Sometimes it takes a long time to understand what lies beneath the surface, what the thing is that needs our focus until it waits no longer, it gives up being a gentleman or woman and pushes through the surface, lava out of an erupting volcano, crying out for attention, unrelenting and turning you to face it and pay attention. It corners you somewhere and says, I’m here, we are going to work this thing out.

This moment comes for me on a cold afternoon in March, holding a baby in my arms, standing on our green grass and waiting for Assistancekåren to come and re-charge our dead car battery.

Music class is the most highly-anticipated event in our week. We started attending a few weeks after we moved to Sweden, Little Boy could barely let go of my leg when we walked into the first class, everything was new and scary for him.

But not the guitar and the strumming of his teacher, Dale. He’s always loved the guitar.

Most weeks he started by sitting on my lap, refusing to stand or do any actions, but he watched guitar and all the instruments that came out from time to time. In a new place, in a new stage of life, music was one of the few things he could understand and trust. In the spring we had the second semester of the class, and now he sings along, does the actions, runs around and is still devotedly in love with his teacher. Almost every day of the week, he asks me, Is today for music class?

One of the best parts of my week is when he wakes up from his nap on Tuesday afternoon, and I get to tell him, We’re going to music class now, quick let’s get in the car!

Basically, music class is a big deal.

Several months ago on a Tuesday afternoon, I woke him up from his nap for the class, it’s the only time I can interrupt nap time and get away with it because he’s thrilled to go. We got in the car, it was a beautiful sunny afternoon in late March, I turned the key and the car did not start. I turned it again. Nothing. Checked if it was in Park, put it in Drive, and put it back in Park. Still nothing. I tried everything I could – including laying my hands on the car and praying for it – and nothing happened.

You can imagine how this went down with Little Boy. He’s logical enough to hear the car not starting and see the key turning with no result.

Mommy, can we walk? Can we take the stroller to music class?

No, my sweetie it’s too far to walk.

Can we take the bus, Mommy?

We will be late if we take the bus. I’m sorry kiddo. I’m so sorry.

He got it. He knew he was not going to music class, and my son was devastated. He hugged me as his little frame shook with sobs.

We found out later than the battery died, and in the week that followed it died a few more times, so we knew we had to buy a new one. The place where I needed to go to get it done was five minutes away from the music class, and it was supposed to take 15 minutes, so when the next Tuesday arrived, I had a plan perfectly in place.

I was going to call Assistancekåren (the local equivalent to Triple A or RACV) to come and restart the battery, drive with the boys to the car place to buy and have the battery installed, then off to music class we would go. I left myself about two hours of buffer. Nothing could go wrong. We would go to music class.

Mommy promised a music class. It would happen this week.

I woke Little Boy up extra early. I wanted to make sure we had spare time. Then I called the car assistance people, and we stood in the yard and waited. They will be here soon, I promised. The last time I called they came within 20 minutes.

Twenty minutes passed. Then 30. Then 45 minutes. I’m starting to feel the pressure building inside, We will get to music class. There is no way we are missing music class again this week.

I called them again. You’re at the top of the list, the man says, We’ve had a lot of calls.

I’m praying, Please God, please make this work. I don’t want to miss music class. I’m watching the time, the class starts at 4pm, it was now almost 3:30. I didn’t even care if we would be late. We would go if there was only five minutes remaining.

One hour passed by. Fifteen more minutes and nothing. I realized that I had no idea what time the battery place closed, so I called them. It closed in 10 minutes for battery repairs and replacements. There was no point in the car assistance people coming anymore. I called them to cancel.

By this point I don’t think Little Boy believed we were going to class anyway.

But I was devastated.

I made promises. I made a plan. This Tuesday afternoon was going to be our redemption after last week’s heartache. And now again through events I could not control, I’m holding broken promises and undone plans.

Baby was in my arms, I turned away from my todler playing in the yard and walked a little bit so he couldn’t see the tears falling hard and fast down my face, but I didn’t hide the swelling anger inside.

