Friday, September 29, 2006

Lizard Cake

originally uploaded by sillydog.
I am in the process of making a lizard cake. And here it is. Ho ho. No, this is some state fair winner that was the beginning of my lizard cake inspiration. Oregon state fair...amazing isn't it? Though it looks barely edible. Mine looks nothing like this by the way. I have just realised it's probably because I am not a state fair cake making person but just a lady who likes to express love through cake. Will post pics on completion - it's for my niece's 2nd birthday on Sunday.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Happy BIrthday Una Pearl



And to celebrate, I FINISHED RISE!!

You know, balloons and streamers really ought to come down from the ceiling when you finish a novel. Someone should do something about that.

We celebrated both these auspicious events with a souvlaki in the park and a spectacularly pink sunset.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A year ago

Actually this photo was taken on the 14th September, the day before my due date. Una was born two weeks later, on the 28th September. I stopped taking photos on the 14th - clearly disheartened. This year I realise how long two weeks is, we've been to Tassie, among other things. It's a long time to be so heavily pregnant. Una was 10lb1oz when she was born and 58cm long (I'm on the small side of small, five foot nothing). No wonder I was so tired. Labour was difficult, compared to Fred, but it was a natural drug-free birth and I watched her being born in a mirror that they'd set up to encourage me to push, so I could see the progress I was making. She was posterior, which meant she descended facing forwards. Her face was sealed in a thick layer of amniotic sac and the umbilical cord was wrapped twice around her neck. But the rush of love that came when she was born was amazing and I would go through it again for that feeling alone (and we plan to, sometime). They cut the sac from her face and heaved her up into my arms. I held her against me. Martin took off his t-shirt and they passed Una to him as I bled heavily and they wanted to get me up onto the bed in case I fainted (I went to the toilet later and fainted - the midwife caught me).

This time last year labour hadn't started but would by 10pm. I was worried about how Fred would cope with the change (she didn't really, not for the first few months). I couldn't imagine life expanding to accomodate another little person, though I didn't worry about love - I already loved her. I ate lentil dahl, made by Martin from his Bill Grainger cookbook (last year's father's day present). I watched some of Tales of the City on video. I went to bed early. This time last year, we were a family of three. At 3am, after we'd called Zoe and she'd driven to our house, Martin and I set off to the hospital on a deserted freeway, startling a rabbit.

Now Una completes us all. And tomorrow, when she wakes up, she will be one year old.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A Baby Blog Milestone

Back from Tassie. Jeez Hobart's a beautiful town. Lovely stay with Grandma and Grandad. Will post some piccies soon.

Meanwhile, while I was away I was tagged! Oh happy day, I feel so blogafied now! Thanks Janet. She thought I probably had a bit to say about books. I do rather like them. I am too lazy to hotlink all these books so you will have to google them yourselves. At the moment I mostly use the library for reading material, though I do buy new books too - people who live in glass houses and write books need to buy books too! Garage sales, op shops, 2nd hand bookstores, books acquired through work, borrowed books, books from home...I'm not fussy about how I get my hand on them. If there's nothing else to read, I'll read cereal boxes. When I read I totally switch off to the world around me. Drove my mum batty when I was a kid, drives Martin batty now.

A book that changed my life
Well, although it seems odd to choose it, no book changed my life more than my own first novel, Undine, in a practical sense, particularly once it was contracted to the US which meant I could make a (sort of) living as an author and create a chance for Martin to study full time. By other people though (!)... the one that springs to mind is a picture book called Whose Mouse are You? which was the first book I ever 'read' all by myself (I can still quote it word for word now).

A Book I've Read More Than Once
I have many many books that I have read many many times. Some immediately memorable ones are The Secret History by Donna Tartt, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper...though there are so many that I would say it's the exception for me to read a book only once! I have some books I read once a year or so, I am a big comfort reader. Seven Little Australians, Little Women, Wind in the Willows...

A book I'd like with me if stuck on a desert island
Poetry. It lends itself so well to being reread. And there's lots of blank space on the page so I could write my own too, or keep a diary. Maybe Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes, I've been meaning to read it again. Actually, I think I need a giant, comprehensive, 20th-21st century anthology.

A book that made me laugh
Um, there have been many but the first I thought of was The Secret World of the Irish Male by Joseph O'Connor (Sinead's brother). Oh, Kiffo and the Pitbull which I pulled out of the slush pile at Allen & Unwin. BArry Jonsberg is hilarious.

