April 8, 2013 – This just in…

Filed under Art, Music & Inspiration, Books, Career, Food, Parenting, Kids & Mama-hood, People with Passion, Writer's life, Writing | 1 Comment

Well, dear friends, I am very excited to finally announce the project I’ve been working on these past few months. The project that has been keeping me from updating this site and which has been taking up my spare time and attention. But don’t get me wrong, I’m happy about it! As you already know, I’m all about doing what you love.

Fork and Fiction certainly fits that bill. Fork and Fiction is a blog collaboration between my friend, Ria Voros and I, and celebrates our mutual admiration for books and food. Ria and I are both writers, mums and foodies. We met when I took a writing course she was teaching in Vancouver and we’ve been firm friends ever since. Anne of Green Gables would definitely have described her as a “kindred spirit”. I’m so thrilled to be sharing inspiration and insights with her. That two heads better than one saying? So true.

This week is our official launch week and there are interviews, recipes and PRIZES to be won. All you have to do is pop over and check out the website, leave a comment and subscribe and voila, you are in the draw to win goodies. Food and book goodies, of course.

So please check it out and join the conversation, we would love to hear from you :-)

 

tea cupHannah.

January 26, 2013 – Great Films of 2012

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Some of you may remember I made a little public resolution on here some time ago. I resolved to note down all the great films I watched in 2012. It’s funny; 85% of the films were watched prior to May 2012. Baby number two arrived April 25th 2012. Coincidence? I don’t think so! Suddenly watching a dvd from start to finish become a luxury again and it just didn’t happen for many, many months. But when it did – oooooh, it was nice, let me tell you. There are some wonderful filmmakers out there, making some incredible visual stories; don’t you agree? I always feel so inspired and hopeful after watching a great film that perhaps the world isn’t going down the toilet. Do you feel that way too? Perhaps I should resolve to watch more films and less news, as the latter seems to have the opposite effect.

So, in the spirit of sharing inspiration, I am posting my list here in case you’re looking for a good flick to see in the New Year. I should warn you in advance that my husband rolls his eyes at my movie choices, so they won’t suit everyone, of course. He prefers the film equivalent of a burger – comforting and unsurprising with added cheese. (Touche!) Bless his cotton socks. In saying that sometimes his films are exactly what I need to get me belly-laughing (Hello, Hot Tub Time Machine) but on other occasions I need one of my movies. Charming, layered, emotive and optimistic. Often foreign or based on true events with a good love story threaded through it. Those are the movies for me. And on that note, here we go, the films I loved in 2012:

Top Five:

1. Little White Lies – ensemble French film featuring Marion Cottillard (crush!), in the style of The Big Chill.

2. Buck – documentary about a bruised, big-hearted horse trainer, who believes in being gentle.

3. Zelary – moving Czech film, set in WWII, about a nurse escaping to a tiny village. And falling in love (of course) in unexpected ways.

4. Oranges and Sunshine – heartstrings yanking Australian film based on the real events of children migrating from England during WWII (warning: I cried buckets)

5. Creation – love story between Charles Darwin and his wife, Charles Darwin and his daughter, Charles Darwin and Science. Tender and sweet, beautifully shot.

And then, in no particular order, some other good’uns: My Afternoons with Margueritte, In a Better World / Haevnen, The Runaways, The Help, Separation City, French Film, Ides of March, The Descendants, Jeff, Who Lives At Home. These films were good viewing; some sweet, some sad, some funny and I’d recommend them all for different  moods or company. So, there you go, my very limited film watching adventures of 2012. Did you watch any good films in 2012? Did you watch any of the ones on my list? Love or loathe?

And, more importantly, what should I see in 2013? Baby is nine months old now (I know, where does time go?!) and I am starting to re-discover evenings. You know, that time when the sun goes down and the dishes are in the dishwasher and you can sit on the couch for a few minutes? I know, mine got lost for a few months there. But I plan to re-claim them, people, and fill them with great stories. So send me your tips… x

tea cupHannah.

