Friday, November 23, 2012

going home, hello's and a goodbye...

Flying home...

The past few weeks have seen many first for my family and I. Firstly I flew solo for the first time in over 9 years, leaving the kids and Si behind here in Perth. It was the first time I've ever slept apart from from my babies, and I can't even begin to tell you how nervous I was about leaving them behind. On the upside I got to spend time with my siblings, niece, nephew, Mum, Dad and friends back home in New Zealand for the first time in nearly two years, and although the circumstances weren't the most joyous, it was still amazing none the less and I'm so thankful that I was able to get home and be surrounded by those who I love. And lastly the reason why all this occurred was so I could say my final goodbyes to my Grandad, attending his funeral mere hours after arriving in my hometown of Raglan and then travelling back to where it all began the following day, to a little town in the middle of nowhere called Taihape. It was such an emotional journey taking him home to where he belongs, hearing the stories of my mothers youth as we travelled down the country, past snow-topped mountains and bright green paddocks. This trip home is one I will never forget. I got to stand next to the grave site of my great grandmother of whom I am named after for the first time, before walking though her actual house that still stands in the middle of a paddock a few minutes drive around the corner. My mum has spoken often about the magic of her Grans place when I was growing up, so even though it was the first time I've ever been there it was exactly how I had always imagined it would be. 

Grandad Spooner was the first of my Grandparents to pass over, actually other than one cousin he is the only person I have ever lost in my life. Given that I am 32 years old I figure I've been pretty damn lucky to have never experienced death before now. Had it been anyone else in my family I'm not so sure I'd be quite so composed right now, and trust me when I say there were many moments leading up to and on the day of his funeral where I was anything but composed, but here's the thing... my Grandad lived an amazing full life, and for that we can all be grateful for. Not many people can say they lived to nearly 90 years old.

Our kids spent the first few years of their lives living in our Raglan house right next door to my Grandparents. The first thing we did when we bought the house was knock out a few fence posts so we could squeeze through the gap and wander through to their backyard. We saw them nearly everyday of those 4 years, and I'm so grateful for the time we spent with them both, forming the bond that I had always dreamt of having with my Grandparents. The kids would play in Nana's garden collecting leaves and flowers to add to one of her buckets that collected rain water for the vege garden, something I'm sure Nana hated when a few days later the stench of rotting leaves permeated the air. Nana and Grandad were both right next-door when I gave birth to my kids in a pool set up in our kitchen, and even though Grandad didn't often make the trip down the hill to our house he would often be seen wandering the deck if Nana was taking too long chatting down at our house in the afternoons. And I will never forget the beaming smile on Grandad's face when one day down town little miss Ada, age 2 recognised this old man leaving the butchers, with his sausages wrapped up in paper under his arm and yelled out "there's Grandad!". "People just don't seem to see me these days, but little Ada did", Grandad later re-tells. 

Leaving them when we made the move over here to Australia was one of the hardest things I've ever done, because I knew things would never be the same again. 


It's funny how things happen, Grandad was never one to want to chat on the phone and the second he answered he would usually be heard saying "Righto I'll put the boss on", handing over the phone to Nana at lightning speed. I rang their house, it must've been about a month before his passing, I think. He answered the phone and before I could barely say hi I was already talking to Nana. After a few minutes I hear Grandad in the background asking if he could speak again. It turns out he had just realised who it was on the phone and wanted to say hi. I'm so thankful that he asked to get back on that phone, I think it was probably the only time I have ever in my life spoken more than 2-3 words to him over the phone and little did I know at the time, but that was to be the last time I'd ever speak to him again.

Great Grans

My Grandad was a man of routine. Every day at 4pm on the dot his car would start up with a loud vroom as he backed his car out of the driveway heading to the club for his nightly drink and catch up with friends. Back in the early days when the kids were babies I used to use this as my alarm clock, telling me when I needed to start thinking about dinner. He was more reliable than a real alarm clock, anyways. He'd then be home for his dinner at exactly 6pm on the dot. Mostly they've always eaten a traditional kiwi diet consisting of meat and three veg and it was Grandad who was the one who encouraged me (from the vegetarian family!) to eat the only meat I've ever consumed at around age 8-9 when I ate sausages for a brief moment, before my (vegetarian) teacher at school politely reminded me what those sausages were made from (thank you Mr Gavin!). 

Grandad loved his greens and was often seen picking kale from their garden in the afternoons before he set off to the club. He loved eating it raw in salads, and would have laughed at me if I'd ever told him how trendy he was! Haha. So in a tribute to him, it only seems right that I prepare something in his honour. To the man who loved his greens. Love you Grandad xx

You would know the secret of death. 

But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.
If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.
For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.

In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond; 

And like the seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring. 
Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.
Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour. 
Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king? 
Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling? 

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered? 

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. 
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. 
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance. 

