This London trip had an emphasis on food experiences and relaxed walks. When booking for lunch at Dinner by Heston, I explained my vision impairment and the appreciation of a window table for more light. After settling into my seat, I looked out to Hyde Park and was ecstatic. As we dined I could look out at my favourite diffused light of a cloudy day, autumn-tinged trees and the bouncing figures of lunch hour runners and horse riders. The stand out dishes were the Broth of Lamb and Pork Belly. If we were to eat here again we would like to simply order all the unique starters to feast upon for they were an impressive read that rendered us indecisive!
Oh my goodness. I fell in love repeatedly in Oxford. The grey skies allowed my eyes to dance freely among its beauty without any glare to block it. The texture and colours of the walls, the greenery crawling up them. The little pathways and lanes to explore. And the locals. Oh my. Those beautifully dressed girls, smartly attired men, and dapper grey-haired gentlemen, many gliding past on bicycles. It reminded me of my love of watching bike riders in Copenhagen. It also flows into my deep appreciation of a city design and culture that fosters walking or cycling. As our friends led us into The Missing Bean cafe, I couldn’t focus on the drinks in front of us. I just had to capture some of this gorgeousness that was making a grin creep across my face. I excused myself, sized up the safe route to go outside and stood smiling at everything. Sometimes I lifted my camera, sometimes I just took it in. The girl in the window with long dark hair and a cream jumper smiled at me. What a beautiful stranger. While her smile was not captured with my camera, it has stayed in my mind.
The world felt wonderfully cosy and simple at Duck Soup, Soho. With its daily handwritten seasonal European-inspired menu, simple decor and a few tables, the spotlight is on the food and your interactions with people around it. We had a delightful lunch here. But the world felt so intimate for we had the most serendipitous meeting with a well-known figure in the magazine world. After emailing prior to the trip we had decided it wasn’t going to happen for our timetables to harmonise. And yet, in they walked for a snack between work meetings. Our warm and brief interaction reminded me of the beauty of online life in connecting people. Which is all the more potent given that I minimise social media accounts and indeed go offline from it when we travel.
my wrapping theme for this year
I went festive gift shopping and enjoyed it.
I know. Not what you expected to read from me, a self-proclaimed minimalist with a low tolerance for shopping, is it? I’m a little surprised too, but I’m in a groove and flowing with it. I’ve still maintained many of my methods such as – avoiding advertising; only shopping at stores with a good website to allow pre-browsing; and for the silly season, getting in extra early to avoid the manic-state that seems to overcome some shops (and indeed shoppers!). I’ve written about this time of the year before and what is most important to me. In 2011 I asked my family to try a Christmas with no presents. And it wasn’t fair on them. The minimalist journey is mine and in our home, it’s not up to me to ask others to miss out on rituals that they enjoy once a year. After the no gifts celebration we talked about how the gesture of giving was missed by some. In the past my grandmother determined such things, but now it is my mum and I who do. So we brought gift-giving back.
My family has always had a moderate approach to the season anyway, particularly once you know who stopped dropping down the chimney. There is a focus on time and shared meals together with a spending cap on gifts for immediate family and anyone we’re seeing that day (we’ve always loved inviting affectionately-termed Christmas orphans to join us). The spending limit is a great way of keeping the day angst-free given that no-one finds themselves feeling uncomfortable from a disproportionate amount spent. Because the upfront and honest approach is so effective, I’ve also shared a list of what I need this year so that if they wish, people can buy things that are guaranteed a useful place in my home. Homemade gifts are encouraged and enjoyed too. As are experiences and promises. We pull up chairs around the pile, presents are opened, many kisses and hugs given and laughs shared. Then we gather around the buffet, pile fresh food on our plates and sit around chatting. After which we walk, swim or laze about enjoying the company. Gift giving is a part of the day, but materialism is not the focus.
It’s a reminder of a lesson this half-decade journey has taught me – sometimes minimalism is about finding a sustainable balance rather than the absolute absence of something. It’s the recognition of priorities, setting parameters and awareness of spending habits that is powerful here. Some 5 years ago I was able to spend a day wandering the shops without purpose to merely kill time. Now, in just 3 stores I ticked off my list and smiled to myself as I purchased thoughtful gifts. I now look forward to the smiles on their faces as they either rip or gently pull apart the pretty paper and find what’s inside – my love and a gift that is enough.
