Thursday, December 27, 2007

It's MY birthday today

In the immortal words of Justine Clarke:
'I'm older than yesterday.'

Here are my birthday letters:
"Happy Birthday Mum
Love Hearts
All done

and another from Una:
It's handie
It's my handie
jus' my handie
it's Freddie's handie
It's MY handie
story Una"

And from Fred:
"Happy birthday Mum,
Japan is a very long time ago,
so watch out for foxes.
They are big fat danger
the big ones are scary
if you see one
you have to watch out.
Love from Fred."

and another from Fred:
"It's candles on your cake,
your own special cake
just for Mum!
It's not for you but sometimes
we can share it. Fred."

And for me my own teeny tiny purple iPod shuffle! With my name on it! Wheeee! I love presents.

It was Martin's birthday yesterday but as Fred said this morning 'it wasn't a real birthday it was just a disaster birthday'. I had planned a surprise party for him but we had to cancel it because I was sick in the night. Boohoo. But Martin seemed to enjoy his quiet day anyway. Fred played all day next door so it was just Una and Martin while I slept. As Martin says, 'She was my birthday buddy.' Cute. Happy birthday to my dear love Martin.

Christmas was good. The family lunch on Christmas Eve and the extended party on Christmas night were the distinct highlights, Christmas is for sharing. We play a nutty game on Christmas Eve and there's a hilarious Secret Santa on Christmas Day, the girls love it, all the grown ups being silly, and so do I.

We're off on the boat to Tassie tonight. To quote Fred: 'Fond farewell.' But then again, I'll probably blog from there, so it's not really goodbye. Cyberspace is cool like that.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Christmas Everyone

This is what I woke up to.

Hope you all have a beautiful day, surrounded by people you love.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Christmas Train is Coming and I've Strayed onto the Tracks

( day I might write a country and western song called that)

Christmas starts tomorrow for us, with Martin's immediate family. We're doing Christmas lunch and presents on Christmas Eve, which has become something of a tradition, except for the years we're in Tassie for Christmas. On Christmas day we're having a quiet day at home and then seeing Martin's extended family in the evening, at his Aunt's house in Williamstown. The kids had a ball there last year, I'm looking forward to it, though I always miss my own family when we do a Melbourne Christmas. We wrapped all our presents last night. I am making some things too that aren't quite finished. A bag for Una with a big girl on it and I've written a fairy tale for Fred called The Robber Princess (based on a character she invented when we were in Queensland) which needs to be bound. Martin and I have already done some illustrations.

I've been feeling a bit spiritually bereft this Christmas and churning over what we can do next year to make Christmas feel a bit more meaningful. We're not Christians (I grew up going to Church sporadically but pretty much the whole family gave it up before i hit teenhood), but I do yearn for some kind of ritual or ceremony. I love the idea of Carols by Candlelight but it's become increasingly more commercial everywhere - too many ex-Australian idols warbling up and down the scales so that it's physically impossible to sing along to any of the carols. Ach. Or maybe it is just the melancholy that is Christmas, the belief that other people elsewhere do it properly and with the kind of golden grace saved for Christmas specials, combined with an air of nostalgia for Christmases past, when I believed in Santa and Jesus and the magic of Christmas. Maybe Christmas is only really magical when you're not responsible for making it be.

Anyway, food. We're going to roast a leg of lamb for Christmas lunch and have it with this:

Dani's Raspberry and Feta salad
300g raspberries (frozen will work if fresh are too overpriced)
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup honey
500g mixed salad greens
150g crumbled feta (bulgarian is perfect for this)
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted
Stir 1/2 berries into vinegar. Stand 1/2 hour. Puree with honey and season to taste.
Just before serving, combine all salad ingredients and dress.

Dessert will be chocolate shiraz raisins and a quiet afternoon in front of the Are You Being Served? Christmas specials DVD as we recharge our batteries for a big night of watching the children degrade into general feralness.

Boxing day is Martin's birthday.

The day after is mine.

What's everyone else doing for Christmas day? Recipes strongly encouraged.

Friday, December 21, 2007


Back from holidays down at the beach. There's something about floating on your back with your ears under the water that makes me feel like I've gone out of time: body dissolves into water, self recedes. I could be any age, any me.

We stayed in a house down in Dromana, owned by siblings of friends and it came with a beach box. Now I have been beach royalty how can I go back? What a blissful holiday!

I have finished my stint at Inside a Dog, so am now blogging here again. Not that I stopped as it turned out. But anyway. Here I am.

