Friday, 25 July 2014

On Writing and Writers

If you are a blogger, you'd be well and truly familiar by now with The Writing Process Bloghop but if you are not a blogger, I will quickly fill you in: the bloghop focuses on discovering other bloggers' motivation for writing and the process or processes they undergo to achieve their finished products. It consists of four questions which, from a reader's perspective, provide an interesting way to gain an insight into bloggers' thoughts on their own writing and from a writer's perspective, provide an interesting exercise in reflecting on what drives us to do what we do and how our ways of doing it are similar or different from others'. 

                                                                              source

But what is a bloghop? I hear the non-bloggers ask. Well, it's nothing at all like a high school hop. It involves bloggers answering a set of questions and then nominating a certain number of other bloggers (in this case three) who they have connected with through the blogging community to do the same. Back at the end of June, I was nominated by Yvonne Spence who blogs over at yvonnespence.com and also at inquiringparent.com. I was supposed to post my own answers a week afterwards, meaning I am now disgracefully late in doing so. 

Yvonne is the author of two books: Looking for America, a collection of short stories set in the Shetland Isles and Drawings in the Sand, a novel about transformation and forgiveness. You can read her own responses to The Writing Process bloghop questions over here.



And now, to get my contribution to the bloghop rolling, I'll share with you my answers to the four questions and then reveal my three nominees.

What am I working on?

I'm currently working on banishing my tendency for laziness, excuses and procrastination and finally gluing my butt to a chair for long enough to write the story of my son's and my experience of living in Sicily - what motivated me to pack up my life and take my five year old son to the other side of the world to live indefinitely, the adventures and the tribulations we had while we lived on the island and how those experiences and the people we met there changed our lives in unforeseeable ways in the months and years since we returned home to Australia. 

One of the reasons I think it has taken me so long to start this project is that I had no idea how the story would end. Even before we stepped foot on the island, I already felt a calling to write a book about whatever it was that we would experience there. Initially, I anticipated that it would be a book full of funny anecdotes about linguistic faux pas and quintessential Italians doing funny little quintessential Italian things and hopefully a bit of evidence of personal growth thrown in there for good measure. What I want to write now is still all those things, but it is also involves a darker facet and things I never would have imagined living through or writing about when I began that journey.

The first step in starting this project is to gather together and organise all the notes I have written over the last four years. I never wrote notes directly onto a computer the way a sane, organised person would do. My notes were scribbled on the backs of envelopes and bus tickets, on post-it notes, on paper napkins, on the back pages of whatever novel I was reading at the time and yes, occassionally even in notebooks. I have lost count of how many notebooks I own. There has never been any system to how I write in them. It has always been a case of a thought coming to me and me rushing to grab the nearest notebook (or anything else that it is possible to write on) and scrawling down that thought before it gets away.

I'm quite curious as to what I will find when I begin this organisation process in earnest. Every now and then I pick up something I wrote three or four years ago and I often can't even remember writing it and am sometimes amused, sometimes amazed and sometimes saddened to realise that that was how I was thinking at that particular time.

The nagging desire I used to feel so urgently to eventually have this book published when it is finally written has actually dissipated. What remains is an overwhelming need to put this story into words so that I can piece it all together and finally understand it for myself and so I can lay it all to rest and then move on.

How does your work differ from others in its genre?

In relation to blogging, I think my work falls easily into the genre of 'mummy blogging' because most of my posts focus on aspects of parenting and the misadventures I have had therein. I have diverged from that a little though with the Italian lessons I posted here. They are not cut and dry lessons though because they contain stories from our time in Sicily that relate to the respective topics of eachlesson.

Other than that, I suppose you could say that my work might differ from others within its genre in terms of its quirkiness. I've always been a little bit unconventional (I grew up in a house without a TV so really, it was destiny) and its difficult to hide that quirkiness when you're writing a blog. Eventually, over time, you're either going to stop blogging, or your authentic self is going to emerge. Gradually, the latter is happening to me.

Why do I write what I do?

The short answer to that is that is stops me going insane. I wrote the long answer in the post I wrote to celebrate my one year blogiversary.

How does my writing process work?

My head is constantly swarming with ideas for blog posts and other genres of writing, but my problem is that I rarely have time to write them down. Often, when I'm hanging out washing or doing dishes or sorting clothes, I compose posts in my head. Even if I never get the chance to sit down and type them out, I still get that feeling of creative satisfaction.

