Thursday, 11 September 2014

Most of the time, I'm doing okay

Most of the time, I think I'm doing okay.

It's not quite like I thought it would be, this place here on the other side of an abusive relationship, but each day I try to remind myself that I am lucky that I got out when I did and that six months is still not a long time in terms of the journey of recovery that lies ahead.

I try to focus on all that is good in my life and to tell myself that even though I should have left long, long before I did, that my reasons for holding on as long as I did were good reasons: hope, forgiveness, family. But there comes a time when you realise that to hope too much and to forgive too much are doing far more harm than good. That to protect my children and myself I had to leave, no matter what anyone else believed. There were no longer any other options. It's hard to forgive myself for staying for so long, but I do know that I did so with the very best of intentions.

I thank God every day for the people in my life who helped me to flee that situation. I know not all women are as blessed as I was in that respect.

Some moments I feel crippled with fear. When the calls and the messages and the emails won't stop, When I can't escape from those twisted, horrid lies. Some nights I'm afraid to go outside and put the rubbish in the bin, but I force myself to do it because I refuse to have my life governed by fear.

Some days, I think I'm learning to manage that fear. I'm learning to be okay with being scared. I have built a safety net around myself and, most of the time, I feel safe there.

I am not achieving anything particularly remarkable or exciting at the moment, nor am I likely to for a while, but as I lay down to sleep at night, if I can rest my head on the pillow and say to myself nothing bad happened today, then that day was a good day. I've learnt to be grateful for those days where nothing much happens. I used to have such high expectations from life and from myself. Now I settle for okay. Okay is all I need.

For now, I just focus on survival and my children's happiness.

I get my son off to school in the morning with food in his tummy, teeth brushed, lunch and homework packed, clean clothes and hair (usually) brushed.

I don't always cook with enthusiasm, but we eat healthy food.

We don't have anything fancy, but we want for nothing either.

I am blessed with two supportive parents and some beautiful friends, both old and new.

I'm learning, slowly, that it's okay for me to spend money on myself every now and then. That going to the hairdresser to get my hair cut rather than doing it myself doesn't mean I'm wasting money, that buying a cupboard or a new cardigan doesn't mean I'm greedy, that wearing make-up doesn't mean I want every man I meet to be attracted to me. That having a blog doesn't mean I neglect my children.

When I listen to music, I make sure it's happy music.

If I watch a film, I choose something uplifting or funny.

I surround myself with people who genuinely care about me and my children. I distance myself from those who judge me.

My children light up my world. They are my world. I try to take them out to fun places. I make sure they laugh every day.

But every now and then, a situation creeps up on me and knocks the air out of my lungs. And in that moment, although six months have passed, it feels like no time has passed at all and I'm right back there, his voice pounding in my ears.

A week or so ago, I bought some bookshelves.

The morning the flatpack arrives, I'm thrilled. I'm going to be able to have all my books with me instead of out in boxes in the shed. They're going to bring new colour and energy into this house.

My dad's there to help me contruct the shelves. I go to work with vigour. I don't realise how much I enjoy building things. The instructions are easy. I even start explaining how to do it to my dad. Maybe he's even proud of me for being so handy.

Then something goes wrong. One of the wooden pegs snaps in the hole. It's impossible to get it out. I've totally stuffed up that shelf. The positive voice in my head tells me it will just be wobbly. The other voice tells me it will be completely useless.

Then the same thing happens on another of the shelves. I try to tell myself it doesn't matter. "Let's just go onto the next part', I say. But the next part is even harder; dozens of bolts that are supposed to screw into places that seem to exist in the instructions but not on the shelves themselves.

It's taken hours to get to this point and all I see in front of me on the floor is a bookshelf that would be so unstable it would probably be dangerous to use and a whole lot of bolts and screws that don't seem to have anywhere to blot or screw into.

And then, without warning, it comes. A great, big, fat tear, drops from my eye onto my big toe and then another splashes down on top of it. And then the words come out that had been in my head for so long, that had been my fear before I'd even started to try and make the shelves.

I can't do it.

But they don't come out normally, they come out as a wail and then I'm on the ground sobbing as if someone has just died and my poor old dad, exhausted now from all of the work and the confusion, looks at me helplessly, bewilderedly, lovingly.