A book that made me cry
Skellig by David Almond. I cried writing the epilogue in Breathe (and again every time I read it). A few of Fred's picture books make me cry, like Jenny Angel by Margaret Wild - I can't get to the end of it dry-eyed. And Fox, also by Margaret Wild. Oh and Hello Baby by Jenni Overend (a beautiful book about a home birth that I bought for Fred when pregnant with Una, though we didn't birth at home because we lived in a house I wanted to forget).

A book I wish had been written
In a general sense, I'd love to see more poetry books for teenagers. Notoriously hard to market so it doesn't really get published, but I can't help feeling when it comes to poetry that sometimes 3000 books have to be published to create five poetry readers. It's like...a community service.

A book I wish had never been written
Weeeellll...I think writing is a highly personal act and I would never say something shouldn't have been written, but I can think of quite a few books that shouldn't have been published simply because they weren't of a high enough standard. But it seems a bit mean to name names and it's not like I'm offended by their existence.

A book I've been meaning to read
Good lord, there's a massive list. But from where I sit I can see The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, which I did start a while ago and I drifted off to other things. Also I'd quite like to read Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes because I like books about world war 2 that aren't actually about soldiers or fighting or extreme, violent situations, but rather how individuals were affected, how daily, ordinary things were altered.

A book I'm currently reading
I just finished The Lovely Bones. It was good, very engrossing, quite challenging in places because it made me feel as if I and my girls were vulnerable. But ultimately I have to say I was disappointed. I didn't feel that the perspective (the story is narrated by a dead girl) was explored to its full potential and the culminating scene was so frustrating, she's basically given an opportunity to revisit life (that's not strictly a spoiler because it says it in the blurb) but does nothing with the didn't quite ring true for me, though it was an ambitious premise to work with.
I have Maria's War by Amy Witting to read next, but I'm thinking I might go to the library and look for something else, I'm in the mood for something a bit meatier, grittier, possibly written by a bloke. I'll also be reading The Happiness of Kati over the next few days and I am really looking forward to it, it seems very light and airy and elegant (this is entirely based on the cover and the first page by the way). I have to finish writing Rise this week (eek) so I may have to ban reading for a few days. Oh I do have American Gods by Neil Gaimon to read, Martin enjoyed it immensely, that might be a good antidote to Rise.

So I guess how this works is I have to tag other people to do the same questions on their blogs. I am tagging Zoe, Dustykisses and TLSC.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Go look...


A lost day

All day today Martin and I were thinking it was Monday. Fred didn't go to creche today, instead Martin took Fred and Una to the museum this morning, then to the pool this afternoon, happy to have such a jam-packed day thinking creche was tomorrow. I looked at the weather forecast online and made loud scoffy noises about the fact that the Age had skipped Tuesday (at this time of the evening they put up the weather for tomorrow) and then Martin and I simultaneously noticed that our computers said Tuesday. Sheesh.

In other news:
I knitted a jumper for Fred and finally have a photo of it. Notice Fred sitting at Mama's puto (see below for details about what she gets up to)

We've discovered noggin. Fred loves it. There are games there and Fred enjoys playing them but even better for Fred, there's kids music videos, which she loves - she was on the site for about 10 minutes when she discovered them and that's what she rocks out to. She uses the mouse pad on my laptop and has become very adept with it, it's great for her fine motor skills. She also plays at the sesame street website. Martin also wants to get Kid Pix which he has been using in schools and thinks would be great for Fred.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Falling off the blogosphere.

We have the plague. Or a plague. Pestilence anyway. Some sort of resilient bug that won't leave us alone. Fred's been sick since last Monday. Sleep doesn't live here anymore. Fred has been known to carry a large bowl around all day. In fact it's become her comfort item.

Things that have happened:
Fred mastered her puzzle

Then took some photos:

(Fred 1)

(Fred 2)

We also received our Chariot which we ordered on ebay from the US ($500 cheaper than buying it locally). The girls love it.

I am still writing Rise. The characters are going in their own interesting directions and I am having a lovely time playing with them. My favourites are Phoenix and Liv, both new characters. But Grunt, Trout and Undine are still there. There's some kissing (oooooohhhhh). There's some powerful hoodoo. It's going to be a pretty big finish, I tell you.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant

When I grow up I want to be Anne Tyler.
How have I never read this before?