One of the things I cherish about exploring on foot and public transport is getting a sense of what daily life would look like for us in that city. While I only drink maybe one coffee a month, I am always researching coffee stops for my husband’s daily hit (I also research new craft beers for him to try. I know, awesome wife or what?). He drinks coffee, I photograph it – it’s a perfect partnership. We aren’t hipsters but we certainly frequent the hipster cafes because the odds are better for a good coffee. I also enjoy seeking out the cafes with neutral tones and uncluttered design. I relish our urban coffee explorations. We walk holding hands, note new restaurants or street art, take photos, pet dogs, chat to locals, bump into friends and then sit in a cafe talking about life. I love that coffee brings people together. On this day in London, in the best possible way, it felt like we were living normal daily life as we met my husband’s cousin at Monmouth in Covent Garden first thing in the morning. We then moved on to New Row Coffee and I smiled to myself as I snapped photos of the boys catching up over caffeine. After lunch in Soho (will share in another post) my husband and I also ticked Fernandez & Wells (his pick of the 3) off the ever-growing list. Ah yes, perfect strolls in this inspiring city.
As a person with a disability I can be on the receiving end of nastiness and discrimination. I choose to spend more time focusing on the good which I’m sure contributes to it multiplying around me. Gratitude begets gratitude. Oh my, it can make my heart explode sometimes. Just this morning my dog and I set off to do some errands down the street. The grocer asked me where I have been, that he had asked his sons if they’d seen me. He had missed me. He leant in for a kiss on my cheek, gave me some grapes and passionfruit and passed good wishes on to my husband. I started smiling. Grinning actually. I carefully cross the road to the deli and the owner helps me choose my items. We all wish each other a good day and I am smiling still. A customer says I have the door open for you and again I’m thanking someone for their kindness. A few doors down to the bakery and the lady comes from behind the counter to give me change and have a chat. My eyes happen to fall on strangers smiling at me as they pass. I wonder how many smiles I miss, but boy do the ones I see touch me. Now to nourish my husband while he works from home – with all this fresh food that has been lovingly sold to me. I am still grinning.
2nd & 3rd photos of me by my husband
Wow, what a month. I’ve been jumping joyfully, tasting, breathing and seeing the beauty of the world. We’ve circumnavigated it this past month, relishing adventures, food and time with loved ones. In London we cafe hopped, wandered streets and parks without hurry, and caught up with friends and family. In Iceland we rugged up, held hands and ran in the cold air laughing. We photographed the stunning landscape, pet Icelandic horses and chased the northern lights. In Florida Keys we took over a picturesque resort and celebrated my sister-in-law’s wedding surrounded by family from around the world. I have much to share with you my friends. I hope you are all well.
exploring with my darling husband where we spotted jonquils,
one of my beautiful mum’s favourite flowers
Our weekend contained lots of family time and my heart is filled with love and life. My husband unwound from a busy period at work and enjoyed sleep-ins, coffee, strolls holding my hand and cuddles with our precious precious dog. Goodness we couldn’t love our senior puppy any more. As family stories were shared, my mother-in-law and her sister laughed until their faces were red and their eyes moist. With deep breaths they pushed through to spill out the punch-lines before more laughter burst forth. The rest of us smiled knowingly. The giggles always start when these two get together. Before long, we are laughing breathlessly too and I look at my husband – gosh it makes my heart burst to watch him laugh. How I adore him, my partner in life with whom sharing the ordinary and extraordinary is wonderful. I am completely and utterly his. I feel the same fullness when I see my mum’s smile. Quality time with my mum and step-dad and the great unveiling of their house renovations – they have made a home where we are going to enjoy so many precious family times. I watch my mum, listen to her words and feel her joy in nesting there. I see my step-dad and her join for a hug, a kiss, a few words and I am so grateful for their journey together. Her happiness, health and contentment fill me with warmth – it’s everything I wish for my loved ones. How I love her so deeply. She taught me love and I grew up knowing that fully. It’s amazing how big our hearts can be. I feel such humungous love for those nearest and dearest. I am so truly wealthy.
