Sunday, 21 October 2007

E is for ... Egg

Eggs are yummy.
I love them boiled a bit soft, mashed with some parsley and salt, and spread between two slices of splushy bread. Can be white or brown.
Or boiled a bit soft and in an eggcup, with toast cut into fairy's fingers to dip into the syrupy, golden yolk. Oooh, thanks Mum ...
I love them scrambled, with a bit of milk, sprinkled with parsley. A little girl called Nina showed me how to make them when I babysat for her 17 years ago. She'd been in bed for a while, after being so tired she'd refused dinner, and woke up ravenous. Her parents were committed health enthusiasts, and I knew she'd dob me in if I ordered pizza. She guided me through how she liked her eggs to be done, and we giggled so much, we woke her 1-year-old brother, Ralph.
Ended up with the three of us in the garden at 10 on Saturday night, creeping through the shrubbery in the dark to pick parsley for the eggs. Very Going On a Bear Hunt.
I wonder if Sweeney will drag some hapless babysitter out to the deck for basil for his spaghetti sauce or coriander for his laksa ... That's Mt Victoria, isn't it??

I like them fried, the way Dad has always made them for his weekend fry-fests. His eggs come out with all the white firm and cooked, and in some places downright crispy, and the yolk also firm and cooked, but still soft so you can dip your fork in, weighed down with bacon, tomato and maybe a mushroom. No artery in the region is safe, I tell you.
I like omelettes, the way Martin combines mushrooms, tomato and cheese with a few eggs and a glorious near-souffle comes out. We ate these every day for a month or more, a few months back. Mmmm.
I used to make a tortilla-type thing at Lone Star. It was when they'd just opened the first site in Christchurch. Fun every day. We were building and tweaking the menu every day, we were learning about Texan and Mexican food, but trying to be cool and interesting and avoid turning into a nachos and taco joint. The tortilla - as in chunks of spud in a pan, drizzled over with beaten egg, bunged into the oven until it's cooked through - was new to me. This is late '80s New Zealand, people, and all food south of the border came out of a Masterfoods packet. Guacamole was still controversial.
At the time, my tortilla, served with a monster salad, damn near flew out the door every night. I left Lone Star when I moved up to Wellington, and mostly forgot the things I'd made every night for a year. But a month or so ago, I chucked together a tortilla for myself and Sweeney, and the young squire downed it with the same gusto as he attacks yoghurt, stewed fruit or any of the things he loves. Chuffed.

E is for ... Embroidery
I've recently found two blogs showcasing incredible embroidery - Jo in NZ and small things. Check them out. These women are highly skilled technicians, and their work shows a second-to-none design sense. Envious. The pic here is a comfort doll stitched by Alison of small things.
Our Nana taught me to embroider when I was 9 years old. My first project was a horse's head, surrounded by daisies and leaves. Mum handed on Nana's unfinished work to me when she died - tablecloths, dresser sets, doilies - and I've had a go at finishing a few. It's really hard to take over someone else's work like that - it's like each person's writing has its own voice, knitting has an individual tension, how I make a piece of cheese on toast, it'll turn out differently from yours. And then there's the fact that she had about 3,000 years of talent and experience that I'll never have. There just isn't enough time before I die.
I like hauling them out and looking at the colours she was using, and the patterns she liked. She regarded cross stitch as a bit primitive, and all her work is in stem, satin, all the classic traditional embroidery stitches. I don't believe she worked tapestries at all.
Mum's got some lovely cloths that she made years ago. They're gorgeous. Even Dad developed an enthusiasm for embroidery and knocked up a table runner, albeit with a very untraditional colourway. He goes in for the variegated silks in a big, big way.
E is for ... Elephant
When I was in Cambodia, there were elephant rides on offer all over the show. In Phnom Penh, there was an elephant, Samboh, who went for a walk every evening through the CBD with his keeper / human companion. I can't remember his name.
Samboh was born in the Cambodian countryside in the late '70s, orphaned and ended up living with a family of subsistence farmers until a bunch of Khmer Rouge soldiers muscled the family off their land, to labour camp and/or execution. Samboh was used by the Khmer Rouge for muscle until the Pol Pot regime was finally removed, years later. At that point, he was 'liberated' into the wild, still in Cambodia. The youngest son of the family survived the camps and searched for Samboh. For years.
Can you believe they found each other? He was a child when they'd been separated, and now he's a middle-aged man. Samboh lives with the man's family in Phnom Penh, and until just before we saw him, tourists took rides on him for enormous amounts of money. He's getting on now, old Samboh, and he's retired from business life, and the only walking he has to do is an ambling constitutional in the twilight.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

