Sport, ice-cream and other ramblings.

Dearest Ria,

Okay, so much to talk about. Firstly, and possibly most importantly, I checked my half-birthday on the website you found (genius) and it’s January 15, 2013. That is summer over here when the mangoes are juicy and the sun is a-shining. Just in case you were looking for a holiday… (hint-bomb)

What a perfect evening that was! Your ice cream looks amazing and I know it was because you are an ice cream wizard. I still remember that time you gave us home-made lavender ice cream. And that other time you made verjus sorbet. I don’t know if you’ve thought about it, and it might distract from your writing / family responsibilities / letters to moi / general life plan, but you should probably become an ice-cream mogul. I do have one question though – what is sole en papillote??

You are so right about the restorative power of nature and food. Food from nature, preferably (Ahem, raspberries straight off the bush? Are you trying to turn me green with envy?!) Recently my sister’s husband brought home freshly caught snapper and we made a feast, eating it in different ways – sashimi, ceviche, battered and fried, steamed with ginger. Wow. If only we’d had a mountain nearby to hike up before / after…

I cannot believe your mother was told to hurry up with her labour due to a “car being in the shop”. OMG. Words fail me. Yes, I have stories for B1 and B2. Actually, I have a stash of letters I wrote to each of them throughout my pregnancies, ending with a birth story letter for each of them. Every now and then I re-read them and smile. Recording your experience is one of my top ten tips for pregnancy (I’m pretending right now that I have ten tips…) because you forget, don’t you?  B1 and B2 have birthdays separated by a mere four days and because my letters were in fact emails that I sent to myself for safe keeping (i.e. dated) I could go back and see what was going on and how I was feeling on the exact same date in the previous pregnancy. I hope the letters are treasured by my girls. My mum and I were recently discussing a breastfeeding issue we’d both had with our first bubbas but not our second and she said to me – you must remember to tell B1 and B2 about that for when they have babies. It made me realise that in recording the troubles, challenges and nuances I might be creating something actually helpful. Imagine a few generations on and one of my girls is saying to her daughter “Oh yes, your grandmother had that trouble too. She wrote about it. Don’t worry, it won’t be a problem for the second.” Reassuring, don’t you think?

I’ve been meaning to ask you – are you an Olympics person? I’m not generally into following sport but I do enjoy the Olympics, I have to admit. I get all teary when I see the New Zealanders stride out in their crisp, new uniforms at the Opening Ceremony. Scratch that, I get teary during the whole of the Opening Ceremony. I heart Opening Ceremonies! I’m a sook for the whole pomp and palaver of it all. I like seeing an underdog take home a gold medal too. This year I’m hoping to catch some more waterpolo because I used to play when I was in highschool, but it can be tricky to get coverage of. Yes, me, the not-sporty-at-all one. Turns out I have a very tiny sporty streak.

So now I am off to bed, to give myself half a chance of getting up to see some of that Opening Ceremony with breakfast cereal and tissue close at hand…

Big hugs always,

Hannah x

Perfect Evening

Dear Hannah,

Sounds like you were a queen on your birthday–just as it should be. I think since becoming a mother, my birthday takes a backseat to my daughter’s, and instead takes on a sort of Mother’s Day flavour, which is so nice. I’m going to request the same treatment you got for my next birthday–cake, tea out with friends or family, generally being treated all day. Yes please!

Oh, and GET ME THAT STICKY DATE CAKE RECIPE. I discovered the wonders of baking with dates a few years ago, but since little e was born I haven’t made much with them. I’m imagining (in my mind’s stomach) that it tasted like sticky toffee pudding–caramelly and rich and teeth-achingly sweet in the best way. Am I right? I get the feeling whipped cream would be good here. It’s good anywhere, but here, yes. Please send details!

