Friday, March 28, 2008

A quicky to finish off Easter

I still haven't finished my Easter post for some reason. I was going to talk about the food I cooked and some other animal adventures but my excitement about those things have wained this week now that the work routine has taken hold and the loveliness of family time has eroded a little.
However, here are a few more pictures of our weekend. We had a great visit out to Justine and Zac's house to see their lovely new puppies. German short haired pointers. Gorgeous puppies and even lovelier mother. Nic loved the puppies and spent a lot of time picking them up and rearranging them. I think they got a lifetimes worth of handling in one session. Loved the house and the farm and the location. A lovely morning out in the country. When we got home Nic spent all afternoon in his pool. We had to drag him out when he turned blue and get him in to a hot shower.Although we did heaps of great stuff this weekend, chatting with Jonty's family in the UK using the webcam was a real hoot. They are off to Dorset for a week. I didn't really get why they hooted with laughter after I asked about swimming in the ocean until I saw the news that night and saw there was snow in England. Funny how you forget sometimes that it is not balmy Autumn everywhere.

Quince jelly. I final rave about quince jelly. To me this is the most gorgeous of all the jam/jelly flavours. Not only is the taste unique and evocative, the jars of wonder. I can't even begin to think of a way to describe the colour. Quince jelly on hot cross buns mmmmmmmm.....

And I haven't even talked about Jonty and Justin's quick dash down to Warbirds over Wanaka or a whole heap of other stuff including the very cool onion skin eggs we made and so on and on and on.... I think I will move on from Easter now and think about something else.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Fantastic and full on

What a great weekend. I love Easter! It is amazing what you can pack in to 4 days when - it is the sum being greater than the parts. I guess the themes of the weekend could be food, friends, family, kilometres and SUNSHINE! Nothing like Summer weather in Autumn.

Marie-Anne's gorgeous backyard

Yesterday we went swimming in an outdoor pool in the late afternoon and it was glorious. We went with Alex and Joseph and Oliver and afterwards sat in the sun eating freshly made afghans (biscuits). One of the many bowls/plates of food I made and consumed over the weekend. When you eat a home made afghan you know that you should NEVER EVER spend money on a packet of bought ones. They are an insult to your taste buds.
Alex and I also caught a movie one night. It was a bit mad and although funny, got a bit annoying and Woody Allen angsty at the end. I did enjoy being back in Paris though and it got my itchy feet going again. Not a good sign. However, glad I saw it.
Sunday we spent the day in Timaru with Marie-Anne and her two (of three) terrorised cats. Nic and Emma, the baby cat, spent literally hours playing in the garden. Both seemed unable to to tear themselves away from each other. It was rather exhausting to watch and I have no doubt that Emma slept the sleep of the dead that night.
Nic and Emma Nic on the other hand extended his great day into night, staying at his grandparents while we went to a Mexican themed potluck dinner. It was one of the rare occasions where everyone pretty much made the same thing. Except for the hosts who made an array of really delicious starters and dessert tasty things. The rest of us summoned up all of our creativity and made variations on the mince, beans and chili theme. I am ashamed of myself.

Nic posing at Port Timaru...he has just decided to pose for photos for the first time in his life so I am making the most of that for as long as it lasts
Caroline Bay - I never realised how lovely it was. Shame on me.
to be continued....(morning duties are calling)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Playing with Flickr

Got a few moments up my sleeve this morning waiting to take Nic to a party...he is 'cello taping' - a strange and mesmerising activity for him. But this is what I made using some images from our visit to Paris last year

What do you think?

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Although we don't really celebrate Easter in the way my family did when I was growing up, I always love the Easter break. Four whole days of fun activity. I remember some of the best parties and fun times at Easter. Last year we went to Oamaru with Jasmine. This year we are staying round home so we can afford our trip to the Gold Coast in April. However, we are planning some fun days out and about. The weather looks like it is going to be fair. Nothing like an Indian Summer weekend with relaxing on the horizon. It is a good opportunity for Nic to rest up after his first two weeks at school. Another thing to celebrate this Easter is the arrival of Hazel Anya Beth Stewart. Another gorgeous girl to add to our family. Yay Gill and Andrew!

