makar [ˈmækər]
n (Literature / Poetry) Scot a creative artist, esp a poet
[a Scot variant of maker]

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Helloooo there, strangers! Here I am on the other side of the epic move (not really but it felt epic to me), hurtling towards the end of the year at an alarming pace. I've tried to write a blog post a couple of times, but the words just weren't there. As is the case with so many people, 2016 has not been a bundle of laughs. There have been a few ups and some massive downs. I feel altered by this year and rather wrung out, but also a little wiser and somehow more at peace with myself. Weird, I know. I wonder what 2017 will bring... There is a baby growing in my belly, due mid-year, a novel to re-edit, a new writing project to research, and a thousand ideas for prints to realise. But first Christmas and a birthday, and a new year to welcome in...


Sunday, October 2, 2016

In a few weeks, we will be moving home. It feels bitter-sweet, as many moves do. We have been here six and a half years, the longest I have lived anywhere since I left my parents' house at 19. It's also the first house we have ever owned and lived in together. The children are feeling pretty anxious about moving because they have no memory of living anywhere else. It's exciting, but also a little sad.

When we moved here, all those years ago, we had two children, one barely two and the other only six months old. I was super keen to meet people and, as soon as possible, pushed my pram up the hill to the local playgroup. The first two women I encountered are still dear friends, and I went on to make a whole gaggle of connections with those who frequented the group. It was very relaxed and the emphasis was most definitely on the mums chatting and drinking tea together, while the kids did their thing. Everyone was happy with the arrangement! There was always an abundance of cake and watermelon. It was a great end to a long week, and I looked forward to it SO much.

Of course, things move on and we eventually stopped going when my eldest started Kindy and schedules clashed. As we got caught up in different schools and different commitments, I saw those mums less and less. Some friendships have fallen by the wayside, others remain strong, despite the infrequency of our catch-ups. Such is life. Things move on and change. I have fond memories of that time, difficult as it often seemed.

I will miss this suburb for the beautiful, wild gardens, the big majestic trees, the quirky houses and the quiet streets. I will miss my morning walks under the pink-grey sky, the red-tailed black cockatoos that circle our garden, the call of the kookaburras, the shade of our jacaranda tree, the spectacular light that beams into my kitchen in the late afternoon, but mostly, I will miss it for the good people who live here.










Saturday, September 17, 2016

Seven weeks ago, I had a miscarriage. I was 11 weeks pregnant and on holiday with my whole family. My eldest boy broke his arm that week and needed surgery, so it really was a ridiculously shitty week. As my husband said, "at least it all happened in this beautiful, healing place". I could see the beauty, but I wasn't feeling it, and I certainly wasn't healing. In the weeks immediately afterwards, I found myself floored by a deep sense of grief; one that shocked me with its volume and ferocity. As I sobbed over my desk, quietly on the bus, and desperately in the shower, the hot water flushing away my tears, I was reminded of the grief I endured after I lost my mum, over a decade ago. And yet, I had never known the person I grieved for, I had never even seen them because the only scans I had were the ones to confirm that there was no longer a baby inside me. The person I grieved for was an imagined person, an imagined future, demarcated by imagined milestones. And yet the pain was real.

Last week, I went back to the place where I lost this fourth not-to-be child of mine. To begin with, there were reminders everywhere of what had happened. When I looked at the design of the bathroom floor, I saw blood, when I rode past a certain landmark, I felt the cramps strengthening, when I went to the pub, I recalled the moment I realised it was not going to be okay. But it was school camp and there wasn't much time to dwell. And besides, it felt good to be there, in a place that has so many happy memories for me; a place I first visited when I was 6 months old and which I have loved all my life. And then, when it was almost the end of the week, I found myself sitting in the evening sunshine, with some amazing women, holding a tiny baby in my arms, and telling them, without, crying, about what had happened. Only a few weeks ago, I could not bear to look at a pregnant woman or a baby; I could not stop crying and I certainly could not talk about my miscarriage. Going back was the best thing that I could have done.