How could you, God? It’s his favourite thing. How dare you? Fixing a car is nothing to you. This class is everything to him. We’ve been standing out in the cold for almost two hours now waiting, believing, expecting you to come through. How dare you? HOW DARE YOU?

My broken soliloquy continued until I was shaking so hard and so cold that I knew it was time to go back inside. Little Boy had moved on already. I put a video on and hid in the kids’ play corner of the living room.

I was shaking because I knew – this wasn’t about music class disappointing though it was, this wasn’t about the car, this was about me. And four years of adjusting to a new continent. Three years of sleep deprivation and stretch marks and hormones and nursing bras. Three years of no time for marriage, for myself, for the life I thought I would have. Four years of almost no community, four years of feeling ripped from my friends and family, four years of having no frame of reference. Four cold winters, cold springs and colder-than-normal summers, four years of feeling lost.

How dare you, God?

The words I felt in my soul for too long, finally making its escape.

The only thing I know to do in these moments is reach for my battered blue Bible and ask God to speak to me, anything. I hear Isaiah and turn to the middle and start to read, after a few mintues, I reach these words.

I know your sitting down
    and your going out and coming in,
    and your raging against me.

I know your raging against me. 

I know your raging against me.

No words of comfort, assurance or hope, only the Truth.

I know you, I know what you’ve experienced, I know that it broke you in every way, I see your broken heart, I know you lost everything. I knew you were angry before you knew it. I knew you were angry at me when you thought you were surrendering it all. I knew you didn’t trust me. I know your raging against me. I have heard your raging against me.

It’s tempting to tie these stories up with a bow, a happy ending, but there is none today. I’m walking this path with God, rebuilding our relationship one day at a time, looking deeper to see what happened to simple trust, holding fast with what little strength I have to what I know to be true, enjoying the now surprisingly warm summer days in Sweden, taking my vitamin D pills, talking things out with a counselor and finding alone time when I can.

Perhaps you’re reading this, holding your own disappointments and anger in your hand and wondering when The Good Part of The Story Arrives. I’m sorry – I don’t have it. I walked away from that couch and made dinner for the boys and put them to bed, raw from emotion long hidden inside now let out into the open.

Friend, you’re not alone. I know your raging against me, that’s what He says. He knows your raging, your failing, your successes, your inadequacies, your disappointments and your pain, fill in the blank, he knows it. He offers his presence to you, to me, to anyone who would accept it, and he gives you the opportunity to keep walking, to see what He is like and what He can do in you if you keep going.

I know your raging against me,  I hold this sentence tightly in my heart. God knows me, he knows the details of my thoughts, emotions and words. He offers his presence, his intimate knowledge of who I am, where I am and in knowing and accepting me as I am, he offers me an invitation to hold his hand and walk.

I’m linking up with the #TellHisStory community today. 



Sigtuna town is full of tourists in the summer, families coming to soak up the sun, quaint old streets and waterfront. Little kids run around in the parks, grown ups sit in the outdoor cafes eating lunch, the lines for ice cream are long. I’ve eaten more ice cream in Sweden than I have almost anywhere. I queue up for a waffle cone of blueberry, creamy and sweet, purple jam-like ripple in places, it starts dripping down my hand faster than I can eat it, but licking blueberry ice cream from my fingers while sitting on a bench facing a shining lake seems very Swedish.

I walked to my hotel room on Wednesday morning, it is small and comfortable with beige wallpaper and yellow roses. The single bed is white and soft, the writing desk faces Sigtuna lake with white chiffon curtains that blow into the room with the steady breeze.

This place was an old monastery converted into a hotel and conference centre. Tuscan orange buildings with vines and roses that creep up the sides, one of my windows opened out on a rose garden courtyard and fountain. Beauty everywhere, climbing up the vines, pouring into my room, invading.

I slept for five hours when I first arrived and woke at 5pm.