I'm lying on the ground and all I can hear are the words of that man I used to love with everything I had.


So it must be true. He was right all along. I've just gone and proved it to myself.


Normal people don't cry hysterically like this over a bookshelf. Most people never cry like this at all. Only crazy people do that. So look, it is true after all.

But I just can't stop.


That voice that I try so hard every day to smother rears its ugly head and shouts at me over and over again.

His voice, over time, has become my own voice.

Lucky your children didn't see you doing this.

A mother doesn't behave like this.

You need to get some help, from someone who actually knows what they're talking about. 

Crazy. Crazy. Crazy.

It's not the first time, either.

Four months ago. Trying to put up a cot. Failing again. My daughter was 14 months old already. I just wanted her to have a cot. My sister had given us a beautiful cot just before our baby was born. All that had to be done was put it together. But there were always excuses and later, lies about missing parts. Someone who has the ability to build a house with nothing but rocks and a hammer and his two hands wouldn't construct that cot for me. Why wouldn't he just let me have a cot for my baby? Just another twisted way of controlling me.

That time my children didn't see my tears either; one was at school, the other in the next room with my mum. But there was one time when they did see.

We were driving home, just a week or so ago. Someone I'd know almost my whole life had made a cruel and thoughtless comment. In some people's minds, physical abuse only exists if the woman was king hit within an inch of her life and psychological abuse only exists in her own mind. Because they think everything is just black and white. Because they met the guy several times themselves and he was always funny and charming and there's no way in hell he could be anything but good.

So you see, it's true. You can't ran away from the truth. You are a bad mother. A proper mother doesn't put on a show like that in front of her children. Especially when she's driving. 

You just think about yourself and how you feel, don't you Liz? If you were thinking about your children, you wouldn't cry. Only arrogant people take offence to things the way you do.

Unstable. Negligent. Selfish.

Then when the tears stop, the exhaustion sets in, like the brain and the body shutting down. If it's possible to sleep, you sleep. If it's not, you just go through the motions - school pick up, swimming lessons, dinner, bath, games, bed.

You wake up the next morning and get the kids fed and dressed and the big one off to school and the little one into the garden for a play and you thank God that you have these children to get you up in the morning and out of bed because if they weren't there, some days you might just sink into a black abyss and never get out again. Because even though being a mother is such hard work, those children are the reason that you are okay. They are the reason that you make sure you're okay.


I'm learning to acknowledge that I have a right to feel everything that I'm feeling. That this whole thing is massive, really truly hideously massive, and I don't have to go on pretending that it's not.

Every day I count my blessings. Some days it's harder than others.

But most of the time, I'm happy.

Most of the time, I'm moving forward.

Most of the time, I'm doing okay.

Thank you to those you have contacted me or commented on this post. If you would like to comment privately rather than publicly, please feel free to do so either through google + or twitter. If you would like to discuss the issues raised in this post further, please email me at:

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The Secret Life of the Number Nine

I originally intended this to be a quick little post about some cool maths patterns and some fun facts about the number nine, but as I started to read more and more about this number, the post sort of took on a life of its own and, like John Lennon (I'll get to him later), I got a little bit obsessed with this number. You might be too in a few minutes ... enjoy!

"Do you have a favourite number?" I'd often ask the kids who came in for maths support at the tutoring centre where I worked last year.

The answer was often a shrug of the shoulders, a blank look or a look that said Are you insane? Aren't all numbers diabolical?

Usually, these kids struggled significantly in grasping the maths concepts they were being taught at school and as a result of having fallen behind their peers, were often disengaged in anything related to numeracy.

We often started the sessions off with work on their times tables because it's so difficult to progress in maths without a sound knowledge of them. My challenge was therefore to marry the times tables with something fun to achieve engagement. So after I'd asked them their favourite number, I'd tell them mine.

"Mine's nine', I say, "Do you want to know why?"

Luckily, no-one ever said no.

"Because nine is a magic number", I'd tell them. "You can find out the answers to your nine times table just by using your fingers. Lend me your hands for a moment and I'll show you".

For the purpose of this post, I borrowed my son's little hands to demonstrate.

