Friday, August 31, 2012

goodbye winter (we might miss you!)

Today's the last day of winter down here in Oz (I never quite know about season changes Up Top in the Northern Hemisphere. I keep meaning to google it but never quite get round to it) so we're doing 'goodbye to winter' things - a big open fire with pine cones cracking, mulled wine (thanks to Jenni for the recipe, it's perfect!), wee ones cuddled up and watching the flames while we listen to the rain pattering on the roof.

But as much as we've enjoyed some aspects of winter, my heart lifts at the forebringers of spring: the trees white with blossom, the first jonquils and daffodils, the increasing number of blue-sky-days. 
We made a last minute dash to one of the playgrounds today and the first of today's rain started - a gentle spring-like shower, bringing with it a double rainbow. It seemed somehow fitting - new starts and beginnings and promises of sunny days. 
The wonder on my little one's faces as they saw the rainbows across the lake made my Beloved and I grin and go 'aww.' 
Goodbye winter, welcome spring!

                                        It's a rainbow! 


 The rainbow on the way home from the playground. Faded a bit and not as spectacular... but very pretty!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Gazillionth Draft

So I'm up to my gaxillionth draft of Dragons' Nests.
In honour of reaching my gazillionth draft I demanded my Beloved resurrect the printer. It was thus duly lugged in from the back shed. (Yep, that  one, the one my Sprocket locked my Beloved and my Poppet in) The printer has been in a box since we left Vanuatu as I thought it was broken, and my Beloved thought it was fine but somehow never got around to sorting it out.
We were both right.
The printer was fine.

The cord that connects it to the computer was not so fine. Rats had obviously been busy and it was in pieces. *
Luckily, my beloved got out the soldering gun and the above was the happy result. Nifty, huh? I was impressed. This is one of the many reasons my Beloved is my Beloved. So the printer was connected to the computer with strict instructions not to so much breathe or the sky would fall in and the printer would die.
And what do you know, it printed! I now have a hardback copy of my manuscript. You know, of actual ink and paper.
Editing an ink and paper version is curiously different to editing on the computer. I seem to be picking things up a lot quicker. And the whole 'pen-in-hand' seems to make me a lot more ruthless.
Possibly not as ruthless as the Poppet, however.

But I'm liking it. I'm a little bit perplexed that there's still so much to fix. I was sure I'd gone over the first page at least a hundred million times, and yet there was still stuff I was correcting.

How about you, can you edit on the computer, or do you prefer a hardcopy? Or a mix?

*This was sort of ironic as when we were first going out and living in the Solomon Islands I gave my Beloved a puppy who might, or might not, have had a chewing problem. Anyway, all my Beloved's computer cables were destroyed. I blamed rats. Not such a long shot as rats did, occasionally, eat our hair at night. This time my Beloved actually believes me. It really was rats. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Which Superhero Would you Most Like to Be?

Did you ever think being Batman would be a blast? Maybe Wonder Woman's outfit would do wonders for your social life?
I haven't yet found a Superhero I want to swap places with. Library Girl with superhuman research skills has yet to make an appearance on the big screen. (Giles? Hmm. But where's the lycra?)
My Sprocket (AKA Spider Boy), on the other hand, has it sorted.

               Oh look, here's a door frame. Why don't I just climb that? *

                                                     Note impressive toe work

                Reaching the top of the door frame and wondering where to go next...

So I knew that, as parents, my Beloved and I could expect to find ourselves climbing the walls a few times. But I thought it was figurative. I did not imagine anyone in our household actually doing it.
This is why nothing in our house is safe.**

So anyway, he's three, folks. Is this normal?

*In general, we have a strict(ish) no climbing in the house policy. If you climb inside you are promptly shunted outside to find a tree like the little monkey you are. But in this case I was so perplexed I just went to find the camera.
**But let me consider the possibilities of a reasonably lucrative career as a cat-burglar for my Sprocket. The possibility of extended jail time is high - but at least there'd be no HECS debt nor extended study period. Pondering, pondering.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Working, Working, Oh So Close!

I'm so so so close to finishing my last manuscript I can almost taste it.
Yeah, yeah, I know I said it was finished a couple of months ago, but that was the first (ultra holey) draft. This is the second draft, sans the worst of the holes!
Only one more big hole to go, and despite having yet another luergy I'm thinking of loading up on coffee tonight and finishing it. Yay.
And it's all thanks to the kid's wonderful, amazing, blissful childcare. Living a couple of hundred miles from friends and family they're pretty much the whole shebang rolled into one and tied with a nice big bow. And believe me, if this book does eventually get published I'll be dedicating it to them. Well, and the kids and my Beloved. But basically the wonderful women who keep my kids happy so I can spend a few hours each week with the stories jiving and tapping and tangoing away in my head.
Yesterday morning the kids' childcare phoned to say there'd been a cancellation and there was room for the kids, and I leapt on it with tears of gratitude. **
After depositing the kids, I hurried home and set up office.

