Sunday, 29 January 2012

Chance encounters

This was supposed to be last week's grateful post, but it looks like I've missed a week.

I've been meaning to write this for a while, but it just hasn't happened. I won't be a slave to my blog, I keep reminding myself. I won't let it become a chore, or something on my to-do list, because then it won't be a creative outlet anymore.

Anyway, chance encounters... That's what's been on my mind.

Image from here

It's funny how life can change, or take on an entirely different quality because of a chance encounter.

I've always been grateful for meeting the friend of a friend years ago who insisted I come out to Australia on a working holiday visa and stay with him in Sydney. I did, and it led me to my husband.

And more recently, I bumped into another mum at the library whom I'd only met once before. Fast forward a few months and out of the blue, she emailed me to ask if I'd like to join a group of mums for an exercise class with a personal trainer. It just so happened to be organised on the day that I have to myself, so I jumped at the chance. How else am I going to shift 10kg??

And what a difference it's made to my week. Not only am I training with other mums, doing things I've never done before like boxing, but we're exercising outdoors – and the setting is pretty spectacular. It's a house on several acres with amazing views, so it's unlike any other fitness class I've done.

All from a chance meeting...

And this week, in particular, I'm grateful for having come across family daycare. If it wasn't for a colleague of Graeme's, we wouldn't have found someone I completely trust with my children.

For the first time, I decided that Luca and I could do with some time together on our own, without the koala.

Normally I might have felt sad that, unlike other families we know, I don't have my mum nearby to help out, or my sister, or anyone else in the family.

Instead, I just felt grateful. Grateful that I had someone whom I was happy to leave Kian with for a few hours where he could play and paint, be sung to and read to.

Grateful that I didn't need to feel any guilt (hell knows there's plenty of that!). Because he was happy, and Luca..., well, he was a very smiley little boy that day.

We went for a walk, baked jammy biscuits, made a bongo/shaker, pottered in the garden and we talked. No rushing off to change nappies, no 'I'm listening Luca but I need to sort Kian out'. My attention was all his.

All thanks to that encounter.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Is this really a food blog?

I know my blog cites food as its main reason for being, but really, when was the last time I posted about food?

I wanted to create a space where I could share my passions and until very recently my biggest passion was food. Well, it still is. Just that a few things have got in the way.

Children for starters. Nothing gets in the way of creating something lovely in the kitchen like a one-year-old whinging and whining, koala-hugging your leg all day long. Nothing.

Yes, I've been completely uninspired where food's concerned, because Kian has decided to take this separation anxiety thing to its very limit. We're at the point where I can't bare to be at home between meals, because if he's not asleep and not eating, it's moan moan moan. As soon as we go out, he's OK.

Even Luca held his hands up to his ears yesterday and shouted 'Kian, stop being so noisy. Stop whinging!'. If nothing else, it made me laugh.

And then there's getting stuck in a rut, sticking to a very dependable repertoire of meal ideas. Kids, bless their little cotton socks, don't only sap you of time and energy, I've found, but creativity gets lost too. So needless to say, I've been feeling a bit flat about this.

Until last weekend.

Suddenly, I wanted to be in the kitchen again and I wanted to eat great food. So after a morning of taking the boys swimming and fishing, I made a sort of fruit salad. Peaches, nectarines, mango and passionfruit. And the thing that made my tongue do a little dance: lots of lime zest.

Then we went down to the garden and picked lots of tomatoes.

Graeme made me a tomato and caramelised onion tart tatin years ago and it was divine. So I made that, and we devoured the whole thing. The entire tart between two adults and two little kiddlywinks. Kian hasn't been fond of popping cherry tomatoes like his older brother, but I had a feeling he'd eat them like this, and I wasn't wrong. Sweet, roasted tomatoes with softened onion and rich, buttery thyme-scented pastry - who wouldn't?

As for dessert... I had a can of condensed milk in the cupboard (still haven't got round to making dulce de leche), so I quickly made a batch of no-churn strawberry ice cream. Very easy and rather delicious.

A swirl of strawberry puree 

If that wasn't enough for one day, I made a loaf of sultana, cinnamon and pecan bread in the breadmaker (have I mentioned how I'd be lost without my breadmaker?), so we'd have something exciting to wake up to.

Lunch the next day was a glorious concoction of haloumi, mint and tomato (our first tomato glut ever!) on flatbread. All roughly chopped and in the oven until the haloumi starts to take on a bit of colour. I loved it, but the boys weren't keen. Oh well, you can't win 'em all.

It felt good to eat well, and to be inspired.

I'm going to try and make my food posts a bit more frequent than once in a blue moon. But it all depends if baby koala will ever let go...

P.S. Having a lot of trouble posting pictures lately, hence why they're floating all over the place!