Following this pattern, you can work out your nine times table all the way up to 10 x 9 , which looks like this:

But the magic of nine doesn't stop there. The number nine forms some fascinating patterns which I'd sometimes share with the kids too. Here are my six favourites ...

1. The inverse times table. Another cool thing about the nine times table is that whenever you multiply a number by nine, you can reverse the digits in the answer and every single time you will get another multiple of nine.

Let's put that to the test:

3 x 9 = 27        27 inversed = 72           72 = 9 x 8

7 x 9 = 63      63 inversed = 36        36 = 9 x 4

10 x 9 = 90     90 inversed is 09           09 = 9 x 1

2. Multiply any number by 9 and the sum of the digits in the answer will always equal nine.

For example:

2 x 9 = 18 (1 + 8 = 9)

6 x 9 = 54 (5 + 4 = 9)

12 x 9 = 108 (1 + 0 + 8 = 9)

3. And just when you thought the nine times table couldn't get any cooler, check this out:

123456789 x 9 =       1111111101

123456789 x 18 =  2222222202

123456789 x 27 =     3333333303

123456789 x 36 =  4444444404

123456789 x 45 =     5555555505

123456789 x 54 =  6666666606

123456789 x 63 =     7777777707

123456789 x 72 =  8888888808

123456789 x 81 =     9999999909

123456789 x 90 = 11111111010

4. There's an intriguing pattern involving the number nine in a subtraction exercise too:

Think of any number with two or more digits. Write it down.

Now write down the inverse of this number.

Subtract whichever number of the two is lower from the other.

The digits of the answer will always add up to a multiple of nine.

For example:

64 - 46 = 18 (1 + 8 = 9)

72 - 27 = 45 (4 + 5 = 9)

896 - 698 = 198 (1 + 9 + 8 = 18)

998877 - 778899 = 219978 (2 +1 + 9 + 9 + 7 + 8 = 36)

5. Here's another amazing pattern that occurs when adding with the number nine:

Think of any number containing two or more digits

Add nine to this number

The sum of the digits in the answer will always be equal to the sum of the digits in your original number

For example:

33 + 9 = 42 (3 + 3 = 6 and 4 + 2 also = 6)

111 + 9 = 120 (1 + 1 + 1 = 3 and 1 + 2 + 0 also = 3)

6982 + 9 = 6991 (6 + 9 + 8 + 2 = 25 and 6 + 9 + 9 + 1 also = 25)

6. I saved my very favourite one for last. This one's a   magic maths trick you can do to wow your kids or to just show off in general and make people think you have extrasensory perception :)

You will need:

1. A pen and paper

2. A person to trick


1. Give the person you are going to trick the paper and pen and ask them to write down a number that is at least four digits long. They should keep this number a secret from you.

2. Now tell them to add the digits of that number together. For example, if the number they chose was 4903, the sum of the digits would be 16.

3. Now ask them to subtract the sum of those digits from their original number.

    4903 - 16 = 4887

4. Next, ask them to cross out any number of their choice (except for a zero) from the answer they have just arrived at.

5. Finally, ask them to tell you what the number in front of them is now that they have removed one number.

For example, if they crossed out the seven, the number would be 488.

6. In your head, add together the digits of the number they have just told you.

(4 + 8 + 8 = 20)

7. Calculate how many numbers there are between the number you have just arrived at and the next multiple of nine.

In this case, the next multiple of nine is 27. 27 - 20 = 7.

8. Wow the pants off the other person by telling them the number they crossed out was seven.

To test this trick out a little further, imagine that the number they chose to cross out was 4.

They would therefore tell you that the final number in front of them is 887.

Adding those digits together brings you to 23.

The next multiple of nine you come to starting at 23 is 27.

The difference between 23 and 27 is four (the number they crossed out)

This works for any combination of numbers as long at their original number has at least four digits and the number they chose out is not a zero.

How cool is that? Who could not be über in love with the number nine now?

But the mysteries surrounding this number are not just limited to the realms of mathematics; they permeate subjects such as religion, astrology, astronomy, the natural rhythms of life and the vernacular of our English language.

You would have heard, of course, that cats have nine lives and that a stitch in time saves nine. A human pregnancy lasts nine months and prior to Pluto being officially demoted to the status of dwarf planet, there were nine planets in our solar system. Astrologers still work with all nine original planets, however.

