Ghosts In My Kitchen

“If God had intended us to follow recipes, He wouldn’t have given us grandmothers.”
~ Linda Henley


I made soup yesterday.

It was a simple soup. A humble soup.

It needed to be. I was so sore. So tired. Fevered. But dinner had to be made, and I wasn’t going to eat junk. Or toast again.

I wanted soup.

My hands were automatic. They cut vegetables. They stirred. They lifted the spoon to my mouth so I could taste the seasoning.

A pinch of this.

A sprinkle of that.

Then all left to simmer for a few hours while I lay down to rest again.

Suddenly I was transported back to Nana’s kitchen. This was her recipe. I made it with her so many times. It was nothing that could be written down. Only instructions that could be remembered. That were passed from her mother’s hands to her hands. And then to mine.

Where had it come from before that?

My great-great grandmother, probably.

I found such comfort in that idea. All of those caring hands, all of that wisdom passed one to another in the practical ways of true nurture. I could feel Nana’s hands guiding mine as though I were a tiny child again, back in the days when I would stand on an upturned crate to reach her kitchen bench.

I felt wrapped in the blanket of my Nana’s love. I tasted love in every spoonful of soup.

It restored me to myself, somehow.

And then I slept, long and well.

That kind of food has its own kind of healing magic.

homemade soup

Excuse me, are you the Witch?

Image from Mattsko

Image from Mattsko

“Perhaps I am the only person who, asked whether she were a witch or not, could truthfully say, “I do not know. I do know some very strange things have happened to me, or through me. – Lady Alice Rowhedge” 
Norah LoftsBless This House


Last year the little girl from down the road at our city house knocked on my front door. The family had not lived in the street long, and I hadn’t met her or her siblings, although I had waved to them on occasion.

I could tell she was nervous.

“Excuse me,” she asked very shyly, “are you the Witch?”

Before I could say anything she pulled a fifty cent coin out of her pocket which she placed on the doormat at my feet.

“Can you turn my brother into a toad or a rat or something? Not forever, but just enough so he’ll stop pulling the heads off my dolls?”

We never got to finish the conversation because her brother and his friends turned up out the front on their scooters and she took off down the road, giggling like anything.

Image from TiaraKim

Image from TiaraKim

A few weeks ago she again made the nerve-wracking journey to my front door.

She’s taller this year, and gap-toothed. On that particular day her toenails were the most shocking shade of orange, with bright pink glitter. But her eyes were sad.

“I’m sorry to bother you,” she said, not quite able to look at my face. “I know you’re probably very busy…”

“It’s no problem. I have time right now. Can I help you?” I tried to use my kindest smile.

“I don’t have much money.” Her words came out in a rush and she thrust a ziplocked bag at me with a five dollar note and some coins in it.

When I didn’t take it, she looked up, her face screwed up in something between desperation and defiance. “I can get more!”

“Why would you need to give me money?” I asked her gently.

“My granny is dying. I thought you could do a spell for me.”

Oh my. Her words just stole my breath away.

As she stared at me her eyes filled with tears and her bottom lip began to tremble.

“You love her very much, don’t you?” I said.

The little girl nodded, tears spilling down her face.

“And I know that she loves you…”

As we spoke the little girl’s mother pulled her car up in front of our driveway. “Hurry up, Veronica. We need to get going!”

“Just a moment,” I called to the mother. “You’re going up to the hospital?” I said to Veronica, quietly so that her mum couldn’t hear. She nodded, yes. I stepped closer. “Honey, it’s your granny’s time to go. You make sure you get to hold her hand and whisper in her ear. Don’t be afraid. Tell her how much you love her and tell her it’s okay for her leave now. Ask her to watch over you and come visit you sometime. I know she will. Okay?”

“Okay,” she sniffed. “Thank you.”

And she scooted off to the car, leaving me wishing that I did have some kind of magical spell to take away the pain of little girls.

This afternoon I saw her again. She waved, and left her brother and his friends to come and stand at my fence.

Veronica’s face grew pinched, and she looked around to see if anyone was listening before she blurted out, “She smells like soap. That’s how I know she’s there. Granny, I mean.”

