Friday, April 30, 2010

The Reason

We got some news about Sam's death yesterday.

(Attention Reader - Please be aware that the contents of this post may be distressing or disturbing).

I'd actually been expecting it to take a lot longer, so I'm not sure if I was prepared for it or not. I was at work in the morning when I noticed Anthony had called. I keep my phone with me for the time, but never answer it when I'm teaching. As I was standing there talking to a class, I noticed that it kept ringing and buzzing messages, so as soon as I could I prevailed on the teacher nearby to keep an eye out, and then popped around the corner and called him (by this time there were 2 text messages and 3 missed calls so I knew it was important).

Anthony was very upset, and told me he had just heard from the detective in charge of the investigation into Sam's death. By now I was pretty upset too, and all I could think about was going home and hugging him (so glad this didn't happen while I was in Melbourne!). I called the executive, who (thankfully) came down straight away and I just ran out of there. I have never left work so quickly, but I knew if I didn't I was going to fall apart right there in front of all the kids.

I cried all the way home, because Anthony had already told me what was going on. And when I saw him I cried a lot more.

So this is what we know:
Sometime during the night of the 21st/22nd December, Samuel vomited. He was a very deep sleeper, and was probably sleeping on his back, and the official (so far) word is that 'he asphyxiated on the contents of his stomach.' I believe the other term for this is 'aspirated'.

That's it.

I am a little torn. While it is good to know what happened, I'm also a little (pissed off? frustrated? disappointed? devastated?) that it was this stupid little thing that killed him. Not a condition (like a heart attack or an aneurysm or an asthma attack), but an event. A stupid, one in a million, crazy accident. One minute I feel like screaming, and the next I feel so flat. It's not that I wanted it to be some glamorous, exotic cause of death, and I definitely didn't want it to be something that I'd have to watch Oliver for, but it just seems so...I don't know...pointless.

Don't get me wrong, it's good to know what it was that took my beautiful boy away from me. It does help to ease some of those little twinges (What could I have done differently? What if I had/hadn't....?), but it doesn't really make me feel any better.

There's nothing we could have done. Samuel did vomit more than others (and was sometimes pretty disgusting about it, as I have posted previously), but as my GP said when I spoke to him today, short of lying down next to him every night and watching him sleep (which I can tell you now Samuel would NOT have allowed!), we couldn't have prevented it.

There's nothing suspicious about it: he didn't eat anything unusual that night; he didn't drink or take drugs; his 'blood' results came back clear; there was (as far as I know) no sign of an allergic reaction; it was just vomit. It's a one in a million thing - it hardly ever happens to people who are not drunk, on drugs or severely ill anyway, but I guess Samuel was always destined to stand out, to not be 'one of the crowd'.

The more I think about it though, the more I think that it opens up a whole lot of other questions. How could someone sleep through that? Wouldn't your body wake you up? I know I've woken up in the past to vomit, and I'm sure Samuel has too. What was it that caused him to vomit? Did he have some kind of gastro? Was it an allergic reaction to something (although I don't there were signs of it)?
I really hope that the Coroner is able to shed some light on this.

So, we're back down again. I feel like the grief has started all over again. I was sick already (I did end up having sinus infection, and have just started antibiotics), I feel worse now. My head is pounding and I feel nauseous. I'm going to stay home have a bit of a rest tomorrow. I know people will probably think I'm bludging, or wonder why I'm making a fuss, but I can't help it, it's just the way I feel. As I've said before, I don't know the rules on this grieving thing, but I do know how I feel.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"All the singlets, all the singlets,"

**Now put your hands up**

This was Oliver's take (performed by him quite regularly last year) on the Beyonce song.
(If you've been living under a rock in the Arctic Circle and haven't heard it, the actual lyric is "All the single ladies, all the single ladies".)

He'd also sing, "If you like it then you should go through the rainforest." ("instead of 'if you liked it then you should have put a ring on it")

Very cute. In fact I think I liked the Ollie version more than the Beyonce version!

He's got a new one. You've probably heard the song 'Paparazzi' by that dreadful Lady GaGa creature? Well Ollie was singing along tonight while we were at Goodberry's. I thought his version was much better!

The original lyric is:
"I'm your biggest fan, I'll follow you until you love me, papa-paparazzi."

Ollie's version was:
"I'm your biggest fan, I'll follow you until you love me, baa baa, baa baa black sheep."

I do like a good mondegreen. Sometimes the mistaken lyrics are even better than the real ones.
I've had a few in my life - for a while I thought Pearl Jam sang "glorified version of a pelican" (pellet gun). I can't think of any others at the moment, but I'm sure they'll come to me!

Perhaps you've heard some good ones?
Have you (or anyone you know) sung the wrong words, loud and proud? And did you (or they) sing it right when you knew the right ones?

Dear Diary,

I went back to work yesterday. It was OK, but by god was I busy!
I already had a lot of respect for librarians, but now I am in AWE. How they manage to teach a full and rich program to a bunch of classes, as well as doing library stuff is (at the moment) beyond me! I'm sure once I get the hang of it, it will be better, but my goodness!

I suppose it doesn't help that I'm still feeling a bit under the weather. I really should try and get to the doctor I guess. Like I said in a previous post, last time I had a sinus infection like this, I ended up with pneumonia. It doesn't seem to be getting any better. This morning I woke at 4am (god knows why!) but couldn't get back to sleep. After a while I got up, thinking I'd go to the gym and then write in my blog. But when I got up my head was so heavy, and I was coughing a bit, so I just lay on the couch for a while. Feeling a bit better now, but I shouldn't really take any chances. Off to the doctor today methinks!

That reminds me, the other day when I saw my lovely (wonderful, awesome, fantastic) brother and sister in law, Laura asked me how I was feeling, as she'd seen my post about being sick.
This happens a lot - someone will mention something related to a blog post, and for a moment I'll think 'how the heck did they know that?'
That's also how I ended up with all the dragonflies. People read or hear about something, and then they act on it. It's almost exponential sometimes too! After my post about the dragonfly, a lovely work colleague presented my with a cute stick-on dragonfly which now sits inside my phone case. Thanks A!)
Despite the initial surprise when someone makes a comment like that, I find that I don't actually mind it. It's funny, I do tend to be quite a loud-mouth at times, and occasionally over-share, but there are some things I don't discuss with many people at all. But these thoughts (and sometimes secrets) do go on here, even though I know (mostly) who is probably going to read about it.

I wonder what it is that makes us more comfortable sharing our innermost thoughts and feelings on (digital) paper; things that we probably wouldn't readily discuss? Perhaps we're afraid of the reaction? Perhaps it gives people time to think about what we've said?