Happy Easter Everyone

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Party season draws to a close

Ben's 3rd birthday party today. A family affair, we gathered at the bach. Usual suspects, cute girls in pink and blue boys. All for the last Davis/Thompson party for a few weeks at least. Next one is mother's 70th in Moeraki. Something to look forward to...I digressBen was very underwhelmed by the gathering and took it in his stride. Not one for a great show of emotion, he looked passively at his orange robot cake as we oohed and aahed. He did make more than one journey to the 'traffic light biscuit' plate though, and I suspect pretty much cleaned them up. Happy Birthday Ben, you gorgeous little boy.
My boy had a less than fantastic day as a week of school obviously took its toll. Jonty and I have lost the plot more than once this weekend and are very much looking forward to going to work tomorrow. Things must get better...surely. I am relieved to see others smiling and nodding when I describe the new and challenging behaviour and live in hope that things will improve in the next 12 years. Having said this, that ratbag boy then goes and gets excited about goggles in the shower and produces a gorgeous moment of swimming practise on the floor afterwards. Little bugger

Ode to Ray

I know there are lots of chefs and cookbooks in the world and I have a reasonable number of them in my bookcase. However, when I am looking for a dish or two that I know will taste divine I always go for my Ray McVinnie collection of dishes and delights. Last night Julian came over for a short dinner visit. I rolled out Ray's 'Greek Beef Stew' - a once a week favourite in our house during the winter. Here is the link to this recipe on the Cuisine website. You will love it ... the cinnamon quills are the key ingredient. I of course don't make 1kg of meat type stews so adjust the amounts I have at random. Always tastes delicious with mashed spud.

To follow this I attempted a new pudding recipe. I love making desserts generally because you can work in layers of flavour and they are always a treat. Again, I went to the 'altar or Ray 'with a request for a pudding using pears as I had been given a bag of them from someones garden. I found the perfect pudding and proceeded to make it while not concentrating and made a few mistakes, however, the result was unutterably delicious. Even without the butterscotch sauce that just seemed a bit hard for a casual meal outside....also too lazy by this time. Warm from the oven it was just perfect. So, thanks again Ray for the Pear & Walnut Gingerbread Pudding With Butterscotch Sauce. And as usual, I didn't have all the ingredients but it still tasted great. No walnuts or dark brown sugar but I used a combo of brown and raw. Plus no treacle, just used golden syrup. I know Ray would have approved.

I have just served the pudding up to the boys for dinner with a large dollop of my homemade strawberry jam, still warm. As you can see I am no food stylist but thought I would add a little pic of my efforts. Yum. Not burnt either. So, my rant about homemade jam.

5 reasons why homemade jam is the best
  • 9 jars of jam for under $15 (retail $3-$5 a jar)
  • recycled jars (most on a 3rd or 4th use)
  • local produce (good for the local economy and I know where it came from)
  • NO preservatives, additives and unpronounceable ingredients
  • fantastic taste
This is of course, of no great surprise to any of us who make jam all the time or to our mothers and grandmothers who always made preserves from seasonal produce. I have been making preserves for years since I left home but now I am even more committed to it as a small, one household at a time attempt to preserve (excuse the pun), the art of good honest healthy real food cookery. Quince jelly this week.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


'Lemmiwinks is dead and in a box' said the text from Jasmine. It was all I could do to stop myself crying about a little cat I have never met. I think my sadness was for Jasmine, her first grown up pet which she loved, died at the wheel of car. Still a kitty really. Jonty and she talked on the phone and then Nic wanted to ring and talk about the demise of the cat. This morning he and I were talking face to face about the phone call and I said 'I feel so sad' and Nic said 'I feel sad I for her. I feel sorry for her'. From my child who has never felt sad or sorry for anyone before this was an amazing utterance and indication that he does have empathy for others. Warmed my heart to know this. Out of others sadness comes a little ray of light...selfish of me to find this in Jasmine's sadness. Sorry Jasmine

