Monthly Archives: November 2012

  • 2

step up, step up!

my sister in law embarked on a christmas challenge last year and she has just recommitted, to do the same crazy thing again: something christmassy with her kids each day from the 1st till the 25th of december.

It’s about making time and being intentional about doing stuff with your kids, and of course, it’s about christmas! And I thought – yeah, let’s do it too. So tomorrow we will begin, probably with something a bit weak-sauce like a christmas story, but great creativity and barrels (or perhaps mangers-full) of fun will ensue.

Promise. Probably.

The lights are still off in Antony, but fingers crossed that will be remedied soon. Or else we might have to go to the Champs Elysee toute suite!

My theme today is stepping up and so there’s the first thing: stepping up to a challenge of creativity, and I also like the intentionality of spending time with the kids, doing creative and new things.

Number two: stepping up by submitting my writing… eek. I want to be a writer but it seems that I will also have to hone my sales skills and market both myself and my writing. Which is much more scary and a bit less fun than creating characters who are doomed to fall in love and be miserable for a while before they get themselves together. (How’s that for a basic romance plot outline, eh?)

So I’ve been submitting to agents, and possibly the wrong ones because despite their promises to respond, even if it’s with a brief, stock rejection, within a few months, I’ve heard zip. Since June. I know that puts me well within my rights to chase them up but I think I’ll take it as a less than gracious refusal and say it might not be the best use of my time to chase them up for a slightly more gracious one.

The novel I’m shopping is a genre romance, mills&boon style, and so I’ve decided to submit direct to a romance publisher. From what I’ve read elsewhere, getting published is more difficult, and less lucrative, without an agent, but there’s a sort of evil catch 22 about the whole thing:

agents want published writers; publishers want agented writers.

Gah! So, here’s hoping I can get this wee novel published and even if the deal isn’t crash hot it might lead to a brighter future for my other novels.

Of which there are now five. (And then there were five!) Nanowrimo finishes today and so do I.

I’m well on my way to 60 thousand and this afternoon while Louis is at halte garderie I’m going to finish this b****.

Number three: stepping up to make friends. Ah, it’s a scary world and there are all sorts of people, and the chances of bumping into those with loads in common,who speak the same language and live in the same town, who you actually like, and who actually like you, seems not all that likely.

But what do you know? I bumped into a fellow kiwi at Louis’ halte garderie and we went to their place for dinner on Monday night and then later she invited me to a group french lesson. At the french lesson yesterday I met a load of other english speakers and I feel like I’ve stumbled onto a gold mine of kindred spirits – expats with a slowly-increasing grasp of the french language, with young kids and family far away, who all appear to love food (if the general response to the carrot cup cakes, served at the lesson, is anything to go by) and creative stuff… they’re all wives/partners of rugby players and I am a bit clueless about sport, but there you go: friends and french lessons in one!

There’s that awkward moment after you meet where one suggests getting together some time and the other responds enthusiastically, and perhaps it’s all just good manners and obligation and faff like that, but hurrah! for the click, the connect, the moments when you realise there’s loads you have in common and you could talk for hours and hours, and your kids will entertain one another, and so will your husbands…

So, here’s little miss positivity (that’s me, the slightly-annoying one) saying step up! It’s a bit risky: you might fail utterly, get rejected and have no friends. But that doesn’t seem likely. If you read all the way till the end of this blog post then you have at least one important quality: staying-power!

  • 2

upside down not-yet-christmas

The christmas lights are up all around town – but they haven’t switched them on yet. And that’s how I’m feeling about Christmas year. I presume they flick the switch December 1st but I can only hope I catch up with the season some time soon after.

I read a blog post yesterday by someone in the states who was railing at the heat, “while the rest of the world is wrapping up warm”… and I thought REST OF THE WORLD! WHY DOESN’T THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE COUNT?

And then I remembered I’d not had enough sleep and might just possibly be overreacting.

