As spring dawns, I watch the trees with hawk-like eyes – hungering for the first glimpse of timid blossom unfurling. I marvel as the spindly branches of the crab apple tree take on new hues and expand – the tender shoots of life pushing forth to greet the warm wash of sunlight.
September brought with it the shadow of surgery. For the weeks before the big day I struggled not to fret, worrying that Hudson would pick up a random bug and be unable to undergo the massive transformation that I hoped the experience would be. In fact, everything worked out more smoothly than I could have even hoped for and Hudson is near close to a full recovery now, even managing to make it through the night without waking up and screaming in agony. (For the back story about the need for surgery, see here and here).
It was a big month for celebrations – birthdays, Father’s Day, my parents’ anniversary. There is something remarkable about watching the kids interact with family – the shrieks of laughter playing with Pa and the furtive gazes of adoration towards their bigger cousins. The additional excuses to get together add to a feeling of richness and connection.
After a long hiatus I dove back wholeheartedly into my historical fiction novel. I’m about half way through the first draft now and the experience is just a little intoxicating. I don’t know whether my method of seeing where the characters take me is an entirely legitimate approach, but it keeps the process fresh and exciting, so I guess it doesn’t matter. It is just nice to have something to pour my creativity into that isn’t directly relating to being a mother.
What I’m Reading
Notice a theme?
The French Perfumer (Amanda Hampson)
This was a thoughtful birthday present from my parents-in-law and I have thoroughly enjoyed the trip to a villa in France where Iris (an initially straight-laced and timid woman) takes a role as secretary to a mysterious recluse with little knowledge of the world she has been inducted into. Amanda Hampson’s writing is easy to read and her focus on descriptions of smells has a great depth and intrigue to it. Relatively fast-paced with interesting twists and turns. The unpacking of everything at the end I found slightly hard to keep track of and I wondered if there would have been a better way to unfold the story, but other than that, the book was an enjoyable read.
Words of Radiance (Stormlight Archive Book 2) (Brandon Sanderson)
I hesitate to describe this book as a fantasy novel because Sanderson is so adept at creating cohesive universes that just feel as if they actually exist in a dimension somewhere. From the imaginative spren that hover visibly (ragespren, lifespren, gloryspren, fearspren) to the spheres of stormlight that act as light, currency and a hidden source of power – I half feel as if I’ve visited this strange but familiar place. This is my second reading of the book as the third book in the proposed ten book series is about to be released and if anything it is more enjoyable this time around.
At My French Table: Food Family and Joie de Vivre (Jane Webster)
I asked Dave to bring me home a French cookbook from his school’s library. Instead, he delivered a portal to another world. This incredible story of an Australian family who moved (along with their four children) to a chateau in Normandy has captured every part of my imagination and sated my appetite. The recipes are simple, delicious and amazing, but they do not compare to the journey that Webster takes you on with her words and photographs – detailing every part of the crazy decision to relocate her family, the idea that sprouted forth into The French Table and the idyllic reality of an always brimming life centred around food and friends. One day, we will visit that chateau and drink in every second of the experience. Anyone want to join us? In the meantime, I have been inspired to craft a French feast to draw in a little of the magic that I sense hovering.
Paris to Provence: Childhood Memories of Food and France (Ethel Brennan, Sara Remington)
Yes, there is a slight theme going on for this month in case you couldn’t tell. I’m a little obsessed with France and French cooking and this book – written by two American women who had similar but separate experiences of growing up in and journeying back to France – is so evocative with its incredible photographs, tales of food memories and delectable recipes. I think this is my new favourite genre – ‘cookbook memoir’.
What I’m Listening To
This month I listened to Adrienne Dorison on ‘The Transformational Power of Hard Stories’, ‘How to Live Well and Die Well’ with Greg Hartle Pt 1, ‘How to have a One Hour Orgasm’ – Kim Anami (less provocative than it sounds and very interesting perspective on mindfulness and sex), and ‘The Neuroscience of Fear’ – Akshay Nanavati.
Typology with Ian Morgan Cron
Still loving this Enneagram podcast though didn’t get to listen to as many – loved ‘So Six-y That it Hurts’ and got a few insights out of ‘The Enneagram – Sacred Map to the Soul’ with Christ Heuertz.
The Simple Show
The Essentialism series is fascinating in allowing you to hear how other people structure their lives in relation to key area. This month the focus was on Kids Education, Friendships, and Dating (In Marriage).
What I’m Cooking
I hesitate to write about this in some ways because I know many people do not find joy in cooking and see it as a necessary chore instead. For me, cooking is one of the biggest highlights of my day and the fact that the internet affords us access to authentic recipes of endless cuisines makes me endlessly inspired to try different styles and techniques.
I shop fortnightly and choose a focus cuisine for that time period, so that I can use up ingredients and not have any food wastage at the end. It also enables me to really get a feel for the similarites between recipes, the spice and herb combinations commonly used and is a very cheap way to ‘travel’ to that country (with our senses at least!)
