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Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places

Month

September 2014

TTT – Good weather, good news, good friends

1. Spring time fun in the sun

Winter, and even large parts of Spring, can prove unpleasant weather for little ones to venture out for play. It’s obvious why in Winter, but my idea of a perfect Spring day is the sun, the cool, and no crazy wind. Crazy winds in Canberra Springs usually mean wind chills, and some serious hayfever un-fun. You can practically see fluff flying past your window as you drive some days – like snow, except it ain’t melting and it ain’t a lot of fun up your sinuses.

On Tuesday, after a routine check up with the obstetrician (no gestational diabetes! hurrah!), Arddun and I took a short drive to John Knight park and had the loveliest picnic together.

View of the lake
Our view from our picnic mat
Ducks near picnic mat
Some feathered visitors at the edge of our mat, hoping for bread crumbs.
Arddun close up
Her little grubby, perfect face.
Arddun smiling into camera with hair across face
Sometimes, you take my breath away

Goofy photo montage

Squint and Serious

 

I’m desperately savouring these alone times with her now, for soon we will no longer be just three, but four. And she will no longer be our only one. It’s the ending of a gorgeous era, and I feel I will miss it as much as she will when it finally dawns on her what my swollen belly means.

2. Friends who welcome new babies

Two friends (different families) welcomed babies this week – one day apart! It’s so heartening to hear of safe and empowering natural deliveries, and I love watching my macho male friends fall ever more in love publicly with their burgeoning family – and especially with their wives. Also heard thrilling news about another one on the way after a special wait… It’s Spring time. It’s wonderful. (I am also chockful of mummy hormones at the moment, and I do realise I’m gushing quite a bit in this post. Sorry.)

3. Arddun’s best friend

Arddun is learning the concept of best friends, at the moment… except I think she struggles with choosing just the one. This week, she has pronounced (on separate occasions) first Tony, then me as her Best Friend, to which we both replied that she is our best friend too… just “after Mummy/Daddy”.

But when it comes to her peer group, there is one who remains peerless.

Arddun and Leila watching iPad
Leila and Arddun. These two girls, born 15 hours apart in the same hospital, are inseparable.
Plaited hair of Arddun and Leila
Plaited hair
Leila's cubby house
Leila’s cubby house
Arddun sitting inside cubby house
Well, hello there!
Eating together in the cubby house
Enjoying a very grown-up lunch alone in Leila’s cubby house
Arddun and Leila playing in cubby house
Then it’s off to new adventures!
Arddun and Leila share binoculars
Good sharers

Leila sliding down from cubby house

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The fabulous part is that their mummies get along great, too!

I’m so glad Arddun has made a close friendship so early in life. It’s a delight to see how excited both girls get at the prospect of seeing one another. They both have different personalities, but there is such mutual affection, and giving and taking (most of the time). Just learnt today, for instance, how protective Arddun can be of Leila (a boy had apparently trod on her friend, and she pronounced that a no-no because “That’s MY Leila!”) And Leila’s prone to stopping in the middle of nowhere to give “Huggies” to Arddun. (They are bear hugs, not diapers. And Arddun isn’t into hugs the way Leila is, but will stand there and take it most of the time because it’s Leila.)

Both Fam and I hope this friendship continues for them well into their growing years. It’s a special thing to witness, indeed.

 

Counting money with Daddy

One of the hats Tony wears is that of Treasurer, and Arddun has become quite the willing assistant. Sunday afternoons are when they both gather at the table and she learns to sort and count. In her Cinderella dress, of course.

Arddun sorting coins in piles
Sorting out the coins…
Arddun counting $5 notes
How many $5 notes are there?
Deep in concentration over coins
Deep in concentration
Arddun with pile of money
Bank notes: just colourful paper for counting, really.

Deep in concentration, black and white

Arddun looking directly at camera, stunned
Whatcha lookin’ at, Momma?

TTT – Water, Family, and the art of asking for permission

(Again, a very late one… but at least not forgotten!)

It’s taken me a little longer to think of my list this week – possibly because I’ve been privately logging my gratitudes daily for almost a month now and feel a little repetitious, and partly because I feel like I need to pick Three Huge Events from the week just passed.

It’s been a lovely week. My quest to cut down on consumerism has yielded a mixed bag of results – I now steer clear of most shops, that’s true. But I’ve also ended up visiting more friends or inviting them over, and therefore buying a lot more food. I’ve decided it’s a net gain, overall. Spending the time to connect with others over nom-noms trumps wandering into malls out of habit… and I’ve learnt to eat more simply during my lunches.

