I’ve been wanting to make a rainbow layer cake for the longesttime, ever since I first laid eyes on Meg Duerksen’s beauty way back in 2009. I can’t imagine that anybody could look at these happy colours and epic proportions without breaking into a smile, so it’s the perfect cake for a celebration.
Ever since Pinterest showed up on the scene I’ve had almost weekly reminders of how damn pretty this cake is. The desire to make my own kept getting stronger, and when I realised that three of my favourite people had birthdays coming up in the same week I knew it was time.
Finally, an occasion worthy of this beautiful giant!
This was my favourite stage of the cake making process, when all of those vibrant layers were stacked up high and nothing had fallen over! At this point I realised how important it was to get those colours right before throwing it all in the oven. I was a bit sad about the prospect of covering everything in white frosting, but after a handful of photos I got on with the job. After all, nothing beats the ‘wow’ factor of a plain white cake with surprise multicoloured guts!
The next day our friends came over to help us break in the new BBQ I bought Tim for his birthday. When it was finally time for dessert I lit three candles for each of the birthday babies.
I imagine it’s pretty tough being my friend. I mean sure, maybe I’ll invite you over for lunch and maybe it will be really delicious, but if it had anything to do with my 101/1001 list you’d better not touch a thing on your plate until it’s been photographed! Luckily due to the height of this cake the pieces were all pretty skinny, so I was able to feed my friends before whisking away the rest of the cake to take the photo above.
My friends make fun of me a lot.
Tips! I have some.
If you have a failsafe plain and dense cake recipe then stick with what you know. If (like me) you don’t have a go-to recipe that you trust, don’t be ashamed of using a packet mix that’s been tested in a million different kitchens. My little cousin was mortified when I came clean about this, but I’m super happy with the result and I think somebody owes Mrs Crocker an apology!
My cake was made with plain 20cm cake tins, $7 each from Woolworths, and I baked two at a time. I didn’t use springform pans for this, but I did spend time lining the tins really well. The cakes cooked really evenly despite my dodgy oven and tipped out of the pans easily when they were done.
You’re going to find a lot of advice about which food colouring to use in your google travels. Most people swear by gel colours to get these vibrant colours, but the truth is I just used a couple of boxes of the $2 Queen 4-packs from the supermarket. I had to use a lot of colouring to get that red layer to stop looking pink, and lots more red for the orange and purple layers too, so make sure you have plenty. Normally I steer clear of food colouring but with this cake it’s important to go big or go home.
Spend time trimming your cakes to make sure that they’re perfectly flat on top. It’s obvious from my photos that I didn’t bother trimming the orange layer – oops!
Your frosting is going to need a lot of sugar in it to keep your structure standing. Don’t even attempt this with runny icing or you’ll find that your construction won’t be up to code. (This is probably not a good time to reflect on your weight loss journey.)
Just know that in order to get the right visual effect you will need to use more frosting than you ever dreamed. And when it comes time to eat your slice you shouldn’t feel bad about leaving two thirds of it on your plate because diabetes.
If you find yourself getting emotional during the cake baking process, call my little cousin Trisha. She gives great moral support over the phone!
And finally… try not to get too depressed when you realise that some other kickass lady has made an eighty layer rainbow cake that leaves yours in the dust. Nobody likes a show-off, lady!
Happiest of birthdays to my love Tim, and to our gorgeous friends Glen & Janelle. Sorry about the hypoglycemia.
Sometimes I want to write here every day. When my brain is full to the brim, bursting with news or stuff to share, I want to write here every day. If I had the discipline to harness all of my inspiration this blog would be published eight times per day, so isn’t it lucky that I’m lazy and easily distracted instead?
And then there are other times when I don’t want to write here for weeks on end. Sometimes I just get sick of my own ‘voice’ and just want to spend my time reading other peoples’ stories and filling up on their energy. Sometimes life is busy to the extreme and I can’t find time to write. And other times, like right now, it just means that I’ve needed to live for a while without writing about it.
I never stop thinking of this place though, even if I’m not saying much.
I thought I’d write a little taking stock post to help me dive back in. Thanks to Pip and Kate for the idea!
Making: the best of a crappy situation this week, or trying to.
