I should get into the practice of warning myself in advance that the first weeks of going back to reality are likely to be tough. Of course, I didn’t make it any easier on myself by sideswiping a car in the school car park without even realising and then having to face up to my mistake later. We all learned a lot of lessons about how to show up when you least feel like it and pick yourself back up again when things get tough.
On a more positive note, we are elated with the incredible front steps that our friend built for us and can’t believe how much the facade has changed our experience of the house. From having an obscure front entrance to a framed and welcoming one, we really appreciate all the hard work that went into the steps and the difference it has made as a result.
As much as I have enjoyed writing these recaps, I fear this might be my last. As an Enneagram Two, I am learning that I should be steering away (as much as possible) from endeavours that tempt the creation of an idealised self-image. There is so much further to fall from the unrealistic heights of what is curated and carefully edited, than the messy and not so glamorous reality that is my actual life. This makes me sad in a lot of ways because I loved the month by month documentation of time moving, of little phrases that would otherwise get swept away by the dust of faded memories. So, farewell ‘What I’m Into‘ community. It has been a privilege to connect with you.
What I’m Reading
The Alice Network (Kate Quinn)
This book – derived from the true story of the female network of spies in France during the first World War – undid me a little. The realities of war and the sacrifices and suffering that occurs makes me simultaneously horrified at the dark capabilities of the human race and filled with gratitude for the place in history which I find myself. The women who gave literally gave their lives for the sake of others in order to thwart enemy maneuvers and end the war sooner were incredibly brave and inspiring. I only realised belatedly that the book was based upon Louise de Bettignies and the story became all the more impacting as a result. I felt the two perspective telling of the story for the most part worked well and that the intertwining of Charlie and Eve’s lives was redemptive, even if I found the initial connection and launching into the journey a little far-fetched. Overall a well done and challenging book.
Braving the Wilderness (Brene Brown)
I have a suspicion that books come around at the time you most need to read them. This one – the latest of Brene Brown’s inimitable work – was remarkably poignant and hard-hitting. Being yourself (even when that clashes with the expectations of those around you), opening yourself up again and again even when you feel hurt, having civil conversations without the use of dehumanising language, choosing to embrace the moments of joyous connection with our fellow humans – these lessons are so timely and important. On the flip side, I felt the book finished far too quickly and perhaps wasn’t as well edited or reworked as her earlier texts have been. There just wasn’t the huge inspiring ending that I was hoping for. Nevertheless, great insights and reminders about what is most important in life from a person who is on the front lines showing us how it is done.
The Shifting Fog (The House at Riverton) (Kate Morton)
I am a Kate Morton fan. This book, however, just didn’t seem to flow in the same vein as her other (later) works. The more I puzzled over the narrative, the more threads seemed to unravel and I was left feeling estranged towards all the characters at the end. Grace, the ever-dependable house maid, finds a sort of kinship with the sisters of Riverton House, in particular Hannah Hartford. Now in her twilight years, she is given the opportunity to revisit the memories of times past, in particular a secret that she has buried within her for years. I find the era of history fascinating, with the transition from large estates shifting to a more vocal middle class and Grace was the perfect narrator and vantage point, I just didn’t feel drawn into the story like I have in the past with Morton’s work.
My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life (Ruth Reichl)
Food memoir is a completely winning category for me, so when I stumbled onto this title from Addie Zierman’s blog I knew it would be worth checking out. Documenting the food and emotional journey of Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl after Conde Nast announced it was suddenly closing the magazine’s operation down, I felt drawn in by the visceral descriptions of ingredients, the heart-warming recipes and the approach to hospitality that exuded from Reichl’s words. She spans a diverse food universe, but it is somehow earthly and accessible and she sparked many directions of culinary ideas in my mind.
What I’m Watching
The Zookeeper’s Wife
Knowing that this was a true story made me want to like it more than I perhaps did in the end. The incredible bravery of Jan and Antonina Żabiński was inspiring in their tireless efforts to silently rescue and hide in their zoo hundreds of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto in the second World War. What I found difficult and a little unbelievable was the way the ‘relationship’ with the German General developed and the visit to his office near the end of the film. I read up on the similarities between the film and the true story after the credits rolled and it turns out there were many changes to the Hollywood version. At any rate, it has inspired me to read the book by Diane Ackerman and investigate more thoroughly the courage of this amazing couple.
Murder on the Orient Express
Ever since my teenage years when I first picked up a dusty copy of an Agatha Christie mystery, I was hooked. I spent many a time scouring bookshelves of second-hand bookstores, hoping to stumble across a yellowed version that I hadn’t yet read. This movie adaptation, studded with well-known stars, was very enjoyable. Much more dramatic than the usual Poirot versions, I found Kenneth Branagh’s charismatic interpretation of the famous detective refreshing. Obviously the ending was no great surprise to me, but I enjoyed watching Dave try to figure it all out along the way.
