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Our flat is part of a large development, which was in turn part of an even larger inner city slum clearance program after the second world war.

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The slums were known as Happy Valley, located along a creek bed the 19th century housing was basic and pretty miserable, the slums were replaced by public housing and affordable privately owned flats. This is the third flat in the development that I’ve lived in. I love it.

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We’re a few blocks from the home my Grandpa was born in, and the one he spent most of his childhood and young adulthood in, before they moved to Coburg to better themselves.

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We’ve moved back to the city, into a little flat, swapping a big backyard full of roses for a balcony and shared garden. There are mature trees and lawn, some impressive camelias, and I can walk to work, which is why we came. The possums ate most of our potted plants on the first night, so I’m working towards a barricade of prickly cacti. They ate mint, Vietnamese mint, succulents and lemon leaves, the olive tree is fine though. I am coping with the destruction by laughing at our garden being reduced to bare earth by native wildlife in the city in a way it never was in the country.

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The boy likes his new school, but change is always tricky, so I am putting a bit of effort into his room to make it feel really his. Top of the list was replacing the revolting faded purple curtains with some orange ones. He loves bright colours and this one coordinates with his Nanna ‘lanket. The curtains are an unconventional three drops, so they’re easier to use again wherever we live next, no matter what shape the window is.

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I know, I know, I never thought I’d blog again either. If they ever get wifi on the trains I might do this more often.

I’ve been working, mostly, and catching the train. I spend a lot of time on the train. This week I’m at home unwell, I’m starting to get a little energy back, but mostly I’ve been lying on the couch. I won’t lie to you, I’ve been watching a lot of telly.

The little boy had a crack at making dinner last night. As is so often the case, this required a bit of planning. The Bloke re-wrote the recipe from experienced adult cook friendly chatty style to small child steps.

Dan says: Dad cooked the haloumi and Mum chopped the onion and I did the rest. We didn’t use all the right stuff, we used baby spinach and green beans but no asparagus. It tasted YUM!! We had blackberries and strawberries and grapes for dessert. That was yum too.

We moved house a few weeks ago, not by choice, our old landlady wants to move into the house. She gave us more notice than she had to, and she made sure we knew she loves what we did with the garden, and that she wanted us to keep coming back to pick things til she moves into the house in a couple of weeks. So we’ve been slowly getting things happening in the new garden, mulching one small patch, dead-heading lots and lots of roses, and waiting til the weather cools down so we can get on with proper pruning and planting. We’ve been picking tomatoes at the old place too, but given we haven’t been there to water anything, many of the other things didn’t do so well. Even the zucchini have failed to thrive.

The lad also started school. Which means we get notes from school. The new house, incidentally, doesn’t get as hot or as drafty as the old house, and it has an apple tree.

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Actually, the new house has four apple trees. Sadly three of them produce godawful red on the inside hideous apples from the root stock. But they’re beautiful on the outside, so we couldn’t help testing more than one of them.

In years to come this boy of mine may ask “how old was I when I walked/grew teeth/spoke” or “what was my first word?” and be disappointed to hear that I was not a proper mother and I did not purchase, let alone fill in, a Baby Book. The Bloke and I had made a pact to treat him like second born, and anyway we figured if he met all those milestones before anyone worried about his development then it was all ok.

I don’t know what the average age for first composition is. I’m fairly sure I wrote my first song aged 8 to coincide with the visit of the Pope to Australia. I was keen to tackle the big themes. I don’t remember how it went, but I do remember being quite proud of myself for working away at it. I wrote my second song aged 28 when my baby wouldn’t stop crying. It’s not a show stopper, but it made me feel better, and he has grown to like it. I asked once if Daddy was allowed to sing it, he was most insistent that no one else was allowed. It is ours.

Yesterday morning, after the usual moaning and groaning and whining about tv and computer time and all the toys being boring, he went to the keyboard and wrote a song. It’s about how the brand of our tv matches the stereo. He filmed himself playing it and then wrote down the notes. Musicians will see his notation system is unique, I was asked to play this evening from his written version. I basically made it up, don’t tell him that.

My sister wrote her first song when she was 19, when she had recently been diagnosed with leukaemia. It was a country spoof, about the Quest for the Ultimate Housemate, it was for me in honour of the crazy housemate I’d just moved away from. It’s the best present I’ve ever been given.

