Monday, December 12, 2011

the stuff we have (two)

This bit is about him.

I'm afraid I won't do him justice. You'd need to come on over and sit at one of our Sunday open-house brunches, have him poach you an egg and grill you some bacon like you were sitting in a cafe. Within minutes you would get a sense of him, and the mad house we have going on. He's a very hands-on parent, so there will be a child in his arms (and probably one in the hall having a time out) while he's whipping it all up.

You'd instantly notice just how much he adores me. Still after seventeen years and four babies, you'd notice, because he'd hug and cuddle me and tell you that I am wonderful. I always get a little self conscious 'cause I don't believe I'm that great.

You'd definitely score one of his amazing stove-top Lattes, no swanky coffee maker machine for him. You might have to wait an hour for it, cause he has his own time zone and it's always on slow. He'd almost certainly ask if you'd like to see his compost heap whilst making you coffee. He'd grab a hand full of it, all black and pungent. He loves showing off the balls of worms. That isn't a double entendre. Great whacking big gobs of wriggly pink worms. (I swear, not an entendre!)

Only this way would you actually get the feel of him. Three hours later, waiting for a second coffee and he'll still have you discussing the economic fall of Iceland. This is where I'll be slowly backing away, cause the "end of oil" talk would probably be coming next, and that one I am a little freaked by.

My partner has always veered slightly off kilter.

He always thinks we can make do with anything or nothing. He is a real romantic like that. He leaves his whole country behind, his whole life, to be with me and he brings one bag! When we were first together, in the two months between him arriving and us getting married, we lived in my painting studio. We slept on foam blocks, our room was partitioned with sheets from my glory box, he made furniture out of cardboard boxes. Good furniture, too.

I have such great memories of that time in my life. I think it was the only time I really fully immersed myself in his free spirit. I'd come from a really sheltered life, my father was quite strict. My husband represented a new life, an escape. And I was madly madly in love.

I knocked the nomadic stuffing out of him, though. I didn't know I was doing it but I did.

Although I'd taken a big chance in just being with him, I began to take less and less chances: The $85,000 house we passed up on, the keys to the cafe we gave back, even the offer of a commercial art gig I said no to. Wasn't I meant to be the free spirit? I was the artist, he was the nuclear engineer.

Then once we had kids, while he was out protesting the war and getting bashed by cops, I wouldn't take any risks at all. I scoffed at his container house idea, I resisted (passively) having chooks. We did not make the tree change.

I just assumed it would never happen. We had kids (two, then three, then four) and he had job and made far more money than I had ever earned painting. I was comfortable in my position while he grew to dislike his more and more. I had little experience with compromise, as there was none in my house growing up. I didn't even know how adults were supposed to communicate. We'd talk, but in the end things would just stay the same.

We have a funny way the two of us of getting around each other. We made a deal (when we first got actual furniture) that we'd have five years on a mattress and five years on a futon. No points for guessing who wanted which one. I have become so overly cautious, I always think of the worst things that could happen to us, even when it came to what we slept on. We're up to the futon for the second time, now.

I cringe every time he remembers these bargains we made, ones I sometimes make in haste to get my way. Ones I'd rather he forgot.

The most recent bargain he's called in was the "We'll take turns working" one, from before we had kids. It had been building slowly, over years, his discontent. He talked more and more about living simply, about being self sufficient, about moving to Daylesford.

I am kind of interested. But it is when I'm interested that I get a scared to entertain the idea. I think "I'd better not get too keen or it'll actually happen." Because if you let him, he'll make stuff happen, just to see where it goes. I'm terrible like that, I've been a real dampener on his free spirit.

But he's the only person I ever met more stubborn then me. As of last month he works three days a week. He's here when the kids get home from school, he has taken over our garden (another area where I can't compromise), he has planted a herb spiral on our nature strip "for the community." He is getting us all outdoors for dinner. He's never been happier.

Despite my initial panic at the massive salary cut, I am finding that there is a glimmer of that old simple studio life creeping in. There is a chook in our garden now. I am letting him be himself, I am learning to compromise. I have let him bake some of our bread.

For the baker's daughter, that's a pretty big deal.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

the stuff we have

I'll tell you a little something about a shift we are making. This part's about me.

I'm a city girl, always have been. But I have never felt materialistic, I never cared too much for the latest trend. My wardrobe isn't filled with shoes, in fact I have about seven pairs, only about two of those do I wear much.

My make-up bag is a bit sad: I have an old mascara, a 'smut black' MAC eye shadow from when I thought I'd try to be more girly, a lipstick which (hussssh) I also use as rouge and an Aveena face cream costs about 12.00, and one toner which was a gift.

I get my hair done every six months by my sister and I always claim I'll be back before the three inch regrowth, but I don't. Same with my eyebrows, a friend does a wondrous wax on me about every three months, again I get to the three week mark and think I'll go back cause they looked so good.

Most of my clothes are thrifted purely because I refuse to spend a fortune on clothes and since learning to sew it's even harder to pay for new clothing. My eldest daughter likes her country road clothing but again some we have bought on sale and most of it is handed down. My other children all wear hand me downs and they don't care or notice.