The posts that do make it to the blog and usually already composed in my head by the time I sit down in front of the computer. This process works well for me in terms of time management - I compose a post mentally when I can't be at the computer and when I can, I punch it out as quickly as possible (hence the frequency of my typos!)

Sometimes, though, I'll sit down at the computer and then I'll suddenly be hit by how tired I am and I never push myself to write through that tiredness. I have far too much respect for the healing properties of sleep and the perils of evading them. On those nights, I'll usually type paragraph headings so that I have an outline of what I am going to write in each paragraph. Once I've done that, I feel like I've actually done the hard part (even though it only took a few minutes) and that all I really have to do is pad it out later and I'm done. Then I go to sleep and, with a clear plan in my head of the structure of my post, my subconscious ticks away and I know that what I eventually end up writing is infinitely better than what I would have written if I'd forced myself to stay up and write in a state of exhaustion.

When it comes to content, I believe that since blogging is my hobby and therefore not something I am obliged to do, that it should be a source of joy and so if I had planned to write a post on a particular topic on a particular day but when that day comes I don't feel that writing that would bring me joy, then I write about something else that does. I don't think about what will be popular out there on the world wide web, I just think about playing around with words and allowing them to bring joy into my life.


And now for the nominees ...

These three writers are all Australian-based bloggers who I have met (virtually) during my first year of blogging. Each of them is extremely gifted with words and I am inspired by their achievements and their individual perspectives on life. If you haven't discovered them yet, I really recommend finding them online via the links below in their bios. But that's enough from me, let's talk about them!


Rita Azar


Rita is a writer, blogger and crafter.  She's a French Canadian woman with a Lebanese background now living in Melbourne.  She speaks French and Arabic and is now learning Italian. She's a Canadian lawyer who also completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Journalism at RMIT University.  But now that she has reconnected with her love for writing, she is working on editing her first novel and thinks that this is certainly one of the most challenging things she has ever done. 

Rita blogs at http://thecraftyexpat.comYou can also follow her here:

Francesca Suters



Francesca is a thirty-something Australian woman who wears many hats (figuratively - she's not literally much of a hat person). She has a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws from the University of Newcastle and currently works part-time in a corporate setting. Since she was a child, she has always loved writing. In adulthood, Francesca pursues this interest through blogging, a hobby which is flexible enough to fit around her responsibilities as a working parent. Francesca has just published her first novel, Returning, which is available as a paperback and an ebook.

Her book website is www.francescasuters.weebly.com
Her Facebook pages are:
Kathy Kruger



Kathy is an adoptive mother of two beautiful kids from China who blogs about going with the flow, finding balance, embracing change, and being grateful at www.yinyangmother.com. 

A former journalist, Kathy shares insights from her long journey to motherhood and her life lessons about healing – the gift of loss is indeed the joy of gain.

Kathy loves words, wisdom and wine (not necessarily in that order). She practices yoga and meditation and her latest project is creating short meditation videos for children, using the visual medium to calm kids in our busy and overstimulated world! 

Connect with Kathy  [http://www.facebook.com/ yinyangmother], Twitter [yinyangmother@yinyangmother] 


Melting Moments


Is writing your hobby, your passion or your job? How would you describe your writing process?

Friday, 11 July 2014

Vegetarian Brazilian 'Prato Feito' - and a google translate fiasco

With the World Cup buzz over in Brazil reaching fever pitch this week, I thought it was high time I tried out a Brazilian dish I've been meaning to make for a couple of months.

Back in April, my kids and I took a spontaneous train trip into the city of Perth one Friday evening after school and when we arrived, we found ourselves, unexpectedly, in the middle of The Twilight Hawkers Market, an international street food festival.


After wandering around all the stalls, we decided we wanted to have something Brazilian for dinner. We stopped at a food truck called Comida do Sul, which is run by two beautiful Brazilian sisters (you can find them on instagram @comidadosul and also a photo they took of Ben and me eating over here.)

I ordered a meal called Vegetarian Prato Feito. It looked like this (sorry that I hacked into it before I remembered to take a photo - it smelt so good I just couldn't help myself. I'll never cut it as a food photographer!)