Monday, 16 January 2012

Blues, greens and summer breezes - week two of grateful

Everyone who knows me knows that I can't stand the heat. Sultry, humid, scorching heat is oppressive for me and it puts me in a bad place. I haven't enjoyed the past two summers we've spent here, and after a beautiful winter I was dreading the summer.

But I've coped. Actually, it's been pretty good. Maybe my outlook's changed and I'm putting more of a positive spin on an Aussie summer than I did a year ago (you should have heard me!), or maybe it's because of where we live. There's always a breeze living right by the beach. It can make all the difference.

What I'm really grateful for are the amazing summer colours. Vivid greens and the bluest of blues cheer me up no end. And I've needed it almost on a daily basis.

I'm still as sleep deprived as when I started this blog. In fact, it's probably worse now. I'm in and out of bed. All night. Every night.

Last night, I had to settle Kian four or five times. And then he wakes at 6am.

It takes its toll after a year.

Carrying the big weight that he is in and out of the cot like I do has also been a strain on my body. My back went over Christmas and I couldn't move for two days. Then I sprained my hand. My legs are always aching and I've put on far too much weight.

I know it's not forever, but at times I'm so tired I just want to curl myself into a ball and cry.

And sometimes I do cry a little, especially when I'm feeling sorry for myself with Graeme working so far away in Sydney and there isn't anyone I can call for help.

But I get over it. I take Sydney for a walk and I stare at the ocean, at the sky and the green hills.

And then it's OK.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

52 weeks of Grateful - week one

I'm joining in all the community fun with the 52 weeks of Grateful over at Maxabella loves. How nice is it to remind ourselves to be more grateful, more often?

This week I'm grateful for my garden and the little moments of joy it brings.

I have so much to learn and I've already made quite a few mistakes (mainly through being so damn impatient), but it's been a very good start.

It's not easy finding the time to plant seedlings with a little one whose idea of fun is to pull, yank and grab anything in sight. So I've done things in a hurry when he's gone to bed – feeling heavy on my feet with daylight fading fast at the end of a day (and the mozzies out to play) have meant that I've shoved seedlings in rather than take the time to thin them out.

Hardier herbs, like the rosemary and thyme, should have gone into pots in hindsight to make room for more lettuces and carrots.

But really, none of that matters, because what is important is that I am growing something and teaching the boys at the same time. It's wonderful to see Luca rush out there three times a day to check for ripe fruit, and then scream and shout at the tiniest red strawberry. Simple fun.

No wonder all his white tees are a mess

Our knobbly, gnarled beauties

I'm grateful for knobbly carrots, rare strawberries that Graeme and I have never tasted, speckled leaves and peculiar courgettes.

I'm also very very grateful for our tomatoes that have started ripening beautifully over the last week. Fortunately I do get to try one or two.

What I'm truly grateful for, though, is finding something else that Luca and I enjoy doing together. Pottering in the garden with him is as rewarding and pleasurable as reading and talking to him. Because I'll be honest, I'm not very good at playing on the floor. I get bored and it feels quite forced on my part. I'm no good at pretending to be T-Rex, and my heart sinks when I hear the words hide-and-seek. 

Of course, then I just feel guilty, because everyone says you must play play play with your child. On the floor. At least 20 minutes per day.

Rather, I take comfort from knowing that I love to read to him. We do singing, silly dancing and craft, and we talk lots. Anyway, Daddy does floor play and muck-about play best. 

So there's my first grateful for the year.

How do you feel about floor play? 

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Quietly reflecting

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye 2011, and for the first time in some years, I look back with a smile on my face.

The main event for us last year was leaving behind Sydney suburbia and moving to the coast. We had no idea what a great decision it would be. Lots of things have fallen into place.

Eight months on and I still can't believe we live here...

I took this picture! Yes me!

A place where we catch our own fish (and crayfish!). A place where we've built our own vegetable garden and from where I bring up big bunches of herbs and salad leaves most evenings. 

A place where I've discovered a love for craft, photography, and for making things. A place where I'm learning to address my needs and slow down, and in the process has led me to create this blog and discover so many inspiring people out there.

A place where the boys have blossomed. Where Graeme can go free diving and spearfishing. Where there are plenty of places for Sydney to roam.

A place that I'm starting to call home.

Even though I sit here a bit sad (my sister left for Perth this morning), bleary-eyed (after a night with Kian waking me every two hours) and completely drained (a big food shop with the boys yesterday), I'm looking forward to the year ahead.

And if I could just have one wish? Well, a job on the coast for Graeme would be at the top of my list (no more commuting into Sydney). More time at home together.

And while it's probably a way off, my family to move to this part of Australia would complete the picture.

But hey, I'm supposed to be living in the moment and what we have right now is what we have. And it's pretty good.

I've got some exciting plans for the year ahead, some food related, some not. You'll just have to stay tuned to find out more.

Happy new year.