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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Taking Stock: September ’16

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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?

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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?

Is it busy…or just out of our control?

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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!

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Five good things to do in winter

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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?

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