Cooking: chicken for my dog’s dinner every night while he recovers from surgery. He’s a sweetheart, so we don’t mind. Drinking: my day looks something like this: COFFEE! WATER! Cooooooffee. waterwaterwaterwaterwater, waterwaterwater. Reading: a few new blogs that I’ve come across lately (Don’t Lick the Ferrets and Young House Love) and old favourites too (like Foxs Lane, Elise Blaha Cripe and Joie Butter) Wanting: a couple of long weekends to fill with painting and hobbies. Looking: at the “before” photo of my bathroom, which is being retiled over the next 10 days. Playing: lots of Animal Crossing. (Hey nerds, let’s swap friend codes – yes?) Wasting: valuable sleep time by driving to the gym at 5.30am just so that I can shower. Why do bad things happen to good people?! Sewing: nothing yet, but I’m tempted to break out my Gran’s sewing machine for the first time this weekend. Wherever she is now, I hope she can’t hear the swearing that will undoubtedly ensue. Wishing: I owned my own house. Especially right now, when we seem to have so little control over what’s happening in our home. Enjoying: these sunny, wintery days. Waiting: to find out whether my dog has nerve damage in his eye from last week’s operation. Fingers crossed it’s something less serious. Liking: last night’s Offspring finale, and the return of Breaking Bad. (Mr White, what have you done?!) Wondering: which thing to tackle on my “to do” list after I publish this post. Loving: my gorgeous friends – especially J, who never stops amazing me with her intuition and unprompted support. Hoping: that the media doesn’t win our federal election next month, because holy crap is there some unethical “reporting” happening here right now. Marvelling: at my new robot vacuum, aka love of my life. I think I’d better write a post about this thing. Needing: to put a big chunk of my 101 Things in 1001 Days list behind me because I am way behind schedule. Smelling: my neighbours’ wood fires every night in these last weeks of winter. Wearing: the same five outfits over and over, because thanks to a water-damaged wall we have no wardrobe. It’s pretty great*. Following: the recent surge in the marriage equality debate with interest. I feel like Australia is finally on the brink of change. Noticing: that the days are starting to get longer. Knowing: that my sky high black patent heels aren’t very good for me, but wearing them anyway because phwoar! Thinking: about painting, and why I haven’t been doing much of that. (Answer: too many hobbies) Bookmarking: photos of trees, hands and faces so that I can paint them someday soon. Opening: my new RSS reader every morning while I have my first coffee (I’m using a paid version of NewsBlur right now, which is just okay, but FeedSpot is showing a lot of potential as a replacement for Google Reader) Giggling: about the ridiculous rainbow layer cake that I made last weekend. If you follow me on social media you’ll be way too familiar with the result, since I Instaspammed the whole thing. Sorry guys. Feeling: Everything. Seriously… and perhaps that’s why I’ve had trouble quieting my brain for long enough to write lately. I’ve been feeling the highs and lows a lot more recently.
*actually wait, what’s that word that’s the opposite of “great”?
If you have the misfortune to be following me on Twitter or Instagram (@elzxbth) you are probably sick to death of hearing about my dumb diploma. One of the nasty side-effects of this study has been my slow transformation into that boring old uncle who tells the same stories at every family get-together and has no idea that there is spinach stuck in his teeth. You know that guy – he’s always invited due to family guilt, but one by one all the guests leave to go “help in the kitchen” until the only one left listening is your cousin’s super-polite girlfriend.
Yeah, that was me.
I guess this is my way of saying I’m sorry, Twitter. I’m so sorry, Instagram. I have been a bore. I have been your online Uncle Walter. I have dragged you into weeks and weeks of study-rage, snark and forced you to witness a complete catalogue of my poor nutritional decisions. I am so sorry for giving you diabetes.
I wrote a post last week about why this whole experience has been shitty. Ordinarily a diploma is no big deal, but then most people don’t try to cram the whole thing into 11 weeks. Most people actually meet their trainer prior to their final assessment. And I guess I can’t speak for everyone here, but I’m going to go ahead and assume that most people don’t have to deal with the same poorly-written course material that I found myself wading through. My “trainer” even acknowledged by that some of the questions I was trying to answer didn’t make sense because part of the questions were straight-up missing.
But hey, I’m writing this because I got through it. Last Friday I sat my final exam, and my trainer spent a couple of hours with me while we went through all the work I had done. 39,000 words, 270 pages (about half a ream of paper), 10 projects and a fully budgeted and researched $500,000 marketing campaign for the RSPCA. I learned some stuff about continuous improvement and OHS that I didn’t already know, and I got to flex my photoshop muscles to make a bunch of ads for tram stops, buses and magazines.
It had its moments.
This weekend I began recovering from the PTSD caused by sitting at my dining table for 12 hour stretches. I’ve had a weekend of sleep-ins, catching up on laundry and losing myself in Animal Crossing. And also? Possibly the funniest impulse purchase ever; it absolutely deserves its own post.
I’m so freaking happy to be crossing this off my list. For all my bitching over the past couple of months, it’s actually pretty great to know that this piece of paper is on its way to me. It might even mean an extra $20,000 when I next job-hunt, so it was worth the short-term pain to just get it done.