I remember years ago (when I was a teenager), my dad found my diary by accident. He didn't read much (these days, I don't really care if he did, I probably would do the same if I came across something that my kids wrote), but commented on something I'd written about my Poppa (he had died not too long before that). I was a moody teen at the time, and these thoughts were probably not something I was going to talk about with my parents, but in a way I was glad that my dad knew how I felt.

Don't get me wrong, I certainly don't advocate reading other people's diaries, and I certainly wouldn't go looking for one, but what is a blog but a more sophisticated, online version of a diary?

I think for me, maybe I do want to share, but I'm afraid that people don't want to hear about it (or at least want to choose the time and place that they do hear about it). This comes down to some of my longstanding personal issues I guess: I don't want to be boring; I don't want to be a burden; I want to be able to be the good listener...etc...

I'm not going to be solving my personality/self-esteem issues any time soon. In fact I probably never will, but it doesn't matter. I'm happy with this arrangement. I get to say how I feel, and you get to choose whether or not you listen. And please, dear reader, don't feel bad if you don't feel like reading, because I've got it out of my system now anyway!

Perhaps I should dig out some of my old diaries. Should be good for a laugh!

Monday, April 26, 2010


I feel like crap.
I'm not well, but it's probably not as bad as I've had before. I haven't got much energy, and a fairly constant sinus headache, it seems to be the usual virus/turn of the season sort of thing.

No, it's more than just illness. I just feel flat, (probably) depressed, and listless. I don't really care what I'm eating or how much weight I'm putting on or how much I'm drinking. I know I should be out in the garden or playing outside with Ollie or doing some tidying or getting ready for work tomorrow, but I don't care. Well, no, that's wrong, I do care, but I just don't want to think about it. It would be nice to just switch off, and not think about anything at all for a while. But I know that's not the solution either.

I suppose it's the grief. My way of dealing with it. I know that my food issues are most likely rooted in some kind of psychological issue. Something that I have to deal with to be able to eat properly and lose weight, but surely I'm not going to have much success with that while I'm trying to process this grief stuff.

Just a vent. I know it's not always like this, just how I fell today.
Carry on.

Time to grieve

Is there a time limit for grief? Do I have a certain amount of time before I have to 'just get on with it'?

Lately I've been reading and hearing about other people's experiences with grief, and they are inevitably confronted by people who think they should be 'over it'. Sometimes not long after they have lost someone, sometimes years later. Thankfully I don't have too many horrible, inconsiderate people in my life saying these kinds of things, but it has certainly got me thinking.

To me, 4 months isn't that long. Sometimes it feels like a lifetime ago that Sam was here with us, and other times I can feel him, hear him, see him, like he was here only yesterday. But the times when I realise, when it really hits me, that I won't see him again -ever- that's when the grief hits full force.

It doesn't cripple me. Well, not in ways that stop me from functioning completely anyway. But it does manifest in ways that will probably affect aspects of my life or my relationships with people.
And how long can I sustain that? How long can I ask people to put up with it, before they get sick of it and start telling me 'get over it' or ' you should be over it by now'? (yes lovely readers, people have actually said these things to the grieving folk I mentioned earlier).

It's going to have an affect on my health. I know I'm not looking after myself very well - eating too much crap (or just too much), drinking too much, not talking about things when I should, not exercising enough...all of these things will have an impact that I'll have to address at some stage, but how can even begin to get my head around my weight issues etc when I am still trying to get my head around losing one of the great loves of my life?

And I don't want to go out partying. Not really. There are of course times when I enjoy a night out, but they don't happen often. Mostly because I don't want to be away from Ollie or Anthony for too long. I don't want to drink and dance and pretend everything's OK. I want to stay at my house where it's safe and I know where everyone is and what they're doing.

I don't even really want to work. I used to love teaching so much, and sometimes I still do, but the rest of the time I just don't feel like I'll do it justice. I'm certainly not prepared to put in the kind of hours that I used to, and when I think about it, that's probably going to restrict my career path. I'm not going to get promoted with that kind of attitude.

Thankfully I don't feel like this all the time. There are times when I do the right thing, take care of myself a bit better. Times when the grieving part of me shrinks back a little.
But it always comes back. How long will it go on I wonder? It's a rhetorical question I guess. I know the answer. It never goes away, it just gets smaller or easier to deal with (well that's what people say anyway). But what if it takes me too long? What if I lose some other things in that time?

It'll pass (or it'll fade at least), but I don't know when that will happen. Please don't tell me, because you don't know either. Thanks in advance though, to those of you that I know will stick it out with me.

She was no longer wrestling with the grief, but could sit down with it as a lasting companion and make it a sharer in her thoughts. ~George Eliot

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Lest We Forget

For The Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)

Check out my buns!

This post was written yesterday, but blogger was giving me issues, so I'm only just posting it now.
I had another go at hot cross buns today. Well, it was a cold and rainy day and I didn't really feel like doing housework, so I did some cooking instead.

These buns worked much better. They were fluffy and yummy and everyone liked them (except maybe I'll put less mixed peel in next time).

Hot Cross Buns (2nd try) - From 21st Birthday Cookery Book of the CWA in Tasmania
30g compressed yeast (2 dry sachets)
300 milk
55g sugar
450g plain flour (I used 3 and a bit cups)
1 tsp salt
30g butter (1.5 Tablespoons)
85g sultanas (just under half a cup)
55g currants (just under 1/3 cup)
55g mixed peel (just under 1/3 cup - but I would use less next time)
1 egg
a little mixed spice (I used 1 tsp, but would probably use more next time)

Mix yeast with warm milk, about half the sugar, and 1 tsp of flour. Cover and leave in a warm place for about 15 minutes.
Sift flour and salt, rub in butter, add the rest of sugar and the fruit. Beat the egg and mix with the yeast/milk. Make a well in the dry stuff and add the wet stuff. Work in the dry ingredients from the sides until it is absorbed and you have a soft dough.
Knead well on a floured board and leave in a bowl (covered in a tea towel) for 1.5 hours while it rises.
Knead dough again and divide into balls (the recipe says 24, but I just made a heap of golf ball sized buns). Leave them covered on a warm, greased tray for another 15-20 minutes to rise a bit more.
Bake 15-20 minutes at 200 degrees. While they are hot, glaze with hot milk (mixed with a little sugar) and then sprinkle on some cinnamon.
While I was waiting for the buns to rise, I made a couple of soups (like I said, it was cold and wet).

I made vegie soup for Ollie and I, and Pea and Ham for Anthony (ever the carnivore).