December 21, 2012 – 2012: the year I had to…

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A friend of mine recently completed this sentence as his status on facebook. Perhaps it is the latest five second trend; I have no idea. What I do know is that it got me thinking. 2012: the year I had to…?

Surrender. If I only get one word, that would be it. If I get a few more it might be something like: surrender, adapt, work like crazy. Or something light-hearted: say goodbye to sleep. It’s been a rollercoaster of a year, that’s for sure. My knuckles are still pale. It’s had its highlights but it’s not been gentle.

For starters, we left our lovely Vancouver, bound for New Zealand.

Then we had a little baby.

Then we left our lovely New Zealand, bound for Australia.

We juggled my husband’s work, my work, two young girls and living with extended family. Just in case I might find time to get bored I started a new blog project with a good friend. Sometimes it worked. Often it didn’t. Regularly I burst into tears. I had to stop wishing for things to be different. I had to stop solving situations that needed to just be. I like to think of myself as pretty adaptable, but I’m better at making change in my life rather than being on the receiving end. Aren’t we all?

I keep reminding myself that the most important things are great – my health, my husband’s health, my girls – both healthy and happy. Now those are blessings. We got to spend a lot more time together and a lot more time with our families than we have in years we’ve lived away. We got some Southern hemisphere sunshine, found a wonderful midwife to help us have our youngest and took long walks on the beach with our eldest. My husband and I each got time to work as well as spend time with the girls. I even managed to bash out a first draft of a manscript. Yeeha! Watch this space! It, like my year, is a bit messy and shambolic but it’s there; ready to be moulded and cut and re-shaped.

So, what is in store for 2013? I have absolutely no idea and have almost stopped guessing. I have a little wish-list, of course. I’d love it to be a little less turbulent. I’d like a few less changes and time to get my head above water every now and then. I’d like to work a lot and play at least a little. I’d like to introduce you to my new blog project. I’d like to keep in better contact with friends. And readers. And my editors, who I cannot wait to work with again. I’d love to keep up the good health and family time.

Tell me how you would finish the sentence: “2012: The Year you had to…”? I’d love to hear your answers. And because I won’t be back here until 2013 I’d like to wish you a very, very Merry Christmas and festive season. Thank you so much for dropping by, leaving comments and sending messages. May 2013 bring you and yours a wealth of happinesses.

With love, Hannah x

tea cupHannah.

December 2, 2012 – High Tea in Concord.

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Okay, this one is for those of you out there who enjoy a cup of tea, a chat and scrumptious home-made baked goodies…..Aha! I knew that would get your attention.

Saturday, 22 December - mark it in your calendars!

Look at that tea stand, would you? Don’t you just want to pluck a treat off your screen right now?

Come for a bite at Knowledge Bites

I’m really excited to be part of this High Tea event at Knowledge Bites Cafe in Concord Library. I’m a regular at Knowledge Bites Cafe and a big fan of their range of Tea Tonic teas. The dark chocolate and black tea is crazy yummy. I’ve frequented lots of libraries (read here about my library obsession) but few of them have included a cafe. Genius! It’s almost unhealthy how often I can be found there…

Taryn, cafe owner and mastermind behind the event, is, as Anne of Green Gables would describe it, a “kindred spirit”. She made the food you see in the photo above and below. For those of you who have read The Colour of Tea, I can tell you that her sweets would give Grace’s a run for their money. Taryn also styled the entire photo shoot including models’ hair and makeup and all the props. But that’s not all, she hand-painted that screen. Seriously. I know, right?! She’s one of those lucky people that seem to have been born with creativity in startling abundance.

The best part is that she shares her creativity through her work. The other day I was offering sympathy for the early and long hours she puts in but she waved it away with: “No, no [don't feel sorry for me] it’s my passion.” And as she said it her eyes lit up and I thought – Yes! This woman is The Business! As you already know, I love it when people follow their hearts. Of course following your heart is not without its challenges. Sometimes it’s downright tough. But in the end….it’s worth it. At least you get to feel like, be and celebrate yourself. I just know you know what I am talking about.

