5 Mar 2015

to nest and sew

I am nearing thirty-six weeks and feeling so very full of child! The due date no longer seems a mile away, but actually rather soon. I do not want to hurry along these next weeks of preparation - nesting - readying my home, body, heart for a new season of newborn haze and winter hibernating... aside from the myriad of book-keeping, cleaning and cooking tasks, is my wish list of things to sew before this sweet babe arrives (when I am sure my sewing machine will lie dormant for some time in the corner of the spare room).

Some recent makes:
I love a good U-shape pillow, especially when breastfeeding but I lament how limited options are for cases. I made this simple case with some lush double gauze cotton by nani iro, and to my delight had just enough left over to fashion a cover for a hot water bottle - another postpartum essential item to soothe those after birth pangs...

Then there's a new pillow case for the tired looking reading cushion in Reu's room - sewn from folksy printed linen...

A stash of washable nursing pads in pure linen and repurposed cotton pre fold nappies...

A peg bag to remedy the cumbersome bending down for pegs in the rusty tin scenario...

And finally some tiny booties and bibs for the babe, just because...

Still on the list (and possibly never to be complete/begun): a linen hospital bag, a soft fleece sleeping sack for babe, linen pot holders for the kitchen, drawstring bags for carrying nappies and toys...

xx

2 Mar 2015

thirty five weeks

Sweet babe,
You're more than thirty five weeks grown, and life seems busier than ever. Nature is telling me to lessen the load, but I'm afraid we do have another fortnight or so of hard work; farmers markets to bake for, art classes to teach, chickens to order and others to prepare for, pigs to help butcher, friends to love and support, a wedding to fly to, gardens to plant. Sometimes I feel strong and full of vigour and other times I want to curl up in the bed and do nothing at all. I read that your ears are fully formed now and can hear some of what's going on out here - in the last little while you have heard me cry bitterly in grief, sing to your brother, laugh at your dada, listen to howling wind and a thunderstorm, mill up flour and potter around in the soil as the crickets begin their dusk-light chant... I remind myself that my slowness is not something to fight against, but to accept gratefully - it is a blessing to be so heavily pregnant with a healthy, soon to be known and kissed and wrapped warm - you....

21 Feb 2015

presently

life wraps around us
beautiful, changing, unfathomable

summer comes late
and we sweat in our beds

we welcome three hundred baby chicks
and learn to brood as a hen does

we are blessed with local produce
summer squash, zucchinis,
cucumbers, fist-sized tomatoes, pig livers, 
and our own grown 
lettuce,  chard, chives, dill 

I spend whole days 
preserving and baking for market
and savour the satisfied smiles
from happy bellies 

I piece strips and squares of linen together
a quilt for the babe
to thread in the six weeks that remain
craving softness, gentle hues

we mark our fifth anniversary
a day late with lunch
and a trip to the nursery
we buy a tree to mark the milestone -
wood,
we are the sturdiest 
we have ever been

we learn the heaviest grief
friends can bare
the loss of their child
still sapling
and so
so full of life

we ache
we cry
we gather
we retire late
we rise early
we love
the best we can.

10 Feb 2015

and then he was three

Amidst the busy blur of the season my little boy had a birthday; he turned three years old, and I too marked three years of motherhood. How quickly our little ones grow up, how long the days can seem, how fleeting each wonderful stage of growth is... 

For a while now I've sensed us moving into a new rhythm of family - a different dynamic of parent and child hood - as we draw closer to the birth of our babe, as we learn to work the land, as we engage with local community, as we carve out our own home, as we dream about the future... 

Happiest of birthdays my darling - you are little in stature yes, but you are so large and lofty in character and soul - Your sensitivity and curiosity. Your dialogue and remembrances. Your independence and your neediness. Your experiments and your boundary crossing. Your need for us to be present, and our need for you to teach us continually patience, humility, humour. And so we move into another year together, most likely fumbling, knowing we are blessed to have each other and the space in heart and hand and mind to grow. 

I never want to forget the two-to-three year old you, especially:
your love of water play, in any way, shape or form
your use of gendered-specific pronouns for everything, which I like to think is the Frenchborn in you
your favourite song requests - "bird song" (Watermelon man - Herbie Hancock), "strawberry song" (White Winter Hymnal - Fleet Foxes), "hospital song" (I don't want to die in a hospital - Conor Orbest), "steam train song" (Marrakesh Express - Crosby, Stills and Nash) and the "car/frog song" (Riding in the Car - Elizabeth Mitchell) 
your genuine concern for any minor cuts/burns/bee-stings/bruises mama or dadda incurs - which you remember for days and weeks afterwards and will plant a healing kiss... 
your love of books, your storytelling and retelling of favourite picture books and nursery rhymes, oh and phrases like this (upon us singing the incey wincey spider climbed up the water spout) - "poor spider, he's all wet - he needs to wear an umbrella"... and after reading about jack and hill - "oh that poor jack, he fell down the hill, broke his head, needs to get the water again"
your love of sticking, glueing, play-dough, drawing circles and rings "holes for polar bears" and squiggles "zig-zags"
your insatiable (and constant) appetite for ricotta pancakes, banana, freshly squeezed orange juice, the whites of boiled eggs, peas, olives, yogurt, honey and parmesan cheese
your love of creatures big and small, especially chickens which you seem to possess an aptitude for wrangling... 
your spontaneous face plants, morning cuddles, kisses on our cheeks, rubs on my belly, little sighs "you okay dadda? you're happy?","ohhhh mamma, oh mamma, you're my mama, Reu's mama", "I love you, sleep well"...
your keen observations of anything around you, like native birds sounds in the morning, correct naming of sea creatures in a book, types of cars and trucks going past the window...
your gender generalisations of vehicles - "that's a man's white truck... that's a lady's blue car... that's a boy's little red car"
your smiles at passerbys, your willingness to help us with tasks, your unprompted pleases, thank-yous, excuse me and sorry... 
and always your wonderful locks...