Nine is also significant in all five of the major world religions:

  • For Muslims, Ramadan occurs during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.

  • In Hinduism, the number nine is featured in many of the concepts and practices of that faith. I am not familiar with the full extent of these, but have read that Hindus observe nine different forms of devotion and that the goddess Durga is worshipped each year for a total of nine days and nine nights. Hindus also consider the human body to be a city with nine gates which correspond with the nine points of entry/exit into the body (two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, the mouth, the anus and the urethra). I'm not quite sure why the vagina is not counted in this tally, but if you happen to know, please enlighten me!

Worship of the Sri Chakra (or Sri Yantra) is also central to the Hindu faith. The chakra consists of a total of nine intertwining triangles (five pointing downwards to represent the feminine and four pointing upwards to represent the masculine). Together they symbolise the union between masculinity and femininity and the communion of the cosmos.
                                     Sri Yantra

  • In Judaism, a period known as The Nine Days is observed every year during the first nine days of the Jewish month of Av (July/August). This time is set aside for communal and personal mourning for the tragedies that have inflicted the Jewish people throughout the ages.

Fascinatingly and disturbingly coincidental, the ninth day of the month of Av was the date of the destruction of both the first and second Holy Jewish Temples (656 years apart), the date when the Jews were expelled from England in 1290, the date Germany entered the war in 1914 and the day on which the implementation of The Final Solution was approved by the Nazi Party, in 1942.

  • In Christianity, the Bible refers to the nine fruits and to the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit. The number nine also features in the Book of Acts, where praying at the "ninth hour" is referred to on two separate occassions.

The association of prayer and the number nine found in the bible led Roman Catholics to adopt the practice of observing nine day prayer rituals known as novenas (novem being Latin for 'nine').

  • Buddhists believe that there are nine levels of consciousness and nine separate spiritual planes of existence that one must pass through prior to enlightenment.

In Buddhism, the number 108 (12 x 9) also features prominently: Buddhist temples contain 108 steps, they believe that there are 108 paths to reach Nirvana and it is said that if a person is calm enough to breathe just 108 times a day, that they will reach enlightenment.

  • Both Buddhist and Hindu malas (prayer rosaries) consist of 108 beads. Mantras are recited 108 times on these malas as this number is said to be sacred and to be in rhythm with time and space.
  • In other religions and cultures, 108 is also significant: in Islam, this number is used to refer to God. In Japan, the New Year is welcomed in with the beating of a gong 108 times in all the main temples. Traditional Indian dance comprises of 108 poses. 
  • Astronomers have discovered that the diameter of the sun is 108 times the diameter of the earth. They have also calculated that the distance between the earth and the sun is equal to 108 times the sun's diameter  and that the distance between the earth and the moon is equal to 108 times the moon's diamater.
  • In the study of astrology, nine planets move through twelve houses, creating 108 possible combinations in total, which are collectively considered to represent the whole of existence.

The symbolism and significance of the number nine and its multiples have been a source of fascination to many throughout history, but possibly its most famous devotee of the modern era was John Lennon, who is quoted to have said that it was a number that "followed [him] around" his whole life.

Lennon was born on the ninth day of the month. His street number of his first home was nine and the names of the street, suburb and city in the address of that house all contained nine letters each.

He was the lead singer of the Beatles for nine years. During his time with the band and later as a solo artist, he released a total of three songs containing the number nine in the title:  One After 909, Revolution 9 (which appeared on the Beatles 9th UK album) and #9 Dream (which peaked at number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100).

The incidences in which the number nine surfaced in Lennon's life are too numerous to list here, but can be found over at The Beatles Bible.

When he was shot, Lennon was taken to Roosevelt Hospital on 9th Avenue, Manhattan. 'Roosevelt' and 'Manhattan' both contain nine letters respectively.  He passed away in the USA on the 8th December 1980, but the date in the UK at his time of death was already the 9th December.

He died at the age of 40, not even making it into middle age and yet significantly older than many other musicians who, as we know, have a tendency for living short lives. Much of this can be put down to drug and alcohol abuse, suicide and reckless living, but the fact remains that there an uncanny number of world famous musicians have lost their lives, via a variety of causes, at the age of 27.