I left for work today before the sun was high enough to spot over the buildings, so the only superstar in the sky was this enormous, glowing moon. She was still basking in the attention of having all those eyes on her last night, I think.
What a perfect beginning to a freezing cold work week. Melbourne and her seasons never stop amazing me.
I came home today to find that the sunset was just as pretty, but I felt sorry for those little birds in the bitter cold tonight.
(A more accurate title for this post would be Moonset, Sunset…but that just sounded silly.)
Are you an Instamagramming fool like me? Find me at @elzxbth.
This is what my life looks like right now. Except for that thumbs up – that was an exception.
Way back at the start of last year, right as I was writing up my list of goals for the next 1001 days, I was offered the opportunity to do some study through my workplace. Government apprenticeship grants were available for the course I wanted to do, and with contributions from my employer it meant that I was able to undertake a $6000 course without any out of pocket expenses. I had a couple of years to do the work, so there was no rush to get it started.
So I signed up for a Diploma of Management, intending to begin it towards the end of 2012. But work got crazy, we threw in a big overseas trip… and before I knew it Christmas had arrived and I still didn’t have any of my course materials. My contact at the training agency wasn’t returning my calls and it started to get a bit weird. That should have been a warning that it wasn’t going to be smooth sailing.
As soon as the new school year commenced (that’s at the end of January, for the non-Aussies reading along) I got on the phone and relentlessly tracked down somebody who would answer my questions. I was bounced around for weeks – the training centre hadn’t assigned me a coach, they were blaming paperwork holdups at Australian Apprenticeships, they were saying that my employer never sent in my paperwork and that there was no record of me at all. Meanwhile, my HR person had proof of submission (and acknowledgement that it was received).
To cut a long story short, I didn’t get any of my course work until April. My text books were delivered by one of the company Directors who informed me that my missing paperwork meant that all of their trainers were fully loaded and they couldn’t provide me with any one-on-one support. And just to make sure that I was under as much pressure as possible, there was no government funding for my course after June 30.
So a course which would normally take a working person 18 months to complete now had to be done in 12 weeks, otherwise it would cost me $6000.
I could have backed out. And truthfully, I really considered it because at the same time I was dealing with a brand new boss who needed my support more than ever. I asked a lot of questions of the Director and left the meeting convinced that it was achievable, as long as I put my head down and worked hard.
What I hadn’t anticipated is that the course work is really, really badly written. There are spelling mistakes and missing words which mean that some of the assessment questions are complete nonsense and impossible to answer. For example, right now I am working on tasks 1-33 of a unit which contains only 32 tasks. Is it a mistake, or was a decision made to remove a question from the assessment? I don’t know because I don’t have a trainer.
So all I can do is keep evidence of everything I’m doing and trust that their evaluation of my work is as poorly executed as the training materials they’ve provided. So much for actually wanting to learn something, I guess?
I’m just focusing on the piece of paper that I will receive at the end, and the fact that there’s only another 10 days to go until my final exam (which they’re backdating for the sake of my funding). Of course, this means that there’s only another 10 days to go, and I still have so much to do. Then again, I’ve already written about 20,000 words in the past couple of months, so what’s another few thousand at this point?
All this to say sorry for being so quiet around here this month, and that it won’t be long before things are back to normal. In the meantime, I have a post sitting in my drafts that is full of juicy links from the stuff that other people have been writing during my down-time. I’ll share it during the week, so that you know I’m still alive!
Leave me a comment and tell me something good? Anything. Make it up if you have to <3
Remember when I used to pour stuff into my paper journals? I was flicking through my old journals today and this made me want to start again.
I don’t even know how to write about my last week.
A bunch of stuff went down at work that I probably shouldn’t share here, and I’ve found myself kind of hiding from the world all weekend to make up for it. To give you some idea, I am writing this from bed at 4pm on Sunday and there is a strong chance that I will not be changing into grown-up clothes today.
I’ve wanted to share a bunch of stuff here on the blog over the past week but haven’t had a chance to sit down and write. So how about a great big linky roundup instead?
Hello, I’ve got some sobering news. My friend Kate has made a super brave decision. If you’re the sort of person who looks for ways to improve yourself (or your life) you’ll be hooked by Kate’s energy and courage. She’s rad.
How to crochet a granny square. If anybody can teach me how to do this without throwing a tantrum, it’s Pip Lincolne. But I dunno, my tantrums are pretty legendary.
How about a bonus Currently post to round off the week? Thanks to Danielle for introducing me to these.
Feeling: Well rested (perhaps too well rested?) but wishing I hadn’t wasted away my weekend. I guess the last two days have been for recovery rather than productivity but something tells me I’ll get a surge of energy tonight to make up for it.