Vegie Soup
Chicken stock (I used the continental fresh stuff)
Some (about a cup) of the tomato puree I made from my crop of yummy tomatoes.
3 big potatoes
2 carrots
2 onions
2 sticks celery (with leaves)
about 1/3 of a cabbage
3 small parsnips
2 zucchinis
3 cloves garlic (again from my garden)
soup mix (lentils, barley etc)
handful of chopped sweet potato (frozen stuff I'd been meaning to cook)

I cooked it pretty much all afternoon, and after I took half out to freeze I added a couple of jalapeno chillis (from my garden). It wasn't bad, but I'll probably add some herbs (or chives from my garden) and more chilli when I eat it again. Next time I might also add some spinach or something.

Anthony likes my Pea and Ham soup (none of them would probably eat soup willingly if I didn't make them, but I love soup and it's so nice and cheap to make), so I made him some of that too.

Pea and Ham Soup
4 bacon bones (I usually use about 300gm chopped ham or bacon, but thought I'd try the bones)
1 packet split green peas
1 carrot
1-2 cloves garlic
1 onion
1 stick celery
about 1/3 cup of my tomato puree

I boiled the bones a bit to see if the fat would come off a bit (some did), then bunged everything together in a pot and cooked it all afternoon. After a couple of hours I pulled lots of the meat off the bones, and then chucked the meat and the bones back in.

I usually mush up all my soups (and my bolognaise etc) with the whizz stick, as I've found it handy in disguising the many vegies I add. Not that my kids are terribly fussy, but I'm in the habit. I don't mind the texture myself.

It's funny how alike both soups looked! But we all enjoyed them, and with a loaf of crusty, warm bread, they were a nice dinner for an autumn evening.
I had a big problem with my ears/pressure on the return flight to Canberra, and have felt sick since, so I think I have some kind of sinus infection. It's weird, because up until the ear blockage thing, I had been feeling fine. A bit of a mild headache, but I had put it down to stress. The last time I had a sinus infection I got pneumonia, so I'm taking it very easy. But I guess if I'm still feeling sick on Tuesday I'd better go to the doctor.
Hopefully a good dose of vegies might help a bit.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Saturday's Sensational Six x2

I missed last Saturday as I was in Melbourne and very very busy, so I thought I'd post two of each this week.
I'm really enjoying posting photos. It means I have some of my favourite photos stored online (I also have my Flickr account, which I am slowly filling with photo-ey goodness), which is always a good idead when you have so many photos on a computer, and no negatives. It also gives me an excuse to look through all my old photos and pick out the ones I love (which means I also get to discover photos I haven't noticed/seen in a while).

A great photo of Sam
Sam would have been about 9 months old when my dad took this photo/ I love it.
Samuel and I at the snow (Mt Franklin) last year. Anthony (obviously) took this one.

A great photo of Oliver
How cute is he?

My beautiful boy on the big tree (some kind of fig?) at Melbourne Zoo.

An old photo
Our back deck when it was first built in 2004. Soon I'll post some pictures of what it (And our back yard) is looking like now.

This is Anthony and I at my 21st, about 100 years ago (actually, 1994).

An Interesting Photo
Sunset at Frankston.

Another from Melbourne. Obviously at the zoo.

My weekly entry into the EB photo of the week challenge:
Last week's challenge was 'Abstract'.

This week's challenge is 'Tell a Story'. I think this one tells a story about Oliver! (Don't worry, the train wasn't actually moving, but I do like how you have to look twice to work that out).

Morguefile Lesson Photos
This week, I started a 'Morguefile' course. It's a strange name, but it's basically on online course designed to help you improve your skills in photography. You can view all the photos I take for the course on my Flickr, but here are the first two assignments:

Lesson 1: Composition
The first assignment was to take an abstract photograph, with the aim of developing understanding of concepts like leading lines, rule of thirds etc. Taking abstract photos really forces you to concentrate on the composition. The one above (the blue and yellow one) was another one that I took. The rest are in my Flickr album.

Lesson 2: Composition
The second assignment was to take a lot of pictures of the same subject: close-up, long range, from the top, from underneath, from different angles and of different parts, then put the best ones together in a storyboard. I created the storyboard using Picasa. I'm very happy with it.

The best part of the Morgufile group is that we post our pictures on a group pool and everyone makes comments about each other's. It's a great way to learn, and I can see improvements in my pictures already.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Last of our holidays

For a brief moment, I ummed and ahhed about posting about the rest of our Melbourne trip. Part of me was thinking 'who cares?', but then I remembered that I wasn't really writing this blog to entertain everyone else, I'm writing it as a record of my thoughts and experiences.

I do very much like it that people are reading my blog. It makes me feel good to know people look for it (and that they're not just my parents - much as I love that they read it), and I love it when people make comments. But in the end, I am writing it for me. So I guess there will be times that no one cares about what I've written but me.

Our trip to Melbourne was bittersweet I guess. It was really great to see my Grandpa (I know some people might find it weird that I was so enthusiastic about seeing an 84 year old, but I really quite like him). I also go to see (most of) the rest of my Melbourne family, and do some touristy stuff, but it was also really hard being away from home. In the past, I've always been reluctant to leave anywhere after a week, always wanting to stay that bit longer, hold onto my holiday as long as I can. But this time I was ready to come home after about 4 days. It was mainly because I missed Anthony and wanted to be with him.
Maybe it was too soon to go for so long, and it will change over time, but I was so ready to fly home this morning when I got up. Then Anthony called to tell me about a dream he'd had (a nice one about Sam) and I burst into tears. I wanted so much at that moment to be there with my arms around him.

After that I was a bit of an emotional mess. Oliver and I dropped in and had lunch with Grandpa, then we drove out towards the airport. These days I am pretty confident when driving around Melbourne. When we arrived, I managed to drive all the way to Grandpa's, and then to Eric and Karen's without a map. I can get to my more frequently visited haunts quite easily, and with a Melway, can usually find my way anywhere. But this morning was different. I somehow managed to miss the exit and ended up on the Westgate Bridge, which as you might know, is a massive bridge that is nowhere near on the way to the airport. Because of the state I was already in, I nearly lost the plot. I had a bit of a panic attack, stopping in the shoulder while the traffic whizzed past, and just sat for a moment. (Oliver stayed calm, thankfully). Luckily, a sense of calm came over me and I managed to get myself turned back around (and had my first trip over - and back over - the bridge).
Perhaps Sam was giving me a bit of a hand? He used to be my navigator when we went to Melbourne, and had had his share of a frustrated mum going 'just read the map!', which at age 8 or 9 is a tricky prospect, especially given Melbourne's size and funky plonking down of roads.