thank you 
thank you 
for being ours
xx

1 Feb 2015

thirty one weeks

my sweet babe,
your every-so agreeable father captured these photos of us today, just as dusk began to crept in - we were all tired after a day of busyness but I couldn't let the moment go - the very moment of being exactly this full of you. Like your brother you seem to be settling with your head down and while I am glad for you to be practising this positioning, the pressure is at times uncomfortably intense. Skirts and dresses and loose cotton pants are worn often, and this beloved linen dress - locally designed and handmade in the city - is especially luxurious and accommodating. I am certain the next nine weeks will fly by as we chase your brother about, bake for the markets, run an art class, prepare for hundreds of chickens to arrive, sow dozens of seeds and plant out vegetables, embrace the lenten season, celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, usher in the crisp cool of autumn and quiet prayers for you, for all of us, to keep growing, trusting, hoping... love you always, mama xx

29 Jan 2015

summer sweet

Summer is the most glorious time for fruit in this part of the country - friends backyards are brimming with fruit laden trees; plums of every kind, mulberries, apricots, peaches. I have already made one big batch of tomato and plum sauce to sell at the farmer's markets and am anticipating another batch later in the week. There is nothing so lovely as a properly ripe and juicy stone fruit, and perhaps nothing so disappointing as a floury/tasteless one! We have an excess of egg yolks most of time (because the whites are used in my bread making) and therefore much custard in made and turned into ice-cream. This apricot version was an experiment we loved and will absolutely do again. The plum slice was also a concoction - at the eleventh hour to take for afternoon tea - I think almonds and plums compliment each other perfectly and that faint tartness of plum skin with a sprinkle of sugar on top is beautiful... 

~ Honey + Apricot Ice cream ~

2 cups full-cream milk
1/4 cup cane sugar
5 free-range egg yolks
1 cup pure cream
1/4 cup honey
1 cup ripe apricots, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Prepare the custard by heating milk in a saucepan on a low heat until just below boiling. Meanwhile whisk egg yolks and sugar in a jug or bowl. Pour in warm milk and whisk vigorously - then tip back into saucepan. Continue to heat and stir custard until set (when the back of a wooden spoon stays coated with mixture). Cool. Meanwhile in another small saucepan or fry pan, gently cook apricots with spices and honey until soft. Let cool. Whip cream until soft peaks form. Blend custard and apricots together (I prefer to see lumps of fruit so I only blend for a little while). Fold in cream. Pour into a ceramic or glass dish and freeze until set - about 4-5 hours - any longer and it will become too frozen solid, if it does let soften in the fridge for an hour before serving...

~ Plum + Almond Shortbread Slice ~ 

125g butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup almond meal
1 teaspoons ground vanilla bean
2 cups plain flour (I used 1/2 rice 1/2 tapioca flours)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup full cream milk
fresh plums, halved, stones removed
raw sugar and flaked almonds for topping

Cream butter and sugar until pale. Using a beater or blender add almond meal, vanilla, flours, baking powder and milk until well combined. Pour into a 20cm square or round tin lined with baking paper. Press plums inside up all over the cake and sprinkle with raw sugar and flaked almonds. Bake in a moderate oven (180'c) for 20 minutes or until golden and coming away from the edges of the tin. Serve warm or cool with cream. 

26 Jan 2015

you and I, the blueberry kids

When we visit the blueberry farm I feel the kid in me bursting out; rambling down rows of berry laden bushes, gleefully spying ripe blue globes, and on hands and knees - reaching up between branches to pick and eat and fill our buckets. You, my little lad, are just the same - giddy with the sight of a favourite fruit all around us... the first time we go it's pouring down with rain and we juggle umbrellas and step around muddy puddles, we are cold and crazy but it's worth the two kilograms we bring home. Together we beat overripe bananas with eggs, butter and honey and make two great loaves of sweet bread, studded with the berries you press into the batter. You sit and lick the bowl clean and wait the longest time for them to bake and cool down enough to eat. 

The next week we return for more berries and the sun is shining - the sky a brilliant blue to match our edible gems. After the picking, the farmer takes us to pull up nets of yabbies from his dam and you call them black monsters and spend the next two days fascinated by their nipping and ambling about in plastic tubs filled with water. We try cooking the big ones but only get a finger nail or two of meat each - the rest we release into our nearby dam, goodbye wabbies you say, waving...

Lately I find myself reflecting often about being a mother - about my struggles in learning how to facilitate and teach and enjoy your company, especially as my body tires with the growing of your baby brother. I think about the funny conversations we have, how much I do so love your company day by day - you remind me to stop and observe; move about with passion; express my feelings and wishes (and listen patiently to yours) - you remind me to enjoy the curiosity and tinkering of things, to be flexible in the unexpected, along with the relief of a good routine and thoughtful planning of the day...  I have no idea really what life will be like with you and your brother in it side by side, I don't pretend it will be easy, but then most things in life that are rewarding and wholesome are worked for, worked at, reworked... 

Next week you turn three and your face reminds me daily... you are so much a boy now. But then when I tiptoe into your room at night to pull the covers up, and you're fast asleep I see those full cheeks and gentle face of the freshly born you... always.