Watching: Earlier this week I followed a link to this incredible video. It’s a TED talk by Frans de Waal, an expert in moral behaviour in animals, discussing what happens when you give capuchin monkeys unequal pay for the same task. It’s absolutely incredible. The video below is an excerpt, but if you have time to watch the full talk you’ll also hear him talk about cooperation, empathy and consolation in chimpanzees and elephants.
Reading: I’m trying to complete a Diploma in 12 weeks (!), so most of my reading right now is confined to badly-written manuals full of spelling mistakes and poor grammar. I have so far resisted the urge to return them to my trainer with red pen corrections because I don’t think that will get me extra credit.
Thinking about: Old friends. About 6 weeks ago I wrote about my old highschool best friend and the difficulties we’ve faced as adults. Since then, despite our best efforts, we’ve found ourselves at another crossroad. I think I’m finally okay to leave that friendship in high school where it belonged and remember it fondly; some things just shouldn’t be so hard. It’s taken a long time to find that kind of peace.
I’ve made a conscious decision to say goodbye to people who drag me down. It even extends to the blogs I subscribe to and the people who pop up on my Twitter feed. I love a little bit of snark, but I’m through with people who thrive on mocking and negativity. There is so much more to life than being right.
Looking forward to: Winter! Melbourne weather has finally taken a cool turn, but the last couple of weeks have been very mild. I can’t wait for nights where we need an extra doona, hot chocolate and nights spent in front of the heater. I’m looking forward to breaking in my new Banana Republic trench coat and taking a day trip to find some snow. I hope that the late start to Autumn means that Winter will stretch a little bit longer too.
Making me happy: I had a particularly hellish day at work last week. The next day I arrived at work to find that my desk had been decorated with balloons, and a handful of people in the know dropped in just to give me a hug and tell me that I’m doing a great job. The support of my favourite colleagues has taken years to earn, and to know that it’s there has made all the difference this week. Living well is the best revenge, and all that.
Because holy crap you guys, I love my job 99% of the time, but there are some days when it can go and suck a big fat bag of dicks.
Beautiful treasures outside ‘Mollisons’ of Kyneton. I’d like to come back to this store with an hour and a fistful of cash!
The last couple of weeks have been strange, and I’ve noticed that whenever things in my life are out of balance the blog is the first thing to go quiet. I’ve been taking a little bit of time to get my groove back and it’s done me a world of good to just press pause.
The Boston marathon bombings have coloured much of the past two weeks for me, and it didn’t seem right to talk about it when I had nothing new to say. As the drama unfolded we were glued to a live stream of a Boston news station for two days straight, and it struck me how often I recognised a spot where I had stood just six months earlier. I took a bunch of photos in Copley Square last October that hold even more meaning for me now.
Since my very first visit to Boston six years ago I’ve felt a kinship with that city that’s hard to explain, and I’ve had trouble getting Sweet Caroline out of my brain for the past couple of weeks. Boston is the toughest city I’ve ever known and I don’t think I’ll ever forget some of these stories of tragedy and heroism.
(Tim’s sister was supposed to be working at the medical tent at the finish line that day. I can’t even let myself imagine how different things might have been if she hadn’t changed her plans at the last minute – there must be thousands of people wondering the same thing, for different reasons.)
… and just to keep things interesting, while this was going on our little fleabag had a medical emergency of his own. In the course of a single weekend we had five trips to the vet and he got very sick. He’s on the mend and should make a full recovery, but man. I love that dog, and he really gave us a scare.
Today was a bit gloomy, and we decided it was a good time to get out of the house and see something new. I wanted to see some pretty autumn leaves before they all disappeared so we jumped in the car and checked out two towns we’d never been to before – Macedon and Kyneton.
The foliage wasn’t quite as perfect as our stay in Vermont last October (that was magical!) but the colours were so much brighter today than I had expected. I’m so glad that we were able to see it this weekend while so many of the leaves were still hanging on.
If you live around here, I bet it’s still going to be incredible for the next couple of weeks. You should go.
About a hundred years ago I had a best friend who I adored with all my heart.
The two of us were inseparable throughout high school and she became like the sister I never had; we were almost adopted into each others’ families. As teenagers we could walk into the other’s house like we belonged there, help ourselves to the food in the pantry as though it was our own. Her parents pulled me into line when I deserved it and celebrated my successes with me too. As we got older her dad vetted the boys I dated and made sure they were up to scratch, and my dad checked the water and oil in her car every time she parked it in my driveway.
We laughed all the time. We took personal responsibility for each others’ crises and wrote pages of letters in class. I shared a level of intimacy and comfortability with her that I’ve never really known with anybody else, at least until Tim moved in with me a decade later.