Do you know, I’ve been very good about desserts lately.  I recall you went through something similar after B1 was born—not being able to get those last few baby-blamed pounds off the hips? Although I recall you looked amazing in a pretty short time, lady. Well, I went back to work three weeks ago and man, was that a wakeup call. I guess it’s because most of the time I’ve worked there I’ve been a happy size (including last summer when I was hugely pregnant, but that’s missing the point I’m trying to make), so now I feel strange not being able to fit into the clothes I associate with working there. I want to fit into my beautiful grey dress pants, damn it! Therefore I’ve been avoiding my favourite part of the meal (and, really, of life). Not as hard when there’s fresh, juicy fruit around, to be sure, but at least once a day I find my dessert-addict voice whispering that one of these cookies wouldn’t do any harm. They’re so delicious and I haven’t made them in so long…But so far I have resisted. The date cake could be my undoing, but send the recipe anyway. I’ll save it for another time. I swear.

On to much more exciting things: Your latest fabulous success with The Colour of Tea! I was so excited to hear that the book’s been chosen to be Walmart Canada’s Read of the Month in December! I’m not a Walmart frequenter, but I will haunt the aisles to see your book there. An excellent choice on their part, of course, because 1) it makes such a pretty Christmas gift and 2) it’s a fantastic holiday read. Huzzah!

Okay, so the title of this post would lead you to believe there’s a perfect evening hanging around somewhere, right? Well, that would be last night. DH emailed me just as I was finishing work and ready to come home to ask if I wanted to hike up our local mountain (we make it a prerequisite to live in cities near hikeable-after-work mountains) before dinner, and that he’d already shopped for said dinner, and it would include a lot of the fennel we had just harvested for the garden. Perfect already, right? So off we went with little e in tow, and here is the view from the lookout:

DH enjoying the evening light and little e snoozing on his back.

After a leisurely descent we made it home in time for me to give little e a bath, some dinner and then put her to bed, while DH got on with dinner—sole en papillote with fennel and tomatoes and an orange and fennel salad. I don’t know how, but that salad was more refreshing and thirst quenching than any glass of water.

Then, of course we had to find something for dessert. Don’t worry—nothing to derail my grey dress pants goal. I’ve been making a lot of ice cream, you see. If you recall, last year I told you about Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. Well, I bought the cookbook and it’s now my ice cream bible. We have some vanilla in the freezer at the moment and some freshly cut pineapple in the fridge, so off we went into the garden with our bowls to sit on the grass and enjoy the tiny crunch of vanilla seeds between our teeth. Oh, and since we were sitting beside the raspberry patch, it was only natural to pick a handful to go with the last of the ice cream once the pineapple had been eaten off the top.

It’s been so long since we’ve had an evening like this. Life is far too busy. Too stressful. The days too short. I love how food and a good hike in the woods makes me slow down and just appreciate. Living with the senses does that. But we forget.

Birth stories, you asked about. Well, my mother has a few, but none of them involve daffodils. One is about how, once she was pushing, the doctor asked if she’d get on with it because he needed to get his car out of the shop (not a euphemism). I, thankfully, had a much more positive experience than she did, and I have written the whole thing out, which I hope little e will want to read when she’s old enough. I love how the legacy of her birth is not only a transformative thing for me, but that it could also be for her, and that it could teach her about trusting herself and her body and being positive in challenging situations. Do you have little stories for B1 and B2?

I’ve been meaning to give you a garden update, but that will have to wait until next time. This is already an unforgivably scattered letter. But there will be photos of green things. And maybe a baby among the flowers…

Smooches,

Ria

PS- I think half-birthdays are a grand idea. Let’s make it our mission celebrate them–after all, it’s another reason to eat cake. You can find your half birthday here. And the website gives you other key details, like how many days until your next (actual) birthday, in case you want to do a count down, preschooler-style.

Birthday Happiness

Kendall’s marvellous sticky date cake (recipe to come!)

Dear Ria,

I got your birthday e-card! Cupcake tic-tac-toe, love it! Speaking of sieve brain syndrome, I LOST my first go at it. Tic-tac-toe, I mean (we call it “noughts and crosses” down here in Southern hemisphere land). Who loses Tic-Tac-Toe?! Embarrassing. If I continue that kind of “duh” behaviour B1 is going to be giving me eye-rolls in absolutely no time. Do I worry about becoming a humiliation to my daughters? For sho. I’m the sort of person who writes “for sho”, I mean, it’s gonna be bad. I make myself cringe–I can’t imagine how horribly embarrassing I am going to be to them.

