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.


“…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.