We both moved to different cities after finishing school, and as you’d expect our relationship started to change. We made new friendships, and both of us had big grown-up experiences that didn’t include the other. We were best friends still, but our lives didn’t overlap so much anymore. The years passed and over time our best friendship was a more symbolic one.
She moved to my city when we were in our early twenties. I had naively assumed that our friendship would once again become as close and easy as it had been when we were kids, but something wasn’t right between us right from the start. She would say things that assured me of my place in her life, but then do things that made me doubt whether we were ok. It was a confusing time for me and we never really talked about it properly.
Something terrible happened between us around that time that brought it all to a head. There was a huge fight, and when we couldn’t patch things up we went our separate ways. I don’t think we’ve seen each other since we were about 25, and although there were good reasons for my hurt and anger I have missed her every day since.
Every so often I get tired of missing her and I reach out, hoping like hell that she misses me too. Each time my efforts have been met with relief and excitement, but whenever it has come time for tough conversations about what happened things have always tapered off into silence. She told me recently that the guilt she felt made it too difficult, it was easier to give up than to suffer through an autopsy.
But if we can’t talk about what’s broken, what am I to do with these fears of being hurt badly again? Is it better to protect myself, even if it keeps my old friend at arm’s length?
Am I the one preventing us from moving on?
I reconnected with another wonderful old schoolfriend recently. Kate and I went our own ways when we finished school, and although nothing terrible happened between us we drifted apart when we went to uni. Sixteen years later she recognised my photo on Twitter, reached out to say hello, and now we’re making up for lost time. It’s such a blessing to have her back in my life and I’m so glad to know her again.
Kate shared an article on her blog that resonated with me deeply: The Friendship Contract. The author Kate Fridkis writes about her experiences with female friendships and the way that they so often end – in silence.
And the whole thing made me think about how female friendships work. How different they are from romantic attachments, much of the time. We share our souls with each other, our most secret secrets, sometimes, but so often, we don’t know how to fight. We don’t learn how to be hurt by each other and keep going. […]
I have always had close girlfriends. My friendships with other girls and women have often been profound, supportive, fulfilling, and desperately needed. For a lot of my life, I’ve had a best friend. And inevitably, something has gone wrong, and too often, we have split immediately apart, injured, trailing long filaments of messy emotion, but without attempting to bind ourselves together again. We simply don’t know what to say to each other when things fail. It would be intensely awkward, maybe, to admit that we are angry, fed up, that our feelings are hurt, that we feel neglected or offended. So instead, we just leave. Sometimes, years later, we come together again, once we are fully, separately healed. We politely avoid the subject of our former downfall.
This article was an aha! moment for me. The uncomfortable truth for me is this: I do know how to fight well – especially with the people I care about. I don’t seek out conflict, but if something is wrong between me and somebody I love I would rather lay it out and examine it than let it fester in silence. My ability to put my thoughts and feelings into words are both a gift and a curse, as sometimes I forget that others aren’t quite so willing to fight, to endure a process so painful and risky.
My old best friend and I are trying this conversation again right now, for the first time in years. I don’t know what to expect, and with so much at stake I’m torn in the knowledge that this conversation could end things for good if we don’t get it right. I’m trying to balance this love for my old friend with my need for self-protection, and in doing so I’m asking her to engage in a conversation that she might well decide is all too hard.
I’m asking her to let things get worse, in order for us to have a chance to heal. The difference is that now, finally, I will understand if she says no. I will know that I did the best I could, and so did she.
The Friendship Contract is something to aspire to for the new relationships I will build as an adult, but Kate’s article made me realise that I can’t ask somebody to simply know how to do this. There are other needs that must be met, not just my own.
Last Sunday was my birthday. It was a pretty quiet affair this year; a lazy day of breakfast in bed, thoughtful presents, lots of phonecalls, and a couple of hours with my doona and an excellent book. Outside the weather was rainy and cold which was exactly what we needed after our record-breaking heatwave. Tim took me to Nobu for dinner and we had an incredible night together, dressed to the nines. I even busted out the false lashes.
I was completely ready for thirty-two to be behind me, for reasons I’m not entirely able to explain. When I look back at my last year I have so much to be grateful for: an incredible holiday to the USA (and much longed-for quality time with Tim’s family), hitting new strides in my job, happy milestones for the people I love. It was a year of blessings.
But for me it was also a year for restlessness and sadness. There were some long stretches of time when I felt pretty low – not depressed, just lacking my usual resilience to the world. I felt the disappointments and unkindnesses more deeply during the past year, and found that it lowered my expectations of the people around me. I hurt my foot and quit my running, I stopped painting because I couldn’t remember how to do it.