Kahlil Gibran (1883 - 1931)

giant silverbeet (chard) | homegrown

green pasta

green pasta
Our silverbeet (chard) plants are going crazy in the garden at the moment so they were the inspiration behind this dish as was my vague recollection of this recipe by Heidi.The amount of silverbeet and feta sauce could easily be stretched to stir through twice as much pasta as I have served it with here if you are feeding a crowd. I'm actually not a big pasta eater so I have rather small portions of it. This amount served 4 with salad, but if you like your pasta piled high I'd say this would serve 2 hungry people. If you don't want to waste or compost the inner stem of the silverbeet, finely slice it and sauté in a little butter and garlic and serve on the side.
Serves 2-4, see above

8 large silverbeet (chard) leaves, hard inner stem removed
a good handful of basil leaves (I used lemon basil)
1 clove garlic, peeled
The juice of 1/2 medium lemon
100g Danish feta cheese, or other soft-style feta
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
2-3 tablespoons pasta cooking water
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
250g packet (or more if you wish) penne pasta. I use San Remo's gluten-free.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add trimmed silverbeet leaves and cook for 45-60 seconds. Fish them out with tongs (leave the water boiling) and run under cold water to stop them from cooking further. Squeeze excess water from it and place into a small food processor or blender. Set that aside for just a second while you cook the pasta in the boiling water until tender, but firm to the bite.

Add basil leaves, garlic, lemon juice, feta, and olive oil to the food processor along with a couple of tablespoons hot water from the pot of cooking pasta (just enough to help the blade out with blending) and blend for 30-60 seconds scrapping down the sides if need-be, until relatively smooth. Taste and season well with sea salt and black pepper. 

Drain the pasta, reserving about 1/4-1/2 cup of the cooking water, and stir through silverbeet and feta sauce. Add a little bit of cooking water to thin the sauce down to the desired consistency and serve drizzled with a little bit more extra virgin olive oil.

Photo credit for the one with mum and I in it: Vania Spooner, my little sister.


  1. Oh my goodness Emma, this is such a beautiful post paying tribute to your grandfather. tears welled in my eyes as i read this. funnily enough, my youngest son was asking me today about my grandad who we lost last year at 96. that special bond we have we are grandparents are so precious and we are so blessed to have that special connection with them. i am sorry for your loss, your memories of him will remain with you forever. bet he's super proud of you too xx

  2. This is such a beautiful post. I am so sorry for your loss and so envious of the ties you have with family. You are very blessed. Xo

  3. That was a lovely glimpse of your grandad. You were obviously very special to one another.

  4. Oh my goodness I'm so choked up after reading this. You have written such a beautiful, honest tribute to him and your family. Thank you for your generosity in sharing this with us readers. This is my first time commenting after discovering your blog only a couple of months ago. I am sorry for your loss too but I am so grateful that you experienced the time with him, have memories to cherish and that last phone call. I am 31 and have never lost a single family member apart from a grandfather when I was a baby & therefore too young to remember. I too say how incredibly lucky I am to be this age and still not have experienced it. But I know it will hurt when it comes but I love your words about it all. We have celebrated my gran's 87th birthday in the last couple of weeks and my grandfather's 88th in winter. I treasure every moment with them.

  5. Sorry for your gandad Emma. Thank you for sharing these beautiful words. I send you all my love and support. Be strong & take care.


  6. So sorry for your loss but what a beautiful tribute to a beloved grandfather. :)

  7. Christian Rene FriborgNovember 26, 2012 at 2:15 PM

    This post moved me.

  8. Thanks for your kind words everyone, it means a lot xx

  9. Such a beautiful story Em. Brought tears to my eyes. So glad you got to speak with your Grand-dad on the phone, and got to Taihape. I understand the feeling of being wrenched from your roots. Must still be hard at times. Great recipe. I'll be giving this a go in tribubte to your Grand-dad. Keep on hanging in there, and thanx for all your great recipes. Much much love, Jenny

    1. It is hard at times, but thankfully I am blessed with amazing friends and family over these ways too. xx

  10. So sorry to hear about your loss Emma, but what a beautiful post and tribute to your Grandfather! After my husbands grandmother passed away, we took a family trip with his grandfather (who is still alive and turns 92 today) to England. My kids got to see the church where their great grandparents were married and their grandmother was born. It was an amazing trip we will always remember. Sounds like you have a wonderful family, and, oh boy, is that chard ever big!

  11. Beautiful post Emma, sorry about your Grandad,but happy you got spend some time back in NZ with family & friends :)

  12. So, so beautiful. I never had a Grandfather - both mine passed before I was born, and I am always so happy to hear of friends who had such lovely relationships with theirs. Thank you for sharing with us. Love to you. xo

  13. What a beautiful post Em, I'm very sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing the lovely memories. XO

  14. So glad to hear of you today via retromummy! I'm a fellow kiwi in Auz (qld) & my kids lived next door to their grandparents for first 3 / 1 year of life too-- very hard to leave such aroha & connections; I am gluten & dairy free for health problems & also get an organic vege box from farmer foster in nsw and lately it's been full of chard & greens in abundance-- thank you for this sublime recipe I just made it! Love your work & garden!! Buying book ASAP! Arohanui Theresa Vossen


Thanks so much for stopping by, arohanui xx Emm

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