So, the Melbourne trip. We had been doing 'touristy' stuff for the last few days. The Victorian government (in their infinite wisdom) had decided that it would be a terrible shame for Easter (or more to the point, the Easter long weekend) to be celebrated outside of school holidays, so Victorians had gone back to school just as we were starting our holidays. While it made it hard to see our family (and friends), it also meant that many of the tourist attractions were nice and quiet. And the weather was magnificent! Unseasonably warm, but lovely nonetheless.

On Tuesday Oliver, Karen and I went on Puffing Billy. It really was a lovely ride. Not too many people, and a perfect trip through the beautiful forests of the Dandenongs. It was the perfect activity for Oliver: a noisy, smoky train and a ride where he could sit and dangle his arms and legs out of the carriage. He enjoyed it a lot.
Yesterday, we went up Eureka Tower.
Now, if you know me, you'll know that I'm not real good with heights, so I was a little nervous.
Because Eureka Tower is bloody high! It's apparently the highest viewing platform in the southern hemisphere. It's 88 floors up and my ears popped as we hurtled upwards in the lift. At first I found it difficult to get close to the windows, but after seeing Oliver's enthusiasm (head pressed right up against the glass: "Those cars look like toys!"), I relaxed and spent a lovely couple of hours gazing off into the distance.
I think that Eureka was one of my favourite activities. Funny that something so mundane as a very high building would entertain us both for so long, but there you have it.

And then today we flew home. Apart from the Westgate debacle, it was a perfect flight, and we were both very happy to see Anthony in the baggage collection area.

I'll go again. Probably sooner rather than later. It was great to see everyone, and Oliver really was a good travel companion. I'd still like to see the west though (particularly beyond the end of the Westgate Bridge), and I am keen to 'do' the Great Ocean Road and see the 12 Apostles before they all fall into the sea. But next time, I'm going to actively lobby for Anthony to come.

So how about some interactivity? What's your favourite part of Melbourne, and have you ever gotten lost?


It's 4 months today since we lost Sam. In some ways it feels like 4 years; in others, like it was yesterday.

He's always right there in my head, from the minute I wake up until I go to sleep again. He's the first thought I have when I wake up. Everything reminds me of him. It's not always sad though, which is kind of good, because I think I'd be actively trying to forget, and I never want to do that.

My cousin, who is about 4 months younger than Sam, reminds me of him a bit too. In a lot of ways they are completely different, but they are similar in their teenage-ness (and Calvin has lovely blonde curls too!). While we have been staying with him and his family, he and Oliver have been alternating between having a lot of fun together and annoying each other (well actually, Ollie's doing all the annoying!). It reminds me so much of my boys together when Sam was alive. It hasn't been too upsetting though. It's nice for Ollie to have that 'big brother time' again.

I'm really wishing I went home yesterday, so that I could be with Anthony now. I'm glad I'll see him this afternoon.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

zoo boo be doo

Yesterday we went to the zoo. I had given Oliver the choice of activities, listing all the possibilities, and he chose the zoo. It surprised me a little, as Ollie tends to be more a beach/playground kind of kid than a zoo kid (Samuel was the animal lover).

We caught the train from Ferntree Gully Station, which - if you know Melbourne - is a pretty long train ride. But Oliver handled it well. Then we caught a tram to the zoo (you can't go into the CBD and not catch a tram!) and spent an awfully long time wandering around.

It was a actually a pretty good day for the zoo. Apart from the hundreds of school kids on excursions, it was pretty quiet, and the animals were quite active. We saw the cute baby elephant, Mali, and the orang-utans were putting on a great show for us. There were a couple of monkeys carrying babies, the penguins were very cute,the lions were eating, and even the snakes were moving! Oliver was particularly amused by the gorilla that was picking its nose and then eating it.
We seem to have a bit of luck with the gorillas at Melbourne Zoo. When we took Samuel there as a baby (just over one I think), there was a baby gorilla there. We took Sam up to the glass and told him to give the baby a kiss. Sam made a 'kissing face', and then the baby gorilla did the same thing. It was so cute!! Of course we didn't have a camera handy, but it's a memory that has stuck with us for a long time. I thought of it when I watched the gorillas. It was a little sad.

After the zoo we caught the train back to Flinders Street, and caught the end of a fire juggler's performance in Federation Square. He was particularly taken by the funny looking building next to the road (the metallic one with the LED signs going in all different directions).
We walked up to Melbourne Central and found a couple of lolly shops to waste money in, then caught the train home. We were lucky (?) enough to get on the most crowded train in the world, and I thought we'd have to stand up, but luckily a wonderful mum offered Ollie the seat next to her. It was an interesting trip, but I think it was a good way for Oliver to experience the big city.

It's the first real 'touristy' thing we've done. Oliver has been pretty happy just 'touring the playgrounds': We went to Caribbean Gardens on Friday, which has a pretty cool playground, and then the playground at Maccas, and then on Saturday we went to an amazing playground just behind Stud Park Shopping Centre. Oliver's in his element when he can climb, and he hadn't really been feeling 100% (a bit of croup I think), so it was good to do things that weren't too taxing.

We spent the weekend visiting family, which was really lovely. On Saturday we saw my uncle Greg and his very lovely family (his wife Julie is a wonderful brave soul, and his daughters are so smart and interesting). Then we went to Frankston to walk along the beach and watch the sunset. Frankston has a bit of a funny reputation, but I think the beach is lovely.On Sunday we visited my aunty Michele, and her family. It was nice to see her husband Micheal, who I haven't seen for years. Her daughter Sarah was fairly close to Sam (even though they lived so far away), as her birthday was the day after his (but a year earlier), and they kept up with each other on MSN and Facebook. Then we visited my aunty Karren. She lives with my uncle Brendan on a beautiful bit of land a little way out the east, in a place called Neerim South, and we spent a lovely Sunday afternoon out there seeing them and my cousins. Every time I go somewhere like that, I really want to move to the country. It was so beautiful!

Well, we're off on a ride on Puffing Billy today. Should be fun. It's been a nice trip. I think we could have gone back a bit earlier, but it's nice to relax somewhere else. Luckily my uncle Eric and aunty Karen and their kids Calvin and Chelsea are wonderful, friendly, welcoming and relaxed, so we feel very much at home here.
It's also been pretty expensive! I thought it would be much cheaper with just me an Ollie, but we seem to be going through just as much money! I must admit, I wanted to buy Eric and Karen some wine, and I'm cooking them dinner tonight, because I get the 'guilt' thing, about staying too long (it's a genetic thing I think, I get it from my dad), so some of my money is going to good use. A lot of it is the car I guess, but it is nice having it here.
Oh well, I don't really mind. These days for me, it's all about experiences. You can't put a price on a good time, and Oliver and I are certainly having that!