So I’ve been feeling kind of lost. I’ve been treading water, waking up each day to go through the motions. I haven’t been nurturing the parts of me that are most important: my health and my passions.
Thirty-three feels like a chance to get my old self back.
If I need more from the people around me I am going to ask for it. I am going to ask more of myself and make sure that I finish each week better than I found it. There will be more time for friends and drawing and being outside – even if my foot won’t let me run. Food will be fuel, not feelings.
One thing I know about myself is that this blog is still a healthy, enriching thing for me. My blog doesn’t overwhelm or dictate my offline life, but the interactions I have here do so much to enhance it. I guess what I’m saying is that I love youuuse guyyys.
So tell me, what’s your secret for pulling yourself out of a slump? I could use a bit of a boost.
Filmmaker Bianca Giaever was just a few weeks away from graduation when she began her final class project. She took creative direction from six year old Asa Baker-Rouse, who gave her some pretty specific advice about her film and about life in general.
The end result is sweet and imaginative, and life-affirming too. Clear your schedule for the next eight minutes and be prepared to be punched right in the feels.
we weren’t the only kids who grew up this way to this day kids are still being called names the classics were hey stupid hey spaz seems like each school has an arsenal of names getting updated every year and if a kid breaks in a school and no one around chooses to hear do they make a sound? are they just the background noise of a soundtrack stuck on repeat when people say things like kids can be cruel?
I promise you that one day these people will not matter. You will leave them behind, and your life will be so full that there won’t even be space for them in your thoughts. But until that day, please just remember this one thing.
Last week I made an appointment with a new optometrist for an eye checkup, since it’s been a couple of years since I last thought about my eyeballs. My last optometrist was memorable for all the wrong reasons, in that I once asked him a casual question about one of my eyes and he responded, Have you ever been to Africa? It’s probably a parasite.
I haven’t been to Africa, actually, but thanks for that. The nightmares have been a real awakening.
This morning I asked the same question of my new eyeballogist and she apologised on behalf of the entire industry for her colleague. She confirmed that I’m not hosting a brain-eating worm and instead offered to take photographs of the backs of my eyes in order to properly investigate it. The photos she took cost me about the same price as a glamour portrait session so I’m somewhat compelled to frame them and hang them over the TV, but the good news is that my eyes are in perfect health. No glaucoma, no macular degeneration, and no illegal tenants.
I bought these beautiful babies and now I have to wait two weeks for them to arrive. They say business at the front, party at the side, and No Trespassing to organisms who depend on my body for nutrients.
It was worth the extra few bucks for that feature.
There are few things that make me as happy as the beginning of a new year. January 1 feels like the best opportunity to draw a line, to finish a chapter and make conscious decisions about the plot of the next one. It’s a chance to stop the habits that have snowballed and make better choices.
2012 was really good to me. We travelled, we spent lots of time with our favourite people, and creatively it was an inspiring year for me. I made drawings and paintings and photos and handmade things. I turned my office into a place that made me happy, and I did my job well. I grew up a lot this year, I think.
In my job I spend about 4 months in planning mode for the next year. It can be confusing when New Years Day comes around and I have to remind myself that it’s only just turned 2013 – no, it’s not 2014 yet!
Yesterday I packed away the Christmas decorations and my mind felt clearer. I love Christmas, but this year I needed to put it behind me and get excited for the things ahead.
But before I get too deep into 2013, here are the questions I tackle once a year (you can read the last couple here: 2011, 2010). I’d love to hear your answers too!
1. What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before?
2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? My only new year’s resolution was to begin my new 101 Things in 1001 Days project. I managed to finish 30 items in 2012, plus a bunch of progress on 16 other tasks. I’ll be writing a big 12-month progress report on that soon.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Two sweet little girls arrived in 2012 – Georgia Mae and Eva Rose. They are heavenly.
4. Did anyone close to you die? My grandmother’s sister passed away suddenly last month. One of my best friends at work lost her beloved husband after a long, cruel fight with cancer.
5. What countries/states did you visit? We didn’t travel much in Australia this year – just up to Brisbane to see Mum & Dad. To make up for it we covered a lot of ground in the USA (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, NYC, Florida) and stopped over in Vancouver and Toronto. I hope to do more domestic travel in 2013.
6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012? I would like to spend more time on the things outside of work that make me happy. Painting, photography, reading books. For me I think that means simplifying our lives (and throwing out stuff) that hinders my ability to just sit down and get to work.
7. What dates from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? I think I’ll always remember New England’s beautiful autumn each time September & October roll around. It’s magic there.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? There are a few items on my 101 list that were really satisfying to complete. Maybe the Michelle Bridges 12 Week Body Transformation (12WBT) – that was brutal, but so good for me.
