What I did in 2017

 

So this is a thing I like to do. Rather than coming up with resolutions for the new year and wondering what lies ahead, I like to reflect upon the year that was – to think about what I enjoyed, achieved, and maybe even what was a bit challenging. And whilst we are already one week into the year, and 2017 is starting to feel like a bit of a distant memory, I think I can recall just enough to make up twenty noteworthy happenings. Here we go!

  1. Walked across the Brooklyn Bridge in very heavy snow. The rest of the family LOVED the snow but I must confess, no matter how rugged up I am, I do not handle cold well and I may have shed a little tear whilst they emitted exclamations of joy!
  2. Enjoyed not being a school mum anymore. It was fun – for the most part – at the time but I’m not unhappy to see the back of concerts, sports days and parent teacher interviews.
  3. Cheered when my girl got her driver’s licence. No more driving supervision. Woohoo!
  4. Worried when my girl got her driver’s licence.
  5. Worried when my man suddenly didn’t have a job. Gulp!
  6. Sighed with relief when the employment gods shone upon him after not too many months of job hunting. What an exhausting, rollercoaster ride that is!
  7. Enjoyed our first child free holiday in Tassie. We have had nights away from them in the last twenty one years but not an actual holiday.
  8. Joined a book club and met friendly new people. Thanks Isabel!
  9. Played chauffeur to my man when he broke his foot. moon boots are a bit cumbersome!
  10. Opened an etsy shop!
  11. Celebrated my girl’s 18th, my boy’s 21st and our 25th wedding anniversary. What a year of milestones!
  12. Held a new baby for the the first time in years! When I came home my girl said ‘your clothes smell different’. Yep, new baby smell! Heavenly!
  13. Volunteered at the Melbourne Writers Festival.
  14. Walked more steps than I ever have before because apparently my bones are a bit on the soft side. Gah! Ageing!
  15. Learned I can kill weeds with boiling water. Best discovery ever! I like a tidy garden but I DO NOT like gardening. And pulling weeds out of the cracks in paving? much hrrumphing under my breath!
  16. Probably wasted too much time scrolling through social media. That is a new year’s resolution if I have to have one!
  17. Reached my reading goal on Goodreads.
  18. Binge watched TV shows – The Crown, The Americans, The Handmaid’s Tale, Before We Die. This is what happens when my man is free to watch TV at night rather than working.
  19. Bought a long coveted lamp from Retro Print Revival.
  20. Watched the passing in parliament of the same-sex marriage legislation and shed a tear of happiness – and relief.

So 2017, I now bid you adieu. There were some ups, some downs, but you were mostly kind to me and for that I say ‘thank you’.

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Crafty uses for book vouchers

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I may be getting ahead of myself here, but perhaps you might find a book voucher in your Christmas stocking on Monday morning? The good folk at Readings have put together a fab list of crafty books  to help you put that voucher to good use.

My friend Karen lent me her copy of On the Loom and it is lovely. I may need to buy my own copy to add to my library. I’ve seen Craftivism sitting on the shelf of my local bookshop and I think that looks like a pretty good read too. And I like the look of the macramé one. And maybe this one may tempt my girl to take up a needle and floss? Going beyond the Readings list, this one by Hollie Chastain about collage is also a goody.

Do any of these appeal to you? Maybe you already have some? Happy reading, happy crafting!

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*this is not a sponsored post

Taking Stock: December ’17

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‘Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus, right down Santa Claus Lane’. Yep, it’s that time of year again! Are you ready? I have just put away the sticky tape and scissors so I am feeling *phew*.  Let’s see how much I am consumed by Christmas at the moment by doing a quick ‘taking stock’ à la Pip Lincolne.

Making: ice cream plum pudding – and licking the bowl! My mum always makes it but I’ve never done it before. It’s part of my tweaking some Christmas day traditions. I wrote about that over here. I used chop chip ice cream to make it a bit more indulgent.

Watching: Love Actually tonight. With my girl. Because it’s Christmas.

