Back to school: First day nerves, a DJ and the place where fruit goes to die.

“I know I can’t…” George said as he got into bed the night before school went back after 7 weeks at home. “…but I wish I could have one more day’s break… you know, because today was so bad”.

We’d had a dramatic day with a visit to the emergency vet for a guinea pig with a large abscess that needed lancing, as well as witnessing a physical fight between three men in a shopping centre car park as we were looking for a parking spot (we hastily left the car park without going into the shopping centre).

“Mummy, I’m nervous” George said, “I’m nervous Mummy” in a wavering voice from a Tik Tok filter.

“I don’t want to do JPA (Junior Performing Arts) anymore.” He doesn’t want to continue playing clarinet and despite him dancing and singing (beautifully) round the house, doesn’t actually want to do that in public.

Earlier that night we wrote out his schedule, found clothes to wear for the return back to his no-uniform school, discussed lunch options and put some money in his wallet.

I cleaned out his school bag. Something one of us should’ve done 7 weeks earlier. My hand landed on something wet and squishy as I was assaulted by the smell of rotting citrus fruit. The bottomless pit of the school bag, where fruit goes to die, literally.

In the bag, I found:

  • 1 black banana, shrunken, mummified with a bonus mould lesion
  • the aforementioned mandarin
  • 1 shrivelled apple
  • 2 squashed cheese sticks
  • 3 different drinks in cardboard cartons (Up and Go and apple juice).
Exhibit A: mummified

George texted his friend to meet outside school at 8.30am.

The next morning he was too nervous to eat any breakfast. We gave the guinea pig his dose of antibiotics and reward kale treat, left on time and pulled up at school at 8.28am.

I’d decided to drive George to and from school for a bit until I was more sure of the buses – how crowded would they be? How clean, are the same ones running? He’d only just got used to catching the bus when school closed. Now his former bus buddy who he used to walk part way home with no longer lives next door to us.

“Ooh I’m nervous” he said as we passed some kids walking, one or two on bikes, he gazed at the playground of a primary school along the way.

We pulled into the car park of the high school to the sound of music (not the musical). There was a cluster of four or five kids, a teacher and a DJ spinning his tunes on a balcony, several metres away from where the kids were standing.

“I hate this song” said George as Dance Monkey blared across the school ground. “Where’s my friend?”

I offered to wait but he said no and got out of the car. I heard George’s name. It wasn’t the friend he’d arranged to meet, but another one. George’s face broke into a big smile as the DJ spun Chameleon.

I drove away and teared up a bit to see G happy to see his friend. I was grateful that the school had gone to the effort of organising a DJ to welcome the Year 7s back, in a socially-distanced way.

George phoned me at lunchtime to ask if his friend B could have a lift home. I left my office at 3pm to drive to collect them.

They were waiting for me out the front and I noticed B was taller with longer hair after almost 2 months of iso-life. (I’d squeezed in George for a haircut at my hairdresser’s house when I’d gone for my colour two weeks earlier).

George’s face appeared smiling at the car window, B behind him. “Hi Mum, B’s hit puberty a bit!” George felt the need to explain. B just looked a bit embarrassed and no one said anything else about it.

B’s voice was breaking. What a difference 7 weeks can make in a 12-year-old. It was like a scene from the first Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie when the kids come back from summer break and they all look older apart from Greg Heffley.

I asked B what he’d thought of online learning. “It was good, except for science. Science sucked. There was too much work.” Glad we weren’t the only ones who thought that.

I also heard that the Performing Arts teacher (the one we’d discovered on Tik Tok) brought her dog to school. “She didn’t want to leave him at home alone” George explained.

We dropped B home then George and I discussed afternoon tea. “Did you eat your lunch?” I asked. “Did you eat your grapes?”

“No, I couldn’t find them.”

It seems George’s bag really is the place where fruit goes to die.

How can I get my almost-teen to eat more any fruit? Will I ever give up trying?

April “school holidays” 2020 – Tik Tok, nature walks and essential slime

I’m loving our regular sunset walks on Red Hill.

Term 2 started here in the ACT last Tuesday after a quiet and different “school holidays” which took in Easter at the beginning and Anzac Day at the end.

My son George and I go to Sydney to see my family every holidays. We usually celebrate Easter in Sydney and then Greek Easter in Canberra a week later. But this year, like everyone else we had to stay where we were because of the “C-word” restrictions.

This recent school holidays looked very similar to the last three weeks of “term”, apart from the fact that my 12-year-old George stopped spending time on his school-issued laptop, and started spending time looking at Tik Tok, making Tik Toks and watching the Big Bang Theory while I continued to work from home most days. I also joined Tik Tok, because he asked me to. Then I realised how much fun it is (and bloody addictive). We even came across his performing arts teacher on there, so extra fun! She gave him a special shout-out in their first “back-to-school” online class this week.

Back to nature

We got out for fresh air most days and have taken to walking up Red Hill regularly. When not in front of a screen, George is also quite partial to sweeping and vacuuming, and I’m not complaining. We do live in a house with four guinea pigs and accompanying hay scatter.

The weather was spectacular between Easter and Anzac day, not cold, sunny Autumn days…

Pedestrian traffic on the exercise track was quite manageable.

Essential slime

George is also quite fond of slime. He tried to whip up the first batch from ingredients we already had at home, but something went wrong. So we dashed out to buy a slime kit, which was as essential as a jigsaw puzzle I think.

School holiday Social life

The boy who lives next door half the week, one of George’s school mates, came over to visit a couple of times, even though I wasn’t sure it was allowed. But I thought it was good for their mental health. Oh, and I’ve made numerous phone calls.

Guinea pigs – the highs and lows

In other news, we had our boy guinea pigs desexed two weeks ago. The vet agreed to perform this non-emergency surgery during this time since we have also girl guinea pigs and don’t want to breed them. And we wanted these post-pubescent guinea pigs to have the surgery before they got any older. It was quite traumatic for one of them though as he developed a hernia post-op and had to have a second surgery to fix it the next day.

Pumpkin was sent home with pain medication and both he and his brother Peanut were on twice-daily antibiotics for a week. George was very good at administering their medicine through a syringe into their tiny guinea pig mouths. In around four weeks time, the boys will be able to share an enclosure with our girl guinea pigs and be one big happy herd (hopefully).

First Birthday

The girl guinea pigs turned 1! We thought a McDonalds-esque special treat

was in order. Mmmm capsicum has never looked so good.