So on that note, please come join Taryn, her team and I as we share the things we are passionate about: baking, pretty tea cups and tea stands; books, writing and good conversation. If all that doesn’t get you in a merry, festive mood, I don’t know what will. See you there, Sydneysiders!

What: Author Talk, High Tea and Festive Surprises, Cost: $25 per person, Where: Knowledge Bites Cafe in Concord Library, 60 Flavelle St, Sydney, Australia When: 12.00 & 2.00pm sittings, Saturday 22 December, 2012 How: Contact Taryn on 0403 405 418 or email: knowledgesbitescafe@gmail.com.

P.S. For those of you not based “Downunder” I promise to eat ridiculous amounts of food, take a zillion photos and tell you all about it in great detail here soon. X

tea cupHannah.

November 22, 2012 – The Interview.

Filed under Books, Career, The Colour of Tea, Writer's life, Writing | 1 Comment

Who IS that person wearing make-up, hair done, sounding all author-like? Well, my friends that would be me. Talking about my book. Eeeek! How weird is life?! Some of you may have spied it over on the Simon and Schuster website, but now it’s on youtube I can finally upload it here. (Why not earlier? Because, ahem, I am a technology dunce…)

Exclusive to this website right here and you, my friends, I am going to share a little bit about the experience of shooting it. For starters, it was shot in New York City at Simon and Schuster Headquarters. The Simon and Schuster offices are ginormous. There is a picture of them, here. I had that sick-to-the-pit-of-my-stomach, little-country-mouse-comes-to-the-big-city kind of feeling looking up at them. Simon and Schuster is written above the big glass doors in Gotham City fashion. I didn’t take a photo because I was frozen with anxiety and excitement, but Debbie Ohi did, so you can get the idea . Thanks Debbie :-)

I knew I was going to be interviewed so I threw on a tonne of makeup, remembering that the makeup artist for my wedding told me that you need to wear twice as much makeup as you normally do for any kind of camera. I’m glad I did because woah, my skin looks weirdly flawless in the video! I swear it is not normally like that. The other thing I did, again totally out of character, was get my hair professionally blow-dried. I mean, I can use a straightner, I can wield a mascara brush, I can (sometimes) draw with an eyeliner but I am absolutely hopeless with a hairdryer. So I decided to spoil myself and get it done properly for the grand sum of $30. It was so worth it. Look at it! It’s actually swishy. That’s not normal either. [Funny side note: the hairdresser asked me how I wanted it. I went into writerly blathering which included words like "unstructured" and "flowing". After long blank stares I pointed at the nearest magazine. It had a photo of Kate Middleton on it. Think I must have been the 100th person that week who'd pointed to that photo.]

So, with a bellyful of nerves, I went to meet the woman I’d been chatting to for weeks, my editor, Whitney Frick. Whitney is an impressive person. A friend recently told me that most people you meet are unimpressive. I thought it was a pretty pessimistic statement. He should meet Whitney Frick. She’s warm, kind, funny and very smart. She is good at her job. She loves her job. And you can tell. Because she’s engaged, effervescent and 110% passionate about books, writing and publishing. By the way, she won the inaugral Larry Ashmead award for being a crazy-good, emerging and promising book editor. Brag, brag.

After one of those chats that make you believe in Anne of Green Gable’s “kindred spirits” Whitney and I headed to the studio to shoot the interview. Yes, Simon and Schuster have a custom-built studio for such things. It’s pitch black, fitted with standing lights that should be in a football studio not a tiny windowless room, and two cameras operated by a camera operator each, one that points at your face, another that points at your profile. Cool, I thought. I’m not feeling nervous at all now (BIG LIE).

Whitney asked questions while I had to respond looking into the camera, rather than looking at Whitney. I found this really challenging because I’ve been raised to look a person in the eye when spoken to. My voice sounded strange and formal. I got all hot and anxious but tried to pretend I was cool and calm. I repeated myself. I felt like I was floating out of my body. I bungled words. Not to worry, Whitney assured me, they would edit it. Thank GOODNESS. Soon enough, it was over and we were back to chatting like old friends and planning where to go for a glass of wine. I could breathe again.