For those of you who are interested (a few people have asked about my thesis) here is my thesis abstract (written in a hurry in the middle of the night):

Melancholy is prevalent in modern texts for children, especially those with a fantasy element, and has a profound affect on plot, structure and narrative closure. This is particularly captured in the image of the everchild – perhaps most immediately recognisable in the figure of Peter Pan, but a recurring motif in modern and postmodern fairy tales. This dissertation looks at three eras of children’s writing – Victorian, Edwardian and Postmodern – and engages with the different ways melancholy is handled by the authors. The melancholic figure of the everchild sheds light on Freud and Kristeva’s theories of melancholia, specifically Freud’s belief that the melancholic subject, unwilling to relinquish a lost love object, incorporates it into the ego, and Kristeva’s further contention that the lost love object is the body of the mother. Winnicott’s model of the Perfect Mother creates a fascinating blueprint for the fairyworld, a domain where the child imagination holds complete sway, and where the integrity of the self is always threatened. The thesis finds that a journey into fairyworld is a journey into the melancholic self via the body of the mother. This journey results in either a healthy retrieval and expulsion of the lost thing or a further concealing of it within the ego so that it remains forever lost in the regressive domain of the fairyworld.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


1. My thesis is finished.
2. Apart from the bibliography.
3. It is called Melancholy ever after? Repetition, maternity, melancholy and the everchild in modern and post-modern fairytales
4. It is 17429 words long including quotes.
5. It has two epigraphs. One is two stanzas from the poem at the end of 'Through the Looking Glass.' The other is a Stevie Smith poem. Which should probably go.
6. Word has just fritzed.
7. Crap.
8. Oh don't worry, it's okay. But now I've been suckered into rewriting my conclusion.
9. Stoopid conclusion.
10. I'm not finished.
11. As you were.

Okay, now I've finished. Feel free to proceed with accolades, applause, ticker tape parades or hearty congratulations.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Tis the Season to eat Salad

Every time I go somewhere I take salad. Well not every time.

Places I don't take salad include: the movies, celebrity funerals, first dates, last dates, weddings, the pub, and secret rendezvous with Orlando Bloom.

But since I never go to any of those places anymore, I often make salads and take them with me to parties and dinners out and Christmas and so forth. People say 'You bring the salad cause you do good salads.' So here is the secret to doing good salad.

For a salad to be a meal (with bread and maybe wine) you need to represent a few food groups:
1. Starch. Starchy foods fill you up. The best sources of starch in a salad are potatoes and bread. Pasta and rice are also acceptable but are often dry, or as we salad makers like to say, a bit nyung nyung nyung. Cracked wheat (like in tabouleh) is great, but needs to be well soaked and doused in olive oil and pomegranate molasses. Noodles are good, I love thai salads. Crispy noodles make me happy.
2. Protein. Meat, eggs, fish, lentils, cheese, avocado or nuts. Nuts are great in salad because they give it an interesting texture. I especially like macadamias because they're groovy. We haven't had nuts in our salad for a few years because of the children.
3. Vegetables. Yes, well. I guess they're kind of a given really. Salad greens obviously and herbs are great in summer and who can go past tomatoes when they're in their peak season? In winter, you can roast veggies (potato, pumpkin, sweet potato, beetroot, tomatoes, leek, onion, garlic) and dress them with a light vinegarette and serve warm.
4. Fruit. I love fruit in main meals. I like to add grapes to greek salad (I also love grapes on pizza with olives, spinach or vine leaves and fetta). There's a recipe below with barbecued peaches in a summer salad. Pear and pecans were made for each other. Strawberries and spinach. Sultanas or raisins in coleslaw. Marshmallows in salad though, that's just freakin. I can't go there.
5. Dressing. I tend to make fairly simple salad dressings. I am not big on lots of ingredients because I think the flavour should come from the salad rather than the dressing. My bog standard is olive oil, lemon juice and garlic. Lemon juice can be replaced with red wine vinegar or balsamic (but I like lemons). Pomegranate molasses is my new favourite thing, you just need a dash of it to get a strong flavour. When we were trying to get Fred to eat salads we put honey in the dressing with great success. Sometimes I make the dressing in a screwtop jar and shake it, sometimes in a bowl and I stir it with a fork and often I just pour it all directly on the salad. I never serve dressings on the side, I always dress the salad myself, and I have never found a prepared supermarket dressing that I like - they are all too acidic. I seldom use mayonaisse, I prefer vinegarette dressings on potato salad and if there is any warm ingredients going into the salad (like cooked cauliflower or roast veggies) I dress it warm and then let it cool down because the flavours combine better.

Some salads:
Daggy (c1993) Chicken Salad: Chicken breast cut into strips and pan-fried in soy sauce, oil, honey, and garlic (you could marinate it but I never get around to that). Combine with bean shoots (the phat ones), grapes, red capsicum, celery, mushrooms and pineapple chunks. I don't think you need dressing for this salad.

Strawberry and spinach: (there's a few ways to make this, this is how I do it). Hull and halve a punnet or two of strawberries, combine with a big bag of spinach leaves. Toss with dressing and sprinkle over sunflower seeds.
Dressing: combine a tablespoon of tahini with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, add lime juice (about one lime), sugar or honey to taste (it should be quite sweet, a finely chopped spring onion) and one garlic clove.

