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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Breastfeeding Diet


Have you ever read a section in the Sunday paper called "My Day on a Plate"?  The interviewee writes down exactly what he or she eats and drinks during the day.  The food diary is then reviewed by a nutritionist who offers helpful suggestions about how the interviewee could have a healthier diet.  I'm sure that no one tells the complete truth.  Most of the people interviewed seem to snack on raw almonds and pepitas and drink organic peppermint tea.  None of them eat as many Scotch Finger biscuits as I do. 

I eat healthy meals  - honestly.  It's the things I eat between meals that would horrify the nutritionist (and my dentist).  I'm starving all the time.  I seem to be losing weight too.  Maybe we could start a rival column called "Breastfeeding Day on a Plate".  As well as a hearty breakfast, lunch and dinner, I'd have to confess to the following: two pieces of toast and marmalade and a cup of tea (second breakfast); large piece of beautiful pear tart brought by my lovely Auntie Julie and a cup of tea (morning tea); bits of vegemite sandwich, cheese, grapes (helping Elsie eat her lunch); 3 chocolate biscuits and another cup of tea (early afternoon tea); left-over piece of beautiful pear tart (just cleaning up the kitchen); wedge of brie and biscuits (ages since I had brie. Great stuff!); handful of raw almonds (an experiment - not successful); curly pasta, peas and ham (helping Elsie eat her dinner); handful of jelly snakes (energy snack); mini magnum (dessert). 

I would write more, but I'm hungry again.  I think there might be a cold sausage in the fridge...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Pixie's birthday


Today is Pixie's birthday - if she was still alive, she would have been 66 today.  This time last year, she was having regular chemotherapy, but we were all hopeful that she would be OK.  I didn't allow myself to think that it could be her last birthday.    

We didn't spend a lot of birthdays together.  More often than not, Pixie was at Lord Howe and I was in Sydney.  The worst birthday was the one after my brother, Harry, was killed in a motorbike accident.  Pixie, Ed and I went out for lunch in Sydney for Pixie's birthday.  I had booked a table for three.  When we were shown to the table I was horrified to see that it was rectangular, with two seats on each side.  It was set for three and the fourth chair had no setting.  It was a miserable lunch. 

There were happy times too.  For Pixie's 60th birthday, she invited 15 or so of her best friends to stay.  Late March is the most magical time of year at Lord Howe.  The weather is warm and stable and there's often a light easterly breeze.  The Lagoon is calm and clear and the water is very warm - just perfect for swimming.  For Pixie's birthday we had a lovely lunch in the garden with fresh Lord Howe kingfish on the BBQ.  After lunch, Pixie's friend Thea stood up.  I'll always remember what she said: "After my family, whom I have to love, I love Pixie the best". 

As part of Pixie's birthday celebrations, we also had a drinks party and invited most of the Island.  You can't have a small party at Lord Howe.  Pixie told me that she had invited people without telling them it was her birthday.  She didn't want anyone to know that she was 60.  As soon as I got off the plane at Lord Howe, lots of people said to me: "You're home for Pixie's birthday!".  There are no secrets on Lord Howe...

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Auntie Evie


When I was a little girl at Lord Howe, my mum used to take my brother and me to visit Auntie Evie.  Auntie Evie wasn't related to us - but at Lord Howe it's respectful to address older people as "Auntie" or "Uncle".  She lived at "Janetville", a little old house under the mountain with an enormous garden and orchard. 

In those days, we didn't have a phone at home and it was perfectly acceptable to drop in unannounced.  We would always take something with us - usually fresh garfish as my dad loved fishing and we always had more than we needed.  Pixie and Auntie Evie would have a cup of tea and she always had cake for us - the one I liked best was called Belgian Cake, made of short pastry and red jam.   

Auntie Evie and Uncle Jim kept cows for milk and butter and had chooks and pigs.  Their vegetable garden was enormous and they had lots of fruit trees - all types of citrus, bananas, peaches and mulberries.  Nothing was wasted, Auntie Evie made jams and pickles and the pickles, which were delicious, were full of bean tops and carrot peelings. 