Husband found this place after asking me what I was looking for, Beautiful, I said, something beautiful where I can rest, be quiet, think, sleep, write. He checked me in, brought me to my room, said goodbye with the boys – he blessed me, he released me, which in turn gave me freedom to fully enjoy it and to fully enter into what the time could be. Now I’m asking myself, How am I releasing the people I love? Or am I controlling them, trying to make them into what I want them to be? Or am I giving them the freedom they need to bloom, thrive and flourish?

Space to breathe. That’s what these three days were for me. I slept whenever I wanted to. I rarely went out. I sat on my bed and read and read and read. I wrote for fun, I wrote for serious, I just wrote. I took two showers a day. I went running. The first morning I woke up at 4:30am, no doubt the same time Baby was waking at home, because yes, they are always with me. You don’t stop being a mother.

There’s a dignity lost daily in the grind of motherhood, the inability to take a slow shower, the hurried pony tail and comfortable-over-style shoes, the way your body becomes a human washcloth and your brain a child activity centre. This isn’t a problem – all of these actions help me to love my children.

But we need dignity, it lifts our heads, reminds us that there is more, that our mind was made for something other than kids (even if you use it primarily for that now), that your body needs lavish care (even if it is wiping up messes now), and you can spend time on yourself (even if most of the time is spent on others now).

I feasted on a banquet of time and rest, one that filled me up, and a gift for which I will be forever grateful, but it reminds me – carve out a space in my day-to-day that is a space of dignity. Maybe it’s five minutes, maybe 30, and maybe one blessed day it will even be one hour (if one of my friends stops waking at 4:30am). But carve it out. Set it aside. A Sacred Stop. A Dignity Moment. Name it whatever you want, but call it something so that you know it is time set apart. It doesn’t matter if you have kids or not – all of us are pressed for time. Make time for yourself now, in whatever stage of life you find yourself. This is worth it.


In six days we remember the day we first arrived in Stockholm as a family. A two-year-old, a two-month-old, a new assignment, a new place, a new people, a new life waiting for us here. When I left Geneva, I said I was ready to write a new story and sing a new song, and for a while it seemed like I was. But winter came, sleeplessness came, and there was so much darkness. I think on this now in this season of light so bright I almost want to hide my eyes from it and disappear into a hole.

It is not easy to live in light when you’ve been in the darkness for so long.

But I am choosing differently now. I celebrate this place, I celebrate a new season of slightly older kids, more sleep, more connections in Stockholm, and I welcome it with open arms.

How will I live this next year? How will I love my children? My husband? What needs does my family met that must be met whether I want to or like to meet them? How can I meet them? What do they need from me? How will I love myself? What do I need of myself? How will I love my community? What does it need from me?How am I uniquely made and what space can I uniquely fill?

If there is anything I have learned it is this: We fight for what matters. We fight for our relationships. Sometimes it’s handed on a silver platter, and we say, Thank you, that was so easy. But most of the time, it’s carved one small victory. If we are armed with love and intentionality, we can battle for selflessness, faithfulness and gratitude: To be disciplined by selflessness, to endure in faithfulness, and to perservere in a committment to gratitude – in all things, at all times.

What about you? How will you live this year? 

Well, hello there. It feels like it’s been a long time. Starting a blog post after a long absence always feels awkward. What to share? What to leave out? Is an explanation even necessary?

Survival Mode has been the name of my game in the past few months, and it doesn’t leave room for  anything other than what keeps you treading water. I’ve tried to keep breathing though. Inhaling and exhaling, I can do that. I guess you can say it’s been an even mix of life with two small kids, sleep deprivation, cultural adjustment, dealing with sickness, the disappointment of laundry that won’t wash and fold itself. Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera.

I’ve been reaching for whatever I can find in the fridge for our meals, waking when the boys get up and stumbling around in my pajamas until 9am. No routine, no meal plan, no celebrations – these are the things that are my downfall every single time. Some people flow with the changes of a day, I don’t. I flow from one to two to three on my schedule, and if there is no plan, I look like a lost, confused person wandering around with no map and likely, I’ve dropped my phone in the toilet, so not able to call for help.