So for weeks now, I have had a post-it note stuck to my fridge with the words Prato Feito on it -  a reminder to myself to research this dish and make it myself. Everyone who has visited in that time and sat in my kitchen has eventually asked what it is and now, after a lot of investigation and a lot of time spent over at google translate, I am finally able to shed some light on the answer. Well, sort of.

Hunting down an actually recipe for Prato Feito was much harder than I thought it would be. After reading lots of different Brazilian blogs, this was what I had found out:

* 'Prato' means 'dish' and 'Feito' means 'made', 'done' or 'created', so possible English translations of the dish could be 'made meal', 'done dish' or a 'put-together plate' - none of which sound nearly as enticing as they do in Portuguese, do they?

* Contrary to being something exotic, Prato Feito (or PF as it is usually known) is a common meal, akin to a counter meal in Australian culture.

*Generally, it consists of a piece of meat (usually steak), some chips, rice, egg and beans.

* The egg can be served in any way the cook/customer choses and a vegetarian version simply replaces the meat with some tasy meatless treat.

Here is my version of my 'put-together plate' - oven-baked chips, rice with sauteed onions and mushroom (instead of meat), buttered beans and boiled egg with parsley.



I'm still searching for the combination of flavours that the sisters used and until I do, my Prato Feitos will have to be quite anglicised versions!

What I did find in my hunt for an elusive vegetarian PF recipe was some instructions on how to prepare it using pork. I stuck the text into google translate and stared back at the screen in horror, but when I realised what must have happened, it quickly turned into an epic LOL moment. Now at the risk of sounding critical of google translate, I'd like to state that I think that on the whole it provides an optimal service, but there are instances (especially when it comes to homographs I found) when it can also leave you more than slightly confused.

Allow me to explain. It seems that the Portuguese word miúdos has two meanings: the first is 'kids' (as in children) and the second is 'giblets' - giblets being the offal inside a bird, chicken, turkey or, as in this case, pig (I learnt a new English word in the process as well as a Portuguese one!) So miúdos de porco are pig giblets.

Anyway, what appears to have happened is that google translate favoured the first meaning of the word miúdos over the second and so the recipe came out like this:

Put the kids pig on the fire with water, enough lemon juice and sliced ​​lemons in half. Bring to a boil, change water and bring to a boil again. Chop the kids. Add all the spices. The next morning, fry the spices and the kids. Add water and cook two to three hours until the kids are nice and soft. Pour in the blood and let thicken.

Mmm, yum yum ...can't say I'm sorry I made the veggie version instead!!


The Multitasking Mummy

one mother hen

Have you ever had a funny google translate moment?

Do you know any other Brazilian recipes? (preferably ones without kids in them please!)

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Everybody Loves a Poo Story


My daughter has reached that delightful, precursor-to-toilet-training age where, upon filling her nappy or 'producing the goods' (as my mother so euphemistically terms it), she will take off her pants, undo her nappy and leave it wherever she happens to be standing at the time.

Now I'm quite sure that none of you out there would be particularly impressed with a photo of one of the genuine articles mentioned in the above scenario, so here is a photo of how her brother and I react when we discover one of these said articles.


In observing his only sibling evolve from a tiny baby into an independent-minded miniature little lady, my son is both endearingly fascinated and mildly disturbed by some of her behaviours. One of his most frequent questions to me these days is: "Did I do that when I was a baby?"

Last week, after Annalisa had houdinied her way out of her outfit, stripped off her nappy and smeared its contents all over Ben's bike in the time it took me to take the shopping in from the car, he asked me just that.

"Well, you didn't do exactly that", I answered him. "But you did do a couple of things even worse than that which involved poo".

"What were they?" he said, with the intonation of excitement that most nine-year-old boys tend to revert to when talking about poo.

It seems it was time to open the floodgates of memory lane.

"When you were a little bit older than Annalisa is now," I told him, "I thought you were having an extra long sleep-in one morning. I went into your room and discovered that you weren't sleeping at all and that you had done an enormous poo, taken off your pyjamas and your nappy and had painted your cot and the walls in it. It took me all morning to clean the cot and the sheets and your clothes and the walls. And you".

He squealed with laughter.

I actually have photographic evidence somewhere of this natural disaster, but I'm not going to go searching for it as I'm quite sure you'd rather be spared from that too. I will say, however, that it was an event which cemented itself firmly in my mind forevermore as the a-poo-calypse.