Shorts and Tee and the Christmas Tree (2011)

Much less than half the world’s population live below the equator, but those that do have summer for christmas, and for all but two christmases of my life that’s where I’ve been. Sure, there have been some pretty lousy excuses for summer days on the 25th, and having a big roast dinner when it’s cooking outside can be a bit odd, but summer christmas is normal for loads of people.

With summer, of course, comes the summer break, the big holiday, les grande vacances! School starts winding down in November when the older students go on study leave and then by the second week of December everything is wrapped up – reports are written, christmas parties have been and gone, the chairs are stacked on the desks in the middle of the classrooms and everyone has caught up on their roll books (I used to be a teacher)…

All this winding down for the holidays often coincides with a lot of winding up for christmas. As a result Christmas feels like a bigger deal. I know they play christmas music and put up decorations the moment the halloween stuff comes down in the USA, and possibly in the UK, and in some shops in France too, but work and school keep going until just a day or two before santa arrives and the day after new years, if not before, everyone is back to it.

In NZ, on the other hand, half the country is loading the car with boogie boards and citronella candles, debating which route to take to avoid the traffic, and which music will play in the car, and whether to stop at pokeno for pies or to eat cheese and marmite sammies in the car so they can get to the beach sooner.

It’s a very different time of year. I suspect christmas might come as a bit of a surprise here, without all that build-up we’re used to. But I suppose we have a few more weeks to get into the spirit of things.

I’m not ready for the music yet, but the decorations do give me a little thrill, and Luuk sent me some links about french christmas dinner traditions, which got my mouth watering and my foodie-fingers keen to try some new recipes.

Though it will be hard not to make our usual christmas desserts – the lemon and cream layered pavlova stack with all the berries, the choc log with ice cream and cherries inside…

The pav. It just won’t be christmas without pavlova.

All our decorations are in storage in Christchurch, so we have the special treat (which I’m not certain is entirely a good thing) of starting from scratch.

That angel with the pasta-letters that I made at primary school – that’s in storage in Christchurch.

Even the christmas stockings are in storage. Our poor deprived children!

Louis’ first Christmas (2010)
We did bring this hat all the way to France. Perhaps Elena will fit it.

We’ve decided to get a decent tree and put it on the ground in the living room – more fun for the kids, if a little more dangerous/messy while we’re at it. And we’ll put up something in the windows because we live on a corner and lots of people will see and appreciate it.

I’m thinking that, as much as possible, I’ll try to buy things that look christmassy when all put together, but on their own are just red place mats and white fairy lights and a big stripey plate. Then we can use these things all year around. Next year, even if we stay on in France, we’re possibly going to visit NZ at christmas, so I don’t want to overdo it. This year, at least, we’ll be having rather understated christmas decor.

Thanks to all the movies and tv, I suspect that if/when it snows I’ll be totally overwhelmed by christmassy feelings, even though I have never had a white christmas in my life, and probably prefer to spend the day in shorts, lying on a trampoline in the sun, with evidence-of-bbq on my tshirt.

But, go on Paris, you festive city you, with your famous christmas markets and magical lights, win me over!

  • 2

the sunday sun and a wordy win

We have quite the habit of lovely lazy sundays. We lie about like cats in the sun and do very little for most of the day. I exert a smidgen of energy to make splendid platters of breakfast and hearty soups for lunch. Luuk broke the mold yesterday and went for a lengthy bike-ride, and then came home and lazed about.

But it was a gorgeous day yesterday, first in ages. We saw sun! Real, genuine sun. T’was very exciting. And we could not hide from its pull.

Luuk took the opportunity to bully Louis into trying his kick-bike but the wee man is reluctant and rather stubborn.

He got on it voluntarily after it was left on the ground and he was left alone for a while. But then he got off it again – prefers to walk, apparently.

Luuk wanted to demonstrate that it’s fun and there’s nothing to fear (rolling down a slight hill…)

Lovely lovely sun.

This lovely lady watched longingly – she will be an eager cyclist, I’m sure – but she did not want to be snug in her rug, little wriggly bug.

Louis was happy to play with the wheels of the bike…

and to go up and down the stairs of the Mairie numerous times.