A different Anzac day

2020 marked a new moment in history for ANZAC day, as this year people couldn’t gather together like they normally would. While I didn’t get up early to watch the service on TV live from the Australian War Memorial (a small group of officials, not members of the public, were there) I did watch the morning news a bit later and saw images of thousands of people in their driveways with candles, in their own quiet remembrance.

My sister always takes part in ANZAC Day ceremonies, particularly as she works for an organisation offering support services to veterans. She took some pictures in her driveway.

Alexcellent Recommendations:

George and I have been enjoying Masterchef. The new judges are OKaaaaay. One of them, Jock Zonfrillo (what a well-balanced name, masculine, yet feminine, Scottish, yet Italian), reminds me of Prince Frederik of Denmark.

I do miss 2 out of three of the former judges. But I’m enjoying seeing many of the old favourite contestants return. My son enjoys watching Reynold whip up amazing desserts: when he puts on those goggles and is enveloped by – I don’t know – is it dry ice? It comes from some metallic food preparation device – I don’t know – is it an ice-cream maker? He looks part scientist, part mechanic. He reminds me of Flint Lockwood from Cloudy with a chance of meatballs.

I also recently enjoyed the 2017 reality show Mariah’s World on Nine’s Life channel, documenting life behind the scenes of Mariah’s Sweet Sweet Fantasy tour including her breakup with James Packer. We don’t see much of James on camera (we see him in a party scene with his arm around her in one episode), but in the final episode Mariah reveals her decision to end the relationship.

What’s next?

Now at the end of the first week of Term 2, there is talk of lifting some restrictions; In the ACT, that means non-essential shopping and a two adults visiting another home. We’ll see what happens on the school front. Currently the plan is that public schools will stay closed for the whole term, with all learning done online.

I’m getting more comfortable with uncertainty. We never really know what’s going to happen in life, but the pandemic has pushed that idea into the forefront. In the meantime, there’s so many things to be distracted by.

Are you a Masterchef fan?

Do you agree Jock looks like Prince Frederik?

Corona time: is this the real life, or is this just fiction?

If we’d heard during the bushfire crisis in early January that by March we’d be battling a global pandemic with intense restrictions to the way we live, we’d never have believed it.

At the end of February when we were hanging with the masses on the Gold Coast, fear of the virus was vaguely hanging in the air. Earlier that month we saw news reports of China and Italy being locked down but I couldn’t imagine we would ever need to face such restrictions here.

But of course we would. As recently as early March, my son, my ex-husband and I were still thinking about a family holiday to the US, in particular New York (the home of Spiderman) for later in the year. We had no idea it would become the “epicentre of the virus”! We hadn’t booked anything but now that idea is long gone and who knows when it will be resurrected?

I knew things were getting serious in Australia when Sky Fire (an annual Canberra Fireworks and music event) was cancelled 1 or 2 days before it was supposed to happen in mid-March. Scomo (the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison) banned gatherings of more than 500 people. And the restrictions got tighter from there.

Later in March the threat tightened its grip and life changed for everyone: The specifics of the rules kept changing in a bizarre tango between rigorous caution and practicality. Only go out for essential reasons. Non-essential businesses to shut. Work and school from home if you can. Weddings can have 5 guests, funerals 10. No social gatherings in your own home. Can’t exercise in more than groups of 2. Can’t sit on a park bench.

A friend posted on Facebook that she felt like she was living in a post-apocalyptic BBC drama. Now when I read the news and look at memes on social media about the way we live now, sometimes I manage to conjure the perspective of someone who’s just crawled out from under a rock and I view it with disbelief. Are we actually living in a dystopia, a sci-fi movie? It might be 2020, but is this really George Orwell’s 1984? It’s wartime on a war called Corona.

I thought of the Spanish Flu of 1918 and I was curious about the details of that, so I could be better imagine likely scenarios of how this corona thing would might play out. How did people cope back then? How would we cope now?

I thought about Edward (Robert Pattinson) from Twilight becoming a vampire when he was a young soldier dying in hospital from Spanish Flu in 1918. His doctor, who happened to be a vampire, saw Edward’s impending death as an opportunity to feed without killing, and thus, another new young handsome vampire joined the pack. An example of fiction being stranger than truth, in this case.

Spanish flu was the catalyst for Twilight’s Edward becoming a vampire

I thought that during our lives, at least the last 50 years, there’s been no other event that’s caused the same level of global disruption and will have such far-reaching economic and social affects as this pandemic. Slowing the spread of this highly-contagious new virus that seems to manifest in unpredictable ways has resulted in over 1 million people in Australia losing their jobs and businesses, sending us into billions of dollars worth of debt as our government hands out financial lifelines.

But my great-grandparents lived through WW1, the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression and WW2. This is our generation’s history-making disruption.

Less seriously, coronavirus is theoretically causing a disruption to the idea of my getting back into the dating game. Just when I thought I might give it a crack again this year, a pandemic descends.

Now I hear the online dating gurus and columnists say that writing long messages back and forth a la Jane Austen is in and virtual dates are the new trend. A safer alternative to possibly meeting a vampire IRL (well, a metaphorical one).

Maybe I could take comfort from Love in the Time of Cholera. I’ve never read it, but I find the title vaguely comforting – the idea that love can happen anywhere, anytime. Meanwhile, I ain’t getting any younger.

But my hair is getting greyer, and now I’m not sure whether to keep my May 2 hair appointment (that was made on March 7 at the time of my last salon visit). Even though Scomo says we can now have hair appointments that last longer than 30 minutes. But since my hairdresser literally works from home these days, it’s probably fine.

The good news is that the social distancing and restrictions seem to be working so far as the rate of new infections decreases.

Cruel Summer (but there was still some fun to be had)

I don’t mind Summer but I’m always ready to say goodbye to it and move onto the next season.

It’s the end of February 2020, we’re two months into the new decade and it’s been a disaster-filled start for many – fires, floods and there’s the Corona virus threatening to emerge as a pandemic, and don’t get me started on “Megxit”. It has not been a relaxing start to the year.

For me, the worst I dealt with was a couple of smoke-hazey drives up and down the highway between Canberra and Sydney. There was some mild anxiety about a particularly smokey day, and a big blaze that broke out just south of Canberra, where I live.

Fire in the ‘hood

One night in early January, when I’d just driven back home to Canberra from Sydney that day, a Canberra friend messaged me from her Sydney holiday asking if I was OK. She’d read on the Emergency Services social media feed that there was a fire in our suburb.

