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

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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?

So what’s been happening?

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Howdy! How are we all? I feel like I’ve been away from the blog  world for a little bit. I’m not quite sure why. My girl is back at school, my boy has been away on holidays so I must have had HEAPS of time by my lonesome to compose a post. I guess I’ve just been puddling around catching up on some of the people and places I haven’t caught up with for a few months or checking out new things to do. So here, for the record, are some of the things which have kept me from tapping away at the keyboard.

Spotlight: I went to see this with my movie buddy and it was excellent. Have you heard of it? It’s about the investigative journalism team at The Boston Globe who uncovered the extent of sexual abuse by priests in the Catholic Church in Boston. Not exactly cheery but the focus was not so much on covering the abuse but rather how the team went about its investigation. Compelling performances by a great ensemble cast, including Mark Ruffalo and Stanley Tucci. Such genuine actors. Love them!

Andy Warhol and Ai Wei Wei: Emily made the train trip from Ballarat to ‘the big smoke’ and we went to see this excellent exhibition at the NGV. It was HUGE and I think we were a little overcome by it all! We were both marvelling at the sheer volume of work that Ai Wei Wei has produced.

TV: we’ve been watching the third season of The Bridge which has been excellent, as always. A bit retro watching just one episode weekly because we are so used to binge watching whole seasons at a time! We’ve also been catching up on season two of The Americans. Yep, we are a bit behind! Kept forgetting it was on pay TV after it disappeared from free-to-air.

Podcasts:  SerialChat 10 Looks 3this chat  between Wil Anderson and Julia Zemiro, and Iz and Ez discussing booky, watchy things

Crocheting: I made another one of these giraffes for the daughter of a friend of my mum who is awaiting a tiny arrival and I’ve started on these maybelle squares (well, I’ll turn them into squares!) in the ongoing endeavour to work through my wool stash! I’m going to join them up to make a blanket, I think. Can you guess what inspired my colour choice?!

Books: I enjoyed reading Hope Farm, which my lovely girl gave me for Christmas. It’s been nominated for the Stella Prize, and deservedly so.  Isabel lent me Still Writing by Dani Shapiro, a gem of a book on writing, creativity and life. Current read? All the Light We Cannot See

Friends: coffees with lovely friends. It’s really important to nurture our relationships, isn’t it? I try to make sure I don’t leave it too long between friend catch ups because in all the busy-ness of people’s lives (yep, I hate saying that – let’s remember we don’t have to fill every second of every day for our lives to be valid), relationships can easily slide. And that’s a great pity.

Stuff: you know, the ordinary things. Domestic goddess duties, new school year adjustments, the admin of life. Not very exciting, but we all have to do it, don’t we?

How about you? Have you been out and about doing nice things? Or have you been enjoying some quiet, reflective time?

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On being together

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imageimageimageNext week, it is our wedding anniversary. 24 years! It sounds very mature, and a bit old and crinkly. It sounds SETTLED and COMFORTABLE and ROUTINE.  And whilst I don’t feel old and crinkly, we are settled and comfortable and routine. We know who looks after what; we love it when an evening out is over by 9.30pm so we can change into daggy clothes or dressing gown (that’s me!) and settle in for TV viewing, tea or Milo in hand. With kids, life is necessarily routine as days and months arrange themselves around feeds and sleeps, short attention spans, kinder and school timetables and out of school activities. Holiday locations and durations fall into a pattern and employment decisions are made to achieve particular outcomes.

It’s both a long time and a short time raising kiddies. When they are born the years stretch out before you. The demands of parenthood suck out so much time and energy from your relationship as a couple. You are consumed by their physical, emotional and intellectual growth. Time together is limited. But little bit by little, moments to be a twosome return. Perhaps it is a date night whilst you leave them with a babysitter, then maybe a coffee together when they are old enough to stay at home unsupervised, and then as they grow older still and head out themselves, more windows of time open. And now, it seems, for us, that all of a sudden, those long days are gone. As our kiddies reach adulthood, we are, as my man eloquently puts it, almost “off the leash”! It’s kinda nice!

