Category Archives: Uncategorized

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Christchurch’s new Nanowrimo Municipal Liaison Crew

Category : Uncategorized

As many Christchurch participants of NaNoWriMo already know, Lady Talia has stood down as the Municipal Leader for our region. She has contributed much to NaNo over the years, but is now looking forward to spending time with some of her other writing friends in other regions. How she managed on her own for such a large community of writers, one will never know.

Since the earthquakes, the writers within the Christchurch region have become so spread out, living as far north as Pegasus and as far south as Rolleston and Lincoln. To accommodate the growing size of the Christchurch region, two Municipal Leaders have been appointed for the forthcoming 2015 NaNoWriMo.

Christchurch Nanowrimo MLs

Judy Mohr (on the left in the picture) is a writer of fantasy, filled with dark turns, adventurous leaps, not to forget the humour and romance thrown in for good measure. Those involved with the Christchurch Writers’ Guild will know her well, as she is always spreading what tidbits of knowledge she can about her road toward traditional publishing, and frequently asks those hairy questions others are sometimes afraid to ask. She is currently the Guild president and is working toward improving Guild-offered services for Christchurch writers. She is also a member of SpecFicNZ and the Scribophile on-line writing community.

Judy is penning a Adult high fantasy series where a young magician must join her soul with twin warriors or give her enemy the ultimate power: the ability to bring back the dead. However, for this November, she will be putting aside the world of the Signs and the Bleeders, to start work on a Middle Grade science fiction filled with fun characters and deliberate cliches; if Jack O’Neil was a unicorn, he’d be in charge of the Rainbow Squad.

Judy’s NaNoWriMo name, unlike her writing, is not very imaginative. You can find her if you search for “Judy Mohr“. She’s the only one that comes up in the database.

Amy Paulussen (aka sunburntdaisy on NaNoWriMo and on the right in the photo) is a sun-lover, and has wrinkles from all the squinting, because she can’t bear to close the curtain behind her desk. She writes contemporary and historical fiction, love stories with a literary bent. Amy received a complete manuscript assessment from the NZ Society of Authors this year and so she’s in the midst of rewriting ‘Off Camera’, on the advice of a brilliant veteran author and lit agent. Come November, she’ll be writing a historical set right here in Christchurch… fingers crossed it’ll be NZ’s answer to Downton Abbey.

Amy discovered writers’ groups while living in Paris and loves a good write-in and/or a fierce critique sesh. She used to teach English and Media Studies, but then there were babies, and 3 years overseas, and she started writing full-time. Now she does relief at Hagley most days, writing in all the gaps. She calls it word-snatching, types at alarming speeds, but finds good ol’ fashioned pen ‘n paper a good way to tap into some kinda creative-special-reserve. Amy’s on the committee for the Christchurch branch of the NZSA.

Amy and Judy will be working together to ensure that all NaNoWriMo participants throughout the greater Christchurch region get the opportunity to meet with other Christchurch WriMo crazies (I mean writers). Feel free to drop them a line through the NaNoWriMo website, or if you’re on Facebook, make sure you make yourself known through the “NaNoWriMo Christchurch” closed group. Or for those of you on Twitter, use the hashtag #ChChWriMos.

Write-ins will be planned for throughout Christchurch, starting with the kickoff on Saturday, October 31st at Mexicano’s starting at 10:30pm. See you there.


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Co-op Coercion

Category : Uncategorized

lying to the kids, getting them to try things

I have a three-year-old and a four-year-old. Needless to say, mealtimes are often an exercise in finding the line between coercion and co-operation. Sure, Kiddo, we can have pesto pasta but you choose: beans or peas. No. Beans or peas. Yes, you can pick out the sun-dried tomatoes, if you really must, but if you try it, you’ll love it. It’s like a tomato sauce candy.

Truly.

Think about it. I’m not lying.

Not this time anyway. I once told Louis that a sliver of orange capsicum was a carrot stick. He ate it. Then I told him the truth and now he eats capsicums (translation: bell peppers).

But it’s not just the kids who are learning to like new things. I’ve joined the fruit and vegetable co-op near us. Each week, for $12, we get an enormous bag of fruit, and another of veggies, and often add-ons – at least $24 worth of stuff. But we don’t get any choice about what’s in the bags. It’s something of a gamble. So far, no entire bag of artichokes, thankfully, because only a tiny bit of those things are edible, and when I say edible I don’t really mean it. (I love artichoke hearts but after one attempt at cooking them, I now buy them in jars, pre-prepared.)

