Butterfly Bride

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A piece from – Butterfly Bride.

The Aunties Mareta and Amalia were too elderly to make the long trip home but they weren’t going to let that stop them from putting their stamp on the wedding. They’re our Dad’s elder sisters and true to form, they had a long standing feud with our mother who they couldn’t stand. This dress was their chance to stick it to her. “We will show that daughter of pigs what a real wedding dress is like…” Daughter of pigs being their favorite name for my faraway mother. Along with pigeon-eater, bush-dweller, and smoke-burnt eyes.

Because she labored under the illusion that everyone adored her and existed on this earth to provide for her happiness, Naomi had gratefully accepted their offer to buy her a dream wedding dress. It hadn’t occurred to her they had ulterior motives. #Clueless

The aunties had couriered hefty wedding catalogues to Samoa. Because they didn’t believe in the internet and online shopping. Oh no. My silly trusting little sister had chosen a stunning gown of epic simplicity. A strapless sheathe with chiffon overlay. No train, no bows or ruffles and only a single-layered veil. The kind of simplicity of design (with an alluring hint of sex) that only lots of money could buy. Naomi’s dream dress. The one she would wear for most of the time at the reception and have all her wedding photographs taken in, thus preserving her supermodel sylph self forever, as a bride with class, style and chic elegance. She would make sure this was the dress that ended up on the front page of the Samoa News, under the gigantic headline: Miss Samoa weds her Prince.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

Dreams are free and oh-so-dangerous. Because When they got Naomi’s choice, the aunties were aghast at her selection. How could they possibly be associated with such a dress?

“What kind of dress is that?” said Mareta. Wrinkled face even more wrinkly with disgust. “It doesn’t even have a train.”

“Only poor people would wear that dress,” scoffed Amalia. “That family of pigs will spit on such a dress.”

And that was the final judgement passed on Naomi’s choice. Her dress was one that only a family with no sense, no money, no credit would buy. It was a dress that would not outshine the dress from ‘THAT WOMAN’S’ side of the family. No. Their niece would not be caught dead in such a dress.

Instead, they bought Naomi the most expensive, most abundant dress they could find in the catalogue. They were gleeful at the thought of how angry my mother would be when she saw it.  How she would be rendered speechless at its glory and more importantly, its price tag. Yes, they crowed to each other, this dress would be a slap in the face reminder to their sister-in-law that she was nowhere near good enough for their family. That she would still be cooking bananas on an outdoor fire and shitting over a mangrove swamp long-drop – if it weren’t for their brother. Ha.

Family love at it’s finest.

And now here I am, dragging this monstrosity with me on my first trip home in six years. A home I had run away from with great relief I might add. A home I’d had no plans on returning to until I:

  1. Lost thirty pounds.
  2. Got my graduate degree in something amazing.
  3. Had a gorgeous, filthy rich, disgustingly clever boyfriend I could take with me.

I was nowhere near due for that return trip. Because I was:

  1. Not dieting or doing any exercise. (Beyond walking to the bakery where I worked.)
  2. Not at university studying for a grad degree in anything amazing. (Because, see #A. I work at a bakery.)
  3. Not dating anyone rich, gorgeous or clever. (Because I was dating nobody.)

So no, a trip back to Samoa had not been in the cards for me. Until now. Until my beautiful overachieving little sister announced she was gloriously in love.

When the invitations showed up in the mail, I was happy for Naomi. If I were living in Samoa I would offer to make her wedding cake – I told myself. But since I wasn’t there, I resolved to send her some money instead. (The ideal gift for any Samoan occasion.) Of course I wasn’t going to go to the wedding myself. Hell no. I had lots of very important things to do. The aged aunties needed me.

Except they didn’t.

“Don’t be stupid. Your sister is getting married. Of course you’ll go,” snapped Aunty Amalia. “And don’t give me any excuses about that old family trouble eh! It’s been many years now.  Nobody will remember. Besides, they got plenty to talk about already, besides you. Too many other girls there doing silly things. Stop being a coward. You can’t hide here  forever.”

For a doddery old woman who forgot to brush her teeth for weeks on end, Aunty Amalia could be sharp as a steel sapelu blade.

I tried to tell them the bakery needed me.

Except it didn’t. Aunty Mareta called my boss Rowena who assured her that of course the pastries would still go on without me, and I hadn’t taken any annual leave for ages, so “tell Scar she can take a nice long trip back to Saamowah…”. Traitor.

“You’re going. We will pay your fare,” said Amalia. “We’re buying Naomi’s wedding dress and someone has to take it to Samoa.”

One didn’t argue with one’s ancient great-aunts. Especially not when one is Samoan.

Then my mother called to tell me I was Naomi’s Maid of Honor so “make sure you get here two weeks before the wedding so you can help your sister…Tamarina is pregnant, due the month after the wedding so she can’t do much.”

I didn’t want to be Naomi’s bridesmaid. Just like I was sure she didn’t want me to be her Maid of Honor either. But in true Samoan style, we didn’t have a choice in the matter. Parents and other assorted elders were the Mafia bosses of weddings and woe betide any who tried to defy them. I was stuck mentally scrambling for something to tell mum why I couldn’t be in the line.

Tell her you broke your leg. Tell her weddings make you feel sick and you might puke on Naomi at the altar. Tell her you’ve got rapidly accelerating cataracts and can’t see your way down the aisle. Tell her you’re pregnant! Ha. Maybe not.

 My mother kept barraging on. “There’s time for you to prepare. You should go on a diet now. Maybe join the gym.”

