The grinches spoiling Easter

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Is it just me, or do the diet police seem to have been out and about this year shaming us about celebrating Easter with the giving and consuming of chocolate eggs? This is what I have heard and seen over the last week:

  • several stories on radio and on commercial TV news reports displaying eggs with piles of sugar next to each one to show how much of the sweet stuff each egg contains
  • the head of the Australian Dental Association declaring chocolate eggs contribute to tooth decay and that we should consider giving our children presents – games, toys – instead of eggs
  • dietician Karen Inge advising we should eat only dark chocolate eggs, rather than milk, as they contain less sugar and are healthier for us

Here’s what I think – and of course, you don’t have to agree! It is the food that we serve at special times in the year that feeds our traditions, that builds our identity; be it deep fried foods at Hannukah, sweets at Eid, long noodles at Chinese New Year, plum pudding at Christmas – or chocolate eggs at Easter.  It may not always be food that is healthy for us, but it is has significance and meaning.

Kids get excited about Easter because the Easter Bunny comes, eggs are hunted for and chocolate is allowed to be consumed at breakfast time (that’s how we roll!). Yes, Easter is the story of the crucifixion and resurrection but I think it is the chocolatey fertility symbols of pagan celebrations which have become woven into the Easter celebrations, that form our children’s Easter memories. And, in a society where we attend church less than we did generations ago, it provides a window for us, as parents, to speak of the Easter story with our children. Today, Easter Sunday, chocolate eggs will be consumed in our house, as they have every other year. There will be leftovers that will be nibbled on over the coming week – and then they will be gone, for Easter is celebrated but once a year.

Do chocolate eggs have lots of sugar? Yes. Oodles. Could sugary eggs contribute to tooth decay? Of course, but we brush our teeth twice a day so that should keep it at bay. Could I give my kids presents instead? I guess so but isn’t that what makes Christmas special? And how do presents relate to resurrection or new life? Is dark chocolate better for us? Yes, but it doesn’t appeal to everyone’s palates, especially kids. Is sugar a contributor to our weight and health problems? From what I have read across numerous publications, yes. So let’s continue to educate ourselves and our children that this is a special time of the year when we can enjoy chocolatey sweetness; that we can talk about, and create memories of, the deliciousness that comes at this time of year. It is how we eat on the ordinary days that will affect our health, not how we eat on this one special day of the year.

What do you think? Should we crack (haha, see what I did there?) down on the eggs? Or are we allowed to be Augustus Gloop for one day?

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Taking Stock: March ’16

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Hello! How are you? It has been an AGE since my last post! But now it is Good Friday and everyone is home doing NOTHING because that is our Good Friday tradition – along with eating 70 million hot cross buns – so I thought it a most excellent time to put the feet up, pop the fingertips on the keyboard and take stock as we hit the ‘quarter way through the year’ mark!

Cooking: fish and chips. My mother has ingrained in me that this is only dinner permitted to be eaten on Good Friday

Eating: hot cross buns, hot cross buns, one a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns!

Drinking: instant coffee at this precise moment. Nothing fancy schmancy here!

Reading: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. Wow! Opens the eyes to the incredible injustices in the US criminal justice system

Wanting: daylight saving to end. Light in the morning please!

Making: time to do some drawing every day

Enjoying: a very lazy day

Loving: that it is school holidays. Little sleep-ins, earlier nights.

Wearing: jeans, singlet, flowery top

Needing: to get said jeans altered. I think they’ve stretched and are now feeling uncomfortably loose

Hearing: twittering and chirrupping

Watching: Occupied with my man, Gilmore Girls with my girl, my boy watching his usual history documentaries

Listening: to  Clare and Pip interviewing Melissa and Ben

Feeling: happy with some new Etsy purchases courtesy a birthday gift voucher

Knowing: that even at 17 and 19, your kids are never too old for an Easter egg hunt! Easter Bunny was admonished last year for not leaving one. Oops!

Wondering: if I should do some embroidery? Feeling inspired by Threadfolk

How are you travelling up to this point in the year? Has it been smooth sailing for you? Choppy waters? Bit of both? Maybe you want to take stock too? Thanks, Pip, for the ‘Taking Stock’ idea!

