Sunday, June 30, 2013

Weekly Stills

1. My Sprocket on the beach at Inverloch.
2. Inverloch, looking along the beach.
3 & 4. Nature shots at Inverloch. I regret to say that I don't know what the plants are - but I believe them to be indigenous and I like them.
5. My poor Poppet, recovering from her upper respiratory infection. Many hours this week were spent just holding my little one and waiting for her to feel better.
6. In the garden. After a weary week of sickness with my beloved interstate, the kids and I spent an afternoon in the garden. We planted some sweet scented spring favourites - narcissus and daphne, and the dahlia bulbs my granny gave us, added some more mulch and pottered. It was so good to be home and outside under a clear blue sky.

Joining with the lovely Em over at The Beetleshack for stills from the week. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Ah, Germany, Hello?

Every so often I take a quick glance (ahem) at my blog statistics. My daily blog views have been slowly but steadily rising, which is nice. However, in the last week page views have suddenly skyrocketed. The stats seem to say that in the last few days 15,000 people, all in Germany, and using a variety of different browsers and operating systems, have been checking out my blog.
Which would be lovely, if a. I believed it or b. I had any idea why.
So if you're in Germany and you're checking out my blog I'd love it if you could give me a quick heads up as to how you found me, or if you're a fellow blogger and know why stats are playing up, if you could tell me why I'd greatly appreciate it!  


1. My Sprocket, so happy at the beach. Pretending to be a bird as he runs down the sand at Inverloch. My wonderful sister-in-law visited us from  Queensland and we had a lovely (chilly) day by the sea.
2. My Poppet. She was the sickest she's ever been this week. Her nasty cough suddenly changed into something truly hideous resulting in a rushed visit to the doctors. When the doctor mentioned 'pneumonia-like' and 'take her straight to the hospital if she gets worse over night' panic set in. After a sleepless week as all her coughing woke her up, she's finally on the mend. Thank you antibiotics!

Joining with the lovely Jodi over at Che and Fidel for a portrait of the kids once a week for 2013. It's very strange to think we're halfway through the year, although the cold is telling me we're not long past the winter solstice!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Excessive Consumption & the Thrill of the Chase

The kids and I were in the Big Smoke this week and it was shiny and glossy and full of hipsters and 'stuff', both of which I pointed out like the country bumpkin I am. "Look, look! It's a hipster. I swear I was one of those bright young things ten, sorry, fifteen, o forget it- years ago." "Ooh. Shiny."* 
The kids and I checked out op-shops in the Big Smoke and came away laden with 'stuff'. Okay, I did. And the Poppet. The Sprocket turns up his nose at anything that isn't a robot so came out of two of three shops empty handed. Not so the Poppet and I. We could learn a lot from him. 
I love op-shopping. The thrill of the chase is so much more real when you truly have No Idea what's going to turn up. But... I find once I go on an op-shopping binge the urge for 'more' takes a bit of killing. 
The perfect cups? Yay. But what will be in the next shop? The gorgeous winter dress for the Poppet. But the next shop might just have... the Holy Grail? 
At the beginning of the year I decided not to buy anything that wasn't second hand or handmade. Halfway through the year I'm considering how it's going. 
It takes planning. Planning is not my forte. You need to plan ahead for things like kindie drink bottles and lunch boxes and winter shoes and gumboots. And birthday presents I was absolutely and completely going to get around to making (way in advance) in a thoughtful, handmade kind of way... four months ago... and they are now ridiculously late and why don't I just pop along to a shop right now... I mean tomorrow. 
I think I'm getting the hang of it. I'm looking out for summer clothes now. Also school clothes for next year. Yes, it would be easier (and cheaper) just to go to Big W. But we're actually time rich. And now the kids know about the wonderful world of op-shops (you let Mummy look around for five minutes and you can completely have that bag-of-annoying-plastic-stuff-they're-desperate-to-get-rid-of-and-I'll be-picking-up-for-the-next-week-and-then-return-to-the-nearest-op-shop/pink gilt necklace) it's a whole heap more do-able. And fun. Just. Addictive. 
Op-shopping is also guilt-free. Even if the stuff was originally made in a sweat-shop and will end in landfill (sooner rather than later with my family) the guilt stays with the original purchaser. (Win.) And to be honest the best stuff is the oldest stuff and not the sweatshop fall-apart-in-three-minutes-stuff. 
One of my friends earnestly assured me a few years back that ethical shopping was the sop of the middle class, the thing we do instead of you know, actually doing anything, but the truth is that even if I wasn't trying to shop ethically and limit our massive footprint (apart from the, you know, no-sleep-last-night- 'whatever' days) ... I regret to admit it, but I wouldn't be marching in the streets or working for the revolution. I'd be sort of hoping the revolution didn't stuff up the kids education and hoping it didn't arrive too soon. 
The killer, the kick to all of this keen desire to save the world's resources? 
One of the series I'm presently working on is about a family of five shopkeepers. Shopkeepers of the most opulent, luscious, decadent and extravagant of luxury goods. Of course, they get their stuff completely fair trade and environmentally friendly because it's all imported from a magical world created by the wishes of their maternal ancestors. Talk about cop-out. 
Originally, the Emporium Sisters Escapades were going to be romance/detective novels set entirely in this world as the girls tried to source their goods in a fair-trade, sustainable kind of way, but I reluctantly realised I'm not a romance writer. I need dragons. And made up worlds. And the fantabulous.   
But of course, I still (obviously) need to research and taste test the girls opulent, decadent goods. 
Excuse me, but I need to hunt down some hand-crafted, sustainable, totally impractical, hipster-worthy goods. Luckily, the next town along has the perfect stuff. 
Rose caramel chocolate anyone? 

