Halfway down the stairs

The day to day thoughts of mother of three, fledgling gardener, and policy analyst.

“He kneaded and punched it and pounded and pulled… till it looked ok.” November 28, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — halfwaydownthestairs @ 3:57 pm

In our family we have a game where we quote from a children’s story, and then the others have to guess where the quote comes from. I’ve given it away here of course, with the picture from Sendak’s Night Kitchen – but perhaps I should play it with you lot, and you can try to guess the quote too. Family members excluded, and try not to google.

Anyway, like Mickey, I’ve been baking. Today I’ve made chocolate chip cookies, using Sophie Gray’s wonderful recipe, and then two birthday cakes. Two, because they are supposed to be gluten free, and egg and dairy free, and unsurprisingly, the first one was less than perfect. (Understatement.)  To be fair, I took the egg out. The second one, from here, looks like it is much better.

I won’t bore you with why I’m taking all the good stuff out of the baking today – suffice to say that the charming sister, whose birthday it is, is wheat free, and I am  free of dairy and eggs for the time being. So the baking has been adventurous. Baking is a regular feature around here, mainly because it helps keep hungry tummies at bay, and lunchboxes full. My kids are ALWAYS hungry. Master 3 in particular could happily eat all the live-long day if I let him. My life is one long cooking fiesta, what with the dinners and the lunches and the baking and the meal plans. This is not fun, but it is required.

So this afternoon Master 6 is off at a birthday party, and Master 3 has been down in the village with his dad, while Master 0 has slept. It has been a good time to bake.  In a little while we are off to celebrate the sisterly birthday at the homestead. I bought her this. There will be loud crazy chaos, and that’s just my kids. Then I’m staying on with the young folk for a little while, and having a glass of wine, or two. I plan on staying at least long enough for the husband to get the big kids asleep before I return home. Missing out on kid-bedtime is my very favourite thing.

Then tomorrow will be full of  more things. There is an end of term mass and subsequent picnic thing for Master 6’s school – families are required to attend. I pretty much hate attending stuff on Sunday afternoons at 4.30pm, but there you are. Not to mention the making of picnic food. Sigh. But then I’m a killjoy. Luckily I am off out in the morning to have cups of tea with a friend, which makes life all the more pleasant. We will sit about and coo at the baby and laugh at the world. Perfect.

See you on the stairs,


Oh yes, the quote. Here’s an easy one: “Some stories are true, and some aren’t.” I trust you not to google.



“Peter was not very well during the evening…” November 26, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — halfwaydownthestairs @ 1:21 pm

I am sorry to say that Peter was not very well during the evening.

His mother put him to bed, and made some camomile tea; and she gave a dose of it to Peter!

‘One table-spoonful to be taken at bed-time.’

I am sick. I have a horrid cold in the head, which is terrible. It is terrible because it is keeping me up at night, and sleep is a finite resource around here at the moment, what with the small baby and all. But worse, it is gloriously sunny and warm outside. The summer cold is just so wrong, on so many levels. Masters 0 and 3 are similarly affected, so I have pulled in the big guns and asked busy husband to stay home today. This makes it all alright. He is currently out at the supermarket, and I am sneakily writing a blog post while he is out, as he has directed me to bed.

Drippy nose aside, I watered the garden this morning, as it is so hot things will die if I don’t. And what did I spy but sweet tiny baby beans growing on the dwarf beans, and, oh frabjous day, 2 green tomatoes sprung up out of nowhere. They are quite big already and I can’t believe I didn’t see them before now. Probably hiding. Anyway, I am delighted. Not to go on about the garden, but last night we ate the first courgette off the plant, in some treasure soup. (See below.) I wonder if garden-types are like reformed smokers, always going on about their virtuous choices? I fear they are.

Not much more today, dear readers, as I must go hide under the blankets, like Peter. More tomorrow, perhaps. And I promise not to mention the garden,

See you on the stairs,


Treasure Soup

A little oil.

1 onion

2 cloves garlic

2 rashers of bacon, or maybe a little ham, cut into small pieces

2 carrots, sliced

1 courgette, sliced

whatever other veges are around, perhaps celery or a leek, a red pepper – whatever is in your vege bin….

1 tin canellinni beans, or butter beans, or similar….

1 tin chopped tomatoes

About 4 cups chicken stock – if using stock cubes use 3 cubes to 4 cups of water. Or 5 cups. Whatever.

1 cup dried pasta – whatever you have.

Perhaps some herbs – basil, oregano, parsley – whatever is in the garden.

Salt and Pepper.

Chop onion, crush garlic, chop bacon. Warm up some oil in a large saucepan, and saute them.

Add chopped/sliced veges. Cook, stirring, for 3 or 4 minutes.

Add tin of beans, drained and rinsed. Add tin of tomatoes.

Add chicken stock, or water and stock cubes, dissolved.

Add about a cup, or a little more, of whatever dried pasta you have around. If you need to add an extra cup of water, do. Add herbs and season. Simmer, covered for 15-20 minutes until the pasta is cooked. Serve with bread.

Call it treasure soup, and tell the kids they are fishing for treasures. They will love it.