What I’m Listening To
Is there anyone more unique and compelling than Russell? Dave has been laughing out loud and musing over the deep political insights of Brand’s podcast for a while now so I felt like it was time to be initiated. Brand is insane – with rapid fire, eloquent verbal torrents about whatever topic is on hand, coupled with that uncanny knack for humour when it is needed most. He is real, quick, incredibly clever and an interviewer who draws a lot out of his guests. Brand isn’t afraid to disagree but he does it with such a deft touch and I never fail to learn something new about the world. This month I listened to his interviews with Peter Jordan and Ruby Wax.
After a short break away from this podcast, I was rapt to discover how many episodes I have to catch up on now. I began with Science Mike’s hacking of the Enneagram, then travelled onto the panel of Enneagram 2’s (my type) and it was hilarious and insightful. I love hearing well-balanced and humble people discuss with vulnerability and humour their shortfalls and patterns. It is so informative and inspiring.
What I’m Cooking
Eli’s new teacher is Irish so how could we not begin the month with a ‘trip’ to the lush, green countryside. We savoured stews of many different kinds (probably not ideal with the sweltering heat) and potatoes in all forms.
From Ireland we took a trek to India and I discovered the universe of The Curry Guy. With a little bit of preparation, we were able to enjoy restaurant-style curries for the fortnight and it was such an enjoyable cuisine to master. If you love a good curry, check out this recipe book – it completely hacks the base recipes you need (I made up a big batch of ‘base curry’ recipe that took an hour to do and made enough base for 10 different curries – such a winner!).
We rounded off the month by a trip back to Istanbul for our next Enchanted Table iteration – the Turkish Feast. Our table was groaning under the weight of spiced meats, Lahmacun, garlic yoghurt sauce, Burek, pilafs, savoury fritters, kofte and homemade dips. I love watching the unleashed creativity of all the guests and I’m always blown away by how the feast comes together with what feels like minimal work on my own part.
Dave dove into the deep end with school and study this month, managing to problem solve and trouble shoot difficulties at work and balance his hours at home with his next exam. It felt a little like ships passing in the night – being in the same room but rarely involved in the same activity… though I know that reality won’t last forever. He has done an incredible job to balance the pressure of all competing demands and still remain available to us.
School couldn’t have come early enough for this one and he has (mostly) relished the routine change, throwing himself into the challenges and tasks of the classroom. He has a fantastic teacher who really understands him and knows how to inspire and push him forward. At home we have noticed an improvement in his emotional management and he has been a lot more content to delve into imaginary Lego or book related worlds in his downtime. Towards the end of the month we had to learn a lot about facing up when you make mistakes and not holding onto the negative feelings forever. It was a bit of a rough time for all of us.
I feel like Hudson was born for Kinder. He barely glanced back as we dropped him off on the first day and he seems to handle the day with his usual hearty enthusiasm. He has begun speech pathology weekly with Dave’s talented sister and she is incredible with her abilities to draw out his focus and improve his speech patterns. I love the huge bear hugs I get from Hudson, despite being constantly late to pick him up, and I’m so proud of the way he has launched himself into this new year.
Little Miss Ivy has discovered an obsession with wooden puzzles. Not a day goes by at the moment without her being consumed in her attempts to match the pieces and she is so proud of her efforts. She and Harvey have been able to develop more of a relationship with the elder two gone for the majority of the week and I have loved watching them get along. There are a few things we are working on and I feel like potty training might be a thing of the distant future, but overall she is a delight and asks regularly for ‘cuddles up to the top’ (ie. being picked up for a bear hug).
I feel like Harvey is a good mood talisman. Any one of the kids can be cracking it for one reason or another, but one grin from Harvey can shatter their bad mood in seconds. A cuddle from Harvey can feel like a salve, he is just so easy to hold and cherish. At the moment he represents the fleeting nature of time, the window of baby years slowly sliding shut, and I am equal parts relieved and devastated. Not quite at crawling stage yet, I spend moments wondering if I should be doing more to encourage the skill and other moments inordinately thankful that he has shown little interest… particularly when I survey the number of choking hazards (ie. Lego pieces) that I’m going to have to police being constantly put away when he is on the move.
It would seem this was more of a home-bound month, I suppose because the lure of not having to go anywhere on the weekends was felt by all. We savoured slow mornings, pancake breakfasts, sort-of sleep ins and Eli disappeared for long stretches to rediscover his Lego.
We did visit IKEA (mostly for the cheap breakfast, let’s be honest):
Farewelled the older boys off to School and Kinder:
Enjoyed a jaunt to Lysterfield Lake for a family birthday BBQ:
Savoured a picnic at Brighton Beach for an extended family get-together:
Tried to relax amongst all our excited children at Wilson Botanic:
Ate far too much delicious food at our Turkish Feast:
Well, February, you have been a varied mix of great moments and forgettable ones. The mornings are growing darker and more chilly and I feel the tread of Autumn approaching. I’m looking forward to the crunch of vibrant leaves, the savouring of hot drinks and the aroma of cookies and cakes emanating from the oven.