*I used that line in a novel recently and at least five people pointed out the character sounded like a half-wit. I downgraded her age to 13. It worried me.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Countdown to Camp...and Battling the Beast

So Camp Nano begins in 3 days, 23 hours and 50 minutes.
In 3 days, 23 hours and 50 minutes I set out to write 60,000 words in a month. Again.
It's not like I haven't done it before. This will be my third NaNo. It's just this time... this time I'm apprehensive. Doubtful.
We have firewood waiting for atmospheric warmth and comradely campside cheer. Marshmallows are on the shopping list. My beloved has promised to gut an old and dead computer to retrieve the half of my music which has been missing since 2010 for the necessary sound track. And I cannot begin to tell you how eagerly I am looking forward to hearing all my favourites again.
This will be my largest, weightiest novel yet, of epic proportions. And it involves real research. Gulp. I  avoid real research* in most of my books by setting them in imaginary worlds, largely as I get so annoyed by others historical inaccuracies.
This one has a large chunk set in an Irish Myth-time that I would prefer not to be too humiliatingly ridiculously wrong. Making the setting myth-time, rather than straight pre-history, gives me a fair amount of lee way. (At least that's my story and I'm sticking with it.) The character I'm centring my novel around has dramatically different biographies and faces in different countries. The Welsh version is completely different to the Irish, and the Cornish again is vastly at odds with both the Irish and the Welsh. I haven't read the French (if it still exists,) but I'm plumping for different yet again. There's a lot of room to play. But still. I might put a book or two on hold at the library. Or ten. Or twenty.
3 days and 23 hours and I'm still deciding if there will be three parts or two, three points of view, or one...
The plot is easy. I know what happens. I know the timespan is 16 years give or take. It begins with a birth and ends with a death. I know my characters. I can see everything unfolding, like a movie within my head, and snippets of conversation are keeping me company. It's the telling that's worrying me. Cue lip gnaw.
I have easier, frothier, less troublesome stories all set to go.
Three at least are clamouring. Three novels I can easily role out the first draft of in a delightful, unproblematic month. If I go with The Beast I accept the first draft probably won't be completely finished for at least eighteen months. 60,000 words for The Beast will be a skeleton with half the bones missing.
But... that seems cowardly.
So I'm preparing to Battle with the Beast.
Wish me luck.

*This does not mean that I do not read dozens and dozens of books in research, just that I don't actually need to use any of the facts gleaned, and they probably should come under the heading 'beloved procrastination.'

