Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hey you. Yes, you.

Sh! Come over here.

You have to wait till August to read it, but meanwhile have a look a the new cover.

Isn't it shiny pretty new?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Time Travel

Fred and Una are playing a time travel game (the travel mechanism is a perpetual calendar), that is causing a fascinating argument about whether or not the time traveler would remember the person in the past, or if the other person in the past would remember the time traveler when they encountered each other. The game and the argument touches on which one is the constant - the traveler, or the timeline.

Meanwhile, what they should really be doing is getting ready for school or they will be LATE.

The rigid, patriarchal time of the school day/the mythical, cyclical time in the realm of the mother. Less and less I find myself wanting to insist on the first, instead I want to draw the two girls back into the second. Una wants to live here with me, but Fred is already lost to the world. "We're late!" she says wherever we go, even if we are early or on time. Her father's daughter. Sigh.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Reading and Motherhood

I used to only ever read one book at a time. I would burn through it, usually in one or two sittings. I spent whole days reading, and well into the night. I read in public, on trains, in parks, in cafes, in (der) libraries and bookshops. I read in bed. I read on the couch. I read at the kitchen table and on sunny days in winter I'd read outside. I'd lie on the floor and read. I read demanding books - literature, poetry, short stories, non-fiction – challenged myself with my reading, chose books based on authors, cover designs, book reviews in the newspaper and friends' recommendations. I also read absolute crap, my favourite crap genre being the eighties style YA series romances like Sweet Dreams and Sweet Valley High. When I was pregnant with Fred, Martin and I took turns reading J.M.Barrie's poetically spooky Peter Pan aloud to our foetus friend as she swam around (and frankly she came out poetically spooky. Whoops.)

Motherhood changed me as a reader. I know this doesn't happen to everyone but I also know from talking to other women my experience is not unique.

After Fred was born I still read, but whole days would go by when the only thing I read was the same clutch of picture books over and over again and whatever people were saying on the Internet. I read for work. I read Harry Potter and other children's and YA novels, often rereading rather than starting something new. I read baby books and recipe books and a gorgeous memoir/biography called Madeleine's World (in which a father chronicles the first three years of his daughters life) about ten times. I read newspapers and book catalogues. But I avoided adult fiction, too intimidated to begin reading something that required my full intellectual engagement. I would often take novels out of the library and return them unread. I would acquire novels I knew I wanted to read and then save them up for some future me who would have time to read like the old days. Time I used to spend reading I'd fritter away on the Internet. I used to blame the Internet. I used to worry that I was lazy, or that I was secretly a bit stupid. But looking back I realised it was a) a kind of mourning and b) I simply no longer knew how to read. I didn't know how to put a book down and not come back to it for days - so often if I started a book I'd end up abandoning it a few chapters in because in the old days if I didn't get past the first 100 pages it usually meant despite my best efforts I simply wasn't going to engage with the book. I didn't know how to get by on a page or two before bed, where sleep would overwhelm me. I'd never been so tired, or so busy in my life. Fred was also opposed to me reading, she'd take books out of my hands and close them. (Now she says, "Do you know why I love you Mummy? Because you like reading as much as I do.")

Basically I had to learn to read all over again. I had to come up with new reading strategies.

Now I usually have more than one book on the go at a time. I dot them around the house so that if I find a moment, I can pick one up and start reading immediately rather than go looking for a book and realise the moment has passed. I read regular books, ebooks (on my new Kindle - I tried reading on my iPhone but found it frustrating)) and listen to audiobooks. I am active on Goodreads, seeking out recommendations (particularly through the busy audiobook group) and keeping a record of what I read (though I have to admit I am chary of user reviews). Sometimes all I manage is two pages at bedtime before I pass out, and that's okay. I listened to audiobooks when I was commuting, now I listen when I'm walking, cooking, in bed (great for night feeding and Avery seems to find the voices relaxing) or sometimes just sitting around the house doing nothing.

At the moment I am reading: Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, Siri Hustevt's Summer Without Men which I bought for the Kindle five minutes after I read a tweet from Anna Ryan Punch suggesting I might like it, and listening to The Help by Kathryn Stockett, which is an absorbing story and also beautifully read - I can see why so many Goodreads peeps recommended it. I am dipping in and out of The Makings of a Sonnet, a book I have had my eye on for a couple of years and which I picked up on super special at Readings (note Readings RRP of $49 - it was $60 in Borders. No wonder they're going to the dawgs). I also have - oh joys! - Mary Ann in Autumn waiting for my attentions.