So… in the last couple of weeks I’ve cooked and eaten things I wouldn’t have picked off a shelf, no matter how good the price: kale, parsnips and red cabbage. Kale, though it’s all the rage on the foodie and diet circuit, I’d never even tried before. I didn’t do a great job of cooking it so if we get it again I’ll try something different. Not a fault of the kale. If it’s on special, I’d buy it now.

The parsnips though – first try and they were amazing. I made carrot and parsnip chips and baked them babies so crispy good. We all loved them so much I bought more parsnips, over and above the co-op lot of fruit and veg, the next week.

Cabbage on the other hand… it has been my food-nemesis for years. We didn’t eat it – red or green – at all, growing up, because Mum’s not a fan. I’ve eaten it elsewhere, but never enjoyed it. I was once horribly sick after a dodgy hot-dog with sauerkraut on it, and call it confirmation bias or what-you-will, but I’ve often felt something like a gag-reflex in response to the stuff.

But an enormous red cabbage was in last week’s haul, so off I went to the internet for recipes that might make it more palatable. Worst case scenario, Luuk would get a lunch-box-full of leftovers for a few days. (Luuk will eat pretty much anything.)

I looked at a bunch of braised cabbage recipes and figured out what absolutely needed to happen to make the stuff edible, and then borrowed ingredient ideas from several different recipes – brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, red wine (and some for the cook), and some spicy sausages…

braised red cabbage

It was so good.

Duh.

But seriously, delishimoso.

There were left-overs (because a cabbage is actually an enormous quantity of food for 2 adults and 2 halflings – who weren’t impressed by purple food – I did have hopes, but they were disappointed) so I loaded up a couple of pizza bases with the braised cabbage mix a couple of days later, added bacon and cheese and put them under the grill.

I had other leftovers too, so I made a variety of leftover-pizzas, but the cabbage ones were the best. Unlikely, I know, but there you go. So damn delish.

I also never ate Fejoias, growing up, but we have a tree at our new place and about a month ago I tried one for the first time. I’ve always said I don’t like them but I think the closest I’d come to eating them was the smell – not unpleasant but unique and probably made more pungent because they’d been in some kid’s lunchbox for several hours.

Turns out, I adore the things. I’ve been eating dozens a day. And yay, because free food!

free vitamin C!

Of course, it doesn’t always go this way. I’ve been tasting and trying different olives for years and I still don’t like them. Not even in tapenade.

But worth a try. Tastes change. Attitudes toward new tastes change. That’s as much the point. When we were travelling and living overseas, experiencing strange, new things was part of the adventure, and coming home I definitely wanted to keep that attitude toward – not just toward food, but all of life.

So here’s to taking a bite, and another, and falling a little bit in love with Fejoias!


ps. For my foreign friends, fejoias are a something like a cross between passionfruit and kiwis. They have a tough matte-green skin, are shaped like a rugby ball, and inside are white and brown – browner when they’re riper. The center is seeds and their goopy surrounds, like passionfruit, but the inner rind is soft and sweet with a texture similar to a floury apple. There are loads of different varieties – more sweet or sour, larger or smaller – and they are very seasonal. People give them away by the bag-full this time of year but they’re impossible to find in summer.


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The 100 Days Project

This year was the fourth year I’ve participated in the 100 Days Project. It is a creative exercise in which participants repeat the same artistic (little-a artistic, broad definition of art) process or task each day for 100 days. This is definitely of the quantity-over-quality-leads-to-quality school of thought.

I’ve done a variety of visual and written tasks in the past, and this year I combined the two in 100 lies we tell kids.

This year was the first year I’ve participated in the Day 100 Show. In fact, this year, there are three of these exhibitions. The Europe one was just for one day, in IJsselstein, in the Netherlands, but the Wellington show is on all week and the Auckland show is this coming weekend, so if you can get along, have a look at all the incredible collections people have put together over the past 100 days.

Day 100 show, Europe

The Day 100 Show, in Europe, at the IJsselstein Library, last Saturday.

100 lies we tell kids

My exhibit.

IJsselstein 100 day show

The ‘ninos’, the eyes, a few monkeys, and at the end the 5 year old twins’ ‘Hearts and Houses’ exhibit.

100 collages

100 collages.

100 eyes

100 eyes.

