Questions and answers: what would I do if my man and children disappeared for a day?

Question: I'll ask a theoretical question just for the sake of it: if your man and children disappeared for a day and you were left alone and could do anything you wanted, how would you spend that day?

(Original question in Estonian: "Ma küsin siis niisama fantaasiküsimuse: kui su mees ja lapsed haihtuksid üheks päevaks minema ja sa oleksid täiesti üksi ja võiksid teha ükskõik, mida sa tahad, siis kuidas sa selle päeva veedaksid?")

Oh. Oh! That's, actually, a really hard question to answer. I've been considering it awhile and I'm still no closer to a good reply, I feel. But I'll try.

For one, a day feels like a Very Short Time :). The dreams I carry around in my head are, mostly, of massive projects - at least they feel massive to me, at this point - so if you had asked me about my plans if my man and children disappeared for a week, or a month, or a year, or even forever, it would've been a much easier question to answer. In fact, I could answer them now.

If they were gone for a week, I would hitchhike to Te Anau or Wanaka or somewhere near the Alpine Range that runs the length of the South Island, and go tramping. Maybe walk the Dusky track, or walk across the Cascade saddle, or go off-trail near the Routeburn track to explore the rocky tarns there. I would bring my camera with me, and would try not to get into hairy river crossings :D

If they were gone for a month, I would book a "relocation vehicle" through Transfercar (or something similar), drive it up North somewhere, dump it off and start walking the Te Araroa trail (it's a trail system that connects almost the entire length of the New Zealand main islands) back towards Invercargill.

If they were gone for a year, I would probably spend a month doing what I just described above - and then throw my weight behind a job I am starting soon to learn as much as possible, and as deeply as possible, about building houses. Because... I haven't shared it here yet, but I've been offered a job. An awesome, awesome job.

And if they were gone forever, I would move to North Island - Wellington, Auckland or Palmerston North - and put myself through a full architecture degree. 5 years. Live in a student dorm, ride a bus, have all my things fit into a single closet.

So... now that the easy part of the answer is done :), let's try the hard part. What would I do if they were gone for just a day? (And just as a technicality, but it's also really relevant: I am assuming that my dog, too, has disappeared for a day, yes? Because otherwise that would make for very different circumstances :D)

If they were gone for a day, I would spend the morning sleeping. Or maybe not sleeping, because after years of waking around 6 am, my body probably would not let me sleep past 7 am... but I would at least spend the morning in bed. Just lay in bed, soaking up the silence, and read a book. Make tea, boil a couple of eggs, get back in bed. Take the bicycle out in the afternoon, cruise around Invercargill - providing the weather is good, of course! Haha. And in the evening, if any events were on in town, I'd go to town and attend some public lectures. Maybe Forest & Bird have some interesting presentations, or visiting lecturers are talking at SIT.

And then I would enjoy a quiet night... until the normal mayhem started back up again in the morning, at around 6:05 am ;)

Alders and strawberries

When leaves fell last autumn, I raked them up and used them as mulch around strawberries and currants. It worked really well.

The downside is though, I now have what feels like 300 alder tree seedlings coming up amongst strawberry plants.

Questions and answers: how my son is doing

Question: How's boy doing? I understand it's a sensitive and private topic, but because I've read about his development since birth, I'm interested to know how he's doing now.

(Original question in Estonian: "Kuidas poisil läheb? Ma saan aru, et see on tundlik ja eraeluline teema, aga kuna ma olen tema arengu kohta sünnist saadik lugenud, siis huvitab, kuidas tal praeguseks on?")

I short, he's doing well. I think we are all doing well :)

I've heard it said many times - mostly by people from Ministries of Social Development and Education, and various health professionals - that when children have health / developmental / behavioural issues, it's important to invest and intervene early on; that's when help is the most effective. I don't know if that's the case with us - maybe we would've been in this situation regardless of whether we were helped or not - but we are right in the middle of "dropping" various support networks we no longer need and it feels good to be here.

At the end of this month, for example, I am expecting us to be discharged from the care of a paediatrician. To be honest, we were considering it last year already, but the paediatrician recommended staying on because once discharged, it's hard to get "back in" - access to support services is much easier from under a registered paediatrician. He suggested we give it another year to make sure that we don't have any other news "things" pop up that may require access to therapies.

Nothing's popped up. On the contrary - both my child and our family as a whole are becoming increasingly independent and confident in our ability to do things independently.

