Thursday, 26 February 2009

Taking Flight

On 101 Cookbooks the other day, I found a recipe for Anzac biscuits. Pretty similar to the Edmonds version that every New Zealander grew up with, but it was so sweet to see an explanation of the term Anzac under the recipe, and all the comments from people in the US struggling to find golden syrup. The debate about whether honey or maple syrup or treacle would do, instead.
Anyhoo, to mark my mum's milestone of 50 days without smoking, Sweeney and I knocked up a batch of Anzacs for her. No significance really, except that Mum has a great fondness for food in biscuit form, and I think she deserves a sugary, buttery treat. And it's nice to do something nice for your mum, right??
101 Cookbooks pressed the mixture into gorgeous heart shapes, and I thought I'd try something the same, but I have no biscuit moulds. I do, however, have access to playdough moulds, and the butterfly shape looked interesting to me. As you can see, it makes for a lifelike result. Although the monarch in the photo has been dead for some time - I've been collecting up dead butterflies and cicadas and bumblebees this summer, but that's for a whole other post.
She's talked a lot about feeling liberated from smoking, so maybe the butterflies can signify this new freedom she's experiencing.
Sweeney and I have been butting heads after preschool each night since Dad went back to Christchurch. Okay, that's only two nights, but it's come as a shock because everything seemed so mellow. When I think about it, the last three weeks have involved a lot of trips to the hospital to see Martin at that time of day, or being with lots of people for dinner, or doing something intrepid with Grandad. Now it's just boring old Mum, who's saying that she needs to make dinner so she can't kick the ball around or play cars on the deck. And no, that's not an invitation for Sweeney to kick the ball around in the kitchen.
But after a bumpy few hours together, including a timeout outside Paddy's Lotto Shop, when we'd got through the horror of dinner, bath, pyjamas, and were mucking around before going upstairs to bed, we made butterflies out of our fingers and fluttered them over each other's face. Sooo nice.
And this is what we read fifty times tonight - this week's favourite book. It's old enough that cabin crew are referred to as "stewardesses". Kind of hilarious.
Oh, and the golden syrup debate?? Nothing - nothing - works like golden syrup. It's worth the hunting.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Le Semaine That Was ...

Good things that happened at La Maison d'Ange et Sweeney this week, not in order of chronology or importance:
  • found this website, via Supervery, that's got me up to speed about the internet and copyright and personal freedoms and whatnot;
  • tried making Donna Hay's banana cake and it turned out weird, not cakey, but still delicious;
  • tried making Nigella's onion mush and it turned out amazing;
  • managed to knock up a delicious Nigella-type dinner for Dad's last night - steak Mirabeau, gratin potatoes and chocolate peach pudding;
  • Martin got his personal health WOF and was released from hospital;
  • Adam popped in for a visit on his way to see Martin. From Sydney. For one day. Kind of impressive;
  • Harper ditched his olds and came over for a visit with the cool gang;
  • Harper's toybox, the engineering feat of the century, was completed and delivered to KimberleyJoeHarper's house;
  • Sweeney and I went out to see Sweeney's great-grandmother - Granny - in Alicetown. His Auntie Anne and Uncle Brendan are over from Sydney also. Brendan won him over in about half a second with a set of five Hot Wheels and a Lego concrete mixer that they assembled together;
  • Dad and I spent a happy hour or so at Pick A Part at Naenae - dead car heaven;
  • our friend Louis had his tenth birthday;
  • Harper and Sweeney dragged their mums and grandad to the Ribble Street Races, to eat sausages in bread and watch kids of all ages go vrrroom;
  • we went to our street party, where someone cooked our sausages perfectly, and Sweeney took off with neighbourhood boys for hijinx, possibly involving Johan's guinea pig;
  • finished the kimono jacket for the newish poppet at No.8. Just working up the stones to walk over the road and give it to his parents, and somehow not appear like a weirdo who knits unsolicited kimonos. Hmm, tough sell, that one ... ;
  • Dad, Kimberley and I tried bubble tea at Cha. I can report that taro flavoured bubble tea is delicious;
  • lost my camera, called a million places to see if I'd left it there, then found it in a dark corner of my bag. In my defence, it's a big, dark bag;
  • got word that my mum's notched up 50 days without smoking. Good work, Mum!! Good work, Nana!!;
  • found some beautiful old photos of my parents, grandparents and sister, in a box in the front room;
  • Sweeney brought home a truly splendid collage he'd made at preschool, using a beautiful sea-green colour as a theme. It's on the wall where I see it a million times a day. Such a great colour makes me feel good.