Panzanella (or as it is tres classily called in this house wet bread salad): A few big slices of day old good bread (this salad is FANTASTIC made with Phillipas fig and anise bread but good with any sourdough bread), crusts removed. Dampen the bread, squeeze out the excess water and crumble into the bowl. Add to a salad of whatever you like but in this house the core ingredients are really fantastic tomatoes, and a green herb (coriander, flat-leaf parsley, mint or basil). In there as well might be celery, hard boiled eggs, capers or olives (I like green), mushrooms, bacon or tuna and cucumber. I think the secret to this salad is to chop everything up quite small. Dress with olive oil, garlic and balsamic, and black pepper. We wouldn't use salt, especially if we've got capers or olives in there but hey, whatever floats your raft.

Peach and Asparagus: BBQ halved peaches and asparagus with the ends snapped off. Toss with spinach leaves (the leaves will wilt which is all good). Dress with a little oil and some pomegranate molasses. Or if you don't have that make a dressing of oil, honey and balsamic.

Lentil and orange: I love green or brown lentils in a salad. I usually get the French puy ones because even though they're dearer lentils are always good value for money and the little ones taste better. I like hearty warm lentil salads in winter with bacon and roast potato or something like that to chunk it out. Ooh and lots of mustard. Lentils and mustard should get married and have babies. Anyway, a simple salad is brown lentil and orange. You can soak the lentils beforehand if you like them really tender but you don't have to. Just cook them in water, make sure they don't boil dry, add more water if you don't think they're cooked enough. You can cook them in stock, which I particularly recommend for winter. For summer though, combine green lentils (you know, about as much as you think you'd like to eat), segments of orange, and mint (I really heart mint), and dress with olive oil, orange juice, walnuts if you don't have littlies, and grainy mustard. Because you now know my firm opinion on mustard and lentils. Married. Babies.

Fred started eating salad at about two and a half, when she could serve herself (before that she lived almost exclusively on bananas, apple and yoghurt). Una eats everything. I always try and put a couple of things in a salad that I know they'll eat, like crispy noodles or fruit or roasted cubes of sweet potato or grated carrot.

I am procrastinating. Can you tell?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Fred's first joke

Where do you find a cold pirate?
In the icy ocean.


Yeah, well. I don't think she quite understands jokes yet.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Christmas Presents to Make

Let me just make a disclaimer here that chances are I won't make any of these. If I could, I would quickly rent a hole in the fabric of space-time, pop into a cosy alternative universe and make all the girls' Christmas presents. Better yet, I'd find an alternative me who was really good at making things, and also employ her to get Fred and Una to make charming potato-print Christmas cards - in this alternative world, F & U are very obliging (unfortunately I couldn't find an instructable for this, or folding space, or cloning myself or anything really useful). Anyway, since I spend some time obsessing over this stuff, I thought I might as well share the obsessive goodness. Lots of these have been kicking around the web since forever, but it doesn't hurt to be reminded of their existence in this crazy rapid-paced space we call cyber.

Pinspinners - cute little pinwheels for a Christmas party or to decorate the table.

Scotty Dog - cute little squishy dog. I made one of these for Fred and she loved it, surprisingly much. Especially considering, frankly, I can't sew for nuts (look, I'm jiggy with that - I can write books, right?)

Little theatre - this little theatre is so tooth-achingly sweet. I heart it's guts out. Um, can't read a word of French, so I translated it with google, which is always good for a laugh. It's an Easter theme, but oh well, I know Fred won't notice. This one I like to think I might actually do. It's within the realms of possibility. Oh, who am I kidding?

A smoogem is a bunny - a very very cute bunny. It's a wheat bag I think, I must admit I didn't read all the instructions. See why I won't actually make anything? As soon as there's instructions my eyes glaze over.

More stuffed animals from Martha. Keep Martha honest this Christmas. Actually I was never sure just why she went to gaol. Combining plaid and polkadots? Running with scissors? Running cocaine inside handmade stuffies? Oh-ho.

Wee Wonderfuls has lots of free patterns to download. I love the paper dolls. Again, within the realms of possibility. If I was, you know. Not me.

Oh my, look at this list of 30 projects to sew from Sew, Mama, Sew. Other me shall be so very busy.

For little girls, I love these pillowcase dresses. Alternative me would happily spend the day sourcing marvellous vintage pillowcases from backwater op shops. At the same time I'd put together a teaset of handpicked secondhand metal cups and a really great teapot.

If you're into web design, you could make your kids a simple website, like Martin has for Fred and Evie Constable. It has photos of them and all the links they like to visit, like Noggin, Charlie & Lola and ABC Kids.

Here's some tips for a sustainable Christmas. We've scored so well with 2nd hand stuff this year for, Fred, a beautiful wooden storytelling game that looks brand new (and that I've seen and hankered after in the shops) and is just up her alley and a lovely anthology of fairy tales, which we bought ages ago, put away, promptly forgot about and then rediscovered. Hurrah!

Okay I'm all worthied out now. Time to log onto Sendatoy and Peanut Gallery and look at all the lovely things we can't afford to buy.