Monday, March 10, 2008

There is something about March

Before Nicholas came along I never even noticed March. The only memory I have of the whole month was 7 March was Tax day for some group. But now March really is a focus on my yearly calendar. Firstly and so obviously, it is Nic's birthday - on the 7th. All of a sudden I realised how lovely March is around that time. It is still warm but the baking heat of summer has left and it is warm but fresh. The sky is so very blue and the water at the beach and the river not so cold.
Yesterday after a week of parties and 5 cakes! We headed for the beach. We were there early as the weather forecast indicated a cold Southerly coming through at about noon. The water was fresh (a euphemism for very tingly and a bit headachy), the surf was perfect and there were only hardy families camped out on the beach.I caught some of my best waves of the season and did some very enjoyable bobbing. The waves were so perfect that I just launched in at the perfect moment and was picked up and shot forward. No frantic arm swimming to get in the wave and no dumping with spine bending strength. Just perfect. I saw a guy about my age trying to catch waves on his boogie board, to little effect. I wanted to tell him 'It doesn't get any easier than this mate' but thought better of it. He and I were the only people in the water without wetsuits so big ups for that. Nic clung like a limpet around my neck as we tackled some waves together. Really is time for swimming lessons for him.
Jonty and Nic went hunting for creatures in the rock pools and discovered a very large crab in the defensive nipper flailing pose and left him alone, '100's of sea anemone', catseyes and Jonty got stung by a wasp on the back of his neck' Very brave my Jonty - didn't utter a word other than ' mmm stings a bit'. We kept an eye on that little spot all day but he seems ok.

Back home we cleaned up the detritus from Nic's birthday party and had a visit from my folks. Nic dressed up in his school uniform to show them and we all were a bit misty I think, looking at that baby of mine cute as a button and ready for school. All the books, bag, clothes and boxes are labeled to within an inch. Fresh baking in the tins and everything just so for the big day today. Nic is starting to worry a bit about it all but he will be fine.

Another great thing about March besides the calm warm weather is Nic's birthday. With only one small child it is a perfect opportunity to go mad and put heaps of time and effort in to everything about the party. Leaving two pre-schools, having a small family gathering and a kids party, I baked 5 cakes last week and made a lot of icing. Phew!
The weather was perfect on Saturday and all the little ones arrived gorgeous in party frocks...the girls...and tidy and combed ... the boys. With most of the children from different parts of Nic's busy life, there was a little awkwardness at first but once the trampoline was spotted and the new birthday castle inside and the crafty craft table everything just took off. Food was dispensed, lemonade and juice also plus the revealing of a huge pile of m and m's in the volcano on the cake and all the children were in heaven. Lovely to have all my friends there too with their children.

Before Nic I used to think the year ended in February...the end of summer...and didn't start again until November. Now I know that March is really just an extension of summer and the best kept secret month of the year!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Birthday Bliss

What better way to get over a big birthday event than fall asleep wrapped around your very own dragon?

Nic took a very measured approach to his 5th birthday. He got himself up and turned on tv, plugged in his headphones and proceeded to ignore the pile of very enticing and interesting looking presents on the coffee table. When the pile was pointed out to him he chose to 'turn the tv off so I don't get distracted', and carefully and measuredly opened the cards, then the presents which all had a good playing with before the next was opened. He especially loved the little bits and pieces Granny Philippa stuck on the outside of each of the 6 little things she sent. He absolutely loved each and every thing he received. Very heartwarming for his mother.

Off to pre-school he headed with another cake and a pile of lollipops. When we picked him up at 5 I managed to hold back the tears and make chit chat with Jo and Megan, but reading his profile book in the car on the way hope was almost too much. I only have great things to say about Barnados Early Learning Centre - Richmond. You just couldn't ask for a more warm inviting and happy place for a child to spend their time when they are not with you.

Home for a family dinner and another present. Jasmine hit the spot with a 'Lightening McQueen' money box with Easter eggs in it. The most enticing bit of this present was the padlock and key. An absolute obsession of Nic's. He doled out the Easter eggs all night and was hugely generous with them.

Bowling in to his room last night I was overwhelmed with love and affection for my beautiful boy who brings me love and sunshine every day of his life...the gift that keeps on giving.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Sunday Drive

When was the last time you went on a Sunday drive? For us this is usually a winter activity but last Sunday Jasmine was in town so after a delicious breakfast at Drexels, we high tailed it up to the Summit Road and went driving. The morning was stunningly blue with a fierce (unseasonal) southerly wind whipping across the hills. Jasmine took all of these photos. She has her own style which is distinctive and really interesting. Thanks for letting me use them Jasmine.
The hills of Christchurch are great. Hundreds of people a day use the hills for their recreation and there were cyclists, rock climbers, orienteerers, walkers, tourists and Sunday drivers dotting the road and tracks like small insects in a big landscape. I desperately wanted to get on my mountain bike and ride the traverse track, something I have not done for five years.
At Sugar Loaf the air felt big and expansive and hugely refreshing. We filled ourselves with lungfuls of fresh air and drank in the views for miles in every direction. It was great to get out of city and find some space and relative quiet.