I have Digging to America but I'm saving it for our next holiday.
I borrowed The Lovely Bones from the library today, along with Maria's War by Amy Witting (I recently read After Cynthia and loved it. Isobel on the way to the corner shop is one of my favourite novels of all time.) She has a lovely restrained style and glorious characters; richly pyschological books. The kind of books that make you feel like you've had a weekend of good conversation, good company, good wine, good food.

Interesting article

Why Hemingway is Chicklit

“When women stop reading, the novel will be dead,” declared Ian McEwan in the Guardian last year...

There is a disparity between how books are marketed and how they are received by the market. Capturing a male market does often seem to be a goal - even if that market is a myth. Often the difference between a successful book and a really successful book is that it does find a male audience. I know a lot of people are quite permissive about what their boys read: 'As long as he's reading...' or 'if it gets boys to read, it must be good.' (I'm thinking specifically here of the John Marsden Tomorrow series, which I also think is an interesting series but I do think parents ought to read it too, or that schools should encourage meaningful discussion about it because it could be read on a few different levels and one is quite bleak and pessimistic). Garth Nix said somewhere (I read it, I think in a book doing interviews with young adult authors) that books are kind of over-priveleged, weighted with value (I'm paraphrasing) and that boys do read, pointing out that playing a PC game or being on the internet is an experience of reading. It's been well known for some time that boys and men are more likely to read non-fiction.

I live in a house with a literate man (from a family of readers) and grew up with another very literate man, but I have met men who only buy really really long books (because there's a better $ to page ratio), men who only read fishing magazines, boys who read intensively about one subject only - but look, they're all reading (mostly non-fiction). My brother claims to read only a few novels a year (but he does really think about them and it was he who first recommended The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time to me.)

Anyway, go read the article. I don't have a firm position on it, but it's interesting.

Incidently the link comes from a woman I met through uni, Nadia Niaz, who is a very good poet and clearly spends her time thinking about interesting things, because she also gave me the tenth dimension link I posted a while ago in the midst of lack-of-sleep world.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Where Monsters Live

I have this on good authority.
Monsters live in a hole in the floor and if you don't want them to come out you need to put elastic over the hole.
Now you know.
Tbink of it as a community service announcement.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The death of a family man

I want to start this by saying how terribly sad I am for Steve Irwin's family, following his death from a stingray barb. Since combining our futures so entirely, I find that even the merest thought of Martin's mortality is enough to reduce me to tears. I used to only have to worry about the spread out-ness of my limbs and the large amount of surface area (compared to say a bee or a mouse or a smurf) I seemed to have, in terms of likeliness of injury and upset. Now I am far more flung out, with these people who are so intinsic to my life: Martin, Frederique, Una. These vulnerable sites of potential pain or loss I have even less control of than my dangling limbs.

I must admit regarding Steve Irwin I have mostly shared the views of Germaine Greer though there is a time and place to express them. I can't say I thought about him often. But what strikes me about this is nothing to do with Steve Irwin, but really the way media peddles celebrity death, and the catharsis this induces amongst a general populous (who after all can continue to enjoy the full extent of their personal experience of Steve Irwin in reruns and by visiting Australia Zoo - no such options are available for his bereft family).

Why are we so drawn to the spectacle of death? Is it a rehearsal for the grief we know we will all experience one day? I don't watch television, but I can imagine exactly the kind of montages (slow motion, stirring music, Steve Irwin jumping back from a snapping crocodile, laughing in the face of death) that will have been tugging people's heartstrings.

What to does it say about our culture, that the kind of celebrity we want is one who risks their life regularly, sticking their head in the lion's (or crocodile's) mouth? There's a certain sad irony in the fact that Steve Irwin's kind of celebrity is one that is actually heightened by death, fulfilling the voyeuristic desire for danger - the fact that he has died proves just how risky his behaviour has always been and enhancing the excitement of what Steve has been witnessed doing in the past. Or is it actually a letdown? Steve's not-dying reflected us not-dying. Now that Steve is dead, we are (ultimately) dead too.

