Christmas trip 2014, part 5



One evening I had A order chunky chips at the YHA cafe, and he left the table with £3.50 in hand and absolute confidence in his ability to secure some delicious vittles. (An American approximation would be steak-cut fries with Thai sweet chili sauce. Oh, man…)

He came back with a worried look, saying, “After I ordered, they said, ‘Do you need some help? Is everything okay? Where’s your mom?'”
I said, “Did you show them that I’m right here?”
He nodded his little rapid anxious nod and said, “They saw you. I want you to get them when they’re ready, okay?”

On Boxing Day we boarded the Eurostar from London to Paris! Traveling via train is so much more comfortable than by air, plus there’s not the unsettling sense that you’ve somehow magically transported yourself to a completely different country by way of buckled-in muscle-cramping stillness — I really like seeing the countryside roll by, changing by degrees from urban to rural and urban again.


The 5th arrondissement, very near the Sorbonne. Paris was colder and rainier than England during our few days there; every time we returned to this lovely hotel, it was with a great sigh of relief at having warm and glowing rooms awaiting.


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We got to see our darling C again!

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A really liked the medieval section in the basement of the Louvre.

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The Gregorian service on Sunday morning at Notre Dame Cathedral was really beautiful, S’s favorite part of Paris. K practiced her French at every opportunity and came back thinking in French — yay!

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The girls really loved this monument to Joan of Arc.

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With a day that broke into sun, we went on to Montmartre and Sacre Coeur.



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And the first leg of our homeward journey, on the 3-hour Eurostar trip from Paris to London (the part that goes through the Chunnel takes just 35 minutes, the same as the ferry from Bainbridge to Seattle).

Our last must-see in London: 221 B Baker Street, the Sherlock Holmes Museum.
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Once in Central Hounslow, we feasted on Indian food as our last meal in England. The best chicken biryani for £3 and 2 naan for £1!
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Dec. 29: Sunrise over Hounslow, as we boarded the Picadilly line for the airport.
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And 22 hours later, on the Seattle light rail and almost home, exhausted, but so very happy and grateful to have had this experience.

Christmas trip 2014, part 4

After the Christmas Eve service in Cambridge, we traveled back to London (via taxi, train, tube, and finally foot) and our hostel for Christmas Day. In one station, B was looking around for the window to purchase children’s fares for the underground. A helpful officer walked up to us: “Can I help with anything?”
B: “Yeah–I need to buy children’s tickets.”
Officer: “How old are the children?”
B: “16, 14, and 11.”
Officer: “No offense young man, but just for today, you look like you could be just under 11.”

B walked up to the ticket agent at the proper window. “Okay, I’ve got a 16-year-old, a 14-year-old, and two adults.”
Ticket agent: “So you’ve got two 15-year-olds.”
B: “No, a 16-year-old and a 14-year-old.”
Agent: “Work with me here!”


Christmas morning, we slept way in, opened a couple of gifts, and made a delicious brunch of eggs, British bacon, and tomatoes. Meanwhile, the hostel staff were preparing their shared Christmas meal of boiled ham with rosemary, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and savory scones. Everyone in the hostel kitchen and dining room watched everyone else in a kind of casual way, interested in what an itinerant Christmas looked like for others.

In the afternoon, we set out on a brisk walk to hear the gorgeous Festal Evensong service at St. Paul’s Cathedral.


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Christmas dinner! I tried mushy peas (which I’ve been wanting to do for a long time)–verdict? Good–kind of like fresh-tasting split-pea soup.

Christmas trip 2014, part 2

When you are young, you don’t know what your future holds — you don’t know what applies to you. So when you travel or read or encounter anything new, you soak it up — not through any special effort, but because you’re potentially going to use it all.

Teaching is so rewarding because it puts me right back in that open mindset of potentially using anything and everything I encounter — the tiniest things become brighter and more interesting; they become metaphors and examples of larger truths about humanity.