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Weekly Stills

1. I'm loving the pears at this time of year. I go to the local fruit shop and they all look so beautiful I can't decide so I take one or two of each type. Is it wrong to be besotted with pears? The shape? The colours, the juiciness, the taste...
2. Friends came down to visit from Queensland so we took them to the snow up on the top of Mt Baw Baw. It has been so long since I saw snow fall. None of us were precisely dressed appropriately - we got to the top and I realised we were all wearing docs. Our toes were cold. There will be a snow post coming up. With many, many photos.... I can't resist.
3. A mushroom we found on a walk. Lots of conversations with the kids about never ever eating mushrooms unless you buy them from a shop. Even amazing red fairy mushrooms...
4. The wonders of baking. Brownies and pears. Perfection.
5. A rose at the Morwell Centenary Rose Gardens. Ah roses.
6. My Sprocket in the long grass.
7. My Poppet in the rose gardens. (Not with a rose.)
8. The kids and my to-be-returned-pile. My beloved's equally high pile is on the far side of the room. We love our library! Do you have a library pile?
9. Uggs are essential in this cold! Poppet slipped off hers at the art gallery cafe. (Um. Yes. She was wearing Uggs in the art gallery. But they're so warm!)

I missed weekly stills last week, so there are some catch-ups. Joining with the  wonderful Em over at The Beetleshack for moments in the week.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

24/52 & 25/52




1. My Poppet keeping an eye on Peppa Pig, eating a lovely juicy pear in front of the fire. Now it's so cold we've been loving nightly fires. (And have taken to wandering the garden with an axe going... hmmm. Is that tree looking a bit dead? I feel very guilty as one of my favourite books this year has been about tree women... but it's cold!) Also note the fire screen... since moving here we've brought one from Bunnings... and the Sprocket shredded it in an afternoon. My mum got us another from Bunnings... and the Sprocket shredded it in an afternoon. Fail. I like the old stuff better than the new. My mum got this one from ebay, old and sturdy and so far still alive.

2. My Sprocket watching the ipad in front of the fire. Any day now we'll have another tv detox. Any day now. But not till after the kindy holidays...


1.  My Poppet found herself a leafy, grassy nest.

2. My Sprocket looking so grown up and serious. There have been a few deaths (none in our immediate family) around us, and my Sprocket has been worried about death and heaven all week. Hard concepts for all of us, and we've been giving him lots of cuddles and trying to reassure him.

My laptop is on her last legs (I sat on her... and that was after half her keys went 'misssing') and her memory is full, so uploading photos is a multi-computer and painful process. Last week... I just didn't get round to it. So here's the backlog!

Joining with the wonderful Jodi over at Che and Fidel for a portrait of my kids once a week. Even if some are a little delayed!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Perfect Porridge (Or when Porridge becomes Pudding)

Winter obviously means porridge.
Now the temperature is hitting below zero, the fire is lit every night and we have seen snow (although we had to drive for it) we are clearly deep in the deepest of winters.
My first memories of porridge are from when I was seven. My dad was researching across in Dublin and my brothers, mum and I stayed with my mum's parents in Aberdeen for a year, as keeping a family in Dublin for a year would have been too expensive for a student.
Every morning brought the sounds of the BBC... and porridge. The kind made with water and then drowned in milk and golden syrup.
As a teenager I discovered that my own favoured way of making porridge involved making it with milk, adding sultanas and a dab of butter to the cooking, a good quantity of spices (heavy on the cinnamon) possibly a mashed banana, and then eating it with sour cream and brown sugar. It is possible that it should no longer have been called 'porridge' but rather 'oat pudding'.
But I have recently discovered an even better way.
Recycled dessert porridge...
The night before I decided to try my hand at poaching pears in spices and red wine. And the night before that we had sticky date pudding. And the kids declined to taste test the sauce and only ate cake, leaving a massive surfeit of sauce - I mean, what a shame... gallons of cream/butter/sugar sauce. The hardship of finishing it off...(We have guests staying, we normally don't do desserts as a routine thing, although now I've seen how well they work as an enticement to get four years olds to eat spinach frittata, this might change).
End result? Milk made porridge (with sultanas added in the cooking to be juicy and plump) topped with re-heated poached pears, drizzled with caramel sauce and eaten with a healthy dollop of mascarpone. And of course it wouldn't be complete without a good dash of cinnamon. Now that is my idea of the Perfect Porridge.
My long search might be over.
My Beloved read the wrong kind of fantasy books growing up and is of the firm belief that all porridge is 'gruel' and prison rations. My Sprocket finds the sultanas in my porridge off-putting. There are 'things' in it. Take it away! Adding pears and caramel topping? Impure!
My Poppet and I luxuriate in Porridge with 'things' in it'.