I could smell smoke that evening but I just thought it was on the wind from the NSW south coast. I checked our local Emergency Services Facebook page and saw there was grass fire 1km from me! And it turns out it was arson.

The next morning, I knew fire had impacted as I could see a faint orange glow filtering through the partially open curtains downstairs… it was a bizarre orange smoke haze. Many people emerged on Canberra streets that day in face masks.

So began my twice-daily checking ACT Emergency Services Agency (ESA) Facebook page for live updates in the form of posts and streamed media conferences for most of January. All credit to the ACT Government’s ESA. They did an amazing job of keeping people informed in a calm and organised way, an example of excellent communications.

In the last week of January a fire started in the Namadgi national park, just south of Canberra. Conditions got really bad and everyone was on edge, particularly residents in the southern most suburbs. It looked like this from a distance ….

Photo taken by my friend Donna from her back deck, in a southern Canberra suburb not far from us.

Years of work up in smoke

My uncle’s barn that he’d spent a long time renovating into a beautiful event space was lost in one of the fires in the NSW Southern Highlands. Fortunately no one was hurt and his home was spared.

Never rains, but it pours

One day not long after “orange smoke day”, the Canberra skies opened to the almightiest of hail storms. I did get some hail where I work down in downtown Tuggeranong, it was a bit loud on the office windows… but then that afternoon I was surprised to get several texts from family and friends in Sydney asking “Are you OK? IS your house and car OK??”

I read the news and realised that many in Canberra’s parliamentary zone and northside had suffered from golf ball-size hail, smashing car windows and damaging homes. Luckily we were spared.

Making the best of a bad situation

In January I worked, taking days off here and there for the school holiday juggle. My son George (the boy formerly known as Spider Boy) and I had a few local pool swims, went to movies, and many trips to Woden plaza for the free and clean air. On his dad’s school holiday days, they did art galleries and museums and plenty of video games.

I took leave the last week of January and we had a weekend away in sunny 20-something degree smoke-free Coogee Beach in Sydney…

Almost felt guilty being here. Almost.

Then it was back to Canberra for high school prep – clothes and stationery shopping.

Then George and I went to Sydney again (minus the guinea pigs this time) for my birthday. Plans included dinner with my parents and sister and going to the Billy Idol concert with my sister and a group of friends, one of whom attended a Billy concert with me when we were 16!

Security confiscated this amazing sign señorita Margarita made but kindly said they’d pass it to Billy. They even took down my email address. But Billy never wrote.
My Billy Possie minus friend Nadia who was taking the photo (she saw Billy with me in Sydney in 1986!)

Other birthday plans included a beach swim. Now that I live in Canberra, it’s very important I squeeze in those beach and harbour swims on Summer visits to Sydney.

I love the landscape around Canberra – the hills, the trees, the native animals, the light, the big skies (when there’s no fires around), but when I’m at the beach I realise how much I miss living close to the sea; the salt water, the open space, the breeze off the water, the salt in the air, the relaxed vibe. Inland lakes are just not the same. Ah well, maybe one day…

The place I grew up. I just took my proximity to the beach for granted for years! Maybe a nice little beachside pied-à-terre some day? Photo by Mudassir Ali on Pexels.com

How has your summer been?

Next time: I’m writing this post from Surfer’s Paradise. And last week we were in Brisbane for my son’s uncle’s wedding. More about our travels soon!

29 good things (and a few silly ones) about Winter in Canberra

Sunday of the Queen’s Birthday long weekend, view from Red Hill, 4pm

It’s the end of the Queen’s Birthday long weekend, the ski fields have officially opened, and I’m now staring down the barrel of three more working weeks until the end of the financial year, which means I’m going to be very, very, busy with a number of not-excellent things not fit for this exciting blog.

We also are heading to the shortest day of the year, June 21. I googled different sun set times on Saturday and saw that Canberra’s sunset was scheduled for 4.57pm (Sydney’s was 4.52), yet at 5.10pm on Saturday I saw the most beautiful pink and orange in the sky.

Look at those colours! Filter-free fun here.

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I like cold weather. So I’ve put together a quick list of some of my good things about winter in Canberra (some of them are a bit of stretch, even for winter-loving me).

  1. Being cold outside means it’s a good excuse to stay inside and try making some new dishes like dark chocolate, pear and hazelnut torte, ham and vegetable risotto, cardamom and pistachio bread and butter pudding, a variety of soups and shakshuka (things I want to make from June 2019’s Woolworth’s Fresh magazine*).
  2. The bitter cold and icy winds that cut like a knife add an extra degree of difficulty to daily life – which is really an exercise in building resilience and also helps with mindfulness (see? stretch).
  3. There’s the pride of knowing Canberra has the lowest minimum temperatures of all the capitals, everyday. (I don’t know if this is a fact, but it feels like it.)
  4. This makes you appreciate getting inside and feeling cosy (George’s contribution).
  5. “No I don’t have any more!”said George when I asked him if he had any more good things about Winter.
  6. Hot bubble baths. I wonder if Lush has any winter-themed/scented bath bombs?
  7. Frost on the grass and ice on cars left out overnight is so pretty and sparkly!
  8. The Best & Less in Tuggeranong (the name ‘Tuggeranong’ by the way means ‘cold place’ in the language of the Ngunnawal people) has been selling $4 polar fleece couch blankets! I was zipping past on my lunch break and stopped to buy two. This was in the last week of May, so they might be sold out by now.
  9. You can go the whole hog with your winter outfits: woolly scarves, felt hats, driving gloves, fur-look trim on boots and jackets, and I recently saw a girl with fluffy ear-muffs as she walked from the work carpark to the office entrance.
  10. Turning on the heater when you get home at the end of the day.
  11. Weekend afternoons at home finally putting together those IKEA flat-packs and making things cosy. When I moved here the first time, there was no IKEA. So very convenient to have one in Canberra now.
  12. Using a hot cup of coffee as a hand-warmer, and also an insides warmer, and a caffeine hit.
  13. I heard once in a political documentary on Canberra that its location was intentionally selected because of the cold climate, so we’d all be like little hamsters in the hamster-wheel, running to keep warm. Also apparently a cold climate makes public servants think more clearly. (I can’t vouch for this.)
  14. Going to bed and reading books. George came up with another good thing.
  15. Wintry bare trees against a bright blue sky.
The clear winter skies of Canberra on a sunny day are amazing.

