Taking Stock: September ’16

image

Happy spring or happy fall, depending upon where you are! Have you felt a change in the weather? We haven’t experienced a lot of spring warmth here in Melbourne but the days are certainly getting that bit longer. I’ve been watching the shelves at my greengrocer’s for the appearance of summer fruit. Whilst I don’t hate the apple, banana or mandarin, they are a little pedestrian. Berries, stone fruit, mangoes…well, they are just a bit more enticing, don’t you think? But whilst the days have still been a little chill and rainy, this is how I’ve been passing the time.

Making: a skirt for a futuristic themed 18th my girl was invited to. Honestly, there have been so many costumes this year between 18ths and school dress up days!

Reading: The Turner House. I’ve been a bit unfocussed with my reading of late but I am enjoying it.

Watching: The Bachelorette. Love Georgia and LOVE the guys this year. How could you get rid of any of them? Oh well, maybe Rhys!

Smelling: peanut butter and choc chip cookies fresh out of the oven

Hearing: my girl humming as she studies for maths. It creates the illusion that she is enjoying it but I know the reality is different!

Cooking: pasta for boy before he heads out to work.

Drinking: instant coffee. Nothing fancy today.

Eating: maybe eggs for lunch?

Enjoying: sleeping a bit better the last few nights. No night sweats! Do you feel me menopausal pals? Far out! The continual search for the cool spot in bed!

Liking: that our kids are now bigger so that I can have the odd weekend away with my man without needing to organise babysitters. So much freedom!

Wanting: to get onto a new craft project just not sure what.

Pondering: Disgraced, the play my girl and I went to see last night. Lots of stuff in there about identity and prejudice and changing societies. A play for our times.

Hoping: the coming months will not be too stressful.

Wearing: sloppy clothes. Yoga pants, t-shirt and hoodie. Need to change out of that soon otherwise I’ll feel slothful all day.

Finding: myself stressing out too much.

Wondering: why I let myself get stressed out too much! Just let it go!

Opening: my laptop to write this!

Giggling: at Michelle shopping with Ellen

So that’s September! Have you been baking or making? Watching or reading? Taking Stock posts spring from the creative brain of Pip Licolne. Maybe you want to have a go too?

image

Celebrating the big 5-0 (it wasn’t mine!)

image.jpegimage.jpegimage.jpegimage.jpeg

image

image

imageLast week my man turned the big 5-0. I’ve known him since he was the not-so-big 2-0 (the age my boy is at the moment which is kinda strange!) and he’s still just as lovely! What do you get the man who has everything, or at least everything he needs? He is but a simple soul! No point getting objects for the sake of it. That just adds to clutter or landfill down the track. Nup. That’s no good. Much better to choose an experience pressie, I think! I made him a nice little card gifting him three nights away, with promises of beach walks, coffees, reading and TV viewing and a yummy lunch (well, that was actually my parents’ gift to him but it was still part of the weekend!)

We didn’t head anywhere particularly exotic, just an hour or so drive from home down to the Mornington Peninsula, but the less travel time, the more time away doing nice things, don’t you agree? Did the weekend live up to its promises? I think it did! Here’s some of the things we enjoyed.

  • beach walks in glorious sunshine
  • and then listening to the rain at night
  • gazing out at the water from the balcony of our apartment
  • coffee at A Mini Kitchen. They had the most DELICIOUS looking sweet treats. Bikkies that begged ‘EAT ME’, friands, slices, cupcakes and a spectacular meringue slathered orange and limoncello cake.
  • a yummy lunch at the epicurean. There was quite a wait so we didn’t eat til 2.30pm which felt like quite a break out of our normal daily routine. We were ‘full to pussy’s bow’ after our lunch so it was tea and toast for dinner!
  • admiring the local street art and the huge canvases of Miodrag Jankovic that were on display in a local gallery (had a chat to him too!)
  • watching The Bank Job and Arne Dahl together, then I left him to curse at the soccer whilst I warmed my legs under the doona with Stranger Things on my iPad. Not usually a sci-fi fan but my girl said she thought I’d like it and wow! The kid actors are amazing! Watching it for them, if nothing else.