And yet, this is not even my most memorable poo story.

"What's the other thing I did with poo?" he asked, jumping up and down on one leg in anticipation.

As I whiped poo off Ben's bike, he sat down on the grass beside me and seeing as this was one of those rare occasions where I had his complete attention, I told him that story too. It went like this ...

When he was little and we lived up in the tropics in Darwin I'd often let him run around in just his nappy if we were just at home for the day.

That meant it was really easy for him to undo his nappy whenever he wanted to and as he got older he used to do it a lot. Sometimes he'd take the nappy off even when there was nothing in it just so he could run around naked. (He squealed with laughter again when I said the word 'naked').

One afternoon, I was waiting for an electrician to come round to our house and fix up a problem we had with the electricity in the lounge room. When he arrived and knocked on the door, I realised that Ben had taken off his nappy again. I located the nappy, but because it didn't have any wee or poo in it (insert giggles) I put it back on him and answered the door.

This was the first time I'd met this electrician. I didn't tell Ben that he was of Mediterranean heritage and about a generation and a half older than I was. I left that out because I thought the significance of this information would probably be lost on him. What happened during the electrician's visit was bad enough without adding the fact that Mediterranean men, particularly ones belonging to older generations, usually have very set ideas about how a housewife should look after a home. But I'm getting ahead of myself here.

At first the electrician was really friendly and chatty and told me what a beautiful baby Ben was. I asked him if he'd like a coffee, he said yes, and I went off to make it while he checked all the electrical plugs in the lounge room.

When I came back with the coffee, it was like he was a completely different person. The smile had left his face.

'It's all fixed', he said flatly.

'That was fast', I told him.

He grunted something inaudible.

I handed him the coffee and he drank it so fast I'm surprised he didn't burn a hole in his gullet.

'I'll send you the bill in the mail', he said, handing back the cup, packing up his toolbox and heading out the door. without so much as a 'thank you' or a 'goodbye'.

After he left, I stood there in the loungeroom and pondered what had just occurred. How was it possible for someone to walk in the door in such a good mood and to exit it ten minutes later in such a bad one for no apparent reason? It couldn't have been that he didn't like the way I made coffee; he was grumpy before I even handed it to him. Was it something I said? But it couldn't be - I hadn't said anything to him between asking him if he wanted a coffee and brining it back to him.

I paced around the room trying to make some sense of it all and then, as I rounded the corner and stepped behind the sofa I saw it ...

Right there on the floor, in front of a power point, hidden from view from where I had been standing before, was a great, ginormous log of poo.


one mother henI Must ConfessThe Multitasking Mummy


What memories of poo do you have? Please don't be shy - regale me with your poo tales ... or have you banished them from memory? 

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

A Cautionary Tale About Pyjamas & The School Run

I have often wondered if all mothers of school-aged children were asked to do an anonymous survey about whether they had ever dropped their child off at school in their pyjamas (assuming, of course, that they didn't have to get out of the car) what resulting percentage of secret pyjama wearers there would be.

I must confess that I am guilty, not just of a once-off or a now-and-then offence, but of being a serial pyjama school run mum. And while I'm being honest, I might as well confess that I'm sometimes still in my  PJs when I go to pick my son up from school in the afternoon too.

Well today's post is a little cautionary tale about why one should actually dress oneself in a socially acceptable manner before leaving the house ...

As we leave the house in the mornings, my nine-year-old son and I have developed a bit of a routine: I grab the house keys, the car keys and the baby and go out the back door. As I do so, I stick the house key into the lock, leaving the door open. While I am putting the baby in her carseat and warming up the engine, Ben follows me out of the house, turns the key in the lock, gives me the keys and runs next door to get Han, the little girl who lives there, who we take to school. This usually works quite well because I can threatened Ben, who is the slowest breakfast eater in the history of the world, that if he doesn't hurry up I will drive Han to school and leave him at home. Fortunately for me, he likes school and this always speeds him up. He also doesn't want to miss out on seeing Han.

Last Friday, however, our little routine did not go altogether smoothly. Neither Ben nor I are morning people and we were running even later than we usually do. The morning fog had also not yet lifted from our brains and, although we didn't realise it at the time, we were both operating in a state of muddle-headedness.