Wow, there are 15 good things already, do you really need more? OK, here are some sensible, practical good things that you can put in your diary this Winter, residents and visitors alike…

  1. The Winter Handmade Market June 29-30. Canberra’s Handmade Market is on four times a year and showcases artists, designers, stylists, craftspeople and produce from all over Australia.
  2. The Canberra Region Truffle Festival is a whole range of truffle events from 1 – 31 July.
  3. Living in Canberra we are so close to the NSW snow fields – At 2 hours’ drive you can be there and back in a day. From June 29 Murray’s buses will run daily ‘Snow Express’ trips (link to Murray’s) from Canberra. You can get coach travel, lift ticket and equipment hire from $190. Or from $43 if you just want to go and look at the snow and not ski! Pretty.
  4. If skiing isn’t for you, how about a day trip to Cooma (the home of Birds Nest), Bredbo and Jindabyne? Riot Act has some great ideas here
  5. Corin Forest is an easy morning or afternoon trip at around 40 minutes’ drive from Canberra. There is a mini snow field that’s great for kids.
  6. Winter Festival – for the past few years, Garema Place in the city centre has been decked out like a winter wonderland with an ice-rink and fairy lights.
  7. Ice hockey matches at Phillip ice rink. Phillip Ice rink, 1 Irving Street Phillip.
  8. Going for one of many walks around Canberra – Riot Act has these ideas
  9. The Forage food festival, Dairy Rd Fyshwick, June 15 2019 2pm – 7pm. Although it must be said last time we went there was a lot of traffic getting in and out of the venue.
  10. For an “alpine experience right here in Canberra”, why not have a go at indoor skiing at Vertikal Snow Sports? It’s right next to the Forage (see number 9)
  11. Get inspired to get cosy at ‘Creative Fibre’ at the Old Bus Depot Markets – a day for the regions’ textile artists to showcase and sell their work. See products and learn about processes involved in weaving, knitting, crocheting, hand dyeing fabric and more. July 14, 2019 The Old Bus Depot Markets, 21 Wentworth Avenue Kingston.
  12. More truffle stuff: Truffle-infused winter weekends at the cellar door. Mount Majura Wineyard, June 8 – 25 August 2019.
  13. Warm Soup, Cool Jazz. Literally that – sip on warm soup and mulled wine while listening to live music. June 30, 2019 at the Mercure Canberra, 39 Limestone Ave Braddon.
  14. For other great ideas visit the Visit Canberra website!
Winter skating at ‘Skate-in-the-city’, Garema Place Canberra, 2016.

I know there are many more good things to do! Please feel free to add your own in the comments!

What do you like to do in Canberra in Winter?

*The Alexcellent Life is not sponsored by Woolworths. I just like their free magazine.

Edited highlights: Pancakes, date loaf and Swedish foodstuffs

We like to make things in this house… well, not all the time, we can open packets and buy pre-prepared stuff with the best of them (chicken-on-a-stick, fish-in-a-box), but when we do make things from scratch we are very proud!

Exhibit A: Date loaf for school election day cake stall…

Fresh…

Exibit B: My mothers’ Day pancakes, made for me by George

so lucky…

Made with a little bit of help from this…

I may have dropped a hint by buying pancake mix the day before.

The date loaf looked good, but I didn’t taste it and hadn’t baked a second one to keep for us. I wrapped it and literally took it straight to the cake stall still warm. Someone whacked a $7 price tag on it and after I came back from doing a bread and chopped onions run for the school BBQ, the date loaf had sold! Hope whoever bought it enjoyed their afternoon tea.

This sifter belonged to my mum’s mum, Philippa. I love it. This is George doing his bit for election day school fundraising.

The last days of Autumn have brought some pretty sunsets…

Looking out my dirty old window…

We’ve had high school information nights to go to in preparation for next year and dinner out with some school families.

The best card of all!

A Mother’s day outing in the city to many favourite destinations…

Dobinson’s is one of my favourites. And is soon to open in Woden!
Oh yeah, this old chestnut…

This past week we’ve had a visit from my mum, aka Batgran, aka George’s “Naughty Granny” (naughty because she was the one who introduced a much younger George to chocolate, hot chips and video games – not all in the same day). Maybe that’s just what grannies do.

This weekend, we introduced Granny to IKEA. “They’ve got it sown up!” she said, impressed with the cafe, the grocery section, the checkouts, and the other cafe at the checkouts exit where you buy the $1 hotdogs. She came out armed with Swedish foodstuffs and confessed to buying them “because they’re Swedish”. I know what she means. Sometimes I feel like I live in Europe when I visit IKEA. It’s a nice little escape.

We had been enjoying the last of T-shirt and shorts weather (George) before being hit by an icy blast at the end of May, which saw snow in the Blue Mountains (but not in Canberra). But still, he has relented and started wearing his long pants to school this past week.

And finally last week, George got his first pet… two actually, a pair of baby guinea pigs!

We’ve been learning a LOT about Guinea pigs. Will post more about that next time.

Have a great weekend.

Election day bake

Well today is Election day and I’ll be going to our local primary school to vote and serve at the cake stall/sausage sizzle.

This time, I didn’t do the cutesy-wutesy little panda cupcakes I slaved over in 2013… ain’t got time for that these days. I’m baking a date loaf, easy and quick and something my grandmother used to make a lot. So simple, but so delicious with melting butter.

Not my grandmother’s recipe. This is from The Commonsense Cookery Book, our school cooking class bible in year 7.

Election days are exciting days, and I like to mark the occasion by supplying a cake for the school cake stall. I didn’t bake for the last federal election in 2016, but I did bake cupcakes for the one before that between Rudd and Abbot in 2013…

I was inspired by some cupcakes I saw featured on Housegoeshome blog post 5 cake stall ideas (that will walk off the table)

The post featured cute panda cupcakes from baking website Bakerella

Except Bakerella’s looked liked this…

They are still one of the most popular posts on Bakerella, originally posted in April 2012.

Eleven-year-old Spider Boy George saw a picture of my version last night and said, “I remember those!” He was five when I baked them, and I’ve never attempted them since.

Let’s recap:

Bakerella’s panda cupcakes…

My panda cupcakes…

Nailed it! Don’tcha think?

Oh goodness, it’s already so late in the morning. I’ve got to get a date loaf in the oven before my cake stall shift later.

Will let you know how it turns out!

Will you be eating an election day sausage today? Or buying something from the cake stall? I’ll probably do both.

Crockery, cake and Cartier: a very royal wedding weekend

 

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Well “the wedding” of last weekend is over, but the honeymoon certainly isn’t. Many I’ve spoken to still admit to being in a post-wedding glow, and admittedly, I’m having trouble letting go of the occasion this week.