While we wandered around the neighbourhood (with the bike in the buggy basket) I thought about my novel and looked at trees and houses and the bumpy pavement.

A wee bit jealous of these folks’ rooftop garden.

We visited a playground that Luuk bikes past when he takes Louis out on the weekends sometimes. It’s at the start of the ride, so they don’t usually stop, but it has a pirate ship and that was incentive enough.

Louis ran around the playground more than actually playing on it, but did the essentials…

And he discovered the slide just as we were leaving. Of course.

After all our meanderings we returned home for the kids to get a nap in before church. I wrote, and at about 4.30 Luuk said it was time to stop. And we were early to church. Miracle.

The kids are learning ‘Go tell it on the Mountain’ for the carol service and Louis, as yet unable to read the words, was given a maracca to play. His interest was less than steadfast, but he did get into the spirit of things toward the end of the rehearsal – he even had the rhythm right. Miracle.

After church and dinner, when the kids were in bed, we watched ‘Keeping the Faith’ which I’ve seen dozens and (embarrassingly accurate) dozens of times – but never before in French. I didn’t pay it much attention and kept on writing. After a while, lagging, I checked my word count, and what do you know? I’d crossed the 50k line. Didn’t even realise.

There’s still quite a bit of story to go. So, I have a new goal: finish the story in the next five days. Could be a bit of a push, but that’s what get’s me working. Pressure, pressure… and food.

these might help – hummingbird cupcakes – awesomely good.

Won’t be doing a huge amount of writing today, I suspect, as we have a french lesson this afternoon and then we are off to have dinner with some other expat kiwis – their youngest son goes along to the same halte garderie as Louis. And I’m pretty sure his dad used to play for the Crusaders. How cool is that? Ever-so-slightly star-struck. It’s times like these, perhaps, that it’s a good thing I don’t really follow sport. If I did I’d probably be even more star-struck and then it’s be weird and awkward.

  • -

creativity begets creativity

Today I painted for the first time since we arrived in France.

I have had good intentions since, oh, week three or four. Now, in month ten, I finally put paint to canvas. I had my little helper, the pants-less wonder, contributing – first with green ballpoint pen, and then with my paintbrush. He then commandeered my brush so I let him have it and from then on it only got dipped in water.

For the sake of keeping Louis’ private parts private, this photo was taken after he was re-pantsed and put to bed.

What a mess, eh? Ah, but it was fun. And oddly beautiful, I think, but a long ways off being ready to hang anywhere except up to dry.

And to drip. Very important.

Painting this, I thought it’d make a great metaphor for nanowrimo, and really for first drafts at anything creative. So here goes my bit of advice for today, entitled,

writerly wisdom from painting

– the first layer of a painting, is not ready to be seen. It does not need to be ready to be seen.

– the first layer is fun, free, exploratory, expansive. You can do no wrong – unless you stop. It is never wrong before it’s finished. And it’s always wrong if it’s never finished. (Wrap your nanowrimo-tired brain around that.)

– you can paint right over the first layer if you want.

– BUT you won’t know if you want to for a while – you may think you do, but give it time. You need some space and objectivity before you’re ready to make those sorts of decisions.

– a first draft is often beautiful as a first draft. Beware: an audience will feel cheated if you hang it in a gallery (or put it up online as an e-book)

We’ve all seen something like this in a gallery. Sometimes we think it’s lame because we are ignorant. And sometimes it’s lame because the artist is lazy, and scamming everyone. Don’t be that artist.

– that said, some of the best work is an accident. Happy, happy accident.

most of the best work is not accidental, and is not done in a first draft. Most of the best work hasn’t happened yet and won’t for sometime. This is a lesson in patience as much as a lesson in art or writing.

We had this charming little tune on a tape we overplayed during road trips when I was a kid. Whenever I think of patience, I think of Herbert the Snail. And I get this stuck in my head. (My gift to you.)

The moral of the story: chill out. And keep working.

Now, I wonder how long I can bear to leave that lazy scam of a hash job hanging on the living room door, taunting me with how much better it could, can and/or will be?

  • 1

Grand thing, grandparents.

