Monday, 28 March 2022

Isolation notes

I'm sitting here watching the wind try to tear the washing off the clothesline.

We've been in isolation for the past week after B tested positive for covid last Monday night. We had been dreading that moment, but when it came we were actually excited. Well, I was. B was a shadow of himself, flat and tired and short of breath.  He slept most of Tuesday, and barely remembers that day at all.

I was secretly thrilled to see the two lines appear on the test. It's been a long school term, and I'd been yearning for a bit of a break from the hamster wheel. A week off from life was exactly what I wanted. And of course the girls were incandescent with joy at the thought.

It's been wonderful. And let me acknowledge right here the privilege in that fact. We are not worried about money, we have a pantry full of food, we are warm and safe and have been overwhelmed with help and support from friends and family. We are lucky, and I know that.

Honestly, I wish we didn't have to go back to the real world. Our world here at home, just us four, is perfect for me.

There's a jigsaw puzzle on the dining table (a lockdown tradition by now) which we all take turns to pause at and pore over.

B has taught the girls how to make friendship bracelets, and now J walks everywhere with embroidery floss pinned to the knee of her pants.

We've played card games ending in helpless laughter.

I've knitted a whole sleeve on A's pink cardigan. I should have got both sleeves finished really but alternating rounds of knit and purl are boring and tedious. Another pattern I probably won't revisit.

We've baked bread, of course.

A has learned how to swing herself at last, and now spends ages out there, one of the rare times she ever plays alone.

And, perhaps my favourite part, we eat every meal together. I haven't felt harassed by the thought of dinner, there's plenty of time to think about what we'll have and to get it ready in time. 

The only two things I've missed are barista coffee and being able to just nip to the shops for something we need.

We all, including B, tested negative yesterday evening so it's time to rejoin the world. Bugger it.

Thursday, 24 February 2022

Taking stock

The clothesline is sagging under the weight of towels, sheets, and pillowcases. The washing machine has been sloshing almost constantly since 7am. And there's a little girl with pale cheeks asleep in her bed at midday on a Thursday with a bowl beside her.

No prizes for guessing what's going on in our house today.

Seems like as good a time as any to take stock! Who remembers this? Takes me right back to blogging circa 2012.

Making: a pink cardi for that pale cheeked girl.
Cooking: zucchini. I never want the season to end.
Drinking: a lot less wine, and feeling so much better for it!
Reading: old blogs from circa 2012, which is what reminded me of the fun of taking stock.
Wanting: my little girl to feel better.
Looking: at the washing spinning on the line. Thank goodness for sunny windy weather! Best disinfectant I know.
Playing: Wordle, and not understanding the fuss everyone is making over the words.
Wasting: time blogging when I could be separating the sleeves of the aforementioned cardi.
Sewing: nothing at the moment which is ridiculous considering that, for the first time in my life, I now have a dedicated sewing desk.
Wishing: school holidays were a bit closer.
Enjoying: the change in seasons. Soon the sun will be coming inside in the afternoons.
Waiting: for good weather on a weekend so my friend and I can hike to the summit of Mt Taranaki.
Liking: my new/old tracksuit pants from the op shop.
Wondering: if I was supposed to move the cows today. 
Loving: feeling like autumn is on our doorstep.
Hoping: no one else catches the tummy bug.
Marvelling: at how quickly one gets used to not having a vegetable garden.
Needing: to figure out what's for dinner.
Smelling: the scent of fabric softener. I know it's a pointless luxury but I love it, especially in times like these.
Wearing: my new track pants non-stop!
Following: the covid news, much as I'm desperate to tune out.
Noticing: that my kid's wet bag is coming apart at the seams. Maybe there is some sewing in my immediate future.
Knowing: that it'll be a very early bedtime for me tonight.
Thinking: constantly about my family in Australia. Three years next month since we were all together.
Bookmarking: sweater patterns for my sister.
Opening: the compost bin and releasing a cloud of fruit flies UGH.
Giggling: inwardly at my sick girl telling me solemnly this morning that she will need a lot of attention today.
Feeling: so happy in our new house. Living here is so easy, it could not be more perfect.