100 ninos

100 Ninos.

There were a dozen or so exhibitors and we managed to video chat, eventually, with Emma Rogan, the kiwi who started the whole project up a few years ago.

handy to have tech support on site.

In the foreground: Luuk, being tech support, and figuring out how to get around Emma’s hotel wifi restrictions… which did eventually work.

In the background: 100 octopuses!

My absolute favourite were the blind contour drawings, a style thing I’m definitely going to have to try.

blind contour drawings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This artist drew all sorts of things but the drawings themselves were all kinds of weird and wonderful.

pumpkins and giraffes

 

 

These giraffes were probably my favourite.

This the first time I’ve participated in an art exhibition and I absolutely loved it. Artistic community for the win, frankly, and going out for drinks and dinner and quadri-lingual conversation afterwards = all good. Bit tiring but GOOD.

The whole 100 days thing brings out some interesting stuff about artistic process and whatever it takes to call one’s self an artist. Some of the exhibitors displayed their work in day-by-day-order and I definitely noticed how the first half are kind of steady, good but perhaps a bit predictable, and then there’s a hitch in the middle, sometimes the quality isn’t so strong, motivation is low, perhaps a day or two get missed, but the second 50 days are really interesting. Things get a bit desperate, but creativity really comes into play. Those off-the-wall, bold ideas, which are hard to feel sure about at the time, come out, and often they’re the best bits of all. I’m very aware, as a writer, than when I’m working on a given scene I’m rarely certain of the quality of my work, and even if I’m certain, I’m not objective. I’m often wrong about the strength of my writing when I’m drafting it, but later I can see more clearly.

This project is a great way of gaining some confidence as an artist, to trust your own gut and try things, not expecting everything to work well, but knowing that good work comes out of LOTS OF WORK.

Luuk and I had the weekend on our own in the Netherlands. Mum arrived from NZ last Thursday and bravely babysat the kiddos for the weekend, despite jetlag. She’s staying for the holidays so we’ll be doing lots of Paris sights and perhaps Luuk and I will nab another couple of nights out with our handy live-in babysitter around. Louis is off school, though Elena’s nursery goes on as per usual, so Mum and I will have the kids with us most of the time – tomorrow, at the Louvre, and Thursday perhaps Montmartre.

As usual, I’m writing/editing in all the down-time – the kids are napping now, and whenever they’re busy playing I’ll snatch some words. I’m editing one project, though I got an editor’s report back on another this morning. A third is sitting in a couple of slush piles, and a fourth is probably a quarter of the way through draft 1 in my journal, perhaps ready to go for nanowrimo. Which may or may not happen, depending on my editing progress and the speed with which people get through their slush piles.

I have to say, it is rather good to have the 100 days project behind me. My photos and paintings and words from the project might, one day, boil down to make a fun coffee-table style book, but no mad rush there. It could make a good Christmas present, I suppose, but I just don’t see it happening in the next month or two. So if you want to read all the lies, have a scroll through my 100 days project page, here.


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and then

So, I was going to write a blog post or two about our summer road trip, our 3,500 or so kilometers and 4 countries (and yes, the sound of music tour).

But then we got home and the rentrée has been BUSY, but also about a hundred times easier than the past two years. I was going to call that post ‘third time’s the charm’ because I finally feel like I’ve a clue what’s going on.

But then grandma died.

I knew this would probably happen while I was here, on the far side of the globe. Even when we first left NZ, two and a half years ago, I wondered, as you do when you’ve got grandparents in their late 80s and you move to the other side of the world.

Louis and his great grandparentsGrandma and Grandpa with Louis, just before we left NZ.

I’m 29 and a week ago I had 3 living grandparents. All in all, I’m incredibly lucky. I spent ten years of my life living just a few kms away from Mum’s parents, and school was a stone’s throw from their house. We spent a lot of time with them, until we moved to the south island, but even at that distance, we had skype, and often twice annual visits, and a foundation of knowing one another well enough that a bit of distance didn’t freeze us up. On seeing each other there was plenty to catch up on, plenty of connection.

grandma and baby LouisShe took a lot of good photos with Louis, turns out.

And now, I’m on the far side of the globe and everyone, even my sister who lives in Ohio, is coming together to mourn and celebrate and all that… but not me. We visited at Christmas. Things had deteriorated. I said goodbye and knew. I thought I knew and it turns out I did.

grandma and big Louislast wee cuddle, last January

Funny how fully expecting a thing to happen doesn’t actually make all that much difference to how you feel when it actually does.