D is for ... Down south
Yes, it's a bit of a stretch, but just stay with me, okay?? Sweeney's been down in Christchurch since October 6th, holidaying with his Nana and Grandad. He hitched a ride with Kimberley when she went down for the weekend, and stayed on to terrorise their cats and threaten the hospital-like sanitation levels of their house.
One of the things I really enjoy and appreciate about Sweeney is how much my parents enjoy and appreciate him. That thing about grandparents being more indulgent to grandchildren after being tough parents?? Well, it's playing out in Pioneer Lane at this very minute. I love seeing how chatty they are when people approach them about Sweeney, they look proud in a way I haven't seen since ...
Martin and I have been enjoying the flexibility that jettisoning your baby gives you, but we can't wait to see the little pooter again. I even spent this afternoon checking out blogs with pictures of babies on, and we both spent a mental amount of time gazing at a wee boy called Lias - the most beautiful child I've seen since Sweeney arrived. He's about 8 months younger than Sweeney, but has such a strong face already. His hands and feet are long and from the blog, it sounds like he's a sizeable chap.
Lovely, isn't he?? I even sent his mums a note about how splendid he looks ...

D is for ... Dogs
I've never been fond of dogs. I found Lassie torture even when telly was new and exciting. When I was wee, three or four, Mum had a chiropractor or osteopath whose rooms were behind his house. Where his enormous and really really loud dog was tethered. Even from behind a fence, that dog made my blood stop flowing, made me freeze on the spot and scream.
We had a friend stay for five weeks back in January, along with his dog Sarge. When I first met Sarge, he was a bouncy staffy-thing, muscular and gorgeous and fun. Enormously reasonable and easy to handle. That was nearly nine years ago, and things had moved on for Sarge. He was arthritic, which meant he couldn't jump or run the way he used to, so had become enormous. He would plod down the steps beside the house, and flop onto the deck as near as he could to Sweeney. Sweeney was just about crawling at that stage, and loved using Sarge as his playgym, grabbing his jowls or ears or lips to haul himself up and over. Poor dog, he put up with a lot.
D is for ... Drudgery
Drudgery is my nemesis, no doubt. It does me in in all areas of my life - housekeeping, the boring bits at work etc. When you're a girl imagining a life with a Significant Other and gorgeous, gifted offspring and a fulfilling career and a house that reflects all that's good about you, you don't imagine any of the following:
  • the dishes, and the washing, and the vacuuming, and changing the bed more than twice a year,

  • cleaning down the high chair and the area within a 5km radius three times a day,

  • keeping your child alive with food, and maybe even keeping it interesting for you and feeling a little bit proud of it,

  • a new job or project is interesting for a week or so, then it's just same old same old until your contract finishes or you die

  • wanting to paint a room or do some other low-level DIY requires a morning spent at Resene or Mitre 10, then sanding and puttying and stirring and by the time you get to actual painting, you can't imagine why you chose that colour and in any case, it's time to put the baby in the high chair again and prepare yourself for half an hour of swabbing the floor. Again.
But as I mentioned, Sweeney's vacationing at the moment, so we've been eating bad food and ignoring the chores. The Coco Pops were a highlight earlier this week. The first week he was away, I spent every waking minute grateful that there were no nappies to change or bottles to make or teeth cleaning to negotiate.
Now I'm eaten up with jealousy, that my parents are getting his cuddles and his chats and dances and songs and playing with him in the bath and reading him stories and taking him to the mall to people-watch. I'll revisit this under H for Happy Medium.