This month we journeyed to Italy – savouring hearty dishes like Spaghetti and Meatballs, buttery Risotto and (vegetable packed) Bolognese. We made Baci di Ricotta (little donuts) and Mango Gelato. We probably also put on quite a few kilos…
A trip to Greece was next, with the light and lemony cuisine being a welcome change from the heartiness of Italy. We ate Greek Lamb Salad, Revithia (chickpea soup), Moussaka and Roast Vegetable Salad with Haloumi. I was surprised to discover how many delicious vegetarian meals could be created within this cuisine. We also experimented with Greek sweets, such as Coconut Syrup Cake and Baklava.
We finished off the month in France, the richness of butter and cream enveloping the delectable dishes. I cracked open my Julia Child manual once again (I always feel like a serious cook when I merely turn the pages of that tome) and returned to recipes such as Coq au Vin, Boeuf Bourguignon and Scalloped Potatoes. The Jane Webster cookbook ‘At My French Table‘ was also used often, with recipes like Herbed Chicken, Normandy Apple Cake, Raspberry and Almond Clafoutis and Chicken and Leek Pie. Ah, one day I will visit France and lose myself amongst the orchards, farmer’s markets, boulangeries and patisseries. One day.
If you are interested in any of the recipes I used, please feel free to comment below and I’ll provide the links. I also regularly post photos of our dishes on Instagram if you would like to follow along.
A new introduction in the What I’m Into post – I realised how little I do write about Dave when he is such a big part of my life. Dave has been firing on all cylinders this month (despite having very little sleep since Hudson’s surgery). His ideas and vision for how the field of education could be transformed to engage kids of every ‘type’ has seen the last piece of the puzzle drop in and him light up with unrestrained excitement. He about to commence studying his MBA, has been using every spare minute to create a new podcast, dreamed up a form of education that could be exported around the globe, and has been involved in rolling out key structural leadership changes at his school to ensure the system works as effectively as possible. I really don’t know how he does it all, plus making us feel loved and supported. What a man.
A bout of the flu drained Eli of his typically unrestrained energy and left us with a unusually docile boy instead. He is really developing his sense of humour at the moment and is quick to point out inconsistencies in our reasoning. There have been numerous examples of his formidable negotiating skills and I have taken to calling him ‘my little lawyer’ as a result. In other news, he is losing his teeth in rapid succession, had his first trip to the dentist (don’t judge me!) and has created his first science video in a proposed series ‘Professor Eli’s Investigations’.
What a huge month for Hudson. He has recovered so well from the surgery, managing to avoid the flu that was circling ominously and is already speaking so much more clearly. At night I have noticed such a difference in the quality of his breathing as he is not tossing and turning nearly as much. He is really developing an affinity for cooking and has filmed his first recipe demonstration, making Normandy Apple Cake. His favourite part is definitely the taste testing, but he also applies fierce dedication to stirring and beating the mixture.
Ivy has a gift for making us all smile. Her outlandish costumes and accessories, frenzied portrait drawing and calls to her ‘kitchen’ to try out her latest (playdough) creations bring such colour to our lives. She has a fierce streak and will return with gusto any insult levied upon her by her brothers and isn’t afraid to dive in if there is any wrestling on the go. Ivy can be incredibly sweet and gentle and her soft ‘I lud you, Mum’ with head tilted toward the side, eyes peeking up out of long lashes melts me every time. She also likes to give us long-winded explanations for things, regularly inserting the word ‘tos’ (because) after she pauses.
I’m still pinching myself a little that Harvey is such an easy and straightforward baby. His nature is so peaceful, happy, contented and he is exceptional at just ‘being’. He sleeps perfectly, is more than happy to entertain himself on the playmat and unleashes a high-wattage smile whenever any of his siblings turn their attention to him – even in the midst of low grade colds, eye infections and teething. Needless to say, this has not been typical of my experience of the baby phase to date and I wish I could put it down to my amazing parenting but I’ve learned the hard way that it really has little to do with me!
I wrote off September a little in my head when it began because all I could see was the 19th looming and the recovery that would take place after that, however somehow we managed to have a generous amount of adventures in spite of it all.
The copious amounts of birthdays and special occasions allowed us to have multiple family catch ups:
We were lucky enough to experience an epic Persian Feast with enough food for at least fifty people:
Lazed and brunched in Mornington with my family:
I escaped crazy hour for an evening to try delectable wines and delicious canapes with exceptional company at Lets Unwine:
We dropped into the Hale Farm with family and explored Mount Evelyn:
Enjoyed a delicious French Feast with great friends and dreamed of visiting a Chateau one day:
As for the rest of the month – there was a lot of inside time, copious amounts of tissues, doses of medication and impromptu naps. There was also a long overdue (*cough* twelve years *cough*) trip to the dentist. I’m so thankful that everything went smoothly and that we are now through the worst of the recovery process. Looking forward to October and ‘visiting’ more interesting places through food.