Thursday, September 15, 2016

Some days require cake and today was one of those days. Not because anything was particularly wrong, but just because I had the urge to bake. It calms and centres me. It makes my home feel like a functioning and productive place, a warm and welcoming place. I think I might actually like baking cakes even more than I like eating them! This one is sooo good.

Citrus Polenta Cake

Cake:
125g fine polenta
225g almond meal (I have also made it with hazelnut meal)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2tsp ground cloves
225g butter (unsalted)
200g caster sugar
Grated zest of one grapefruit and one orange
3 eggs


Syrup:
100ml juice from the grapefruit and orange
50g caster sugar
Grated zest

Preheat oven to 170 centigrade.
Combine polenta, almond meal, baking powder and ground cloves.
In a mixing bowl, beat together the butter, sugar and half of the zest. Add eggs one at a time, mixing in between. Fold in polenta and almond meal until well combined.
Spoon into prepared tin.
Bake for 50 minutes.
Prepare the drizzle 5 minutes before the cake is baked. Combine ingredient in a saucepan and simmer for a few minutes. Pour onto the cake while it is still warm. Allow the cake to cool in the tin.
Serve with whipped cream or plain yoghurt.















Tuesday, August 23, 2016

I have some big things to write about - a miscarriage, a child undergoing surgery for a badly broken arm, moving house - but I don't know what to say about these yet, so I will let them rest and see what happens. I don't feel like doing a lot of things at the moment. I'm not really enjoying cooking and I have lost the compulsion to make art. I'm writing in little scrappy outbursts, but what I write, I like. There's a precision and ferocity to it. I think I am ready to start working on something new.

I don't feel as quick as I normally do. It's as if the world is moving at a pace that I can't match. I worry that I am missing details. I am reading slowly but with pleasure. My favourite time is at the end of the day, when I snuggle into bed with my daughter and read one or two chapters to her. The book we are reading together is far more exciting than the one I am reading on my own! I know this is a tough time and that it will pass. I'm fed up of the rain, of cold fingers, and no energy. I would like some spring sunshine and a new place to explore.




Wednesday, May 25, 2016

I have a new obsession - printmaking - and it's been keeping me busy in the evenings (and making me stay up way too late). There's something about making with my hands that just opens up the mind and fuels my creativity and enthusiasm for life. Since I've started making visual art more frequently, my writing has felt so much more joyful. It is still REALLY hard work, but I'm not at war with the second draft of my novel in the same way I was a month ago. I had a realisation the other day, while riding on the bus (this is where I have most of my epiphanies; the other place is in the shower!). Writing a first draft is a bit like falling in love: exhilarating, intense, unpredictable and consuming. Writing the second draft is when the passion cools a little and you have to focus on the details in order to figure out the logistics of your relationship. This is the tough part, when the real work begins...




Monday, April 25, 2016

Oh dear old blog, I've not had much time for you lately. I've been doing a lot of thinking and soul-searching, a little drawing and painting, and not very much writing at all. The school holidays didn't help and neither did the sinus infection, but here I am. Last term, I had some trouble focusing on editing my novel - I kept picturing it as this big mass of slime that I was desperately try to wrestle into some kind of contained and recognizable form. It seemed an impossible task. When a friend asked if I could help in her ceramics studio, I jumped at the chance. Not only did it sound like a great way to spend a few days, but it meant that I could avoid the gargantuan task of editing my novel. I enjoyed those days SO much, and I'm hoping to have more "making days" to break away from the intensity of staring at words on a screen. I am overflowing with ideas and plans - it is a very nice way to be. Long may it last!