Friday, April 16, 2010

"I like this place, can we move here?"

We were about to drive over the Bolte Bridge when Oliver made this statement.
I must admit, I have had the same thought myself a few times in my life.

I do like Melbourne. It's huge, occasionally stinky and the weather is downright weird sometimes (a friend of mine referred to it as 'Gotham City', presumably because of all the cloudy/rainy days), but it's good-looking (especially the CBD I think - with all the funky buildings, tree-lined streets and interesting street art), the people are (on the whole) friendly, there are nice beaches, and almost anything you could need or want to do is available.
Plus a great deal of my family lives here.

Don't despair my lovely Canberrans, I'm not planning on moving any time soon, but if I had to make a move to a big city, it would definitely be Melbourne, and not Sydney or Brisbane.

Back to Ollie's statement. I think the basis of his comment was the look of the city (check out this photo, taken by an online acquaintance of mine, and you might see what she saw), but also the big yellow and red thing that stretches out over the road and the 'tunnel that's not a tunnel' (sound tube) we had just passed through.

As we drove around the city, heading for the Burnley Tunnel and the east, he was continuously amazed by the big-city-ness. There was one building that looked like it 'has a boat on top', and when we drove around next to it, he said 'they must have taken it down and moved it'. I think he was joking...
There was a 'DFO that's much bigger than the one in Canberra', and he liked the Hilton building with the offset windows.
Then he wanted to know where all the houses were, because all he could see was big buildings. But by the time I got through the tunnel traffic and out towards the east, he'd fallen asleep!

The plane ride was good. All morning (and some of the night before), Ollie had been saying "I'm excited and nervous". I'm glad he was talking to us about how he was feeling, once again that shows his maturity.
We got to the airport (almost) late, it was about 40 minutes before the flight time, so everything was kind of rushed. We checked our baggage with the world's most unfriendly customer service officer, and then pretty much boarded. I think the plane left early too, because I'm sure we boarded around 1pm and the plane took off not long after (it was due for departure at 1.25pm).

Oliver was a bit nervous when we were taking off - he grabbed me pretty tight as we lifted off, and he was tensing up as the plane banked or bumped a bit. He was asking about the noises of the landing gear etc, but other than that, he was OK.
Once we were up he had fun fiddling with the radio channels and eating the lunch (egg salad sandwich and yoghurt) they gave him. And if you've ever flown from Canberra to Melbourne, you'd know that was pretty much it, as then we started descent.
Oliver was much better on the landing, even though we had to descend through clouds (which I reckon is a bit freaky sometimes). He had some problems with his ears, and one was still blocked about an hour later, but I think he's got a bit of a cold/croup, because he woke up yesterday with a cough and had almost lost his voice by last night (this morning he's OK, but a little croaky).

The best moment in the airport was when Ollie dropped his skittles and they spilled all over the luggage conveyor. It was a little splash of colour!

When we went to pick up the rental car, they didn't have any of the tiny car (Hyundai Getz) that I'd booked, so they upgraded me to a Lancer instead. The car is very nice and comfy (Ollie was quite taken with the backseat cupholders), but was a little tricky at first, as it is one of those autos with the +/- thingy in drive, so I had to get used to that.

Still, we got away all right, and I managed to find my way all the way to Grandpa's (Keysborough), and then all the way from Grandpa's to Eric and Karen's (Rowville) without looking at a map! Pretty good, huh?

Grandpa looked old. For the first time ever I noticed his age. But then again he is 84. He was surprised but happy to see us, and it was nice to see him and talk to him. Ollie of course was bored within minutes, but that's to be expected, even Grandpa said so!
He has had a few injuries lately, but is still getting about. Much easier with a walking frame (which he said he'd strongly resisted for a while), but he has always been very active, so I'm glad he's still mobile.
The best thing about Grandpa is his mind though, and he has always been very good about keeping it active. He and Grandma (who died in 2008) were very big on crosswords and puzzles as they got older. I admire how they kept challenging themselves and learning, even when they were in their 70s and 80s. They are great role models. I really think the worst thing about getting old would be to just 'stop', and sit there waiting for death or whatever.

Anyway, it's nice to be here. I'm letting Ollie dictate what we do (apart from the seeing family stuff), so at some point we'll go to the zoo. As for today, we haven't decided yet.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Off to Melbourne

Oliver and I are going to Melbourne today.

I haven't seen my Grandpa for a while, as he wasn't able to make it to Sam's funeral, so I have been very keen to get down there and see him. My mum's 5 brothers and sisters are down there too, so we will hopefully be very busy while we are there.
I would have liked it if Anthony could come, but he's busy doing our renovations. And when it comes down to it, it's my family, so I don't really mind.

It will be Ollie's first time in a plane (I wasn't going to drive down there if it's just the two of us - it's a very long way!), so I decided to make it an adventure for him.
I've booked us on Qantas, because they do little snacks and stuff, and will hopefully make him feel a little special. And I've bought him a couple of magazines and colouring books.
At first when I mentioned it, he said 'I'm not getting on a plane', but he changed his mind and we booked it. Last night he said he was a bit nervous, so hopefully he won't get upset or anything.

Well, I haven't finished packing, so off I go. I will post while we're down there.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Just smile and wave boys....

The robbed that smiles, steals something from the thief. ~William Shakespeare, Othello

I have always been one of those 'happy people'. You know, the ones that people tend to smile with but occasionally find very irritating?
When I was younger, my condition was far worse. In my late teens and early twenties I was especially annoying. But, if I wasn't smiling (for any reason), people would immediately ask 'what's wrong?' and make a comment about how I was always smiling.

I did manage to tame my unsuppressed happiness somewhat as I grew older. All the horrors of becoming an adult wore me down a little, but while I was not as 'out there' as before, I was still considered happy by most people I know.

I had always preferred it that way, thinking that it was better to go through each day smiling and enjoying life than always be grouching and moping. I was even known to grumble about people that never smiled, in fact I actually find it difficult to trust or warm to people who never smile.
I have had some pretty tough times over the years, but my attitude seemed to help me get through some of it. I was still known for my optimistic and happy demeanor I guess, but hopefully I wasn't annoying people too much.

I guess my kids liked it too. In 2008 I contracted pneumonia and had to spend a heck of a lot of time in bed. Samuel made this card for me:
The best part was the message on the inside:I was sometimes a grumpy mum, but on the whole I like to think that the attitude I kept for the rest of my life was the same I had with my kids. They were (are) pretty happy-go-lucky themselves.