I’m one of the lucky ones. At twenty-seven years old, I have three living grandparents, out of a possible four. My husband has one from five, second marriages included, and he has lived on the other side of the world from all of them since he was five years old. I lived a long two hour drive from Nana and Grandad – we were useless at road trips as kids – and maybe fifteen minutes drive from Grandma and Grandpa, if Mt Eden Rd was backed up, which it often was (is).

Louis (the grumpy-face) and his Great Grandparents, my Grandma and Grandpa, January 2012.

Grandad (of whom I have no digital photos) died of cancer when I was five but the others have gone on relatively well with only a handful of health issues and pretty much independent ever since.

Yep, there’s an ‘until’ coming. Grandma fell and broke a bone in her back a little while ago. Her treatment was unfortunately (and unnecessarily) delayed but she is pretty much recovered from that (ie. can still walk)… only she’s struggling in other ways now. Things seemed to be getting worse fast and the doctors did not seem to be responding overly decisively. Without much information, on this far side of the world, we’ve all been inclined to speculate about all the possibilities – undoubtedly an unhelpful pasttime but perhaps inevitable.

Mum and Dad have been travelling around Europe and popping in to visit us (in France) between adventures elsewhere. They came for the grandchildren and stayed for the culture… or perhaps it was the other way around. Or perhaps the grandchildren have more to answer for. One way or t’other, they’ve been in Europe since June and with all that’s been going on back home (not just with Grandma, but that was the deciding factor) they decided to cut their trip short and head home earlier than planned.

Grandma, Luuk’s mum and Louis
having lunch together at Auckland airport before our plane departed to bring us to Paris (January 2012)

It’s been a full six months of travel for them and it’s been wonderful for all of us. Most grandparents, I suppose, have to survive with skype-chat when their errant children drag their grandchildren across the globe. Luuk’s parents haven’t made it over yet and a visit might still be a ways off. We skype with Oma and Opa so they get a bit of grandkid-time, but it’s not the same as cuddles of course. (Though Oma does send very cuddly knitted jerseys that are sort of like hugs.)

We said our goodbyes to my folks on Sunday night and they were off on Monday morning, before I got Louis to halte garderie. They took a train and a plane and then another plane and over twenty-four hours later arrived in Auckland… which is why we don’t plan on visiting home very very often. It’s a ways.

So, no more handy-dandy grandparents (Louis and Elena’s grandparents I mean) helping out around the house and babysitting whenever it worked out, reading to and playing with the kids while I cooked or wrote or popped to the shops. Actually, I think the best of it was that one of them could stay home with Elena while I took Louis to and from the halte garderie in the mornings. The timing of these particular outings never seems to work well with her schedule. Poor kid, always getting hauled out of bed and carted around in the cold.

But she seems to be sleeping till seven most mornings now and if I can stretch that till 7.30 then she can stay awake till I have to take Louis. If that works out then she’ll be exhausted when we get back and sleep for most of the time he’s at halte garderie… which means a decent chunk of time, two mornings a week, when I can write (or get housework done, sure… maybe).

It’s a nice plan. Almost pulled it off today. The problem with making plans around kids sleep habits is they only stick to a habit just long enough to lull you into a sense of security, and then BAM they change up on you. And when I say they change ‘up’ I don’t mean to imply that things improve. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t and sometimes they just make you so crazy!

Anyway, not much news on Grandma, except more of the same: she’s not doing great, but things are not desperate; tests are being done, but their results may not lead to any perfect treatment… basically, it’s a waiting game.

I’m trying to keep on with life, and occasionally think/pray for these things happening far far away. The distance can be an odd thing – sometimes I think I feel things all the more for it, and other times I am numbed by it. I have a sense of impending sadness – even if things improve dramatically, at some point I suspect I will start to really miss home, at some point something will happen and I’ll really want to go back. Summer is beginning there and winter has arrived here, whipping all the leaves from the trees (and making our street very slippery when wet). As much as I love scarves and jackets and boots, I’d rather have sunshine and barbecues and long evenings.