Grandma was (past tense)
a great artist
mistaken for the queen
by six year olds
hostess of a hundred afternoon teas
taught me how to make beds with hospital corners, andailsa caradus
that cross-stitch should look the same on the back
that a thimble can be worth a lot of money
that jelly beans aren’t just for kids
that its worth crossing town for just the right frame
or cup of tea and sandwich.
Believed in quality.
Believed in a lot, in fact,
but not in hell
and not in drink
proud great grand daughter of temperance suffragist
stubborn and generous

Grandma is (present tense)
fondly remembered,
and a link between me
and so many wide-spread people,
a lot of whom believe she is (present tense)
still going strong on another plane.

party, grandmagood sport, Grandma

(proving to the great grandkids, that a party hat is nothing to be afraid of)


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oopsie daisy

Category : Uncategorized

We’ve told everyone we’re moving back to NZ in September.

So, turns out, Luuk’s company here can keep him on for another year… and with pretty much the same deal. Nigh-impossible to turn down really.

We’ve known this was possible for a few weeks but until things were confirmed, couldn’t say much. Nothing is yet signed but it’s all go. Our plans have been all up in the air while we were waiting to hear, but now we can start organising a summer holiday for august, and get the kids signed up for school/halte garderie for next september.

First things first, summer! Bring it on. Don’t suppose anyone knows the L&P secret recipe…

Timing-wise one year is perfect. Louis will do two full years of maternelle here and return to NZ just a couple of months before his 5th birthday (when kiwi kids start school). Elena will be over 3 when we get back, so she’ll be off to kindy part time. Which will be a relatively painless transition from her current nursery routine.

 

Calvin & Hobbes - A Swift Kick In The Butt photo 19920731.gif

 

I’m looking at a more kick-in-the-bum french class and hope to take advantage of another writing/publishing event or two in Europe. Luuk will be properly fluent in French come next summer and Elena will be talking and bilingual. She is bilingual now, I suppose, but has a very limited vocabulary… in every language except her own special gobbledy-gook.

We won’t be rushing around quite so madly trying to make the most of every long weekend and holiday. We can have an actual holiday this summer, without thinking of all the places we don’t have time to see.

And though we miss our friends and family, it is easy to put off returning to achy-breaky Christchurch with its inflated rent prices and whatnot. It’s just one year. But maybe things will have settled down. The ratio of demolition:building might be a little less depressing.

Summer has arrived (though it’s brought some lightening and thunder with the heat). We have made a bunch of great friends in France and it will be sad to go, whenever we go, but at least we don’t have to say goodbye to everyone now.

great friends in France

Lots of good friends, though the thing with expats (not all of these are expats, but a few) is that they tend to move away. One farewell down, one more to go.

But we, for now, will stay on, with a lot fewer major changes in our immediate future (a bit of a relief, really).

So, that’s the big news. I will leave you with a musical number starring our big two year old.


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such love

In the spirit of St Valentines Day, here’s a poem –

Your Pulse

beneath my lips
dictating rhythm
to my unruly breath.

That open collar
pouting a space
between shirt and skin
where I might be – 
                             belong, long to be.

And onward with the photos from our time in New Zealand! Just looking through them makes me feel very lucky and loved. Don’t worry, they only feature family-friendly types of loving.

Just after Christmas, we were staying with Luuk’s family in the Waikato. We drove north from there, up to Auckland, along a very familiar route. My family took this road on the majority of our holidays, throughout my childhood.

huntly chimnies First up, a little nostalgic, homesick kind of loving: a much-loved view on the road between Hamilton and Auckland. The Huntly power station chimneys.

In Auckland, we visited my grandparents. Grandma has recently moved into the retirement home, though Grandpa remains in their independent home within the same complex. I grew up living near them in Auckland, and it’s been two years since I’ve seen them, so I was eager to catch up, and also to introduce them to Elena, their first great grand daughter!

Grandma and ElenaElena wasn’t eager to get her photo taken with her great grandparents. But eventually, very briefly, she sat just so…

grandma and LouisLouis was more willing to cuddle.

grandpa and louis

After lunch with Grandpa, we went to visit my old neighbours. Theirs is the sofa we usually crash on when in Auckland. The last time we visited was en route to Paris.

old toys, with old neighbours

 Train set and Disney castle, for the win.

In the midst of renovations, they weren’t up for overnight guests, but they rustled up some toys I remember loving as a kid, and Louis and Elena concurred. And the afternoon tea was pretty damn fine too. Berries and cake and many different cheeses. So good.