But the fog lifts, as surely as winter gives way to spring and spring gives way to summer (or more spring if you live in Sweden), the fog lifts. It must. It cannot last forever. I’ve moved past survival mode now, and while I’m far from thriving, this place in between is an improvement even though my laundry still refuses to wash and put itself away.

Yesterday it felt like we had our first real summer day as a family. The sun was out, it was hot, the sunscreen came out (our June weather was much like Melbourne, Australia, where it is winter), we played football, climbed on balance beams, I planned ahead and made Sunday dinner. We sat down together as a family, held hands and thanked God for our food.

And it was very, very good.


Oxtail Stew

Adapted from Jamie Oliver

This isn’t a summer meal, but when I saw oxtail – or what I thought was oxtail, I suppose one can never know when you’re working with a language you don’t understand – I had an instant craving for oxtail soup. I ended up making this recipe instead. We ate it with roasted sweet potato mashed with some feta cheese, a green salad and blanched sugar snap peas. The lightness of the sides offset the heavy, wintery taste of the stew. 

This cut of meat isn’t for everyone – it’s not classy, quite fatty and grizzly, but when cooked for so long, something beautiful comes out. 

1 kg oxtail, chopped into 4cm chunks (I bought mine like this, but you may have to ask a butcher to do it for you)
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
1 medium leek
4 stalks of celery
4 medium carrots
a few sprigs of fresh rosemary
4 dried bay leaves
4 cloves
2 heaped tablespoons plain flour
275 ml beer
stock of your liking (I used porcini stock I still have from a trip to Italy last year, and it was diving, but I think beef or vegetable stock would be great as well)

1. Preheat the oven to 220ºC/425ºF. 

2. Take a large roasting tray and put the oxtail inside, cover with salt and pepper and drizzle over with olive oil, make sure each piece is well coated, and put in the oven for 20 minutes. 

3. Chop the leeks, celery and carrots into chunky pieces (it cooks for so long that larger pieces are better – it won’t disintegrate so quickly). Put the veggies with olive oil into a large ovenproof casserole pan over a medium heat, toss the rosemary and bay leaves in there as well and cook for 20 minutes or so until the veggies have a nice colour and smell sweet. 

4. When the oxtail’s time is up, take it out of the oven and reduce the temperature to 170ºC/325ºF.

5. Stir in the cloves and flour to the veggies on the stove, then add the beer. Let it reduce for a bit, add the oxtail and any roasting juices, cover with stock and stir well. Keep it on the stove, make sure the heat is high and let it boil then put it in the oven for around 5 hours or so. I stirred every hour and kept track of the liquid content. I put the lid on around hour 4. 

6. When it’s done and cooled, take the oxtail out and remove the meat from the bones and return into the stew.

My grandmother passed away on Tuesday. She would have been 96 in December. This is an essay I wrote about her when I was living with her and some other family in Sri Lanka in 2009. Growing up all over the world didn’t make for a lot of regular time with our grandmothers, so the few memories I have are extra precious to me today.
Irene Regina Samadanam Anketell was born on 11 December 1918. She is my grandmother, and I am seeing her now for the first time in eight years. I can’t even remember what she looked like then, probably some variation of old.  She is 90-and-a-half now, with a keen mind and a disintegrating though still-functioning body.

My grandmother was the baby of the family, the youngest daughter of nine siblings, born to David and Eunice Anketell of Jaffna, at the tippy tippy top of the Tamil class totempole. Ammamma (what I call her, it is Tamil for grandma) used to tell me when I was younger about the horse-drawn carriages that drove them around the town. Their ancestral home in Uduville, which is still standing after 30 years of war, was made by laborers from India.