9. What was your biggest failure? I didn’t spend enough time with my friends in 2012. That’s something I need to change this year.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury? I have a foot injury which has put an end to my running for a while. I hope it’s not for long, because I’m itching to get back on track. Aside from that we were both pretty healthy this year.
11. What was the best thing you bought? That’s easy – my new camera. I feel very lucky to have it.
12. Whose behaviour merited celebration? Julia Gillard’s speech about Tony Abbott and misogyny was pretty effing great.
13. Whose behaviour was appalling? Most of the things that come out of Alan Jones’ mouth are pretty appalling, but when he suggested that the Prime Minister’s father died of shame I was absolutely disgusted. Later, Tony Abbott appeared to reference that quote in parliament which basically confirmed to the nation that he’s a scumbag.
14. Where did most of your money go? Definitely our overseas trip. Worth it.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Our overseas trip, mostly. But aside from that? Fort Birthday!
16. What song will always remind you of 2012?
I had this one incredible NYC moment in October that I’ll never forget. I was standing in Sephora in Times Square; the store was packed with people and the music was loud. Suddenly Empire State of Mind by Jay Z & Alicia Keys came blasting through the speakers and every staff member stopped what they were doing and danced and sang along. There was nothing choreographed about it, and none of the customers got impatient. That’s pretty rare for NYC.
It was this cool, spontaneous display of pride for their amazing city and it just about made my heart burst.
(Also Thrift Shop by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis!)
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? happier! b) thinner or fatter? about the same c) richer or poorer? about the same
18. What do you wish you’d done more of? More drawing, more reading.
19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Mindless internetting. I did a huge clean out of my RSS feeder a few months ago and it really changed the way I spend my time online. I was a bit tired of the constant advertising that was creeping into my life and it helped when I put more thought into the blogs I read.
20. How did you spend Christmas? Christmas was quiet, except for a big family lunch at my cousin’s place.
21. What was your favourite TV program?
We’ve been hooked on a few shows this year. We are in love with Downton Abbey, Breaking Bad and Newsroom, and we’re halfway through re-watching The O.C. It’s rad.
22. Did you make a friend with anyone that you didn’t know this time last year? There are a couple of new people at work that I’ve liked spending time with. My workplace is weird though, people don’t really socialise outside of the office.
23. What was the best book you read? The Great Gatsby. Not exactly a new release, is it? I hope the movie does justice to the book.
24. What was your greatest musical discovery? I rediscovered Classic FM and discovered that I get less road rage when I play it in the car.
25. What did you want and get? Quality time with Tim’s family, not just days packed with sight-seeing. Some of my favourite memories are the quiet days that we had with his parents in Maine & Vermont, just hanging out together.
26. What did you want and not get? We had hoped to make some decisions about buying a house this year, but it all looks a bit hopeless. We’re not really any closer to figuring out which suburbs we should be looking at. Boo.
27. What was your favourite film of this year? Moonrise Kingdom was easily the best movie of 2012.
28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I turned 32. I spent the day with my favourite guy in Fitzroy wandering the markets.
29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? A couple more weeks in the USA would have been perfect. We’d have spent more time with Tim’s family, more time in NYC and I’d have tried to fit in a trip to DC or San Francisco too.
30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012? Skinny jeans, ballet flats, long scarves. Long hair with a thick blunt fringe. Smashbox BB cream, Urban Decay foundation and Smashbox electric pink lipstick. More makeup, but less jewellery this year than at any other time in my life.
31. What kept you sane? Running is the absolute best thing for my sanity. I wish my foot wasn’t busted so I could get back on the wagon!
32. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? I have some pretty serious respect for Barack Obama after the 2012 election.
33. What political issue stirred you the most? There is no issue in Australian politics that is more important to me than the treatment of our refugees. Our record, our policies, are sickening.
34. Who did you miss? I miss having Tim’s family as part of our day-to-day lives. The timezones make it pretty hard.
35. Who was the best new person you met?
Tim is growing a beard right now and it feels a little bit like having an affair. Tim 2.0 is cute.
36. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012 Don’t sweat the small stuff. I’ve gotten a little better and putting that into action in my own life in the past year, though I still have a long way to go.
37. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year But tell me, what have I done to deserve you? Must have done something cause that’s how it works Must have been kind to kittens and birds, In a previous life must have thought happy thoughts…
I Want to Sing – Regina Spektor
I have this feeling that 2012 was the prequel to something bigger. I’m ready for you, 2013!
Tim and I are pretty accustomed to big Christmases. Our very first Christmas together was spent with his family on the other side of the world, and since then we’ve usually hosted one or both sets of families with us. This Christmas (our sixth? geez!) was pretty quiet in comparison to the others. We saw my extended Melbourne family for lunch (an incredible feast which featured three roasts, baked fish and salads) and lavished attention on my cousin’s new baby girl.
