Taking Stock: March ’17

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Hey gang! How are you going? I have been feeling pretty good. Yep, I have. I’m enjoying the post-school life. There seems to be a lot more free time. Not quite sure why. Maybe it’s because I’m not having to run around sourcing costumes and dress up day clothes, which seemed to be needed with annoying frequency! So it’s good. But me being me, the guilt thoughts start to creep in, and there’s that little voice saying ‘everyone else is working, you need to be doing something!’ Because for some reason I don’t count doing cleaning the house, doing the washing, the garden, the cooking as doing anything! So I’ve started clearing out the attic to assuage the guilt. So much stuff up there! I’ve been making lots of trips to the Salvos!

So apart from becoming a manic attic cleaner, what’s been happening with my freed up time?

Making: still working away on my cosy stripe blanket. Had to undo about eight bands of colour the other night because I’d miscounted. Grrrr!

Eating: grapes

Drinking: tea

Cooking: rigatoni with salami, tomato and chilli

Hearing: the wind outside. It’s getting quite blowy out there

Listening: to lots of podcasts! This American LifeS-Town (think this is going to be good!), Chat 10 Looks 3, and The Messenger (an ‘interview’ with an asylum seeker detained on Manus Island)

Watching: This Is Us. I LOVE this! The relationship between Jack and child Kate, Randall (loved the night in the hotel excitement!), William, Kevin. All so good!

Reading: A Spool of Blue Thread

Looking: forward to a beginners weaving class next month

Loving: cuddling a sleeping baby at a new family I’m working with

Wearing: skirt, singlet, cardigan and beads

Noticing: I don’t know when school holidays are

Planning: a couple of short trips my man and I could take when work becomes less consuming for him

Wishing: the painter hadn’t found so much dry rot when he’d washed down the house! Eek! But what can you do? We have lovely new fretwork and window architraves now!

Opening: our garden waste bin a lot know that the leaves are falling and the raking has begun

Knowing: I need to make sure I don’t lose contact with my school mum friends

Has March been good for you? Do tell!

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Ten good things about this weekend

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What a BEAUTIFUL autumn weekend we have had in Melbourne! Low 30 degree days but a cool night for comfy sleeping. Thank you, weather gods! Lots of my weekends over the past four years have been centred around school activities and the stress surrounding the assessments the kiddies were facing in the coming week. Now we’ve hit uni life it’s not quite so intense on a week-to-week basis. Phew, phew, phew! And I was thinking this afternoon, that this has probably been one of the nicest weekends I have had in quite a long time. Here’s my ten reasons why.

  1. Perfect weather
  2. Having my man at home and fully awake. He’s been away or jet-lagged for quite a few weekends this year.
  3. Sitting in Canterbury Gardens with my man on Saturday afternoon beneath a shady oak – and watching two lovebirds getting hitched!
  4. A swim in our pool. I think it’s about two years since I’ve jumped in the pool (not literally – I only ever tentatively slip in). Stuck my toe in today after cleaning up the dog poo and thought it felt delightfully warm so popped the togs on and floated and splashed around.
  5. Morning walks and coffees with my man.
  6. Homemade burgers for tea with the family.
  7. Babysitting two perfectly behaved littlies on Saturday night.
  8. Flipping through the latest Frankie and Peppermint.
  9. A fresh couple of coats of green polish on my toenails (had to make sure that didn’t sound like I had some weird mouldy infection!)
  10. Booking our summer holiday – and thinking about destinations for some long weekend breaks.

Now I am off to unpack the dishwasher (yep, there are still chores to squeeze in between the nice bits) before squeezing in an episode or two of The Good Wife before bed. Yep, seriously behind on that one. Praise be to Netflix! I hope you have been able to find ten sunshiny moments in your weekend.

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Have you read…? The year to date in books

It’s been a while since I’ve done a book post so I think it’s time to do a quick round up of what has been sitting next to my bed, my couch, and shoved in my bag and carried around!

