Saturday, December 31, 2016

Goodbye 2016

I know I'm not the only person who's looking forward to turning the calendar over to start a new year. So I thought I'd get one last post in, wrap up 2016, and start fresh tomorrow.

Here's a few highlights from the final month of the year:

Flowers have brightened a lot of days for me this year, and this was a truly epic bunch presented to me at Thanksgiving by DP's honors seminar team.

Red rambler roses on the walk to school. No matter where I come across them, these will always remind me of my mother and grandmother.

Miss B's continued penchant for animals of all kinds and imaginative play have made this Pusheen plushie a character in our house.

And speaking of Miss B, this cake marks the end of an era - her graduation from primary school, a bittersweet occasion as I'm sure many of you can relate. She requested a Victoria sponge, filled with raspberry jam, iced with vanilla buttercream, and topped with crystallized raspberries.

And then the pre-Christmas mayhem was upon us - goodie bags for teachers, administrators, and various others....

...decorating the house and tree, wrapping the presents...


...the traditional Frying of the Doughnuts on Christmas Eve morning...

...and the big day itself - celebrated this year with not one but two epic and traditional desserts: the Yule Log and an enormous trifle (not made by me!).

During the Twelve Days of Christmas, there's been a little more time to unwind and enjoy Christmas presents...

...visit friends...




...enjoy leftovers...

...try out some new local restaurants while everyone else is out of town...

...and begin planning for 2017.

I'll end, as I began, with flowers - and very best wishes for good things for all in the new year!









Sunday, November 27, 2016

Ten things

The waiting continues...and I've been working hard at practicing meticulous mindfulness. It's been going pretty well, aside from a couple of weeks where the US election combined with solo parenting to send me into an anxiety tailspin. (The election was one of the things I was waiting for, and to say I was not happy with the outcome would be an understatement on the order of describing Australia as a place with one or two possibly harmful critters.)

But. Life marches on, and I must focus on the things I can do even in the midst of feeling helpless and at the mercy of events over which I have no control. So in that spirit, here's an update of recent-ish happenings.

Going back to early September - a tiny birthday cake for a visiting colleague of DP's who has become a family friend. He made the long trek to Australia for the second year running to guest lecture in DP's program, and I found out that his first full day in town was his 66th birthday. So we surprised him when he came over for dinner.

In late September, we went to the US for our planned family visit; for me it was five cities in just under three weeks. One of the highlights of my trip (and my year) was a long-planned sisters' weekend in New York, with all of us together on our own on a trip for the first time in a very long time. It was a memorable and spectacular trip, in part because of visiting places like The Frick Collection.

Our final city in the US was a 36-hour stopover in Dallas to visit our good friends who live there. We really enjoyed visiting the Dallas Arboretum's Pumpkin Village - a clever and creative use of winter squash, and I couldn't stop giggling most of the time for thinking about this. (Warning: NSFW language!)

Then back to Canberra, swapping autumn color for spring in bloom and harvesting lemons and rosemary from the garden.

Two weeks after we got back from the US, I was off again - this time to Seoul for my organization's annual meeting. It was a productive and positive week overall, but it makes me a little sad that this is pretty much the only picture I managed to take outside of the conference (it's a little mall made up entirely of small shops run by local craftswomen and -men).

Back again for the tail end of October; settling in to nearly three months with no overseas trips scheduled, and starting to see some real signs of spring - encouraging enough that I have revived my cold brew coffee habit, making it in my French press and then storing in a repurposed Chianti bottle. (Classy, no?) My standard ratio for coffee (hot or cold) is 7g of coffee per 100ml of water; cold water for cold brew, and let it brew for at least a couple of hours. Chill in the fridge overnight, then serve over ice with a hefty splash of milk and a dollop of maple syrup to sweeten.

The end of October also means Halloween, and a sweet treat to celebrate it. This year I made ghost cakes for Miss B - basically a chocolate cupcake, topped with a gloopy pile of vanilla buttercream frosting and suitably decorated.

Moving into November and real spring weather - a good opportunity to host our first outdoor Sunday lunch of the season and invite a few friends over to share it with us.

And speaking of a few friends: this weekend we celebrated Thanksgiving in Australia, with a buffet turkey dinner for 60+ friends, colleagues, students and their families. An epic undertaking achieved with a lot of lists and a lot of help, and one to make me remember to be grateful for all the things I have.

Which today include the luxury of having to do not much of anything except eat pie, bask in the afterglow of yesterday, and figure out what the heck to do with all these leftovers.













Sunday, October 9, 2016

While you wait

Nearly four years ago I wrote a post about how stressful I find waiting, at a time when I found myself in a state of limbo, awaiting significant outcomes over which I had no control in my personal, professional, and national life.

Well, here I am again - and it doesn't feel as though I've gotten any better at being zen about waiting. Possibly even worse, at least at the moment, compounded as it is by grief. My current strategy is something I call "meticulous mindfulness" (or would "mindful meticulousness" be better? I can't decide), by which I mean that I am trying to focus on the things that I want to accomplish each day, and then trying to give each of those things my full attention. In the short term, when I can accomplish it, it stops the hamster wheel in my brain from spinning; and in the long term, I hope it adds up to a period of sustained accomplishment and satisfaction, rather than one of fruitless frustration.

So: this morning, I woke up early for Sunday, slightly jetlagged after returning from my second trip to the US in two months (this one, a family trip, was the one I had been planning to take this year). I lay in bed and thought about what I wanted to do with this unexpected block of time. Did I want to stay in bed and read, enjoying having nothing to do after three weeks of non-stop activity (including stops in five cities)? Or did I want to tackle some task on my monster To Do list?

I split the difference - I read for a while, and then I got up to bring my blog up to date. Here's some recent happenings, aside from what I've already told:

An impromptu family trip to Perth and the southwest corner of Western Australia during July school holidays that almost didn't happen, between DP's travel schedule and my father's hospitalization. But it did, and I'm glad we managed it - as well as this, which was on Miss B's must-see list: sunset over the Indian Ocean. Our last night before we flew back east, we went down to the beach in Fremantle and sat there to watch it happen.

The saying goes that in the midst of life we are in death, but the reverse is also true. My father died five days before Miss B's twelfth birthday, and I flew to Boston the day after. We had a family dinner and cake on the day with a few close friends, and with the help of some of the aforementioned meticulous mindfulness I was able to give Miss B the cake of her twelve-year-old dreams, even if I didn't manage a birthday post.

And to continue the theme: my oldest sister's birthday was the day after my father's funeral, and for my gift I made a birthday dinner, for her and all available family members. For dinner we had spaghetti al'amitriciana three ways: the standard version, as outlined in this post; a batch made with gluten-free pasta, for the GF contingent; and a vegetarian version for the birthday girl, substituting fried halloumi for the bacon. For dessert we had her favorite treat: birthday pie. I tested out Nigella's GF Pie Crust (a smashing success, even made under sub-optimal conditions in someone else's kitchen) and made maple-blueberry for the birthday girl (who doesn't eat refined sugar), and peach-raspberry for the non-blueberry fans.

That takes us up to early August...more to follow soon.





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