My friends, I’m unplugging from the computer for a few weeks to live in this love and beauty around me. To squeeze every bit of seeing and noticing out of it all. See you soon. With love, xx
Paris greenery 2011
The feel of my dog’s tail brushing my legs as it wags happily. My husband’s homemade mushroom sauce on our 6th wedding anniversary. My mother-in-law’s determination to master gluten-free baking just for me. Coming out of the challenging time with my health, feeling so glad I listen to my body & having a husband who understands. Receiving my mum’s cheery text message when back in range after another adventurous holiday with her beloved. The renewal felt after a September of lovingly saying no to more social engagements in favour of getting things done or resting. The joy of watching my husband experiment with homemade smallgoods. Farewell to friends as they pack up their lives & take a chance on the other side of the world. The vet assistants showering my dog with affection. Remembering that a stranger’s sour attitude is not a reflection on me. Going to bed earlier for the good e-book that is waiting there. Receiving surprise messages of love & appreciation from beautiful, smart, kind women that make me choke up with happiness. Giving clothes to a friend & her looking gorgeous in them. Holding a friend’s hand & reminding her how wonderful she is. Cold, refreshing green juice from a new juice bar on a hot day. Mango gelato. Finally (!) being won over by the fluoro sneakers trend and loving my new ones. Even when I cry tears of fear, frustration or sadness, I’m simultaneously thinking of things I’m grateful for. Thank you to those who love me, patiently help me, laugh with me and write to me – you are truly precious. Proper giggling out loud – alone or with friends – what a beautiful sound & feeling. Loving today and with butterflies in my tummy, looking forward to tomorrow too.
chocolate hot pot & my husband’s salted caramel ice-cream
Victory lap! I’m finished! Every single recipe from Donna Hay’s Fast Fresh Simple has been cooked. I completed the last savoury recipe in July and as suspected, headed towards the finish line with about 15 desserts in a row. I have made more desserts this year than I have made in my whole life!
163 recipes – 121 savoury & 42 sweet.
3 recipes made prior to challenge.
5 recipes made by my husband & some others a fun team effort.
49 recipes were rated with capital YUM to definitely be made again.
18 ingredients used for the first time.
I don’t like eating too many bottled sauces so they were substituted sometimes.
I used gluten-free substitutes most of the time.
I got a bit sick of chicken after eating it in 30 recipes!
Some recipes look quicker because the “serve with” foods are not included in the cooking instructions.
There were a few bland recipes.
I don’t like doubling up pasta & breadcrumbs in one dish. Too many carbs.
The tv shows or videos on the Donna Hay website share extra hints to improve the recipes.
The emphasis on food styled, attractive images inspires me to cook the dish.
Some meals were not generous in size so needed doubling.
Yes, I had a couple of failures too!
Standouts (recipes made without modifications):
Chorizo, Spinach & Ricotta Frittata
Fig & Gorgonzola Tart
Orecchietti with Brussels Sprouts & Pancetta
Chicken Waldorf Salad
Cider Roasted Pork Belly with Fennel
Spice Roasted Ribs
Moroccan Cous Cous with Spiced Chicken
Roasted Potato Salad with Fetta & Mint
Roasted Cauliflower & Hazelnut Salad
Mango & Banana Yoghurt Gelato
No Fuss Banana Caramel Pudding
Baked Whole Lemon Pudding
Cheat’s Raspberry Brulee
Lemon Yoghurt Cake
The accomplishment of this goal feels really good. These months have brought on more confidence in the kitchen, precious times around the table and interesting conversations. And that feeling of empowerment from expanding one’s cooking skills, knowing more about what we’re eating, nurturing loved ones, create memories around the table, providing health and pleasure. The love of putting a plate in front of my husband when he comes home from work. The satisfaction of improving even as my eyes deteriorate – I wonder if I can claim the title of being the first legally blind person to complete the whole book?!? The idea for this challenge came about shortly after christmas when I was chatting with my husband about the need for a new personal project. Many of our friends are having children and we talked about wanting to have them in our lives as the years go by even as our journeys differ. My supportive, wise husband said, “People love & have to eat food and that is powerful in bringing them together around a table. Our table. Why don’t you make every recipe from a book in a year?”. Challenge accepted. Thank you, love of my life, my favourite, my teammate, my taste tester.