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The Book of Hygge by Louisa Thomsen Brits ‘Hygge’, that lovely concept of Danish cosiness, is hot right now, yes? And there are quite A LOT of books in the bookshops explaining to harried souls how they can incorporate hygge into their daily lives. This was the ‘how to hygge’ book that I received in my Christmas pile. It is a lovely looking book. The pics are muted and tranquil and they made me want to spend my days wandering through forests or sitting by candlelight with a mug of hot chocolate. And, to be honest, this is pretty much what the text said – over and over again! There was a lot of ‘hygge is stopping by at your neighbours and sharing a glass of wine on the verandah’,  ‘hygge is a basket of knitted slippers at your front door’, or ‘hygge is lighting a candle and eating breakfast together’. Now I am not averse to any of these suggestions, but I probably only need to hear the suggestion once, not once each chapter.  Reading the book made a long haul plane flight feel a bit more hygge-like, but I’m not sure if I’d been sitting on my couch at home that I would have continued reading it from cover to cover.

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The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North Fairly self-explanatory from the title what this one is about! The story of the wunderkind filmmaker Sophie’s life and death is told by those closest to her – her brother, ex-husband and lover, and those who were part of her working life – film subject, film reviewer and producer. As I read the novel, I was a little unsure how I felt about it. I wondered if I was learning more about the characters who had had relationships with Sophie, than I was about Sophie herself. The focus of their recollections seemed to be how THEY responded to Sophie, how she made THEM feel. But as I read on, I started thinking that in showing how they were affected by Sophie, they were painting a picture of her – a self-contained, distant young woman who was an observer of life (appropriate for a filmmaker!), who,  when she did become a participant, seemed driven by her own desires rather than the desire to share herself with others. For the most part, I found it difficult to warm to her, but Anna North has managed to infuse her with enough victimhood and trauma in her life for her to be seen as a psychologically isolated, tragic young woman. Not sure that I super enjoyed it, but the fact that I am still mulling it over weeks down the track shows it was an affecting read.

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The Dry by Jane Harper This was a goody! Set in the fictitious sunburnt Victorian town of Kiewarra, this thriller seeks to discover who was responsible for the murder of the Hadler family. Is it a murder-suicide, or is there a killer in the small town? Aaron Falk, a former local, now a member of the Federal Police, returns for the funeral of his old friend, Luke Hadler, and is persuaded by Luke’s father to assist in the investigation. Aaron’s return stirs up the town’s emotions surrounding the crircumstances of the death, years earlier, of Ellie Deacon, a friend of Aaron’s and Luke’s. Were they involved in her death? Had Luke killed her? Had Aaron? This novel had sufficient twists and turns to keep me wondering throughout as to what had taken place, and satisfyingly, kept me guessing until the end on both counts. Recommended!

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Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance And now for some non fiction! Hillbilly Elegy is part autobiography, part social commentary. JD Vance grew up in Kentucky, then Ohio before becoming a Marine and then graduating from Yale Law School. He spent much of his life living with his grandparents whilst his mother battled drug addiction and cycled through one failing relationship after another. Vance shines a light on what constitutes hillbilly culture – its genesis and how it has spread from the south to the Midwest as hillbillies have migrated in the search for work. Alongside his own story of what it was like to grow up in this culture, his time spent in the Marines, and at Yale, he describes the culture of a people who feel hardly done by through the decline blue collar jobs; who feel minorities have gained an advantage over them through Democrat presidencies. Being Australian, I have read this book as an outsider – I cannot judge how accurate his evaluation is. I have read some criticisms of the book; that Vance seems to be saying that because he has become successful, others could too if they’d only put in the work. I didn’t get that impression from the book. I saw it more as explaining why there was a disaffected group in US society ripe for the politics of Donald Trump. And throughout, for me, he was conscious of his good fortune in having a family who despite their violent tendencies, aggressive behaviour and addictions, valued education and knew that he could achieve. They knew he had the ability to choose a path in life, that he didn’t have to accept what was, and it is this that he feels needs to be role modelled for those growing up within the hillbilly culture. An interesting read to learn more about US society.