Related note: Have you seen I love you, Man?  There are several scenes where he tries to impress his new mate and ends up inventing strange and uncool sayings. I’m like that. Only with children who will one day start saying “Could you drop me off down the road, I’ll just walk the last hundred metres to school / X’s house / the party etc”. And I’ll reply something like “Totes Magotes“.

Back to my birthday….it was awesome! B1 gave me an enormous balloon when I woke up in the morning, my sister brought over homemade sticky date cake with caramel sauce (see photo above! Everyone should eat sticky date cake in the morning), Matt looked after babes while I snuck out for lunch and orange pekoe tea with Mum and Sis, I was spoiled with love and notes and presents. Happiness! And then, as if that weren’t enough, Matt and I went out for dinner while Sis babysat the little ones and we got to talk to each other and wear clothes that didn’t have baby spit-up on the shoulders. Wow. Do I have to wait twelve months for the next one? Shouldn’t we get halfway ones, six months on??

What I love most about a birthday is that you can grant yourself suspension from everything you should be doing or worrying about. I didn’t do chores. I didn’t worry about my manuscript or a bunch of emails I had to reply to or my taxes. I spent time putting on makeup (doesn’t happen very often). I drank my tea slowly and enjoyed it without having to shove it in the microwave seven times because someone or something distracted me from sitting down and actually drinking it. I ate like a woman possessed and didn’t think about my weight, because hey, it’s my birthday, I’m radiant!

Anyway, now it’s the day after my birthday and I need to come back down to earth. I too have some hardcore volunteering to do (that made me laugh so hard, so true) a squash pie to make (Yum! Ta!) and some general worrying, peppered with procrastination (Lizzie Bennet diaries will help with this, I LOVE it!) and daydreaming about winning the lottery. My Mum bought me a ticket for tonight’s jackpot as a birthday present. A present that could be worth meeeeeeellions of dollars!! Wouldn’t that be nice (see? daydreaming…).

Lots of love,

Hannah

PS. The daffodils in the photo are from my Mum. She always tells me that the daffodils in Christchurch bloomed on the day I was born. I love it when she says that. Does your Mum have ‘when you were born’ stories? Have you saved some for little e?

Squash Pie and So Much More

Dear Hannah,

We’re rolling! It’s so exciting. Thanks for your great first post/letter. It’s nice to have our thought process immortalized for all time. Emblazoned on the internet is about as “carved in stone” as we can get these days. No pressure.

I too have had several Awesome Ideas, but I must have the same disease of the mind that you do—in fact I just had one and then I got up from the computer to drain the snap peas I’m blanching for the freezer and now that I’m sitting down again—gone. All I know is it was an Awesome One. Baby brain, mama brain, the proverbial sieve. It gets me at work all the time and I feel like a walking blob of amnesia. If you can picture that. Oh well, I’ll move on and it will come to me, right?

So, that butternut squash pie recipe Matt keeps talking about. It is heaven, no? I found it while searching for food blogs a few years ago—I actually found a great butternut squash loaf recipe from the same blog—and neither has failed me. Farmer’s Daughter is a great little site and her recipes are easy and definitely comfort food. Here’s the one you want. It’s true what she says: once you make a pumpkin pie with butternut squash, you never go back. Now, promise me you will make it (okay, maybe with assistance from babysitters and a chef-mate). It will taste like Thanksgiving.

Speaking of heaven, did I ever tell you about this cool little thing called The Lizzie Bennet Diaries? Long story short, my favourite vlog duo, John and Hank Green, have started several new YouTube channels, one of which is Hank’s project, a vlog retelling of Pride and Prejudice. I never read Jane Austen in high school (man, do I wish I had!), but I kept hearing about how amazing P&P was and then Lizzie Bennet started and DH and I were all, We need to check out the source if we’re going to watch this vlog. The source being, of course, the British miniseries, because it’s hard to read a novel together on the couch.  And I was hooked. So now we anxiously wait for new Lizzie Bennet episodes and discuss the clever ways they integrate plot points and characters when they only have a static camera and a very limited number of actors. You have to watch it! And then we can have a lovely old hashing out here. With big slices of butternut squash pie in front of us…