“Huh? What?”

An impatient sound of annoyance. “Scar, are you listening? There’s fifteen bridesmaids. Most of them are Naomi’s friends from work and the Miss Samoa pageant. You want to look your best. What about that watercress diet? Your cousin Patsy did it and she lost fifty pounds.”

“Really? Porkpie Patsy?”

“Don’t be cruel Scar. Fat girls should stick together,” rebuked my mother, blending kindness and meanness as only she could. “Yes Patsy ate nothing but watercress. Made it into soups and salads.”

I was envious. And intrigued. If keke pua’a Patsy could endure weeks of watercress, then why couldn’t I? Maybe I could put watercress in a cake? Perhaps there were some cabbage-based flours I could use?  Watercress was disgusting, not much better than gutter weeds really – but I didn’t want to be the only pudgy lump in the wedding party. I envisioned what I would look like after several weeks of watercress. Slim, sexy and smiling at everyone as I glided through the crowd at the reception….

“She was in hospital for two months! By the time she got out, she was a shadow of herself.”

Wait, “What was that? Who was in hospital?” I asked.

“Patsy,” said mum. Annoyed. “I told you, after two weeks of eating watercress she got sick and had to go to New Zealand. She ate some kind of worm parasite from not washing the watercress properly and it burrowed into her brain. She was in a coma. Nearly died. But when she came out, oka, no more pork pie nicknames! She’s married now, you know. Got a nice husband who owns ten taxis.” There’s triumph in her voice. “If you lost some weight you would find a good husband. Just like Patsy. Of course, she got fat again. But at least she’s married so it’s alright.”

My mother’s answer to all my problems. Eat a worm brain parasite.

I had no words to counter such logic so I agreed to everything. To going home, to hand-carrying the dress, and to being the Maid of Honor.

I had no excuses. That’s the problem when you’re single, childless and don’t own a cat. You have no lives depending on your presence.

So I packed my bag and made a mental note to buy a cat as soon as I got back to Vegas. And at all times, avoid any and all watercress.

What is a Samoan?

A guest post from photographer and aspiring film-maker, Jordan Kwan. He gave us stunning photos of ‘Daniel Tahi and ‘Leila Folger’ back in the beginning, and also produced THIS fabulous TELESA book trailer. And THIS ONE for When Water Burns. He’s working on his first full-length feature film (read about it HERE)  and to raise funds for it, he’s put together another hot Samoan calendar. Called ‘Toa Samoa’, it’s already raising temperatures and eyebrows, as well as stirring up controversy as some accuse it of not being “Samoan enough”. What does that mean? Read what Jordan has to say, check out some of the pics, share your views on the topic, and then click on his link to pre-order YOUR copy of Toa Samoa. Support Samoan artists and get a visual feast from Samoa.

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Meet Thierry and Farrell.

They cut exceptionally smooth figures in Hallenstein suits, hair polished to perfection, and their modelling game faces on!  Heck, they both look like they’ve just stepped out of a GQ magazine!

You’d never guess that both these lads are Samoan.  Yes, you heard it here first – these boys are red blooded Samoan men who both grew up in Samoa (because, apparently, a few comments suggest otherwise.  Delete.  Thanks for coming).

I get this a lot from the calendar shoots, where any white skinned guy who models is made to feel less than Samoan because of their skin colour.  And it’s horrible.  I think about my older brother, James, (who may or may not be in the calendar) who is WHITE like a ‘palagi’, yet was born and bred in Samoa, and whose command of the Samoan language and culture is intimidating.  And I’m a brown skinned oreo who can’t say the same (I’ve, like, failed all the Samoan exams I’ve ever sat in my entire academic career).  But, by the virtue of my skin colour alone, people will readily accept that I am Samoan.  James, Thierry and Farrell?  Different story.

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I find it easy to dismiss it as the ignorance of the less educated (BAM!), but I feel sorry for these great guys, and all guys who are not the stereotypical Samoan brown, who are made to feel like they are somehow less than Samoan just because of their skin colour.  It must sting a little to identify as Samoan your entire being, yet having others, especially your own people, make you feel otherwise.

It’s not just that.  I’ve had a stream of comments and messages from people who’ve said, “I thought this was a Samoan Men’s Calendar – why aren’t they in ie lavalava’s and/or alo’as?  Why are the boys white?  Why are they wearing palagi underwear?  Why are they not fully clothed?  Don’t they have any semblance of respect?  Where are the guys in the ma’umaga?” It gets my blood boiling.

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It feeds into the discussion about what really constitutes a Samoan.  There’s this Samoan saying, “E iloa le tama ma le teine Samoa I lana tu ma le savali, fa’apea lana tautala.”  Roughly translated, you know a Samoan by the way they stand, walk and speak.  I don’t know how to situate that into this discussion exactly, but… here’s what I think.

In this day and age, you don’t know WHAT a Samoan looks like, let alone how they walk, talk and speak.  We are, for better or for worse, now part of a global community.  Our culture is evolving.  Our people are evolving.  By virtue of the fact that I have Samoan blood running through my veins, whatever the heck I do MUST be Samoan!  Right?

It’s up to us individually to decide for ourselves what constitutes a Samoan when it comes to our own personal identity.  But, in the process, let’s not make others feel less than Samoan just because we don’t like how they walk, talk or speak.  For example, I’ve lived in Samoa basically my entire life but my Samoan language is absolutely atrocious.  But, I swear, if one of you said I was less than Samoan because of that alone, I will find where you live, break into your house, and eat all your food (like a Samoan).  Then murder you while you sleep on your Samoan fala.