Adored by everyone and a real knockout, my grandmother sounds like the belle of the ball character out of a southern American novel. Just today she was telling me (while we looked at the photo below) about how she used to wear her saree Colombo style, to emphasise her small waist and sumptuous figure, and that she heard a guy at her university say she had “luscious curves.” Ammamma went to to university for two years, studying English, Latin, mathematics and logic at the University of Colombo, probably sometime in the 1930s. People I have met around the world during the past years often remark about her charm, wit and vivaciousness. Apparently she had a personality that endeared her to all.


Dolly, Ruby and Irene Anketell, I’m guessing Ammamma was 21 or 22 at the time

But 90 years, being widowed at 56, five children and 11 grandchildren in four countries, and life in general takes its toll.

Today when Ammamma walks, it is a slow shuffle forward, she rocks back and forth like an unsteady reed, each step requiring leverage from the rocking motion of her fragile hips. She is a wisp of a woman now. Her body’s brittle bones look like they could snap at any minute, penetrating her sagging, translucent skin and rupturing the bulging green veins. The curves are gone, robbed by time and a mastectomy.

We were sitting on the couch yesterday and talking; the sofa looked like it would eat her small frame in its folds as she rested her neck against it, face turned upward to look at me.

What was your favourite decade of your life, Ammamma?


Decade…you know, your favourite 10 years, or just years of your life?

She paused.

When grandpa saw me, and, you know…when that all happened. He thought I was so beautiful.

She was referring to how she and my grandfather met, and their famed love story. Louis Richard Jayaratnam Watson was a young doctor who needed a place to stay for a few days, and through a family connection, stayed in the house of Ammamma’s oldest sister, Daisy, and her husband. My grandmother was also there at the time, he took one look at her and fell madly in love. She was around 18 or 19 at the time. He begged her not to return and finish university (for fear that she would get snatched up by someone else) and asked her to wait for him.

She did. She quit university and waited for seven years without seeing him, without hearing from him. They were married in 1942.

He wrote me a song before he left the first time…he didn’t write the song. It was a song at the time.

Somewhere the sun is shining, she warbled faintly, So honey don’t you cry, we’ll find the silver lining, the clouds will soon roll by, each little tear and sorrow only brings you closer to me.

Her voice was without the sound of loss, her eyes shone softly, and for a few moments, she was young, beautiful and adored once more.

salade 2

For us Easter lunch always means a spread of salads, some warm, some cold, but the table is full of a variety of vegetables. Even though the centerpiece is a roast leg of lamb, I still think it’s the salads that steal the show. I try to pick recipes that will be colourful, fresh, full of flavour and inspired by Middle Eastern cuisine.

This year I made four “salad” type dishes. I planned to make three, but while I was cooking on Sunday morning I realized the recipes were for four people, and we had five adults plus two hungry kids. But the potato drawer was full of sweet potatoes, so I sliced those into thick wedges, tossed with cornflour, cumin, chili flakes and sea salt and roasted them for a filling side dish (inspired by The FauxMartha‘s sweet potato fries recipe).

Time was involved, yes, but this is a meal we eat once a year. The time is worth it, and honestly, I had so much fun in the kitchen getting lost in my work. Now, on to the salads. All of the recipes are from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook. Do yourself a favour and get this book. One day I’ll get out of the salad section, but for now, I can’t help myself. I am not a salad person. I laugh in the face of people who think salads are a meal. And yet. This cookbook. These salads. Fresh, tasty, punchy, at once crunchy and then it’s smooth. Almost all of the ingredients are simple and easy to find, and when it’s not easy to find, I leave it out, and the dish still tastes great.

I know I can get into trouble for using the word easy, but these salads are easy. There is very little food preparation involved, most of the work happens in the oven or in the jar you’re shaking that’s full of tart dressing. Trust me on this. If I’m an expert on anything food related, I’m an expert at knowing what will make for awesome results with as little work as possible.