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Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty I’ve never read any Liane Moriarty before and with Big Little Lies hitting the small screen, I thought it was time to give her a go. I’m not sure if this novel is reflective of her others, but I have to say I was a little underwhelmed by this one. The story revolves around three couples, Erika and Oliver, Erika’s ‘best friend’ Clementine and her husband, Sam, and Erika’s neighbours, Vid and Tiffany. The three couples, plus the daughters of Clementine and Sam, and Vid and Tiffany, gather for a barbecue one afternoon at Vid and Tiffany’s. Early on we learn that something has taken place at the barbecue that shakes the relationship between the couples. The chapters flick between the day of the barbecue and the present where we are made aware of the strains in Erika and Clementine’s friendship, Erika’s mother’s hoarding, Clementine’s cello audition, and Vid and Tiffany’s attempts to maintain a relationship with Clementine and Sam in the wake of the barbecue. For me this was a page turner but only because there was such a heavy-handedness in writing about what had happened at the barbecue – along the lines of ‘if only we’d stayed home’, ‘if only we hadn’t agreed’ – that I was saying through gritted teeth ‘just get on with it!’. I’m not sure that I felt the fallout from the incident to be entirely warranted, and I didn’t warm to the characters sufficiently to be concerned with their stories once the incident had been revealed. As a holiday read, maybe it’s okay. I guess I’d say ‘proceed with caution’!

Have you been reading anything interesting this year? Have you read any of these? Should I try another Liane Moriarty?

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Getting back on the horse – and a ‘taking stock’ of sorts

Well hey there! Here I am! I tell you, it feels like it has been a while since I have had the chance to sit down and immerse myself in a blog post. Not to say that this is going to have any earth-shattering insights. Rather it is me climbing gently back on the horse – or the bike – whatever takes your fancy! The kiddies – can I still call them that now that they are both adults?- have started back at uni this week and my brain is beginning to find some breathing space again *sigh*. Usually we have a week down at the beach over the summer to allow for chill time but this year we headed overseas, which was excellent, but it’s a different kind of holiday, isn’t it, when you are out and about, taking in the sights? And when we returned, my girl was ON A MISSION to clock up her driving hours so she could go for her driver’s licence (note for non-Aussie readers –  under 21s need 120 hours of driving practice before they can take the test) so we were driving here, there and everywhere around Melbourne and beyond chasing those hours! Want to see a movie? Great, Lion is on at a cinema 35km away (left the cinema with tear-stained cheeks). Let’s drive for half an hour to see La La Land (both felt a bit ‘meh’). Coffee? There’s an excellent cafe on the other side of town. Love being with my girl, but it was quite time consuming, and ate into those long summer days with nothing to do but mooch around the house and do a bit of self-reflection!

Anyhoo, the last couple of weeks have had a few less commitments and I THINK I’m now back in a place where I can plump up the old brain and get some creative juices flowing, where I can absorb a little more of what I’ve been reading, and I can get out and about to explore what is going on in my lovely city. A nice way to balance the other responsibilities of life!

So this is how things have been chugging along so far.

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Started this cosy stripe blanket. Pretty happy with its progress!
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Joined in with the weekly challenges for The Collage Club
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Went to the David Hockney exhibition at the NGV
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Borrowed Truly Madly Guilty from the library. Nearly finished it. I’ve never read Liane Moriarty before so was keen to give her a try. A page turner but I’m getting a little impatient for it to wrap up.
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Dipped my toes into doing a little bit of journalling. This one was from a lovely summer’s evening sitting with my boy whilst waiting for my girl.

Feeling a bit more content within myself with this under my belt. The last few months, I felt a bit shrivelled inside! Think I fell into a bit of a rut with the whole end of year commitments, beginning of year activities, and then this sort of PARALYSIS sets in where you don’t feel you have the time to create, and then when little spaces open, there’s no ideas in the head, so you just sit like a BLOB scrolling through Facebook and Insta feeds. Or maybe that’s just me!

But now I’m back on the horse and hoping to keep cantering along!

Catch up again soon!

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When the stars align

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It’s a bit of a blowy old day here. The sky is grey and it has a touch of the ‘hunker down inside’ feel about it. You know when you have one of those days when the stars align? The weather is perfect for your mood? The day demands nothing of your time? Yep, I’m having one of those. And it is bliss!