I didn’t think I would get as enthusiastic as I did about the marriage of the sixth in line to the throne, but I do love a wedding, particularly a big royal one, and the match between Prince Harry and the former Ms Meghan Markle seems to be a particularly exciting one, what with royalty meeting Hollywood.

Harry is emblazoned in the collective consciousness (of those of us of a certain age), whose hearts broke watching him as 12-year-old-boy walking with head bowed, behind his mother’s coffin 21 years ago. I felt happy and grateful to see him walking today, again with his brother William, but now a man in uniform with a much different gait, on his way to marry the woman he loves.

I was excited when my sister, Senorita Margarita said she was coming to visit on “wedding weekend” and that she shared my enthusiasm to attend the wedding on telly. We texted in the days leading up to the big event; we swapped links to wedding recipes, party planning tips, and royal-watching blog posts.

We planned our own little wedding-watching party.  Spider Boy’s dad came over to hang out with him, because 10-year-old boys generally don’t appreciate weddings. Am I gender stereotyping? All right then, my 10-year-old (who is a boy) was just not into it.

Now on with the show…

Let’s first compare cake, outfits and décor at Windsor and in Canberra, in A tale of two celebrations!

1. Food

Windsor

Harry and Meghan’s cake: The news that the cake would break with the traditional fruit cake was exciting. People.com reports that the couple asked Claire Ptak of London-based bakery Violet Cakes to bake a cake that “incorporates the bright flavour of Spring.”

“The cake consists of deconstructed tiers of lemon sponge cake drizzled with elderflower syrup and topped with an Amalfi lemon curd. The entire cake is coated with a Swiss meringue buttercream also infused with elderflower, and is adorned with a mix of 150 fresh flowers, including peonies and roses. The texture is really lovely and the flavour is quintessentially Spring and British,” the baker said in a video released by Kensington Palace.

To me that description makes the cake sound like a work of art, and a gastronomic version of a walk through a lemon grove on a beautiful Spring day.

 

 

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A section of “the cake”

 

My living room in Canberra

Senorita Margarita’s and my cake: Well, it wasn’t a cake. More of a pav. Or a mess, or, as my friend Nadia texted, “pavlova scrunched up.” We planned a wedding version of Eton Mess we dubbed “Elderflower Mess (without the Elderflower)”

The Senorita did place a call to The Essential Ingredient in Canberra’s Kingston, but at $21.95 for 375ml for a syrup I’ve never tried and don’t know I’d like and may never use again, turns out that on my salary,  not so essential!

Champagne: I don’t know about Meghan and Harry’s but ours was German sparkling wine. “Let’s drink it in your Kate and William tea cups!” said my creative sister enthusiastically.

“No!” I exclaimed. I was uncomfortable with that idea. “Champagne goes in champagne glasses, tea cups are for tea” I asserted.

“I understand” said the Señorita sagely. “There’s a line. And I just crossed it.”

2. The Outfits

Windsor

Meghan Markle: I actually took a breath when I saw the divine Ms M step out of the car. The dress was designed by Clare Waight Keller and according to the @kensingtonroyal Instagram account, the design “epitomises a timeless minimal elegance referencing the codes of the iconic House of Givenchy.” To me it evoked the classic sophistication of  Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn. Ms Markle ascended the steps of St George’s Chapel like an angel, her tiny duo of dark-suited page boys, twin Cupids to her Venus.

 

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Prince Harry: Hunky Officer and a Gentleman– type outfit

Assorted royals and celebrities: Colourful, structured pieces and statement headwear

My living room in Canberra

The Senorita: “I got out of my pyjamas!” Yes readers, it’s true, the Senorita swapped her jammies for a sophisticated black jean and black wool shawl ensemble, accessorised with a diamante tiara. It was Saturday night after all.

Alex:  “I didn’t get into my pyjamas!” Again, I made a Saturday night sacrifice and stayed in my street clothes for the occasion. A blue jean and navy jumper ensemble in case you’re wondering. Pyjamas would have to wait until Karl Stefanovic had turned off his mic (although wish I’d watched Channel 7 and that nice Melissa Doyle now). Oh and a paper tiara the Senorita made for me from the pages of Woman’s Day! Again, Saturday night!

Spider Boy: “What wedding? Batman pyjamas!”

 

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My viewing companion was a bit two-faced really…

 

 

3. The Decor

Windsor

Real Union Jack flags lining the streets, masses of white flowers and foliage, Harry and Meghan T-shirts

My place

A white candle shaped like a floral bouquet, bunting from Woman’s Day and New Idea, souvenir royal tea towel ($2 with New Idea), Harry and Meghan paper masks (thanks Woman’s Day), and royal crockery used for the first time, especially for the occasion.

 

 

The event itself

The Senorita and I had a hoot watching, from commenting on the arriving guests and their outfits, to the beautiful, uplifting ceremony itself.

We commented on Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie. You may remember Bea with her  2011 “pretzel meets bow” number (AKA Medusa snakes hat) at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Well, I think the pendulum has swung straight to The Handmaids Tale in 2018. I thought Eugenie’s hat was evoking the spirit a 1960s air hostess. Yes, I said air hostess. Although the Senorita was down with her “Jackie Kennedy” vibe.

Our top 21 favourite moments of the wedding (in no particular order)

1. Harry and his brother William walking the long walk side by side to St George’s Chapel. I thought about how many walks those brothers have taken together.  I got a bit teary thinking about the boys and how they were at their mother Princess Diana’s funeral and now today – what a wonderful day.

2. The weekend weather in Windsor

3. Harry’s wedding beard

4. The first glimpse of Meghan and her mum Doria Ragland in the car

5. The look of contented composure on William’s face; the tilt of the head reminding us so much of Diana’s feminine energy as he sat beside Harry in church, a well of reassurance for his younger brother. The Senorita, who is very intuitive, observed “I think Diana’s energy was coming through William.” I agree with her. I have since read that a lip-reader reported that William said to Harry “You know what Mum used to say…” as they sat waiting for the ceremony to begin. Diana was there.

6.The first full view of the dress as Meghan stepped out of the car. Meghan’s dress was so simple, so elegant, so classic, a hint of décolletage but the right amount of coverage. I couldn’t fault it. The 1930s bandeau tiara that had belonged to Queen Mary, lent just the right amount of pizzaz, elevating her look from simply elegant to stunning.