These coincidences became so prolific that the group has been dubbed "The 27 Club". Its members include over 40 celebrated musicians including Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jacob Miller, Brian Jones, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse.

And so it begs the question: why 27?

According to Astrologers, this phenomenon is due to what is known as the Saturn Cycle. Apparently, Saturn returns to the position it was in at the time of our birth once approximately every 29 and a half years, but those changes begin to be felt when we reach 27 years of age and can remain into our early thirties. Saturn's return brings with it a sense of sobriety and an awakening to our own mortality. For some, Saturn's return is a positive time of re-focusing or finding new direction, but for others, it is a painfully intense period marked by the pressure of time creeping up on us and the realisation of the end of our youth. Whether positive or negative, it is a time of decision making and reality checks which can either lead to exciting new beginnings for some or, for others, a sense of feeling completely overwhelmed and ill-equipped to handle what lies ahead in the future.

In the study of numerology, the age of 27 is a highly-charged period of our lives because it is a multiple of nine and numerologists believe that this number signifies the end of one cycle of our lives and the beginning of the next. These nine-yearly cross-over periods are times of adjustment, of personal reflection and of letting go. The tragic death of Robin Williams occurred just three weeks after his sixty-third birthday, which saw the completion of his seventh nine-year cycle.

Can you see how the cycle of nine has played out in your own life?

For me, nine was definitely an age of change. It was the year my dad told me Father Christmas wasn't real and I cried inconsolably not just for the loss of the magic of Christmas, but for the realisation that everything that I had thought was magical was just make believe. It was also the year that I accepted that I was never going to be an Olympic gymnast like I had dreamed of becoming because if I were, I would already have been a lot more talented than I was. And it was during that year, around the time of the Barcelona Olympics, that my teacher gave us a piece of homework where we had to watch something to do with the Olympics on TV and write about it. I approached her desk and told her that I wouldn't be able to do the homework because we didn't have a TV at home. She looked at me as if I had just told her we didn't have a roof on our house. So I guess that was also the time when I started to realise that, in subtle ways, I was a little bit different from the other kids. There was a certain loneliness in that realisation. At nine, it's hard to appreciate your uniqueness. And although I have never really reflected on it until now, nine was also the age when I started to believe that I wasn't quite enough.

Eighteen was a time of firsts. Of rites of passage into adulthood. Of sometimes taking great leaps into that territory known as maturity and independence and other times wanting to hold back and cling to an ever-fading adolescence. I spent the year I turned 18 living in Sweden as an exchange student. I loved that my school life in Australia was finally over and I could now live abroad like I'd dreamed of for so long, but I hated having to live by the rules of Rotary International, the organisation I was signed up to. I often felt like an adult forced to live as a child. The organisation had four main rules which they called The Four Ds. They were: no drinking, no driving, no dating, no drugs. Of course I can see now the necessity of these rules, but what 18 year old living half the world away from home would actually get excited about them? There was, however, a fifth, unwritten, 'D', passed on in whispers from exchange student to exchange student throughout the years: Do it all but don't get caught.

Twenty-seven was an enormously pivotal year for me in terms of setting in motion a series of events which led to permanent change. A month before my twenty-seventh birthday, I moved to Sicily with my little boy, who was five years old at the time. I read in a guide book on the plane trip there that the population of Sicily was 5 million. We didn't know a single one of them. Twenty-seven was an age where I felt that if I didn't follow my dreams right then and there then I would miss the opportunity and never would. I still felt, at 27, that I could go anywhere I wanted and be anything I wanted to be (except a gymnast of course). I think I lost that feeling around the age of 29. Maybe that had something to do with good old Saturn.

My little boy is nine at the moment. He's always loved numbers; he uses them to help him understand the world around him. Nine has been an age of transition for him too. A time of breaking away and holding back. Of rebelling and resisting. Sometimes he gives me a little, then he takes it away. He knows that Father Christmas doesn't exist, he knows that nothing lasts forever, he knows what it feels like to never have the chance to say goodbye. He makes friends easily and he has lots of them, but he's learnt too, along the way, what it's like to dwell on the fringes. He's lost so much of his innocence and purity. His repertoire of profanities is more extensive than mine and he knows about things I'm sure I hadn't even heard of until I was at least 12 and yet, he's still afraid of the dark, still takes his teddy to bed, still tells me I'm the best mummy in the world when he's in a good mood, still wants a mummy cuddle when he hurts himself.