When I set my mind to something, I kind of run with it fully. I’ve completed it in 9 months. Thank you for joining and cheering me along the way. It’s been heart-warming knowing some of you took it on for your own self-paced challenges too. I truly hope it’s bringing you joy, laughs at the table and contentment in the mind and belly From River’s Edge – Down by the Sea – Explody Full – Juanita Tortilla. I hope others are inspired to start their own personal cooking projects and please do share with me if you do. I will be continuing to work my way through our 17 recipe books to clear out any uninspiring books and capture love and life on a plate. This has been such an enriching journey.
Planning summer outfits again. Accepting that most days need to be planned around quality walking footwear first and foremost given the amount of miles I walk (i.e. podiatrist’s orders!). This means more fitness clothes, more often & saving silk shirts, jeans, dresses, sandals & loafers for the weekends. Relaxing wanders with my husband to try new coffee shops & return to old favourites. He drinks the coffee, I photograph it! Holding hands, talking and approaching another wonderful year of marriage. Rather than navigating around a room, sitting in a quieter, well-lit corner at a party & feeling so loved with the constant stream of people coming to talk to me. Crunching over the fallen leaves and admiring the bare trees remaining from winter. Raising my nose just like my dog to draw in the new smells of spring. Thinking of the beauty of living in one home long enough to know the seasonal rhythms of nearby urban greenery. Admiring my first bunch of ranunculus. Cooking lots of vegies. Breathing deep when my mum’s perfume lingers on my clothes after a date together. Being grateful. I’ve had more health challenges that have been unsettling me, but I still can’t stop being grateful – it’s a habit and I’m keeping it. Medical appointments with kind, helpful professionals. Thinking how much I appreciate you bloggy friends & our genuine community. Lovingly saying no to friends as we claim the spare time this month for ourselves. Supporting my husband through a hectic time at work. Using the stockpot my mum gave me & thinking of her every time. Loving my nearest and dearest so much I just might burst. Still relishing the feel of a breeze on my skin. *photo of me holding leaves by my husband.
How are you, friends?
London – summer 2011
Is it obvious just how much I love urban greenery?! On my walks I get such a breathe-deep-life-is-so-good high seeing greenery growing up walls, in between buildings and in city parks. I’m not sure if my smile is visible on my face and if I’m walking alone with a goofy grin I don’t care. It makes me happy. I lie on the grass with my dog and I see his joy which makes me laugh out loud. I cherish my park dates with my husband whether we’re walking through holding hands, eating or talking under a tree. Cafes with outdoor spaces of shade and greenery pull me towards them. For me, it’s a perfect match when city structures, pedestrians and greenery all converge in an inspiring way.
A new e-book – Urban Gardening Guide
Mapping quiet city spaces – Stereopublic
Can We Please Stop Drawing Trees on Top of Skyscrapers
5 Cities Turning Ugly Overpasses Into Vibrant Parks
When Alice told me she was coming to Australia I was thrilled that we would meet 3 years on from our first blog connection. Photos of her don’t deceive, she is just as gorgeous in person. She is seemingly unaffected by her rising fame and that’s one of the things I love about her. Alice, I can’t wait to do another photo, eat, walk day with you in New York sometime. See her Australia posts here.
Friends, thank you for your kindness on my last post. Some of you have asked if I’m going to keep blogging. Yes, I will. This space and our community is important to me.
Lately I’ve been taking regular afternoon naps to give my eyes some much needed rest. I’ve been using another sense by listening to relaxing music on headphones too – my favourites are chilled jazz, European cafe music mixes and Jack Johnson. I’m pretty out of touch with recent music! What relaxing music do you listen to? I will search for them on spotify!