Monday, July 21, 2014

Living With Loss... Five Years On

Every year, this date rolls around and I find myself thinking back to five years ago, to that morning full of heartbreak and saddness when I found out my Dad had passed away. I also use today to think back on all the happy memories, the fun times and the joy that my Dad brought to our lives.  I flick through photos, go through keepsakes and read over condolence cards with their precious words about the kind-hearted, caring man my Dad was.

One of the cards contains a few lines that always stick with me, a card from one of my best friends, with a quote by Morrie Schwartz written inside, taken from a book I had loaned to her, 'Tuesdays With Morrie'...

"As long as we can love each other, and remember the feeling of love we had, we can die without ever really going away.  All the love you created is still there.  All the memories are still there.  You live on in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here."

It is a quote that comes to me often, whenever I find myself missing my Dad or worrying about how I am able to keep his memory alive (not only for my sake, but for my girls).

Today, I will sit here sipping my tea and enjoying Dutch Specular biscuits (Dad's favourites), remembering all the uncountable times Dad called in for a cuppa and a chat on his way home from work, just to check on me and to catch up on our latest news.  I will buy a bunch of red carnations, remembering Dad visiting me in hospital when Grace was born and bringing the same flowers to me... an unhealthy not-so-well-selected bunch that couldn't have looked more beautiful in my eyes because Dad chose them himself and they were given with armfuls of love. I will wear the necklace he brought back from Queensland for me, remembering the thoughtfulness he always showed, buying more for others than himself whenever he went on holidays...

I will hug my girls that little bit tighter and make sure they know just how much I love them, just as I did whenever my Dad gave me one of his big comforting hugs, remembering that life is precious and that my loved ones are my world...

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Slow Days: Following Winter's Lead

One day recently, Grace was home from school with the sniffles. I cancelled my plans of a play date with a friend and with wet weather forecast, was secretly glad of an excuse to hang out at home all day, pottering, enjoying time with my girls and resting.

We slept in and then lingered in our pyjamas longer than usual, without the call of the school bell to drag us out of the house. A few ABC2 shows were watched while I popped dinner into the slow cooker. The heater was on to keep us warm and toasty and the majority of our day was spent in our family room while the rain fell gently outside pretty much all day long.  Grace and Sophie played dolls and doctors, dressed Barbies and did endless craft.  I put on a pot of soup, made a dent in the washing pile (rotating item after item in front of the heater to dry them) and come the end of the day, even managed to flick through a few magazines.

Similarly, a few Saturdays ago it bucketed down all afternoon.  While the girls had some post-lunch quiet time in their rooms, Paul tinkered in his shed (his plans to mow the lawn hampered by the rain) and I drank cuppa after cuppa as I worked on my ideas for a new blog header, perched right by the fire, cosy and comfortable. Usually such a 'frivolous' afternoon would leave me feeling guilty about everything else I was neglecting, but on this particular wet Saturday, I did so happily.

A while back after reading a past issue of Good magazine, I jotted down a paragraph from an article written by Rebekah White.  She said,

"Turns out, winter's the perfect time to rediscover the joys of doing less.  As the days ebb, the evenings darken and the weather closes in, the body naturally gravitates towards a slower pace.  It's a welcome change from summer's high energy, activity-packed months, a time for inner restoration and, whether you are outdoors or in, for enrichment of a quieter kind."

At this time of year, I am happy to indulge my hermit-like tendencies... to take days slowly, do odd jobs here and there and to not be afraid of spending a lazy afternoon relaxing.  Listening when my body tells me it needs some chill out time rather than a day of tackling an endless to-do list is something I've learnt to embrace during the cold winter months.

How about you?  Do you too crave simple days when the temperature drops?

Monday, June 30, 2014

2014: June Portraits

"Portraits of my girls in 2014"

Grace: Where I find her most mornings and most afternoons... drawing or colouring in at the kitchen bench. She is desperate for a little table for her bedroom where she can work away on creative projects.  I've been hunting on Gumtree for a sweet writing desk but secretly, I quite like her being here near me when I'm occupied in the kitchen...

Sophie: "You wanna take a picture of my straw Mummy?" she asked me as I snapped away with my camera in our favourite cafe one morning.

Joining in with Jodi

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Giving Garden

My grandfather was a hardworking, resourceful man.  A very keen gardener, I think it is this hobby that brought him the most joy (aside from spending time with his grandchildren). The front of his house was filled with thriving rose bushes, geraniums and daisies.  His lawn was perfectly manicured and resembled a bowling green -the perfect place for my sister and I to play bocce with him as little girls.  However, it was the backyard of his home that was most impressive… his vegetable garden.

This plot took up his entire backyard (not including the large chicken coop and his shed) and was almost like a mini-market garden of sorts smack bang in the middle of the Fremantle suburb where he lived.  Rich soil, built up with manure shovelled across from his chook pen grew anything and everything.  Masses of various produce… chiccory, butter beans, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, basil and many other vegetables were carefully tended to and flourished.  I can still recall the bundle of twigs he had fashioned into a ‘swatter’ of sorts for cabbage moths.  It sat leaning against his shed ready to be grabbed as needed.    Meals cooked by my Nonna all incorporated fresh ingredients of some variety. When it came to vegetables, home grown was the only way.

Those who visited left with cartons of glorious free-range eggs and bags of whatever was currently in abundance in his patch.  A bunch of beautiful de-thorned roses was often brought home too after a visit and would brighten the corner of my Mum’s kitchen over the coming week as each bloom slowly unfolded.

Fast forward all these years and I find myself thinking often of my Grandpa’s impressive vegetable patch and garden as I potter about in our own.  As well as growing organic produce for my own little family and seeing the enjoyment Grace and Sophie get out of helping tend to our little plot, it is the giving and sharing aspect of a garden that I strive for.  I dream of being able to wave visitors off with a container of cherry tomatoes, a handful of passion fruit or a bag of lettuce leaves.  At the moment, having only just replanted our vegetable patch out this winter, offerings are few and far between... a bag of lemons, some Double Delight blossoms (the last before they are pruned) or a bunch of parsley seem to be all I can share at the moment.

One day though, I hope our garden will be able to give so much more to so many more and that just like my Grandpa, I will be able to gain the same sense of pleasure from sharing a little bit of our garden with loved ones and neighbours...

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Kipfler Potatoes With Roasted Garlic & Tarragon

I had never tried kipfler potatoes until a few years ago when I stumbled upon this recipe by Donna Hay in the weekend newspaper.  A little harder to come by, they are well worth tracking down for this side dish where they are paired with the sweetness of roasted garlic and the aniseed-like flavour of tarragon.

I made them the other night to go with our evening meal so thought I would pop the recipe up on my blog for anyone wanting to try a dish with simple ingredients that combine together to deliver maximum taste...

Roasted Garlic & Tarragon Potatoes

800g kipfler potatoes, halved
1 head garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
¼ cup tarragon leaves, chopped

Preheat oven to 200°C.  Place the potato and garlic on a baking tray, drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast for 40 minutes or until golden.  Squeeze the garlic cloves from their skins and place in a bowl.  Add the mustard, vinegar and remaining olive oil and mix until well combined. Place the potatoes, tarragon and garlic dressing in a bowl and toss before serving.

(Serves 4)