Posts from — October 2016
October 26, 2016
Well, we said we’d do it and we did. Stubbornness prevailed… Marjory and the Mouse is here!
Look at it, would you? I think I am as biased about the beauty and charm of the book (due to Mahe and Luis and Helena – merci and obrigada!) as I am about the beauty and charm of the kid. It’s just perfect in my eyes. Made more so by the fact that I wasn’t quite sure, for eight long years, the book would ever become a reality. We might have skidded over the finish line just in time, but over the finish line we skidded, ready for the Marjory and the Mouse book launch in Macau last Saturday.
It was incredible to see so many people come along to help launch and celebrate this special book. A joy to see old friends (and their babies!) and meet the new friends I’ve been spending so much time emailing over the last few months. If you weren’t there, I really wish I could have teleported you. At the risk of becoming overly gushy – a personal hazard, I really should just stop apologizing – it was just The Best. To start with it was held at the historic Orient Foundation. The Orient foundation already supports Cradle of Hope Association in so many ways and the Foundation building was built in 1770, as the residence of a wealthy Portuguese merchant Manuel Pereira before being rented out to the English East India Company to house the directors of the Macau branch of the company. So, on a burning hot Macau day, the basement of the Foundation remains cool and the historic grounds have beautiful ponds for kids to run around, with turtles doing lazy laps within them.
I officially launched the book and embarrassed dear Marjory, founder of Cradle of Hope, by calling her my hero, before we called all the significant donors, editors, translators, supporters, co-ordinators and cheerleaders on to the stage for thanks and celebrations. This picture doesn’t include everyone – we’d need an amphitheatre for that – but it gives you an idea of what it takes to make a book. A BIG team. Of superstars. Especially that woman I am gazing adoringly at… sorry again Marjory 😉
After signing some books and too briefly seeing friends, particularly those from Crown days – remember those?! – some of the children from Cradle of Hope joined us. Marjory and the Mouse was read to them, in Cantonese, by one of the boys Marjory helped raise, dressed as a mouse. The kids were transfixed by this story that featured their Marjory and their home; it was delightful to watch. Then, afterwards: popcorn, balloons, and the most deafening game of chase between kids and a mouse you have ever heard. I don’t think Mr Manuel Pereira ever imagined his basement would be used for such a thing.
After so much work to bring the book to life, and too many too-brief reunions with friends I hadn’t seen for almost a decade, it was very difficult to leave the book launch. It was a day of much laughter – and a few tears – and by the end of it my kids were without shoes, bright red and full of stories. Mainly about turtles. The turtles really were a hit.
It was bittersweet to have Marjory and the Mouse finally launched, my role complete, and our journey to Macau over. After the Macau leg of the holiday, the girls and I headed to Hong Kong for a few days to eat character dim sum, shop the markets, swim in a hotel pool and hit up Hong Kong Disneyland. We had an absolute ball in Hong Kong but the Macau visit was special. To launch this book, reunite with friends and visit with Marjory and the Cradle of Hope kids, all with two of my girls along for the adventure, was an unforgettable experience. I’ve been asked several times since returning “How was your trip?” and the only reply that does it justice is, simply: “Amazing.”
The night before I flew back to New Zealand, still in Hong Kong, I received a message from Fran Thomas, our co-ordinator and head cheerleader for Marjory and the Mouse. She said she had met with several of the team to debrief. They’d tossed several ideas around for the book’s use and promotion in the future including distributing in Australia, at the ILCM bazaar and in a local Portuguese book store. The book launch was over but, as Fran warned me, “it’s not over yet!”. We worked so hard to get the book published and our work is not over?!
Well… thank goodness for that.
P.S. I have received a lot of queries about ordering the book internationally – Bless you! We are sussing out a way for books to be ordered online via the Cradle of Hope website and as soon as that is up and running, I will let you know ASAP. Please stay tuned as all proceeds go directly to Cradle of Hope Association and it is a wonderful cause.
October 12, 2016
I am not Martha Stewart (or whomever the most current example of domestic goddess-ness is). I gaze at the cooking magazine covers with perfectly-glazed cookies and tastefully decorated seasonal tables and wish, as always, that I could just get invited to one of those people’s parties. It would be my Oscar night. And all the trophies would be edible.
Instead I focus on making fun–dare I say cute–things for Little e’s school lunch. Namely, mini muffins. I wrote a while ago about my go-to method of cooking steel-cut oats for a fortnight, and this is kind of a riff on the same idea. Make a bunch of tiny muffins and stuff them in a freezer bag, to be retrieved two at a time Monday through Friday (unless a hungry late-night snacker finds them). So far, it’s been a success. And poor DH only has to scrub the mini muffin pan once every two weeks. Bless.