I think that brings us up to date. Except that I've mislaid my camera again ...

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Bon Voyage, Grandad

Sweeney and Harper's grandad jetted back to Christchurch today. Here's a probably abridged list of what he's done while here:
  • hung things on walls around the house;
  • erected and filled the paddling pool;
  • deflated and emptied the paddling pool;
  • sorted out Sweeney's trike, the stroller tyres and the coffee table;
  • assisted with the removal of more than two carloads of stuff to the landfill and the landfill shop;
  • helped me break down Sweeney's cot and assemble his bed and set up his room;
  • gave Sweeney lots of baths and got him into his pyjamas lots of times;
  • took Sweeney for lots of walks to the dairy;
  • drank countless cups of tea and made me countless cups of coffee;
  • cooked bacon and eggs and toast and beans for our dinner on more than one occasion;
  • made shepherds pie for us to take to KimberleyHarperJoe's for dinner;
  • did our dishes lots, and put out washing;
  • babysat Sweeney so I could drink myself stupid on plum wine on my birthday;
  • talked quietly to me, and encouraged Sweeney to do the same, on the morning after my birthday;
  • helped me and Sweeney keep Harper from killing himself in all the ways a one-year-old can kill themselves in a house with stairs, power sockets, screwdrivers and poisons that is now geared toward a nearly-three-year-old;
  • bought Sweeney an ice block, hot chips and one of those inflatable hammers at the Island Bay festival, then bought him a sausage in bread at the Ribble Street Trolley Races the following week;
  • made several attempts at explaining other people's points of view to Sweeney and gave Sweeney cuddles when Sweeney was past reason and just needed a cuddle;
  • spent an entire day tracking down just the right hinge-thing for Harper's box, two days waiting for it to arrive, then an hour installing it;
  • babysat Harper so Sweeney and I could go to the Moir St party, on Sunday when Harper was with us for the afternoon;
  • introduced Sweeney to Tom & Jerry cartoons;
  • told me and Sweeney some lovely stories about himself as a little boy; and
  • stopped me freaking out when Sweeney jumped on his bed and banged his head into the wall so hard it made a dent. In the wall. In the morning, his forehead didn't even show a bruise or an egg. By contrast, Harper tapped his noggin on a cupboard next to a series of pillows and squabs set up for him, and he had a proper, throbbing welt in about 0.3 seconds. Just as his mother pulled up outside.

He also plugged away at me to clear out the front room, which has been a storeroom and general no-go area since September. It's a job only I can do, lots of decisions about what to keep, what to throw out. A bit more emotional than I'd expected, lots of notes, photos, letters, memorabilia, so in true Ange-fashion, I spent a lot of time rearranging the kitchen, baking, mucking about anywhere but in the front room. But I attacked it with renewed gusto yesterday, and it's nearly there.

Sorry for going on, but it's been special and nice and we'll miss him. There have been lots of wonderful other things happening for us over the last week, but I'll catch up on those tomorrow ...

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Haitch's Box

My dad finished putting the box for Harper together. It hasn't been easy, because there isn't anywhere to do this work under cover at my house, and the weather has been intermittently rainy over the last ten days. Then there's the fact that I have only rudimentary tools - no skillsaw or plane or drill - so Dad borrowed a few things from my neighbour Geoff.

Anyway, the box is assembled and now we just have to make a few adjustments to it, so that it doesn't actually kill Harper. So Dad and I went to a few hardware mega-outlets today and got wildly different advice as to how to provide a mechanism to avoid the heavy lid ever falling heavily and squashing his lovely fingers and/or head. We went to a car dismantlers out at Naenae, where you pay admission and get your hand stamped - when I saw Martin at the hospital, he asked what band I'd been to see - and you take your own tools in and remove the parts yourself. Dad had an idea that the bits that make your hatchback rook go up and down smoothly would maybe do the trick. A chap in a forklift truck whizzed up and down the lanes between the lines of cars, dropping off fresh carcasses and picking up used-up ones to drop off with the ... I don't know what it's called, but it was certainly amazing enough that I stood at the gate for ages and just watched it dismember cars and dispatch them to the compactor.