Anyhoo… here’s three things I’ve decided to be thankful for.

1. Clear drinking water

We had Mark’s parents over for morning tea on Thursday last week, which wandered into lunch, and then again into afternoon tea. Spent a lovely day with them at Gold Creek. They’ve just very recently “migrated” from Perth, and so the comparisons between short visitations and actually settling in Canberra naturally came up.

The topic of water came up, and I know it sounds like one of those I’ve-run-out-of-things-to-be-thankful-for moments when I say that I’m grateful for Canberra’s water quality. But it’s true. I’ve drunk water from the tap in many cities and in many countries when it’s deemed safe to drink water from, and Canberra’s water is probably one of the nicest-tasting and cleanest. It was one of those epiphanies I didn’t get until I was reminded of Adelaide’s water – which tastes vile. I mean, it’s considered safe for drinking but it just tastes artificial and wrong. And their water alone is the reason I would never want to move to Adelaide. Seriously.

Canberra drinking water in a glass
Cool, clear Canberra refreshment

2. Family coming down

Plans are finally falling into place for this year-end! Tony’s parents will be staying with us in the last 2 weeks of November (hedging their bets that Boy Blob, like Arddun, will make an early entrance), and my family and their significant others will be making their way down over the course of the first two weeks in December! Nothing like a full house to welcome a new baby. It will be a bit nuts, I suspect – but good nuts.

3. Arddun’s habit of checking first

Something else I’ve grown very thankful for lately is how Arddun thinks to ask Tony or me for permission before she helps herself to food – whether it’s a biscuit for afternoon tea, or an extra slice of cheese with her meal. It’s something we’ve reminded her gently to do over time, and we haven’t always been successful. There was that one recent time she got caught polishing off a bag of lollies she received from a school friend’s birthday party… she had to learn a lesson from that. But lately, she seems to understand that she needs to ask for permission before helping herself to food. And it’s a relief, frankly, especially since she is still reacting to popular “child-friendly” foods like sultanas and other fruits and vegetables.

Probably jinxed it now, and maybe she’ll sneak off something at the next Mother’s Group luncheon… But for now, it’s something I’ve observed that she’s grown good at. And it’s such a win for all of us.

Daddy Day 2014

Celebrating
The rock of this family
This little girl’s hero
My complement
Co-parent
And Love.

Collage of photos of Arddun and Tony playing Horsey
Daddy: sometimes the knight, sometimes the steed. Sometimes, even an elephant.

Collage of monotone photos  with Tony and Arddung hugging

Bentspoke Brewing Co.
A chilled-out early Father’s Day luncheon at Bentspoke Brewing Co.

Collage of photos of Arddun placing necklace on Tony

Tony and Arddun looking serious
Her eyes may be mine, but that stare is definitely her father’s.

Father's day gift from Arddun

Tony at Blackfire solo shot
Ain’t nothin’ sexier. Happy Father’s Day! xx

TTT – Climate, Cinema, Community

The Handmade Shop in Civic has a hilarious Canberra souvenir section, with tongue-in-cheek heart-shaped lollipops that proclaim “Canberra Doesn’t Suck!” and badges that earnestly try to convince visitors how Canberra’s such a lovely place, “despite what everyone says”.

My 3 gratitudes for this week happen to be about this city once again.

1. Spring

IMG_0656.JPG

Canberra winters, despite what Queenslanders and Darwinians moan about, are actually delightful. Friggin’ cold, but usually sunny – and that makes a huge difference to one’s temperament. I’ve been to Melbourne in winter and while Melbourne remains my most favourite Australian city (and while I still harbour not-so-secret thoughts about moving there one day), it has miserable winters.

So here’s what Spring in Canberra can start to look like. Bursts of colour, still coolish climes, radiant sun and cloudless skies. Also, dawg-awful hayfever… but let’s just focus on the positives for now, yeah?

2. Beauty and the Beast

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Movies here cost an arm and a leg compared to Singapore, so it’s quite the treat for us when we bother making a date of it, and when they do something special like feature a Disney Princess movie every Saturday/Sunday morning for a month and a half. We only managed to catch the last one on Saturday. It was Arddun’s first time watching Beauty and the Beast, and we think she rather enjoyed herself, even though parts of it got quite intense.