Anyway, over the next week or two I am going to expand on this post. I thought I'd do one about Audible and one about the Kindle. I am interested in the fact that while the Internet has proved a definite distraction from reading (though of course all one does on the Internet is read!), it has also given me new ways to read, and reignited my passion for literature.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Happy Birthday Eglantine

I have been blogging for five years.
When I started, Fred was not quite three and Una was a babe in arms. We were undecided on a third baby.
I coudn't drive.
I had published two books and was writing Drift. Martin had recently quit his job and begun a Bachelor of Education.
We were living in a rental house in Emmaline St, Northcote after a brief failed foray into home ownership (wrong house, wrong suburb, wrong time). The Northcote house was both lovely and ugly, with pink walls and a wall of mirrors in the bedroom, and in the lounge room, walls painted with a streaky sponge effect the colour of nicotene stains. It had a fantastic grape vine covered outdoor area and for six months of the year, we kept our dining table outside. We ate sardines wrapped in grape leaves cooked on the barbecue that was hooked up to mains gas. There was an odd windowed bit in the lounge room that stuck out from the rest of the house where we set up our couches facing each other and it was a bit like being in the carriage of an old fashioned train. We had a dishwasher. Good times.

Since I've started this blog, I've written seven more novels. I've started and finished a Masters. Martin completed a degree and has commenced a new career. First Fred and then Una started school. My father-in-law and my half-sister passed away. My half-brother divorced and remarried. My sister married. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. A niece and two nephews have been born, one so early it seemed impossible that he would thrive and yet thrive he has. As an added bonus my best friend from childhood also met a man and had a baby, extending the intimate circle of people I love by two (then they went away to Tasmania to live - boo). We bought a house that also constituted a lifestyle change. We've been to Palm Cove twice. I've been to New Zealand and with Fred: Paris, Helsinki, England and Hong Kong. I've learned to drive (last week I removed my P-plates). I've had a son. A black man became president of the United States, we voted John Howard out. Five years after I started this blog, Australia has a female Prime Minister.

If five years ago I had made a plan, it may well have looked something like: have third baby, get Masters, write more books, travel overseas, buy a house in the country.

Cancer and bushfires and grief wouldn't have been on the list. I would not have predicted a black President, a female Prime Minister.

Keeping up this blog would have been. I haven't always been the most regular blogger. I have never monetised the blog, partly because there is no such word as monetise, or there shouldn't be. I haven't leveraged it as a marketing tool or any of those clever things other people do. But it has always been my quiet corner of the Internet to record the domesticities of my life and to make stories out of the ordinary things that happen to me. It is a valuable keepsake, a map of my children's lives and the closest thing to a photo album I have.

You have come here and shared the journey with me, the unbearable sorrows, the conversations, the joy of daily life, and sometimes the tedium.

Thank you for reading.

Here's to another five years. Who knows what they might bring.

Saturday, March 05, 2011


I've been inspired to make my own bread using a no-knead method where you make a massive batch of dough and bake bread as you need it. Recipe and instructions here. The resulting bread is delicious and full flavoured with a good solid crust (crunchy and chewy) and soft white slightly sour interior. It really is easy, as long as you have room in the fridge. (I've just been using my biggest mixing bowl with plastic wrap over the top).

The girls made their own rolls for lunch today, stretching their piece of dough into a ball. Fred was disappointed that it was all over so quickly.
I actually used the dough to make a lentil roll like Kirsty described in the comments of a recent post, basically rolling/stretching/squashing out a loaf's worth of dough into a flat squarish shape (it was very rough, with thin holey bits and fat bits) and then spread a lentil mix leftover from making potato crusted lentil hotpot the other night and sprinkling with cheese before rolling it like the very ugly country cousin of a swiss roll. I didn't take a picture - it oozed and dripped lentils and cheese, but it had its own peculiar aesthetic charm. The kids devoured it. Fred had seconds after dessert.
We've been making our bread with organic white flour, and while that's the preference for Fred, Una and Martin, it's not great for me, as I am trying to stick to my low GI diet. I might have to experiment with some grains.

Romertopf Lasagne

A few years ago Mum gave me her Romertopf (and the very 70s cookbook that went with it). It's so brown. I cooked a chicken in it I think, and then it gathered dust in the cupboard for a while. Anyway, I unearthed it last week after finding this recipe for a lasagne cooked in the Romertopf. You put all the ingredients in uncooked (the white sauce is the same one I always use, a mix of ricotta and an egg which I believe Mum got from a National Microwave cookbook), whack it in the oven. The only slightly complicated step is that, as always with the Romertopf, you have to soak it in cold water for fifteen minutes first, but it doesn't fit in our sink! I did it in the laundry trough, but tge plug didn't quit fit, and the water drained away...not sure how fast, but it must have soaked sufficiently because it all worked out okay.The lasagne was lovely, the girls especially loved it. Because I didn't brown the mince first, the texture was very soft. There was possibly a bit too much cheese (I can't believe I am saying that), next time I'll use a lot less mozzerella. There were lots of leftovers, which means this recipe will be a keeper - I am aware that in the blink of a wink we will have a fifth person eating family meals. The recipe uses fresh lasagne sheets and I prefer dry (more convenient and economical), but I guess you may have to start with a somewhat wetter sauce to use dry pasta.
I am inspired to try some more recipes in it. Perhaps bake a loaf of bread, or make a pudding, or a very autumnal casserole.