Halfway down the stairs

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

O Holy Night December 24, 2009

Filed under: christmas,cooking,gardens,pavlova,Uncategorized — halfwaydownthestairs @ 1:51 pm

Well, now it actually is the night before Christmas. Well, at least the day before. The sun is shining – it’s so hot that you can’t go outside. Our house is unnaturally quiet as masters 6 and 3 have gone to terrorise their grandparents, OVERNIGHT, and won’t be back for one more blessed hour. This has meant that I have wrapped all the gifts, been to get the fresh fruit, and been to the supermarket, and am generally entirely ready for the big day tomorrow. As usual, Santa has completely over-bought for the children, and the lounge was a sea of gifts and wrapping paper – just wrapping it all up.

I have a pavlova in the oven from this recipe, and it looks as though it just might work out. I’ve never made a pavlova before, but this was truly so ridiculously easy I will never buy one again. It will be topped with cream and strawberries though, not that healthy yoghurt stuff! It is Christmas after all. The Christmas cake is all made too, and has been sitting quietly in it’s tin sipping brandy for a couple of weeks (shame I can’t say the same) and the mince pies I made have mostly been eaten… perhaps I can summon up a few more this afternoon.  The last thing I have to do is pick the vegetables from the garden to bring to the Christmas table. (Cue sigh of happiness.)

Tomorrow we will be off to the family homestead, and after mass will begin feasting on:

Warm chelsea buns, and scones with jam and cream

then for lunch…

Chickens (3) Pumpkin, red onion and feta salad, with sugars nap peas from the garden, roast vegetable salad, green and yellow beans from the garden as well as freshly shelled peas.

And for afterwards…

Christmas pudding, perhaps brandy butter…?

Pavlova, perhaps even small meringues?

Christmas Cake

I know I know, no turkey or ham, but really this year with all of us facing some fiscal challenge or other, chickens seemed just as good, and far less expensive than the turkeys and hams for sale. And what’s it all about other than spending time with family in any case?

So the halls are decked, not with holly but with summery things, in this southern hemisphere Christmas.  Wishing you all a peaceful Christmas, and a new year full of hope and challenge.

See you on the stairs,


PS – If you are super lucky I’ll post a Christmas photo or two.

PPS – The pavlova sunk.


The grinch who stole christmas December 19, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — halfwaydownthestairs @ 8:05 am

It is nearly Christmas. And it is forever since I lasted blogged, for which my apologies. But sometimes being the mother of three, the wife of one, and chief cook and bottle washer takes up more time than it should, and allows little to no time for lying about in tropical resorts, drinking martinis, or blogging. Sad but true.

So now Master 6 and 3 are on holidays, better to use up all my time and energy. Yesterday was day 1, and at 8.23am, Master 6 proclaimed he was bored. This did not go down well, and resulted in some bedroom time – for him, not me. For the record, this is the same six year old who has woken at 4.47am the last two days running, in some kind of twisted ‘I’m excited that it is holidays so I wake up early so I don’t miss out on anything’ horror story. The less said about that the better.

So yesterday I was wondering what to do with the little terrors in the afternoon, and chanced upon the plan that they would help me clean up the house. They are young enough to think this is a fun game, mostly. We worked for a good couple of hours, and now I have some parts of the house that are clean, like the kitchen cupboard fronts, and UNDER the couches, which really really weren’t clean before. I think this will be one of the main holiday activities moving forward.

We also did fun stuff like go see Santa for a picture. I bribed them into wearing smart shirts for the occasion. Master 3 had an abolute paddy about this, which made the preparation that little bit more pleasent. When we got there, Santa asked if they had been good, the usual carry on, and they lied through their teeth and said they had been.  Then asked for gifts which of course are brand new requests not featured on the Santa lists they wrote earlier and which ‘Santa’ has not purchased. Sighsighsigh.

Then it was home to do bedtime routines, and all the joy that that entails, and stories, during which I was constantly interrupted to the point I really couldn’t be bothered reading ‘the witch who was wasn’t’ any more.  Then I spent a festive evening cleaning up the garden toys, unstacking the dishwasher, and folding laundry. Husband was out at a christmas party. Sighsighsigh.