7. The two page boys holding Meghan’s train as she glided up the stairs

8. The look on one delighted page boy’s face as Meghan entered the church (“That’ll come back to haunt him at his 21st” predicted the Senorita). Apparently his facial expression was in response to hearing a trumpet for the first time.

9. Meghan walking herself down the aisle (the first part), the first royal bride to do so. Meghan asked Prince Charles to greet her halfway, and then rather than him “giving her away”, she “stepped forward” to greet Harry.

10. When Harry mouthed “you look amazing” to his bride.

11. When Harry, a bit awkwardly, lifted Meghan’s veil during the ceremony.

12. The fact that there WAS a hair out of place – Meghan’s hair and makeup looked  natural and beautiful.

13. The emphatic way Harry said “I will”.

14. The emotions on Meghan’s mum’s face

15. When Harry stroked Meghan’s fingers with his thumb while listening to the sermon.

16. Meghan’s smile as she listened to Reverend Bishop Michael Curry.

17. The various facial expressions of assorted royals as they listened to Reverend Curry.

18. The rendition of Stand By Me, by The Kingdom Choir. And how about that beautiful steel grey hair and fabulous dusky rose outfit of choir leader Karen Gibson!

19. Doria, Charles and Camilla walking together behind the newlyweds as they left the church.

20. Meghan and Harry appearing in the flower-covered doorway, standing at the top of the steps, and then that kiss.

21. That for-real fairy-tale carriage ride through the streets of Windsor!

We all know life is not a fairy tale. But this beautiful royal wedding looked pretty darn close to one, if only for the day. The Senorita and I are so happy for them both (especially Harry).

After the wedding…

After wedding coverage had stopped on ALL stations (don’t worry, I checked) the movie License to Wed began on Channel 9 and to my horror, my sister uttered the words I just did not expect or want to hear… “I’m all weddinged out.”

“Wash your mouth out!” I gasped, aghast.

The Senorita had been on a steady diet of pre-wedding documentaries for a couple of weeks, but I wanted more. I wanted a partner in crime to get my wedding fix with. I felt like I was having a sugar crash when the telecast was over.

On Sunday morning we watched the news, read the paper and we spoke separately to Mum and Dad for a debrief.

“What channel did you watch it on, Dad?”

“ABC of course, why, what channel did you watch it on?”

“Channel Nine”

“Oh!” he sounded perplexed. “But you would’ve had… advertisements!”

The Senorita and I talked about how happy we were that we could watch the wedding together and how wonderful it had been. “So wonderful, in fact… I’m buying the crockery!” the Senorita announced.

“I know! me too, and you know what, I’m going to USE the crockery!” I shouted.

That afternoon we carried on the spirit of beauty, history, tradition and royalty by visiting the Cartier exhibition at the National Gallery.

A highlight for me was the “Royal Room”, where the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding tiara, lent to her by the Queen, is on display.

 

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The “Royal Room” – where the magic happens.

 

 

In the exhibition we found our people. We overheard clusters of middle-aged women talking about “the wedding” (and jewellery of course), and we jumped right into the conversations. We were in our spirit place.

In the news report we’d watched earlier, we saw two middle-aged sisters from Adelaide who camped out overnight in chairs on the carriage-ride route. When asked if all the time, money and effort getting from Adelaide to Windsor had been worth it for a 30 second glimpse of the happy couple.

“Yes!” they said emphatically. When the sunshine hit her tiara and made it sparkle, it was amazing!”

Would you do it again? asked the reporter. “Yes!” they enthused.

“Why?”

“Because it was fun!”

And I know if my sister and I had been in a position to go to Windsor, we would’ve got caught up in the spirit of it all and enjoyed ourselves just as much as those two sisters did, as we did in my living room. Because it was fun. It’s fun to see people whose stories we’ve seen and heard over the years, experience such a happy and beautiful event. In reality we’re removed and distant, but thanks to perspective and the media, I feel like we’ve watched Harry grow up.

Did you watch the wedding? And would you ever drink champagne from a Kate and William commemorative tea cup? Maybe I should relax my crockery and stemware standards, mix things up a bit? I never could embrace that “drink in a jar” fad.

The lesson of 2016: Choose Life while you still can.

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I drafted a fresh post about George Michael on Boxing Day, but before I could hit publish, another icon, Carrie Fisher, had died. People we don’t know die every day, the loved ones of others. Sometimes it’s someone dear to us and it’s terrible. But when an icon dies, someone who may have occupied your thoughts and woven their sparkle into your pop-cultural tapestry of reference, you also feel the loss. Sometimes youre prepared for these events, other times not.

I was not prepared for George Michael’s death. 53 is young. Not to the 15-year-old me, but to me today, 53 is young. When David Bowie and Prince died this year, I felt sad. But George Michael was not just a musician to me, he was part of my emotional landscape for much of my teens and I just took it for granted that he would be around for a long time.

As I drafted this on Boxing Day, self-medicating with champagne and liqueur chocolates, I felt a poignant mix of sadness and gratitude. Sad that George Michael’s gone too soon, but grateful that such an artist existed in the first place and gave me, and all who wanted it, his gift of music.

George Michael may have  started as just a popstar, derided for his penchant for a gimmick (Choose Life, fluro clothes, happy brain-candy pop tunes and lyrics) but after the 1987 release of his solo album Faith, it was clear that George had real talent, the respect of other established artists (Elton John, Aretha Franklin) and the voice of an angel with a knack for lyrics and musical arrangement.

I know many people my age have uttered these words the past few days, but George Michael provided a soundtrack to much of my generation. He was there for every heartache of my teen years, and in troubled times I would look up at the poster on my bedroom wall, to see George gazing down at me. I felt reassured by his smile showing off amazing white teeth, and his blond tipped hair. I just felt assured that everything was going to be OK.

I first heard of the pop duo Wham! when the singles were released from their 1983 album Fantastic. I was 13 and thought Bad Boys was so cool when I heard it on Sydneys “Rock of the 80s” 2SM. They were bad boys in leather kissing girls in pearls, as the lyrics from Young Guns go. But in this era of one TV in the house, no video recorder and decades away from the internet, I didnt actually lay eyes on singer George Michael until a year later. It was at my friend Naughty Kates house, and Wake Me Up Before You Go Go and Careless Whisper were both played on Countdown.

Whos THAT? I thought, immediately taken with his hair, his teeth, his shorts. Kate  and Nadia, my Wham!-partner-in-crime, seemed to know who he was. I was 14 and I was instantly in love.