Question: Do you ever worry about being a complete embarrassment to your children? Like, already? I didn’t think this would kick in until maybe year ten or eleven of little e’s life, but for the first time I realise that I will be that uncool, totally embarrassing idiot, not matter what I do. She will look at me with that cutting contempt and I will feel useless. Because I’ve doled it out to my mother enough times since puberty. I guess maybe that’s it—I know what it feels like to do it, so for certain I’ll be the recipient someday. Ugh. Those darn tables—they always turn!

Better get back to work, and by work I mean book edits. Which is not so much work as it is hard-core volunteering.

Smooches,

Ria

PS-Some summer flowers for you from our garden!

And So It Begins….

Dear Ria,

I had some Awesome Ideas for this first post. Then I tried to rock babygirlnumbertwo (henceforth known as B2) to sleep. She refused and I forgot my Awesome Ideas. While feeding her I had more Awesome Ideas. Then she needed to be changed (she had done one of *those ones* that had made its way up all over back, clothes, everything. Ueeeuuurgggh.) I made moves to write some notes once she was clean and smiling but there was no paper / digital device handy. Then Babygirlnumberone (B1) returned home with her daddy and proceeded to cause chaos. Awesome Ideas once again vanished. And so it goes… My kids clearly have no clue that we are about to create a blog sensation with our amazing online dialogue.

So. Instead of a post made up of Awesome Ideas, I am instead going to briefly document the beginnings of our little project to save it for posterity. As you may or may not recall, you sent me an email that, at the end of it, said this:

“I realized the other day that I feel so lucky to have you as a pen-pal (type-pal?), and that I see our emails as lovely little presents that come into my inbox. I love getting presents, and even more, giving them. So thanks for so many little Christmases. It feels old fashioned and modern at the same time, like a Dearest Friend, but in digital form.”

Aw, shucks!!! I was a bit touched (And inspired. Hang about….) All of a sudden a bolt of lightning came down from the sky and I quickly wrote you this:

“Hey, I just had a fantastic idea for a blog. You and I – writing from different hemispheres – about work and family and advice and seasons and home making and writing. Wouldn’t it be wonderful?? A kind of ongoing conversation with photographs, gossip etc. I like doing my blog but it does sometimes feel so one-sided. Something collaborative would be so much more interesting. Clearly we would need Skype sessions to discuss ‘work’ and perhaps a joint holiday or two to catch up, tax deductible…??                        

And then you said something like this: “Um.” followed by “Yes!”

And I said: “EeeeeEEEeeeeeeeee!”

And then, because you are a creative genius and you totally got it, you said:

“I was thinking about all the similarities and also the differences that we could draw on with our ‘project’:

Two writers

Two mothers

Two foodies

Two readers

Two travelers

Two hemispheres

Two countries

Two book genres

Two views on life

What would we call it? And how the hell would we find the time to do it?!”

I’m looking forward to seeing how this evolves. Just like a great cheese, a fine wine or a treasured friendship. I will be honest with you, you will be honest with me and we will not always agree. Except to agree that we will respect one another and one another’s point of view and take it from there. It will be a conversation. On old fashioned pen-pal letter swap. A dialogue between two mothers, two writers and two friends, across the big swag of ocean between us. In short, it will fill the gap until we can see each other in person, pour tea, pass babies to husbands, ignore chores and responsibilities, talk for too long, know we should probably leave or do something “useful” but instead offer Another Piece of Cake.

Lotsa love,

Hannah

PS. My baby girls seem to have the same acronyms / nicknames as fruit that wear sleeping attire. Hmmm. The Husband / Matt has agreed to be referred to as “Matt”, plain and simple. Perhaps he is trying to tell me my nicknamery skills are a bit crap.

PPS. Matt wants the recipe for that sweet squash pie that you made for us at Thanksgiving. He talks about it. All. The. Time. Save me the agony of hearing about it again and send the recipe or shove some in the post? x