I only take the nice stuff I mean I don't want them looking like ragga muffins!

And also because I can be choosy. Because, I do realise, I am incredibly lucky. Lucky to be born where I was and to be able to be choosy. I have seven pairs of shoes!

But still, I'd always thought I was low maintenance. Simple.

Seventeen years ago I married a semi-hippy US navy boy, one I'd only actually known for only two days. And corresponded with for 18 months, so that's all right. When we did eventually meet again on my 23rd birthday, we had next to nothing. In fact he came here with $45.00, one bag, and one guitar he could only play three chords on.

I will never forget the vision of this young man making his way toward me in a big Navy coat torn off jeans, walking boots a goatee and a guitar strapped to his back, he was last off the plane having been detained by customs for quite some time.

I knew right then that somehow we'd be Ok. (We spent the 45 bucks on a hotel.)

His bag contained a Sylvia Plath book, a Navy coat (one for him and one for me, actually), our love letters, a few bits of clothing, and a book titled "Living Cheaply with Style: live better and spend less."

It was a long time coming, but the next bit is about him.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

my advent calendar

final daystwelvelayoutlucky for some3
after midnight
This is my advent calender is made from recycled and linen fabric scraps. Usually I make this one, from white small paper bags, but I wanted one we could keep for at least a couple of years.

The backing is from an old Ikea waist apron in a heavy cotton linen mix, which was in the bargain bin for a dollar.  Of course we bought about ten, over time they have been immensely useful.  The pockets were cut out from a muted palette of lilacs, yellow and natural. 13x11 cm including seam allowance of 1 cm, they were pressed and ready for embellishments. I didn't try being precise, I wanted some slightly smaller.

The fun started when it came to numbering them all. I chose to mix it up, some were stamped in black Versa ink, some were appliqued and others had larger numerals drawn on in a fine liner. I even attempted embroidery on one. If I'd had more time I would have bought fabric inks or pens, however I was already on day 3 when this was finally done. I never really intend to need to wash this so permanence of the inks didn't really matter. I do know from experience that the Versa ink sets up when ironed, use a thin muslin over the top though. (This would also look wonderful with some of the children's drawings on the pockets or that they help out writing the numbers. My eldest helped out on some sewing as well.)

I suggest strongly that the pockets are pinned on at the four corners, it's a tricky thing to sew on twenty-fine pockets, but it gets easier when you are halfway.

Right along the top I sewed down a 3cm hem open on the ends to allow for a dowel, I used one of my husbands million salvaged bamboo sticks. Finally some heavy twine or string on the dowel ends to keep it in place.

In previous years I always filled my calender when it was hung this year I am going to fill the next days pocket the night before, just because I have a sweet toothed 2 year old, who'll no doubt not really like the idea of waiting.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

chocolate beetroot cake

beetroot choc

My husband loves "experimental" food. The mouth-frying chili chocolate (with ganache) at least had a bio-hazard symbol stenciled on top in icing sugar, but no amount of hypnotherapy can remove the memory of his profiteroles with maple syrup, citrus zest, and tuna. (Seriously.)

Thanks to Far Out Brussel Sprout, I just made a proper version of one of his, ahh, creations. A long recipe, but in the everything I could have asked: Moist, beautifully textured, with a deep rich flavour and a beautiful dark crimson.

Best of all was taking half to my sister's place. She'd just surgery for breast cancer, and sitting and having tea with her was good for us both.

She loved my cake.

edge case
what does "fold in" really mean?
almost ready
nice tin
chiaro scurro
you have permission to drool
purple spoons

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

in the middle of our street

I love that song, when I hear it and I think of my husband and all that he loves.

I think of all the kids whom I have feed at my table over the last eleven years and I think I am that mother in that song. I want to leave good memories, I want all those whom pass through my home to feel cosy and warm. My place has that feel even if it's not always that way when we are just the six of us. There is shouting, there are endless timeouts, there are battles over food, there is bickering and goings off to the garage to get away from each other. But ultimately it always comes back to glow.

I live at number 8. It's not a wonderful house: Its weatherboards clad and the tiles are three deep. I don't the have a picket fence and beautiful light-filled rooms with gleaming floorboards, or the minimalist cube extension, nothing that I see in Inside Out magazine.

I live in an OK rental house which we pay too much for. At present it has too many issues to even list. I will not have anything better than this place any time soon, prices in Melbourne are ridiculous.

Previously we were always able to move somewhere a little better than where we'd been before. Prior to living here we lived at number 10, right next door, with the white picket fence and gleaming floorboard. It was cute, it was great for us.

We had to move when our third born was about six weeks old. My landlord was moving in, I remember crying when she called. I was breastfeeding with the phone in the crook my of neck and I just cried and cried. Partly because we had to move from the cute place, but more because we had to leave the street. The landlord was brilliant, though, she gave us so much time and latitude she knew it was going to be difficult for us with such a tiny baby.