Best not to think about lovely summery NZ perhaps. Best to skype lots and then get on with life, remembering that even when we lived in the same country we didn’t tend to see most of our family, most of the time. There is no one place in this world where we could live and be near all the people we love. Perhaps if there was we would live there.

Anyway, back to my point: hooray for grandparents! They will, I know, miss us terribly, even if we manage to get on with life and distract ourselves from missing them.

  • 2


And so it begins… It was Louis 2nd birthday on Saturday, and so, on friday, I started getting the cake organised.

I made my go-to lemon yogurt cake because I know Louis likes it and I’ve made it enough times that it feels pretty fail-safe.

I thought the butter and sugar looked pretty… but you’ll have to wait to see the cake in all it’s finished (clue: red) glory.

Other than a general clean and tidy, I just did the cake and one other sweetie on Friday – cut marshmallows sitting on dollops of melted dark chocolate… that were sort of meant to look like bus-driver’s hats. Why bus drivers? You’ll see.

Come Saturday there was lots to do. I had grand plans (thanks to pinterest) of making delectable but also healthy party food. Louis’ palate is rather underdeveloped but there could be a few favourites for him and plenty of deliciousness for everyone else as well… right?

One of my favourite discoveries this past summer was caprese salad: essentially tomatoes, mozzarella and basil with a little balsamic and plenty of salt and pepper on top.

Confession: I probably ate a good quarter of them.

Now, something for the big 2-year old. The good ol’ classic, fairy bread. Can’t go wrong there… unless he accidentally inhales at the wrong moment and chokes on some sprinkles.

White bread, buttered and then sprinkles on top. Cut or use cookie-cutters like we did. Nutritional value: zippo. Fun value: heaps. Flavour: butter and sugar.

Now for something a little more substantial. The party was from midday till three so this was to be everybody’s lunch. One of my favourite lunches is quiche, and I’m a pastry fan so I’m all for a high pastry:filling ratio (for parties, when calories don’t count). Voila: mini quiches, fresh from the oven.

And the last of them were still good for breakfast on Sunday! Perks.

More delicious food: salmon, avocado and cream cheese are a heavenly combo, and on fresh baguette: délecieux!

So here it all is, the buffet! Chippies and mini-cheeses, a feta cucumber thingamabob, cheese/ham/pineapple bites, carrot sticks with hummus, and there were meatballs and chicken nibbles in the oven. No one went hungry.

But it’s not all about the food (believe it or not). Games for a group of kids who are really young women as well as a couple of toddlers equals difficult. So we skipped the traditional games with prizes in favour of chaos and craft!

One of Louis’ favourite things is busses, so we collected a bunch of empty boxes and a variety of other bits and bobs from the recycling bin… and, here you go girls, fashion the birthday boy a bus!

He destroyed the steering wheel within seconds, but was fascinated by the toys/passengers and keeps looking inside the roof-bit. Well done, ladies!

We sang ‘the wheels on the bus’ and made his day.

Activity number two, which was probably unnecessary but I had lots of red icing left over… decorate biscuits to look like busses (noticing a theme?)

I gave the kids rectangular shortbread biscuits, red icing, cheerios (breakfast cereal) for the wheels and an assortment of sprinkles and glitter-icing-tube thingys. They decorated and then passed them around to the adults, who were very glad of the coffee to go with these sugar-hits. 

And then there was cake… which was very nearly too much (as cake usually is, after all the other party food, at any given birthday party, I suppose. The second cup of coffee helped.

Bus! Bus! Said Louis.
Yes! It’s recognizable. Thought Mummy.

Two puffs dealt to the candles (and only because they were at opposite ends of the bus.) We’ve come a long way, wee man.

And then Louis helped cut the cake.

And rather than eat it, he played with it. Then ate a choc-marshmallow bus driver hat (which somehow had no photos taken of them.)

Then there were presents! The unwrapping took a little coaxing at first, but he got a handle on ‘rip! rip! rip!’ much faster than last year.

Car! Said Louis
(you know it’s a good choice of present when the two year old can name it, and does so with enthusiasm.)