Our fruit trees are finally coming into blossom...

There was a wonderful blue sky...

So I set up my office in the garden, grabbing the most transportable table and chair

and a cup of tea in my very favouritest cup (much thanks Leongatha Thrift-Shop)

And set to writing an entirely delightful chapter of pixie, dragon, faun & other fantastical creature revels on a tiny speck of a tropical island.
It was truly grand...
And only the big scene with the Council in the Great Library of Scheherezade to go and all the major holes have been darned. Or plugged. Or whatever.
So close... so close!

*My Sprocket's teacher was telling me yesterday that my Sprocket came up to her and said "I love you Jo-Jo," and she said. "I love you, too, Sprocket," and he said "I know." Awww.
He hasn't seen Return of the Jedi yet, I promise!

** The day before had started with the kids covering themselves and the walls with my very last lipstick, and got worse from there. Let's just say it involved lots of potty-training mis-adventures and meltdowns from all parties. When I phoned begging for some time and they told me there was no room, I dripped into a murky puddle of misery. But joy cometh in the morning! 

Monday, August 20, 2012


                                                              My first Docs                                      

What do you think? Frumpy, funky or fail? 
I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror recently as I was running out the door to work and realised I looked like a caricature. 
And you know, a caricature of a librarian can be pretty bad. I looked exactly like the little doll of the librarian with the finger raised - if you press a button she shushes you. 

Bun? Tick. 
Mid-calf, unflattering skirt? (Actually a black cocktail dress, the first thing I grabbed in a hurry, but with a cardy on top it's just an ugly-length, black skirt)  Tick. 
Oversized, baggy cardigan? Tick. 
Thick, wool tights? Tick. 
Pumps, with buckle? Tick.  
Of course a fondness for tweed and cashmere (you can see my heart is in the highlands) can do that to you. Even if you're not a librarian. Combine the two and you have a female Giles. But without the redeeming interest of living on a hell mouth. 
Considering the rest of the time finds me in another caricature - busy mummy - worn sneakers (or, um. Uggs,) jeans or trackies, pony-tail, harried expression... 
I got worried. 
Time for a makeover? 
Summer will help... but in the mean-time... these boots arrived to cheer me up.* I was sort of hoping for a little bit redder. And my next boots will definitely have killer heels. But killer heels and toddlers don't really go. 
But do you think these can lift me out of the funk? At least till Spring arrives? 

*They are my very first Docs. My Beloved wore out 3 pairs of shoes on ward rounds and we found a pair of Docs online  that come with a lifetime guarantee. While we were on the site I saw red boots and went ooooh. My last pair of boots just died. Really died. With holes. Red... Now we are wondering if they have a lifetime guarantee because they are too uncomfortable to wear. We are both hobbling on. My beloved tells me in three weeks they will be perfect. At least they should be all worn in for our Big Trip... in two years. 

P.S I did some reading and discovered that the first people to discover Docs were German housewives after WW11. Um... Possibly not what I was looking for to escape the housewife feeling. But very practical... sensible... longlasting... 

Sunday, August 19, 2012


In the early morning she crawls across her cot, eyes still half closed, curls mussed, seeking. She reaches out for me and I draw her onto our bed and under the thick doona.
"Hug, Mama," she tells me. 
She rearranges my arms. One arm goes under her head, her pillow. The other arm she wants across her. "Hold.
I hold her, my cheek resting on her forehead. Her tiny, slender fingers grasp warmly to one of my bigger fingers. Soon her breathing returns to the deeper slowness of sleep. 
I need to be up and moving, showering, changing, packing their day care bags, getting breakfast into them and teeth brushed, shoes found. But my little girl lies sleeping in my arms and all is warmth and comfort and deep content. I stare at her face, still amazed and awed that she is mine.
She is so independent now. She wants to be out, exploring, doing her own thing. She waits at the garden gate, her bag packed with bright pink phone, old wallet, plastic keys and a few small dolls. She wears an old red velvet hat of my Mum's. She waits for an opportunity to slip out, to run up the road, to see the world. She runs through the house, her arms outstretched "Flying! Flying!" She sits down in the middle of the road, refusing to go further. She doesn't want to hold my hand. She is her own being and desires to go unfettered. 
No more my baby, her own decided and sure little girl. 
But for now, warm in our own nest, with the cold and dark just a step, just a minute away, I hold her safe in my arms. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Night Time is Our Time

