Posts from — May 2013

The Sweet Life… 8

May 8, 2013

…of a writer. Yes! The good things!

Today I give you my list of the sweetest rewards of being a writer. Accompanying them are shots of a recent adventure in ice cream sandwiches during a deliciously unseasonable heat wave. The ice cream is Backyard Mint, from Jeni, of course, and the cookies are store-bought because: busy writer.

1. Finding inspiration in everything. Fueling my creativity with things around me is the best way I know to feel good. Better than cake, even. Three things made me want to sit down and write before I had to go to work this morning: a perfect toddler hand print on the window of our studio, highlighted by morning sun; hearing about an eighty-five year old woman who wrote her first novel; a nest of golden baby spiders strung between leaves on our rose bush.

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2. Getting to make things better. Having the luxury of time to edit and revise and redraft and even discard. When I was twelve and a dedicated handwriter of epic tales, I thought the best stories should just come out of the writer whole, without needing revision. Needless to say I spent a lot of time trying to edit in my head, which didn’t work at all (for me, anyway). I learned that the more revision the better, at least in terms of refining and polishing the work. Now I think I like the editing process a bit more than the creating part. Don’t get me wrong–I love a seductive New Idea. But there is such huge satisfaction in taking a third draft and finally seeing how to put the pieces together. Like I’ve been subconsciously moving to this place all along, but needed to be here to see it.

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3. Working with amazing people. I’m so impressed by the talented and hardworking people who support us writers. Agents, editors, marketers, publicists and many more–they all do so much to make our work better. It’s their job to help us be writers. How great is that?

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4. Reading for writing. Sometimes I just want to read for reading’s sake, but I often find myself thinking about how the thing I’m reading is put together. How did they pull off that climax? Why is this passage so creepy? How can I love and hate this character in equal measure? Every book or poem or essay is a trove of lessons to be learned–wait, do I have my teacher hat on right now? Yes. Sorry. I forget to take it off.

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5. Language love. If it wasn’t already clear from my love of Haiku, I’m a word nerd. Finding the perfect word for a needy sentence is soul satisfying. Adjectives used as nouns? Be still my heart. This might be why poetry is an old flame I can’t stop thinking about as I move from one novel to the next…

What’s your favourite thing about being a wordsmith?

XO

Ria

In: Food, From Ria, Writing

A bear and some pikelets 5

May 5, 2013

I’m going to come right out with it – I am a bundle of nerves. My heart is racing and I’m not sleeping well. We are going to a house auction in a couple of days and I’m tasked with bidding. I mean, I get nervous haggling for a handbag. And I lived in China, people. Bidding on a house? A whole house?! I’d love to give you a clearer explanation of how panicky I feel except that it would involve lots of swearing and capitals and maybe even some bold font. Yup. Bold font.

In times like these I find the only way to cope is to regress. Back to a time when the living was easy (thanks, Gershwin) and things were a lot simpler. Back to childhood. It helps to have children around when you do this because then it seems as though you are being all nostalgic, when really you are shaking in your boots and wishing for Mum to tuck you in at night and tell you everything will be alright [And then make it alright and you don’t have to worry about a thing. Side note: Thank God for Mums. Happy Mother’s Day, Mama x]

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This time round, as thoughts and worries have been skating about in my head like overzealous dodgems, I’ve regressed right back to being about five years old. I  want comfort food and comfort reading. Preferably books with pictures, thanks, and food that is satisfyingly stodgy. The reading material was sent, as if by an angel, from my best friend in London for B1’s birthday – an A.A. Milne collection with E. H. Shepard illustrations of swingy-haired Christopher Robin and a rotund Pooh. B1 is not quite ready for chapter books but that is not deterring me from reading them to her. I realise now that I didn’t actually read Winnie-the-Pooh as a child, so not only am I regressing but I am re-creating some imaginary, idyllic (British?) childhood I didn’t actually have…?! Oh, I don’t care. That Pooh bear is damn comforting. Last night Pooh and piglet were hunting a woozle. I dare you to say the word “woozle” out loud and not feel a little better about life. See? Impossible.

But back now to pikelets. Pikelets were most definitely a feature of my childhood. Almost every “kiwi kid”s chidlhood. Pikelets for afternoon tea when you had a friend over, cold pikelets smeared with thick butter in the lunchbox the following day, pikelets for a weekend breakfast if you were really, really lucky. Better for small hands than pancakes and thicker, easier to pile up with jam and cream. Despite their similar ingredients I’d never have jam with a pancake or lemon juice and sugar with a pikelet. There’s a certain tradition and ritual with the toppings, don’t you agree?