Drinking: water

Eating: asparagus for lunch with shaved parmesan and toasted almonds. I wish lunch would magically appear before me but alas it does not. Today I was not inspired but at least it was healthy. And chocolate fudge as an after dinner treat.

Cooking: salmon for dinner? Maybe?

Hearing: birds chirping.

Smelling: faint traces of the candles I was giving a pre-burn before they take up centre stage on the table on Monday.

Liking: that it will not be too hot on Christmas Day. 22 degrees sounds perfect to me. Good eating weather, as some in my family say! And we won’t become overheated by my lit candles!

Reading: reports about the car incident in Melbourne yesterday. Tragic.

Wishing: people wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that every such act is an act of terrorism. I think it best to see what comes of the police investigation so we can understand what it is that threatens the safety of our community. Is it terrorism? Mental health issues? Drugs?

Wondering: if we’ll need to wake the kids up on Christmas morning! Gone are the days when they were asking us what was the earliest they could get up – 6am was our answer. Last year we had to rouse them at 8 so we could get pressies done before I had to start preparing the food for the day!

Buying: all of the things! Pressies, food, drink.

Knowing; tomorrow is food shop day!

Writing: a list of what I need to buy.

Trying: to work out how the food will all fit in the fridge. It is an engineering feat every year trying to squash, squish and balance things in there.

Looking: forward to holidays by the beach after Christmas. How nice is it to wake up to a view of the sea and the sand, walk along the beach, have a coffee, read a book, have dinner at the pub, leave beds unmade? *sigh*

Disliking: ironing the big white tablecloths for the Christmas table. They are so unwieldy. And I come from a line of fastidious ironers so I always feel like I am being judged if it is not ironed just so!

Pondering: what design to do for my next weaving.

Noticing: I feel a little tired. Maybe I need a nanna nap.

Waiting: for my girl to come home from her singing lesson. Always feel relieved when I hear the car pull into the drive.

Feeling: happy that everyone in the family has achieved their goals for the year! Yay! Lots of work went into that.

So that’s it, lovelies, for 2017! Onwards and upwards to 2018. I must say I find ‘2018’ to be more aesthetically pleasing than ‘2017’ so let’s hope it will be a year filled with aesthetic pleasures! Enjoy your Christmas and New Year celebrations. See you next year!

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Do I dare change our Christmas traditions?

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See our Christmas wreath? It’s the same one I’ve pulled out of the cupboard since before my man and I had our kids. And the Christmas lilies? Every year they stand happily in the same vase in the hallway. I remember one year, after I was a little tardy in my Christmas lily buying, my boy saying ‘ah, now it smells like Christmas!’ when they finally made their appearance. Traditions are important, right? They bind us to our family. They bind us to our culture. But I have a question. Well, two. What do you do when traditions start feeling routine? Are you allowed to tweak them?

Here’s our situation. We have a small family. There’s me, my man and our now-grown-up boy and girl. My man and I each have one un-partnered sibling, and then there’s my parents and my man’s mum and her husband. My mother-in-law’s family is all in the UK. With such a little bunch of us, and with no-one having to juggle competing family demands, it makes sense for us to all do Christmas together. And since our family of four sits in the centre of both extended families, and our house has the most suitable space – and a pool – we host the day. When the kids were younger this was great – no need to ferry between different houses and they didn’t need to be parted from their pressies.  The day has a routine. Everyone arrives, drinks are poured, the usual seats are plonked down into, presents are distributed and opened. ‘Thank yous’ and nods are shared around the room and the nibblies I’ve prepared are eaten before we sit down at our thoughtfully arranged places *wink*, crack open the Christmas bonbons and try to get the streamers from the poppers to drape from the light fitting that hangs above the table. There’s seafood for entree, ham and turkey with roast potatoes, various salads then plum pudding studded with the old thr’pences and shillings that belonged to my nanna. By 4pm everyone is ‘full to pussy’s bow’ and the male members of the family seem to have flaked out around various rooms in the house (not quite sure why this is when it is my mum and me doing the food prep!). But after eighteen years of doing the hosting bit, with the same crowd, I’m starting to feel like some of the excitement has gone from the day. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and I feel blessed that I have been able to spend every Christmas Day with my parents and my brother for so many years. And my man has been able to spend it with his brother and mum, and each set of grandparents has been able to spend it with their only grandchildren. How fortunate are we? But now that we don’t have the Christmas energy of little people infusing our day, I feel like we need to do something different to give the day a bit of a rev up. But how far can you break with tradition without ruining the day?

