Friday, 25 July 2014

On Writing and Writers

If you are a blogger, you'd be well and truly familiar by now with The Writing Process Bloghop but if you are not a blogger, I will quickly fill you in: the bloghop focuses on discovering other bloggers' motivation for writing and the process or processes they undergo to achieve their finished products. It consists of four questions which, from a reader's perspective, provide an interesting way to gain an insight into bloggers' thoughts on their own writing and from a writer's perspective, provide an interesting exercise in reflecting on what drives us to do what we do and how our ways of doing it are similar or different from others'. 


But what is a bloghop? I hear the non-bloggers ask. Well, it's nothing at all like a high school hop. It involves bloggers answering a set of questions and then nominating a certain number of other bloggers (in this case three) who they have connected with through the blogging community to do the same. Back at the end of June, I was nominated by Yvonne Spence who blogs over at and also at I was supposed to post my own answers a week afterwards, meaning I am now disgracefully late in doing so. 

Yvonne is the author of two books: Looking for America, a collection of short stories set in the Shetland Isles and Drawings in the Sand, a novel about transformation and forgiveness. You can read her own responses to The Writing Process bloghop questions over here.

And now, to get my contribution to the bloghop rolling, I'll share with you my answers to the four questions and then reveal my three nominees.

What am I working on?

I'm currently working on banishing my tendency for laziness, excuses and procrastination and finally gluing my butt to a chair for long enough to write the story of my son's and my experience of living in Sicily - what motivated me to pack up my life and take my five year old son to the other side of the world to live indefinitely, the adventures and the tribulations we had while we lived on the island and how those experiences and the people we met there changed our lives in unforeseeable ways in the months and years since we returned home to Australia. 

One of the reasons I think it has taken me so long to start this project is that I had no idea how the story would end. Even before we stepped foot on the island, I already felt a calling to write a book about whatever it was that we would experience there. Initially, I anticipated that it would be a book full of funny anecdotes about linguistic faux pas and quintessential Italians doing funny little quintessential Italian things and hopefully a bit of evidence of personal growth thrown in there for good measure. What I want to write now is still all those things, but it is also involves a darker facet and things I never would have imagined living through or writing about when I began that journey.

The first step in starting this project is to gather together and organise all the notes I have written over the last four years. I never wrote notes directly onto a computer the way a sane, organised person would do. My notes were scribbled on the backs of envelopes and bus tickets, on post-it notes, on paper napkins, on the back pages of whatever novel I was reading at the time and yes, occassionally even in notebooks. I have lost count of how many notebooks I own. There has never been any system to how I write in them. It has always been a case of a thought coming to me and me rushing to grab the nearest notebook (or anything else that it is possible to write on) and scrawling down that thought before it gets away.

I'm quite curious as to what I will find when I begin this organisation process in earnest. Every now and then I pick up something I wrote three or four years ago and I often can't even remember writing it and am sometimes amused, sometimes amazed and sometimes saddened to realise that that was how I was thinking at that particular time.

The nagging desire I used to feel so urgently to eventually have this book published when it is finally written has actually dissipated. What remains is an overwhelming need to put this story into words so that I can piece it all together and finally understand it for myself and so I can lay it all to rest and then move on.

How does your work differ from others in its genre?

In relation to blogging, I think my work falls easily into the genre of 'mummy blogging' because most of my posts focus on aspects of parenting and the misadventures I have had therein. I have diverged from that a little though with the Italian lessons I posted here. They are not cut and dry lessons though because they contain stories from our time in Sicily that relate to the respective topics of eachlesson.

Other than that, I suppose you could say that my work might differ from others within its genre in terms of its quirkiness. I've always been a little bit unconventional (I grew up in a house without a TV so really, it was destiny) and its difficult to hide that quirkiness when you're writing a blog. Eventually, over time, you're either going to stop blogging, or your authentic self is going to emerge. Gradually, the latter is happening to me.

Why do I write what I do?

The short answer to that is that is stops me going insane. I wrote the long answer in the post I wrote to celebrate my one year blogiversary.

How does my writing process work?

My head is constantly swarming with ideas for blog posts and other genres of writing, but my problem is that I rarely have time to write them down. Often, when I'm hanging out washing or doing dishes or sorting clothes, I compose posts in my head. Even if I never get the chance to sit down and type them out, I still get that feeling of creative satisfaction.

The posts that do make it to the blog and usually already composed in my head by the time I sit down in front of the computer. This process works well for me in terms of time management - I compose a post mentally when I can't be at the computer and when I can, I punch it out as quickly as possible (hence the frequency of my typos!)

Sometimes, though, I'll sit down at the computer and then I'll suddenly be hit by how tired I am and I never push myself to write through that tiredness. I have far too much respect for the healing properties of sleep and the perils of evading them. On those nights, I'll usually type paragraph headings so that I have an outline of what I am going to write in each paragraph. Once I've done that, I feel like I've actually done the hard part (even though it only took a few minutes) and that all I really have to do is pad it out later and I'm done. Then I go to sleep and, with a clear plan in my head of the structure of my post, my subconscious ticks away and I know that what I eventually end up writing is infinitely better than what I would have written if I'd forced myself to stay up and write in a state of exhaustion.

When it comes to content, I believe that since blogging is my hobby and therefore not something I am obliged to do, that it should be a source of joy and so if I had planned to write a post on a particular topic on a particular day but when that day comes I don't feel that writing that would bring me joy, then I write about something else that does. I don't think about what will be popular out there on the world wide web, I just think about playing around with words and allowing them to bring joy into my life.