The rest of the time we were on our own. Christmas felt different this year, and not really in a good way. In previous years I’ve kind of craved a quiet Christmas for just the two of us but the truth is, the reality was less exciting than the idea. I missed my family; I missed Tim’s family. We’ve spent so much time with all of them this year that it felt weird to be without them on such an important day. We had phonecalls and skype, but what we really needed was our people – for realsies.
We need to do something about that next year.
Anyway, it wasn’t doom and gloom. Tim and I had a fun Christmas morning opening our presents, and we were both pretty spoiled. Tim gave me the Manfrotto tripod I’d been lusting after, and something I had no idea I wanted – a SodaStream! That thing is FUN and although I’m not a big soda/soft drink fan I do love my water carbonated so it’s going to get a workout this Summer. Tim got some boy stuff – a Playstation game, a voucher for some new running shoes and a big pile of books that he’d been hoping for.
Mum & Dad gave us a Sony HD handycam. It was probably their way of saying, “HEY. Give us back our video camera!” but that doesn’t matter because it’s awesome. It has a cool little projector on it too so that you can play back your footage in a dark room. It’s probably the closest thing to super 8 film that my generation will ever see again.
So that was Christmas. It wasn’t perfect, but it was still a reminder of how incredibly lucky we are. Just a 30 min drive from my house one of my best workmates was facing her first Christmas without her husband. Somebody else I care about spent the day watching their relationship unravel before their eyes. Tim and I had each other, our silly dog and some thoughtful gifts, and our loved ones were just a phonecall away. We know we’re pretty blessed.
Hoping that your Christmas was wonderful, even if for you it just means a bit of a rest from the everyday grind. I can’t quite believe that we’re about to head into a new year but I have a really good feeling about 2013.
And I’m never wrong about this sort of thing.
* No reindogs were harmed in the making of this blog post.
In a final interview for Penguin, the man who has regularly been Australia’s most popular novelist said he was going to die at precisely the right time, while he still had his intellect and energy. ”The time is right, it’s beautiful, it’s gorgeous.”
I have only read a few of his books so far, but there are scenes in The Power of One that are so deeply embedded in my mind that I know I’ll always carry them in my memory. I read the book when I was barely a teenager, and when I discovered the sequel Tandia I devoured it in a weekend. I just couldn’t put it down, and that was a thrilling feeling when I was 13.
I often wonder how those books would stand up now that I’m an adult.
When I was sixteen I worked for a family as a nanny for a few months travelling all over the world. Our final stop before home was a short stay in Sydney, and by the time we arrived there I was jetlagged and exhausted from head to toe. I’d hoped for a sleep-in that morning but the kids had other ideas. Their body clocks were confused and they needed to be fed and entertained.
We got dressed as quietly as we could and snuck down to breakfast in the restaurant in the foyer of the hotel.
I remember taking the two smallest children up to the buffet to help them choose their breakfast. They were pointing wildly at all the sugary foods that they weren’t allowed to eat at home, and as I filled up their plates there was a lot of negotiation and compromise going on. I was slowly inching my way backwards along the counter while we talked, keeping an eye on their little hands in case the temptation of chocolate for breakfast was too strong.
What happened next was like a cheaply-written sitcom. I took one backward step too many and bumped right into a man who had been doing the same thing from the other end of the buffet. It gave me such a fright that I almost overbalanced, and I would have taken both plates of food to the ground with me. The man instinctively stuck out a hand to steady me, straightened me up and we both apologised at exactly the same time. The kids had the giggles because it was so ridiculous that we’d collided at such a slow speed, and the laughter was infectious.
When my embarrassment had finally subsided I looked up from the ground and realised that the grinning face in front of me was the same as the one in the dust jacket of my books. I was doubly mortified and made a swift exit after apologising a few hundred more times.
He seemed amused.
My grandmother (right) and her sister.
But Bryce Courtenay wasn’t the only wonderful person that the world lost today. This afternoon another wonderful storyteller took her last breath and left behind some pretty heavy hearts. She didn’t have a chance to say her goodbyes like Bryce, but perhaps that’s a blessing of a different kind.
She’ll be so badly missed, especially by her sister – my grandmother. They’ve been next door neighbours for 17 years, and best friends for 97 years. My grandmother has been a widow for longer than she was married and in January she will turn 102 without her best mate by her side.
We’re so worried about what’s next for her. She’s seen two world wars, the sinking of the Titanic and buried her own husband. But how do you survive another broken heart when it’s been working hard for more than a century?
Every day is such a blessing. I hope my grandmother will find the strength to live many more.