One Year Later

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Kalk Bay harbour from the Harbour House Restaurant, April 2017

I have been anticipating this moment for the past few months with some mild yet bemused excitement. We are on holiday in South Africa but this is just a vast beautiful backdrop to the event that has been foremost on my mind. My blog has finally turned one year old!

It seems strange that this milestone carries more weight in my mind than a three week holiday in the sun, however, it’s a significant milestone for me because for the first time since I started having babies nearly 15 years ago, I am creating something else that brings me more joy than I could have possibly imagined.

I notice my very first blog post was a recollection of a journey my husband and I took to the Okavango 17 years ago and here I am in Africa again, marvelling at what a journey this past year has been for me. Back then I didn’t know how much I loved writing and how much I am looking forward to the places it will take me in the future.

It has provided me with a new passion at the not so tender age of 45. It has offered me the opportunity to learn and be mentally stimulated – I have taken some writing courses. In March I undertook to embark on a 10k writing challenge and succeeded in completing it in less than a month as well as win an award. Now I have the beginnings of a novel and I am excited to see it through to the end.

I am sort of learning to take pride in myself and what I have done which, I admit, is an ill fitting garment.

I had hoped that before this year was up I would somehow have reached 100 followers, I did last week! So here are two more little badges I can stitch on to my brownie uniform just to inspire and encourage myself not to give up. I’m not sure I could give it up now anyway, I love it too much.

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Beauty and the Beast 2017

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I have just returned home after watching director Bill Condon’s Beauty and the Beast with my three girls (8,10,14) and honestly I could go straight back and watch it all over again!  Love, a villain, loss and a happy ending, all woven into a gorgeous backdrop – Disney have nailed the ultimate fairytale recipe that guarantees a delight, and this one is with triple chocolate frosting.

It was such a treat seeing the 1991 Disney film come to life through an amazing interplay of actors and animation. And what a cast! I didn’t realise until the end that Emma Thompson, Ian McKellan, Stanley Tucci and Ewan McGregor played the most loved parts of all – the animated household objects.

My attention was absorbed by the detail and especially the clothes, they must have had such fun designing that whole film, but I would have loved to be in on the costumes. (Except, I have to admit I would have asked for Belle’s peasant dress to be pulled out of her knickers).

I cried, of course (I do confess I always get a little too close to the emotion) – just glad I could provide another teenage eye roll opportunity. I tried not to sing too loud during the familiar songs, and there were some new ones, which was a pleasant surprise. The scenes that captivated me the most was the opening ball – which is new to the story, and the classic ‘Be Our Guest’. The visuals were stunning throughout the film but in my opinion these two topped them all.

Just one thing though, there were some very young and upset kids in the audience today and I was glad mine were the ages they are now as the fright factor would have been too much for them. This film is definitely more adult in some of its themes than the 1991 version.

The overarching messages of choosing to love in spite of the cost and overcoming evil through redemptive love, brought hope and life to the story and are what left me with that warm fuzzy feeling in the end. I thought that was so true for our non-fairytale lives too. And besides that, I am a happy ending type of gal.

You can watch the trailer here.

Now, who wants to come and watch Despicable Me 3 with me? I CAN’T WAIT! The trailer is hilarious – as long as you have a very loud laugh, you’d be welcome.

“Mum, What’s the Meaning of Lice?”

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“The meaning of LICE? As in those horrible, disgusting little creatures you kids love to bring home on your heads? Or are you wondering about why you’re here? Eight years old is a quite young to be pondering your life purpose, don’t you think?” I’m smiling, I have to admit I’m a little impressed by my child’s cuteness/insight.

“Lice! I was just wondering why God made them?”

“Mmmm, interesting concept. Like mosquitos they are infinitely exasperating. Actually I’d love to ask Him the same question as I can’t think of one good reason why lice, or mosquitoes, were created.” It’s true, I’d love to, they seem utterly pointless to me – nasty little blood suckers! As for the meaning of life, however, I’m prepared to embark on a lengthy discourse, but don’t.


Actually I think lice share something in common with the meaning of LIFE. It’s a topic I could talk about at great lengths with those who I know are struggling with the same issue, often with sensitivity, in private, or in hushed tones if I’m surrounded by others I wish not to offend or embarrass. And both have made me cry!

It has taken me a few months to come out in the open here on my blog and confess lice is a problem in the life of my family. I hope you will understand. It’s an issue we have struggled with on and off for over two years now. I have worked my way through all the products on the shelf as well as all the ‘tried and trusted’ home remedies. I have washed and combed and laundered and combed and shampooed (and did I mention combed?) until I’m a blubbering pile of self pity on the kitchen floor.

The worst was when my husband and I had a falling out over the issue – I felt his attitude was somewhat laissez faire for my liking. I thought, ‘This cannot go on!’

And then one day I made peace with my situation, I told myself, ‘This is LIFE, just DEAL with it!’ I’m so much happier as a result. I am now somewhat of an expert in the field – due to my magnitude of experience. I accept that this may be an ongoing battle until the day that my youngest of four, my eight year old I mentioned above, finally leaves home.

Then my children can take their nasty little pets away with them.

In the meantime I will continue the fight, I will not give up. If your kids have lice, I will still love them. I also understand if you don’t want to send your lice-free kids over on a play date, but if you do, I might comb them – just to check.

Now I am on a campaign to educate and inform other parents who may be struggling with the same issues. Please post your queries, comments and desperate measures below. Or you can call my help line on: + 555 I HATE LICE.

 

 

Confounding Symptoms. If only…

My father was a neurosurgeon, and he made mistakes. If he had been more of a machine and less human, was never tired or sick himself and always made the right decisions, there are still vast swathes of unchartered territory in the medical understanding of how our bodies work. To put it simply, what makes us live and die is a scientific mystery. If only we were perfect.