D is for Depression
When I say that boring routine chores and such do me in, I mean they make lying down under the duvet for days on end, with or without some gentle sobbing, the only thing I can do. There are days when getting clean dishes into cupboards makes me proud of myself, and we've got a dishwasher, for gods sake. For the most part, Martin's been a pistol, and the counselling has given us both ways to deal with it better. Kimberley and my parents, and even some of Martin's family have been helpful when they can. Sweeney doesn't give the slightest toss. I have a plan for him to never know, that by the time he's grown enough to know that normal people get up every day, I'll be patched up and back on the road. Like a tyre.

D is for ... D'accord!
There are a number of things that have become shorthand for Kimberley and me. One of them is saying "d'accord!" to indicate agreement to the latest scheme on the books. It could've been "okey dokey" or "smellulater", but no, we're too classy. Obviously.

D is for ... Dumbass, Dork, Diddle, Dick etc
I was just sitting here, typing away, when I noticed the room had become freezing. So I mentioned this to Martin, asking why it was that it was so cold, when it's been quite nice heat-wise. Silence for a beat, then he said "the temperature".

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

C is for ...

C is for ... Cat

Seems like I've always had a cat, since my first flatmate and best friend Lee Whiterod and I went to the SPCA in Hornby and picked out two kittens to be ours in 1984. We brought them back home in boxes on the bus. Mine was Hazel, a slinky black boy, and hers was Smith, a smoochy tortoiseshell female. Since then, there's been:
  • Esther - jumpy from the outset, ran away when we moved to Papanui Rd
  • Seymour - avid cricketer as a kitten, tap dancer as a senior; developed kidney failure at 12 and was euthanased
  • Chester - appeared at my parent's house one day and made it clear they needed to include him in their plans. They were smitten, but their three other cats hated his guts, so we took him back to Moir St with us. Pleasure seeker to the last, he died lying on his back in the sun at our neighbour's house
  • Frank - ran away from Moir St when I was in Cambodia. Sweet little guy, a bit dumb - got stuck up trees a lot
  • Nina - Frank's sister, chunky tortoiseshell bombshell. Would follow me when I left for work each morning. Was donated to Kate and JB, our over-the-road neighbours in Moir St, when we went to Auckland
  • Mao - handsome, kittenish, increasingly unstable offspring of Burmese female and neighbourhood ginger tom. also living with Kate and JB now
  • Catriona McLeod - stray, winsome creature who made our stay at Transplant House much more homely.
  • Pippi - came with the house when we bought Hebron Road. When we sold it, she came back to Moir Street with us. Sweeney's furry friend - he tries really hard to be gentle with her, and she's entirely patient with him when he inadvertently gives her the bash. There are times when we wonder which of them is the more feral.
C is for ... Craft
I couldn't go past that one, could I?? I simply love Craft. I could argue for hours about the relationship between Art and Craft, but I don't actually care if people respect it or not. I respect it, I respect what I do, what other people do, what craftspeople have done in the past. I personally get no joy out of those family groupings of pebbles with eyes stuck on them, or gingham covers for jam jars, or most of the stuff that's done with greenstone out there, but someone does - or else these things wouldn't keep cropping up anywhere they let you set up a stall.
Kimberley introduced me to Craft 2.0, and the women associated with it. Reading their blogs and seeing their work excites me, and gives me ideas for my own work around the house. Kimberley's eye for colour blows me away - when she puts stripes together, they're magic. Melissa's Tiny Happy work is especially invigorating, and the other day I checked out Rhiannon's hoodies - these women are working at making a living from their craft, and they don't know it, but they're helping me get up the nerve to try getting my stuff out there.
I learnt to knit from my mother, and to embroider from my Nana - both tremendous technicians. I'm very snobby towards the machine-knitted aran-type cardies in shops today, because of the work Mum produced. She also is skilled at constructing curtains, cot sheets, cushions, and I remember she devised an amazing quilt for Nana when she came to stay with us once.
What is my stuff? Well, watch this space ...