I must say I have done OK at keeping my optimistic and happy personality going, despite this horrible thing that has happened. I wrote about this earlier, and still feel a little guilty for smiling or laughing, but at the same time I still don't see any point moping through the day.
I still find it difficult to trust the non-smilers, but now I understand there might be a reason.

I'm edited this to add an observation: I've just got back from work where I was my usual talkative, somewhat loud and jolly self. I was thinking about that in relation to my earlier post, and part of me thinks that some of this behaviour is a 'front'. I think I've written about it before, but perhaps I don't want everyone to see how sad I am, so I cover it up with loudness. It's like the other problem I have - my low self-esteem and worries about my weight mean that I eat more (go figure!).

Sunday, April 11, 2010

...and then there's the unhelpful. 2nd try.

OK, so this one might be a little heavy. Sorry. But I must keep my promise to be honest and say everything that's on my mind. And it's time I said it.

Anthony and I have both changed since Sam died. Some of it for the better (Anthony is much more open and willing to talk; I have a much better approach to the work/life balance), but there are things that I notice that are not better. Some of it I have already spoken about and started addressing, some of it is stuff that will take a long time to work through.

Try as I might, I can't shake the bitter feeling I get sometimes. I get so angry about Samuel's death; how unfair it is that he had to go. Especially when there are so many people who waste the time they have. Samuel had so much potential. It sounds cliched but he truly could have done great things. He had the talent, the intelligence, the temperament, (some of) the drive...but it was all taken away from him. It makes me so angry to see people wasting the life they are lucky enough to have. Yes we all take things for granted, overindulge, make mistakes, but we function. We contribute to society: we create, we reproduce, we help each other, we share, we love, we LIVE. We're not perfect, but we're not a drain. But there are plenty of people that are.

One of these people is someone close to me. I get so angry with the way they let their life go past; hiding behind substances, making excuses and never taking responsibility for their actions. I know it's wrong to judge them (god knows I'm not perfect), but I can't help myself. Why should they have this life to waste when my beautiful boy didn't even get to live a fraction of his?

Before Sam died, I was fairly ambivalent about it - their life, let them f**k it up. For the most part I left them to it. But since he died all I feel is anger and resentment. I know this is not healthy for me, and for the most part I let it go, but there are times when I can't ignore it.

A lot of it is a protective instinct that I have noticed appears more often. I guess this is natural. I only have one child left with me now, and I am absolutely terrified of losing him as well. I am conscious of it though, I want to balance my need to protect him with my desire to let him have a happy, adventurous and full life. But I can protect him from people who are inconsistent and unreliable. When it starts to affect my life, and the lives of the people I love, that's when the tiger in me comes alive.

Recently, Oliver and I were going to meet this person. I had told Oliver we would be meeting them, and he was very excited; gathering all the things he was going to show them, to play with them. When we arrived I was told they 'couldn't handle' seeing us. OK, yes, it can be hard to see us. We're going through this grief thing, but goddammit, we are the ones that lost Sam! We're all going through this stuff. Surely it's better if we all go through this together?
The worst thing was, less than a week before, this person had offered to babysit Oliver. I had (politely) declined, knowing this person's tendency towards inconsistency. I find it difficult to accept such up and down behaviour, but there's no way I'm going to subject a grieving 6 year old boy to it. I can only imagine the confusion and terror he must feel sometimes. He is still so young, but having lost Samuel so unexpectedly: one minute fine, playing together, the next gone forever; must play on his mind. When someone he has come to care deeply for is one minute there, the next minute gone, it must be at the very least extremely disappointing. He doesn't express it in so many words, but he does say and do things that lead me to think this is the case.

I know this particular example sounds like nothing, but there is a lot more of this stuff in our history: one moment all smiles and wonderful companion, the next MIA without a word. I can't put my son through that! He's just lost his brother, one of the most important people in his life! He needs people to be there for him. All the time. Not just when it's convenient, or it doesn't hurt them.

Is it too much to ask? I don't think so. Oliver has so many people in his life that are there for him all the time. His friends and their parents go out of their way to include him; Anthony's brothers, foster sister and sisters-in-law organise special days, travel long distances to visit him, buy him special presents, write him letters and call him just to say hi. His teachers (and all the people at his school) try so hard to make school comfortable for him. His grandparents have gone above and beyond to make him feel special and loved and wanted. Even many of my friends (some of whom never met Samuel and don't really know Oliver) are welcoming and kind and generous. Every one of them is there when they say they'll be there. They all have problems, they are all grieving themselves, and they probably all find it hard to see us sometimes, but they know how important it is.

To me, anything else comes across as selfish. We all have faults. We all have weaknesses. We're all struggling through this world that's sometimes crazy, disappointing and damn hard, but the difference is that we don't let it stop us from living. And those of us that do, well sorry, but I don't have time for people like that. But that's OK. Because they don't have time for me either.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Sign Your Name...

Kate, who writes that other blog that I read regularly, wrote yesterday about something I was also considering writing about.
It's funny, our situations are so different in many ways, but there have been many times in the last few months when things happen almost exactly the same way, sometimes at almost exactly the same time for both of us. This was one of them.

Kate wondered how she was going to sign cards and letters now that one of her kids is no longer with her. I had the same dilemma yesterday, so when I read her blog I got a real sense of deja vu.

Yesterday I was writing a card for a lovely neighbour of mine who has just had a baby. I was stumped about how I was going to sign the card. In the end I just signed it 'Mel, Anthony and Oliver. xx', but as soon as I'd given it to her I started thinking about what I should have signed for Sam. I was going to blog about it too; the guilt I felt and how I wanted to go over with a pen and change it (I haven't).

Of course, since I read Kate's blog, I've been thinking about it even more. Luckily (I think it was also thanks to her blog and the comments that followed) I think I've come up with something.

I've told you the story of the dragonfly, and how it has become an important symbol for us. It's obviously touched a few people, as I keep receiving lovely dragonfly-related items: My lovely new sister-in-law painted this for Sam's birthday:
One of our close friends bought me a cute dragonfly bookmark:
And my cousin (well, Anthony's cousin's wife) dropped a cute dragonfly magnet in the letterbox:
It gives me a lovely warm feeling when this stuff happens.

My mum and dad are no exception. They went away recently, and when they came back, along with a couple of dragonfly stamps; and a magnet, they had bought me a dragonfly shaped paper punch.
It's a lovely little thing, and I think it's just right for the job. I'm going to buy some orange stickers or contact (orange was Sam's favourite colour) and put one on each letter or card I send from our family. I think (for now) it's a good solution. So if you receive a card or letter from us that includes this little fella, that's why.