Me, the kids, the neighbours-of-old

There we are, all together, except Luuk (behind the camera) and Kat (who had to go early).

We had dinner at a De Grand, a delicious! Thai place on Great South Road, with Evans, a school friend of mine. We stayed at his place that night, and the kids had a wonderful time with his guinea pigs and rabbits, one of whom is named Louis; a definite highlight. And the next morning Evans took us out to brunch in Parnell, Auckland’s oldest suburb.

brunching in parnell

Louis and Evans perusing the menu.

We visited my grandparents a second time and then made a quick stop for picnic supplies at The Warehouse – something of a NZ institution.

Louis at the WarehouseLouis does The Warehouse.

And then, for a supremely Auckland experience – to Mission Bay!

louis and luuk at Mission Bay

The weather was as good as it gets, and the view of Rangitoto makes me delirious with sweet memories.

family at mission bay

Luuk and the kids, enjoying the sun & sand in their different ways.

shell mosaic at mission bay

Shell mosaic butterfly!

paddling at mission bay

Louis wouldn’t go near the water, but then again, it’s Auckland Harbour. Perhaps a wise move…

Last stop in Auckland was Ollies, an iconic ice cream parlour in Royal Oak. There we met a friend of mine and had a quick catch up over scoops of pineapple lump ice cream (well, that was my order.)

Hippie kids at Ollies, Royal Oak

Who are those hippie kids, hopped up on ice cream? Hm.

We returned to the Waikato to spend New Years with some friends who live just out of Hamilton. We were too busy playing board games, experimenting with frappuccino recipes, and watching old West Wing episodes to photograph much of anything.

best new years photo

Yep, that’s the best photo of new years.

But it gets better. On the 2nd of January we emerged and went to Raglan.

raglan new years day

See? Isn’t it lovely. Flax in the foreground, muddiest mess I’ve ever seen in the background, and a gorgeous estuary between. Nice swim. Got most of the mud off.

Then we went back to Luuk’s parents for a spa. Stayed one night then drove over the Kaimais to Tauranga. My folks were staying at Papamoa, so first stop was lunch with them.

irritating uncle Ian

The kids, winding up uncle Ian, after lunch.

I flaked out after that and had a great big nap. Mum and Luuk took the kids for a walk to the estuary.

ducks on estuary, papamoa

Elena and Gran and the ducks.

gran and kids, papamoa

Next up we went to my Aunt and Uncle’s place at Mount Maunganui and after a few wines on the balcony, removed to my other Aunt and Uncle’s restaurant, also at the Mount.

elena gon' ride

Elena, ready to go to dinner.

Elena at the rallies' restaurant

Mum making records of the grandkids, cause she’s about to say bye-bye.

We dined well and drank some more. My cousins are terrible influences and I love them dearly and I have only myself to blame. We left pretty late and the kids flaked out before we got to Luuk’s brother’s place, where we were staying the night.

kids asleep in car

Flake out, phrasal verb. to suddenly go to sleep or feel weak because you are extremely tired.
-Cambridge English Dictionary

The next day, after a leisurely morning with Luuk’s brother and his family, we went to lunch with another of my aunts and uncles and cousins. There are no photos, so we must have had a good time. It was a short catch-up (cousins had to go milk cows…) but sweet.

We returned to Luuk’s brothers place in the afternoon and hung out with them till some time the next day.

an angel at her bbq An angel at my BBQ… or rather, her BBQ. My lovely sister in law knows what she’s doing.

bbq good

See? She knew what she was doing. Nom nom…

bbq with the cousins

Nom. Hilarity at the kids table.

caged kids

Elena and her youngest cousin, happily caged.

make-overs with the cousinsLouis and Elena dolling themselves up (note the feathers in her hair).

Returning to the Waikato, we crossed the Kaimai range, which turned out in its traditional garb: fog and trucks…

rainy kaimais and moster trucksThat is, monster trucks, on the back of a truck.

Made it back to Luuk’s parents’ place safely. It sounds like a lot of travel but the longest road trip is around two and a half hours. The last ten days of our time away was pretty full-on, staying only a couple of nights in any one place, but it was wonderful to catch up with so many of our dear friends and family. We don’t know where we’ll be this time next year, or when we’ll see them all again.

