Twenty-nine. Again.

Today would have been my grandmother's birthday.

On her birthday, she used to say she was 29. It was a running family joke.

I don't usually hide my age. But in my own family, on my birthday, we also say I'm 29. And it makes me feel like I'm continuing a family tradition.

Happy birthday, Granny.


I miss my granny, RIP.

A Blossom Pressed in a Book
Ode to my grandmother

It was only yesterday
we were around the table
eating ripe, perfect peach
& tomato & raspberries.

& after dinner
we sang old songs
while we washed dishes,
with nimble fingers
keeping time.

Marigolds were blooming in your garden.

Our legs were strong
as we watched the deer
by the crabapple tree
in the light of the moon.


“It’s over-ing.”

At the moment, the child says some things I just love.

When a television programme ends (yes, we watch TV at our house), the child says, “It’s over-ing.”

If he’s accused of mischief, of doing something he’s not supposed to, he often denies it and says, “I aren’t.”

And when he’s really frustrated, he says, “ARRRRRRRRRRRGHHHHHHH!”

I can’t imagine where he learned that.


Dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free Toll House biscuits.

The New Zealand Food Allergy Cookbook has some good recipes. Everyone always raves over the Toll House biscuits.

1 cup plus 2 Tbsp plain flour
Big pinch of salt
½ tsp baking soda
125 g dairy-free margarine
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup castor sugar
½ tsp vanilla essence
2 tsp egg replacer
50 g dark chocolate bits (dairy-free)

Preheat oven to 190°C. Lightly grease baking trays.

Sift flour, salt and baking soda and set aside.

Cream margarine, sugars and essence together until creamy.

Gradually beat in egg replacer and sifted dry ingredients.

Fold chocolate bits through mixture.

Drop teaspoonfuls onto baking sheets. Do not flatten.

Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Loosen from tray and cool.

Makes about 20.


Ready for service

In New Zealand, one early childhood option is Playcentre. For the past couple years, I've been volunteering at my son's Playcentre.

Playcentre is funded by the government, and regulated by the Ministry of Education.

It’s a parents’ cooperative. The idea is that parents are the first educators of their children.

The parents are also educated, in early education courses, that count towards a diploma (if you’re that way inclined).

And, by participating in Playcentre, you are connected to your community. You get to know the other parents and their children, and their extended families.

I think a program like Playcentre would be great in America. As far as I know, there’s nothing quite like it there. Let me know if I’m wrong.

They're looking at an eel.


We knew this day would come.

I’m inspired by Elizabeth Alexander’s beautiful Inaugural Poem.

I feel like I did when former president Clinton took his oath of office.


The light seems charged with a new energy, and I can see a door opening.

It’s thrilling and exciting.

I know this is a day we will all remember.

January 21, 2009, nzdt 6:23 AM


Going to America

After six or seven years away, going to America is scary and exciting.

I’ve been away long enough now that it feels exotic, like I’m going to Brazil or China.

I’m going to cities I don’t know.

For example, Los Angeles. Did you know 17 million people live there? I just can’t get my head around a number like that. There are only 4 million people in my whole country.

And Dallas? I’ve never even been to Texas.

I expect I will make a lot of mistakes.

I will need to remember to tip the waitress. And lock the door.

Will people understand me? I now have a peculiar accent, and I mispronounce all sorts of words, like garage and tomato.

Sometimes I even use different words, like boot for trunk. I call people, admittedly mostly children, mate. And I have a strange habit of ending almost every sentence with eh?

Never mind. It will be a relief to be home. I’ve never really stopped thinking of it as home. It’s where I’m from and my point of reference. For everything.

It will be nice not to be identified by my nationality. Which is my distinguishing characteristic in New Zealand.

And a comfort not to hear things like, “Oh, Halloween? We don’t do that. It’s too American.”

I’m looking forward to driving on the right side of the road. And not wiping the windshield when I want to be indicating a turn.

The baffling morning tea, afternoon tea, tea and supper will be replaced by the more familiar breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I’m sure I will be as impressed as any foreigner with shopping malls and wireless hot spots and the sheer size of the continental United States.

I know I will be mesmerized by our big, brash, earnest country, and hopefully I’ll be just a tiny bit proud of it too.


Working from home

Before the child was born, my husband and I agreed that one of us would stay at home. With the child.

Since the child was born, I’ve been the stay-at-home parent.

Recently I had the opportunity to start working from home. For money.

I thought, okay, that might work.

So over the last few weeks, I’ve been setting things up. Converting the spare room to an office. Brushing up on old skills.

When the child asks me to play with him, I have begun saying things like, “Mummy’s working now.”

After his bedtime, I try to get some work done.


My brain doesn’t like working after dinner.

The child has been refusing to nap. Those two hours in the afternoon have become Quiet Time.

And I try to do some work then. But there are lots of interruptions.

“Is Quiet Time over yet?”

“No, not yet. Go back to your room.”

“Mummy, look!”

“Yes, it’s a Lego rocket. You seem very proud of it. Now go back to your room.”

I’ve never been good at multi-tasking.

I tried getting up early. Morning is my best time for working. But the child just gets up with me.

And weekends. Some Saturdays, my husband needs to work. And after working all week, he's not up for more than a couple hours of child care.

A while back, I was talking to one of the other mums at Sam’s preschool, a painter, and I asked her, “How have you been able to do all those paintings?”

And she said, “I turn the telly on so I can get some work done. But sometimes my kids paint with me.”

“Yeah, painting does seem like something kids could help with. More so than building websites, eh?”

Over the weekend, my husband got a job from the landlord, painting our house. Working from home.

The first day of the job was great. The child was helping my husband and they were having a nice time together.

The second day didn’t go quite as well.