He still dreams of running at the Olympics one day too. In 2012, when he was seven, breathing down the neck of eight, that dream was so lucid, he talked of nothing else. He'd draw pictures of himself crossing the finish line in first place. He'd run up and down the backyard and beg me to time him to see if he'd improved his time from the day before. He'd fall asleep with a book on the Olympics he'd borrowed from the school library open on his lap.

That dream is still there, but it's fading. It's almost like, at nine years old, he's convinced himself already that even though he's good at athletics, he'll never be quite good enough.

He's breathing down the neck of ten now. My baby's going to be double-digits soon. I still haven't decided what I'm going to give him as a present, but I do know the two things I want to give him most of all.

I desperately want to be able to help him hold onto his dreams and never lose faith in himself. But there's something I want to give him even more than that: I want him to know that it doesn't matter how many medals and trophies he wins. It doesn't matter if he makes it to the Olympics or falls over at the athletics carnival at school this week.

I want him to know that it doesn't matter what he does or doesn't achieve in his life, because, no matter what, he'll always be enough for me.

Do you have a favourite number?

Do you remember anything significant about being 9, 18, 27, 36, 45, 54,63, 72, 81, 90 or 99? 

Do you know any other fascinating facts about the number 9 or 108? 

Friday, 8 August 2014

Bloody Mary Pasta

One of my favourite pastas to make this Winter has been Bloody Mary Pasta and yes, as you may have guessed by the name, it's pasta with tomato and vodka (minus the other ingredients that go into the cocktail version).

Now as far as I see it, the only down side of being in love with this dish is having to make frequent visits to the liquor store to stock up on vodka (I get approximately three meals out of one bottle). Being a solo parent, that means having at least one child with me each time I go which, I venture to say, is not a good look when making recurrent beelines for the vodka aisle! Sometimes, as I'm waiting in line to pay, I do feel the urge to shout out "It's for cooking, not drinking!" but I'm doubtful anyone would actually believe me.

On one of our recent family excursions to the grog shop, I gave my nine-year-old a little educational tour around the aisles, so he could see which parts of Australia and the world that wine is made in and other very important information they're not allowed to teach in schools. Our conversation turned to how expensive alcohol can be. He was gobsmacked at how pricey one single bottle of wine can cost. Then I showed him how expensive the spirits were. His eye suddenly caught on a bottle of 35-year-old Scotch Whisky and in amazement he shouted out "Mum! This one costs more money than you've got in the bank!" I'm not sure how he knows how much money I have in the bank but unfortunately he was right (and a rather large number of people in our neighbourhood know now too!)

But back to the vodka and the pasta. It's super easy to make and if you serve it for dinner guests you can have fun trying to make them guess the secret ingredient :)


2 tablespoons of butter

1 onion, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 cups of crushed tomatoes

1 cup of vodka

1 cup of chicken stock

1/2 cup of cream

salt & pepper

500g of pasta of your choice (I used spaghetti in the photo above, but fettuccine and tagliatelle work better because this is a thick sauce. My kids' favourite is penne though because they can stick their forks easily through the hole in the centre :)

3/4 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated

2 tablespoons parley, chopped


1. Melt the butter in a medium-sized pot

2. Cook onion over low heat until tender

3. Add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes more

4. Add the tomatoes, vodka and stock

5. Simmer until it becomes thick

6. Add the cream, salt and pepper

7. Cook the pasta. Drain and add to the saucepan

8. Mix through until pasta is covered with sauce

9. Serve with parmesan and parsley

My son was appalled the first time I cooked this and told him it had vodka in it. So we fitted in a little chemistry lesson there too about alcohol boiling off when it's cooked, which is about as far as my chemistry knowledge goes :)

And as you can see, it's well received by even the littlest member of our household ...

Bake Play SmileMelting Moments

Have you ever cooked with vodka?  ... and by that I mean 'do you know any other recipes with vodka in them?' not 'do you cook with a vodka in your hand?' :)

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'. 


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 and also at 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
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 

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  [ 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? 

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.


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


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?