Saturday, February 11, 2017

2017 so far

Not long after I published my last post, we headed out for New Year's Eve and possibly the most Canberra activity there is - climbing the Parliament House lawn (while we still can!) to watch the fireworks:

Canberra has two sets; we watched the 9:00 ones and were all home and in bed well before midnight.

A few days later we were off for our annual beach holiday - a week of sun, sand, and as much floating in the ocean as I can fit in.

Then, as usual, the day after we got back from the coast I set off for my annual trip to London for work meetings - an intensive week, followed by a relaxing weekend in my old stomping grounds in Oxford, including cooking a Saturday night spread for my hostess and our other visiting friends.

I also got to peruse the cookbook section of my favorite Oxford bookstore, and flirted once again with the idea of getting involved in a relationship with sourdough starter. But I can't commit....

...and always end up reverting to my tried-and-true bread recipe. These days, it's my go-to gift for other people's houses; when they tell me not to bring anything, this is what I bring.

Also as has been usual for the last few years, I was overseas on my birthday, so when I got home I made my own cake - which looks rather small and overpowered by candles here.

It was nice to come back to summer weather and summer fruit after a week in frosty England...

...get back to the regular kitchen routine, and try some new things. I've been working on making my own flour tortillas lately, working off this basic recipe...

...I also made homemade gnocchi for the first time, using leftover mashed potatoes and this recipe from River Cottage Love Your Leftovers. They were a rousing success...

...this chocolate fudge bundt cake, not so much. Tastes great, but half the cake stuck in the pan despite copious greasing. I think in future I'll stick with this one.

And this week's flower selection - hydrangeas from the farmers' market (with special guest provided by Miss B).

Before I finish, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that all of the above are examples of my continuing to try to focus on positive aspects of daily life and practice meticulous mindfulness. It's all part of my ongoing attempt to grapple with, among other things, the uncertainty and anxiety engendered by the current state of affairs in my home country, and the knock-on effects and similar trends abroad. This article has confirmed my fears, but also bolstered my courage, and I share it for anyone who may be in similar need:

A Clarifying Moment in American History

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.

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