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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Taking Stock: September ’17

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I may be a crafty type and an arts lover but gee, I’m also a big footy fan and today is the AFL Grand Final! As a Hawks supporter I’ve been lucky enough to see plenty of premierships, but today it’s the rest of the family going through Grand Final anxiety! Thirty seven years since the Tigers last premiership – my man was there as a 14 year old! – and the first time my boy and girl have seen their team in a Grand Final! They’ve headed down to the Tigers’ home ground to watch on the live screen with thousands of other Tiges supporters. With the house to myself, and before the match hits the screen here, I’ll do a quick ‘Taking Stock’. Thanks Pip for the inspiration!

Watching: lots of footy preview shows!

Reading: Ache by Eliza Henry Jones and footy analyses

Cooking: pasta for dinner, I think

Eating: cheesymite scroll – because it’s yellow and black

Making: an arc-y weaving

Hearing: the washing machine beeping at the end of its cycle

Getting: over a cold

Feeling: butterflies in my tummy

Hoping: for a Tigers win, of course!

Looking: at my pile of ironing

Smelling: the lingering aroma of cheese toasties

Needing: to proof read my boy’s history research project

Wishing: that we weren’t switching to daylight savings this weekend. It’s too early for me!

Noticing: how nice and tidy my garden looks since the huge clean up I gave it yesterday

Enjoying: watching the little charges I work with developing their skills and imaginations

Thinking: it would be nice to have a holiday

Needing: a drink – tea or water will suffice. Feeling a little parched

Wearing: nothing with red or blue! Don’t want to appear to be in any supporting the Crows!

And that’s September! Hope yours has been a good one! GO TIGES!!!

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Taking Stock: July ’17

 

IMG_1290.JPGHey gang! This month, I’m taking stock in Hobart. My man and I have snuck away for a few days before he starts a new job. Gosh, Tassie is lovely. So much to see in such a little space! So whilst we’re kicking back and relaxing a bit, I thought I’d see what’s happening now that July is drawing to a close.

Making: not a lot at the moment. I’ve finished my latest weaving and have brought no supplies with me. I do have my sketchbook so maybe I’ll make time to do a sketch.

Reading: The Handmaid’s Tale. My friend, Isabel, invited me to join her book club and this is the current read. I saw the TV series so I’m interested to see how closely it follows the novel. I have to continually remind myself that it was written thirty or so years ago. Quite prescient.

Watching: whatever crime drama SBS on demand is recommending in my feed! The advantage of having had my man home for a few months means we have been enjoying sitting down and binging on some tv series. Latest two have been Cardinal and Valkyrien.

Cooking: nothing for the next few days. No cooking facilities in our accommodation so pouring muesli and dolloping some yogurt on top is as complex as it’s going to get.

Drinking: water at the moment, some wine with dinner, I imagine.

Listening: to A-ha and my man attempting to do the falsetto 😬

Smelling: the Aesop Geranium Leaf Body Balm that’s in our bathroom. Nice!

Wondering: how clean the kitchen will be when I get home.

Booking: tickets for the Melbourne Writers’ Festival.

Wearing: jeans, jumper, cosy socks.

Liking: being on holiday. And alfinding it a strange experience being away when it’s not school holidays. That hasn’t happened for fifteen years!

Hearing: a bird chirping.

Buying: a pack of ephemera from The Maker.

Hoping: my man enjoys his new job.

Wishing: I could be a fly on the wall and see how the kiddies look after themselves this week. It will be a bonding time for them!

Noticing: how pretty Hobart is. The Derwent, the mountains, the old sandstone buildings.

Loving: the comfy bed here.

Feeling: blessed to have a lovely man, two healthy kids. Nawh, a bit soppy! But ’tis true. There’ve been some tricky times over the last few years but I think everyone’s feeling pretty settled at the moment.

How’s your July?

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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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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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Taking Stock: December ’16 -The New York Edition!

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Howdy! How are you all? Recovered from Christmas? Planning new year’s celebrations? We have escaped the Melbourne heat for the New York winter and are happily residing in the Upper West Side whilst experiencing as much as we can of the city’s attractions. The list is never ending! But we’re also trying not to be too rushed so that we can afford to have some lazy mornings. I have felt quite tired out by this year so am appreciating a few sleeps in – and the opportunity to ‘take stock’ before 2017 descends! Thanks to Pip Lincolne for the idea. She’s full of ideas, that one!

Cooking: prepared meals from Fairway

Drinking: hot chocolate

Watching: US telly

Reading: NY tourist guide books and websites, and The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Brooklyn author Anna North – which seems kinda appropriate!

Buying: these coasters from the Guggenheim store

Coveting: pretty much everything at Anthropologie

Wondering: how we’ll fit in everything we want to see!

Enjoying: warm rooms after the cold outdoors

Looking: forward to seeing a handful of musicals with my girl

Hoping: for some more space for creative pursuits next year. I lost my mojo towards the end of this year

Making: time to record memories of our time away in my notebook

Giggling: at the bass player serenading a woman on the subway and the Salavation Army guy outside Macy’s dancing to Happy by Pharrell

Hearing: horns honking and the occasional whooping of sirens

Wearing: layers! Tights, jeans, singlet, long sleeve tee, jumper – and then a coat and scarf. Haven’t cracked out the beanie or gloves yet but I think they may need to come out tonight!

Disliking: holes in my jumper. They just appeared today. I think it was the weight of my bag and coat rubbing against my shoulder 🙁

Noticing: the snow outside our window! Much excitement! The rest of the family has run downstairs for photos!

Feeling: the crush of people. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such crowds! The other day outside Radio City, there was not enough room for pedestrians cross the road and to all fit on the footpath!

Paying: tips! I understand why we need to do it but I still don’t understand why the minimum wage isn’t increased. Happy for the employer pass on the cost to me. I’m paying anyway!

So. That’s where we’re at at the end of 2016! Maybe you want to take stock before the new year starts too? I’m looking forward to visiting MoMA and Purl Soho in the coming days and hoping that they’ll inspire me for the year ahead! Enjoy your New Year’s Eve celebrations and see you in 2017!

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