Now, three months after my little nephew died, and the bitter reality is seeping in that he has left us, the autopsy results are still inconclusive. His symptoms point to something greater, rarer and not understood. For the month that he was sick, I know they fought with all their accumulated experience and knowledge to make him live, but it wasn’t enough. If only…

This morning one of my dearest friends is currently undergoing a biopsy test. For the past five years, through a haze of pain, she has been on an endless quest for answers. Her symptoms have lain undiagnosed for so long, but how could they have been missed? I’d be lying if I don’t admit that I am terrified. If only…

And yet I still cling to my false impression of the infallibility of the medical profession. I still have hope that when my child is sick they will be made well again because I know that we have come a long way from the days when women routinely lost their children to mysterious illnesses. I know my child’s life has been spared a couple of time through early intervention of infection and I am grateful for those times. I also have hope in this unexplained mystery, the intervention of prayer, even though my own payers have failed miserably in the past. If only…

Later I will be calling the doctor to take this child, who has had mysterious pains and unexplained symptoms, for another appointment. Even though I’ve been before, I’m not ready to give up hope. Who else would I turn to anyway? Would you call this a crisis of faith? I do wish my Dad was still here so I could ask him. If only…

In response to the Daily Prompt: Symptom

WooHoo! It’s done, all 10,000 words of it!

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I could see the little number counter clocking higher and higher down on the left hand side of the screen in Word so I just couldn’t stop. I finally completed Chapter Six last night and this concludes the first section of my book, as well as the 10k March writing challenge – and I’m delighted!

I am just in the process of tidying up a few details and will then post the chapter up on ChapterBuzz.

Thanks to everyone who has shared this journey with me, I have appreciated all the feedback and encouragement, it’s been amazing. 🙂

Thanks too especially to Timothy Pike who set the challenge up in the first place, you can read more about the challenge here on his blog.

Now I just have the not so small task of completing the novel!

How a Story Becomes a ‘Hopeful Thing’: George Saunders on His Writing Process

“We buy into some version of the intentional fallacy: the notion that art is about having a clear-cut intention and then confidently executing same.” This makes so much sense to me in not only writing but also painting. The end result is often not what one sets out to achieve. I also love what he says about the many incremental changes that change the course of the ship.

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At The Guardian, George Saunders reflects on his writing process. The magical, romantic notion where fully formed art leaps from the author’s brain on to the page? It dishonors the writer, the reader, and the work. In reality, it takes “hundreds of drafts” and “thousands of incremental adjustments” to form a story into a “hopeful thing.”

If you love George Saunders, check out the Anton Chekhov-George Saunders Humanity Kit and see what it’s like to take a literature course with Mr. Saunders, for yourself.

We often discuss art this way: the artist had something he “wanted to express”, and then he just, you know … expressed it. We buy into some version of the intentional fallacy: the notion that art is about having a clear-cut intention and then confidently executing same.

The actual process, in my experience, is much more mysterious and more of a pain in the…

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Of Kids, Cottage Pie, Chocolate and Turnips (and St Patrick’s Day)

 

This is not a recipe, really. It’s just another poorly photographed discussion around something delicious. There are some really beautiful food blogs out there, like Andrea’s – that I only recently found. My cooking is more about feeding the masses on a daily basis. So last night I made cottage pie for 9 and while I was adding a few peculiar ingredients I wondered whether others have used these ideas too. Perhaps you have, and more besides? What are the secret ingredients in your cottage pie?

The picture on the right? Here is one very dear little 9 year old friend who makes me laugh everytime she comes over to play with my girls. What would make more sense than wearing ski goggles while you eat your dinner? Anyway, she can’t eat much beef so I augmented the topping of the pie with a secret (horrible*) vegetable and cheese.

Because yesterday was a cold St Patrick’s Day, and we had been out watching the parade in this little corner of Ireland called Wexford, I wanted something easy to make and comfortingly warming for supper. When it comes to ticking those boxes, Cottage Pie is one of my favourites. So being lazy, I was planning on just adding a bit of instant gravy powder to the sauted beef and onions to add flavour, only to discover I had none, nor even any beef stock. I solved the flavour problem with worcestershire sauce (essential ingredient anyway), a vegetable stock cube and a generous sprinkling of barbecue salt (garlic flavoured – of course). But for a richer colour? So here’s my little piece of shocking news – but maybe not to you ? – I used:

Cocoa powder!

Of course, chocolate goes with anything 🙂 I know it is perfect in both sweet and savoury dishes and cocoa works a treat in Cottage Pie as it lends a lovely but subtle richness. **

Now about turnips, the *horrible vegetable mentioned above. Yuck! Around the age of six or seven I endured the torment that is the dreaded school dinner in the UK. My only memories are bad, they include mushy peas, mashed turnip and my own sick (sorry, maybe not a good mention in a food article). The canteen had a very distinctive smell that I can recall after almost forty years, the only way I can describe it is a type of deep fried custard and jelly – yes, odd I know.

So it’s only taken me that long to finally buy a turnip. I did, last month, to make soup. They are very good at hiding behind other yummier veggies and they are incredibly cheap! So I boiled some chunks up with the potatoes and mashed them all together to put over the minced beef layer. That was topped by a generous sprinkling of grated cheddar cheese and left to bake in the oven until bubbling and melty.

Just a note, I don’t add peas or carrots to the mince but serve veggies on the side, my kids, like me, also don’t enjoy that mushy veggieness. Last night we had snappy green beans which was a perfect foil to the smoothness of the pie.

I have to say, it was a triumph of a pie, number one because the kids loved it, number two because I have found another good use for a cheap vegetable and number three because it comes with cocoa. 🙂

**Please note, I would not add any chocolate containing sugar to the pie.