The small hours of the morning and my Beloved and I emerge from the bedroom and stumble into the living room. We leave behind us two sleeping small-folks, their breathing loud from lingering colds.
Finally, finally we can get some work done! Every day - sometimes every hour, we comment on the miracle of the little ones we somehow created - but time-out is precious.
It's been so long since I sat down and wrote. These hours in the middle of the night are the best time, when my head can move into it's own zone without the distraction of little voices. The dark thoughtfully hides reminders of stuff that needs cleaning. For too long we've been too sick to forego sleep, but we're back on track.
In the half-light I curl up on the couch and get typing, My Beloved gets on with computer work. He has a big presentation on meningitis due Monday and is setting stuff up for it. (Procrastinaging...) We share the odd comment: I look up when he goes through old photos we thought were lost, he reads a chapter I've added to my manuscript and an interlude I'm thinking about. Companionable. Time for us. Night time is Our Time. We're not out dancing to Saba and Sisiva till dawn, with flip-flops slipped off and the sea beside us, but right now, this is where we want to be. Poppet makes little snuffling noises and calls for Mama. I leave it a few seconds and she settles, then I go through to check her steady breaths.
And I write. One hour passes. I only notice by the clock on my computer. Two. Three. I don't have a clue where the time went. Maybe into those 3,000 words that seem to have added themselves to my word count? We work.
Night time is our time.

Do you have a time that works best for you, to create, to get stuff done? 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Looking Forward, Looking Back

My Beloved and I celebrated an anniversary recently. It wasn't a big one, but it was good to take the time to say hey, aren't we glad we met, and aren't we glad we realised (in time!) that we should be together.
After having the kids, telling My Beloved we were going out was the best decision I ever made, and it makes me happy that I can say that without doubt or hesitation.
My family swapping and sharing gastro and flu over the last few weeks started getting me down. So I wrote a list of all the things I'm looking forward to in the next few years. And there was so much! In the remainder of this year we have two trips up to Queensland (yay!) a couple of exciting birthdays AND we're going to be done with my Beloved's Master of IT (touch wood) and half way through Med School (touch wood and yay again.)
Celebrating our anniversary (sans kids, sprawled over the hotel bed and sipping champagne, another yay) my Beloved and I talked about all the things we've crammed into the years since we met and started going out. And we wondered if the next six years will be as full.
I'm not sure if I'm scared or excited. A bit of both.
The past six years involved 2 kids, a wedding, living in 3 countries and two states, travelling through 10 countries, three degrees (one finished) and moving house 7 times. Finishing two manuscripts. And um, putting on a few extra kilos.
I'm hoping the next six years involves living in at least one other country (hello, I've been in the same house for 18 months now, this hasn't happened to me since Uni. I keep getting this craving to pack a suitcase. Or backpack. Basically, anything containing a passport.) Another baby would be good... but not till we can afford a cleaner. The degrees finished. My Beloved's specialty chosen. The Poppet and Sprocket happy at school and even more themselves. A lot more books written and hopefully published. We already have our next Big Trip to the UK planned, this time with my Beloved's wonderful family. (UK folk, expect us winter 2014!) And um, those extra kilos lost.
But... here are some photos from the very beginning.
When we were both volunteers in the Solomon Islands...

                             Diving in the Solomon Islands - off Guadalcanal
                         Hibiscus at Maravagi - Central Province, Solomon Islands
     Our Leaf Hut... A Leaf Hut is essential to Happiness. One day I am sure we will have one again.
 Scraping the coconut to make Coconut Cream (There's a sharp bit at the end of the wood I'm sitting on) Just after we moved in to the House of Green Dragons at White River.
                Our Evening Walk at White River, Honiara
                 A Beach Close to Home at White River, Honiara
                   Maravagi, Central Province, Guadalcanal