And that concludes my tale of our time in New Zealand.

travelling with kids


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so much to do

Yikes, I’m getting rather far behind, telling the tale of our month long visit to New Zealand. I’ve been editing my heart out… which sounds violent, and it is. Cut cut cut those nasty adverbs and all those corny cliches. And whole pages of superfluous faff.

Anyway, I usually do a blog post or two each week, and still keep up with my writing, but just at the moment there is a fire under my bottom because in one month I’m off to London for an Author Fair, wherein I will have a chance to pitch a novel (or two…) to a real live literary agent.

So it might just be one blog post a week for the next little while. And lots of photos.

Starting as we mean to go on:

IMG4384

Rolling a ball, nice and gentle (ahem), with Oma.

We spent Christmas at Luuk’s parents’ place, in the Waikato. Luuk’s brother and his family were due to arrive Christmas day afternoon, which meant a long wait for presents.

computer kids

But fortunately there were plenty of toys. Mind you, who plays with toys when there are computers, stereos and handy dandy spare keyboards around.

all the pressies

Fortunately there were a few presents to do earlier in the day, with my parents and Nana, but not until after church.

waikato (weather)

The view from outside the church, of Mount Pirongia and waikato weather… in the summer…

Elena and great Nana

Elena reading with her Great Nana.

backyard cricketLouis got a cricket bat from my parents, which Uncle David obligingly demonstrated, as the kids haven’t ever seen cricket before…

santa's many helpers

And then the cousins arrived! And then the presents were fair game!

christmas dinner

Fern and I cooked up a feast of a dinner, and managed to wear near-matching dresses… almost like pros.

christmas dinner: roast veg

Golden Roast Vegetables, and chorizo for good measure.

christmas dinner: salad

A divine salad of courgette ribbons, baby spinach, cherry toms, goats’ cheese, and rawhe ham (we happily ate leftovers for days.)

three kinds of pie

Dessert. Three kinds of pie. That’s right. Chocolate, Banoffee and Lemon Meringue. Awesomeness is pie.

christmas dessert

The kids, eating the pie.

saying goodnight to the presents

Elena and her cousins, all ready for bed.

elena and her big cousinElena and Briar, cuddling by the tree.

The next day we hung around and ate slightly less. Walked a bit of it off, trecking down to the Kaniwhaniwha* (say that five times fast) stream and back.

walking off christmas dinner

Walking to the stream, on the road, which fortunately doesn’t get a lot of traffic.

Kaniwhaniwha streem

*Kaniwhaniwha, pronounced, ka-nee-fa-nee-fa.

elena and Mt PirongiaElena walked the last little bit, up the driveway to Opa’s house.

settling catan with Dave

We spent some time settling Catan with Luuk’s brother, who won a LOT.

Santa's hangout in a NZ mall

We spent a little Christmas money at The Base (it’s a mall) and admired this Kiwi version of the universal Santa’s grotto mall installation. (They’re Pukekos.)

the sandpit at the other cousins'

We went to my Aunt and Uncle’s house to catch up with my cousin and her kids, one of whom is in this photo – just. But there was a sand pit! It was like christmas.

rhinos at the hamilton zoo

We went to the Hamilton Zoo and the Rhinos were fantastic.

tuatara at the hamilton zoo

And the Tuatara was… alive. But we saw him!

chilling with opa

Back at Opa and Oma’s we chilled out.

cucumber on Louis' eyes

Who showed him that cucumber can go on your eyes? Fess up.

Elena was nightmarish with food (perhaps with reason, having been carted around the country and cutting several teeth…) but Louis tried a few new things. We have no idea where he learned this trick though.

Louis and me

Lovely chilled out days at in the rolling waikato hills.

Elena and me

I’m a human climbing frame. Also known as a parent. Any prone adult of whom my children aren’t afraid will do the trick.

Getting the belly raspberry revengeThe kids get their revenge: blowing raspberries on my stomach.


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Aïe aïe aïe

Luuk was away, working in Milan, for three days this week. The temperature was up near 35°C every day and the kids were seriously out of sync with their sleeps. I got Louis an extra session at halte garderie, just to give me a little more space, but as he wouldn’t sleep when he needed to, he was shattered after nursery and fell asleep before dinner.

The next day he got sent home with a fever. No obvious illness, but 39°C of grumpy. It was so stinking hot I had all the shutters and windows shut from midday till five, and we just hid from the heat.