Then the house next door came up for rent and we knew the place well before the old owners had sold: We'd had working bees to break up concrete, we'd helped re-plant the front with natives, there had been multiple sleep-overs, our kids were sleeping in the bunk beds that the number eight kids had outgrown. We also knew about its problems. Even though it was more than we were paying for a better place we thought well lets try to get it, we wouldn't have to move out of our wonderful street and we would be spared huge moving costs. The space is larger (we were trying to be positive) but has some pitfalls, it's difficult to clean and has more than a few problems, a couple of major ones which the real estate would later just pretend didn't exist.

So I am still on this street and have been for ten years now. I love that kids can travel between houses, that we take kids off the others hands, that we are there for each other in good times and bad. They ride bikes together have water fights and jump on the communal trampoline, we older folks eat and drink and laugh and cry together.

The newish kids at number nine held a lemonade stand recently to raise the funds for a LEGO purchasing co-op with our kids. It was a lovely afternoon and the kids were thrilled to have made $10. My commie husband was also thrilled by their initiative.

This to me is community this is the sort of place we all ought to live in. I don't necessarily want a better house I want my neighbors to come with me if I ever have to move out. They are my community and my network, and I love them.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


also comb
comb over
we watched our neighbor robbing his bees, Aaron got stung on the nose
al fresco
al fresco dining with broccoli from the garden
lotta cream
some (big) ice cream, to round out dessert
sweet slice
big bite
rocky road pizza
the blackboard cannot be denied
stress-testing the tent via sleep-over
sleepout sleepover - reading
beatrix reads pippi longstockings

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

too much on my plate

I feel like a bit of a stranger here on my own page. I haven't felt able to write lately, too many worries and too much to do.

Last Saturday night I received a call from one of my sisters. When I saw her name on the screen at 9.32 pm I knew something was wrong. She sounded distressed - Mum had called her telling her Dad couldn't breathe.

My heart sank, the show I had been watching on my laptop was left playing, I strapped on my sandals as she was talking to me, she was already heading there as we spoke. I kissed my husband goodbye telling him my Dad can't breathe I have to go. My husband has lost both his parents in the last two years,and he has lost an Aunt and Grandfather and more recently a dear cousin with a young family. We've grieved too much recently. He kissed me hard as I left.

I got into my car and drove there faster than I would've. I imagined that this drive was one I would never forget. I was mentally preparing myself, repeating out loud please don't die now. When I arrived he was gasping for air sitting in the chair he always sits at: To eat dinner, to watch TV, to read the paper.

Every Christmas my brothers and sisters complain how we cannot all fit in that tiny living room anymore. That night with two paramedics and all of their things the space seemed suffocating.

I watched as the paramedics tore open syringes, tapes, bottles, things I didn't recognise. Wrappings everywhere. Their impatient requests for his medication, for room to be made, for the cat to be taken out, it was all frightening to me. They seemed as panicked as I felt, Mum seemed calm but when I held her she really wasn't. I told her everything would be OK, even though I didn't believe it.

I could hear them on the radio, they were trying to get an intensive care ambulance there and they were preparing for him to go into cardiac arrest. They pushed the table to the wall, careless with it, desperate for more space. The next thirty minutes were awful, my whole body was shaking. We stood in the road as they moved him from the one ambulance to the other, just watching. Then they shut the doors, and we couldn't even do that.

Again all I could think was please don't die now, there is too much that hasn't been said, time you haven't had to enjoy your life. I thought you have worked too hard, you thought you were stronger than anything. But I see now that you are just as vulnerable as all of us, then and there I realised we are just like machines we break down we fall apart, none of us are indestructible.

At least twenty of us waited in the Emergency room, grand-kids and nieces and partners and new boyfriends, only allowed in to see him two at at time. Desperate calls were made to missing siblings: At a wedding, at a river cruise. We all came together to support each other and be there for Mum and to let Dad know he was loved and that we were there rallying him to get better.

A week and a bit later and he has pulled through. Six days in the hospital, and he went back to work the night he was discharged. Against medical advice. He looks the same to me on Friday and seems like himself. My sister today tells me he says he doesn't feel like himself, that he is scared. This is more than I have ever heard him admit. Everyday I am afraid that he will have another heart attack.

I promise to be a little more lighthearted next time (no pun intended!) and show you some of our other goings on.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Rocky road dessert pizza


Every time we make pizza here at my place we usually have a dessert pizza made with leftover dough. This one was inspired by a picture my sister posted in her facebook status, it was a marshmallow pizza. The next time we had pizza I thought my kids just love marshmallows, why not just add a few more yummy things to it, so here's my version.

Rocky Road Dessert Pizza.

Leftover Pizza dough

Frozen Raspberries
Dark chocolate roughly chopped
vanilla ice cream

Roll out the dough, lay it out onto an oiled pizza tray,
Scatter the roughly chopped chocolate, not too much but make sure there is enough for each piece of pizza.
Next add a handful of frozen raspberries,
Finish with marshmallows.
Bake for 12 min, hot oven, or till base is cooked.

Let it sit for 5 min as it's molten hot.
Serve with vanilla ice cream.

The combination here is just right, you have tartness, sweetness, bitterness, hot and cold. I mean isn't that good.
My kids thought this was the be all end all of dessert.