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Have you read…?All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

 

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All the Light We Cannot See won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2015. The book is an epic. It spans an 80 year period but the vast majority of the story takes place during World War 2. It follows the lives of Marie-Laure, a blind French girl, and Werner, an orphaned German boy with a talent for radio engineering and mathematics. When the Nazis occupy Paris, Marie-Laure and her father, the locksmith at the Museum of Natural History, flee Paris and take refuge with Marie-Laure’s great uncle, Etienne, in St Malo. Marie-Laure’s father is a skilled craftsman and constructs models of the neighbourhoods where she lives so that she may learn to navigate the outside world alone.  Werner’s skills see him recruited by the Nazis to detect and monitor the activities of partisans.  The story is told in story parallel – Marie-Laure’s life alongside Werner’s and, obvious from the outset, is that Marie-Laure and Werner’s lives are going to intersect, and that some event will occur that will rip Marie-Laure’s father away from her.  A further dimension to the story is that Marie-Laure’s father has been entrusted by the Museum with the supposedly cursed diamond, the Sea of Flames. This is being sought by the cancer stricken Sergeant Major Reinhold von Rumpel, who is charged with collecting art and valuables for the Nazi regime.

I had this book on my ‘to read’ list so was very happy to borrow it from Isabel when she offered it to me. My mum was reading, and raving, about it, as were the other members of her book club. Isabel said it was ‘okay’ but not her favourite. Which way would I fall? I’m siding with Isabel. I didn’t not enjoy the book, but I didn’t find it a stellar read. It was quite nicely written, but I found the structure fragmented the story, and there was an imbalance in the strength of the multiple storylines running throughout the novel.

Whilst I do not have an objection to parallel storylines, the constant alternating between these two characters hindered my ability to immerse myself in either character’s story. The chapters are very short – one to five pages – so there is very little opportunity to become absorbed by one character’s story before we are shifted to the other character. For me, the Marie-Laure storyline had much greater potential to be engaging than Werner’s. I liked seeing the way her father, and then her uncle, built a world for her that she could touch, feel and imagine. Werner’s storyline I found quite bland. I feel that perhaps Werner’s storyline was to enlighten the reader about military life during the war, in contrast to Marie-Laure’s individual, daily life experiences with the war as a backdrop. Maybe I have read too many war novels and seen too many films and documentaries (I live with some serious war history students) but there was nothing in Werner’s story that I found to be particularly enlightening or engaging. The von Rumpel storyline brought in another aspect of the Nazi regime and its desire to amass a collection of art and artefacts but the characterisation of the infirm von Rumpel was, for me, a little too broadly drawn so that he became a slavering, grotesque monster that was bordering on caricature. One positive aspect to the brevity of the chapters was that it did keep me reading! I found myself thinking ‘okay, one page of Werner (or von Rumpel) then I can get back to Marie-Laure’.

In addition, the book is not linear in its time frame. We start out at day one of the siege of St Malo in 1944, then go back to 1934, forward to day two of the siege, back to 1940, forward to day three, and so it goes on. As with the parallel storylines, I don’t have a problem with non-linear structure in itself but I found in the context of this novel, it continued to further fragment the story and drag out the time it took to reach the real action I was waiting for – how would Marie-Laure and Werner meet? What would be the nature of their relationship upon this meeting?

So… would I recommend this novel? It didn’t engage me but loads of people have loved it so perhaps you should give it a go so you can make up your own mind. Yes, at 530 pages it is long, but it is not a difficult read. I’d love to know what you think if you do read it. Or perhaps you already have? Am I being too harsh? It does always feel a little awkward being critical of a prize-winning novel!