What I DON’T like is being pigeonholed, even WORSE by our own people.  I think about the generalized images of Pacific paradise that is constantly sold to tourists, with swaying palm trees, golden sandy beaches, and lush brown island girls who dance for you in grass skirts and coconut bras.  And I feel like we are doing something similar to ourselves.

What our people believe constitutes ‘being Samoan’ is so narrowly defined, we tend to alienate our own tagata whenua (Kia ora bro!).

NO, not all Samoan men work in ma’umagas.  Welcome to the modern world!  Where our men and women fill all manner of vocations and lifestyles, yet they are NOT – and I repeat – they are NOT any less Samoan than you.  And I’m sorry, is this a competition? Is there a prize for being ‘most Samoan’?  Is this like Harry Potter?  Where purebloods have more value in the wizarding world??  Because, if you think like that, have a sit and reflect on Hermione Granger…

I called this calendar Tama Toa NOT because I wanted to sell this narrow stereotypical image of Samoan men – no, I called it Tama Toa because I want to celebrate the modern Samoan man in all their diversity braving this new big scary world we live in.  There’s a new wave of health conscious Samoan men, who like to keep fit and healthy as evidenced by their magnificent bodies, and I want to celebrate that, showcase that in nothing but briefs (or *cough*, in some cases, nothing at all).  They are inspirational.  Truly.  After shooting all twelve guys, I was so moved with inspiration that I’ve now limited my intake of Big Macs from 3 to 1 per sitting!

On that note, I want to celebrate our diversity.  I want to challenge people to expand their views on identity.  I want people to recognize that what constitutes a particular racial/ethnic group is becoming harder and harder to define, and we do no good when we alienate others from their right to choose how they define and identify themselves.  But, yes – we do happen to have guys in the calendar who fit that narrow definition of what constitutes a Samoan man.  We do.  But not all our men work in plantations.  Far from it.  We are diverse, we are different.  What binds us together is difficult to pin down, but for starters – let us embrace how we, as individuals, each define ourselves as Samoans, and accept the fact that how we define ourselves is never the same as how someone else does.  And that’s fine.  Just don’t turn around and accuse another Samoan for being less Samoan than you.  Sound good?

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Now… look at the photo of Thierry and Farrell once again… nothing in the picture suggests they’re Samoan.  And that’s precisely my point.  In this day and age, we don’t know what a Samoan looks like.

My name is Jordan.  Samoa is my home.  My house is at Motootua.  My Samoan sucks.  Yet I try and read a lot of Samoan books because I want to better my Samoan.  At Samoan funerals I’m absolutely useless.  At Samoan functions I don’t have a clue what’s going on.   I haven’t seen the inside of a church in a while.  I eat off my elder’s plates sometimes (by sometimes, I mean ALL the time).  But I am Samoan – perhaps not in the way you expect, but it’s the only group I’ve ever identified with, and I plan to continue identifying with.

You can order your copy of the calendar on Shop Samoa Online! I’ve included the link below: the calendar is available from the 1st of December, but pre-orders are available now with $5NZD off retail price.

ORDER NOW

What to Do when Your Child Wont Eat.

I have this friend who’s 3yr old loves cherry tomatoes and yoghurt. And polenta. Cries for it all the time.

And I have another friend who’s 7yr old adores sushi and wants oatmeal for breakfast. Rye bread toast for dinner. Her kid’s idea of a fun snack is a boiled green banana dipped in sweet chilli sauce.

Indeed, I know lots of people with kids who like to eat lots of different foods, from a whole rainbow palette of nutritiousness. I watch them eat their tofu and carrots (discreetly, because ogling someone else’s eating child could be construed as weird) and I stand all amazed. Wow.

Because then there’s my kid Bella. Who survives on four food groups – fries, chicken nuggets, bread and jam, and banana chips. Every now and then, like when Halley’s Comet comes back, she will eat eggs. Boiled, but ONLY the white stuff. Scrambled, but ONLY if there’s not a speck of over-cookedness anywhere. She will also eat Sour Snakes, lollipops, gum, Doritos, MnMs WITH NO PEANUTS and chocolate ice cream. Y’know, things that dont actually belong to any decent self-respecting foodgroup in any culture, on any planet in the known universe.

Because I dont want my child to get scurvy, rickets, anemia, or rotten teeth that are very expensive to fix – I have done lots of research (thank you Google) and tried lots of things to get her to eat better. Here’s a few of them. For those of you who may be struggling to get your demon child to eat something besides green eggs and ham.

1. Make healthy homemade versions of their favorite fast-food.
While we’re waiting for Halley’s Comet to visit, Bella’s only source of protein is chicken nuggets from McDonalds. Which as we all know, isnt really any protein at all because according to a very gut-wrenching documentary on YouTube, there’s not much actual chicken meat in a Golden Arches nugget. So I took it upon myself to make nuggets from chicken, wholemeal flour, egg, various alluring seasonings. It was a lot of work but I figured it was worth it. Well, it wasnt. She hated them. I’ve tried lots of different recipes. Still no love. Now we live in Samoa where the one McDonald’s got shut down last year because of rats roaches dirt. Its open again but I know there’s something a bit funny about their food – because Bella spits out their nuggets. “They dont taste right.” Who am I to argue with the chicken nugget expert? So yeah. I dont bother trying this tactic anymore. Dude, I have a life. Things to do. TV shows to watch.
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The dumbest thing I’ve ever seen. What kid is going to be fooled by this?! Ummm, surely not mine.