Saturday's Sensational Six

Yep, it seems that now that I'm back at work, Friday's not going to work for my weekly round up of photos. By the time I finish work, get off to the pub with my work chums, get home and have dinner, then spend some time with my boys, I'm too tired for blogging, instead dropping off on the lounge while Ollie watches something or other...

So I decided Saturday was probably more do-able. Also, I'm starting an online photography course this week, so I'll have one extra photo to show off as of next weekend.

But for this week I'll just go for the five:

A great photo of Sam

This is one that really shows what Sam was like. He had changed so much over his last year. Much more of a man, with a moustache just starting and a very 'cool' approach to everything. I think this is one he took of himself with his phone.

A great photo of Oliver
Taken at the playground last Friday night. How cute is he?

An old photo
Not long after Ollie was born. This is me at about my heaviest. I hate to put it out into the world, but I think it's important; to remind myself of somewhere I don't want to go again (mind you I'm getting close!), and to perhaps give me some motivation....

An interesting photo (from any time)
I dunno what it is, but I've got a thing about clouds...

My weekly entry into the EB photo of the week challenge:
The challenge this week was 'SOOC - Straight Out Of Camera'. I may still take some more, but this is what I'm entering.
Actually, changed my mind. This is what I'm entering:
I reckon it captures Oliver's 'boyness'. Up a tree, filthy face, silly expression. Love it!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Laugh Update

My totally awesome parents (and I'm not just saying that because you read my blog) found some footage of Samuel laughing. They put it on a DVD and it was waiting for me when I got home from work. How fabulous!

He was about 9, and was laughing at Nibbler (a galah we used to keep inside-I had it banished to the outside aviaries when it started attacking me everytime I walked into the room) who was pulling a spoon out of his cup and throwing it away, then sticking almost his whole body into the cup to get the milk from the bottom. He was also laughing at an episode of Family Guy that he was watching.
Even though he was a bit younger then, the laugh was just the same. A really infectious giggle. A bit more high pitched than his last few years (he had a fairly deep voice by the time he died), but the same laugh.

Something I observed while I was watching though, was that I was pretty much focused on Oliver. He was about 2 at the time, and very cute, and I noticed that I kept the camera trained on him, not Samuel.
I think there are a couple if reasons for this.
Firstly, Oliver was very cute and new and was doing lots of gorgeous 2-year-old things worth capturing on film.
Secondly, Samuel was the subject of a few videos when he was the same age, so it was an evening-up kind of thing. I think when Sam was born, we kept film and photo processing company executives in hot lunches...

If I'd known just how important this footage would be to us now (when I was a watching and Sam was just at the edge of the frame, I caught myself moving my head, as if that would help me see him) I would have done it differently.
But we never expect that we're going to lose our kids. We think that there's plenty of time to take videos, that we've already got enough. And they get more camera shy as they get older anyway; they lose the 'cute' factor and there's more posing.

I have got a few videos - the last couple of cameras we've had included a film function. Funnily enough, despite poring over my photos, I haven't really had a good look at the videos. I must do so, there might be some really treasures.

And my advice to you? Get them on film. As often as possible. As mundane as their antics might seem, one day they might mean the world to you.

Thanks Mum and Dad. You truly are the most wonderful parents ever!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

FInding my mojo

I haven't disappeared, just had a busy weekend (doing nothing that is!).

Friday night was lovely, we had a yummy fish and chips dinner with family and close friends, which ended in an Easter egg hunt (and a very cranky, tired six year old). I even went down the big slide a couple of times. You may think 'so?', but to me it means that I might slowly be getting my mojo back.

I have been letting myself go a bit since Sam died. Which is exactly what I should not have done, but if you're in any way familiar with the cycle of overeating/guilt/overeat some more, then you'd recognise my behaviour. I am almost compulsive in my self-destructive behaviour sometimes. I am fully aware of what I'm doing and hate myself for it, but then do it some more to find 'comfort'. Some time soon I'll blog about this, because I think it's another 'issue' that I need to work through.

Firstly I stopped exercising. I had been going OK: going to the gym three times a week, walking most of the other days, going for swims and bike rides. I'm pretty good when I'm in the habit, I actually like being active.
I was so tired at the end of last year, I think I stopped around my birthday (16th) and was intending to resume once school broke up. Of course then Samuel died, and apart from the occasional walk/bike ride, I haven't really gotten back into it.

Then there was the food. I am the cook in our house (which generally I don't really mind doing), but after Samuel died, I just didn't feel like it. There didn't seem much of a point. And people were making us lovely dinners. People also were coming around with yummy things like chips and ice cream and chocolate and cake and I find it very difficult to resist those things at the best of times. And I've always been a bit of a comfort eater.

I've also been drinking too much. Not every day, but on the weekends, and too much in one sitting. And I haven't been sleeping well or drinking enough water.

Of course because of all that I've put on some weight, and I feel like crap. I knew when I was doing it that this would happen, and I didn't care. That's the worst thing. It doesn't do me or my family any favours. Samuel wouldn't be too happy about it either.

But I'm slowly getting back into it. I don't want to say 'I'm going on a diet', because I'm a terrible yo-yo dieter, and that's not good for my body. But I'm going to be a bit more careful. And exercise more. And try to figure out why I do this s**t to myself...

What's the slide got to do with it? Well, the fact that I willingly had fun, ran up the side of the stairs several times and acted a little silly means that perhaps I might find the energy to do all this. We'll see.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

I forget...

I've forgotten what Samuel's laugh sounded like.

Oliver burst out laughing at dinner, about something the bird did (we have a baby rainbow lorikeet living in the house at the moment), and then at a big burp that I did (in my defence, I had just had a big sip of Coke). He cackled and cackled and of course we joined in.
Then all of a sudden Anthony was crying. I asked him why and he said he was remembering the way Samuel had laughed when he told him about the umbrella.

The Umbrella
Some time in December, Anthony had thrown an umbrella into the garbage bin, and when the garbage man (well, the arm of the truck that passes for the garbage man these days) had emptied the bin into the truck, the umbrella had opened and projected garbage everywhere.
Anthony had thought it was funny and so had Samuel. He had thought it was hilarious, and hatched a plot to put umbrellas in all the bins. Samuel loved practical jokes, and well, anything funny actually. Even if it was really lame.

Anyway, after Anthony said that at dinner I got to thinking about Samuel. It was then I realised that I had forgotten his laugh. Of course, then I started crying too.
Oliver didn't know which of us to hug, so he reached out both hands to pat us on our arms, then, bless him, cracked another joke.