Roasted Aubergine with Saffron Yoghurt

from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, p. 29

The most important part of this recipe to me is to make sure you roast the aubergines until they are a beautiful golden brown colour. At this stage, they are soft while the outside is caramelised slightly and a tiny bit crisp. Honestly, I don’t think the dressing is necessary – it is lovely, but if you want to keep it lighter, skip the dressing. I didn’t have any saffron, so I substituted turmeric to get a yellow colour. 

serves 4

3 medium aubergines, cut into 3 cm circles
olive oil
2 TBSP toasted pine nuts
a handful of pomegranate seeds
20 basil leaves
coarse sea salt and black pepper

Saffron yoghurt
a small pinch of saffron threads (I dissolved several dashes of turmeric in 3 TBSP of hot water)
3 TBSP hot water
180g Greek yoghurt (I used Turkish)
1 garlic clove, crushed
21/2 TBSP lemon juice
3 TBSP olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 220C/420F. Line a baking tray with baking paper (for easier clean up) and place the sliced aubergines on it. Brush with olive oil on both sides – don’t be tempted to skip one side, it really does make a difference to the taste and colour. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

2. Roast for 20-35 minutes, but keep an eye on it depending on what kind of oven you have. For me the salad is made when the aubergines are roasted well but not too roasted, and it’s worth taking the time to check and re-check. Their done when it’s golden brown in colour. (Tip: You can roast these up to three days before hand and keep in the fridge and warm them up before serving.)

3. While the aubergines are roasting, make your dressing. I had Turkish yoghurt and no saffron threads, so I put 3 TBSP of hot water into a bowl and put several dashes of turmeric into it to dissolve and then mixed that into the yoghurt. I didn’t even check the amount of yoghurt I had, to be honest, I just eyeballed it based on the quantity of aubergines (and we still have a lot of dressing leftover).

4. Add the garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and salt to the yoghurt and stir to mix it all together. Taste and check if there’s enough salt and lemon juice. You should be able to taste the bite of the garlic and tartness of the lemon, my favourite part of the dressing.

5. To serve: arrange the warm, roasted aubergines on a platter, slices overlapping. Drizzle the dressing over and leave some on the side as well. Sprinkle over the pomegranate seeds and pine nuts. Be generous. I don’t follow the recommended quantities here – I really pour it on. Finally lay the basil on top.


Fennel and Feta with Pomegranate Seeds and Sumac

from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, p. 17

This is another favourite salad in our home. We are fennel lovers cooked or raw, although there aren’t too many salads out there that can pull it off raw. Fennel has a distinct, licorish-y taste, it’s sharp and quite chewy if not sliced finely enough. I’m sure it’s not everyone’s favourite vegetable. But with the pomegranate and this sharp, sour dressing, the fennel sings, and tastes fantastic with roasted meats. I’ve made the salad with and without feta (because of lactose intolerant guests), and I don’t miss it, but I’m not a huge dairy person. The sumac adds a nice touch, but if you don’t have it, just leave it out. 

1/2 pomegranate
2 medium fennel heads
11/2 TBSP olive oil
2 tsp sumac
juice of 1 lemon
4 TBSP tarragon leaves
2 TBSP roughly chopped flat leaf parsley
70 g Greek feta cheese, sliced
salt and pepper

1. Start by making the dressing. In a bowl mix the olive oil, lemon juice, tarragon and parsley leaves, sumac and a bit of salt and pepper. Set aside. I didn’t chop the tarragon leaves, by the way, just picked them and left them whole, so it’s almost like another tiny salad leaf in there as well (I made this the evening before and refrigerated it.)

2. Remove the leaves and green fronds from the fennel and set aside to garnish at the end. Cut off and discard the base then finely slice the fennel lengthwise. The cookbook suggests a mandolin, which I don’t have, so I just try to get each slice as thin as possible. Toss the fennel with the salad dressing, making sure that the dressing coats each slice.

3. De-seed the pomegranate. (This video from The FauxMartha is helpful.)

4. On a platter, layer the fennel then feta then pomegranate seeds and keep repeating until it’s finished. Garnish with fennel leaves, more pomegranate and a sprinkle of sumac and serve immediately.