C is for ... Copper
I have a copper relief rubbing-thingy that my Grandpop made when I was young. It's on the wall at toddler's eye level, just outside Sweeney's room. I'm not that fond of the form, but I like it more as I live with it - the design is a traditional Maori taniwha-shape, based on limestone cave drawings, and the detail displays pretty good craftsmanship. I didn't know him much until I was about 19, and I grew very fond of him. He died when I was 28. Dad and his brothers occasionally tell stories about him, but he's really a cloudy figure. History may prove it to be a piece of old tat, but for now, I see it as a way to trace the line from Sweeney back to his great-grandfather and beyond.

C is for ... Counselling, Children, Cardigans, Cooking, Capote, Creche, Cambodia ...
I could go on and on and on. Obviously.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

B is for ... Bank
When I need work, I call around IT recruitment agents and send out my CV and go to interviews and talk a lot about myself and wait for someone to find my patter so adorable they simply HAVE to have me on their team. I'd just started doing that again, when I got a call from an agent who got me a contract I couldn't take a few months ago, asking if I maybe was available to take that contract now.
Was I!! All those relaxed mornings, afternoon naps, housewifey trips to pick up Sweeney from creche, hours spent reading blogs, watching movies, knitting ... well, they've been weighing heavy on me. Much rather work for a bank.
Yes, started at one of the several corporate offices of the National Bank today. Everyone seems nice, there's Calci-trim milk in the fridge, the toilets had toilet paper in them all day, I was assigned a phone the day I started, I have two screens to work on, so I don't go mad when I have 3 million documents open at the same time.
Oh, and the project seems interesting and not as bloodthirstily profit-centric as I've encountered in the past.
It made me realise that banks have been a big part of my working life - in fact, my whole working life since Sweeney was born - and I've loathed my part in their success so much that I've really cut myself off from the 8 or so hours a day that I spend doing their bidding. I don't think that's been too helpful for our bumpy family life, so have decided to enjoy myself more on this contract, and take that enjoyment home at night.
In that spirit, I'm a starter for any World Cup sweepstake.

B is for ... Baking
Last night I made muffins. Banana muffins. Straight out of the Edmonds, can't fail muffins. Kimberley needed some baking for Ronald McDonald House, and I've done little enough for her since she entered into the hell-state that is morning sickness, so I offered to help.
Got up this morning to find half of them had been subjected to harsh clinical testing due to Martin's need for sugar overnight. Gave a hearty "What the??" to the world and rustled up more in double-quick time.
Got them all onto plates, complete with napkins and a dusting of icing sugar, then negotiated hard with Martin for a ride to Kimberley's to drop them off on the way to my first day of the new job. All goes well until inner-city rush-hour traffic results in a hard brake action and the plates go for a slide, nearly off my lap. I instinctively put out my hand to stop them, damn near flattened the lot on the spot.
The air was blue. I know you're not supposed to do that with children in the vicinity, especially your own, but anyone who knows me is aware that craft of any kind is a sacred thing and you endanger it at your own peril.
Sorry, Sweeney. And sorry, Martin. I know you didn't mean to eat my work, then nearly kill the rest of it.

B is for ... Ballistic, Banshee, Battleaxe
Territory I'm trying to avoid at the moment. It's a long term project.

B is for ... Books
Good grief, we need shelving in our house. So many books. I grew up in a house with the most books of anyone I knew. I loved reading with my mum when I was wee, I loved having stories read to me by my dad and other men with deep voices. I studied literature.
I love going into Sweeney's room and seeing him absorbed in one of his board books. Sometimes he even has it up the right way. I took him into Unity Books yesterday and we looked at books until he was about to melt down over a lovely picture book with captions in te reo.
Oh, and let's not forget B is for Baby

Another long-term project. Sooo nice ...