I have noticed that I am crying more often, and more easily than I did before. It's little things that trigger it: a smell, a TV show, a memory, even Anthony sets me off, and he didn't before.
It's a good thing I guess. I was a little worried before - that I was bottling it up or something. It's not like I am any sadder, it just mainly when the little things sink in: I was at the cinema the other night watching "How to Train Your Dragon" and I was really enjoying it. I thought "Samuel's never going to see this (or any) movie." Then I started crying; Or I saw a couple outside the college the other day and thought "Samuel will never have a girlfriend"; or even when I made the hot cross buns yesterday and realised that Sam wouldn't get to eat any.
Or when I realised that I couldn't remember his laugh.

I know he used to laugh a lot. And I can kind of remember him doing it, but I want so much to be able to 'hear' it in my mind. And I can't. I don't know why I want it so much. Maybe I'm afraid that once I forget one thing, I'll start to forget others. I know I'll never forget Sam, but I don't want him to fade either.

I wish I'd taken more videos, more voice recordings. But we never do, do we? I've got thousands of photos, and I'm really happy about that, but it's the sounds that I need.

Thankfully we have recordings of Sam's voice. When he first died, we thought all that we had was his voice mail message (six words: "It's Sam, I'll call you back"). We called it a few times, just to hear his voice. Then we found out his nanna had some recordings from her answering machine. So now we have those too. And I know I'll be holding on to those for dear life.

You never expect that when you speak to your kids it's going to be the last time. You never expect that the hug is going to be the last. That the laugh that came at the wrong time, or the bad joke that made you groan, or the story that goes absolutely nowhere, is going to be the last one you hear. If you did, maybe you'd pay more attention. I hope you do.

Friday's Fabulous Five

(On Saturday)

Once again I'm a day late, and it's the EB challenge that's held me up again!

Here they are:
A great photo of Sam
I think this was one of the last times he dressed up for book week at school. Samuel really didn't like drawing attention to himself at all! (I think he looks very cute as a pirate!)

A great photo of Oliver
This was taken when Oliver was 20 minutes old. So calm an alert (that didn't last long - the calmness that is!)

An old photo
In Merimbula in 2004. I love the look on Sam's face. I think this is one of the events that got Anthony interested in birds again.

An interesting photo (from any time)
This is one Anthony took in 2008. I think there may have been some bushfires somewhere or something. I love the light and the colour in the clouds.

My weekly entry into the EB photo of the week challenge:
The challenge this week was 'black and white'. I had a lot of trouble with this one. I had two alternates too, couldn't decide:

Friday, April 2, 2010

Hot Cross Buns Recipe

**Sorry about the font size. I've tried resizing a few times, not sure what's going on!

I got the recipe from Thursday's Canberra Times. They have a liftout 'Food' section, and it had a big article on hot cross buns. Apparently this recipe came from the Flute Bakery in Fyshwick.

Mine were OK, but I think I got the yeast wrong (not enough) and they didn't quite rise enough. I would have also preferred that they were a bit 'fluffier', but it could have been that I used plain flour instead of baker's flour, or that I did too much mixing.
But they tasted great. And there was LOTS of fruit in them which I love. I hate those wollies ones that have three sultanas and that's it.
Straight out of the oven with a little bit of butter. YUM!

Flute Hot Cross Buns - Mel's Version

800g baker's flour - I used 6.5 cups
(I've got a little book called "The Essential Kitchen Companion" that gives me cup/gram conversions)
100g caster sugar - I used a heaped 1/3 cup
16g salt (3 teaspoons)
16g dried yeast (I read this wrong - it was midnight) and only put one sachet
240ml water (almost a cup)
200ml egg - I used 3 large eggs
4g mixed spice (1 tsp)
300g softened butter
6ml orange oil or fine zest of an orange (I used zest)
200g sultanas
200g currants

Mix the flour, sugar, salt, yeast, spice, water and egg well. Add butter in stages until well incorporated. Add fruit and mix well. Cover dough and leave in bowl 30 mins until it starts to rise. Divide into 70g pieces (small balls). Leave to prove until they are the size you want (mine didn't rise much).
Brush with warm milk (mixed with a little sugar) and put on a cross (below) if you like. Bake 175C for about 18-20 minutes. I brushed the milk on them again when they came out and sprinkled a little bit of cinnamon and sugar over them.

The Cross:
I mixed up a paste of flour, water, a little butter and a little sugar (my paste was a little runny). I put it in a snaplock bag and cut the corner off, then put crosses on some. On the others I just cut a cross with a sharp knife.

Here they are:

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Easter? Nah...

Can you believe Easter is here already?

Not that I'm all that big on Easter. I've never been all that interested (except when I was a kid and chocolate was EVERYTHING!)
In fact, if it wasn't for the fact that I bowed to popular opinion and refused to risk having my kids ostracised at school for not believing in Santa/Easter Bunny, I would not celebrate either 'holiday'.

As it is, both are fairly low-key/non-traditional around here.
I go for a minimalist approach at Easter; occasionally hiding eggs, but that's about it.
Our Christmas tree is a grass tree dragged in off the deck (which strangely enough died this year, not long after Christmas), and we try to place more of an emphasis on people, not stuff. This does not always work, as one of my favourite things is giving people gifts, and I love to see the look on my kid's faces when I spoil them (but hey, I don't think Christmas is the only time I do that!)

I've never really got Easter. I know the story of resurrection etc, but I'm not really sure where chocolate and big white bunnies comes into it. As an atheist, I always feel a little uncomfortable celebrating Christmas; as it seems a little hypocritical. But Easter doesn't even seem to be celebrated as a religious holiday - more of a commercialised/obesity promoting day...

So, unlike Sam's birthday, and Mother's Day (coming up), Easter doesn't pull too many heartstrings for me. I'm sad of course (that never goes away), and enjoyed using him as an accomplice in the hiding eggs game, but it's not one of those 'holidays' that I anticipate for weeks ahead.

Having said that, tomorrow I am going to (try to) make some yummy home-made hot cross buns, and I think that will be the thing that gets me.
1, because Samuel loved hot cross buns, and
2, because Samuel was becoming a great cook. And I think this is something we would have done together.
We'll see how it goes.

Also tomorrow we're going to meet up with some family/friends, and have a egg hunt and fish dinner. (No, I don't normally stick to fish on Good Friday as a rule, we're just doing it because it's a good excuse to have a get together with people we love).
Samuel would have enjoyed that too. Despite being a teenager, he always enjoyed time with the family. We all miss him.