It started with a Sunday morning walk, but a solo one as the man has a broken foot. Love having him for company but it was quite nice to hit the streets by myself with a podcast for company, and then meet up with him at our new local favourite for coffee. Lunch was leftovers from dinner last night so no need to think what to have. Love that! Why can’t leftovers always appear in my fridge? Gosh, my heart always does a little skip when I spy something yummy from last night’s dinner in the fridge!

Uni is yet to start so the boy and the girl are relaxed and happy with no brain power demanded of them. Many of our recent Sundays have been taken up with driving practice as the girl strives to accrue the hours needed before she can do her test but today she’s happy to take a break. Nice!

The day is inviting me to relax. I’ve been reading my bookbuying wool, drinking coffee and tea, and feeling quite at peace with the world. I’ve got burgers for dinner, so I don’t even really need to think about too much cooking tonight! I do need to make an after dinner sweety-treaty but I think I can manage to get off the couch in my chilled state and whip something up. Might do it whilst having a glass of wine…or a G&T. Decisions!

How has your day been? Have you had the stars align for you?

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Taking Stock: January ’17

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Gah! Can you believe it? January 31 already! It feels like it has been quite a full month. It started out in wintry New York and has ended in sunny Melbourne. In between there’s been LOTS of driving around Melbourne as my girl has been trying to get up her hours before going for her licence, 18th birthday celebrations, university offers and subject choices and a husband with a broken foot! Phew! I feel like a need a holiday sitting by the beach! Alas, that is not about to happen, so instead, I’ll take stock whilst sitting on my couch.

Making: another one of these for Softies for Mirabel

Reading: The Dry by Jane Harper

Drinking: tea

Cooking: sausages and mash

Eating: passionfruit and nectarine

Watching: Lion with my girl over the other side of town at Sun Theatre. Yep, getting up those driving hours! What a tear jerker! Having said that, I cried in Beverly Hills Chihuahua when the doggy friends had to part!

Hearing: the clunking of crutches coming down the hallway

Savouring: extra holiday time since the now-two uni students still have another four weeks at home!

Loving: the flowers my man brought home to celebrate our wedding anniversary tomorrow!

Liking: morning walks to the shops to buy provisions.  More relaxed start to the day than jumping in the car

Marvelling: at the way my girl has reunited with a friend from years ago and it’s as if they’ve never been apart

Wishing: Trump hadn’t been elected

Cheering: protesters

Hoping: the girl’s room will actually be cleaned up tomorrow!

Wanting: a little more quiet reading time

Celebrating: regaining a bit of creative mojo

Bookmarking: Craftsy classes

Attempting: a little bit of art journaling

Looking: forward to a weekend catch up with friends

Enjoying: sunshine and warm air

What have you been enjoying this month? Do you have some happy things to look forward to in 2017?

 

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New York!

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img_1011September 2016 heralded a year of significant life events in our family – my man’s 50th, my girl’s graduation from secondary school, her 18th, our 25th wedding anniversary, and my boy’s 21st. Phew! To celebrate all of this – and maybe that this could be our last family holiday – we decided to spend two weeks in New York for our ‘summer’ holiday. We were all quite excited! We spent five nights there just over five years ago so we’d done the big ticket touristy items – Top of the Rock, Empire State, Statue of Liberty, 9/11 Memorial. This time round we were looking forward to exploring the different neighbourhoods, seeing some different galleries and having the opportunity to go to the theatre (me and the girl) and the basketball and ice hockey (the males in the family). Gosh, that last bit sounds like a traditional gender split, doesn’t it? Anyhoo…here are the highlights!