Monday, 3 September 2007

A is for ... Angela
Well, you know about me from my profile.
So, A is also for ... Alphabet
Saw a lovely alphabet hanging yesterday that I decided to modify and make for Sweeney, and if it turns out to be not too pants, I'll make another one for Tiny. Watch this space.
When I was a youngster, I had a jigsaw of the alphabet, with Disney characters, and I still visualise it when I have to work out if F is the sixth or seventh letter of the alphabet - that sort of thing.

A is for ... Aristotle
As in, Alexander's tutor, pupil of Plato, deep Greek thinker. Another childhood memory, from sessions with my mum guiding me through my first encyclopaedia. That encyclopaedia introduced me to William Wilberforce and Abolitionism, made me realise the Moon wasn't mine to charge astronauts rent for, and cemented my love of knowledge delivered in soundbite-type chunks. It was written by RJ Unstead, whose name popped up on just about every history book kids of my age got their hands on. He must be well dead now - he looked aged and wise when I was six.

A is for ... Anger
People who've never lived with me, or have never worked with me, are always surprised when I tell stories of myself being angry. I guess we'll cover more of this when we get to V for Venting, or T for Tantrums. I'm working on my anger stuff at the moment, handouts, exercises, therapy. More of that later; this blog is still new and I'm not ready to be too serious just yet.

A is for ... Anchovies
Aaah, ambrosial fish! My favourite thing when Martin's off out and I'm in the mood to actually cook for just me, is some garlic cooked off in some olive oil, then breadcrumbs and anchovies tossed in, then the whole oily, salty, crunchy mess mixed into some spaghetti. I throw the lot into a big china bowl - one of those ones that your nana always made rice pudding for you in - and sit on the couch in front of telly to slurp my way through it.
Otherwise, an anchovy on a slice of cheese on toast makes a rainy Saturday feel suddenly cosier. Nigella Lawson's salsa verde in How to Eat - a mash of fresh parsley, olive oil and anchovies - has been a staple in our fridge for years now.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Jour de Sweeney's Papa, et Grandperes

Today was Father's Day. Sweeney came into bed with us this morning, which is always a nice start to the day. He was up and going a little earlier than usual, so we let him play Wrestlemania in the living room while we got ourselves moving. I can't get enough of seeing him in raptures at getting to the top of the couch, then throwing himself off, usually headlong, onto one of the squabs we've laid out on the floor below. The belly laughs are tremendous.

I called my parents to wish my Dad Father's Day tidings and to catch up a bit with my Mum. We talk a lot about Sweeney, and even though we don't always agree about everything, I find it enormously helpful. It makes me feel good to talk to them about him - as though other things in my life are all to hell, but he's a bright shiny thing above it all. Meantime I could hear the shrieks and gurgles of someone very small being supplied with Shrewsburies in bed.

Lunch was at the Shepherd's Arms on Tinakori Road with the O'Neills, along with Martin's Granny and the O'Neills' friend Nina Barry-Martin, down from Auckland for the weekend. Sweeney was passed around the table for cuddles, then he got to eat some of my venison pie, then worked it off with a lightning toddle around the bar. Always a pleasure to see people getting a kick out of the little fellow. After his early-ish start to the day, he was a little off his game by lunchtime, so we didn't stay over-long.

Had a quick look at Nancys. I've been going there for years, but never taken much notice of the patchwork side of the shop. Martin and Sweeney came in with me, and beelined for the squares of fabric - pieces with jellies, cake mixers, aeroplanes, cowboys, flowers, tractors, as well as beautiful abstracts. I could've spent all afternoon there, but the lads were pooped and needed to get horizontal asap.

Home for naps all around, then a bit of activity to get ready for the week ahead. I'm writing this after midnight, have been up and down to Sweeney's room to see why he's singing, crying or banging something against the side of his cot. Never known him to have a night like this.