So the video above is the end result. It’s heavily edited and super-short, which is just fine with me. Even if seeing myself is very strange, watching it reminds me of that incredible day. From standing at the glass doors of my publisher, in New York, feeling like I ought to pinch myself to meeting sweet, supportive and like-minded people who want my book to succeed as much as I do. It was all such a thrill I just had to share the whole story with you not just the video interview. So now you know the story behind it and why my hair looks so…fancy.

tea cupHannah.

August 31, 2012 – Down the rabbit hole. And up again! Sort of.

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Sticky, yummy, birthday Date Cake. Made by Sister.

Okay, so I’ve been gone a while. A long while. You might be wondering what on earth swallowed me whole. Ah, that would be My Life. It’s a hairy, hungry beast, made up of relocating, the demands of two gorgeous daughters, writing deadlines, chores, new projects, catching up with old friends, trying to find time to eat and bathe and, if I’m really lucky, getting some sleep and washing my hair. (Pah ha ha! As if I get time to wash my hair! That was so funny.)

I do prefer to be busy rather than bored but the last month has been bordering on madness. I promise I am not trying to do that annoying thing of bragging about being sooooo busy to make myself appear much more important than everyone else. It really has been nuts and I do aim to make it less nuts. Unfortunately it’s going to be just as nuts for a good while yet so I may need to apologise in advance for more disappearing acts. For now.

BUT, there is good news.

I have been somewhat productive. There are some new things a-happening. I haven’t failed to notice it is Spring (well, where I am right now, currently the Southern hemisphere) and the change in season is appropriate. It’s time for new beginnings. A new place to live, a new project, a new manuscript to batter into shape like a wonky horseshoe. I’m going to be mysterious and leave you with….watch this space…. All will be revealed….

Aw, that is mean! Alright, instead I’ll leave you with my sister‘s recipe for Sticky Date Cake, the photo I drew you in with. Yes, that’s the one I ate on my birthday over a month ago that I still think about fondly. Oh, Date Cake, you were so lovely…

Date Cake (as dictated by my sister, ingredients in italics)

200g chopped dates, 1t baking soda, water = Heat dates and 1 1/4 cups water together in saucepan. Bring to boil then remove from heat. Add baking soda. Stand then squash with a fork.

Separate bowl, butter mixture: 60g butter, 3/4 cup castor sugar= beat until fluffy, then add 2 eggs, one at a time. Fold 1 cup of self raising flour and date mixture into butter mixture. Pour into a greased 20cm cake pan and bake for 40-50 minutes at 160 degrees. Stand then turn out.

Hot caramel = 3/4 cup cream, 3/4 cup brown sugar and 150g butter heated in a saucepan for around 4 mins. You can use as little or as much caramel as you want. Go ahead and use a bucketful, you know you wanna ;-) x

tea cupHannah.

July 31, 2012 – Lessons from a newborn.

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A moment with my girl.

I recently watched an episode of The Conversation where Amanda de Cadanet said (I’m paraphrasing) “Parenting brings me the most challenges in my life. Some days I think – I’m not very good at this.” Some days?! For me it’s more like every day. Don’t get me wrong, I have little shining moments, tiny snatches of time where I think “Check me out, I don’t suck right now!”, but every day, at least once a day, I think “Hot damn, this is hard. I don’t think I’m doing this right.”

My littlest babe has just turned thirteen weeks old. She is a darling. She smiles and my heart melts. She coos and I’m smitten. But newborns bring challenges and this one is no exception to that hard and fast rule. Today, as we took a drive out into the countryside, and she finally slept I got to thinking about the lessons a newborn teaches. This is my second and I’m reminded of things that my eldest taught me when she was the same age. There is something about the rhythm of life with a young baby that forces you to adapt your perspective. Your rushed, worrying, adult perspective! They force you to slow down and sit down (feeding time!), and see things a little differently. Especially, the fact that life is oh-so fleeting. It’s a cliche but babies can look different after a day, they grow so fast. Six months in my life can whiz by with few changes, six months in their lives can have them sitting, eating solids and babbling. It’s pretty remarkable.