Louis’ very first remote control vehicle – a digger.
(Okay, so he’s a bit scared of it, but likes other people to play with it while he sits up on the couch, where it can’t get him, and watches from a safe distance.)

Getting into it now… what could it be?

Train set!

Forty eight hours later and I’m happy to report he has stopped bursting into tears every time there’s a derailment (which is why it’s not set up in a figure-8: the train needs a long straight after coming over the bridge, or else it topples).

Lucky last present: a doctor’s kit. He loves putting on the glasses and getting all the bits in and out of the doctor’s bag. But mainly playing with the glasses. Trop Mignon! (which means too cute – this is the most common phrase with which French people respond to Louis. What a charmer.)

So that was Louis’ second birthday party. It was full on, but we had a lovely lazy day afterwards and didn’t do the clean up till Sunday morning (which is perhaps why I dreamed about a mouse or rat that night… rodents would have had a feast if they’d discovered our apartment Saturday night).

Mum and Dad depart today, heading back to NZ, so we said goodbye last night and were all very restrained (no tears at all. Close, but no cigar.) Louis’ birthday was a lovely, festive send off. Gran and Grandpa will miss a few things, but they didn’t miss that.

  • -

Moulin Mist

Yesterday we visited Paris: Mum and Dad, Me and the two wee ones, headed off on the trains (miraculously avoiding delays – we the lucky ones). This time our destination was Montmarte, the rough and tumble approximate neighbourhood of The Moulin Rouge and Amelie. And Sacre Coeur.

The view from Sacre Coeur, down over Montmarte and Paris, in the mist. We couldn’t see the Eiffel Tower, but I thought this was pretty cool.

 Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart) is a Catholic Bascilica on the top of a hill in the northern part of Paris.

We walked through, admiring the domes and stained-glass windows, deciphering the bits of bible verses… and then raced through the last little bit because Louis discovered the acoustics.

We had to walk up said hill – pushing two bonny heffalumps in the push chair – but there were lots of interesting sights to see on the way.

Creepiest shop in the world – shame about the picture quality, but I couldn’t not share this. Look closely… or perhaps not at all. Very creepy.

 We found a place to have some lunch before doing the real climb (the bit with stairs) – the most colourful cafe in Paris? A contender, definitely.

I had these delicious vegetarian stuffed capsicums. I make these occasionally, and should do so more often. Delicious and healthy. These ones were stuffed with tofu and rice, full of flavour, and sitting in some yummy sauces.

I also indulged in some chocolate fondant – basically like a soft brownie, but the middle is gooey and runny – and it’s meant to be! So delectable. I fed all the cream to Louis (who had plain bread for lunch – silly kid) but ate the entire fondant myself. Yum. And then carried the pushchair up a lot of stairs. Now there’s the real secret to guilt-free chocolate!

After visiting the church we carried it back down again (Elena slept – hurrah!) and then did a little boot-shopping (without success) in Montmarte, until Elena woke.

Mum and Dad had tickets for going up the Eiffel Tower in the late afternoon, so I took the kids home and left them to it. We basically crashed and I suspect Mum and Dad could have done the same, but they powered through because they’re cutting their Paris trip short and wanted to squeeze in this one last expedition.

Why are they cutting their trip short? My grandma is not doing well. She’s in hospital and having tests. Unfortunately, it seems that something has been overlooked and things aren’t going very well. So, Mum and Dad are heading back to NZ on Monday… arriving Wednesday (ah, the date line).

We have Louis’ birthday party tomorrow, so fortunately they won’t miss that. Unfortunately, they won’t be here at christmas and will miss Elena’s dedication. But they have had a good long visit and enjoyed lots of time with their grandkids, as well as seeing about as much of Europe as they were up for in six months together.

Hopefully, of course, they’re going back unnecessarily, but whatever happens, everyone will be more at ease with them in Auckland, or a short flight away in Christchurch.

Mum just reminded me, we have a cake to make, so off I go. Tomorrow: party pictures!