2. Let your child help cook and they will be excited to eat what you’ve made together.
Maybe that works for children on Pinterest and the Perfect Parenting magazine but it doesnt for mine. Bella’s an enthusiastic chef. She happily makes scones, lemon curd, fried rice and beef curry with me. But wont eat any of it. Ever.
3. Bribe them. Tempt them. This method has had the most success. It means I barter a banana – for an offer to buy fries from Chickalicious. Or EAT THIS APPLE – and you can watch Wreckit Ralph for the kazillionth time. It means that totally wacked sentences like this actually come out of my mouth – ‘You can only have ice cream for lunch IF you eat some Doritos first. Because yes dammit, Doritos are made from CORN which is kinda sorta a vegetable. And ice-cream is MILK so its got calcium. Kids need calcium and corn dont they? (Dont judge me…Dont hate the player. Hate the game.)
4. Be immovable. Be firm. Be strong. If somebody told me I would one day be wrangling, cajoling and pleading with a little person to eat, I would have scoffed derisively. Who me? Let a kid call the shots? Heck no! I am woman, hear me roar. I’m wiser and more battle weary now. We’ve had some showdowns this child and I. Where I wont let her eat ANYTHING unless she eats the nutritious balanced meal I’ve placed before her. Where I tell her, fine starve then. So much angst. Its tiring. And it makes food a nightmare. Aint nobody got time for that.
5. Give her a multivitamin. Also known as Give up If this is your very first kid, then you may never get to this stage. You will have lots of energy and enthusiasm to keep trying to make your child eat quinoa and organic chicken spinach puffs. Good for you. In the meantime, the rest of us will discover the wonders of the chewable multiflavored multivitamin, some that can even taste “just like Sour Snakes!!” Then you can stop harassing your kid to broaden their culinary horizons. And spend time on things that really matter.

Like praying your child doesnt get scurvy. Rickets. And lots of rotten teeth that are very expensive to fix.

His Black Eye

Little Son came home with a black eye. I was unimpressed because the last time he showed evidence of a physical encounter with someone, he said two boys had tried to beat him up at school. I went into mother-bear-rage mode, drove around looking for the boys so I could beat them up meet with their parents about their behaviour, and then raged at the Principal demanding justice. The very calm and awesome Principal carried out an investigation and discovered that a boy had punched Little Son after Little Son had used a whole lot of bad words about the boy’s mother….and after Little Son had pushed the boy down.

So back to the black eye.

What happened?

“I was running on the field and I tripped over and banged my eye on the ground.”

Dont lie. It’s scientifically impossible for you to fall on the ground and ONLY hurt your right eye.

“I was running on the field and I tripped over and hit a post.”

Don’t lie. The rest of your face would have been messed up too.

“Me and my friend were running on the field and his bag hit my eye.”

Why were you running? Why did he hit you with his bag?

“We were kind of playing tag in the classroom and then he swung his bag and it hit my eye.”

I thought it was on the field? And what do you mean kind of playing tag? Either you were playing tag or you weren’t. Which is it? And why would a bag have given you such a bad eye for anyway?

“Ummm” shifty eyes. “Welllll, first we were playing tag on the field, then lunch was finished so we went to the classroom and we were going to sit down and thats when his bag hit my eye. It had a bottle in it and thats what hit my eye.”

What did the teacher say when she saw it?

“What teacher?”

The one in the classroom where all this was taking place.

“Oh. No I mean it was on the field BEFORE we went to the classroom. So there was no teacher around. We were running on the field…”

And now we’re back to the beginning.

You know what? Stop talking. The lies are driving me up the wall. I dont want to know how you got your black eye. I DONT CARE ABOUT YOUR BLACK EYE!!!!! Go away.

Before I lose my mind and knock your other eye.  With a bottle, in a bag, that Im swinging around, while we run, on a field, in a classroom, and face first into a post.

Delusions of Sweet Passion

So I have a looming book deadline that both terrifies AND delights me. Writing is on fire. (In between being sick with the flu and getting ready to move to our new house.) Which is why it makes no sense that today – I spent FOUR HOURS planning, researching, outlining, brainstorming and branding…

My smoothie, ice-cream baking soapmaking business. A roadside café/store called:

The Sweet Stop.

Or,

Sweet Chills.

Or,

Sweet Passion.

I had it all written out. A place where I would sell all-natural fruit n vegie smoothies,  icy cold and delicious using fresh market produce. And homemade cookies and slices. And fruit ice pops and yoghurts, all made from Samoan fruit. I created a Pinterest board with recipes and décor ideas for the interior and for the packaging and for the arrangement of the napkin holders on the counter. Nothing was left to chance. I drew diagrams for how I would arrange the stools, the glasses, the blenders and the freezers. We could even make it out of a shipping container for extra awesomeness and affordability! Like this -

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It would be at the front of my house, on the main road so people could pop in and grab a cold smoothie on their way to work or school. Every night I would bake trays of cookies and cakes. (Okay, more honestly – I would get the Daughters to bake cookies every night.) Every weekend we would buy baskets of papaya and pineapple, bunches of misiluki banana and divine soursop sasalapa, tangy limes and mango.  Then I would chop it all up and freeze it for smoothies. (Okay, more honestly – I would get the Sons to chop it all up while I supervised the very important freezing.)

Every day, I would open my little store and whip up divine icey treats that were healthy AND yummy. And people would OOOH and AAAAAH over my fabulous baking, my Martha Stewart-like skills, the utter cleverness of my presentation and artful packaging, the absolute BRILLIANCE of my beautiful little store.