You're right, it's a sensitive and private topic I am trying to approach with grace and consideration for what is, essentially, another person's story; but I think it's fair to acknowledge that we've all had a role to play - I, as a parent, have needed to grow, too. And it makes sense - children spend most of their early years with their immediate caregivers, so in the interest of my children's development I've needed to "upskill" my own approaches to parenting. At times I've felt that the support systems have targeted me as much as they've targeted my son, because in order to help him they've needed to help me be a good parent.

To my daughter, many things come easier than they do to my son, especially in terms of balance, language and mathematics. But! My son has got a heck of a work ethic, and boy! does that make a difference.

Last year the primary school my children attend gave out awards to students that have shown outstanding performance during the school year. There were awards for academic achievement, sports, music/arts etc, about ten in total. My son received an award for perseverance - probably the most fitting, and the most pride-inducing award they could've given to him. It acknowledged, basically, that whilst he has had challenges along the way, he has persevered - a skill which I treasure greatly, and which I'd like to think we incorporate into our lives as a family.

One of the teachers who taught him reading last year said to me that he is an absolutely wonderful kid to work with. She said, "He listens. You tell him once and he does it. When he makes a mistake, he goes back and tries again." I was very proud to hear her say that.

So what I am getting at is this: he is doing well. He is eight years old. He reads well (in English) and has started to show interest in learning Estonian. He adds/deducts well within 0-20, with occasional exploring in 20+ ranges. He can swim confidently 10+ metres and dives well to 1.5m depths, likes indoor rock climbing, goes on moderately strenuous walks with us and, basically, in terms of development is doing just about on par with his peers. He has made several good friends at school and their parents have become my own personal friends, which is to say - we now all hang out quite regularly :). He has a beautiful sense of humour. He is kind-hearted and gentle.

With the reading ability, especially: he is now able to pick books from the shelf and explore them, more or less on his own. Each week as we pick our new books from the library, he browses the shelves and picks what takes his fancy: comics, nature & science stories, rhymes. He reads them aloud and makes theatrical sounds to go with it: a roar of a lion, a hiss of a snake. You can hear the glee in his voice over being able to read, you can see it in his eyes. I think he takes great pleasure in being able to read not only because he now has an ability that, up until now, belonged to his parents; but because he can appreciate that he worked hard to get there.

That he has worked quite hard to get there, it only makes me appreciate even more what a cool kid he is.

Questions and answers: some "homecooked" recipes

Question: Please share good recipes.

(Original question in Estonian: Jaga palun häid retsepte)

Hmm. How about 3 simple, "everyday" sort of foods we make in our house? 

1. Hummus
2. Bread
3. Marzipan



The photo makes it look like poop, but hummus is something we make every 2-3 weeks. It's versatile: can spread it on toast, add it to salads, today I even packed it in my kids' lunchboxes with a bunch of carrot sticks. Protein-rich, filling, healthy food.

First, I blend the spices with the liquids:

2 lemons (I use both grind and then juice that I've squeezed)
1 orange grind
1/3 of garlic (finely chopped)
2 tablespoones balsamic vinegar (I use the affordable kind: Modena)
1/2 cup of olive oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce or 1 teaspoon of salt
spices to taste (lemon pepper, salt, ginger etc)

Then I gradually add 3 cans of chickpeas/beans (wash them first to get rid of liquids in the tin), blending them into a smooth paste. Store in fridge.

And we don't actually have a set "recipe" for hummus. Rather, we add as much olive oil as it needs to get smooth - the more olive oil, the "runnier" it becomes. And we add spices to taste: my husband makes hummus slightly differently than I do. But generally, the more lemon, olive oil and salt it has, the tastier it is.



Again, the photo makes it look like a turd :), but it's yummy.

In the last few months, we've moved entirely onto baking our own bread and use a Panasonic breadmaker. It means I can load all ingredients into the machine in the evening, and the family wakes to the smell of fresh bread in the morning. It is so easy! The machine came with a large recipe book, so we found our favorite ones and have now modified them slightly. Most well-loved is probably this:

5 teaspoons yeast (called "Superbake")
350 g stoneground wholemeal flour
100 g white flour
50 g rye flour
40 g buckwheat
30 g black quinoa
30 g white quinoa
1 teaspoon dried garlic granules
1 teaspoon linseed or chia seed
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon ginger
0.5 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
50 g butter
1 egg
300 ml water

Set the breadmaker on "Menu 06" which takes 5 hours.



And lastly, a quick-to-make LCHF treat.

1 cup ground almonds
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons stevia
1 egg (raw)

Mix ingredients by hand until it becomes a gloopy mass. If it's too thick, add a bit of melted butter. If it's too runny, add almonds.


Questions and answers: house projects we have going

I will try to answer questions in the order that they arrive. Today's question is this:

Question: How far are you with the home projects? Exterior ready, other activities on the go?

