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.


“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.