Sunday, 6 February 2022

Baking bread

Back when I only cooked from packets and jars and didn't know my shallots from my spring onions, I never realised that making bread was anything special.

My sister, who cooks all kinds of incredible things, mentioned once in passing that she could never get her bread to turn out right. It gave me pause because I knew she made some extraordinary dishes. But not bread? Something so simple, such a pantry staple, how could it be difficult? 

Once I did learn to cook and to make things from scratch, I also learned that the fewer the ingredients, the more important the method. Bechamel sauce, chocolate mousse, jam. Bread. 

I can make a creamy bechamel with my eyes closed, and after years of experimenting, I can somewhat reliably turn out a decent crusty bread. 

I still cannot master my mum's chocolate mousse recipe, however. It has like, three ingredients. Mum can't understand why none of us can get it right, and we can't find that magic touch to alchemise those three disparate ingredients into the lightest airiest chocolaty-est confection.

But, back to the bread.

It must be about ten years, on and off, that I've been baking bread. Mostly being disappointed with the results, and overwhelmed with the science and the variables when trying to understand why my loaves were flat, or dense, or airless.

I've tried so many bread recipes, all promising a beautiful loaf. I've dabbled in sourdough. I've tried dozens of bread mixes. I've used a breadmaker, a loaf pan, and now, my favourite method, a dutch oven.

Like many people, covid gave me a reason to address bread baking again. For some reason, during the first lockdown in March 2020, I turned out beautiful puffy loaves one after the other. Finally! I had it! Then we came out of lockdown, and with the same recipe I was now getting flat hard frisbees. Some so sloppy I tipped them in the bin rather than waste time baking something so obviously wrong. 

I still carried on baking, found another recipe, and baked it again and again. I've made this bread over a hundred times I'm sure.

As so often happens with these things, I didn't consciously realise what was happening until I recently mentioned to a friend in passing about "when I bake bread" and she said, gosh do you make bread?? And I realised that I do. And I don't even really think about it anymore. I know my recipe off by heart.

And now I've realised that the trick is to choose a recipe that's not too arduous for you, and make it over and over so that you know know it back to front. You can look at your dough and you instantly know what it needs. 

It gives me inordinate joy that my kids, the fussiest eaters on the planet, who love packet food above all else, adore my homemade bread. "Crusty bread! Crusty bread!" they squeal excitedly to each other.

Here is the bread recipe I use:

One thing I love about this method is how much additional detail and information is provided. This, I am sure, helped me hugely to perfect my loaves.

Now if I could just conquer that chocolate mousse.

Sunday, 30 January 2022

The house blanket

Right around the time when we got serious about building this house, I started on an epic crochet project, a huge intricate blanket named, beautifully, Sophie's Universe.

The house project and the blanket project became, for me, inextricably linked. Both long slow-burn projects, both with their share of difficulties and false starts and bits needing to be ripped out and re-done. I gave myself a deadline: when the house is finished, the blanket should also be finished.

Sometimes it seemed the house would win, and other times it looked like the blanket would romp in at first place.

Through the summer days and the truckloads of metal, wood and brick deliveries, I doggedly hooked away. In front of the tv in the evenings, during the school/kindy day, a snatched moment on the weekend. As winter crept in, the house grew and the blanket spread across my lap. The house barely progressed, but the blanket became too big to finish one round in an evening. Then winter slowly withdrew and the blanket lay idle, folded neatly in its basket, and the house raced ahead again as spring bubbled up around us.

As you would know, there have been ups and downs in the house build. In some way those memories, good and bad have been stitched into the blanket. All the ebbs and flows are preserved there, even if I'm the only one who remembers.

Now here we are, living in this house. To all intents and purposes, it's finished (4L of paint notwithstanding).

It's summer again. The blanket is barely half finished. One day I folded it into the basket and never picked it up again.