I drove the kids to school in the usual way, decked out in pyjamas with a hoodie over the top. The little girl next door is used to seeing me dressed like this now. She either thinks it's completely normal or else she thinks I'm officially insane and is just too polite to tell me, because she's never mentioned it.

After dropping them off, I drove home, parked the car, got the baby out of her carseat and patted my left pocket where I always put the housekeys. A feeling of dread washed over me. The pocket was empty.

I checked the right pocket. I checked all through the car. I checked to see if they were still in the door. But alas, the door was locked and the keys were nowhere to be found. There was only one place they could be: in Ben's pocket.

Now if I had been clad in socially acceptable attire, this would not have been much a problem. I would simply have driven up to Ben's school, knocked on the door of his classroom, explained the situation, got the keys, end of story. But this was not the case. Now don't get me wrong, I'm really not too concerned if people like the way I dress or not, but I had my son to think of here as well. It is doubtful if he would ever truly be able to forgive his mother for turning up to his school, where he is still very much the new kid on the block, in her flanellette pyjamas. Added to that, I was braless, make-upless and wearing a pair of big fluffy slippers (not that turning up to your kid's classroom in pyjamas is okay as long as you're wearing make-up, a bra and nice shoes, but I'm just trying to draw a picture of my physical state).

I looked a little something like this, only hundreds and thousands of times worse, because this is my 4 pm face (I got Ben to snap a re-enactment shot when he came home from school) and at the time I had my 8:30am I-don't-do-mornings face on and believe me, you should be grateful that you're not looking at a photo of that.

At this point a number of things went through my mind. Should I call the school and ask the secretary to ask Ben to meet me in the carpark? That might have worked, but my phone was inside the house. Should I drive to my sister's or my best friend's house, ask them to come back with me in the car and get them to knock on the door of Ben's classroom? That seemed like a plausible solution so I got back in the car and headed off and then realised that I had no petrol. Both of them live twenty minutes away and I would have been lucky if the car could have got half that distance. Even if I swallowed my pride and ventured into the petrol station in my nocturnal apparel, there was the small problem of money; my purse was locked inside the house too.

Perhaps I was just going to have to risk it. I'd just get in there, get it done and get out as quickly as possible. If I put on my sunnies and just popped my head round the corner of the classroom door, keeping my body concealed, then surely there was a chance I might get away with it. I put my hand to the top of my head to reach for my sunglasses (which I never go driving without, even if it's overcast), but all I could feel was the top of my head. Of all days, of course this day would have to be the one where I forgot my sunglasses. I hunted round frantically in the car for my old ones which I knew had been floating around there recently, but all I found in the way of eyewear was a pair of 3D glasses. That's really all I needed to top off my outfit and give me a lifetime reputation as a flat out freak.

At that point I also remembered that, being Friday morning, the whole school would also be having assembly. Parents are always invited to this of course, but this was far from a comforting thought. So besides gate-crashing the assembly and scarring my son for life, the only other alternative I could think of was waiting outside the house until school finished six and a half hours later. It was chilly, I had no clean nappies for the baby and the only thing to eat would have been the nasturtiums in the front garden.

So desperate times led to desperate measures. The only thing left to do was to ask Han's mum, Thuy, for help. Thuy and I have met and greeted each other several times since we moved to the area a couple of months ago and she was very happy when I offered to drive her daughter to school, but up until that point, we had never been inside each other's homes and she had definitely never seen me so casually dressed.

I knocked on the door and when she opened it, I blurted out "I need your help". I didn't even need to explain the whole story. As soon as I said "Ben's got my keys in his pocket", she nodded her head, got her coat and came outside. An amused little smile spread across her face. She doesn't have a car, so we both drove up to the school in mine. She got out and braved the crowds at the assemble to find Ben and bring the keys back to me where I was lying low in the car.

When we got back to our houses, she invited me in for a coffee. I hung out in her loungeroom, without even bothering to go home and get changed, for another two hours. That little smile didn't leave her lips the entire time.I think we're going to become good friends.

That afternoon when I asked Ben to take a photo of me for my blog (because, let's face it, I really have no life and don't have anything else to blog about), instead of apologising for pocketing my keys and allowing me to endure such emotional exhaustion, he said very matter-of-factly: "It's lucky you didn't come up to assembly this morning in your PJs, mum; your pyjama top doesn't even match the bottoms!"