The dismantlers don't allow anyone under 15 to come into the yard, but you can still get a fine view of the mechanical carnage from the carpark. I'm going to bring Sweeney out tomorrow after we've seen his Granny and his Auntie Anne at Petone. I think he'll love it.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Hostipapable III

It was a rough weekend for Martin and his family and friends, but he looks better, says he feels better, and he's back in a room with other people so he must be better. Still an odd colour, but he's eating and talking and chipper. Tonight he and Sweeney parked up on his bed for a chat and shared a pear. So nice.
The Rubbish Trolley at the supermarket provided a bag of beautiful ripe pears for just $2.50 today. Both Sweeney and Dad are big fans. Bickering over food is a terribly unpleasant part of my parenting experience, so it's splendid when Sweeney gets his 5+ a day into himself without treating it as torment. He blew people away at Harper's bubbleque by cleaning up nearly a can of beetroot, and his love of broccoli is my handiest weapon at dinnertime.
It comes and goes, the enjoyment of fruit and vege. It's like waves lapping at the shore. He adores corn for three days, won't eat anything else at dinner, so we all give him our cobs. Then he won't touch it, but Grandad's mashed potato is ambrosia. Then he sees me eat a piece of carrot, and he must have a little bag of carrot slices, to eat on the deck.
Grapes, apples and bananas are always welcome. This summer he's been mad for strawberries, kiwifruit, nectarines, plums and pineapple. Watermelon, apricots, peaches - he's ambivalent to all these lovely summer treats.
Speaking of things he's mad for, lately ... these books are current faves.
The Happy Man and His Dump Truck is an old book of mine from when I was wee. Sweeney's got a pile of Golden Books and every now and then a new one or two come to the fore and have to be read several times a day. Awesome story about just having a good time enjoying the simple stuff.
A Squash and a Squeeze is about recognising how good you've got it. Also awesome.
Also of note from yesterday:
  • Grandad O'Neill's birthday. Sweeney did a drawing for him and we met up with the O'Neills et al at a bar in Thorndon for a few drinks in the hot sun;
  • the Island Bay festival. Sweeney had a ride on a merry-go-round, ate hot chips and went down the enormous slide at Shorland Park. He watched a man fashion elaborate fairy wands and poodles out of balloons, and played in the sand behind the roti stall on The Esplanade. He resolutely ignored the storytelling, but he stopped in his tracks and stared in rapture when someone started playing an accordion in the band rotunda. But all this was nothing when his Grandad bought him an inflatable hammer and he banged it on the ground with every step from that moment until we got back to the car.
  • caught up all too briefly with the McMillan/Nairns. The festival was great, but there were too many interesting things to see for both Bela and Sweeney, and trying to co-ordinate two toddlers with strong opinions within an hour of nap time is beyond reason.

Saturday, 14 February 2009


Today we went to Harper's birthday barbecue at Neil and Becc's house. Dad got Sweeney all hopped up on fanta - bubble drink - before we left, and he got a bit confused and called it a bubbleque. I like that better, so I'm keeping it. I made a cake for my little nephewpal out of the Moosewood archives. It's a vegan concoction, entirely delicious.
Once again, my neighbour Libby came to the rescue by lending me a cake tin. Where has my baking equipment gone?? There've been a number of culls over the last few years, but I'm pretty certain I would've held onto my cake tin, and the other bits and pieces I can no longer locate.
Dad finished Harper's new toybox yesterday. It's very cool and Harper's lucky. He may not feel that lucky when he has to put his toys back in it, day after day.
Back to the cake. Yes, delicious. Yes, no animal products. Yes, nobody complained that there wasn't enough animal product. Gods helps me, there's a ton of sugar in there, though. I want to make this many more times, but I'll try adding stewed fruit or mashed banana in place of at least some of the sugar.
Luckily, tomorrow is Sweeney's Grandad O'Neill's birthday, so we need another cake...