Today however, I opened the storeroom and saw the blanket, still neatly folded and patiently waiting. I pulled the basket down and tonight once the smalls are in bed, I'll sit down with my hook and find my place in the pattern, choose a colour and add another round.

The house may have won the race, but if I can spend all winter under the comforting bulk of the blanket, in our beautiful new house, I'd say I won anyway.

Monday, 29 November 2021

So close!

As I type, the carpet is being laid in the bedrooms, and the kitchen installer is finishing off his last few bits and pieces (handles, toe kicks, etc).

The wooden floor is now finished, and beautiful!

The dust though! So much fine powdery dust everywhere. All over the walls, windowsills, in every drawer, cupboard and shelf, a fine coating on all the vanities... The clean up is epic. I'm trying to tackle it by degrees so I don't keel over and die from the enormity of it all.

The piles of top soil are now gone, and in the new year we'll get the fencing sorted (if/when we ever have money again). I've sown the grass seed and there is now the faintest tinge of green all around.

All the concrete is now poured, including the gigantic driveway. These kids better not ask to go to the bike park ever again, they now have their own huge bike park to ride to their hearts' content (7-10 days from now anyway).

The cladding on the front entrance is still to be done, but I'm loving this view of the house as you pull in the gate. I have some grasses ready to plant around the front entrance once I can organise a trailer load of top soil.

By far my favourite development this month though, besides the floor, is the kitchen ever closer to completion! With a functioning kitchen we can move in (ok yes and toilets...)!  The rangehood is up, the splashbacks are almost complete, and look at that beautiful benchtop.

We had this benchtop custom made and boy was it worth it! I'm a little nervous about how shiny it is but apparently it will dull down with use. At the moment no one is allowed to come near it with one sticky finger. I love it.

So shiny!

 So, the age old question, when are we moving in? Well, it's close enough that I have called the movers to book a date! Yes we will be using movers. Neither of us want to deal with the hassle and drama of trying to shift everything ourselves, and for the sake of a few hundred dollars I consider it money well spent.

I'm hoping to be in next week, B reckons it'll be the week after. Who wants to lay a bet??

Sunday, 31 October 2021

July to October

We're going to do a massive update of the last four months.

I stopped blogging the build when our builder quit the project at the end of winter. I felt disheartened and it was hard to feel excited, or want to share, when the place stood silent and empty for weeks on end. 

The good news is we found a new builder in September who has been fantastic, and things have moved along really well since then.


Very quiet due to aforementioned lack of builder. Brickwork completed.


Also very quiet, painters for the first couple of weeks, then Level 4 lockdown for the rest of the month.

Waterproofing kitchen floor

Just a few cabinets! I don't want to think about how many times we had to shuffle these around the house to make way for the painters


Out of lockdown, new builder onsite, go go go!

Kitchen and laundry cabinets finally installed.

Floorboards delivered, to acclimatise in house before being laid.

Electric "fire" installed in sitting room.

Showers installed.


Benchtops! (Except for island bench for which we are having a steel benchtop made)

Bathrooms done but for flooring and toilets.

Concrete path, and a bit hard to see but also beautiful wooden deck to entrance.


Concrete paths.

Deck two of three complete (why didn't I hose it off before taking the photo?)

Floorboards laid. Aren't they beautiful!

Bathroom floors.

Carpet in granny flat. This area of the house is now complete except for the toilet install. I've even started taking boxes down there!

Deck three of three commenced! The weather has not played ball these past couple of months but it's looking very fine and dry next week so this should move along!

We've had some very low lows, feeling like the whole thing was dead in the water and wondering what the hell we were going to do. 

But as you can see the past two months things have motored along and I'm feeling positive that we are *surely* only weeks away from completion. The change of builder has made a huge difference to seeing progress. Back in January when we first started B said, "Hopefully in by Christmas" and I scoffed. Now it seems he wasn't so far off in his prediction.

Think "In by Christmas" thoughts!