So after being woken up AGAIN at 4.47am, my mood is not super festive. Today is supposed to involve gift shopping at festive markets, and Christmas baking, but really all I want to do is go to some kind of local hotel and sleep for a long time.  Or do research online about boarding schools. Or tropical island escapes, where I would go ALONE.


Are you my mother? December 3, 2009

Filed under: folding towels,mothers,working — halfwaydownthestairs @ 8:29 pm

We all know the story of the little bird who woke up in the nest looking for his mother. He searches for her, asking all the creatures he meets, from cats to dogs to boats to ‘snorts’ (diggers) if they are his mother. Having no experience of mothers, he doesn’t know what he is looking for.

Becoming a mother is a bit like this. For all that has been written about it, painted about it, and talked about it, each time a person goes from individual to mother it is unchartered territory. As you carve out your role as best you can, you might look to your own mother, to your peers around you, to what media may tell you for answers, but in the end how you shape your mothering is up to you.

There are thousands of books which will tell you how to be a mother. I don’t intend to add to the litany. If I have any advice for you in your mothering it is – Trust your gut. Allow yourself the space to listen to yourself. Regularly assess your choices. Do what makes you happy. A happy mother is a far far better one than one who feels trapped.

I have been prompted to think about these things by reading Deborah Hill Cone’s latest on mothers. I was disappointed, if I’m really honest. I’ve always enjoyed DHC’s writing. DHC has written a reflection on her own current experience of becoming a solo mother: she says that all she sees around her are picture perfect families with stay at home mothers. I think that’s a bit like when you are thinking about becoming pregnant, and all you see around you is pregnant people. Your own experience colours your vision. I happen to live in the same suburb as Deborah. I know it’s a white suburban oasis. I know. But don’t expect me to beat myself up about it. I don’t happen to be a millionaire, I don’t happen to own a house here, and I haven’t stayed home with the babies over the last 6 years they’ve been around. Up to now, I’ve been working.

I’ve been a mother who works largely because I wanted to. I enjoy my job, I enjoy the work I produce, I get a kick out of getting things done. For me, that has meant getting out of the house and away from the folding of the towels. I have always said that for me, this has been the right choice. I have been a happier mother because I work.

However, in recent past, we had master 0, bundle of cuteness that he is. So for the time being, I’m at home, living the home life. I’m still not folding the towels – well, not today. I got masters 3 and 6 attacking the laundry mountain, and they did a great job. Note to self, that’s a good daily activity for them.

Anyway, being at home is good. Good, because family life has become less stressful. Weekends are not longer taken up with all the housework, shopping and cooking. I can focus on planning our household expenditure, meals, vege garden. I can spend time with my son on his homework. Does this make me a 1950’s housewife? Perhaps. Is that a bad thing? I don’t think so.

As I see it, while I am at home, I have turned my attention and energy from work to home. Working in the home, is for the time being, my job. I should do it well. It helps our household function. I’d like to think that if my husband was in a similar position, he would do it well. The hours I spend working for my family, at home, are valued in this house. If for one moment anyone forgets they should be valued, I remind them. It doesn’t mean I iron the busy husbands shirts (I don’t) or keep a perfect house. (I really don’t.) Nor does it mean my kids are home with me all day every day. (They aren’t.) But it does mean the childcare and household buck stops with me, for now.

Next year will hold other challenges. I know I will return to work at some point. I like it. But I’ve learned a bit from this year about having one parent around the home. It’s good. And I don’t think people who choose this as a full time occupation should be sneezed at, DHC. Many people make huge sacrifices to keep one partner, male or female, in the home. Weighing up working in an interesting job with the regular drudgery of making dinner is hardly fair. It isn’t about picture perfect families, or perfect 1950s marriages with 1950s division of labour, it’s about people making choices that work for them.

So what kind of mother am I, for the record?  I think I’m a snort. I’m the one that makes the most noise. I’m the tough one. Yet, for now anyway, I’m the one that brings the baby back to the nest. I might not look like a mother, or act like one half of the time, but my baby birds know what sort of mother I am. Theirs.

See you on the stairs,