Do you eat porridge? Do you soak normal oats? Or use the quick cook variety? How do you like your porridge?

(Now the big decision of the day - porridge or left over apple crumble for breakfast? Hmmm. How to decide?)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Natural Born (Bag) Killer

I kill my bags frequently and in diverse ways.
Some are done-to-death by forgotten banana. Some have been scribbled on by children, some just wear out, one died from leaking sunscreen, most die the Horrible Death of the Leaking Pen. Occasionally, for variety, I leave them on a bus, or kill them with a forgotten apple core rather than a squashed banana. A backpack got peed on by cats, then had its death-knell with the over-industrious application of disinfectant.
I love looking at photos of the contents of other peoples bags but they tend to leave me shaking my head, sure they inhabit a different planet. Where are the handfuls of sand at the bottom? The crumpled receipts? The apple-cores to be composted on return home, the crumpled hankies, the random stuffs...
Most of my bags have come from op-shops, so I haven't felt too bad about throwing them out after they cark it, but this year I decided it was time to be an adult and take responsibility for my belongings. This year, after last years bag died the Horrible Death of the Leaking Pen, I was going to get a new bag and... novel thought... look after it.
For my birthday my Mum ordered a handmade, fair-trade bag from India which arrived promptly and I immediately loved it. (No, not a sponsored post, I just like them!) So far, despite some near misses (the usual suspects: sunscreen, apples, leaking water bottles) it's survived.
But you know, I really want it to survive in the long term. For a matter of years rather than months.
Maybe it's time to look for proper grown up things... like pencil cases and sunscreen bags, and not randomly throw in apple cores and forget about them. Maybe it's time to start putting my car-keys in an allotted bit and my phone in the allotted bit. (In which case I might actually know where my phone was...)
But can a massively disorganised person become an organised person. Can I train myself to actually think about what I'm doing with stuff, rather than the story I'm writing in my head?

Are you a bag killer?
Or have any tips on not being a bag killer?
I love my bag. I don't want to kill her... (Although I suspect I might be able to take her to the cobbler and get her patched...)

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Voices...

So the Voices have already started.
It's still a few weeks until I start my next novel.
I'm still tinkering with the last. I'll wait for July 1st and the beginning of Camp Nano to begin writing, but...
But... in the dark before I sleep at night, and in the dark before I rise in the morning, the Voices are beginning to squabble and chatter.
I can feel the heady rush of those first few thousand words of desperate tapping, completely caught in story, before the New Novel becomes the Old Novel, and I begin hankering for the Next Novel.
I can feel the momentum gathering.
I've finally decided which novel to work on next. And it's a beast of a story. I've had it in mind... probably ten years now. It spans fourteen full on years, and that's excluding the time spent in Myth-time Ireland.
Fosterling begins with a teenage girl waking from a nap on the westward side of an isle in the Outer Hebrides, to find the sea god, Mananan, riding his chariot across the waves towards her. He entrusts her with a newborn babe, and tells her to keep the child safe from his murderous grandfather, One-Eyed Balor.  
I can hear my characters, Cat, Kev, Niall and Stan debating and discussing, arguing, and deep in grief.
And of course I can hear Jack. The Newborn, the Fosterling. It  amuses me a little that my tinkerings will mean that the great god of Light and Craft, Lugh, known from one end of Europe to another, will have a Glaswegian accent.
And the accent?  Och, away wi' it all. That's a problem for another day. 