Some months later, when she knew she wasn’t going to get better she wrote another song. It is called Red. While she was in hospital Cazz made friends with Pete Murray, who promised to record the song for her. The song was recorded and soon it will be released. If you fancy joining me in making paper cranes and being in the music video, and you’re free this Sunday, please come along.

I will be the one trying to console the small boy, who thought we would be making cranes, which you build things with, not birds.

Time
13 November ยท 10:30 – 14:30
Location
The Pioneer Womens Garden , Royal Botanical Gardens
Off Alexander Parade, up the the big grassy hill
Melbourne, Australia

We need at least 350 people to turn up to the Royal Botanical Gardens – at the Pioneers Women’s Memorial Garden to join in making RED PAPER CRANES. Please bring along plain red paper, double sided red, standard origami size or squares cut from a Standard A4, we will also supply some, and there will be people on hand to teach you. You can practice between now and then on various You Tube’ How to make paper crane’ videos. And bring along any red ones you make. We have a Facebook page Pete’s Promise, visit it for updates and to show your support for the filming day. Bring everyone you know.
We will be filming you making cranes and placing them in trees.
All ages welcome!

Dress casual but please dont wear RED, if it’s raining we will do it on the 20th Nov.

Or, what to do with your prunings.

Bamboo teepee with kid legs

Bamboo teepee

I’ve been reminded by Zoe’s post about convenience, preprepared and packaged foods that I’ve been meaning to document some of my DIY convenience foods for a while now.

I’m a big fan of convenience. I’m not opposed to preprepared foods, my line tends to be drawn at the attractiveness of the packaging truth be told. If it’s brightly coloured and has cartoon characters on it I’m unlikely to purchase it, if they use nice fonts to tell me how quickly the noodles will cook it may well end up in my trolley. Apart from attractiveness my criteria are “how much unnecessary stuff is is in it?” and “how much does it cost?”. If there’s only one or two ingredients I’m generally happy. I usually buy bread and rice crackers and I have a whole section of cupboard devoted to tins of tomatoes, chickpeas and lentils. I buy dried chickpeas and lentils too, but I think it’s ok to use tins if you didn’t plan your meal 24 hours in advance, in much the same way, I can make bread and crackers (although not rice crackers) but generally I don’t. I have lots of sauces, and I’ve never made my own vinegar (although I have read instructions for doing so out of interest). My partner brews most of our beer, and we grow some of our vegetables. I make some of our yoghurt, but certainly not all. I am a fan of frozen berries and frozen peas, but can’t abide frozen carrot. I’m not opposed to frozen corn when the Bloke turns it into Nigella’s Sweet Corn Chowder. While I have been known to look longingly at advertisements for a local sausage-making class, I am yet to experiment with making small goods.

At the moment my partner and I are both working for money and sharing the domestic and childwrangling work. He works from home, so he cooks on the days I’m at work. I cook the other days, unless someone invites us to their house. When I was at home fulltime with the kid we had a pretty careful budget and I wanted to make sure that:

a) I didn’t go batshit crazy with being stuck at home with a toddler and no money for doing fun stuff

b) we didn’t go nuts or get sick eating a restricted diet of cheap carbs

c) figure out some ways of making the beginnings of some recipes ahead of time to keep in the freezer for days when I couldn’t be arsed, the boy was hanging off my leg at dinner time, or for when I went back to paid work.

So I set myself some challenges. I picked one of the Bloke’s cookbooks that I’d never used, and I started working my way through it one new recipe a week. After that I worked on one new recipe a week from any source. The first book was Mridula Baliekah’s best-ever CURRY cookbook: over 150 great curries from India and Asia, which the Bloke purchased for $9.95 probably from the bookshop outside the Nova cinema when he was footloose and fancyfree and went to the cinema with time to spare for book browsing. There may be millions of better curry cookbooks, but this one was already in the house and therefore free. Are you noticing a theme yet? Thrift was of the essence.

In my usual brilliant fashion I worked through the book from front to back, skipping anything that was unappealing. The book is organised regionally, fortunately, otherwise I’d have been eating alphabetically and it could have been very strange.