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Pikelets are the perfect comfort food for my current nerves. They’re quick and simple. They require few ingredients and little time. They remind me of a time when all I had to worry about was getting through the  ten word spelling list for homework. And let’s be honest (geek alert) I liked spelling. It was more of a joy than a worry. Pikelets make me feel as though afternoon tea is not a thing of the past but practically a necessity for late afternoon playing like jumping on the trampoline and building forts. Pikelets are easy. Satisfying. Safe.

Winnie-the-Pooh would eat pikelets if he wasn’t so keen on eating honey, don’t you think? And you’ve got to trust a bear and good, old fashioned nursery food in times of worry, right?

HUGS, Hannah x

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Pikelets (in case you don’t have already have a stained and tattered handwritten recipe from your Mum / Nana / neighbour)

1 egg
¼ cup caster sugar
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch salt
¾ to 1 cup milk
1 tbsp melted butter
Oil for frying
Jam, to serve
Whipped cream, to serve
1. Sift flour with baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, beat egg and sugar together until thick and pale.

2. Add sifted dry ingredients to wet ingredients in two lots, alternating with milk, adding just enough milk to form a smooth, thick batter. Lastly, stir in the melted butter.

3. Heat a nonstick frying pan over a medium heat. Add a film of oil and cook tablespoons of the batter in batches, for about 2 minutes or until bubbles appear on the surface of each pikelet. Turn pikelets over to lightly brown the other side. Place on a plate and wrap loosely with paper towels.

4. Repeat the process with remaining mixture. Serve pikelets warm, topped with jam and whipped cream. Of course.

5. Feel better. Ahhhhh.

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In: Food, From Hannah, Kids and Parenting

Sweet Little Something 7

May 3, 2013

An end of week ritual – a wordless post, a personal photograph that captures a moment to be savoured, relished and preserved for looking back on. One photograph from Hannah, in the Southern Hemisphere and one from Ria, in the Northern Hemisphere. Feel free to post your questions, thoughts and comments.

Don’t forget to leave a “Haikument” in comments inspired by one of these photos. We’ve had some fantastic ones! Check them out here and here

From Hannah:

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From Ria:

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In: Uncategorized

Rhubarb-itude 3

May 1, 2013

I know I’ve been on a bit of a spring bent lately. Well, it’s not going to stop now, because the first harvest has begun! That early-waking, faithful and very fecund perennial that makes my mouth water just thinking about the sweet-tart treats waiting to be made with it.  Yes, it’s another one of those vegetables pretending to be fruit, but the jams and pies and cakes and frozen treats you can make with rhubarb are endless–and delicious.  And wouldn’t a little part of you (literally a little part) love to live under the canopy of a rhubarb plant? It’s a forest of strawberry trunks and arching green foliage!

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Little e helped me select some stalks to pull out, leaving plenty more to grow and give us harvests until August. That’s one hardworking plant. I’m thinking of a compote this time, roasted to keep in all the flavour and juices of the stalks, and also to preserve the gorgeous colour–a tip I picked up from Jeni. I sometimes roast it with orange zest, or ginger, or both. Sometimes just on its lonesome. I have found it easy to add too much sugar, fearing the stalks are especially tart and worrying about the amount of mouth puckering that will be involved in eating it. But I’ve begun reminding myself that it’s impossible to take sugar out once you’ve added it, but adding a little more at the end to strike the right balance is just fine.

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While visiting friends last week, we went to a fozen yogurt shop (parlour?) and I, as always, gravitated towards the plain yogurt flavour. The tartness, the real yogurt tang is so refreshing and healthful-feeling. In Europe you can get yogurt flavoured gelato. Why do I live in Canada, again? Anyway, I’d feel much more virtuous eating a huge bowl of plain FroYo than the same quantity of ice cream (but rest assured, I could do it if I had to). I doubt I’ll see it anytime soon, but a rhubarb frozen yogurt that came out of one of those soft serve machines in a shop/parlour like the one I recently visited…heaven. The rhubarb FroYo I make comes from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Crreams At Home, which is as visually stunning as it is life changing, at least in the frozen dessert department.

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From the next harvest I’m going to make this rhubarb cornmeal cake from Nigella Lawson. I love her. I want to be her friend. Same goes for the cake, except I’d say we are already on pretty friendly terms. It’s one of those cakes that feels rustic but can easily be gussied up with whipped cream. Or just eaten out of hand when you’re on the go. I’m a fan of sitting down with cake and really getting to know it, but sometimes you need a cake that doesn’t require a plate. This is one.

What’s your favourite thing to do with rhubarb?

XO

Ria

In: Food, From Ria