So in future I shall be far more careful. In future I shall ensure that I always go to bed in matching pyjama top and bottoms so the next time I get locked out of my house, at least I will look fashionably co-ordinated when my neighbour opens the door to me. 


one mother henThe Multitasking MummyI Must Confess

So tell me the truth ... do you do the school run in your PJs?

Have you ever been caught out?

Could you trust your neighbours to save you from public pyjama shame?/


Thursday, 12 June 2014

Hot Chilli Chocolate

I've mentioned before that hot chocolate is one of my favourite things about Winter, and my favourite hot chocolate recipe of them all is this one for hot chilli chocolate that was passed onto me by one of my sisters.


Now I've heard that chilli is very good for whipping up the metaboloism and I like that very much since it means I feel no guilt whatsoever in slugging back vast quanities of this drink, knowing that the chilli counteracts the chocolate and my now super-fast metabolism will just burn it off before I even have time to think about it. So far this Winter that theory's been working out well for me. I'm sure my jeans just shrunk in the wash this week and the extra long time it took me to button them up had nothing to do with my affection for this beverage.

Here is the recipe. It will make you two delicious cups of hot chilli chocolately heaven.

Ingredients:

2 cups of milk

2 reeds of chilli, split and seeds removed (just use one chilli if you'd prefer a milder version)

1/2 a vanilla bean. split (or a splosh of vanilla essence if you don't have a bean)

1 cinnamon stick (can use a few shakes of ground cinnamon if you don't have a stick)

Half a block of cooking chocolate, grated


Method:

1. Simmer milk in pan with vanilla, cinnamon and chilli

2. Heat through for approximately one minute

3. Whisk in grated chocolate and continue to simmer until melted

4. Remove from heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes before drinking

5. Get drinking! (and if you have blocked sinuses, get ready to have them blasted back to normal)

                                                         
Bake Play Smile
Melting Moments



Do you have a favourite type of hot chocolate?

Have you ever tried hot chilli chocolate?

Do you know any other fun recipes with chillies?

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Edible Word Games


I have often wished I could eat my words and last night I did just that ... with the help of my son and some cookie dough.

We've always loved playing word games together and after owning a set of alphabet cookie cutters for the last six years and never even taking them out of the box, I decided the time had come to put them to good use and make up an edible word game.

While Ben was at school yesterday, I got out a pen and paper and, through trial and error, came up with nine special six-letter words. What's special about these words is that you can take one letter out of the original six, rearrange them and they will form a new word. Then you take a letter out of the remaining five, rearrange them and they form another new word, and so on until you are left with a single letter word (I or A).

When I'd done that, I wrote out the rules of the game for him:

Rules of The Edible Word Game

1. After deciding which player is going to go first, that player looks at the six letter word in front of them and works out which letter they can take out so that the remaining five letters form a word. 

2. The player then eats the letter s/he has taken out and it becomes the next player's turn.

3. Players can rearrange the remaining letters if they need to but do not have to if it is not necessary.

4. The game continues until only a single letter word remains. The player whose turn it would be directly after the player who ate a letter from the two-letter word is allowed to eat this last letter. This game works best with two or three players so that there is an even distribution of cookies in each round. (My son is not a fan of diseven distribution!)

5. All words used must be words you would find in an English dictionary.

6. All players must remember to chew with their mouths closed.

When he got home from school, we made the cookie dough and cut it into the letters we needed (I didn't show him the process from getting from the six-letter words to the one-letters words, I just let him know each of the six letter words so he'd know which letters to cut out).


I made him wait until after dinner before we played and by then he was just about jumping out of his skin with excitement, his competitive spirit being just as much to blame for that as his anticipation of eating large quantities of choc chip cookies.

Here is how we played out the nine rounds:










Here are some things I have learnt while we were playing:

1. Each round gets easier and faster as you go along. That means you have to eat faster too.

2. I got so caught up in the excitement of preparing to play that I didn't really think about the fact that for two people to play nine rounds would mean eating 27 cookies each. We didn't actually end up eating 27 cookies each. But we gave it a good shot.

3. There are word possibilities other than the ones we used. For instance, rats could also be star, mane could also be name, cane could also be acne, eat could also be tea, team could also be meat or mate, darn could also be rand, dance could also be caned and stare could also be tears.