I think it turned out to be quite a nice birthday present. Simple, uncomplicated, cosy. Just like him! He said he’ll have the same for his next 50th!

What do you prefer for birthdays? Some thing wrapped with a bow or something to do and remember? Are you a fan of a mini-break close to home?

Have you read…? The Course of Love by Alain de Botton

image.jpeg

The Course of Love by Alain de Botton follows the lives of Kirsten and Rabih Khan. We journey with them from the time of their meeting as work associates, through their courtship, early years of marriage and then as the parents of babes who grow into teens. It explores the way we communicate in a marriage, how this can enhance – or harm – our relationship. It is about the changing nature of the relationship between spouses throughout the course of their marriage. It is about love – how it shapes us and what it demands of us. De Botton intersperses the narrative of Kirsten and Rabih’s lives with philosophical insights which at times explain their behaviour towards each other; at other times, they provide insight into how they could improve their communication. As I was reading the novel, I was constantly asking myself if it was a dissection of a marriage, an instruction manual, an explanation. In then end, it doesn’t matter what it is; what matters is that it is, at least for those of us who are married – or in a long term relationship – a thoroughly relatable, and salutary, story.

De Botton writes with the candour that has made him so successful at bringing philosophy to the wider population. He makes us think about what is happening in our relationship, in effect using Kirsten and Rabih as a case study. What is it that causes the little niggles between us? What is the best response to coping with any barbs that may spring from our partner’s mouth? Is it true that we should be honest with each other at all times? Is keeping secrets consistent with love? Is our perception of what makes a ‘happy marriage’ out of step with how marriage plays out in real life? This is articulately explained, towards the end of the novel, when he writes

By the standards of most love stories, our own, real relationships are almost all damaged and unsatisfactory…we should be careful not to judge our relationships by the expectations imposed on us by a frequently misleading aesthetic medium. The fault lies with art, not life…we may need to tell ourselves more accurate stories – stories that don’t dwell so much on the beginning, that don’t promise us complete understanding, that strive to normalise our troubles and show us a melancholy yet hopeful path through the course of love.

The novel, and de Botton’s insights, provide a realistic portrayal of marriage. There are times of joy, drudgery, uncertainty of feelings but the marriage endures. I found it to be a novel of encouragement and hope – that if we accept ourselves and our partner as flawed, and that our relationship is not always going to be perfect, that we can make our marriage endure. A highly recommended read.

image

Taking Stock: August ’16

image.jpeg

Hi there! How are you, lovely friends? Gosh, this month has whizzed by. Has it for you too? It’s had a little bit of everything for me. Some quite stressful days, some chill times, some ‘feeling a bit quiet and alone’ times (my man has been away with work for a couple of weeks but home soon!) So time to sit back and have a reflect on where I am at the moment now that August is drawing to a close – and to take time to admire these lovely hellebores in my garden!

Making: this cowl. A perfect ‘in front of the TV’ knit!

Noticing: my elbow is sore from too much knitting!

Cooking: scallops for dinner tonight – with some crispy bacon, lemon, parsley. Yum! My man’s not a fan, so whilst he’s away…

Drinking: green tea

Eating: leftover lasagne from last night. Love a leftover. You open the fridge and it’s like a little gift just waiting there to be consumed!

Reading: The Course of Love. As on old married woman, I’m really enjoying this. Lots to say about the ‘course of love’.

Waiting: for the final year of school for my girl to come to an end. What a slog it has been!

Knowing: that school will come to an end!

Looking: at the blossom that is appearing on the trees. So pretty!

Hearing: the gentle hum of the heating

Watching: Veep again for the laughs, Outlander for the drama and Children on the Frontline to keep everything in perspective

Wondering: why people can be so destructive towards each other

Remembering: who’s home for dinner each night! Where is the routine? Gah!