Monday, April 4, 2016

I've been meaning to write a post about hummus for a while...Yes, really. I love hummus, in fact, I am a little obsessed with it. I used to buy tubs of it and eat it while sitting on the sofa and drinking cheap white wine. Then I started making my own and now those tubs of gloopy beige stuff seem pretty gross. We eat it all the time and my two big kids can make it by themselves (with a few prompts), while the youngest LOVES blitzing it with the stick blender. Anyway, I have been perfecting the recipe and this is the one we have settled on:

2 cans of chickpeas (or 1 can of chickpeas & 1 can of cannellini beans for a smoother blend)
1 crushed garlic clove
6 tablespoons of olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons of tahini (or peanut butter)
1 teaspoons of salt

Drain and rinse the chickpeas and beans, then combine with the other ingredients, and blitz until smooth. You can add a teaspoon of cumin for extra flavour (my kids aren't keen, but it is delicious) and a couple of tablespoons of plain yogurt for a creamier texture.

In Israel, there's a Church of Chickpea. It sounds wonderful. One day, I hope to visit...




Sunday, March 13, 2016

This is something I wrote recently for a new mother. I thought I'd share it here too:


Notes on Motherhood

1. Embrace imperfection


2. Pace yourself; it is a marathon! 


3. Be wary of blogs written by women who home-school their 5 children, grow their own food, keep goats, sew all their clothes & own a spinning wheel... They will make you feel woefully inadequate. 


4. Read Rachel Powers' Motherhood & Creativity. It saved my sanity - I have read it many times!


5. The longer you spend cooking something, the more likely they are to hate it. Fact.


6. Sleeping "through the night" starts happening between age 2 to 3 - be sceptical of anyone who claims otherwise. 


7. Breastfeeding takes a bit of practice, but it is a beautiful thing and it gets easier. 


8. You will feel like someone transformed after you have a baby, but every now & again, you'll catch a glimpse of the person you used to be.  This change is a good thing! Accept & nourish it.


9. Be kind to yourself & enjoy the ride. The days are long, but the years are short. 


10. Everyone will give you advice, especially total strangers. Take what is helpful & constructive; discard the rest.
 
Motherhood is the hardest, but the best thing, I have ever, ever done...



Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Do you ever stare at an image or read about someone and feel that ache - like a watered-down lust - to be that person? It used to happen to me more often, this yearning, but now, not so much. Perhaps this is because I'm happier in myself, or more resigned to my life, or possibly just that I don't pore over magazines and newspapers in the way that I once did (although my Instagram habit provides ample opportunity for envying people's photogenic lives!). That said, twice in the last few months, I've felt that pang take hold of me; the sense that this other person has the life that I always wanted, and would maybe still like.

It begins with an image and some scant facts, and is padded out with fantasy:

She is standing in a doorway, smiling, with the sun shining on her wild hair. Her feet are bare and she is wearing blue denim overalls, rolled up over brown ankles. These are her work clothes. She is an artist - a potter - in her studio, a beautiful space full of inspiration and creations. Her tastes are simple and she is satisfied by simple things. She is also a mother, one who is fun and lighthearted and delights in nature. She loves her garden and makes wholesome food. She is always waiting to greet her kids, with something delicious to eat, when they come home from school. They like to join her in the studio and make alongside her. She is calm and happy and healthy and fulfilled.

She has the bright, intense eyes of someone who thinks deeply and seeks always to understand. Her hair is dark and tied back from her pale, milky skin. She wears red lipstick and an elegant black slip dress. Her pose suggests a serious person, someone who only speaks once she has carefully considered what she will say. She has a PhD from a famous university and several novels published; she writes book reviews and lectures at a university. Poetry is one of her great passions. Her house is uncluttered and stylish - "a grown-up house" -  with a selection of art that they have acquired over the years, adorning the white walls. She is a mother - gentle, quiet and fair. She excels at reading bedtime stories and making sure everyone is where they need to be, when they need to be. Sophisticated and accomplished, she is the kind of mother to inspire a girl to believe she can achieve anything she wants to.

I think that these two women have been in my mind, in different guises, for a very long time. The problem is that I can't decide which woman I should be...