Weekly Stills (With a Scottish Flavour!)

1. Last week I received a gorgeous parcel in the mail - a package of pressies from Scotland from Seana over at Seana Smith. She wrote in her lovely letter that it was my mention of Iona as one of my favourite places in Scotland that was the clincher for me receiving her giveaway... which seemed auspicious. One of the many wonderful friends I met on Iona during three fantastic months volunteering with the Iona Community got married on the weekend...
2. To further the Scottish theme, my folks and I went to the Port Arlington Celtic Festival down on the Bellarine Peninsula on Saturday. My Beloved had to stay home and write essays. But my Dad (the only one of us actually born and bred in Scotland!) came for the first time in 10 years... The sailing ship is the Enterprize - and some of the bands played on it.
3. My Sprocket, listening to the bagpipes.
4. My Poppet and my Dad, listening to the pipers. I think the look on Poppet's face is 'You do know, Grandpa, these people are VERY loud!
5. My Sprocket was climbing the living room curtains last week (again...) and they fell down. He's been hobbling a bit since then. We spent a lot of time on the beach so he didn't have to walk too much. It wasn't exactly a hardship...
6. Poppet with sea-treasure.
7. Sandy feet.
8. My Sprocket eating his oatcakes. You can't go past oatcakes! Family history tells one
of my great grandfathers used to take a sack of oats and some eggs and walk from Aberdeenshire to Edinburgh for each university term - and that was all he lived on for the term. I wouldn't go that far... but I do like my oats!
9. And my Sprocket with his square Scottish sausage. My Dad got the Blood Pudding from The Frying Scotsman stall. I got the Danish Hot Chocolate. (I assume the Danish Hot Chocolate was from the Viking connection? It was delicious, whatever, and there was no sign of pillaging.)
10. My Poppet on the slide. The playground was beautifully situated at the heart of the festival!
11. The beautiful view across the bay just before we came home.

Joining with Em over at The Beetleshack for weekly stills. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013


1. My Poppet finishing up her Chocolate Strawberries. We spent a day at the National Celtic Festival at Port Arlington on the weekend, and Poppet indulged in traditional festival (if not particularly Celtic!) fare! I foresee  many festivals in my Poppet's future...
2. My Sprocket, climbing, with Port Phillip Bay in the background.

We had a glorious day at the National Celtic festival, a crisp, blue-sky-day. The spires of Melbourne could be clearly seen across the bay and the swirl of bagpipes was everywhere.

Joining with the lovely Jodi over at Che and Fidel for a portrait of the kids once a week for 2013.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Rose Daughter

My Poppet and I took a walk around our local rose garden recently. And now I'm perplexed as to why I've never gone before, seeing as I'm completely devoted to roses and we currently live in an area famous for its roses. Our area is also famous for its mines and power plants. I'm not sure if there's a connection.
In truth, I do know why we haven't visited the Rose Gardens before. A large part of the gardens are based around a major roundabout. (Remember, I'm a country girl now. To me, it's a major roundabout, by city standards... well, maybe not!) Traffic and small children is not the best combination, but now the kids are older and more road-wise, I suspect we will be making weekly visits.
There was such a profusion of roses, of so many different types. There were banks of roses, exuberantly blooming walkways and lushly planted gazebos (in a wintry kind of way.) We only had time to look at a very tiny percentage of the gardens and we both want to go back. It is possible my little rose-daughter was more interested in studying the ants and playing hide and seek, but isn't it lovely to visit a place than entrances all tastes!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Walk in the Woods

On Saturday the kids and I drove home from a night away at the Big City visiting my parents. After a near sleepless night full of unsettled little ones and all the stresses of the freeway, when I arrived home I nearly handed the kids over to my Beloved and collapsed into bed with a cup of tea. Instead, we all trooped out to the forest.

My Poppet's look of wonder sums it all up. The rain drenched forest was magical. Whether craning up  to peer at the tree tops or studying the rain hung moss, there was enchantment to be found everywhere. Even the air, moist and heavy and laden with scent, was rejuvenating. We felt the mud with our toes, hid behind ferns, and, ahem, I might have taken a few photos...