And so, taking advantage of our newfound independence, we headed up to Bendigo for a couple of nights away as an early anniversary present to ourselves. It was, at the risk of sounding OLD, quite lovely! The weather was perfect -sunny and warm with just the hint of a cooling breeze. We walked around Lake Weeroona, visited the gallery and read our books in the very beautiful Rosalind Park. We ate a delicious meal at The Depository and my man fell in love with the Pedro Ximenez he had with dessert. I heard its virtues mentioned many times over the weekend and a bottle now sits in our fridge! We drank coffee, read the papers and watched the tennis on TV. We didn’t have to worry about being anywhere for anyone at any particular time.

And we enjoyed being with each other. BONUS! It’s not always easy living with someone, is it? I know I haven’t always been a barrel of laughs to live with and there’s times I haven’t liked his thinking or decisions. There are stresses and strains as life unfolds  – it can throw in some pretty yucky times which you have to navigate together. But navigate them we have. We’ve both changed since we were newly weds but we’ve managed to change together. We still like each other. I think I’ll keep him!

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I’m making a list…

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Are you making lots of lists at the moment? I’m compiling a few. There’s the present list, of course, but there’s also the Christmas card list, the food list, the drinks list, the crockery and cutlery list, the Christmas Day running sheet. They’re very functional lists, aren’t they? I want to make a fun list! So in that spirit, here’s a little list of things I’d like to do over the Christmas/holiday season.

Hmm, I wonder how many of these I’ll actually get to do? I know I’ll also want to have some lazy days at home chilling in the back garden and watching the tennis on the telly.  It would be nice to have weekend away with my man too. Aah, the joy of having kids who no longer need babysitters and who can drive themselves wherever they need to be! Have you thought about LAC (life after Christmas) yet? What is on your list of enjoyable things to do?

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One + Four = Life: the ordinary and something ace

Hello! So here we are! Sunday has rolled around again and we are gathering momentum as we hurtle towards the end of the year. Do you dread the frantic-ness of the end of year or does it exhilarate you? I try to feed off the happy energy but sometimes it just feels like a rather routine ‘to do’ list of things to tick off. Does that me sound a bit ‘bah humbug’?  Anyhoo, I am wandering off topic a little. How has your week been? Mine has been pretty standard but I did have one really nice thing happen. Read on!

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Baking for the week was the trusty old brownie. Can’t really go wrong with chocolate-y gooey -ness, can you? If you want to find the recipe, head over here.

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I’ve been following artist Jodi Wiley on Instagram for a little while now. I love her paintings of tree bark, books, and urban sketching, and, well, just everything really! I find her work so inspiring. She had a piece (the one at the far end in this photo) included in the ‘In Space’ exhibition at the Hatch Contemporary Arts Space in Ivanhoe so I thought I’d make the trip over there to have a squiz and at the same time catch up with an old mothers’ group friend for lunch. My day was made because the lovely Jodi was there manning the desk! She was so nice. I told her she was the reason I was at the exhibition and we had an ace little chat about art and motherhood and finding time to draw. You might like to check out her work too. She has an exhibition coming up at  Monstalvat from next week. If you’re a Melbourne person, you might like to pop out and have a look. You could make a day of it exploring the beautiful grounds.

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Our weekend walks take us along leafy streets, and through parks and gardens but it also takes us along the railway line. I like the strong lines of the tracks, the graffiti on the bridge and to see the trains passing by. I wonder where the people on the carriages are going on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Are they heading off for a fun day? Maybe they are going to work? Or are they heading home after a big night out?

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I was eating my lunch today and when I looked up and outside my back windows to see the oleander in the neighbour’s garden casting this beautiful shadow on my back fence. Isn’t it lovely? I think it would make a great fabric print, don’t you?

I hope, even if your week was just a fairly ordinary one, that you were able to find some little pleasures in it. If you want to see what others have been up to, head over to Isabel’s blog.

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