HOW TO MAKE CHRISTMAS CHRISTMAS-ER WITH ONE SHEET OF PAPER 0

December 7, 2017

Yes, really. One sheet of paper. But, before we begin, some introductions. You might remember my sister, Kendall, from our series on the Tiny House she built with her husband, Steve (part one and part two).

 

 

Tiny’s adventures are ongoing and so are my sister’s. In the time since we last flashed her smiley face here on Fork & Fiction she has produced another gorgeous babe, my nephew – Pax. This year Pax and Elvie (big sister) join my tribe for a family Christmas frenzy at our house. Think tents on the lawn, a “present bandit” who makes the kids complete a treasure hunt to find their hidden gifts, a glazed ham as big as a toddler and a lot of lolling about, fruit mince pies and glasses of bubbly firmly in hand. If all of that sounds lovely but also frenetic and complicated, here is the antithesis: some Christmas fun with one simple ingredient: a plain white sheet of paper. Kendall, oh crafty sister, please take it from here…

 

Last Saturday Mum had all the grandkids over to put up the Christmas tree at her house. It was outrageously delightful and sparked all the Christmas feels. Kids ate too much, carols got sung and arguments raged over which ornaments were the best.  With good reason too – Mum has a ton of ornaments and they are all packed with memories; there are rainbow doves passed down from her mother, grandkids’ and grown kids’ first christmas decorations, a very nineties angel that has spent 20 years perched lopsidedly in prime position, and multiple nods to passing trends – e.g. a Troll santa (from the first time they were cool). With all these treasured ornaments from over the decades, the resulting tree was both wonky and very crowded.

 

Returning home I realised my wee family’s tree was, well, pretty naked. While Christmassy – in a “everything bought in a five minute mad dash at Kmart” – kinda way; it did look a wee bit sad. But this is because it is our first tree as a family. In fact, it’s my first tree with my husband! I can easily make excuses for a lack of tree – “we move a lot”, “we lived in a tiny house”, “we just couldn’t really be bothered” – but this year we finally decided it was time to adorn a lonely corner in the lounge with a bright shiny tree and Elvie (our four year old) could not have been more thrilled. But how to cover the bare thing?! The four year old and I hunted the house for materials for decorations and found…white printer paper. Hmm. Thank goodness for google. Here’s what we discovered:

[Read more →]

0 Comments

Not Your Regular Gift Guide : A christmas stocking challenge 0

November 30, 2017

It’s the first of December and the Christmas books are wrapped for our annual book advent calendar. There are outdoor lights waiting to be draped over the deck (whose entanglements nearly disentangled our marriage last year) and piles of tinsel that the kids have already started to use as reins – galloping wildly and nearly strangling one another whilst dropping shimmering, shining hairs all over the house. In short – all the old traditions are ready to go. Mess, madness, fun and frenzy! But, is it time for some new traditions?

 

We are really fortunate to be able to have a Christmas that is colourful and plentiful, packed with the kind of crazy we like best. Which mostly means hordes of family feasting for about a fortnight (slide into your stretchy pants, folks!) but also includes being able to afford gifts, including those from Santa, and all the extra expenses this time of year brings. We know it’s not the same for everyone. This year, in addition to the regular traditions we’ve grown fond of, I decided to set myself a new challenge to do something a bit different from the usual frenzy. Namely – to buy all our Santa / stocking gifts from charity shops.

 

[Read more →]

0 Comments

Notes From a Writing Trip 3

November 22, 2017

Recently I got the chance to go away, as I have before, to write. Just write. (Well, maybe there was a wee bit of socializing. But not much.) I have a tight revision deadline for my latest novel, so any time I can grab to work on it, I take. And this time I had a whole weekend. 49 hours, actually. How amazing is that? Really–it’s not a rhetorical question. I’ll tell you how amazing it is:

It’s a silence-filled writing space amazing. It’s hours, back to back, to ponder the words on the page amazing. No interruptions accept for bathroom breaks that didn’t involve toilet training amazing. Just–it was sanctuary.