Katharina Fritsch’s Hahn/Cock

In Trafalgar Square, there are four plinths, or stands for statues to perch on. The first three were occupied early on, by George IV, General Havelock, and General Napier. The fourth remained empty (due to a shortage of funds) but now has become a stage of sorts for contemporary works of art to have their time in the spotlight, and just now it’s this broadly humorous, overtly feminist, bright blue cockerel. Shakespeare would have loved the pun.

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Buckingham Palace

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, on the south side of the Thames, was a treat to visit. This is their off-season since the theatre is open-air, but they do year-round tours.




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After nightfall, we saw the British Museum’s antiquities, including the Rosetta Stone!

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British fish and chips! S: “I prefer New Zealand’s.”

Kayaking Eagle Harbor and Crabs for Dinner

Today we spent several hours getting un coup de soleil (sunburn = a blow from the sun; isn’t that charming?) paddling tandem kayaks around the harbor. We saw a lot of birds, minnows, and crabs and the kids taught Tasha how to swim by letting her doggy paddle instincts take over several feet from shore.

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The seven of us pushed off from the dock at Back of Beyond.
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This afternoon, B’s colleague L brought us some fresh-caught-and-cooked crab–the season just opened on July 4th and already they have too much to eat. B washed off a wrench and cracked the shells and it made for a great summer dinner!

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Japanese Okurimono

Gifts. Strong sunshine in early afternoon. Huge resounding drums. The long tail of holiday gift-giving. Unexpected gestures of thoughtfulness and kindness.

The annual Mochi Tsuki Festival on Bainbridge was a couple of Sundays back, hosted at Islandwood, and graced by sunshine all afternoon.



The sweet glutinous rice being steamed. While the first stage of the mochi is completed outdoors, the mochi balls are rolled inside the great hall. We watched the mochi-making while waiting our turn for the taiko concert. The drummers from Seattle Kokon Taiko were the main reason I went, as in years past. They are riveting.

Over the winter break, one of my students went to Tokyo and brought a gift back for me–senbei! The packaging was so pretty, we hesitated to ruin it.


Here we have a lot going on: it’s after 7pm, with dinner underway, homework, my work, a super-duper slouch, and the fun of seeing which little traditional rice crackers each package contains.




Waffles and Berries

We’ve picked 20 lbs of raspberries already from Suyematsu Farm. That’s 4 full flats and some good picking by my kiddos! K and S probably don’t want me to call them kids anymore (they’ve loudly scoffed at the word ‘playdate’ in reference to getting together with their friends), but I’ll need time to put their childhood to rest. They can always be my minions, right?

Some of the berries are in the freezer, some are in the fridge, but most have been made into smoothies or piled onto waffles this morning.


This is the best waffle recipe ever—fluffy and crispy. Needs no butter. (GF, DF)

3 eggs
1 3/4 c almond milk
3/4 c tapioca starch
1 c rice flour
1/4 c almond flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 c olive oil
3 tsp baking powder

Whisk everything together!

Around Rawene: Wardy’s Fruit and Veg Emporium




This is Wardy’s, a locavore hub where we’re lucky enough to get most of our food. The pair of greengrocers who run the shop are generous and friendly, the definition of local businesspeople who are vital to their community. They know what’s in season for our particular microclimate; they know the growers who produce broccoli and mushrooms, etc. They carry macadamias and olive oil produced on a small scale by B’s colleagues; they know when there will be another batch coming.


They tell us how to prepare fruit and vegetables we haven’t eaten before (tamarillos, feijoas). They sort the produce meticulously. They don’t like to let things go to waste and if they have overripe bananas or tomatoes ready for saucing, they’ll throw them into the bag after they’ve rung us up.

Today Wardy tossed a handful of shallots into my bag, not because they need using right away, but just because they’re so gorgeous.


A. learned how to make marinara sauce from scratch a couple of months ago.

We take our egg cartons back to them after we’re done with a dozen; they fill them up again and write a new date on the top.