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Birthday niceness and getting older

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It was my birthday last Saturday. 46! I think that means I have to acknowledge that I am MIDDLE AGED! My man covered his ears when I said that. ‘No you’re not!’, he declared, vigorously shaking his head. ‘Age is just a state of mind. You’ll never be middle aged!’ That’s rather sweet of him, I guess! However, I still can’t escape the fact that in pure number terms, I have 46 years under my belt, with all the wisdom *ahem* and life experience that goes with that. It might be a bit more confronting, I suppose, if I was starting to creak and groan a bit in the old bod (and some of my friends seems to be, eek!), but 16 years of yoga and lots walks have left me feeling pretty fit and flexible up to this point. And it’s kinda cool thinking about what’s coming up in the next stage of life as the ‘school mumma’ days come to an end.

I was pretty pleased with myself that I managed to drag out the celebrations for five days! Excellent planning there. Here’s how it panned out.

Friday: Hail, Caesar! with my movie buddy followed by lunch. How was the movie? It was okay. I think the more you know about Hollywood in the ’50s, the more the movie makes sense. Loved Ralph Fiennes and Alden Ehrenreich.

Saturday: THE day! Long walk with my man and crepes for breakfast at our regular weekend spot. Lazy day of reading, crafting and having cups of tea made for me. Birthday barbecue at my parents. Pressies! I love the pencil box from my man   1

Sunday: solo time with coffee and sketching time in the park

Monday: lunch with lovely ladies at Fordham’s Milk Bar. Maybe you’ve seen Rachel Khoo’s visit to this little place? Smoked trout omelette with buffalo mozzarella was delish!

Tuesday: headed over to Thornbury, our old stamping ground, for lunch with my birthday buddy at The Kiln. It was a stinking hot day but ‘yay’ for air conditioning so we didn’t actually feel like we were actually eating in a kiln! And ‘yay’ for Mothers’ Group! We met as first time mums and nearly 20 years later we are still going strong. Haven’t kept in touch with anyone else but snaring one long term friend is pretty good, I think, don’t you? A quiet cup of tea in the afternoon with another buddy – do you love the necklace she made me? – and it was time to bring the whole birthday biz to a conclusion.

I suppose it’s easy to be a bit dismissive of birthdays; to not want to acknowledge the passing of years. But I think it is nice to celebrate what we have achieved in our life up to that point.  Not necessarily the material stuff, but the friends we have collected along the way; the experiences we have had; how we have grown, changed, softened, mellowed. What do you think? Do you embrace your birthday? Or do you prefer to skip lightly over the day?

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A morsel of time

imageOh my goodness, I am quite giddy with excitement! It is not long past 10 o’clock, the dog has been walked, the supermarket shopping done, and everyone else in the house is at work, uni or school and I have nowhere to be other than home! No appointments, no yoga class to be at, no coffee date (although I do love those!), or errands to run for others. It is as if I am on holiday! Yes, I have tasks to do but, in between those, there is space to just be; to know that I can write, read, craft, draw or simply sit and ruminate without the possibility that someone will come peering over my shoulder, that I will hear a cry of “have you seen my…?”, or “can you take my toastie out when it’s done?” It has been quite some time since I have had a stretch of time like this and I have really missed it. I adore having everyone at home, especially as it becomes more tricky with people having increasingly odd-houred schedules and independence in their social lives, but the chance to have some solitude is delicious.

When my kiddies were both at school, time was a smorgasbord of free hours to play with. Out the door by 8.15 in the morning at the latest, not home until 3.30 in the afternoon at the earliest. As my boy neared the end of his schooling and the prospect of irregular uni hours loomed, I started to grieve over the end of these hours to myself. How was I going to cope with having him in and out, round and about? I know I need time to myself to recharge. Would I feel claustrophobic knowing he was just THERE in the house? Well, it hasn’t been too bad. I have pulled through! But these little nuggets of alone time are golden. I have had to have a bit of a chat to myself about making sure I don’t squander these hours, that I don’t fall into the trap of clicking my way through social media (so what am I doing writing a blog post *smacks forehead*). I want to make sure I use the time to indulge myself in some productive pastimes because I feel I may have forgotten how to use time alone!

So here’s the plan! Finish up here, read many pages of my book, make a lemon slice, drink multiple mugs of green tea, rake up some leaves (see, told you there were chores!) and then maybe a bit of a crochet…or more book…or some sketching…

What keeps you buzzing along? Do you like to fly solo? Do you like your gang around you? Bit of both?

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