I made very slow progress on my editing…

The evenings, once it started to cool down, once the kids were in bed, were divine. But getting them to sleep was never more difficult. They wanted Dad, they wanted to stop sweating, Louis wanted to get up and discovered that needing the toilet would guarantee I’d let him… the first half-dozen times, at least.

Luuk got back late on Thursday evening and we sat on the balcony with icy lemonade, and caught up. I’m so very glad I don’t have to do this on my own. It was much harder to stick to our routines and rules without the accountability of another adult, and one who is on the same page… makes such a big difference. Of course, with the heat and some kind of illness (and Elena teething too) there was plenty of reason for it to be a rough week, with or without Luuk. But yay for Luuk. Two adults to two kids is my kind of ratio.

And yay for Luuk for another reason too: he read one of my novels-in-progress and I’ve got his edits to do this week.

Cousins from the Netherlands are visiting this weekend, which is great, and not only because there are more eyes to keep on Elena. The kid is now traversing the furniture, clambering from one chair to another, couch to table, bouncing and wriggling and occasionally tumbling. Madness. Walking is such a dull way to get from one side of the room to another.

Today we will show off our local market and sample the fare (ie. picnic lunch perhaps) and then head to Paris, possibly to Canal St Martin. (But every time we plan to go there we end up elsewhere…)

We’ll see.


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news and newness

Category : Uncategorized

IMG_0364New buds, new leaves, new threads, new drafts. It’s all new. And have you heard the news? Goodness, there’s a lot of news this week, or perhaps I’m just less out-of-the-loop than usual. Nothing like a novel to finish to get me looking at news websites. Procrastination station, thy name is stuff.co.nz and france24.

But the novel is finished, nonetheless. Hurrah! Back to my glass of wine and television shows. End of blog post.

Nah, gotcha. Ce n’est pas le fin. It probably should be because I should probably be doing French homework… but I shall go on.

So spring seems to be here. Of course it’ll bugger off tomorrow, but it was here in fine form today (aka. 29°C according to the thermometer in the car, Luuk says) and I dragged the kids out for a wee bus trip to parc de sceaux (pron. park duh so… or something like that). We met up with some friends, the kids ran around, we lazed on blankets and had broken conversations (ie. interrupted by kids, but c’est la vie.)

kids at the parkThe kids at the park today.

Today wasn’t the first of it either. Sunday was a marvel. A marvelous marvel. We sat on the terrace at Nawar, our local Lebanese restaurant for lunch…

on the terrace at NawarElena is sporting the fabulous sit’n’sling. Luuk is trying to arouse Louis’ curiosity about the delicious food so that he’ll try something other than chips.

And then after lunch and a brief nap we went to a birthday party at a park.

Louis and the birthday girlLouis and the Birthday Girl

discovering hotdogs

Elena discovered Hot Dogs

Elena joins in on the sport

And then she tried to join in with the sports, but soon gave up to eat leaves. Yum.

After blissing out in the sun with friends we came home to eat dinner on the deck. The warmth was making us all happy-chappies… to the point of singing. And clapping. And Queen.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmAkNSIM_kE

Their musical education, for better or worse, has begun. (Couldn’t wrestle this video into embedding on the page, but I promise it’s worth clicking on the link. Hard work, yep.)

And now, as promised: new threads. New clothes! Didn’t spend a cent. Threw a clothes swap instead and it was fabulicious.

Fabulous clothes and friends + delicious food = fabulicious.

the licious bitThe spread.

fashion swapThe threads.

our youngest schwapper

Our youngest and probably the most fabulous of the fashion swappers, sporting her brand new mauve scarf.

One of my new outfits

And me.

I made out like a bandit. Scored two coats, gorgeous grey boots, numerous tops, a couple of shirts, a couple of dresses, two gorgeous scarves, jewellery and a faux Louis Vuitton purse, the perfect size for taking pages to writers’ group (though hopefully I don’t get evicted for having a purse that looks like it’s worth more than any of us pay in rent a given month). Also got pants (as in trousers, in case you’re English  not undies) and some a size too small because I’m still losing weight and, well, here’s hoping.

The kids were off with Luuk. They went with friends to their kid’s rugby game, and then returned to help polish of the chocolate truffles and get jealous of our brilliant afternoon.

fashion swap for menJohnny reckons we’ll do one for the guys but went on to list all the items it is not okay to wear second hand – including tshirts. Which rules out half of Luuk’s wardrobe.