Feeling: a bit bad that I’ve slept really well whilst my man has been away. Love him to bits but a couple of weeks without snoring and heavy breathing has been quite nice!

Smelling: daphne on my morning walk

Thinking: about birthday presents for my man and my boy. What to buy???

Opening: my sketchbook most days

Enjoying: keeping up my drawing practice

So. There we go. That’s August! Have you had stressful days? Calm days? Do you need to take stock too?

image

Is it busy…or just out of our control?

image

image

image

Oh, hello there! How are you? Has been a little while since I popped in here. Much to my disappointment. I miss being able to write about what’s been going on. But, you know, as Emily said there’s other stuff that gets in the way sometimes.  I’m not going to resort to the ‘oh, I’ve been so busy!’ exclamation – or explanation.  It seems to me that some people choose to wear this statement as a badge of honour or to inflate their sense of self. Maybe that’s not the intention, but that’s the way I see it.  Perhaps I’m being too critical. When you have multiple people living in a home, with varying schedules, varying commitments and varying levels of dependency sometimes the days fill without you having any control over them. That’s the way it’s been here. Other people have been shaping my days, not me! And it made me feel a bit tired – and overwhelmed. At times like these, if I chance to read about the ‘slow’ movement, my eyes start to well. ‘Oh, yes, please!’ my little inner voice cries, but I’m not sure how to make that work with young adults in the family – their lives aren’t quite as subject to our management as when they were younger. And, you know, we rejoice when they have the enthusiasm to embrace the opportunities that are presented to them so…what to do?!

Anyhoo, the last few days, I’ve got to back to having a bit more input into my days so that has been welcome. This is what I’ve chosen to do. And perhaps I’ve been a little extra generous to myself too!

A day in the country I popped on the train and headed out of town to visit the lovely Emily. We had a trawl through an op shop and each picked up a few $3 vintage books. One of the op shop volunteers asked us if we wanted to have some soup because it was ‘free soup Tuesday’. That’s country manners for you! We declined as we had lunch booked at  Mill Rose Cottage– where we did have soup! A delicious mushroom, leek and thyme soup. Tummies filled, we wandered through the shop next door which is fabric heaven for any quilters- or keen sewers (hope you read that word correctly!) out there. The most stunning fabrics – and a Liberty room. We met a lady with two whole albums – like an old swap card album -of Liberty samples she has been putting together over the last few months. Stunning! I bought some gorgeously soft wool to make a cowl. Emily gave me a little travelling watercolour set which she had made for me. Aren’t I lucky?

Solo trip to the movies I took myself off to see Love and Friendship, an adaptation of Jane Austen’s novella, Lady Susan. I may have had a moment or two of noddy in the movie because, you know, still very tired (!) but I certainly saw enough to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the film. Gorgeous costumes, gorgeous language and a truly ridiculous character in Sir James Martin played beautifully by Tom Bennett.

Coffee in the park A spring-like sunny day today so after my yoga class, I headed to the park with a coffee and my book for a little sustenance and read before the fruit and veggie shopping. It was lovely to feel the sun’s warmth and to feel the breeze freshen my spirits. So nice!

So! There we go! I knew last week that there was light at the end of the tunnel but nevertheless, sometimes you get a bit bogged down by it, don’t you? Or maybe you don’t? And what do you think of the whole ‘busy’ thing? Off to bake cookies for the fam now!

image

Have you read…? Any of these!

image.jpeg

Oh dear! I do have some catch up to do! It is a LONG time since a book review popped up here but I promise you, I HAVE been reading! Just haven’t got to WRITING about what I’ve been reading. So. Here we go. A quick run down of what’s been sitting next to my bed and beside my couch!

