holiday in the French countryside, bone-aching love for my husband and increasing dissatisfaction with my day job.  And is it me, or does it feel like things are about to change?

September 6, 2011

pick me up

The weekend just gone was a tough one.  At least to begin with.  It's not something I want to write about just yet, but we've had an emotionally trying fortnight which came to a head on Friday evening when we should have been eating pasta and drinking red wine.  Instead we did the opposite and after that, it could only get better.  Thankfully it did.

After a lazy Saturday in the garden, it was Fathers' Day and my plans to bake a cake were foiled somewhat, so we ended up making tiramisu, a dessert that has been on Will's mind ever since I bought the packet of savioardi biscuits months ago.  He is a coffee lover, so it makes perfect sense that he should love this dessert, which we made with fresh coffee, grand marnier and marsala.  Here in Brisbane, sourcing a good or even half decent bottle of marsala is not as easy as it sounds, so a special trip was required, after some internetting and old fashioned phone calling to find something better than the last bottle we sampled, which was awful.  (Don't buy Boronia, it tastes like flat Coke - find some proper Italian stuff and quietly disregard the air miles involved in getting it to Australia.)

Choosing the recipe is half the battle for me.  I pore over my cook books, agonise over what the internet has to offer, working out which of the gazillions of recipes on offer will be the one that will work for us.  It's the same with any new recipe I try.  I Google it, then get lost in the search results, by which time the kids are about to wake up from their day time naps and I've run out of time to get organised and try something new.  Not this time though.  I decided to go straight for what I knew should be a winner by typing in 'Food Safari tiramisu' and lo and behold, there it was.  A reasonably fuss free recipe for what looked like a pretty perfect dessert.

And the verdict?  Sensational.  The biscuits were soaked just enough, with just about enough coffee flavour and booze.  The Grand Marnier addition was an inspired one, the dessert tasted like Christmas and we used up some of that gorgeous orange liqueur that would have otherwise languished until the festive season.  We ate our first portions after two hours of chilling and that was something special, until I remembered what we had done the night before this morning, and I couldn't even wait until 10am before helping myself to a smallish portion.  The overnight stay in the fridge sent it from delicious to top quality.

And there you have it.  We succeeded in using up the savioardi biscuits we thought we never would, we made something new and untried, we managed to rustle up a treat for Fathers' Day and it just so happened to be the pick-me-up we needed after a shaky start to what ended up being a great weekend.
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