Have decided to take on the Encyclopaedia of Me project - a post each day to correspond with a letter of the alphabet. Gave me the idea to make a hanging of the alphabet for Tiny's wall in wherever-it-is that Kimberley and Joe are moving to. She did tell me, but my brain gets very full so fast nowadays. Watch this space.

Got to go see whether Sweeney needs someone to sing backing vocals for him ...

Thursday, 30 August 2007

The Tale of Sweeney Nutkin

Sweeney's been going to the Hataitai Community Creche for a month now. He goes three days a week. As far as we can tell, and sometimes a 14-month-old is a bit opaque to his parents, he seems to enjoy it.

That said, he gives the impression of enjoying everything. Except having that bubble-thing stuck up his nose to get mucus out. Ooooh, he hates that.

I was in Farmers in the mall at Linwood in Christchurch a few months ago, with my mother and Sweeney, and he was starting to lose it a bit as we entered into our fifth hour of looking at tiny little clothes, so I parked him up in front of an Elmo toy. On the shelf in the Toy section. Bliss. For twenty minutes.

When he was really wee, Martin or I would go into his room in the morning and if he woke up, as soon as he opened his eyes, he'd crack a huge smile. It's a sad fact that it takes him longer to wake up in the morning now - takes between thirty to forty-five minutes for the smile to come out.

Anyhoo, back to the creche. Today, Sweeney and the rest of the crew went on a field trip to Capital E. They took in a performance of some kids' drama outfit performing tales from the Beatrix Potter canon.

Word from Sue, his truly glorious caregiver at creche, is that he was moved to boogying in the back - "we raged", she told me. I think the last time I used the term "raged" was in 5th form. Who knew that creche would give him access to someone who my teenage vocab? Could be that it's cooler than what I have to offer him now.

This particular creche has so far been wonderful ...
  • There are cubbies for the kids' bags, and shelves for their lunchboxes and drink bottles. I haven't checked, but I suspect there are tiny little toilets out the back.
  • The creche hires a minibus and takes the kids on field trips. Since Sweeney's been there, they've been to Te Papa to check out stringed instruments, and Capital E today to see live performance.
  • Tuni called to let us know that Sweeney had put his teeth through his own dimple, and gave us the option to come get him if we didn't think their cuddles were up to the job of consoling him. We'd seen their cuddles on previous visits, and knew that he was in good hands. Or arms.
  • These places are necessarily more prissy and conservative and politically correct than real life at home. What with the low, low levels of political correctness at our house, and the angst and instability that's arisen between Martin and myself in the last while, it's no bad thing for Sweeney to get three days a week in that sort of environment.
  • The play area has a Wendy house. Martin dropped him off the other day and as he was leaving, saw Sweeney slip into the Wendy house with a gaggle of wee girls. Martin swears Sweeney had a lascivious smile on his dial, but I'm just not ready for that ...
Creche also makes you aware of your shortcomings ...

  • A chorus greeted me when I arrived to pick him up today - like small woodland creatures saying "peanut butter" over and over. Seems the central suburbs are a hotbed of nut allergy and Sweeney's demolition of pb sarnies (his first ever - his dad and I actually discussed it this morning) today put a few of his compadres in danger of anaphylactic shock.
  • I was very sweetly instructed to never sully their premises with glad wrap again. Seems the central suburbs are teeming with preschoolers stuffing wads of it down their throats.
  • I'm a hopeless labeller. As in, I send my child to creche with no labels on his clothes, his lunchbox, his cup. I do love changing his nappy when he gets home and seeing "Sweeney" in vivid marker on his bottom. Of the nappy, I mean.

He's asleep now. What with him not talking well enough for us to understand anything other than the cat's name, I don't really know what he got from the Beatrix Potter thingy today. Makes me realise that as he gets older and communicates more, asserts himself more, it just gets better and better.

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