We had primed her for it the whole morning. “Got a surprise for you, Arddun!” we said, as we got her dressed and into the car. “A big surprise!” And she got all excited when she realised we were going into the cinema. Job done! Such clever parenting. So we didn’t quite know how to react when Tony took her down to PappaRich for lunch after the movie, and she looked up at him while they were waiting for the table and asked, “Where’s the surprise, Daddy?”

3. That village feeling

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Today pretty much summed up how my Mother’s group has become a bit of my village. Started the morning text-chatting with Carrie and commiserating over tired pregnant bodies… Received a text this morning from Fam who told me that our husbands ended up in a work meeting together by sheer coincidence… Bumped into Allie, Alex and Liam at the library where Arddun could enjoy an impromptu story-telling session on the steps… and ended our afternoon with Sara and Co., where Arddun had a ball with Jett and wore their dogs out by endless chases.

I love that I can start and end my day with these beautiful women and their bubs, that these friendships are effortless and genuine. I love that our children are playing well together, and that Arddun has all these surrogate “aunties” she can trust. I love that I can turn up at their homes with no make-up on and lousy hair, because we all first met when our bubs were two to three months old and we were all too sleep-deprived to work out whether our T-shirts were on back to front.

Good times.

Four years today

Celina-and-I
Missing you.

Thought about you quite a bit today, in bits and bobs. Second thing in the morning, close to last thing tonight. Flashes of memories technicolour and sepia-toned… like your dancer’s gait, your sulk, and your laugh. Your wild, wild hair, thick and forever your bane.

(I hope God’s given you sleek, manageable hair now.)

 

Sitting with you deep into the night in your backyard, just listening while you chain-smoked and rationalised and tried to explain, and tried not to care.

Shopping with you, meeting you after school. The fact that you always had a library book in your bag, and a glare on the ready. The fact that you were always smarter and brighter and funnier and wittier, and grouchier and moodier, and infinitely more loyal.

The fact that we always fought and forgave and fought and forgave because we were blood, if not quite sisters.

Your allergy to Maggie Noodles and how you hated piano lessons.

Introducing me to Ingham’s marinated turkey – which, by the way, they no longer bring into Canberra. I know, right?

Telling you about Canberra, telling you about Tony, growing apart for a little while.

I wonder what you think of my life now, and I wonder if you miss yours in this world. Even just a tiny bit.

I wonder what you think of Arddun. Would she be the only child you would’ve grudgingly grown to love, if only because she is mine?

I miss your spark, your drama, your loyalty, your listening ear. Your brilliance, your sunshine, your aspiration, your strength.

You.

Honey soy chicken with garlic butter pasta

It can be hard to motivate a toddler to eat dinner some nights, so here’s something I tried recently.

Honey soy chicken collage
Home-marinated grilled honey soy chicken, served on a bed of mini fusilli tossed with garlic butter and baby spinach leaves.

Ingredients

Marinade

  • 200g chicken breast
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • ½ tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • ½ tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tsp minced garlic

Cooking

  • knob of butter
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • mini fusilli (small spiral) pasta (I used half cup)
  • baby spinach leaves (half handful)
  • black pepper for seasoning
  • 1 tbsp honey for glazing

Instructions

  • First, you need to marinate the chicken. Overnight marination is great but for the example above, I’d marinated the chicken in the morning at 10am and was grilling the chicken at 6pm.
    • For more even cooking later on, use the flat part of your meat tenderiser to pound your chicken for a more even thickness throughout.
    • Mix all the marinade ingredients together and coat the chicken. Leave the marinade and the chicken in a small bowl with a lid on and refrigerate until ready to cook.
  • When ready to start cooking, get small saucepan of hot water going on stove. Cook mini fusilli.
  • While fusilli is cooking, heat grill pan on high. If your grill pan is not non-stick, lightly spray the pan with cooking oil.
  • When pan is ready, lay the chicken piece flat and cook on each side for 3 to 5 minutes, depending on thickness of meat. Glaze with honey as you go.
  • When chicken has got 2 minutes to go, drain fusilli.
  • Take out a small fry pan, melt butter with garlic
  • Pan fry drained fusilli with black pepper and spinach leaves.
  • When chicken is ready, remove from fire and slice into finger-length pieces
  • Arrange chicken on the bed of pan-fried fusilli and serve. Bon appetit!

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