  1. Snow! I know some of you northern hemisphere folk must be thinking that’s a bit crazy with all the shovelling and plowing and general brushing off of snowy clothing and shoes, but it’s a novelty for us. Sure, we can drive to the ski fields and toboggan runs for a bit of snow play, but snow in the streets? On rooftops? In the park? Very beautiful!
  2. Art – in galleries and on the street. Last time we scratched the surface at The Met. This time we scratched a little more, and made it to the Guggenheim and MoMA but, really, you could spend weeks just looking at art museums. And I loved keeping my eye out for street art and loved looking at the artwork in the subway.
  3. The subway! Love it! Where we live, we do have great access to public transport but gosh, I love a proper subway! Frequent, interconnecting. Big ticks from me! And there was some pretty cool busking happening down there too!
  4. Sharing a subway ride with Mandy Patinkin. He was texting with the big type face and had on New Balance runners. There were a few other Broadway types my girl spotted roaming the streets and in audiences. She was excited!
  5. Architecture. Maybe NY isn’t as uniformly, romantically beautiful as Paris but I love the mixture of European inspired buildings, the cast iron district, Art Deco, and modern architecture.  And with the grid plan of Manhattan, there are great sight lines. The High Line is a fantastic way to view the rooftops and to peer behind buildings.
  6. Cynthia Erivo in The Color Purple. Phenomenal! We cried! (Actually, we cried in all the shows we went to see!) I could feel my girl shuddering next to me! And then when we left at the end of the show we wound up in the front row for signings at the stage door – got one Playbill signed for the girl and another for one her friends at home. Pretty chuffed with that! And what a fab, enthusiastic audience. Lots of ‘you go, girl!’, ‘that’s right, honey’.
  7. I’m not the sort of person who goes away for the shopping but LOVE AnthropologiePurl Soho and  Paper Source.
  8. The Bryant Park Winter Village. A lovely pop-up market behind the New York Public Library.
  9. Chatting to our neighbouring diners at Bluestone Lane, one of the ‘Melbourne cafes’ in NY, who asked if my brunch of eggs, feta, mushies, spinach and tomatoes was any good. It was delicious, how could it not be? They said they’d try it next time they came in. Oh, and I think they thought my girl and I were friends rather than mother and daughter so had a spring in my step walking out of there!
  10. Buying my groceries in Fairway to the strains of Ol’blue eyes singing ‘New York New York’!

And, of course, when you’re in another country there’s always the differences from home that you notice. No judgement, just observations!

  1. The water level in the toilet bowls is unusually high to my Aussie eyes.
  2. Snow is preferable to rain.
  3. Yale and Columbia are AMAZING campuses. Melbourne and Monash Unis are tiddly by comparison. The photos and names in their bookstores are both awe-inspiring and intimidating.  I didn’t see Rory’s photo at Yale…maybe she needs to write a few more articles for New Yorker!
  4. There are A LOT of theatre nerds! My girl found her people! Eavesdropping on conversations in the theatre and at the stage door there were lots of ‘I’ve seen this ‘x’ times’, ‘I saw…last night/week’. One guy had brought along a birthday present for Cynthia and was coming to the show again four days later!
  5. Ads on TV for some pretty heavy duty medication. We’re talking chemotherapy drugs, Crohn’s, psoriasis, MS, diabetes. ‘Ask your doctor about…’ Why? I’m assuming my doctor would know about these drugs and whether they were an option for me. And then there’s the list of possible side effects warnings! The one we found most perplexing was a cancer treatment drug – ‘This drug is effective in prolonging your life. Side effects may include confusion, diarrhoea, racing heart and death.’ What???!!!
  6. Very tiny power points.
  7. Are there landscapers in the US? On the train from NY to New Haven – cos Gilmore Girls fans! – we noticed the houses didn’t seem to have any gardens, just grass and maybe a couple of shrubs right at the front of the house, maybe a tree. And not much in the way of fences. Was this just a Connecticut thing? We researched further by watching many episodes of Fixer Upper and House Hunters but again, we failed to see much in the way of garden design. So…are home gardens ever landscaped? And how do you keep a dog safe without fences?

And now we’re home – with an extra suitcase! I don’t think the boy will need to buy clothes for the rest of his uni degree, and the girl now has enough casual clothes to wear after spending the last ten years wearing a uniform every school day! If it was our last family holiday, it was a good one. And that’s the best souvenir to bring home.

Have you been away over Christmas and the new year? Have you been to New York? Do you still have lots of family holidays left to enjoy? Next year, we’ll be back at Apollo Bay – with or without the kiddies. We’ll just have to wait and see!

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