So, for all the hard things about having a brand new little one (no time for myself, night wake-ups, spit up on everything, constant nappy changes, toddler sister throwing almighty jealous tantrums, memory loss, hair loss…) I’m trying to appreciate these important lessons that come from this precious time…

Live in the moment. This too shall pass. We are so very lucky to have this girl, our health and our family. Let your eyes light up when you see the ones you love. You can’t plan everything. Surrender. Stop and notice. Love. Love, love, love. X

tea cupHannah.

July 18, 2012 – Birthday.

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Family.

It was my birthday yesterday. It was fabulous. I got a giant balloon and presents and my sister made a sticky date cake with caramel sauce. I got out of the house (no mean feat with a twelve week old) to have lunch and a pot of orange pekoe tea with my Mum and my sister. In the evening my sister babysat and my husband and I went out for dinner. At one point I was considering putting off the dinner till another day because I just felt too spoilt. Then I thought…nah, it’s my birthday! Let’s do it!

The sun shone and the food was wonderful (especially that date cake, gaaahhhh…) I decided it was time for a family shot, the first with all four of us together. I’ve posted the one of us getting ready for it above. It says a lot more about us than the posed ones. My eldest is yelling “Messy Hair!” because she hates it being tidy (she’s a dyed in the wool “ragamuffin”), my youngest is being calm and blissful (that’s her way, bless her) and I’m busy trying to scrub us all up. I’m thinking – hey, I don’t wear makeup every day / week, let’s get it together people!

All in all a sensational day. I was definitely “feeling the love”. Let’s do it all again next year, please? x

tea cupHannah.

July 11, 2012 – Play with your food.

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I admit it, I like Oreos. They really are “milk’s favourite cookie”. I like Oreos so much that I can eat a packet all by my lonesome and still be looking around for more. (Hmmm, that’s make it sound like a problem…? Doesn’t everyone feel this way?!). I should mention, I wasn’t raised in the North America, home of the mighty (but tiny) Oreo cookie. My nostalgia for Oreos comes from travelling around Asia in my early twenties. I’d never tried one before then and it seemed as though every whistle-stop town I went through had a store selling Coca-cola and Oreos. I bought my first packet as an on-the-go snack and the rest, as they say, is history. Nom nom nom. Gaaahhh. Perhaps it isn’t trendy or sophisticated to like Oreos but I do. Shrug. Whatcha ya gonna do?

So, anyway, there was something endearing about Judith G Klausner’s art, right from the word, Oreo. I was probably going to like it. Now I’ve seen that she creates incredible cameos just from cookies and a toothpick, I’m transfixed! So clever! So sweet (pun intended)! Additional to always being impressed by those that choose art as a career path (do what you love!) I am particularly partial to the collision of creativity and food. So this is right up my galley. I mean, alley ;-) Ho ho!

Judith creates a host of other work using food, such as cereal, gummies and toast. Her work is both charming and strange, cute at first glance and then causing a double-take accompanied with an “Ooooooh, I get it now….” You should check her out. She explains that she likes to play with her food, ‘both professionally and recreationally’. Sounds perfectly reasonable to me.  I can’t wait to see what she does next…

tea cupHannah.

July 3, 2012 – The Mama returns!

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Mum and Baby girl number two.

This is my Mama. For those of you who had read my bookywook (Thanks Russell Brand), you’ll know all about Grace Miller’s Mama and her quirks. My Mum, delightful as she is, is pretty much the antithesis of all that. My Dad sometimes refers to as “a rock of Gibraltar” (real romantic, Dad), whereas Grace’s Mama is more like a pretty pebble skipping across water. But, contrary to her usual rootedness, Mum has been the nomadic one the last six weeks. She’s been traipsing across Europe, soaking up the summer, leaving us bereft of her consistency and rock-y-ness. We have missed her. Continue reading

tea cupHannah.