It wasnt long afterwards that Wham! announced Sydney concert dates.  They played the  Entertainment Centre on 26th January 1985. Nadia and I were there with four other girls from school, right up the back, a gaggle of gigglers in electric blue mascara and tube skirts. And it was only days after this that I came face-to-face with George in the flesh after stalking him at the Sebel Town House, which is a whole other blog post.

My career plan from the age of 15 was literally, that when I turned 18 I was going to go to England, hunt down George Michael and marry him. Or if that didnt work out, I was going to join the cast of Neighbours. I was deluded, but at least I had the sense never to admit it to the careers counsellor at school, prefering to hide my true feelings behind the more socially acceptable “journalism”.  I maintained the facade of joining the real world sometime in the late 80s when I completed that Diploma in Journalism. Really, I saw it as an entree to the world of celebrity.

I was convinced George would be mine – I’d done my research. I knew, from reading the English version of Smash Hits, that Georges favourite foods were Mars Bars, Scotch, and Mayonnaise and that he liked to go to a London club called Stringfellows. A quick google search more than 30 years later, tells me Stringfellows is a lap-dancing club, but no matter, I’m sure it would’ve been a great place to start my search.

I knew George’s father ran a Greek restaurant on Edgware Road, Edgware. Again, thank you Smash Hits. My friend Nadia and I even rang the damn restaurant from the pay phone in the girls toilets during school recess once. We found the phone number without the internet thanks very much.

I found out all about his personal life. Oh the jealousy I felt towards; Pat Hernandez, his rumoured girlfriend, Brooke Shields, rumoured to be dating him, and even poor Pepsi and Shirely his backup singers, because at least they got to be actual friends with him. Oh why couldn’t I just be five years older, like Brooke Shields – then he’d be mine.

Nadia and I would get the bus to Grace Brothers Bondi Junction on Saturday mornings and stand in front of a video jukebox that had their song Club Tropicana as one of the selections -we could choose life in our Choose Life t-shirts but we couldnt even select the damn song on the department store jukebox- we had to wait for it to randomly come on. We would stand there for all morning, waiting to get a glimpse of Georges thigh jiggling in his white speedos. No, we didnt have a video recorder at home. Back in my day, we had to wait for things. My son, Spider Boy, who in a happy coincidence, is also called George (named after his Greek grandfather), just cant believe it. If he wants to see something now he just looks it up asks me to look it up on You Tube.

The problems of teenage life and school seemed to be diluted by a big Wham!-shaped distraction. Sticking pictures of George and Andrew in short white shorts, ever-present fluro tops and blonde tipped hair all over our school diaries, reading Smash Hits and Countdown Magazine out loud and squealing with delight at lunch, and fantasising about how our lives would be when we finally met George and Andy. But mainly George.

Nadia showed herself to be a true friend of the highest order when she announced to me in a study period one day, “You can have George”.

“What? Really?” I asked.

“Yes. I prefer George, but I know how much you like him, so when we meet them, you can have George. Ill have Andrew.” What a friend.

But sometimes Nadia liked to play bizarre mind games, one day randomly uttering to me in another year 10 study period, “You hate Georges mother.”

“What?” I asked.

You hate Georges mother” she repeated.

“Why? Why would I hate Georges mother?” I asked, incredulous.

“You think shes trying to take George away from you” she stated.

I got a strange sense of enjoyment from that exchange, because Nadia was acknowledging my “relationship” as a real-life thing. She was making it all seem possible.

It was this bizarre fantasy world we lived in that probably contributed to my abysmal HSC mark, or perhaps helped me cope with my teenage issues of the day.

We were famous for our Wham! obsession. Gigi, Nadias neighbour who Id heard of but hadnt met before, approached us at the bus-stop one day in the summer holidays of 1985. She smiled quizzically with her hot-pink lipsticked lips. “So Nadia, do you still like Wham!?” she questioned, as though liking Wham! was something vaguely amusing. Gigi was just a little bit cooler with her preference for Spandau Ballet. But Tony Hadley was no George Michael.

“Well yes, actually I do, and thats why Alex and I are going into the city today.” She told Gigi. Nadia and I were getting the bus into town to see a display of George Michaels concert outfits that were to be auctioned off for Live Aid, Bob Geldofs charity event to raise money for famine victims in Ethiopia.

30 years later, it would be Gigi who first alerted me to Georges death, with her text on Boxing Day morning “Did you hear about George Michael?” with a crying emoji.

Our Wham reputation culminated in a school camp, where Nadia and I clearly couldnt cope with four nights away from our Wham! posters at home, so we just bought one to camp with us and hung it in our tent. The other girls started singing Wake Me Up Before You Go Go around the campfire. Not in the spirit of inclusiveness, but to mock us. You know when youre being mocked. The poster may have been defaced from memory. Im pretty sure it was. The cool girls liked Duran Duran and U2.

My love for Wham! never went away, I still listen to the music from time to time and love to belt out Georges brilliant lyrics in songs like Freedom (NOT 1990, but the 1984 song of the same name; Like a prisoner who has his own key, but I cant escape until you love me, I just go from day to day knowing all about the other boys… and Wham Rap. But my fan-obsessiveness fell away as I grew up and other things took its place, like actually growing up, real life, job, study, actual males and not just an image on a poster or a video.

Even though I never would meet him in his dads restaurant, or share a Mars Bar with him at Stringfellows, George gave me more than he could ever imagine; Not only did my crush provide me with a “boyfriend” without the hassle of actually having one, I was able to harness the passion I felt for him between 1984 – 1986 and later use it in my job as editor of Smash Hits magazine more than a decade later.

It was this understanding of the passion our readers felt for Taylor Hanson and Leonardo DiCaprio that allowed me to write down my vision for the relaunch for Smash Hits magazine in 1997 and turn it into the fastest growing magazine in Australian that year. I knew what our readers wanted. I knew that they really thought they were going to marry Taylor Hanson. Just the way I knew I was going to marry George. They wanted to be close to the stars and I knew how to make the readers feel that Smash Hits was their ticket to the first class carriage on the pop star express.

My love for George became a fond memory. Ive thought at various times in my life that I would be sad when he dies one day. When Im old. When he’s older.  It wasnt meant to happen now, and not on Christmas Day. But thats the thing about life isnt it? A sobering reminder that anything can happen and there’s so much we can’t control.

In Wham!‘s debut single Wham Rap (1982) George prophetically sang the words …you can dig your grave, I’m staying young... Well he did stay young, simply in the fact that he will now never grow old.

