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The pesto would have been better tossed with small snails than with the gnocchi I made.

I know I have a tendency to toot my own horn on this blog, and today is not going to be any different. You need to know that I can make the worst gnocchi in the world.

Yesterday at the end of a weekend in the country with three generations of our families, my friend Ellie and I spent four hours pottering in the kitchen. I was making gnocchi and she was making pesto. People wandered in and out, admiring our handiwork and commenting approvingly on what domestic goddesses we are, whipping up rustic Italian food from scratch while our children played happily outside.

It was all a ruse. Well, it was half a ruse: the pesto was beautiful. The gnocchi were very, very horrible.

On the page, where lies are born, gnocchi are straightforward: you cook some potatoes, peel them, mash them, mix in an egg yolk and some flour, roll the dough into long sausages and then cut them into pillow shapes, which you then roll across the tines of a fork to make a little grooves for your sauce to adhere to. So simple, so italiano. You cook them in boiling salted water for about a minute, or until they float to the surface. Then you skim them out and into a waiting warm dish where you coat them in oil or butter or pesto and serve them to your family to rapturous applause.

The recipes always warn you that the thing you must not do is mix in too much flour to the mashed potato, because then you will not have lovely little light pillows of deliciousness, but leaden, doughy lumps.

Every time I try to make gnocchi – and it is a ten-year cycle of forgetting how bad it was the last time and deciding to throw myself down that particular culinary insinkerator again – I take that warning too seriously and don’t add enough flour. At least that’s what I think the problem is. Who the fuck knows.

The dough always looks fine and I cut it up and make the pieces gnocchi-shaped, but when I cook them they come out with no resistance whatsoever. They melt in your mouth, which gnocchi aren’t meant to do. They melt in your mouth in the way that a dissolvable aspirin tablet does. It’s like eating dirty paste.

Yesterday I spent four hours making gnocchi. When it came time to feed the kids, I boiled up a few and I could tell when I fished them out of the pot, like little soft bloated whales, that they were going to be awful.

Have you ever left a zucchini or a cucumber too long in the fridge and when you try to pick it up your hand just goes straight through like it is a ghost? The gnocchi were like that. Disgusting potatoey ectoplasm.

Garnet wolfed them down, liberally doused with pesto. May Blossom tried to pick one up with a fork, but it might has well have been soup. She asked if she could have some pasta instead.

Normally I am very much of the school of making others pay for my mistakes, and under most circumstances I would have said she had to at least try them. But even I could see that would just have been mean. She had pasta.

Ellie had gone back to Sydney by then, with her parents and children, a bag of frozen gnocchi, a pot of pesto, and that excellent feeling you get when you come home after a weekend away and know something better than toast awaits you for dinner.

I burst that bubble with a text message, warning her ‘BIN THE GNOCCHI. COOK PASTA. REPEAT: COOK PASTA’.

So we all had pasta. I was breezy and good-humoured about it last night, because there were still some houseguests here whom I didn’t know very well. If there is a worse impression to make on people than them thinking you are a terrible cook, it’s them thinking you’re a petulant sulk about it. So, smiling, I served them all pasta with pesto and they said encouraging things about not throwing out the gnocchi but using them in a soup, perhaps, or to mend cracks in the walls. I think I agreed and said ‘Waste not, want not!’ in a slightly hysterical voice a few too many times. Then I ate four bowls of ice-cream.

This morning the gnocchi is still in the freezer, haunting me.

I’ve spent the day in self-flagellation for the gnocchi and the ice-cream. I went to the greengrocer and bought so many vegetables that they will not fit in the fridge and in a few days I will have ectoplasm zucchinis on my hands. Maybe I’ll make them into a sauce for the gnocchi.

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FullSizeRender 3Last week, for the first time, Garnet asked me what my job is. It’s a wonderful moment when your child starts to show an interest in you, as a person.  I told him I am a writer and an editor. He then asked what an editor is. I told him an editor helps other writers make their writing better.

But I’m confused, because although I think that’s what I said, what he seems to have heard is, ‘I am a Lego Detective. I can find any piece of Lego, anywhere in our house or car. I only need three seconds to do this.

‘I am also the repository of knowledge of the whereabouts of everything else we own. I keep track, at all times, of where the extra lid to your new water bottle is, which I last saw when you took it out of the room I was in five days ago. I am a tracking system for the black button that fell off your old raincoat and which you now treasure. (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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fountain

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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IMG_8591This weekend, the Sydney Opera House will come alive with challenging premises and audiences will wrestle with a variety of thought-provoking concepts when the Festival of Dangerous Ideas kicks off. My parents are going to heaps of things at this festival, including Alexei Sayle’s talk ‘Thatcher Made me Laugh” and ‘The Government We Deserve’ presented by Annabel Crabb and David Marr. I will be staying at home with my children, while H heads off to Perth for a few days. But that’s no reason not be challenged and wrestle with ideas. I’ve decided to run our own Festival of Dangerous Ideas, as programmed by my almost four and almost six year olds. Let me know which sessions you want to see. (more…)

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scandilandphotoTwenty-three days from now, I am going on a trip, without H or May Blossom or Garnet, to the other side of the world. This makes me, according to my calculations, the worst mother in the world. To make matters worse, I am going on this trip with my friend Jess, and thus I am an accessory to depriving her children of their mother for two and a half weeks, which is an infinitely more serious crime since she is a significantly better mother than I am.

That aside, we are really very extremely excited. We are going to Finland, Sweden and Denmark. The trip has come about because Jess is a teacher and very interested in the schools in that part of the world, which are apparently better than ours for reasons that will be revealed to me as we go along. I believe it has to do with starting school a bit older and not having homework and maybe also herrings? To be confirmed. Anyway, Jess wants to visit some schools since that is her Area of Particular Interest and I thought I would go too since shirking my maternal responsibilities is my Area of Particular Interest, and what better way to do that than to bugger off up to the frozen north for several weeks, where the aquavit is cold and the living is easy.

Since we are going to Finland, I decided I ought to cultivate a more location-specific Area of Particular Interest. I’ve chosen saunas. Jess is being very accommodating and treating it like it’s my genuine hobby, so we are working our itinerary roughly equally around school visits and saunas. Because my other area of interest is not dying, we are skipping the sauna I discovered in my research that is in a ski lift. A smouldering wooden cabin, swinging hundreds of feet above an icy hill? What could possibly go wrong? We are restricting ourselves to ground-based saunas. The same goes for schools: strictly terra-firma educational institutions. (more…)

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