This could be ME! See how happy she looks? That’s because she’s unleashing her creativity, savouring the aura of a fulfilled creative spirit. I could SO be like that.

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I clearly envisioned the money that would ROLL IN. People would drive for miles and miles to enjoy a smoothie from the Sweet Stop. I would have a Facebook page for the cookie of the Day and frozen yoghurt of the week and people would SALIVATE over the pictures. The amazing celebrity chef Robert Oliver would be in paroxysms of DELIGHT over my ice-cream whipped up using frozen bananas, rich koko Samoa, and sprinkled with roasted coconut. Of course he would feature Sweet Passion on his TV show and talk about it on My Kitchen Rules. Of course!

People would snack on my vanilla-bean biscuits and divine banana puddings in little plastic pottles and ask, “How DO you do it Lani?! How do you write books and have five children AND have such a WONDERFUL café?” And look so gorgeous! (Because of course I would be incredibly fit and healthy while making such healthily delicious food. I’d probably go for long runs every morning up to the plantation where I would harvest baskets of ripe produce, then run back to the house with baskets strapped to my back. Strength conditioning.)

When asked such questions, I would wave my hand nonchalantly and say (as I whipped up another dreamy smoothie with carrots, kale, mandarins and lime), “Oh, its nothing. When you’re passionate about something, then it’s not work. You’re doing what you LOVE and so every moment of every day is a joy!” And if they persisted in asking how it all gets done, I would show them my laptop at the counter, where I would tap out amazing stories every time there was a lull in smoothie-making. Y’know, as one does. Blend bananas – write a love scene – take cookies out of the oven – proofread a chapter…easy! Effortless!

Plus I would make coconut oil soap again, facial scrubs from honey and white sand, fragranced massage oils – all made by me, from natural ingredients sourced by me, created by ME. They would be so amazing probably even Bodyshop or Lush would beg for my recipes. Maybe, I would have my own TV show!! Where I am witty and perfectly put-together, where I dispense parenting advice and share recipes, do cooking and smoothie demo’s. And interview celebrity guests. Like Jason Momoa!!! And Hugh Jackman!!!  (I’m sure they would be devoted soap and smoothie connoisseurs. Naturally.)

I ask you – Does that not look like a man who can appreciate handmade coconut oatmeal citrus soap? 

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Where were the children in this fantasy you might ask? Oh don’t worry, that was the BESTEST part of the business plan. Sweet Passion would provide the children with employment. After-school jobs. Weekend work. No more whinging during the holidays about ‘We’re soooo bored. What are we gonna do?” They would learn how to be responsible members of society. They would learn how to budget, save, give correct change to customers. They would understand the meaning of HARD WORK. They would bake and chop and clean and blend and freeze and sweep. And it would all be for their benefit. Then of course, when they grew older and had earned their places in the business, I might let them have shares in the empire. Open Sweet Passion franchises all over the Pacific. Heck, why stop there – all over the planet!

But wait, there’s more!

Not only would this be a teaching learning opportunity for my children, it would bring us closer as a family. Think about it. We would sing songs together as we chopped fruit late into the night. We would swap customer stories as we stirred bowls of cookie batter. We would work side-by-side, building greater family unity and team spirit as we dreamed up new recipes and new ways to clean a blender. I felt quite tearful as I thought about it. O the happiness… We would be like the Swiss Family Robinson. Or Little House on the Prairie, making the most out of every little thing we had. Then at the close of each business day, the Hot Man would get out his guitar and lead us all in a sing-along. (Never mind that the man doesn’t know how to play a single note. He’s a fast learner.)

It was a most invigorating afternoon.

By the time the Hot Man came home, I was exhilarated and ready with papers and plans to present to him. “Look! Isnt this fabulous. I made a budget. And a business plan. All we need is a commercial  ice cream machine – its only $3500 NZD on Trademe. And all you have to do is build a nice little storefront thing by the road and we are good to go! Big Son comes home next week from university. You get our stand built by then and he can start work the day after he gets here. We could be raking in the big bucks by Christmas. What do you think?!”

The Hot Man was tired and paint-spattered and had burn marks on his arms from welding. He looked at my handful of papers and asked, “Did you finish writing your book today?”

Ummm, no. What the heck does that have to do with anything? #DreamKiller

“I’m sure it’s a great idea Lani. But I don’t see how you’re going to write books and run a business like that. And we don’t have three thousand for an ice-cream machine. And I cant build you a nice ‘little’ store by the road because I’m pretty busy BUILDING OUR HOUSE and WORKING A FULL-TIME JOB AS THE OWNER OF A CONSTRUCTION COMPANY as well.” A deep sigh. “Could you please just finish your book and get it out there? Then maybe we can think about building cafes and selling smoothies…”

Then the poor man shuffled off in search of dinner. There was none. Seeing as how I’d been very busy writing up my business plan for my smoothie café empire. World domination via my amazingness.

Which is when it hit me.

I’d just blown an entire half a working writing day – writing NO words on my book. Making NO progress on my actual author career.

Because I’d been dreaming up a smoothie cookie soap store  where I ruled the world like a banana ice cream Martha Stewart. A store which if I were TRULY honest with myself, I would probably hate… after a few weeks of smiling at customers (when all I really want to do, is sit in my cave by my damn self and write my book), listening to my kids complain about baking yet another batch of cookies (when all I really want to do is tell them to play Xbox so I can watch Good Wife in peace), and chopping mountains of papaya on a Saturday night (when all I really want to do is go out dancing with the Hot Man.)

Procrastination at it’s very finest.

