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Curious George is a movie that can penetrate even the most noise-cancelling of headphones. Writing a novel in the same room as a four-year-old watching Curious George is not in my top 10 productivity tips.

It’s been a long time between posts here on Life With Gusto because I’ve been devoting my writing hours and, frankly, all my jokes, to this novel I’ve been working on. That seems to have paid off because a very nice fiction publisher at HarperCollins has acquired it, and its younger sibling which is currently only a gleam in its mother’s eye, for publication.

This is a dream come true, as I say in the press release they sent out today*, only slightly marred by the fact that I now have to do a huge amount of work. Now don’t get me wrong, I love hard work. Mad for it. It’s just that up until now I haven’t had to juggle a whole lot of it with those attention-sapping, disrespects of deadlines and creative process known as my children. But everyone else manages it and so will I, and I’ll complain about it extensively here on the blog.

The news of this book deal has been received with great excitement by almost all my family and friends, with the notable and vocal exception of Garnet. To be fair though, he’s been really sick the past couple of weeks with influenza, which is currently tearing through our community. (more…)

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Screen Shot 2017-06-13 at 2.11.35 PMThis morning I went outside and discovered the builders next door merrily bricklaying away at the wall of the neighbour’s house that sits on our boundary, just beside our dining room. Except they weren’t bricking all of it. There was a large rectangular gap where there should have been bricks.

‘What’s that window doing there?’ I asked.

‘It’s not really a window,’ the brickie told me. ‘It’s more of a vent.’

I said nothing.

‘So they can get some fresh air in this bathroom,’ he clarified. ‘It’ll be frosted.’

‘A frosted glass vent that opens and shuts is commonly called a window,’ I said in a pleasant enough voice that nonetheless contained the suggestion that he might like to go get the foreman, Paul.

‘I’ll go get Paul,’ he said. (more…)

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FullSizeRender 4I haven’t written a blog post for a while, because I’ve been trying to write my novel. When I say ‘write my novel’ I mean telling the (slowly developing) plot to anyone who will listen, and thereby reducing, slowly but surely, the number of people who might read it, should it ever be published.

It turns out this writing a book lark is harder than it looks and, like so many things in life, not made easier by having two small children about your person much of the time.

Neither is it made easier by going on a demented health kick, which is what I am doing at the moment. I am exercising to the point of great agony and simultaneously reducing my brain fuel. I am pretty sure I am losing brain weight, which is not where I have it to spare. (more…)

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IMG_4719The last two weeks have been so great and productive for me on a personal level. I’ve been exercising, writing, keeping on top of the laundry – all things that I don’t always find easy because of my clinical laziness.

My children have picked up on that and helpfully compensated to bring my overall happiness down to neutral. Both of them are still recovering from various ailments that started as a cold virus but then went to their ears, throats, chests and finally to their very souls. The soul antibiotics are not kicking in as quickly as I’d like.

The main symptoms of an upper soul infection are waging war on your sibling, and being unspeakably mean to your mother, because she is responsible for spawning your enemy.

Most of the time our kids get along pretty well, but the past few weeks have been another story entirely. A story more along the lines of Cain and Abel, or a biography of Noel and Liam Gallagher. (more…)

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img_4357Sometimes, as a parent, you reach a point where you kind of sort of maybe think you might just ever so slightly have gotten your shit together. Your kids are well and happy and they seem to like going to school and preschool, and they don’t have set their minds on owning something that is completely out of the question, like a Lego Hogwarts or an actual lynx.

That, of course, is when then the gods strike you down. That is when you all come down with a virus and the teacher sends home a bunch of exercise books and tells you to cover them with contact.

Contact. I don’t know if it’s called that the world over. I expect the Germans have a word for it that literally translates as ‘roll of judgement by which we can tell how much you care about your children’. (more…)

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Someone’s kid has an extendable arm that only comes out when there’s a chocolate fountain. Handy. 

May Blossom turned six on the weekend and her two requests for her party were:

  1. A chocolate fountain
  2. No siblings

The first request we could accommodate. We borrowed a device called a Sunbeam Choccy, melted together a kilo of chocolate and a cup of canola oil, and Bob’s your auntie’s live-in lover: there’s your chocolate fountain. Happy days.

The second request was more challenging, because I believe family should celebrate birthdays together. Even if some of the family are behaving like complete shits. I’m a big believer in encouraging children to be kind and loving, and to celebrate each other’s successes and happiness. Garnet’s beliefs are fundamentally opposed to that. (more…)

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I’m doing that thing I always do when I come back from new and wonderful, and I try to transport the lifestyle. When H and I went to Borneo by steamer sometime back in the 1800s, we came home and bought an entire pantry’s worth of ingredients to make complicated sambals and rending pastes, not to mention buying five limes for what would have bought us 100 kilograms of them in Kota Kinabalu.

I’m doing the Scandinavian equivalent. I’m eating rye bread and smoked fish, putting dill on everything, and being genuinely baffled at why everyone is so loud and rude and demanding. Why can’t my children be more Finnish, and refuse to make eye contact or talk to me? Why can’t they be more like the Swedes, and dress effortlessly stylishly and get about on bikes like it’s normal? Why can’t they be more Danish and tidy the fuck up occasionally? (more…)

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