She ran over to the other children, not looking back, and I went inside to make a cup of tea. Maybe I gave her the right magic after all.


Thoughts on Mother’s Day

image from

image from

“There are three musts that hold us back: I must do well. You must treat me well. And the world must be easy.”~ Albert Ellis


It’s Mother’s Day in Australia today. It’s a day when so many families will get together with their Mothers, give heartfelt gifts of appreciation, share meals and practice love and gratitude. Love and gratitude is a beautiful thing. Togetherness and belonging is the foundation of so much that is good in our society.

No doubt there will be a flood of feel-good sentiment in our media, and on facebook and twitter. But this Mother’s Day I want to acknowledge a different reality.

Today’s also a hard day for many people. I want my post to stand for you.  I want you to have a space to put your feelings. I want you to know that you are heard.

This is a post for all of the children, some long grown, whose Mothers failed to love them, protect them and nurture them.  Not everyone had a happy shiny family.  Not everyone has the love and support of a wise and kind Mother, as a child or as an adult.

This is a post for all of the women who gave up their children, who lost them to accident or illness, who had them torn away by war or foul play or relationship breakdown. Today, some Mothers will know great pain, as their mothering goes wasted, as their arms stay empty of a child to hug.

This is a post for the women whose wombs could never bear fruit. The women who know the pain of infertility, of miscarriage and of stillbirth. The women, whom through circumstance, have not become Mothers. Or who are unacknowledged in their identify as a Mother because there is no surviving child for others to see.  The women who wonder, each Mother’s Day, how their life might have been different…

This is a post for the children who have lost their Mothers early, or who have never known them, and for those abandoned or deserted by their Mothers.

This image from

This image from

This is a post for all of you who loved your Mothers and Grandmothers, and who won’t have them at your table this year. Perhaps they are ill, or passed on. Perhaps distance separates you, or misunderstanding. Perhaps they are living in the shady halls of memory where they no longer recognise you, or the love you have for them, or they for you.

This is a post for the blended families, for the difficulties of mothering children who are not your own, and who may not accept you.  This is for those of you whose Father chose someone other than your Mother, and where you still feel the pain of the loss of that sense of family and of all you had held dear. This is a post for the children who became second best or didn’t rate at all, once the family structure shifted.

This is for the Mothers whose children will be in your ex-partner’s home, and with that side of the family today, while you sit at home alone. Perhaps for you a phone call.  But no hugs. No day of sharing. Not this year.

This is for the Mothers who are not accepted, loved or acknowledged by their Mother-In-Laws. For the families who know friction and tension, but who still make an effort to keep up relationships and appearances.

This is for all of the Grandmothers who don’t see their grandchildren because of relationship breakdowns or sheer distance and the life choices of their own children.

This post acknowledges all of the women so busy working, or looking after the children of other people, that they never had the time or the privilege to be the Mother they would have liked to have been for their own children.

This is for all the Mothers who made mistakes that they regret, who made bad choices, or who wish now that they had done things differently.

This is for the single Mothers, who long for support and company and someone to share the load, but who are doing the best they can.

This is for the Mothers who do not like their children, and the children who do not like their Mothers.

Life can be a strange, hard and sometimes cruel journey. Mothering and the love of a Mother is not a given and it is certainly not a right.

But we all need love, and at times we all need to be Mothered. This Mother’s Day, you can start by being kind to yourself. By recognising that we receive Mothering energy from many, and give it ourselves, although it may not be to our own children. By letting it be okay that today might be bittersweet, or downright difficult. Life is not a Disney Movie.

This Mother’s Day it’s okay to feel pain, to cry and to wish things could be different.

This Mother’s Day, above all else, I want you to know that I see you, I honour you, and I am sending you love. I’m thinking of you today.  Bless ♥ xoxo

Nana’s Gingernut Log Recipe

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A grandmother is a little bit parent,
a little bit teacher,
and a little bit best friend.
~ Unknown

I have been blessed to have grown up, and grown older, with two amazing women as my grandmothers. Now both of them are gone, although I feel them around me often, and I frequently draw on their wisdom and the things they taught me.