How lucky are we? A greengrocers. When I walk to town with my bags, fill them up with produce from Wardy’s, and then walk home again in the blustery outdoors, I feel like I’m experiencing a bit of that mid-Victorian English mode of life that gave folks astoundingly good health (read here).

A short story about soup

It’s been downright cold here lately. How cold?

So cold that our quirky, beloved house here is no match for howling wind and icy blasts from the harbor.

It’s Three Dog Night cold.

Two pairs of socks cold.

Coats and hats in the house cold.

So cold you take a hot shower and then can’t find the willpower to turn it off.

So cold that you put on dance music at regular intervals and dance like crazy. At first this dance is called ‘The Icicle Shuffle’ but you’ll warm up to something like ‘Maniac Moves Now That You’re Thawed Through.’

Too cold to sew, too cold to practice guitar.

So cold that 8:00pm sounds like bedtime; after the warmth of dinner dissipates and you’ve grown gradually colder all you can think about is the (potentially) warm cave of blankets on your bed.

So cold you accidentally leave the soup cooling on the kitchen counter because you’re headed to bed so early and loose ends are everywhere, but they’re all too cold to think about.

So cold you find the soup in the morning and you register a brief dismay, but then…

It’s so cold it’s sure to be okay.

It’s so cold you heat that soup for breakfast…

And you’re right, it’s more than okay.

For a moment, you’re warm.

Happy 15th to my K


Fifteen years ago I gave birth to my first child after a long labor and a forceps delivery. I remember the feeling that morning when I held my healthy, beautiful daughter for the first time: a sudden rush of love, a dizzying sense of being overwhelmed and at the same time, up to it.

I still feel that way many days.

I snapped this shot of K last night at the Black Olive in Kerikeri, right before K’s friends arrived for a birthday dinner (all of them dressed up, very 15 years old, so fresh and happy and giggly, with me playing the part of wise old matron. It’s a part I play happily.).


B. and I walked to the market at Town Hall yesterday morning, where we were hoping to find something perfect for K’s present. We did! We came away with a beautifully tailored dress and a pair of blue earrings. S gave her a mother-of-pearl shell she’d made into a necklace, and A gave her an origami box filled with beachcombing objects d’art.


It’s turned chilly in the mornings and evenings now, so to celebrate K’s autumn birthday, we’re having shepherd’s pie and for dessert, pumpkin custard.


New Zealand pumpkins are grey-green on the outside but with the familiar bright orange flesh inside. Here’s my latest recipe for pumpkin pie or custard from scratch:

4 cups roasted mashed pumpkin
2 13.5 oz (400 ml) cans coconut milk (or use homemade coconut milk)
4 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 c brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp turmeric
3 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp nutmeg

Roast pumpkin wedges for 1 hour at 400 F. Scoop out pumpkin into large bowl and mash; measure out 4 cups. Mix everything with whisk until you’ve got a smooth batter. Pour into pie crust or bake without a crust for a nice pumpkin custard. 375 F for about an hour.

Happy Easter Weekend!

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My moveable type is made of kowhai pods. S, B, A, and I spent some time down at our beach yesterday making a fort, toe-toe grass carpet, and other fancy stuff.

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B looks like a quintessential Kiwi with his gumboots and shorts.

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Look at this gorgeous mint I used for minted peas tonight. Sensory delight just walking outside barefoot on the damp grass, breathing in the heady after-rain smell and then the sharp mint.

Easter Weekend here spans Good Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, (and for the kids, Tuesday as well). We’ll spend at least part of that time comfortably turning into bookworms and swapping our Easter books with each other. Our Easter books this year were all from op-shops: A Harrod’s Cookery Book from 1985 for S (it’s as fabulous as it sounds), The Joy Luck Club for K, The Jane Austen Book Club for me and B (plus the Proust B got set up for me on my laptop–that’ll probably take me more than a year…I’ll check back with you next Easter), and a Readers’ Digest Book of Facts, also from 1985, for A.