I took a few diary-esque notes while away, so here’s how it went.

 

 

12:41pm: Finally the ferry is leaving, late, from the berth. De-berthing? Am exhausted. Both kids were up early and I was up with them in the night for all the many reasons kids get parents up at 2am. Was going to start writing as soon as I sat down in the ferry, but am going to take a nap first.

2:14pm: Slept the entire ferry ride. No writing, but feeling more human. Now to catch buses.

 

 

3:45pm: Arrived at writing sanctuary, unpacked most important items (laptop, notes and reading material), brewed some tea and sat down. To write and write and write. This is JOY.

 

(Reading material…a bit optimistic, aren’t I?)

 

5:30pm: Meet a friend for dinner and writing talk. Love love love writing talk. And Thai curry.

7:00pm: Will now sit down to write until eyelids can no longer stay open. What started this afternoon as a shifting of a relationship between three characters is now more of a re-write of several major scenes throughout the story. Must remember not to get so excited about ‘developing’ relationships next time.

11:35pm: Eyelids heavy. Save changes. Brush teeth. Read a paragraph of Maya Angelou and pass out.

7:20am: Wake up refreshed, having slept through the night, feeling sure it must be at least 9am (with accompanying guilt at lost writing time). Nope. Have apparently lost the ability to sleep in.

8:00am: Finish breakfast of toast, tea and chocolate and reread last few pages of revisions from last night. Ugh. Fix things. Force myself not to go back to the beginning. Plough forward, into the mess. Make it better.

1:00pm: Shut laptop, get out of pyjamas (sigh) and ready to meet friend for tea and writing talk. Love love love writing talk. Afterward, walk around the streets a little and think about the lives of the people who live here. It’s not my neighbourhood, but it’s my hometown, so the familiarity is bittersweet. And bittersweet is the best kind of sweet.

 

 

4:00pm Arrive back at laptop and make a a deal: if I write for two hours, I can have ice cream for dinner.

6:00pm: Get a double scoop (cookies and cream and sticky toffee pudding) and know, to my bones, that this is the right dinner for me.

6:20pm: Change back into pyjamas, brew more tea. Sit down. Write until eyelids droop.

10:45pm: Can’t do any more. Brain overloaded. Must stop looking at words. Scroll through Instagram, fall asleep.

7:03am: Dammit! Even earlier than yesterday?!

7:35am: Tea for breakfast–not feeling the toast. Ice cream hangover? Look through only the last two pages of last night’s work. Any further back and I’ll fall into the rabbit hole of editing edits. Scribble thoughts on paper, stare into space, find the offending chapter, and GO.

 

 

11:46am: Starving. Must get lunch. Buy a wrap, scarf it down at the kitchen counter while cleaning old tea mugs and utensils. Pack bag with everything that isn’t my laptop and manuscript. Get everything ready to go, then sit down to write until my alarm says run for the bus!

3:50pm: The ferry is late leaving. Again. A wild Pacific storm is thrashing around us and the crossing will be slow. Find a carrel and set up the laptop for the last hour and a half of writing I can squeeze in. It’s not enough. I’ve made progress, but the vast majority of the book is still in need of work. I know now I’ll need way more time to revise than I will have. There’s so much work to do. It feels so good to do it, but there’s so much more. It’s exciting and scary at the same time.

Who knows where the time will come from–I might have to make it out of nothing. But this book is important, the story is valuable, and making it better is a sacred service to it. I have to find the time. Somehow.

XO

Ria

3 Comments

Not Sporty. 7

November 8, 2017

This is true: Running makes me feel horribly inconvenienced, pukey and annoyed; I prefer being inside with cake, tea and a book. I don’t want to swim in the ocean and I really don’t want to ski, thanks. Once, when put on a treadmill for one of those gym assessment thingies, I was told outright “You are not a natural runner”. I was the least active person in my family with a running, rugby-playing Dad and a local tennis champ and P.E. teacher Mum. If I was any of the Spice Girls I would not be Sporty.