4. Likewise, there are also other possible word patterns for some of the rounds. The round that went master, steam, team, eat, at, a could also have gone master, steam, seam, sea, as, a; the round that went Easter, stare, rats, sat. at. a could alos have gone Easter, tears, star, tar, at, a and the round that went please, lapse, slap, sap, as a could also have gone please, lease, ease, sea, as, a. 

5. It is possible to put a spanner in the works and muck up a round by thinking you are on the right track then coming to a point where you can't go any further. For example, if you went from garden to grade instead of grand, you could then move onto dare and then are, but then you wouldn't be able to go any further. To try and avoid this, I went first in each round to move the game in the right direction.

If I ever play with this with an adult one day rather than a child, I am going to write into the rules a suitable punishment for any person responsible for destroying the game. Assuming they had already gobbled up the wrong letters and the original word can't be reconstructed, they should be forced to forfeit all remaining cookies on the table to the other player. And considering that I would have thought up the words and their solutions before the start of play (leaving the other player at a distinct disadvantage), I think this rule will work considerably well in my favour!


Melting Moments

Do you have a favourite word game?

Could you make an edible version of it?

Could you eat 27 cookies in one sitting?

Do you know any other special six-letters words you could send my way? 

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

One Year of Blogging: The Good, The Bad and The Beautiful

Yesterday, I realised that my little blog is now a year old. Actually, it's a year and a week old as I write this, but I thought I would write a celebratory post anyway, since I have resigned myself to fact that everything I do in life I either do too early or too late. In keeping with the festive spirit of my blog's half birthday, I made myself a cake (any excuse for a cake will do round here!)



It's no masterpiece, but it was yummy! The M&M's were my feeble attempt to come up with something to represent my blog title :)

Blogging has come to mean many things to me over the past year: a platform for reflection, a creative outlet and an opportunity for social connection. It has also helped me to slowly discover the writer inside of me and has forced me to accept my failures and my imperfections and to see both of these as gifts, rather than reasons to give in.

I started this blog on a whim one morning in May last year. While my newborn was sleeping, I wrote my first few posts in a notebook with no intention of every putting them online, but purely because I felt compelled to pick up a pen and write. In a conversation with one of my sisters not long afterwards, I told her I had done this and she suggested I start a blog. It wasn't actually the first time she'd encouraged me to blog - at the beginning of 2012, I started a book blog called The Year of Reading Dangerously. That 'year' only ended up lasting three weeks and a total of just three posts as I got too busy with my day job to keep it up.

I took up my sister's advice in earnest the second time round though and typed up those words I had written in my notebook. Being impulsive and impatient by nature, I didn't give any thought to the direction my blog would head in and I thought up my blog title in about three minutes. I've wondered many times over the past twelve months about what I would have done differently had I invested the time to research exactly what a blog is and how to actually go about blogging - two things I knew very little about this time last year. I would have made it easier for myself if I had, but I also think that if I'd spent too much time deliberating on how to create the perfect blog, I would never have started at all!

Tonight, to mark my belated blogiversary, I want to refect on what I feel has been the good, the bad and the beautiful aspects of blogging for me so far.

The Good

Blogging has cured me of my inclination towards perfectionism. If I allowed myself to wait until I was satisfied that a post was perfect, I would never once have pressed that publish button.


* Since I failed at Mothers' Group and was living, for the first nine months of keeping this blog, in a situation where I was very isolated socially, blogging became not only my surrogate Mothers' Group, by also my book club, my writers' group and my place to focus on the good things that I had in life, so that I wouldn't drown wallowing in the bad. Only when I removed myself from that situation and that isolation did I realise how much blogging had helped me through that period.

* The opportunity to connect with bloggers from all over the world has been amazing. I feel so lucky to live in the era that we live in and to be able to develop friendships with bloggers not only in Australia, but also in the US, the UK, Canada, Italy, Germany, New Zealand, Tonga, Malaysia, Dubai, Singapore and Jamaica.

* Reading other parents' blogs has inspired me to become a more creative and energetic parent myself. I'm still not crafty, but I have challenged myself to go about being creative in my own little way through The Alphabet Weekends.

* Food. Over the last year, my desire to cook and to learn everything I can about food has increased exponentially. I have a lot of very accomplished cooks in the blogosphere to thank for that inspiration.