Butternut Squash Muffins
Adapted from Allrecipes
1 ½ cups butternut squash, roasted
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup white sugar
½ cup brown sugar
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ cup raisins (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Grease a 24 mini muffin tin (or make about 12 regular-size muffins).
To roast the squash, I cut it in half lengthwise, deseed it and placed it cut side down on a greased cookie sheet. Cover it will foil and roast at 375F for about 30-40 minutes, depending on size. Surplus roasted squash is always nice to have around for risotto, soup, pie…
Put the measured (and cooled) butternut squash into a large bowl. If it’s not soft enough to easily mash into a smooth puree, I get out my hand blender, add a few tablespoons of water and puree it with the next ingredients: the eggs, both sugars and oil. Add the raisins to the wet mixture. Combine your dry ingredients in another bowl: whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. Pour dry into wet ingredients and mix just enough to combine everything. Don’t overmix; some little lumps are okay.
Fill mini muffins cups to 2/3 full and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the usual toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 2 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.
October 5, 2016
I recently listened to an illustrator describe the tools she had used to produce a picture book – “graphite pencils, watercolour, collage, old photographs…and stubbornness.’ Ah. Yes.
Picture books may look simple. In fact, the simpler they look or seem, often the better they are. But there is hard graft in simplicity; in elegance. Brevity is difficult. What looks easy probably took years, sweat and tears.
Eight years ago I wrote my little picture book, the first book I ever wrote. Marjory and the Mouse tells the story of a baby boy, Marjory Vendramini and the founding of the Macau-based orphanage, Cradle of Hope. Over twenty years ago a baby had been found abandoned in a rubbish bin. Rats had bitten him and he was quickly rushed to hospital. Marjory offered to care for the child until a permanent home was found for him and when he was adopted Marjory found herself caring for more and more babies and children. Over 200 children to date, since 1993, within two residential homes – Cradle of Hope and Fountain of Hope. Marjory’s story was an unshakable tale. I lay awake thinking of it. Thinking about her resilience, humility and compassion, the role she has played in changing and shaping the lives of hundreds of children and the way every terrible thing, including the rat bites, had led this child to Marjory’s care. This was a story that had to be shared.
Having an idea – for a book or otherwise – is easy. Cheap, you might say. It costs you nothing to have an idea but often quite a lot to make it a reality. Over the course of a few days I had written the first draft for Marjory and the Mouse. Easy! But then I rewrote the draft. Many times. I explained the book idea to a friend and Cradle supporter, Fran Thomas, who quickly came on board as chief cheerleader and co-ordinator. We translated the english-language story into Macau’s official languages – Chinese and Portugese. We found an illustrator who, after several attempts, was then unable to complete the project. This happened at least half a dozen times. Years passed. Almost a decade. I was unsure if the project could be revived. But after a couple of serendipitous, mutually exclusive events, which reinstated the book as a priority for both Fran and me, it was slowly resuscitated. This round of revival, after the completion (hurrah!) of the illustrations by French artist Mahe Corrolleur, began in mid-2015. We had words! We had pictures! I thought – we must be close now! Cut to over a year later and, as the clock struck midnight last night, I was on a phone call discussing whether Marjory and the Mouse will be printed in time for the book launch. The launch which is on the 16th of October. Oh, my heart. I have to admit – I never thought producing a picture book would be easy, but I also never imagined it would be this challenging.
But Marjory and the Mouse will be published. We will find a way. Fran and I, Marjory, Mahe, Helene, Luis and Joana, generous sponsors and tireless supporters, all of those we have gathered along the journey will make sure it is published. And when it is you will see that it is beautiful. Mahe’s illustrations are bright and charming, the translations have been completed with great effort and care and the print quality will be gorgeous. A book to keep and gift, one to share with your youngest loved ones, a story to help explain that some are less fortunate than others, one that demonstrates that even if you feel small you can make a HUGE difference. Marjory and the Mouse is a simple but heartfelt story with illustrations that are darling and uncomplicated. Hopefully it will all appear very easy. When in fact it was anything but.
Marjory and the Mouse Book Launch – An invitation to all Fork & Fiction followers:
Date: Sunday, October 16, 2016
Time: 15:00 – 16:00
Venue: Orient Foundation Praca Luis de Camoes, 13 Macao
RSVP: Please indicate your attendance by Friday, October 7, 2016, and let us know if you wish to bring family members or children with you. Please contact Ms Fran Thomas or Ms Melie Ruston; email: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone: (853) 6684 1718
We would love to see you there!
* With warm, heartfelt thanks to all those who have ensured Marjory and the Mouse became more than an idea; who have been generous and thoughtful and tirelessly determined. Including, but not limited to: Marjory Vendramini, Fran Thomas, Helene Wong, Timothy Ma, Joana Vann, Luis Pereira, Mahe Corolleur, Kylie Rogers and Melie Ruston. Your efforts have made an enormous difference. Thank you for your stubbornness! *