Reckoning by Magda Szubanski

For any non-Australian readers, Magda Szubanksi is one of our most beloved comic actors and has been a fairly constant presence on our TV screens since the late 1980s. Maybe think of Dawn French or Melissa McCarthy. Her autobiography, Reckoning, is a beautifully written, fascinating, illuminating, touching insight into her life and the life of her family.  Born in Liverpool to a Scottish mother and Polish father, her story of her identity spans the globe and reaches back into history as she tells of her father’s life as an assassin with the Polish resistance during World War 2. As I was reading, I couldn’t stop thinking about how difficult it must be to fit together the picture of the father who is now part of suburban Melbourne with the Polish youth living half a world away, in another time, killing Germans in cold blood. As she says in the first line of the book

If you had met my father you would never, not for an instant, have thought he was an assassin.

Alongside this aspect of her life, she also details the struggle she went through in being able to be open about her sexuality (she was very young when she realised she was gay); how it affected her sense of where she belonged and how it led to battles with food, weight and depression. And, of course, she details her life in theatre, television and film. A wonderful book about an incredibly complex life.

The Paper House by Anna Spargo-Ryan

My heart fell out on a spring morning – the kind that rose coolly in the east and set brightly in the west.

How can you not be captured by this opening line? And such lyrical writing continues throughout the novel. The Paper House tells the story of Heather and Dave as they face the unbearable sadness of a stillbirth, how they each negotiate their grief and the support they receive from Heather’s sister and distant father. For Heather, the loss of her child triggers, understandably, a deterioration in her mental health. As we witness this, we are also introduced, through flashback, to the tragic mental health battles of Heather’s own mother and how this affected their family as Heather was growing up. Spargo-Ryan also introduces us to Heather and Dave’s neighbours, Sylvia, and Ashok. As the three households interact, our eyes are opened to Sylvia’s own grief over the loss of her husband and how she and Ashok fill a hole in each other’s lives.

I loved the writing in this book. It was truly beautiful. My only niggle came from the nature of the mental health conditions suffered by Heather and her mother. I think this is more my own fault rather than Spargo-Ryan’s. Before I started reading, my preconception about the nature of Heather’s mental health battle was that it would be in the nature of depression and/or anxiety which I was interested in seeing explored but, whilst Spargo-Ryan deliberately chose not to name the condition, it seemed to be more a type of psychsosis. Heather’s mother’s condition, by contrast, appeared to me to be bipolar in nature. Related, yes, in that they are both mental illnesses but I think I would have preferred it if they had been the same; a genetic link. I’m trying to let go of this little niggle, because it is such a beautifully written book, but it’s still there, just below the surface!

The Strays by Emily Bitto

The Strays won the Stella Prize in 2015 for first time novelist Emily Bitto. Set in Melbourne in the 1930s, it is narrated by the adult Lily and is a recollection of the time she spent living with famed artist, Evan Trentham, his wife, Helena, their daughters and the various others artists (‘the strays’) who came to live with them. As a young girl on her first day at a new school Lily becomes friends with middle daughter, Eva. After school plays become sleepovers, weekends and then, when Lily’s father suffers a workplace injury, she lives, for a time, with the Trenthams permanently. Lily adores the free spirit of the home which is in sharp contrast to her own conservative home life. The dark side to the free spirit is an undeniable amount of self absorption by the Trentham parents and the artists. There is the desire for fame, acknowledgement, satiation of lust, and along the way, it is Eva and her sisters, and Lily, who get caught up and spat out by the behaviours of the adults in their lives.

This is yet another excellent novel by a female Australian writer. I have read so many recently! The characters and the setting are well realised, and Bitto has clearly been inspired by the lives of Sunday and John Reed in creating the Trenthams. We observe that whilst, in their art making, the artists may be great observers of their physical world, their own feelings and desires, in life, they do not observe the feelings of others or the damage that their actions are creating.

The Eye of the Sheep by Sofie Laguna

Another prize winner. This time, The Miles Franklin Award for 2015. Wow! I adored this book but I’m hesitant to say too much because I don’t want to give away spoilers. The story revolves around a young boy, Jimmy Flick. Jimmy’s condition is not named but I think it is reasonable to assume that he is autistic. He is obsessed with machinery and how things work and this is the way he attempts to make sense of the way people are behaving, including himself. Jimmy lives with his mum and dad and older brother, Robby.  Jimmy’s mum is the only person who is able to cope with his behaviour. His father finds it an enormous strain, and when combined with the work pressures and a fondness for drink, the home environment, despite the affection Jimmy’ parents have for one another, becomes a dangerous one. When tragedy comes to the home, Jimmy needs to learn how to navigate the world on his own.