(Original question in Estonian: Kus maal kodu projektiga olete? Välisilme valmis, jooksvad teemad?)

Oh boy. This question is such a wormhole I may end up writing a novel about it :D

At the moment the most on-the-go project is this: prepping a foundation for a woodshed.

I wish we could replace that fence right now, but the neighbour has done so much renovating this year they've run out of money (it's a 50/50 between two properties), so we'll need to wait another year or two until the fence can be taken down...

I've big digging up topsoil from where the shed will go and prepping holes for footings. In another 2 weeks we'll probably start looking at getting concrete, and then framing it with timber. Once finished, it will look similar to this - just without the chicken coop.

And THEN!, a game of tetris will start.

  • Move all wood away from the current woodshed.
  • Demolish existing woodshed.
  • Build a workshop/toolshed where old woodshed used to be. (Similar to this.)
  • Move tools & timber from bedroom (where it is currently stored) into toolshed.
  • Renovate the bedroom where tools used to be.
  • Move people into that bedroom.
  • Renovate another bedroom.
  • Move people into that bedroom.
  • Renovate another bedroom...
Basically, everything hangs behind a woodshed at the moment. I have pages upon pages of sketches me and my husband have gone through in planning the layout of our backyard, but whichever way we approach it, woodshed needs to go in first.

Timeline? I think woodshed will be ready for Christmas. Toolshed will probably be ready by July the next year. And then we'll start having visitors in the house. Well, space for visitors.


And whilst renovating the house is years away I think (realistically speaking, because... really), another interesting topic I want to share is that we've worked out HOW to renovate the bedrooms.

Our house is a 1920's brick bungalow. I don't know how much you know about New Zealand construction, but unlike most houses in Europe (which by the way does not include Britan, as they have their own thing going), standard New Zealand walls have a cavity inside them. Our house, for example: there is a layer of brick on the outside (non-loadbearing, so it doesn't hold up anything other than its own weight), then an empty space of about 50mm, and then it's 90mm timber framing which makes up the actual structure of the house. So whilst the house "looks like brick" on the outside, it's really a timber house with a brick exterior.

And at the moment, it's not a healthy house. There is no insulation inside walls. No vapour barriers.

We want to insulate the walls and lower the ceiling (ours is 3.1 m high), but you can't just slap insulation between the timber wall framing. If you did, instead of that 50mm empty space there would be an insulation "bridge" between brick and timber - moisture would start moving from brick onto timber. Not good.

(There is also a question of bracing, but I won't go into that for the moment. Instead, I want to share our solution.)

Our solution is: we are going to frame the inside of the room with additional timber. Basically, we are going to leave the current structural walls intact. We are even going to leave the horizontal boards there which are making up the wall surfaces - but we are going to frame an additional wall on the inside of that boarding, and we're going to insulate that instead.

So imagine this, starting from the outside: old brick, 50mm cavity, old 90mm timber, old 10mm boards, 140mm new timber (with insulation in-between), vapour/air barrier sheet, plywood

We'll make the new wall framing 2.4m high - considerably lower than current walls - and we're going to place a new ceiling onto that. As nothing in that structure will be load-bearing, then we won't have to disturb any ceiling joists, or bracing, nothing. We won't even need any building consents. It'll be like creating a new room inside an old room, but having it insulated and vapour-proofed, so it'll actually be healthy.

So in the future, if you had to climb into my house's roofspace, you would see a whole bunch of ceiling joists "hanging" in empty air (where the current ceiling is), and another new ceiling about 60cm lower - where we have placed a new, non-loadbearing ceiling. 


So the plan is, room-by-room. Our house is not a "paint the walls and it'll be pretty inside" kind of a house. We have to gut the rooms. Remove flooring, ceiling, scrim walls. Replace all electrics. Replace windows (my husband will probably build our own timber windows, out of cedar. We'll see, have to try it out to know if it'll work.) Install new walls, ceilings and floors.

Basically, we want to do it properly, so that once done, it does not have to be done again in a lifetime. 

Though to be honest, it probably will take a lifetime! Haha. I may know my future kitchen layout, but I ain't getting it anytime soon.

Because first, I have to graduate this goddamn polytech (and go back to writing assignments, not blog posts), and head into full-time work. Already had another job interview this week, and with a very exciting company. As in, VERY exciting company!

Fingers crossed.

PS. In-between that there's a whole bunch of smaller jobs like greenhouse, drainage, deck etc, but I haven't gone into it, because it reallllllly becomes a wormhole. I have an encyclopaedia of jobs that we need to do on this house.