We started with chicken saag. Saag, as it turns out, is really easy to make ahead of time. You can cook and puree the spinach, fry up the onion & spices, add chopped tomatoes, and then bag it up for the freezer. Obviously if your recipe feeds four and there are only two of you this is a good time to divide it in half. When you want to eat it you defrost the sauce & simmer with chicken (or paneer, or tofu), add yoghurt & cook the rice. It’s a handy thing to remember if the spinach or silverbeet is looking a bit sad but you don’t want to eat it today. Or if silverbeet comes in your random veggie delivery and you can’t fit it in the fridge without removing everything else. That probably doesn’t happen to you, we still have a single lady fridge. Cooked silverbeet takes up much less room than raw. If you had oodles and oodles of silverbeet all in one go you could try preserving it in jars instead so you weren’t taking up the whole freezer, but I haven’t been in that position. Yet.

Following the incredible success of my frozen saag came the Roasted Aubergines with Spring Onions (the book is from the UK). Roasting eggplants isn’t hard, but it does tend to stink out the house and leave you with little bits of black under your fingernails so when I see a recipe start with First Roast Your Eggplant, I tend to think “maybe on the weekend”. But then it occurred to me that there’s no reason one can’t roast a whole heap of eggplants at the same time, get the skins off, and then bag them up individually with careful labelling. A preroasted eggplant and a tin of tomatoes and you’re on your way to a very nice curry sauce. Fry some onions, chilli & spices, throw in some mushrooms, combine defrosted eggplant & tinned tomatoes and you’re done. If you freeze things in small batches they’re easy to defrost while you chop the fresh last minute stuff.

That’s it for now, because I should be in bed. More to come. Possibly. If I remember.

 

My aunty* and I have boys a few months apart. They live in Sydney these days so we went to visit. We thawed out, looked at the glittery water and got a little vitamin D while we were there.

Then they rang us up, interrupted the conversation, and asked us to take a photo of them on the bridge

At the National Maritime Museum her baby slept while we looked at the exhibition, then we sat in the cafe to feed her baby while the our four year old boys and their fathers explored the submarine and destroyer. While I was tempted to see just how ridiculous my very tall partner would look in a submarine (he couldn’t stand up straight anywhere in the sub) the possibility of an uninterrupted conversation with K won out.

We remembered our school holidays together and commiserated about babies who don’t sleep unless they’re touching you. We remembered that we were not always mothers, who will drink pretty much any coffee that’s going, that before those babies we had standards dammit. That there was once more Nick Cave than the Wiggles on the playlist. That this total immersion experience with babies and preschoolers is hilarious and wonderful and that there are times we don’t recognise ourselves. We spent an hour talking without anyone asking us WHY? It was great.

Then we caught the ferry back to her house, all seven of us, and let the children play with the cameras.

Parramatta River Ferry, Life Jackets Under Seats

*yes my aunty, she’s just closer in age to me than her brother (my Dad)

Bright, multicoloured, flannel pjs. He seems to like them. He is less keen on having is photo taken, so you’ll have to put up with blur.

There are sick days, like yesterday, where all a kid wants to do is cuddle on the couch. There was a little light lego making, but basically I made stuff and he watched. He clearly felt like crap.

Today he’s a little better. Not well enough to go to kinder (and oh the wailing that inspired) but well enough to get bored with lying around. Well enough to want a little novely, not well enough to think it up by himself. I’ve been googling “1930s homemade toys” and youtubing “kid science experiments” and referring to Geek Dad.

So, for the next time I run out of ideas I thought I’d record for posterity what we did today before turning on the dvd player (which we have, because he’s completely run out of puff now).

1. Inspired by this guy in a white coat we blew up a balloon using nothing by bicarb and vinegar. Is there nothing bicarb and vinegar can’t do? When you’re done experimenting you can clean the toilet!

2. Looked at Museum Victoria and made a newspaper footy, which we kicked around a bit outside to see how it compared to his real one. We talked about how kids can make their own toys, and they don’t have to wait for grownups to buy them things. He has not mentioned his lust for the yellow lego train in several hours, perhaps the idea has sunk in a little. Or perhaps he’s just thinking up the next bit of plastic to moan about.

3. Also inspired by the Museum, we made a little slingshot. He had a few goes at flinging a clothespeg before declaring it all too hard. We’ll probably give it another go when he’s in a better mood for learning new skills. I don’t think he’ll be out hunting birds for dinner any time soon.

4. Threading and tying string through his wooden pegboard.

5. Made a colouring picture from one of our photos. He enjoyed watching me turn the photo into a line drawing in photoshop, but ran out of enthusiasm pretty quickly on the actual colouring.

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