I like the advice he raps in the same song, Make the most of every day, don’t let hard times stand in your way, give a wham give a bam but don’t give a damn cos the benefit gang are gonna pay! Forgetting the last bit about doing what you want cos you can just get the dole, the sentiment about making the most of every day serves as a warning.

I stopped following George’s career closely after I gave up on my dream of marrying him, I only took a vague interest in news items about him in the ensuing years.  Did he make the most of every day? Maybe he did, probably more so after his near death from pneumonia in 2011. but in any case, it can serve the rest of us as a poignant reminder of how to live.

So remember to give a wham, give a bam (whatever the hell that is) but don’t give a damn. Don’t give any f*&%s about what’s not important, and make the most of your days. Each day. Because we just don’t know what the next day is going to bring.

I showed this post to Nadia who is still one of my dearest friends to this day and she texted me after reading”… the bit about me saying ‘You hate George’s mother’ etc, cracks me up as I’d forgotten about it.” I told her how funny and original she is, and she replied “…2017 is going to be the year of fun! I can feel it. Too many people dying and getting sick so remember YOLO – you only live once.”

So Wham Rap will be our new philosophy-in-a-song. Just as well, as Ill never be able to listen to Last Christmas, one of my favourites that does double duty as love song and Christmas carol, the same way again. We listened to it at Christmas.

My ex-husband who played DJ this year, told me “Alex, this ones for you”. We had no way of knowing that the very next day, the grim reaper would not give George’s heart away, but completely destroy it, as my ex joked about Georges character in the song having a new girlfriend and still being hung up on the one from last year.

I feel for George’s loved ones, including best friend and partner-in-Wham!, Andrew Ridgeley,  that they’ve lost George so young, so unexpectedly, and on Christmas Day. That song will take on an extra significance now.

Thank you for helping shape my youth, George. Thank you for providing a mental escape route from the hardships of growing up, and for a catalogue of songs that have added colour, melody and texture to the lives of a generation.

 

The science of resolutions: what will you do with 2016?

 

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Hello 2016!

I am lucky enough to have been blessed with the gift of seeing another year go by. Like many people, at this time of year I think about what I want to achieve and what I hope to change in the year ahead.

I just looked back to what I wrote a year ago on January 3, 2015:

Every year it’s the same. I think about several things I don’t like about myself and resolve to change them. I think about all the things I want for my life and resolve to get them. But then, before you know it, another year has rolled by, and I am exactly the same. Same rolls of fat around my middle, same bad habits, same character flaws.

I think maybe I should just save myself the time and grief and not make any resolutions. Because if I don’t make any in the first place, that’s one less thing to fail at, right?

But isn’t the definition of success simply picking yourself up one more time than you fall?… So here I am, 2015, picking myself up, again. This year is the year I really need to make these changes, because it’s amazing how quickly one year turns into five… especially as you get older.

My resolutions involve the three ‘Fs’. No, not ‘Fun’, ‘Funk’ or any other ‘F’ word. It’s the three sensible ‘F’ words: ‘Fitness’, ‘Finance’ and my favourite, ‘Furniture’.

Here’s what I plan to do with these F-words.

Fitness – I’m gonna get me some!

Finance – I’m taking control!

Furniture – I’m moving it to a new location!

As 2016 dawns I’ve almost achieved two out of the three things:

Furniture – Will be moved to a new location in a week’s time.

Finances – I’m starting a new job in a couple of weeks.

It only took me a year!

As for the third ‘F’, Fitness – Got none of that. Tried (sort of, a bit). Failed. Never mind.

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Image: Care2.com

But if I were resolving to improve my fitness (oh let’s face it, I’m talking about fat loss), how would I stick to my resolution?

On New Year’s Eve, right before the midnight fireworks, I happened upon a video on the blog Be Like Water about the science of New Year’s resolutions (I know, such a party animal).

The video post How to commit to your new year goals (from The Science of Success) outlines practical steps for making and sticking to resolutions. I’ll recap them below.

First, some facts:

  • People who make resolutions are 10 times more likely to change their behaviour than those who don’t make them.
  • 54% of people give up on their resolutions within 6 months of making them.
  • 8% of people ultimately succeed by the end of the year.

The video explains that there are two types of resolutions that will always fail:

  1. “Pie in the sky” resolutions. My “resolution” from last year of “Fitness – I’m gonna get me some” is a classic example of that. Now that was just silly. There was no actual plan.

Keeping a resolution is not easy. You can’t just say that this year I will lose 20kg, without a strategy for making it happen. And that lack of strategy has always been my problem. As the saying goes, “Hope is not a plan.”

  2. “All over the place” resolutions. When we take on too much at once, our brain chemistry works against us. Resolutions require self-control. This is an exhaustible resource.

So having too many new year’s resolutions is a recipe for not keeping any of them.

So how do we resolve this resolution issue? 

  1. Work on one thing at a time. When it comes to goals, less is more.

Instead of picking several resolutions that you’ll abandon, pick one that will give you the biggest pay off. It doesn’t mean you can’t work on more than one resolution per year, it just means you should only focus on one at a time.

2. Translate your resolution to specific behaviours.

People who change their behaviour achieve what is known as “habitual automaticity.” This is when you perform your new behaviour without even thinking about it.

The idea is to break down your resolution into particular behaviours and put them on a timetable. For example, instead of just saying, “Move more”, actually write in your diary, each week, what movement you’re going to do (e.g. walk to work?) and the day and time you’re going to do it, until it becomes as habitual as brushing your teeth.

3. Practice everyday. This one gives me hope (which is a good thing to have, despite it not being a plan). Daily practice allows people with average talent to achieve extraordinary things. By practicing everyday, you can achieve long-term traction with your new behaviours.

Clearly, I need to decide on realistic and specific actions to take, and work on that “habitual automaticity” thing for my fat loss strategy. And I need to practice those new behaviours. I need to practice a lot.

Then I may just have a chance at living the Vincent van Gogh quote I had stuck to my wall on a Post-it for most of 2014 (it must have fluttered away sometime in 2015):

Great things are not done by impulse but by a series of small things brought together.

At the moment, I’m just trying to get myself organised for the big changes coming up. 2016 marks the beginning of a whole new chapter of The Alexcellent Life. I’m really looking forward to seeing what it brings.

I will post about my plans in the next day or two.

As I said last January, it’s exciting just thinking about how things could be this time next year… change can be a bit scary, but it also is what’s exciting about life. Even change arising from hardship can mark a turn-around or bring a new opportunity.

What are your plans for 2016? Anything exciting coming up for you?

Image Bridget Jones: http://www.dailymail.co.uk