Could I throw some snags and chicken on the barbie, and as long as there are pressies and bonbons would that be enough to make it feel like Christmas? Could I change it from lunch to dinner? Could we all go to a restaurant for lunch?

Last year, I decided to scrap the entree and just go for more substantial pre-lunch nibbles. I thought this might leave a little more room in our tums so that we could actually enjoy eating some pudding! My mum seemed a little hesitant when I suggested this but I think it worked okay! This year I’m adding an ice-cream plum pudding to the dessert menu after my boy said that he finds the traditional one a little filling at the end of the meal. My mum suggested we could ditch the pudding for something like a lemon tart (we’re not a pav family) but I think for my brother and my English mother-in-law, it wouldn’t be Christmas without a pud! We only ever have turkey at Christmas so it wouldn’t feel quite the same without that on the table.

And that would be the worst thing. To have a Christmas Day that doesn’t feel like Christmas – even if the day isn’t as thrilling or exciting as I remember it as a child, or when own boy and girl were little. Maybe it’s not the traditions I need to tweak, but the way I think about it. This is what Christmas is for us and this is what holds us together as a family. One day, I assume, I’ll have to share my kids – and grandkids! – with other families on Christmas Day so perhaps it’s best that I not tamper with our traditions too much in the meantime. Maybe some extra baubles hanging around the house, an updated Christmas playlist and that ice cream plum pudding are all we need.

Have you ever changed your traditions? Did it work? Or did it make you yearn for the way it was?

I hope you have a happy Christmas Day however you celebrate.

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Ten good things about this weekend

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This is the second in an occasional series (that means I wrote another post like this back in March!) about what’s been nice about this weekend. I’m sure there have been other pleasant weekends in between but this one has been choc full of good stuff!

  1. Meeting new people at my friend Isabel’s book club.
  2. Eating dumplings with the same new book club buddies.
  3. Movie date with another friend. We saw Murder on the Orient Express. It was entertaining, the costumes were lovely and I liked that Michelle Pfeiffer’s face had lots of movement to it. And she still looked gorgeous.
  4. Not getting hit by a car as my friend and I jumped off the tram. Phew! That would have put a dampener on the weekend!
  5. Buying this book for next month’s book club. I think it looks super interesting.
  6. Coffee in the gardens with my man.
  7. Warming sunshine with a gentle cooling breeze.
  8. Catching up with a friend for her birthday, drinking wine and munching through a burrito bowl.
  9. Watching the second season of Happy Valley.
  10. An early finish at work for my girl which saved us from a late night pick up.

And now it’s time to settle down now in front of Postcards. It’s our traditional finish to the weekend. Yep, it’s all pretty much advertorial but it’s nice to find out about local places to visit. And there’s always the anticipation of whether Bec will do the one or two handed wave with her ‘bye, bye for now’! How’s your weekend been? Have you had some chill time? Has it been a social one? Or has some solo time allowed you to recharge for the week?

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Taking Stock: October ‘17

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Hello, my pumpkins! Happy Halloween, if that’s your thing. How’s your October been? I think mine’s been pretty tickety-boo. Here’s what’s been happening.

Making: a weaving with a bit of a mid-century vibe

Eating: steak, salad, scalloped potatoes – and mango. Yay for summer fruit!