  • -

pants-less wonder

We are potty-training! This is all very new to me and I humbly searched the interweb for tips, read six of the top ten hits and was thoroughly disappointed. Other than a couple of lightbulb moments I thought it was all pretty obvious and I came away feeling hardly more prepared than I started.

We have the paraphernalia, and the lolly-stash for rewards/bribes, and wooden floors, so that’s something.

We are doing this gently because I’m not completely convinced my wee man (tehe, wee man) is really ready. So, we have these ‘pants-less sessions’ once or twice a day. We pull the rug up and put the potty centre-stage, and remind him every fifteen minutes or so…

We say things like, “What happens if you do wees in the potty Louis? You get a Lolly.”

To which Louis says things like, “Lolly! Lolly! Lolly!”

To which we say, “When you put something in the potty, darling. When you do the wees in the potty, then you get a Lolly.”

To which he says, “Lolly.”

(To which Luuk says something like, “He’s caught on to just one concept in that sentence.)

Anyway, so far pretty good. No serious messes, no tears, and only a little bit of frustration. He’s oh-so-cute running about with no pants on but I’m not going to share pictures. In fact, I’ve exercised much self control and not taken any. We have had as much success as not and Louis has discovered the joy that is marshmallows!

So, there it is, so far so good. And so far so good in another way – what do you think of my account of it all? I’m trying to be, ah, what’s the word? Delicate? There are enough over-sharing parents on the internet. If you want the full and gory details, google potty training and enjoy!

While Louis is running about in the semi-nick, I’ve been busy…

– doing lots of cooking (I have mastered the art of cream of mushroom soup)

– writing a novel (half way through: the bad guy is about to be revealed as mr.not-nice, and for the first time the heroine is about to consider the good guy as a potential match – oooh…)

– laundry. Lots and lots of laundry. Potty training has, surprisingly, added hardly a thing to this pile, but it’s a never-ending chore.

– planning Louis’ birthday party menu (may have spent just a few minutes/hours on pinterest)

– doing french homework. We are becoming better students again. We will have used up our paid-for lessons by Christmas, so we are trying to make the most of it. Add to that the motivation of an exam next week, and what do you know? We are doing homework more than once a week and not just the day before the lesson.

So that’s us. I’ve disobeyed my own advice for nanowrimo and taken on another project in the same month, but I’m not relying on doing much writing WHILE the kid runs around endangering the upholstery. On the other hand, while he’s sitting on the potty, with Elmo for company: prime writing time!

  • -

Progress Report

I have been behind ever since I started this nanowrimo schtick. And then, just now, I realised my time zone was still set to Wellington, GMT +12.

So I’m ahead! Hurrah! How did that happen? Hard to say for sure. Possibly the thought that I was behind was a good motivator and I did a few fear-induced 2000+ days in a row.

Tips? Anyone want high-productivity tips? As a pro-wrimo (which is bollocks – no one gets paid to wrimo) this is what I reccommend for getting stacks of writing (or other creative projects) done:

1. Have a plan. Stick to it, or not, as you like, but have one to start with.

2. Lower your standards. Whether you’re writing a nanowrimo novel or doing a sketch that might one day hide beneath layers of oil paint, on a canvas, on the walls of the Louvre (aim high, by all means), the thing you’re doing NOW will not be seen by anyone but you. I’m not writing a novel; not really. I’m writing a FIRST DRAFT.

3. Multi task if it helps. But only if it helps.

4. Talk to other writers (or artists of your medium)… but don’t talk about your current work in progress much. Or at all. Very tempting, yes, but if you talk it all out you risk losing your urgency to create it.

5. Lower your standards. Yes, I already said that, but this time I mean standards about everything else: how regularly the laundry pile renders the basket invisible, how regularly the kids watch two hours together of television, how regularly you eat the same thing for lunch and dinner in the same day… just chill man. It’s not forever. And even if it were, no one is remembered for the terrible laundry habits.

Consider getting some help around the house.

I have a few warnings too:

1. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Don’t take on another big project at the same time.