And most sweetly delusional.

Please tell me you’ve had similar intoxicating procrastination experiences in your life!

P.S If any of you steal my idea and start a smoothie cookie soap store called Sweet Passion, I might hunt you down and kill you. #JustSaying.

What’s Up?

Writing is going furiously well. I’m aiming to have both these books out before end of December. (Okay, maybe one will be out in January. Should probably allow space for interaction with the outside world. And children. And that man Im married to.)

The Fab5 are deep in exams right now. Its hard to be far away from Big Son while he takes on his first ever law exams. I worry about him. Is he getting enough sleep, enough to eat. I want to hug him, make him laugh and cook something nice for him. Ok I lie, I want to take him out for awesome dinner somewhere with really good dessert menu. This is why I love the internet. He was stressed and discouraged the other night so I ordered him pizza delivery with dessert. I went to bed happy that my boy had a nice dinner.

An update on the Reeses calamity. A very nice woman from America who came for a quick visit, brought me a bag of Reeses chocolate. So thoughtful and kind! I ate it real quick. Before the family could tell me to save it for Big Son. (Yes I worry about him far away having exams but not enough to give him my new bag of Reeses.) Thank you Anne!  But before you all hate on me for being greedy, the Hot Man went to American Samoa again and brought back a bag of Reeses, ‘FOR MY SON.’ So it’s all good.

On the official author front – I got invited to be keynote speaker at the graduation for Vaiola College in Savaii. I’ve never been to Vaiola and I was 8 the last time I went to Savaii. I’m nervous about the ferry but otherwise grateful for the opportunity. Im also nervous about what to say. And of course finding something to wear that’s appropriate for actually leaving the house in… Also got my confirmed itinerary for author trip to Utah in March 2015. I’m speaking for Women’s History month at several different places including the Salt Lake Community College and a conference for teachers and another for Pacific Island heritage. I’ve never been to Utah. And seeing the list of speeches I have to prep makes me feel ill. I shall put it away somewhere and not think about it. Until next year.

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To end this update, reason #2345678 why the Hot Man is never ever allowed to run away/get hit by a bus. – Because he’s the only one who can brush Bella’s tangle of hair and not make her scream and shout, “Nooo stop it, it hurts, youre hurting meeeeeeee, get away from meeeee, you meanieeee!” ( neighbors please note, when you hear that sound, my child is not being tortured or slowly chopped into pieces, no. It means her mother is trying to brush her hair.)

Why You Should Never Steal from Your Children

This is one of those blisteringly shameful blogposts where you must promise never to refer to it if you ever see me in person somewhere. Please and thank you. I share it because it can hopefully impress upon you the importance of never stealing from your children. And because confession is good for the soul.

A while back, the Hot Man went to American Samoa for a work project. He returned with various treats for everyone, including a two pound bag of mini Reeses Pieces chocolate. These were a special request from Big Son who adores Reeses. The plan was, that I would take the bag of chocolates to New Zealand and give them to Big Son on my next trip over. The Hot Man stored the chocolates in the fridge with strict instructions:

THOU SHALT NOT EAT MY SON’S CHOCOLATES. UPON PAIN OF DEATH, DESTRUCTION AND DISMEMBERMENT.

I had no problems leaving the Reeses Pieces alone. For the first week and then the second. But my trip to New Zealand got delayed and the Reeses had to live in my fridge for a bit longer. Which is when things started to get a little tricky. Because those candies were evil.

“Laaaaaannnniiiii…”they crooned seductively every time I opened the fridge. And they were sly about it too. Did they tempt me in the middle of the day when stores were open and I could logically, easily go buy my own chocolate? No.

They only raised their tantalizing voices at night, the later the better. Like when everyone had gone to bed and it was just me doing very important work surfing the internet. When, in true Samoan-style, every shop was shut.

It was a tough struggle, but I resisted for weeks and weeks and weeks on end. (Okay, maybe four or five weeks. A minor detail. Hardly worth mentioning.) I even showed off about my self-control on Facebook, triumphant about the depths of my love and devotion to my son, ‘See! This is how much I love you. A whole two pound bag of Reeses worth!’

Then I cracked. It was 1am. I was in bed reading a very good book and I was hungry. I only wanted ONE. Or TWO. Or maybe a handful of candy. I very carefully cut a hole in the bag, took out some Reeses Pieces and went back to bed where I consumed them very quietly in the dimly lit room - so as not to wake up the original owner of the Reeses. Then I crept back to the kitchen and got a few more Reeses. And then maybe a few more. It was a bit difficult to keep track of the exact number because it was late. And dark. And I was trying to unwrap them without making a sound. There was one perilous moment when the Hot Man stirred as if he were about to wake up and I had to scramble and hide candy wrappers down the side of the mattress…

When I was done, I taped the hole back up and returned the chocolate to the fridge. Exultant. Ha! See? Nobody got hurt, nobody would miss out either because there were TONS of chocolates in that damn bag and Big Son surely didn’t need THAT many in the first place. Besides, I gave that boy life. He could give me a ton truck of Reeses Chocolates every day and still owe me big-time. Right?

Life proceeded as usual. I didn’t even think about the forbidden fruit in the fridge at all.

Until a few days later.

Walking through my room, I caught a whiff of a most horrendous odour. It wasn’t an overpowering smell, just a hint of one every time I walked past my side of the bed. Perhaps emanating from the bedside table? I looked inside all the drawers and under the bed. Nothing. So I carried on with life as usual.