“…she did not want it to be a quite dead garden.” November 23, 2009

Filed under: gardens — halfwaydownthestairs @ 1:24 pm
Tags: ,

The sun was shining inside the four walls and the high arch of blue sky over this particular piece of Misselthwaite seemed even more brilliant and soft than it was over the moor. The robin flew down from his tree-top and hopped about or flew after her from one bush to another. He chirped a good deal and had a very busy air, as if he were showing her things. Everything was strange and silent and she seemed to be hundreds of miles away from any one, but somehow she did not feel lonely at all. All that troubled her was her wish that she knew whether all the roses were dead, or if perhaps some of them had lived and might put out leaves and buds as the weather got warmer. She did not want it to be a quite dead garden. If it were a quite alive garden, how wonderful it would be, and what thousands of roses would grow on every side!

The Secret Garden

I liked The Secret Garden a lot as a child… something about a secret place where nobody could find you I think.  After I started the first post with a poem, I wondered what might be a good match with this post… it might be a trend, it might not be. We shall see.

I told you it wouldn’t be long before I starting talking about gardens.  In the last few months I have been working on a garden of my very own. I had thought about it for a long time, but never really found the time, what with the work and the children. But when I had our latest baby – Master 0 – I was home more often, and finally made it happen. So now the grass up the back of the section has turned into a small garden. I started with a little broccoli patch, and we enjoyed it so much I planted a little more. And a little more. So now there is…

Beans, green and beans yellow dwarf, tomato plants, lettuces, courgettes, corn, a passionfruit vine, celery, pumpkin, spring onions, and potatoes. Agria, ’cause that’s my favourite. Not to mention strawberries, sweet peas, and sundry herbs. And we’re loving it.  The kids have helped, a bit, though Master 3 doesn’t like to get his hands dirty, and Master 6 has a tendancy to step on seedlings.

What I like most about the garden is wandering about in it, checking on things, in the early morning. It’s very quiet out there in the dawn, provided the children don’t find me. One of the things about having three sons is that it can get pretty loud at our house, and I like a bit of peace every now and then. In the early morning you can see the beginnings of corn inside the sheaves, the new courgette flowers in their bright yellow, and the strawberries that are ready to eat. Of course I eat them, and there is nothing better than a stolen strawberry in the morning quiet.

Other things you notice in the garden though, I have discovered, is what has been stolen by other things – caterpillars, snails, and worse, birds.  Just lately, the birds have been eating the lettuce. Who knew birds ate lettuce?  Not me. But then I don’t know much about gardening. They have had 2 from 5 lettuces so far. I don’t mind sharing a bit, but I’d rather they left my new seedlings alone… not sure how to stop them, short of a lot of bird netting, or setting a small child as a guard, which would be more cost effective!

We did other planting at the weekend, at our daycare, who were planting a new garden of their own. It was a great few hours spent building a garden which our children will help look after, not to get too touchy feely about it. The kids shovelled dirt, planted, and then watered the plants, themselves, and anything else within reach of the hose. I got to talk to other cool parents  – not something you normally get time for in the drop off/pick up rush. The sun shone, and it was all very pleasant.

So there you go. A garden post.

See you on the stairs,


PS – for the record, I very nearly quoted Moving Molly at the beginning, for as we all know, she had a secret garden-next-door, that was “a jungle for cats.”  Molly would go there to play, and give the plants a drink. Not to mention the 1970s illustrations with retro cool kids clothes.


Halfway down the stairs November 21, 2009

Filed under: Introduction — halfwaydownthestairs @ 8:28 pm
Tags: , ,

Halfway down the stairs
is a stair
where i sit.
there isn’t any
other stair
quite like
I’m not at the bottom,
I’m not at the top;
so this is the stair
I always



Welcome to my new blog. I wondered what to call this – should it be called ‘the complete crazy life of Cath?” “The good life?” “Sure to rise? – how one woman baked her way through 3 children and their maddening ways?” “How to raise a family and have a life in three easy steps?”

None of these were quite right. This blog is for my thoughts on my life, an extension of my facebook self, somewhere where I can chat with the universe about what matters.  So often in my life I find myself halfway through things – halfway there, halfway down, halfway up. I often want to get to the end of something, to achieve something, to finish. But I find my life is not always like that, so I’ve decided to celebrate the halfway. So with a grateful nod to Mr Milne, Halfway down the stairs it is. And what better thing than to start with a children’s poem and a delightful little drawing.

You might know me from facebook, from my column in Kiwi Parent, or even from real life! However you’ve come here, I’m glad you came. I hope you come back – let me know what you’d like to hear about.

By way of an introduction, I am mother to 3 mostly lovely sons, ages 6 and under. One is quite new. We live in Auckland, New Zealand. I am not currently working, though hope to do so again.

Meanwhile, I’ve been filling my latest maternity leave window with:

1 baby

1 vegetable garden (my first proper one, and I may go on about it quite a bit)

Countless baked goods

Quite a lot of coffee

Budgeting learnings (1 salary not 2 at the moment)

1,000,000 loads of washing

and my facebook addiction.

I can now add to this list – 1 blog.


See you on the stairs…



Halfway up the stairs
Isn’t up
And it isn’t down.
It isn’t in the nursery,
It isn’t in town.
And all sorts of funny thoughts
Run round my head.
It isn’t really
It’s somewhere else

AA Milne.