2. Don’t get lost in another world. Literally, of course, as well as literary (Heh, see what I did there.) I’ve been rereading Jane Austen’s Persuasion. It’s a favourite of mine. It’s similar in genre to what I’m writing for nanowrimo, so it’s helpful – almost like research – but it’s also short. Starting to read some fantastic series of enthralling novels that will keep you up till well past bedtime and utterly absorb you into their world is not going to help you write about your own other world. It’s going to suck up your time and make you feel like your story is totally rubbish. Just for a short time, be wary of great books (especially if they’re also long, and/or inspire fanfiction).

3. Your body needs good fuel to go well. Don’t live on caffeine and candy unless you’re happy writing the same way you did when you were fourteen, period one english, monday morning, after a long weekend of slumber parties. The occasional chocolate and a few cups of coffee a day will not doom you to create rubbish, but if you’re not getting a bit of actual nutrition, some sleep and the occasional foray into the outside world, a tad of exercise, some sun (if they have that in the northern hemisphere this time of year, damn it)… then it’ll take it’s toll.

Don’t let the rain win; go for a walk.

That’s it from me. Back to my other world – late 18th century London, in case you were wondering.


  • 3

où sont mes bottes?

Mum and I went on a bit of a shopping mission this afternoon. We both need boots. She drowned hers in Venice – I tell no lies. That’s exactly what happened. True story.

Mine have heels – not very high heels, but high enough to not be flat – and they’re looking rather rough around the toes. And they’re brown.

I’m looking for flat, waterproof boots, with snow in mind. It’s coming. I can feel it in the breeze. And I’m thinking black is very versatile. But then again, I really like purple, and my winter coat is a deep red colour… so I could get dark red boots to match and how chic would that be?

I’m not sure really. I’m not sure I’ve a great definition of chic.

Nonetheless, boot-shopping we went, with chic dreams of course.

I came home with a pair of purple jeans, a red, white and blue check shirt (1 shirt; 3 colours) and a very cool end-of-line blazer by Ralph Lauren! I don’t think I’ve ever owned any actual fancy shmancy label clothes before. Looks good tho!

I also got water-proof gloves (snow is coming), a wind/water-proof jacket for Elena, and socks for Louis.

But no luck on the boots front. I have big calves. Gah! They don’t look big to me. But I always have this problem with boots, so much as I might like to blame the boots, I think it’s probably just me. Maybe soon though, with all this weight I’m losing (and hoping to).

I was very excited to fit into smaller jeans than before and the shirt sits better than they usually do. So I left the shop happy.

Another win on our outing was that I posted off some cards and packages that have been cluttering up the sideboard for, oh, weeks. So hurrah for that.

Luuk was late back tonight because he does the groceries on the way home from work. Traffic was a nightmare, but it was also a huge shop with some exciting new things: a toddler toilet-insert-seat, a step-stool-thing, pull-ups and real undies!

Guess what that means. My little goal: day-dry by Christmas. I know, get real girl; he’s not even two yet. Yeesh.

And then there were some pressies for me:

I’m feeling very spoiled. Not only is this very handy-dandy, but it’s also my favourite colour (tied, of course, with purple). I mean, sure, Luuk gives me a casserole dish, it’s possible he has an ulterior motive or two, but I don’t mind. Slow-cooker recipes are once again within my reach!

We’ve had a lovely couple of days. The weather has been miserable but yesterday we had NZ visitors! They live in Toulouse, as of very recently, and have three kids. We had dinner together yesterday evening and the kids all had a blast.

Despite the age differences, the kids got on spiffingly and this helpful young man even managed to get Louis to eat some of his dinner. His reward: first choice of macaron flavour for dessert.

Us kiwi expats of course had tonnes to catch up on and plenty of notes to compare re:adaptation to France. A few complaints, but we’re not missing Christchurch much. Blame the friggin quakes. The people are lovely, but the ground just keeps on moving.

Bit of a tangent there, but back to les bottes (french for boots, prounounced ‘bots’ like in ‘robots’ – that’s how I remember it, cause it always looks like the transformers have big clunky boots on). The hunt for my perfect pair will go on another day. Might have to make a bargain with myself: no other shopping till I get the boots.