This continued for several days. Every now and then, I would catch a nasty whisper of a lingering smell in my room, but couldn’t find the source and when I got the Demons to sniff it out, they would be impatient with me because they couldn’t smell anything.  I even woke up in the middle of the night dreaming about rotten corpses out to get me…

Finally I appealed to the Hot Man to use his muscles and lift up the mattress. (It’s gigantic and weighs  a ton).

There, squished between the  mattress and the base, (underneath my pillow ewww!), were several squished pieces of Reeses chocolate and discarded wrappers. And squished beside them was a very big, once-very-fat but now very squished – Lizard.

A rotting, decaying, disgusting SMELLY lizard. Attracted by the roving Reeses Pieces, the nasty creature must have squirreled its way under the bed and then died a miserable squished death.

“It’s chocolate!” said the Hot Man. Trust him to get distracted by the unimportant things in life. And underneath mattresses.

“No, it’s a dead lizard,” I said, very loudly and disgustedly.

I cleaned the mess with lots of disinfectant and lots of YUCK faces. But I could still smell it. So I sprayed with lots more disinfectant and then some air freshener. Which helped.

The Hot Man was unimpressed with my weakness in the face of Reeses’ temptation. “I bought those for my son,” he grumbled. “I can’t believe you opened that bag.”

“I only ate a few,” I said. “I know the boy would want to share those Reeses with his beloved mother.  I gave him life you know.”

The Hot Man gave up in disgust. And I wished I could eat another Reeses because its rather traumatic to find that one has been sleeping on a lizard corpse, and peanut-butter with chocolate can help get you through difficult times.

The Reeses are stowed  away in the very back of the freezer, awaiting Big Son’s return. I have learned my lesson and am resolved never to eat chocolate after midnight in my bed again, especially when that chocolate doesn’t belong to me.

But even now, every now and again, I keep thinking I can smell rotten lizard. These are the wages of sin – dead lizards haunting your nostrils and your dreams.

Learn from the error of my ways blog readers – Don’t steal from your children.

aReese

Luscious Limes

This week’s Food Blog is something sweet, tart and tangy – and ridiculously easy n quick. Which is the way I like my recipes because when I want to eat something delicious, I don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen making it.

There’s always lots of limes available at the market here in Samoa and very cheap.

aLime

If it were up to the Fab5, we would make vai tipolo (fresh lemonade) with them every day but another favourite is creamy rich lemon curd. Especially good with hot scones and butter. (But that’s another food blog post…)

I gave the daughters a quick lesson on Sunday and everyone was very pleased with the results. They liked it so much that they ate it all with pancakes before I could take a decent picture of the finished product. (Hence the borrowed pic from Pinterest, alongside one of Bella at work doing the very important stirring!)

Lemon Curd (or Lime Curd…)
Ingredients

3 eggs

3/4 cup sugar

Juice of 3 limes (or lemons. Whichever you’ve got.)

4 tbsp. butter

Whisk together  eggs,  sugar, juice of  lemons. Stir on medium heat stove until thick. Remove from heat and add  butter. Whisk. Then let it cool and thicken. (We like to add a bit more sugar cos we like it more sweet than tart.)

And there you have it – a fast and fabulous recipe from us in Samoa!

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My Next Book – and a Croquembouche

She’s a baker and blogger who has a nightmarish fear of flying and she’s escorting her sister’s wedding dress through three different time zones. He’s the tall, dark and handsome stranger that gets in her way… Will either of them escape the experience unscathed?

 What happens when Scarlett has to go home to be bridesmaid to her least favorite little sister - a sister who loves to remind everyone EVERY OTHER MINUTE  that she’s a former beauty Queen? Can Scarlett survive three weeks of tropical heat and mosquitos, and droves of busybody relatives all wanting to tell her WHY she’s still single as she endures the wedding from hell? (In case you’re wondering, it’s because she’s too fat, too lazy, too fiapoko and/or doesn’t pray enough.)

Six hundred guests, three wedding dresses, twenty-four cake tiers, fifteen bridesmaids, parents on a mission to makeover  their daughter, lots of dysfunctional family drama - and ONE deliciously divine man who alternately renders her speechless then drives her to outraged desire - all add up to a recipe for disaster.

 OR to a love story from Samoa that’s smart, sad and joyous all at once.

Coming Soon – something new from Lani Wendt Young, writing as: Lani Jade. And here’s a sneak peek piece of the next book…

aromanticcouplebeach

How did I end up here? Strolling along a moonlit beach under a magnificent night sky, with him.

Nervous, so as per usual, I’m babbling. Saying stuff about solar systems and did he know that India just became the first non-Western country to reach Mars? I’m looking everywhere except at him so I don’t know if he’s even listening to me by this point. Does he even care about astronomy? Maybe he’s checking his phone right now, wishing he were somewhere else. Some other country. With some other woman. One who’s not droning on about India and Mars.

Then he speaks and his voice is so close that it makes me jump and I forget my resolve not to look at him. Because he’s standing right beside me. And looking directly at me with that intense gaze of his that I can’t read. The one where his eyes are a shade darker than caramel, more like the sugar syrup of gulab jamun. Yes that’s it, very good gulab jamun soaked in cardamom and rosewater with saffron and honey.

Stop it Scar, he’s saying something. Stop thinking about Indian donuts and pay attention to Jackson. Listen to the man with the saffron honey sauce eyes dammit.

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, iron in our blood, even the carbon in the apple pies you make in your bakery,” he says.

Huh? What’s he on about? I smile brightly, trying not to stutter. Because I always take moonlit walks with gloriously handsome men. All the time.  So this is no big deal. Right? “What about them?”