The writing of Jimmy’s voice is stunning. I loved him and he tugged at all my maternal heartstrings. I loved his politeness and enthusiasm

Yes, Mr Ashworth. Yes, yes, I will. It’s ham, Mr Ashworth. It’s ham and pickle.

and his observations of his behaviour and others

I did what he said. I sucked oxygen through my mouth and down into my air passage until every cell got a portion. Oxygen was the glue, binding me together.

Like gravy and chips, my Dad had magnetic powers.  Mum had no defences for him.  He got in underneath. He was like a slice; she couldn’t give him up.

Really, I could pretty much quote the whole book! A highly recommended read.

 

Five good things to do in winter

image.jpeg

image

image.jpeg

It is chilly-billy in Melbourne at the moment. Yes it is. The sky has been fluctuating between a threatening shade of dark grey and bursts of blue, and the wind is a-blowing. Am I cracking the sads? Not really because I think there are some pretty nice things to do on cold and blustery days!

Make bolognese Comfort food! I loved it when I was a little and I could smell onions sweating in the pan on the old St George stove. I’m sure my mum sweated onions for a multitude of dishes but I’ve always associated that aroma with bolognese. Now that I’m the one making it, I appreciate the ability to make double quantity and whack half in the freezer for the night I don’t want to cook, and that everyone in the fam likes it. There is some debate over the ratio of sauce to pasta. The females in the house favour more spaghetti, the men, more sauce. What do you like?

Wear tights So much warmer than jeans or pants, right? I think they can add a touch of colour, fun and quirkiness to a grey winter’s day. I’m probably a bit more conservative in the tights wearing department so I tend to go for something along these lines but these are beautiful. The only bum note about tights – what’s with the weird itchiness that sometimes appears out of nowhere on the back of the thighs? Is it the tights? Is it the chair? Is it just me?

Knit or crochet a blanket/scarf It’s about warmth on multiple levels. As it grows, it warms your legs and your hands as you’re click-clacking or hooking away, you end up with a lovely, warming finished product from your hours of labour, and if you’ve made it as a gift for a friend or charity, it warms the cockles of your heart to present it to someone else. Wins all round I say! There are lots of lovely patterns on Ravelry and Love Knitting or you could be creative and make up your own pattern. And before you can make your woolly project, you need to visit the wool shop which is niceness in itself!

Binge watch Pride and Prejudice When this came out 20 years ago (eek!), I remember hearing a radio host saying she watched the whole six hours in one go and I scoffed ‘as if you’d do that!’. Yep, that’ll teach me! I loved it when it came out and I love it still. I was pregnant when it was shown on Sunday nights on the ABC and I had ‘Eliza’ pegged as a name for my possible girl baby. I scratched it because I was convinced that everyone else would be as enamoured with ‘Miss Eliza Bennet’ as I was and that school playgrounds would be filled with Elizas! Turned out not to be the case, and also turned out to be a boy so I had no need to worry! But all these years later, he doesn’t mind a bit of P&P and my girl (not named ‘Eliza’!) loves it too! And because my mother told me you can watch TV as long as you are doing something else, I can binge as long as I’m making that scarf or blanket!

Go for a walk I remember reading an article about playtime in Finnish schools and a teacher declaring that the weather is never too cold, it is simply that you are wearing the wrong clothes. So pop on the hat, scarf, gloves and coat and pound the pavement. It will get the blood flowing and warm you up. And surely having done a bit of exercise it’s then perfectly okay to sit down in front of telly with a bowl of bolognese or some making?

What are your winter tips? Do you have an excellent slow cooked meal? Bingeworthy telly? A favourite way to keep warm?

image