One person who's done pretty well out of all this is a certain ebay seller (I won't link because it seems vulgar but you can search youself if you're interested). She or he placed a signed poster of Steve Irwin before his death, it was sitting around the $9 mark. It's now on over $5000 and it still has a day to go. The seller does say they plan to donate a "large" proportion of the sale amount to the Steve Irwin wildlife fund. I do feel a bit sorry for that person who was willing to pay $9 for it before Steve Irwin died. They really wanted it, just cause they liked Steve Irwin, not as a site of catharsis or an investment or as a way of expressing an outpouring of grief.

I hope I haven't offended anyone with the content of this post. As I said before, there are people whose loss is profound. Long after ebay auctions are lost and won and the Herald Sun's righteous rage at Greer's comments are reclycled into Safe toilet paper, there are people who will still have to navigate a world without their husband, father, workmate, cousin, uncle, nephew in it. And as for the rest of us, perhaps some of us really do feel the loss more keenly than others. Perhaps there is a stronger sense of ownership, of kinship, with Steve Irwin in the Australian pysche than I imagined. For me, he and I inhabited very different Australias, I can't say I ever considered him an ambassador, but this word has been bandied about a lot over the past few days, so clearly there is a place for Steve Irwin in our cultural psyche...whatever that place might be.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Happy Father's Day

Happy father's day to the two fathers in my life.

Martin is not my father of course but he is the father of my beautiful girls. They are very lucky girls to have such an attentive and present father, he shares the care equally of the girls - we have eschewed the notion of breadwinner in this house. There might not always be enough "bread", but there is lots of love and laughter. In some ways Frederique and Martin have a more complex relationship than Fred and I do, two firstborns, they sometimes lock horns. But she loves him and he loves her. Una loves to cuddle into him, both our daughters feel safest in daddy's arms.
Martin told me he didn't want any presents for father's day but I bet he regretted that at 5.45 this morning when he got up to Fred.
I don't know if fathers are born or made. I guess I always assumed they were made because I must admit that I never wondered about what kind of father he would be. The father he is though seems so natural that perhaps he was born to it - if anyone was born to be a father, Martin was.

And this is Bob, my own father (this is him with Fred, not me but Fred looks a lot like I did at the same age); another man who makes fatherhood seem easy and natural - he has a special affinity with small children. Dad was a smoker when I was growing up which although it is a bad thing to be, it did mean that he often used to sit downstairs when I was a teenager and I would sit with him and he would tell me stories of his life before I was born. He taught me to love history, giving it colour and life - both the history he'd lived (he was in the British Navy during World War 2) but also the French Revolution, World War One, Ancient Greece and Rome...he is an avid reader and was a teacher. When I was cross and I shut myself in my room he used to write notes and draw funny pictures and slide them under the door and I would cheer up in spite of myself. dad remembers me writing 'I od not love you' but of course I od.

So happy father's day to both of you and to all other father's out there.


Friday, September 01, 2006


Oh hooray. Winter is over. Yesterday on the tram I was talking to Frederique about spring and she pointed to the distant sky and said, 'Is that spring?' and it was, and here it is. Even Fred can feel the change in the air. She was running up the street singing 'I'm jumping over the clouds, I'm jumping over the rainbow, I love you...Jump over the rainbow, Mummy!' So I did and it felt great. We chased each other's shadows all the way to Kate Constable's house where we sat in the sun in their backyard and played and Una ate dirt and Kate and I looked at old HQ magazines and laughed at 1996. Multi-talented Kate even made us souffle for lunch which was a very special treat.

I wrote a short story this week for the first time this millenia and it was a very interesting exercise. It is being workshopped at uni next week, so I had to rush the ending and it will need some fiddling with. It was a good exercise though, writing something short, being able to see it as a whole and as a series of parts. I had a brief moment of insanity where I was considering turning it into a series of sonnets... Martin is studying poetry this semester and so far together we've pulled apart two sonnets - Shakespeare and Keats - and That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the comfort of the Resurrection
by Gerald Manley Hopkins, which has been really interesting - it's been a long time since I've really wrestled with poetry and the G.M.H. one was especially difficult. It's made me realise how much I would enjoy teaching it. Anyway the story has stayed a story but I think writing poetry might be a summer project when uni is finished for the semester.

And now I am reading a really good unsolicited manuscript for Allen & Unwin, listening to Michelle Shocked singing Bluesgrass versions of Disney Songs (Got No Strings).

And outside it's spring. I can hear it. Our doors are flung open to let spring in. The air is sweet. Hooray for spring.