And now for the nominees ...

These three writers are all Australian-based bloggers who I have met (virtually) during my first year of blogging. Each of them is extremely gifted with words and I am inspired by their achievements and their individual perspectives on life. If you haven't discovered them yet, I really recommend finding them online via the links below in their bios. But that's enough from me, let's talk about them!

Rita Azar

Rita is a writer, blogger and crafter.  She's a French Canadian woman with a Lebanese background now living in Melbourne.  She speaks French and Arabic and is now learning Italian. She's a Canadian lawyer who also completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Journalism at RMIT University.  But now that she has reconnected with her love for writing, she is working on editing her first novel and thinks that this is certainly one of the most challenging things she has ever done. 

Rita blogs at http://thecraftyexpat.comYou can also follow her here:

Francesca Suters

Francesca is a thirty-something Australian woman who wears many hats (figuratively - she's not literally much of a hat person). She has a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws from the University of Newcastle and currently works part-time in a corporate setting. Since she was a child, she has always loved writing. In adulthood, Francesca pursues this interest through blogging, a hobby which is flexible enough to fit around her responsibilities as a working parent. Francesca has just published her first novel, Returning, which is available as a paperback and an ebook.

Her book website is
Her Facebook pages are:
Kathy Kruger

Kathy is an adoptive mother of two beautiful kids from China who blogs about going with the flow, finding balance, embracing change, and being grateful at 

A former journalist, Kathy shares insights from her long journey to motherhood and her life lessons about healing – the gift of loss is indeed the joy of gain.

Kathy loves words, wisdom and wine (not necessarily in that order). She practices yoga and meditation and her latest project is creating short meditation videos for children, using the visual medium to calm kids in our busy and overstimulated world! 

Connect with Kathy  [ yinyangmother], Twitter [yinyangmother@yinyangmother] 

Melting Moments

Is writing your hobby, your passion or your job? How would you describe your writing process?

Friday, 11 July 2014

Vegetarian Brazilian 'Prato Feito' - and a google translate fiasco

With the World Cup buzz over in Brazil reaching fever pitch this week, I thought it was high time I tried out a Brazilian dish I've been meaning to make for a couple of months.

Back in April, my kids and I took a spontaneous train trip into the city of Perth one Friday evening after school and when we arrived, we found ourselves, unexpectedly, in the middle of The Twilight Hawkers Market, an international street food festival.

After wandering around all the stalls, we decided we wanted to have something Brazilian for dinner. We stopped at a food truck called Comida do Sul, which is run by two beautiful Brazilian sisters (you can find them on instagram @comidadosul and also a photo they took of Ben and me eating over here.)

I ordered a meal called Vegetarian Prato Feito. It looked like this (sorry that I hacked into it before I remembered to take a photo - it smelt so good I just couldn't help myself. I'll never cut it as a food photographer!)

So for weeks now, I have had a post-it note stuck to my fridge with the words Prato Feito on it -  a reminder to myself to research this dish and make it myself. Everyone who has visited in that time and sat in my kitchen has eventually asked what it is and now, after a lot of investigation and a lot of time spent over at google translate, I am finally able to shed some light on the answer. Well, sort of.

Hunting down an actually recipe for Prato Feito was much harder than I thought it would be. After reading lots of different Brazilian blogs, this was what I had found out:

* 'Prato' means 'dish' and 'Feito' means 'made', 'done' or 'created', so possible English translations of the dish could be 'made meal', 'done dish' or a 'put-together plate' - none of which sound nearly as enticing as they do in Portuguese, do they?

* Contrary to being something exotic, Prato Feito (or PF as it is usually known) is a common meal, akin to a counter meal in Australian culture.

*Generally, it consists of a piece of meat (usually steak), some chips, rice, egg and beans.

* The egg can be served in any way the cook/customer choses and a vegetarian version simply replaces the meat with some tasy meatless treat.

Here is my version of my 'put-together plate' - oven-baked chips, rice with sauteed onions and mushroom (instead of meat), buttered beans and boiled egg with parsley.

I'm still searching for the combination of flavours that the sisters used and until I do, my Prato Feitos will have to be quite anglicised versions!

What I did find in my hunt for an elusive vegetarian PF recipe was some instructions on how to prepare it using pork. I stuck the text into google translate and stared back at the screen in horror, but when I realised what must have happened, it quickly turned into an epic LOL moment. Now at the risk of sounding critical of google translate, I'd like to state that I think that on the whole it provides an optimal service, but there are instances (especially when it comes to homographs I found) when it can also leave you more than slightly confused.

Allow me to explain. It seems that the Portuguese word miúdos has two meanings: the first is 'kids' (as in children) and the second is 'giblets' - giblets being the offal inside a bird, chicken, turkey or, as in this case, pig (I learnt a new English word in the process as well as a Portuguese one!) So miúdos de porco are pig giblets.

Anyway, what appears to have happened is that google translate favoured the first meaning of the word miúdos over the second and so the recipe came out like this:

Put the kids pig on the fire with water, enough lemon juice and sliced ​​lemons in half. Bring to a boil, change water and bring to a boil again. Chop the kids. Add all the spices. The next morning, fry the spices and the kids. Add water and cook two to three hours until the kids are nice and soft. Pour in the blood and let thicken.

Mmm, yum yum ...can't say I'm sorry I made the veggie version instead!!

The Multitasking Mummy

one mother hen

Have you ever had a funny google translate moment?

Do you know any other Brazilian recipes? (preferably ones without kids in them please!)