Auntie Evie's nephew, George, recently came to stay at Pinetrees for a holiday.  He reminded me that Auntie Evie spent her last few years in a nursing home in Taree working on her life story.  She'd write it by hand and post the pages to Pixie and Pixie would type them, struggling with the shaky writing, and post them back to be checked and corrected.  George took the finished work to the Lord Howe Island Museum and he also posted a copy to me. 

It's fascinating reading.  Auntie Evie describes how came to the Island in the early 1930s to work for my grandmother at Pinetrees and how she met her husband at a dance.  She talks about hunting feral pigs and goats, collecting sooty tern eggs and eating mutton birds.  She mentions travelling to Lord Howe by ship and how seasick she was.  A lot of space is devoted to her pet woodhens.  By the early 1980s the Lord Howe Island woodhen was almost extinct.  After a successful captive breeding program, woodhens were released all over the Island, starting at Auntie Evie's house.  She used to feed them patty cake because "they don't like sponge". 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Pxie's voice


It's more than 8 months since my mum, Pixie, died.  Last night when I was feeling sad, I listened to the interview she did with Richard Fidler on ABC Local Radio in September 2009.

The program is called Conversations with Richard Fidler.  It runs for an hour between 11am and midday on the ABC.  You can podcast it too.  It's great radio.  The interviews are intimate and honest and the guests are a real mixture.  There are the usual actors and writers promoting a movie or a book, but the interviews I like best are with ordinary people who tell great stories. 

The stories Pixie tells are the ones I've heard hundreds of times.  It was her job to look after people and make them feel comfortable.  She talked to guests, she bought them drinks, and she told them stories about growing up at Lord Howe, about how she met my dad and about the guests she'd known over the years.      

Her voice is warm and she laughs a lot during the interview.  She speaks well and you can hear a trace of the elocution lessons she had at boarding school.  She wasn't even sick at the time.  In fact, she and Ed were about to head off to Paris for a holiday.  Soon after they returned to the island, she became very jaundiced.  The GP suspected Hepatitis A.  He blamed the stop-over in Hong Kong and sent her immediately to see a specialist in Sydney.  In fact he said he hoped it was Hepatitis A.  It wasn't.    


Monday, March 21, 2011

Adjusting to life with a little sister

It seems I spoke too soon about how well Elsie is adjusting to her new little sister.  Over the last few days there's been screaming, tantrums, throwing things, tears (both Elsie and me) and stubborn refusals to use the potty followed by wees on the floor (just Elsie - promise).   
  
Before Pixie was born, Elsie was an only child and also an only grandchild - on both sides.  She must have felt like the only child in the world.  When I asked a friend for advice about preparing Elsie for the birth of her brother or sister, he said: "Just imagine how you would feel if Luke came home with a new wife".  Poor Elsie!  It can't be easy.  

Any advice gratefully accepted! 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Learning to swim


Now, I'm at home with Pixie Mae and Elsie. My big achievements of the day are a 2 hour sleep and convincing Elsie to say "Mama, wee wee". This time last year I was training for the Shark Island Swim, a 2.3km ocean swim held annually at Cronulla. It was pretty choppy on the day and there were heaps of little jellyfish in the water. I struggled out after 51 minutes, having swallowed buckets of water. Most of the old ladies and little kids had already finished. I didn't know whether to hug Luke for making me do it or kill him for the same reason. 

The funny thing is, I didn't learn to swim until I met Luke. I grew up at Lord Howe and pretended to swim. I went to boarding school in Sydney and pretended to swim. I must have been good at pretending - I even got my Bronze Medallion.  Luke is a good swimmer. The first time I went swimming with Luke he noticed that I was holding my breath. I would turn my head to the side and breathe out. There was no time to breathe in. I would never have worked it out on my own. 

These days I love to swim. I have become a swimming convert and, like all converts, I can bore people for hours. No one is safe.  
  
Pinetrees is just across the road from Lagoon Beach and most mornings I can duck across the road and have a swim, a quick shower in the boatshed and get back to work. 

It would be good to have a Lord Howe Island ocean swim next year. Who knows?