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I Love You Already

We slept in this morning.
It was grand.
The plumbers were coming to give us a brand new, ultra-sophisticated inside laundry (okay, put in fittings so we can jam the washing machine in our bathroom). The boss man said they'd be around sometime in the day, probably the morning. So I figured that meant sometime in the afternoon or maybe tomorrow. Anyway, we'd have to hang around to let them in, ergo, no playgroup, ergo.... a lovely lie in. Eventually, at about 8.20 the Sprocket blearily awoke (the Poppet and I had been talking sleepily for a couple of hours) and we began our daily getting-up-routine. I hadn't even started on the coffee my Beloved had left for me and, indeed, was sitting on the toilet when I heard a banging on the door.
"Sprocket! Nooooo! Don't open it!"
I knew I was too late. Even as I spoke the Sprocket climbed the couch, swung himself around the living room doorframe and opened the front door. Hastily I slammed the toilet door* and finished my business.
I don't know about you, but I always feel at a disadvantage when I'm in my 'jammies, (luckily respectable flannels) teeth and hair unbrushed and all un-washed and talking with clean, professionally clothed people.
Obviously the first thing the Plumbers did was turn off the water. So no shower. No teeth-brushing. Even if they hadn't been working in the bathroom.
Putting the ABC on for the kids I grabbed up random clothes and slunk into the back shed to change. Awhile back my Beloved did a round of painting and all the doors (bar the toilet door which I insisted he re-hung, painted or not) are half painted... and sitting in the Garden Room... So I couldn't change in the house - except in the toilet, which would be a foot away from where the Plumbers were working and clearly wrong.
So. Changing in the back shed with the fallen in floor and the tattered wood walls. The one next to the laundry shed which also has tattered wood walls and a falling in floor, although not on such a crucial scale. It felt sort of ironic. But it was a nice reminder of what we're saying goodbye to.
Goodbye outdoor laundry. I'm not going to miss you. Hello indoor washing machine, I love you already!

(But I do want those doors up. You listening, Beloved?)

*With two toddlers I only shut the toilet door when there are other adults in the house to supervise. I'm always scared at work I'll forget to shut the toilet door I'm totally out of the habit...) 

Monday, August 13, 2012

What are your favourite Comfort Foods?

Poppet and I are on to our second (or maybe third) bowl of rice pudding. It's our special treat. The boys don't like it.* Weird, I know. I used to feel sad about that, but then Poppet came along and loved my rice pudding, so all was good again.
Poppet was sent home from childcare today all tearful and feverish and while she soon picked up at home (she's presently chasing the 'Daddy Monster') she's still flushed and hot.
So we're in comfort food mode.
On cold days and sick days and not-quite-right-days I always head for the same dishes - the ones I had as a kid: rice pudding and apple crumble. Luckily, they're both quick (especially the way I make them), easy and not that unhealthy.

Cheats Rice Pudding:
Cook a pack of 2 1/2 min microwave brown rice and put it in a microwaveable container. Cover the rice with milk, and then add a bit more milk. Add a lot of spices. Cinnamon is my fav. Some vanilla. A few handfuls of sultanas. Sugar to taste. Stir. Microwave until it all congeals into a pudding - about 20 minutes.
Voila. Done.

Preparation Time: a minute or so
Cooking time 22.30 minutes (roughly)

(I used to cook this in a big saucepan but My Beloved kept going into conniptions over the pots. Microwaved rice pudding is ALOT easier to clean)

Cheats Apple Crumble: 
2 big tins of Pie Apples (Pre kids, I loved sitting and peeling apples. Now, not so much.) Sometimes I add a tin of drained, tinned cherries as well.
2 cups oats
1 cup flour
BIG chunk of butter
Lots of Cinnamon
Brown Sugar to taste (Quite a bit)

Melt the butter in the saucepan. When it's melted take it off the heat and add the oats, flour, sugar and cinnamon. Stir.
Put the apple mix in an oven proof dish. Add more cinnamon to the apples and stir it through.
Put the butter/oat mixture on top of the apple mix and put it in the oven on 180/200 until the top starts to brown and the house smell of cinnamon. Eat with custard. (Or cream or ice cream, but I prefer custard)

Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes or so

My custard recipe is really just a white sauce - a tablespoon or two of cornflour in a cup, add some milk and stir to a paste. Pour a couple of cups of milk in a saucepan. Add the paste to the milk in the saucepan, put the heat on medium and stir continuously. Add vanilla. When the custard is the consistency you like add brown sugar to taste.

Preparation Time: 30 seconds
Cooking time: 5-10 minutes?

Voila. Done.

My theory is that these recipes are healthier than most breakfast cereals, so when I make them, Poppet and I have them for breakfast the next day as well. Sometimes for lunch as well...

You might have picked up I'm a throw in a bit of that and a dash of this kind of cook. I love cooking a hearty lentil soup... baking doesn't work so well for me...

Hmmm... now that the rice pudding is nearly finished maybe I should get started on an apple crumble?

Do you have any favourite comfort food?

*Which always reminds my of the A. A. Milne Poem 'And it's Lovely Rice Pudding for Dinner Again, a poem I never understood pre Sprocket. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

More Fairy Dust Please!