Marga, my mother’s mum, was the doyenne of style in our family. A stay-at-home mother and grandmother from a good family, we often referred to her home as ‘the Palace’. As a cook she was adventurous, passionate and into World Food long before exploring cuisine from other countries came into vogue. She was an amazing cook, and from that old-school tradition of elegant tables, dressing for dinner, candles and music.

Joycey or ‘Nana’, my dad’s mum was an entirely different grandmother.  She worked for much of her life, travelled extensively and was into plain home-style cooking.

Marga would serve an exotic Chicken Marengo, and Almond Torte with Praline and Coffee Cream, accompanied by Flamenco music.  Nana would cook Apricot Chicken and Apple Crumble with store-bought ice-cream, served up to the six o’clock news.

So who did I turn to for inspiration last weekend at the farm, when my husband announced that he’d invited friends to ‘pop round for dinner’?

It was Sunday morning when he mentioned it, and I was feeling less than my best. Dinner needed to be easy, and made from what I had in the cupboard. I managed lamb chops, home-made coleslaw and sweet potato mash for a main, but I was racking my head for a dessert.  Until I spied a lonely packet of gingernut biscuits at the back of the pantry. It inspired me to make Nana’s Gingernut Roll.  It was one of her ‘fancy’ recipes, that she taught me when I was about twelve. It’s easy enough for kids to master, but it’s a recipe that is enjoyed by everyone.  Here’s how to make it:


1 x 300ml bottle of cream (just over a cup), 1 x tablespoon of honey,  1 x packet of gingernut biscuits (ginger snaps for my American friends), 1/2 cup of fresh orange juice and 1/2 cup of sweet sherry (if making alcohol free use 1 cup of orange juice!)


There’s no cooking here – it’s a dessert that you assemble!

Firstly find a serving plate long enough to accommodate your packet of biscuits and then some.

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Whip your cream, adding in the tablespoon of honey.  When it is nice and thick, use a little to make a strip down the centre of your your serving plate.  This will help anchor your biscuits.

Pour your orange juice and sherry into a wide shallow bowl.  Working methodically, drop a biscuit into the bowl and allow it to soak for a moment or two. Fish it out, and drop the next biscuit in to soak as you smear a spoonful of cream on the first biscuit and place it in position at the edge of your cream strip.

2013-03-10 10.32.31Now keep going! Dunk, spread and stick in place.  *Repeat*…

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When you’re done, cover the entire assemblage in the remaining cream, smooth off and refrigerate for several hours so that the biscuits can soften and the flavours will amalgamate.

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To serve the log you can dress it up with some shaved chocolate or toasted almonds, but I went for decadence and topped it off with home-made slightly salty caramel sauce. Yum!  Oh, and I suppose I should give you that recipe too…

Easy Caramel Sauce:

3/4 cup butter, 1 and 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar, 2 x tablespoons water, 1 x teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 to 1 cup of cream.

Put the sugar, water and butter in a saucepan over low heat and dissolve all together, stirring constantly.  Then raise the heat and bubble away for three to five minutes to reduce the sauce a little.  Please do stir during this time so it doesn’t catch on the bottom!

Take off the heat and add in the half cup of cream, stirring constantly. This sauce will thicken more upon cooling, so check your consistency.  Do you want it runnier?  If so, add more cream.  Finally give it a good grind of salt.  Or not, if you don’t like the whole salted caramel thing.

This sauce is magic over ice-cream, poached pears or just about anything else you can imagine.

Cool the sauce to luke-warm before pouring some over your gingernut roll or you will melt all your whipped cream.  If you wanted to be totally over the top you could add grated chocolate, toasted nuts or crushed up praline on top of the caramel sauce. As you can see, I didn’t quite go to that extreme.

Serve with a good ice-cream or on its own.

Hint: I know this is a simple offering, but boy is it good.  Just remember to dunk your biscuits long enough that they are properly moistened so you don’t get hard lumps of dry biscuit in your dessert!

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