Friday, 13 February 2009


Yesterday it rained like crazy, so much so that we got caught in it for a few minutes and a bath and pyjamas were in order when we got home. Today, not so much rain, but chilly - a southerly change. I had to go dig out Sweeney's jacket and a woolly hat this morning, and he wore socks for the first time in weeks. I'm wearing woollen tights.
I'm taking a break from sewing up a kimono jacket for the new baby at No.8. I don't know his name, but he's a new baby and they're brilliant for enabling stashbusting. Tossing up whether I should knock up a hat for his big brother, but I'm so keen to get stuff out of the house that I may not have the patience. Met Ethan at the EIK party yesterday, who's eight weeks old, and is in line for the next kimono jacket. They're terribly easy to make, and I found Sweeney's one was gorgeous and useful when he was wee.
The Big Strong Boy's first night in his bed went great. Here's how:
  • he didn't fall out;
  • there's plenty of room for both him and the cat;
  • he only got up once, and that was to collect some toys and take them back to bed with him;
  • he really enjoyed his first experience of breakfast in bed.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Big Strong Boy

I spent most of today dismantling Sweeney's cot, cleaning his room, rearranging his furniture and installing his first bed. Dad helped me at various points, else I'd probably be wedged in the hallway underneath a mattress right now.
As it is, I got to make up his bed with the Thomas the Tank Engine blanket he chose for himself yesterday, and that made me enormously cheerful. My resolution about keeping chirpy is relatively easy to keep, so far. This is how he looked tonight, just before we settled in for 101 Dalmations.
Now's as good a time as any to check in about the others:

  1. make keeping healthy a priority - I take my multivitamin, I drink my flaxseed oil, I eat my wholegrain toast. I'm terrified of getting collywobbles from bad mayo ever again, so food hygiene practices are hospital-worthy. Need to exercise more, something more than walking Sweeney to and from preschool each day. Can report that I've been migraine-free since before Christmas;
  2. make keeping chirpy a priority - like I say, it's been easier than it has been for a long time to focus on happy, positive things this year, despite a few clouds in my sky. I put a lot of this down to the fact that I've been more motivated about contacting family and friends on a regular basis, not the usual intermittent way I usually do things;
  3. eat healthily as much as possible - keeping the child healthy and gorgeous is an amazing incentive, so for the most part, this has been going okay and is easier than ever before. However, I have to admit to eating an enormous number of biscuits over Birthday Week. And today I had a magnificent berry cream meringue roulade that I can't bring myself to regret;
  4. feed the cat daily - between Sweeney's and my efforts, Pippi's reporting the service around here is above reproach; and
  5. have people over more often - we've been playing host to family for Birthday Week, and that's been good fun. Dad's staying at the moment, and is encouraging me to just keep grinding away at the de-cluttering that needs to be done. I'm actually looking forward to getting into more of it tomorrow.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Hostipapable II

We went to see Martin in hospital tonight. He sounded pretty chirpy yesterday, but we had a really busy day on the go, and he wasn't feeling up to a visit with a bouncy toddler after some invasive procedure during the day. So we popped up tonight after dinner. As we walked in, his nurse told us he wasn't so good today, he'd been sore and sick and sleeping a lot, and there's still no definitive diagnosis for him. What she didn't tell us was that he's bright yellow-green coloured, and when I woke him at her urging, he was violently, horribly ill.
We left smartly so he could get back to his cave, and of course Sweeney chose this moment to want to travel by both stairs and lift, and sobbed all the way back to the car because I chose the stairs.
This is hard, but apart from a little boo hoo of my own as we headed outside, there can be no more moping. Sweeney likes for me to be vertical and chirpy and piling cheese on crackers for as much of the day as possible, so no room for moping.
In other news, Sweeney's sleeping in his cot for the last time tonight. We bought a Thomas the Tank Engine blanket for his New Special Bed today, and he's snuggled up in it with his toys and books for his last night in the cot.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Sayonara, Nana

My mum, Sweeney and Harper's Nana, left for Christchurch tonight. Sweeney and I were her personal shoppers today, parking her in changing rooms throughout Wellington and bringing her things to try on. Worked on her to buy a lovely red poplin top, but she resisted our charms.
I've been to two Max outlets, in Christchurch and Wellington, and both had a box of toys by the fitting rooms. Brilliant. I could check through every single rack and Sweeney was fully occupied with a concrete truck and a teeny car.
My first experience of Sweeney being really really naughty in shops today - two horrible, destructive instances of split seconds of truly vile behaviour. Over with in an instant each time, but I'm still erasing them from my memory and committing my life to never ever having it happen again. Gods help me, that one episode of Supernanny that I watched really paid off when I popped him on the floor outside the shop for a public timeout. It really works - okay, it took a few attempts before we got through the stipulated two minutes - but he came back to being All Lovely Sweeney pretty fast. Well, maybe 80% Lovely Sweeney. The timeout process is becoming more complex as he gets older - he's more oppositional, he's more determined on his own course, he himself is more complex. Good times ahead.
We took meatballs and tomato sauce from How to Eat up to KimberleyHarperJoe's for dinner, then loaded Nana into the car and off to see her take off in the big silver bird.
I didn't get to spell it out to you at the airport, Mum, but it's been lovely having you here. Come back soon. Move up here. We'd all really like it. Looooove you.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Next to the Wood