* Instagram. A year ago I was connected to a grand total of zero social networks. I never thought that I would be interested at all in something like Instagram; I've just never really been into social media. But last Christmas, I was staying for a little over a week with family and had no opportunity to blog and was really missing it. So I created an instagram account. It instantly felt like 'micro-blogging' and I have loved it ever since.

Okay, now for the bad. Although the positives I have encountered through blogging outweigh the negatives a hundredfold, I want to be honest - it hasn't all been roses and rainbows.

The Bad


* Bloody Google Plus comments. I swear that thing is like a jealous lover. It just messes with my head. Some days, readers will go to comment on a post and won't be able to. Other times, some or all of my comments just randomly disappear altogether, only to return as if nothing has happened a day or two later after I've already ripped my hair out and sworn I'll never blog again. Once I made the mistake of thinking I could break up with Mr Google Plus once and for all and go and get myself a nice new domain name. But no, he decided that if I did that, he would take all my comments and hide them and never give them back. So I had to go back to him, with my tail between my legs, because those comments were too precious to me. I know he was there plotting away and thinking to himself: "Ahuh! So she wants to get rid of me! We'll see about that!" So here I am, married to Google Plus till death do us part. 

* Sometimes I've sensed that there are some blogging cliques floating round the blogosphere and I'm just too much of a dork to be let into their circle. But there have also been other times when blogging groups that were clearly well established already have welcomed me in with open arms, so it's not something I dwell on too much.

* There have been occasions when I've been super excited to find a new blogger who I think I have a lot in common with and have reached out several times to try to make contact and been ignored every time. These experiences have taught me a valuable lesson though: do not chase people. Just keep doing your thing and your tribe will find you.

* The few times I've encountered some negative feedback. When I first started browsing other people's blogs and read about trolls, I remember thinking to myself: "If that ever happens to me, I'm going to quit writing straight away". I just thought it would be something that I would not be able to handle. Funnily enough, when it did happen, it affected me so much less than I'd thought it would. I guess in the scheme of things, rude or stupid comments are just that - rude and stupid. At the end of the day, it's not like I have to have the writers of them come round for dinner at my house.

And now, for ...

The Beautiful

* Finding people through the blogosphere who I have really connected with and whom I hope to meet in real life one day.


* Those bloggers who really went above and beyond what I ever would have expected in terms of support when they sensed that I was going through a really difficult period. Even if I never get the chance to meet you in person, I will be eternally grateful to you Linda, Kristi and Rita.


* Reconnecting with some long-lost friends who have found my blog through a mutual friend or through social media.


* Being able to use blogging as a platform for expressing my love, appreciation and admiration for special people in my life, especially my mum and my best friend.


* Writing something that was daringly honest and then having many readers respond by being honest and open themselves about their own pent up feelings.

* Without a doubt, blogging has helped me to cultivate a frame of mind where I am constantly on the lookout to find beauty and beautiful stories in my everyday life.


* This last one is very personal and very close to my heart. Several weeks ago, I was in a pretty bad mood with my blog. I was feeling that it was a complete waste of time and was very nearly ready to press delete and boot the whole thing to kingdom come. Then I got a call from a friend who was going through some very seriously stressful stuff in her life. She had read some of my early posts when I first started to write, but had been too busy to keep up with them as the months went on. She told me that she had come home from what had possible been the worst day of her life, sat down at the computer, started to type in the URL of an unrelated site and the URL of my blog popped up because it started with the same letter. She opened it up and started reading. "I must have read for at least two hours", she said. "And do you know what I saw in your writing?" "What?" I asked a bit hesistantly. "Knowing you personally and knowing everything you were going through during those months, I saw how positive you tried to keep yourself during that time. It made me realise that I can do the same. It probably saved my life". I was speechless. I never would have dreamed that this little space that I created could have achieved something like that. So I didn't press delete and I realised that it was my own negative self talk that was a waste of time, not my blog.

So tonight as I ask myself for the umpteenth time what I would do differently if I could start my blogging journey all over again, the answer is nothing. Nothing at all. I have made mistakes, but those mistakes are my own and they have been my greatest teachers. The words that poured out of me in every post over the last twelve months have been genuine, spontaneous and imperfect. They remind me of just who I was the day I wrote each one. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

                                                                                                                                   
What are some of the goods, the bads and the beautifuls you've discovered through blogging?

Would you do anything differently if you could start again?