“The astronomer Carl Sagan, he said they’re all made in the interiors of collapsing stars,” he explains.

Wow. I’m intrigued. Especially about apple pies having their origins in the stars. Always knew desserts were heavenly. I forget about being nervous and look back up at the expanse of spangled sky. “So everything’s made of stars? Even people too? That’s amazing.”

“Yes. We’re all made of star-stuff, hewn from stars.” There’s an odd edge to his voice that catches deep inside me and I turn. He’s not looking up at the sky. He’s staring at me and I am caught in the saffron honey sauce again. “When I look at you, I believe it.”

Whaaat?!

Now I’m not thinking about saffron honey sauce anymore because I’m drowning in it. Jackson brings one hand up to lightly caress the side of my face. He is murmuring words half under his breath and I am still, so still, completely entangled in this moment. This thing, whatever it is. I can’t move. I don’t want to move, in case I ruin it, shatter it. Jackson – his gaze, the husky timbre of his voice, the touch of his hand, his skin against mine, the scent of him – all of it, weaves filaments of caramel glaze on a croquembouche of epic decadence. Concentration is required in case one’s hand shakes and the pyramid of profiteroles is dislodged. In case the glazed trail of hardening sweetness isn’t uniformly applied and it soaks into the choux pastry…

“Stop it Scarlett,” he whispers against my hair. “Stop putting up profiterole barriers and let yourself just be. Here. In this moment. Right now. With me.”

My lips part to splutter some weak protest, some lie about profiteroles? Of course I’m not thinking of baked goods. How could I be?

But then he’s kissing me. Tasting me. I am kissing him back.

And it’s so much better than a croquembouche.

So. Much. Better.

acroquembouche

**************************************************************************************

So I’m sure your patience is wearing thin when it comes to my next book and I hope you all can hang on a little bit longer. This is officially my first foray outside Young Adult  fiction and it’s been challenging, scary and heaps of fun writing in a new genre.  I’ve shared a few pieces of this romance novel on the blog before and I’m finally seeing the writing conclusion for it. Will keep you updated over the next month as it goes through beta readers and edits. Hope you like this sneak peek!

Birthday Warfare

Bella’s birthday is coming up this month and she’s going to have a party for the very first time ever. She’s excited.

And I’m excited.

Because I havent been a very good mother lately and this is my chance; to dig up my Martha Stewart hat and apron and really shine. Lock up the children’s XBox and go all out with unleashed creativity and craftiness for this one day of the year. Thus assuaging the #BadMother guilt. And ensuring I can be lazy for the other 364 days of the year. Cruising on the memories and photos of THE MOST SPLENDIFEROUS BIRTHDAY PARTY EVERRRR.

A long time ago when I was youthful, energetic and had way too much time on my hands – I would organize shamahzing parties for my children’s birthdays. Bella’s older siblings have had…

*An ocean themed ‘Under the Sea’ party complete with handmade glitter fish invitations, jelly boats made with oranges and afloat in gigantic punchbowls of blue jelly ocean, a whale cake, paddling pool AND every child got to use a net and catch a real live guppy fish from grampa’s pond to take home in a fish bowl mini aquarium. I stayed up all night baking and decorating the garage with sparkly ocean creatures suspended from the ceiling. Gave myself Mother Of The Year Award for that one.

*An alien themed ‘Out of this World’ party with slime chocolate pudding, Martian cupcakes, a rocket ship cake (that took me 3 different tries to get right), alien mask-making AND a Make An Alien activity where very patient volunteers (aunty Pele n David) allowed themselves to be totally wrapped in 20 rolls of toilet paper by screaming enthusiastic children – who then insisted on being chased by the attacking toilet paper aliens…

* A fun park birthday where we hired five different giant jumping castles / spaceship water slides and turned the backyard into a water adventure park. And yes I stayed up all night baking for that party too. Three different kinds of cupcake, fruit kebabs, a Princess cake and hand stamped crafts for the gift bags.

Bella’s had none of that. She’s turning seven and since I’m at home and officially a full-time parent dedicated to my children’s happiness 24-7, I have  no excuses. This party’s going to be awesome. (And by extension, I am going to be awesome! Because let’s face it, while it’s not all about me. A lot of it is.)

So I’ve already started browsing Pinterest for birthday theme ideas…cake creations…accessorized handmade invitations…themed games… handcrafted toys for the goodie gift bags… I feel tired just making a board for it all and pinning so many clever things. And truth be told, Im also feeling rather irritated by all these people that make such kickbutt splendid stuff for their kids birthdays. I mean, really? Dont you have anything better to do than dream up this stuff and make the rest of us look bad?!

But I persevere. Because I love my child and that’s what mums do. We make sure that when our child has a birthday party, that they get everything theyve ever dreamed of. Everything!

Then I ask Bella, “What kind of birthday party do you want? A pirate party? A fairy party? A superhero party? Maybe a mermaid party?” Yes! Pick mermaid, then I can recycle my Under the Sea crafty ideas…heh heh…#devious.

My daughter’s eyes light up. “I know, I want a Call of Duty birthday party!”

Call. Of. Duty.

As in the Xbox game that simulates infantry and combined arms warfare of WW2 and beyond. The game that’s not for kids but Bella’s really really good at playing it.

It’s official. I’m a dreadful mother.

Somehow I doubt that there’s any Pinterest boards devoted to 6yro girls sniper birthday cakes. Or ammo party favors.

I’m now working on Operation Tempt Bella with Barbie

Wish me luck.