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Aside from getting my kids to school on time, the thing that stresses me out most about the school routine is packed lunches. Pretty sure I'm not alone there! I have one child who loves carbs, another who would happily gorge himself on processed meat and cheese, and a third, who will eat almost anything, except beans. I'm not much of a morning person (I literally can't talk until I've had a coffee) and so packing a healthy, delicious lunch, which someone might actually eat, is an ongoing challenge. That said, I think I'm getting better at it....Of course, I still screw up and make cookies that no one likes, or run out of supplies, or choose drinking tea, slumped in front of Netflix, over making bread. There are still days when we pick up sushi on the way to school, but I've definitely nailed a few surefire hits. Here's one of them:

Muffins

2 cups of flour (I sometimes use a mix of spelt & baker's, or wholemeal & baker's)
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup of sugar (rapadura is my favourite)
1 egg
1 cup of milk (sometimes I add some yoghurt to the milk or use buttermilk)
1/4 cup of melted butter or coconut oil.
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup of chopped up or grated fruit, plus a handful of chocolate chips or currants or nuts (if you're allowed) and seeds. Our favourites include berries, grated apple, stone fruit, & mashed banana.

Oven: 200 degrees C

Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Make a well.

Beat egg, add milk, vanilla, and butter or oil.

Pour into well and mix lightly with dry ingredients.

Stir through fruit and extras.

Spoon into paper cases.

Optional: Sprinkle a little sugar on top

Bake for 25 minutes until golden.

   
Apricot muffins


Monday, February 15, 2016

So here I am. In a very quiet house with a cup of coffee, trying to focus my mind and feeling anything but focused. It all seems very strange, as if I'm learning how to do this new thing of being at home without my kids, just as all those years ago I had to learn how to be at home with them. I feel guilty if I'm not writing and I feel guilty if I write and ignore all the millions of jobs that need to be done. Mostly, I just feel odd and slightly giddy. I'm reading Elizaeth's Gilbert's Big Magic, and although I'm not in agreement with everything she claims, this book is exactly what I need to be reading at this moment. It's the equivalent of someone wrapping their arm around my shoulder, squeezing me tight, and saying: "just keep going, keep doing the thing you need to do. Be brave; don't panic." And now I better pour another coffee and start work...

Photo by David Bailey (Jeanne Moreau in 1964)

Friday, January 1, 2016

On New Year's Eve, feeling a little reflective and also rather confused about what 2015 was all about (and indeed, where it had gone!), I read my post from last year. It brought back a flood of emotion because 2014 was a really tough year for me, but it also made me realise that this last year, while somewhat uneventful and fast-moving, has been a far easier one. My resolution was to find more balance and to sometimes put my own needs first. I was feeling positive and poised to spend five days writing and reading on my self-orchestrated "writing-retreat". And yet, not long after this, I decided that I couldn't do my PhD and be a fully-present mama, or not yet, anyway. I'm comfortable with that decision and it seems like one I made a long time ago. I have really enjoyed spending time with my youngest this year without worrying about meeting deadlines. I have equally relished the 5 hours a week I have spent writing, while he has been at school. I have already come to rely on it, and I am excited about how I will use the extended child-free time over this coming year. A few people have asked me what I'm going to "do" now that all 3 kids will be at school (although it will only be a 3 day week for the littlest), and the answer is I will write, maybe take an art class, exercise, get stuck into all the things that need doing to the house. I don't feel guilty about this; it is after all only three short days. I need to look after myself for a while. I am worn out and the slightest cold knocks me sideways and takes me weeks to get over. I'm going to set up an office away from home, so that I can write without the distractions of washing and vacuuming and a thousand scattered toys. I'm looking forward to being able to fully concentrate on something - to not just feel this nervous, skittish panic to keep everything moving; everyone safe and fed and clean and where they need to be. I'm going to try to spend more time just doing and less time analyzing what other people think. I don't really know how it will all work out, but 2016, here we go...


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