 

 

And yet… this is also true: I played waterpolo from age 11 – 17 and my high school team won the National championships (several years in a row). When I can be bothered, I am a competent and natural swimmer. When I go out, I love to dance. In the last few years I joined up to Run Auckland and did several 10km races with my sister. Sometimes, when I’m running, I feel free and vibrant and happy. And in two weeks time I am undertaking my first half marathon.

[Read more →]

7 Comments

Secrets In The Garden 10

October 26, 2017

 

Okay folks, I can admit when I need help. And here I am, asking for it.

 

As you know, I am a parent who happens to really, really, really dig kids books. Recently I started reading “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett to my two eldest (seven & five years old). I loved this book as a child but couldn’t remember too many of the finer details, just that there was a beautiful, hidden garden, a boy that could communicate with animals and a whole lot of mystery and wonder. Okay, I mostly liked the garden. I was excited to find a new version that had been illustrated by Lauren Child because, well, I am besotted with her. The kids immediately loved the protagonist, Mary, and the drama right from the get-go, with Mary’s parents dying of cholera in India. It was all going pretty swimmingly until…. well… it all got – quite quickly – racist. I’m not all that keen on repeating some of the content in the book but it is blatantly, upsettingly, alarmingly racist and I gaped and couldn’t read it out loud. I was puzzled and shocked because I couldn’t recall those parts from when I was a child. The kids were already transfixed by the story and I needed to make a call. I’m a quick reader so I could read ahead and omit any racist terms, remarks and sections altogether; which is what I decided to do. Here’s probably the worst example, to help you understand what I am talking about…

 

[May I reiterate – I DO NOT condone the language or sentiment in this excerpt]

 

“Eh! I can see [India is] different,” [Martha] answered almost sympathetically. “I dare say it’s because there’s such a lot o’ blacks there instead o’ respectable white people. When I heard you was comin’ from India I thought you was a black too.”

Mary sat up in bed furious.

“What!” she said. “What! You thought I was a native. You—you daughter of a pig!”

Martha stared and looked hot.

“Who are you callin’ names?” she said. “You needn’t be so vexed. That’s not th’ way for a young lady to talk. I’ve nothin’ against th’ blacks. When you read about ’em in tracts they’re always very religious. You always read as a black’s a man an’ a brother. I’ve never seen a black an’ I was fair pleased to think I was goin’ to see one close. When I come in to light your fire this mornin’ I crep’ up to your bed an’ pulled th’ cover back careful to look at you. An’ there you was,” disappointedly, “no more black than me—for all you’re so yeller.”

Mary did not even try to control her rage and humiliation. “You thought I was a native! You dared! You don’t know anything about natives! They are not people—they’re servants who must salaam to you. You know nothing about India. You know nothing about anything!”

 

So, in the face of this and other similarly racist references – what should I have done? What would you do? What have you done?

 

This problem is not uncommon with classic literature – it’s old and our attitudes have shifted (hopefully). But, naively, I didn’t suspect one of my nostalgic childhood favourites to be harbouring such stuff. Thankfully, I’m not the only one who has had this alarming experience. Another great article, by writer Leigh Anderson, warns against buying nostalgic books (including The Secret Garden) from your own childhood and exploring new, more diverse children’s books to read with your kids. Where to find those kinds of books? Here’s a good place to start and here’s a good place to go after that.

 

In nutting out this problem I’ve certainly have discovered great resources for selecting better, more diverse and respectful books going forward, but right now I am still stuck in the garden with Mary, Dickon and the robin. What should I do? I’m going to confess – I’d like to keep reading the book because the kids are so interested but I’m just not so sure. Do you have any helpful experiences to share?

 

This parenting business is tricky business isn’t it? Raising a young human to be a good human? I’m going to take some comfort from this quote, taken from the pages of another children’s book:

 

“You must never feel badly about making mistakes … as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons.”

—The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

 

With gratitude,

Hannah

10 Comments