Harper's birthday was last Thursday, and we all wrestled with finding the perfect gift for the one-year-old who has everything he needs and more. My mum came up with the excellent idead that a custom-made toybox would be the ticket. Kimberley decided on required dimensions, and my dad spent a chunk of time planning the venture.
My contribution so far has been to drive him to the DIY centre and then to the actual branch of the DIY centre that sold MDF and would cut it so it would fit into the boot. Dad enthused over the cutting device they use, then the chap started doing the cutting and Sweeney and I beat a hasty retreat to investigate a forklift in the drive-through area. He still freaks out from time to time at loud power tool noises.
He was most pleased that the back seat beside his seat was lain down so he'd be next to the wood on the journey home. "Next to the wood??" he said over and over and over.

I promised to make a pudding for tonight's dinner with the grandparents and grandsons and us inbetween. Was reminded yesterday by Charlotte of a great book that I don't use nearly enough these days - Donna Hay's Off the Shelf - and I knocked up a Peach and Raspberry tart before we headed up there. I have to thank my neighbour Libby for lending me her mixing wand thingy, or I'd still be creaming the butter and sugar.
Kimberley put out cold roast chicken, potato salad with gherkins in it, a yummy lettuce salad with boiled eggs and mint, and the world's best dinner rolls that I found a stash of at Island Bay New World. So delicious.

The tart turned out great, although not as attractive as Charlotte's, or indeed, Donna Hay's. I think I have to work on my photographic skills also. I'll go easy on myself and all it rustic.

And here's something that I've been taking some credit for, but actually had next to nothing to do with. These are the first tomatoes to come in from my garden. I've learnt a lot about vegetable gardening this year, and had some success, but I've been intermittent and inconsistent in the nurturing of my seedlings. The tomatoes taste great, and there are more that'll be ready tomorrow. I'm hoping there'll be enough to make a lovely zesty penne-type something for family dinner before we whisk Mum off to the airport.
She really fancies salmon, and I have some in my special stash that I really want to use to make something special for her on this trip. Watch this space to see if I get there, or if we all end up with cheese on toast ...

Sunday, 8 February 2009


Sweeney and I have been to the hospital - the hostipapable, as Sweeney calls it - to see his dad. Martin's liver - it's his second, so it's kind of special already - isn't doing too well.
He's looking jaundiced, seems a bit confused and is exhausted after only a few minutes of monster trucks with Sweeney.
The last time Sweeney was in a hospital was when Harper was born, so he sees no issue with hanging out with his dad there. Being able to move Martin's bed up and down is a bonus. So are those long curtains that go around the beds - great for swishing and hiding behind. And Martin enjoys his wee boy, but like I say, it's tiring for him and we don't stay long.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Good Carrots

February. This Thursday, the day after tomorrow, is Harper's first birthday. Sweeney's cuzzy-bro is about to turn one. In the words of a great writer I know and am related to, he's so nice. He's been a bit off-colour this week, but we're hoping he'll perk up by Thursday.
In honour of the great event, Mum and Dad, Harper's Nana and Grandad, are up here with us. Dad helped me get the broken-down washing machine to the tip today - brilliant. He also fixed Sweeney's tricycle and put up some hooks for the brooms and made me clear out a whole lot of garbage that I've been hanging onto from the front room. He enlisted Sweeney as his offsider while I made dinner.
He even took Sweeney for a walk to the dairy tonight when I wanted ten seconds to myself to do something vital like read my horoscope or paint my toenails.
Sweeney's reached an age where you can rev him up to ecstatic states by telling him over and over that Nana and Grandad are coming soon, or that we're about to visit Grandad O'Neill, or that we're actually going into this dairy to buy an iceblock. It's nice that he likes these people, sure, but it's exciting that he's looking forward to things now, that he can remember good times well enough to anticipate repeat performances. He left preschool today without any argument because we were off to the airport to pick Nana up. When we left her and Harper and Joe, he was okay with it because we'd be seeing Grandad when we got home.

They're good carrots, those people.

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