My Beloved's Mum has been staying with us for the last week and it's a bit like having our own personal Fairy, sprinkling fairy dust everywhere and making everything shiny and glittery.
I think we've all found it a bit like lots of Christmases and Birthdays rolled into one. Except better, because normally with Christmas or a Birthday, afterwards there's all this mess to clean up. With the Magical Fairy visit there's no mess. I turn around and all the mess is gone. Pouff! Like magic.
All the laundry is done. Seriously I haven't done a load all week. The dishes. The floor. Sparkling. And this is despite the fact that the day after our Own Special Fairy arrived she came down with both the Flu and the Gastro that's been plaguing us. (Yes, even Fairies get the flu. Who knew?) Our Fairy just soldiered on. Seriously. Magic. Maybe it's a Nana thing? Obviously I have a lot to learn before my own Grandkids arrive!
Our Fairy goes home tomorrow and I'm devastated. It's sort of lonely out here, and I'm so going to miss someone to talk to. Especially a Magic Fairy that just sprinkles Fairy Dust and makes everything all sparkly. I've discussed with my Beloved the 'magical' disappearance of our Fairy's plane ticket. But he pointed out that it would be an e-ticket and not so easy to let the kids accidentally eat/paint/bury.
So I've resigned myself.
Now I'm just working out our flights up to Queensland for the kids and I to visit the Fairy in her FairyHouse. We're going up at Christmas too, but that just seems too far away. This is sort of so my Beloved gets kid-free time around exams, but mainly because... well the kids and I will just miss the magic!*

*My Beloved will hopefully fly up for a little bit too, but he'll only get to come up for a weekend, max. We'll send him photos...

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Two Today!

My Poppet turns two today and we're still in shock. How did that tiny baby turn into such a playful, poised and mischievous little girl?

                                          A few days old, still in the hospital


The Times they are a Changing

I never really thought this time would come. Gulp.
I remember those first magical days in the hospital when I just held my Poppet for hours on end, drinking in her little face and tiny hands, her velvet soft warmth and perfection, her eagerly sucking mouth, and knew I never wanted that moment and that closeness to end.
I didn't know if I'd ever be ready for it. Or if the Poppet would ever be ready for it. (Let's be honest, she's not. I've been warning her about it for the last month and she always shakes her head emphatically)
But it's time for the milk to go.
My Poppet turns two tomorrow. Which means she'll be smack on the World Health Organisations target for breastfeeding. And... I'm over it. I've been various combinations of pregnant, breastfeeding, pregnant and breastfeeding, tandem breastfeeding and just feeding for five years now and I want my brain back. At least, I hope there's one still somewhere back there to retrieve. That feeding time has been great for Pinterest and Goodreads and reading lots of um... less literary novels, and all that other stuff that requires minimum thought, but now, I really really want my brain back. I want to get stuff done. I'm not going to go cold turkey on my Poppet, as that seems too cruel, but I'm going to cut it back to just her going-to-sleep feed and go from there...
I've stocked up on strawberries to make her lots of pink milk.
I'm trying to stock up on will power.
That little lower lip thrust out, the tear filled eyes...
Sort of ironic this is the last day of World Breastfeeding Week. And not the best birthday present for the  Poppet.
But things do change.  And I'm sure (hope) she won't look back on it in later life from therapy.
Wish me luck. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Little Bit Sad

"I'm a little bit sad, Mummy," my Sprocket informs me. After a long day, we talk in bed in the dark, reconnecting after we've been at odds more times than I can count.
"I'm sorry darling, why are you sad?"
"My arm is broken. My leg is broken. My head is broken. My shoelace is broken," he tells me, his voice heartbroken. "I need to go to hospital. My tummy is ouchy. There's a little baby in my tummy." 
"Is the baby okay?" I ask. 
"It's okay," he reassures me. "It's not stuck. It's just little."  
"That's good. Tell you what, in the morning Daddy will check you and we can put a bandaid where it hurts." 
"Wow!" He says, and once again, I'm amazed at the awe and wonder he can pack into one little word. 
Afterwards he tells me about the things he is scared of - my brave little adventurer who really isn't scared of much at all, definitely not trifling things like gravity or Mummy's Very Scariest Voice. And the effects of us all being sick and way too much television are so clear. He's scared of rocket ships crashing, fires and scary monsters. 
But we're on the way up now, all gradually getting better. The TV is on it's way out. The panadol are less in evidence. Driving home from playgroup the trees are all in blossom - our own are being recalcitrant - the sky is blue and daffodils line the drives. Hello Spring. Bye-bye sick-times and little-bit-sad-times.