Drinking: tea, tea, tea

Cooking: the steak and potatoes I’m eating

Watching: Jamie Oliver cook with five ingredients, Sunshine – have loved seeing some Sudanese-Australian faces on our tv screen, and it was a cracking story too

Reading: I Am Pilgrim for book group. It’s quite long and not the genre I’d usually pick but I’m giving it the thumbs up at this stage

Wearing: my dressing gown and slippers

Feeling: disgusted by the government’s treatment of asylum seekers on Manus Island

Hoping: the marriage plebiscite comes back as a resounding YES

Noticing: two political answers in a row!

Opening: an Etsy shop! Eep! I did it! You can find it over here. There’s only a handful of weavings at the moment but more will appear!

Wondering: why the seal on my milk bottles sometimes refuses to peel away easily. So annoying! And it makes me feel vaguely pathetic that I can’t lift a little circle of plastic

Wishing: they would finish the gasworks in my street soon. It’s been going on for WEEKS

Liking: that the postie delivered my copy of If You Can Cut You Can Collage today. That was a nice pressie to myself after minding a sobbing child who just wanted to ‘see Mummy’. How to make him understand Mummy was out for just a little bit? Sobbed until he fell asleep under his play table 😩

Hearing: the dog barking at the possums *sigh*. That time of night…

Hoping: my mum doesn’t need to have surgery for a hernia but thinking that’s probably not going to be the case

Bookmarking: a list of shows to watch. Mindhunter is top of the list after recommendations from my boy and some friends

Waiting: for the spring racing season to be over. I don’t get the excitement over a horse.  Why do people want to drape themselves in Winx memorabilia? I figure if the only way to enjoy the races is to dress up and drink champagne and gamble your money away then the horse racing itself can’t be very entertaining. Sorry if I’m being a bit un-Victorian saying that. I love the football!

Thinking: I should buy a bunch of flowers just cos!

Buying: wool on sale for future weavings, and a Frankie which I still haven’t got around to looking at!

Knowing: another year is drawing to a close and the ‘C’ goodies are already appearing in the shops

So there we go. October done and dusted! Did you get up to anything fab?

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Have you read…? This new Australian fiction

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Gosh, it’s been a while since a book post made it to the blog! The last one was focussed on some US titles so this time around – and thanks to my Melbourne Writers Festival book discount – I thought I’d go for some of our home grown authors!

The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose Set in New York, Heather Rose was awarded this year’s Stella Prize for her novel about art and love. Centred by the work of performance artist, Marina Ambromović and her work,  The Artist is Present which was staged in 2010 at MoMA, it tells the story of a number of visitors who come to the gallery to view her work, in addition to giving voice to Marina’s own thoughts about her work and her history. The gallery visitor whose storyline we are most concerned with is Arky Levin. Arky is a film composer and lives alone as his wife, who is ill, has requested he no longer see her. During one of his visits he strikes up a conversation with Jane Miller, an art teacher who is recently widowed, and is visiting from Georgia. Other gallery visitors with whom Arky and Jane cross paths are a doctoral student, a sometime-lover of Arky’s, and an art critic. We also hear the voice from the grave of Marina’s mother. Whilst the novel could be read through the lens of ‘what is art?’ given the quite confronting pieces of performance art Ambromović has created, for me, the novel was much more about love, grief and endurance. How could Arky endure the loss of his relationship with his wife whilst she was still living, still his wife? How could Jane come to terms with the loss of her husband and move on into a world with her own identity? How did Ambromović’s parents survive war and each other? How did Ambromović endure the demands her work placed upon her, physically, and the loss of her own relationship? I wanted to love this novel, and whilst it was beautifully written and the premise was interesting, it fell a little bit short of ‘five stars’ for me. Perhaps there were a few too many characters. I enjoyed Arky’s story, and Jane’s, but I didn’t feel a great deal of affection, or interest, in the storyline of the other characters. And if I can be a bit nit-picky, I had to remind myself on a few occasions that this book was set in New York, and the characters were American. If I think back to the session at the Melbourne Writers Festival where Hannah Kent and Tracy Chevalier spoke about how they set about writing in the voice of a place and time, for me, Rose fell short. There were references to streets in Harlem that don’t exist, Americans wouldn’t offer to give their ‘mobile’ phone number, talk about ‘shareholders’, or ‘primary’ school,  and Jane’s voice failed to sing with a southern twang. The book may have been set in New York, but I didn’t entirely feel like I was there. So, verdict? It was interesting, and well-written but I enjoyed previous Stella winners, The Natural Way of Things and The Strays more.