At 3:00, my husband came into the spare room, where I was working, and he said, “Am I working AND doing the childcare?”

“Um, no.”

“The child keeps asking me why,” he said. “And when I’ve got the sander on, he keeps interrupting me. To show me things. Like a fleck of paint.”

“Um, yes, that’s what three-year-olds do. Would you like me to take him to the beach or the park, to get him out of your hair? Because it’s a bit difficult to get things done, isn't it, if you’re being interrupted, ALL THE TIME?”

So we went to the park and the beach. And it was lovely. And affirming.

Here’s a sweeping generalization: our society does not value our stay-at-home parents.

I don’t believe stay-at-home parents are better.

Some parents don’t want to stay home, or can't stay home, with their under-fives. And that’s fine. It’s the parents’ choice. Making the best choice for their families.

Obviously, though, stay-at-home parents aren’t compensated financially.

In New Zealand we have the DPB and Working for Families. It’s not enough.

How many working parents would choose to stay home, until their kids are school-aged, if it didn’t involve too much financial sacrifice?

For us, it’s been tough financially. We rent. We survive pay check to pay check. We sometimes have to ask for help from our families so we can make ends meet.

New Zealand encourages parents to get back in work as soon as possible. 20 hours of free childcare is offered.

Why not also reward the parents who choose to stay at home and raise their children?

It's a full-time job in itself.

It’s certainly a challenge. I salute the parents who have found a way to do it.


I don't eat beets.

I love a few things on this list of good-for-you foods: turmeric, frozen blueberries, cinnamon, pumpkin seeds and pumpkin.

Cabbage and swiss chard, yes, I could eat these more often.

And my husband loves prunes.

Pomegranate juice sounds nice.

Okay, okay, I'll buy beets. And this time I won't leave them to wilt in the veggie drawer. I'll eat them, and I'll like them. Yes, I can.

Sardines? I've never tried them.

They just sound yuck.

I guess I could buy them for the earthquake.

Maybe I'll love 'em.


Cauliflower Soup.

Every other Sunday my father-in-law gives us a cauliflower. Sometimes we use it to make this simple soup, which even the child will eat.

Cauliflower Soup
inspired by Soup Bible

1 Tbsp butter or oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large potato, peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium cauliflower, cut into small florets
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a saucepan melt butter or heat oil, and add onion and garlic. Cook over a gentle heat until soft. Add potato and cauliflower, sauté for a few minutes and then pour in stock. Slowly bring to the boil and cook, covered for 15-20 minutes until vegetables are tender. Remove from heat and cool a little.

Place in a blender or food processor and purée until smooth. Return to the saucepan and gently reheat. Season to taste.

A bit of rice milk (or cream) makes this soup even better. My husband and I like to ladle into bowls and sprinkle with a little blue cheese.


Dairy-free pikelets.

We are still in a holiday mood chez Wellington Road.

As such, today for lunch we had dairy-free pikelets, topped with dairy-free cream cheese and smoked salmon.

Dairy-free pikelets
from The New Zealand Food Allergy Cookbook

1 cup plain flour
1 tsp egg replacer
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda (oops, I used 1 tsp)
1 Tbsp sugar
3/4 cup rice milk
1 Tbsp dairy-free margarine or oil
2 tsp golden syrup

Sift dry ingredients. Stir in milk.

Heat margarine and golden syrup until melted. Add to above and mix in.

Cook in spoonfuls in a greased frying pan.

And I forgot the capers. Still good.


Seafood pizza.

I’m sorry, New Zealand. Fish and chips, you’re best in the world. Hands down. Pizza, not so much.

A few times we ordered pizza from one of the chains, and we thought, “This isn’t too bad.” But our subsequent orders left us feeling disappointed.

Too many toppings. Bad sauces. Lackluster crusts.

Then the child was born. His food allergies turned delivered pizza into a naughty after-bedtime treat. And we were usually let down.

And let's face it, in these recessionary times, it’s expensive.

So I’ve taken matters into my own hands. Literally.

I make my own pizza base from this easy recipe:

Stacey’s quick pizza base

Put into bowl:
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 tbsp sugar

Mix to dissolve.

Sprinkle over 1 tbsp instant yeast and stir in 1 tbsp olive oil. Leave for at least 5 minutes to froth.

Mix 3 cups all purpose flour, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp baking powder.

Add flour as needed if sticky knead. Knead for a couple minutes. I do it by hand.

Then I rest the dough as long as possible, covered in a warm place.

I roll the dough out with a rolling pin. I make two pizza crusts with this recipe.

Last night with some help from the child, I made dairy-free Seafood Pizza:

2 tbsp tomato paste mixed with 2 tbsp water
1 tbsp each of crushed garlic, chilli sauce and dried oregano
1 large prepared pizza base
About 300g seafood. I splurged and used crab meat.
1 cup grated cheddar cheese. I used soya cheese.
Optional: ½ cup chopped green olives

Mix tomato paste and garlic, chilli sauce and oregano. Spread this tomato paste mixture over pizza base. Arrange seafood on top, then cheese, and olives if using. Bake at 200°C for 12 minutes.

Seafood Pizza. We were not disappointed.




Here are mine for 2009:

· Finish Christmas shopping by October. Yeah, right.

· Set mobile phone to auto-lock. Stop ringing people accidentally from my purse. Done.

Happy New Year.

The most annoying phone ever.


NYE highlights, with more bullet points.

• Riesling instead of champagne.

• Candles make house seem tidy.

• Party with husband and MTV’s Sweatin’ Beats.

• Yummy supper of smoked salmon and cheese plate.

• At midnight, bang on pan and break new wooden spoon.

• Yes, awake at midnight.

• Neighbours have ample fireworks.

• Watching waves crash on beach.

• Now grumpy after staying up too late.