Okay, I suppose I didn’t say much about finishing my novel, and it is big exciting news. But it’s not the first novel for me, and it’s not FINISHED finished, so I’m a bit too much of an old-hat to get overly excited. Plus I’m tired. I had a glass of rosé at dinner and I was in the sun for a few hours and I think I’d best just lie down, except that the pictures are still en route from phone to compooper. So I’ll just blah blah blah – oh, think they’re done.


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I’ve years

Category : Uncategorized

J’ai vingt-huit ans. That’s how the French put it. Not ‘I am 28’ but ‘I have 28’. As if years are assets. As if years are not defining qualities, just possessions.

Well, perhaps they are. I am in the priveledged position of having lots of friends who are a little bit (or quite a bit) older than me, so I rarely feel old. I suspect I look old (older than I am) but hopefully I pass off for older because of my crazy-arse wisdom and particularly mature turn of phrase; my intelligence rather than neck-wrinkles.

Yesterday was my birthday, yep. I was woken by an exuberant toddler and served pikelets (what was left of them after Elena got her fill) with cream cheese and apricot jam, fresh pineapple and coffee.

Then I spent most of the day cooking and eating. It was great!

I made Pumpkin Thai Red Curry Soup, a variation on my friend’s Butternut Thai Red Curry Soup. I couldn’t get butternut pumpkin or red curry paste at our usual supermarket, so I got a tin of red curry soup and threw that in with the coconut milk, ginger, ordinary pumpkin, onions, and chicken stock.

I had a friend coming for lunch and a large salmon steak in the fridge, leftover from a four pack we used part of another night this week. So that went in the oven, on green beans, with a little butter, balsamic vinegar, lime juice, parsley and garlic salt on top.

Oh, it was good. And the friend also bought out the bakery – muffins, doughnuts, pastries and cake! We saved the cake for the party (today) but shared the other spoils with the kids for afternoon tea. And we finished the rest off (oh, there was plenty) for dessert in the evening. Louis and the babysitter had the donuts and Luuk and I devoured the last muffin au caramel after returning from our movie.

As to the movie, we saw ‘Silver Linings Playbook’, which here is called ‘Happiness Therapy’, but we did see it in V.O. (Version Originale) and the French subtitles made it even funnier, a Rom-Com-Comédie, peut-étre.

Before the film we wolfed down some delicious sushi at one of about six Japanese restaurants over the road from the cinema. After the film we walked past a protest rally on our way back to Luxembourg Metro – always exciting. I do love protest rallies – all the energy and democracy-in-action, and those French flags waving did make me think of Les Miserables… and we were in Paris too, where the barricades went down, or up, and later down.

protesting at luxembourg

It was all very strange in a myth meets reality meets history meets fiction kind of way. And there is a difference between fiction and myth, as I learnt in Religious Studies at university – yikes! 10 years ago! It still comes up often, things I learned in Rels. Great subject. Should have majored.

And back to the birthday… I got pressies too.

dangley earrings

Pretty new earrings from the kids (though I bought them for myself about a month ago and obligingly forgot about them till we were mid-pikelets) and the big surprise – a mini ipad! I have been the stoic iDevice-less person. It’s been part of my identity. But I’m not complaining. It’s shiny (literally and in the Firefly sense) and does funky stuff, including board games and internet (much more swishly than my kindle) and will be fabulous for travelling.

So that was my 28th birthday. But it’s not over: today the girls are coming over with all their excess clothes, accessories, etc. and we shall schwap.

I’ve sorted out all my clothes and will soon be arranging everything beatifically around the house as if it’s a boutique. Luuk and I did a huge spring-clean this morning while the kids hid from the vacuum cleaner – Louis by choice; Elena would have rather ridden the vacuum cleaner, I suspect, but we didn’t want to hit her in the face with the pipe…

hiding from the housework

So they sat on the sofa, penned in by the coffee table, reading the books and scaring the parents.

Earlier this morning, before vacuum cleaner chasing, Elena did, for the first time, stand up! But she didn’t oblige and do it again for the camera. Little minx.

And now both the kids are asleep or doing a very convincing impression. And cue cries… gr. This afternoon Luuk is taking them off to watch a friend’s rugby game with our rugby friends.

Here, at my very clean house, we’ll be playing dress ups and shopping without spending (hurrah) and enjoying a grande goûter. I made chocolate truffles and blueberry cream cheese delights yesterday, and today I’ll put something together with baguette and cheese and smoked salmon and who knows what else I find about the place. It’ll be fab.