The Choke by Sofie Laguna This one I loved wholeheartedly! Nine-year-old Justine lives with her grandfather, a survivor of the Thai-Burma railway, on three acres near the banks of the Murray River. Her mother is no longer on the scene and her father comes and goes. Her two half-brothers live with their mother nearby. Justine has few allies in her life, and those she does have – her Aunty Rita, her friend, Michael, and a teacher, Miss Frost – lack permanence. As in her previous novel, The Eye of the Sheep, Laguna explores themes of violence, misogyny, and the innocence and incomprehension of the child. There is a lot happening in this novel, and Laguna captures beautifully how Justine, who is dyslexic, senses that there is more to her family’s life than she can understand. Justine says ,”I knew shadows of things; I could see the letters but I didn’t know the order. I stole a look at Dad’s face as he drove; it was a door that wouldn’t open.” Swirling in Justine’s shadows are the circumstances of her grandmother’s death and how it changed her father; the darkness of his behaviour and activities; the scars her pop carries with him from his time in the war; why her pop shuns her Aunty Rita for being “unnatural”; and the consequences of her association with a local family, the Worlleys, with whom her own family has fallen out. She desperately needs someone to care for her, and that someone is just not there. As her ignorance determined her fate, my heart ached for her, and as she learned to stand up for herself, I cheered for her. A highly recommended read.

Ache by Eliza Henry Jones I first came across Henry Jones’ s work in an article she wrote for The Sunday Age. I can’t recall what it was about but I remember I enjoyed her writing and so was keen to read this, her new novel. Bushfires have raged through the mountains where Annie grew up. At the time of the fires, Annie was visiting home with her daughter, Pip, and became ‘the face’ of the fires as a photograph of her and Pip felling the fires on horseback was plastered across the media. In addition, her beloved nana, Gladys, died in the fires, although not as a result of the fires but because she was crushed by a falling tree. Annie and Pip are both scarred by the fires, as are all members of the Quilly community, and in an effort to heal, Annie decides that she and Pip must return to the mountain from their suburban home. In doing so, Annie is faced with issues of belonging. Does she belong “to a place, or a person”, as her friend, Rose, articulates. Does she belong on the mountain, or with her husband, Tom, in their city home? Mother-daughter relationships are also explored as she returns to stay with her mother, Susan, who is almost Annie’s contemporary, having given birth to her at the age of fifteen, and as she reflects on the relationship she and her mother both had with Gladys, and Susan’s relationship with Pip. Henry Jones is a grief counsellor and so I trust her portrayals of the grief and trauma displayed by her characters. Aside from that, I wasn’t completely sold on this book. For me, I found the writing to be a little forced: the many references to “up the mountain’, “back on the mountain”, “down the mountain”; the “small circles” of city life compared with the “big circles’ of mountain life; broken people living in a “broken house”. I felt a little “yep, I get it!” I was also perplexed as to why Annie had left “the mountain” when it was clear that this was the environment she loved to live in, and, as a vet, work in? Yes, Tom was from “the flatlands” but how and why had they made the decision to settle there? Perhaps a little exploration of this would have added depth to the “belonging” theme. And, although it was eventually explained, I wasn’t convinced as to why the town displayed such animosity towards Annie? She was a local girl, after all, not a tree changer. I would like to read Henry Jones’s first novel, In the Quiet to see how it compares. If you’d like to read an interview with Henry Jones, pop over to Karen’s blog.

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

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