My mom taught me heaps. A few years ago, I published a piece on Thought Catalog called “Things My Mother Couldn’t Teach Me.” It’s a bit of a downer, and super full of mid-20’s angst (I wrote it post break up, whilst full of feelings and whiskey). I came across it this year when Mogul.com re-published it. I winced the entire time I read it. Ohhh, to be 27 and full of agony again. Continue reading “What Mom Taught Me: a Mother’s Day post”
I used to eat like a garbage can.
Correction, I used to eat like a garbage can – and get away with it. I sure as shit haven’t cleaned up my eating habits – ever. And it’s becoming moooore and more clear that I might not have a choice to soon.
One charming aspect of climbing into my 30’s is my new reaction to food. Tomatoes? Heartburn. Onions? Heartburn. Oatmeal? Heartburn. Too much salt? Simultaneous and instant bloat, dehydration headache. Too much sugar? Irritable sloth bitch who can’t keep her eyes open. Dairy? Let’s not get into it.
This is all new to me. In my prime, my garbage can days saw me skipping breakfast for a large coffee mixed with powdered creamer, hot chocolate, and Splenda; mid-morning snack of doughnuts; lunch of fried, instant nooodles scooped up with Doritos; inhaling every processed snack when I got home; giant bowl of pasta, sauce, and bread with a bottle of wine for dinner. Rinse and repeat with no real issues.
But the past few weeks have been a real eye opener. I fell into a downward spiral of fat a couple Saturdays ago. I woke up and ate a chocolate croissant with a cup of sugary coffee. Then we went out for breakfast and milkshakes. Then we had coffee in the park. After I spent the afternoon with a stomach ache so bad I was cursing the dairy Gods and their evil temptress ways, we ordered Pizza Hut and I ate 4 pieces. The next day, I made cookies and ate half the batter. The following week at work, I had take away coffee every day (2 sugars each!), and that week + plus the few weeks that followed were so busy that I found myself eating Welsh Cakes (like a bigger, less exciting Snicker Doodle) for lunch, and really, snacks throughout the day. That’s in addition to coming home to eat dinner and dessert. One night, as I was literally struggling to get off the couch because I was so crabby and so stuffed with shit food and so full of chest pains, I thought to myself, “what the hell am I doing?”
But then fucking Christmas. The season of Obligatory Gifts from Co-workers Who Don’t Know You, i.e. sweets. Cookies. Brownies. Cakes. Cannolis. Fudge. And really, any and every sweet thing imaginable. It’s been a week of not being hungry for lunch because I’m full of sugar. A week of riding a roller coaster of emotions as I peak and valley with sugar highs while feeling and looking a bit like Violet Beauregard.
Suffice it to say, I’ll be looking for a nice sugar detox after Christmas. My skin, my dreams, my joints, and the waist bands on my pants are ALL feeling the strain of eating like shit day in and day out.
Any suggestions? Or maybe a hypnosis program that makes vegetables taste like doughnuts.
On Thursday, Joel and I had our traditional Tree Party, officially kicking off Christmas 2016.
Tree Party started when Joel was visiting me in the States in 2013, and we’ve had a version of it every year since. It’s basically us and some tasty beverages putting the tree together while eating Pigs in Blankets and watching a movie. It’s fun, it’s adorable, and I’m not even ashamed to admit that this year I started to get excited for it in September.
This year, I found a tall-ish fake tree for $12, tree lights for $8, and jewel toned baubles for $10. I think it’s the most Christmassy our tree has ever looked, and I’m really jazzed for it.
I’m a little obsessed with it. I’ve been tinkering with ornament placement since Thursday, but every day I look at it and it makes me smile. I’m happy I went with multi-coloured baubles instead of red and green. It’s definitely making me think “Fun Summer” Christmas, not “holy fuck it’s hot and why isn’t it snowing” Christmas, which is awesome.
I keep hearing from my friends who have toddlers that parents only have a handful of magical Christmas seasons with their kids. At first I thought it was a bit bullshit- Christmas is awesome no matter how old you are. I always looked forward to Christmas, because it was the one of the few times my family were together laughing, eating, watching movies and having a good time – amidst the occasional drama flair up from visiting family members or my over-worked parents. With the exception of Christmas 2001 when the whole year was kinda shit and my dad was overseas for Christmas and each of us were going through some form of depression so we just said “no fucks given” and left the tree in the garage and decorated a $5 fern plant with household nicknacks on Christmas Eve (which sounds really sad, but it ended up being a fun time and thinking about it always makes me happy), my parents always made a big, big effort to make Christmas a big, big deal. We always had a huge tree with all the trimmings, presents, a giant breakfast, and lots of hang times. So the season has always been magical and happy for me.
But then I thought a bit more, and I realised that I can’t remember the last time decorating the tree as a family was a thing. And that bums me out a little. I always loved that my parents decorated for the holidays, but I never invested in the experience. And at some point I stopped participating. I mean, I helped my dad a few times by handing him tools when he hang the lights outside, but mostly I just reaped the coziness that came from their efforts.
So maybe you do only get a brief time where the magic is real and your kids want to be a part of it all – when decorating the tree is serious bizness, when waking up to open your advent calendar, or in my case – move the candy cane from the snowman calendar to the tree, when hunting for hidden presents is a top priority, and leaving treats for Santa is non-negotiable. But it seems to come back in full force when they start their own families, and their own little traditions.
And that’s kinda nice.
I’ve wanted to do a Friendsgiving style dinner since maybe before I moved to Sydney. But I’ve just never had the wherewithal or the space to get it together. I mean, my first Thanksgiving here literally snuck up on me the day before, and was thusly celebrated with little fan fare. The second one was better thought out, but as we were in a tiny heat box apartment with only 3 plates and 2 chairs, there wasn’t any space to entertain. But, as luck would have it, at Joel’s exhibition, Hugh (our master chef pal) and I started to loosely plan a big Thanksgiving dinner.
In mid-October we remembered we were planning a dinner (actually, Hugh remembered, because I’m absent minded professor), so we picked a date, set a menu, made a plan, and on Friday night, we made it happen. With Hugh at the ham helm and the grill station, and me with the mayonnaise and bacon salad (America) we fed 17 of our pals and killed many 3 for 1 bottles of wine. It was fan-damn-tastic.
When I think of Thanksgiving food, I want cheesy green bean casserole, heaps of mashed potatoes and gravy, piles of turkey, stuffing, etc etc. But when I think of cooking and eating a meal of cream, cheese, starch and gravy in the air conditioner-less heat of an Australian November, it makes me want to curl up and die. So we adapted the traditional meals for something more light and summery — but still paid homage to the fat filled, cheese topped, heavy, heavy style traditional noshes. What we ate:
- Ham with pineapple/lime/chipotle glaze with a chipotle apple sauce
- Glazed and grilled carrots, and squash and broccolini (topped with pickled carrots)
- Green beans tossed with almonds and pickled onions
- Red Skin potato and bacon salad
- Corn bread from scratch
- Homemade pumpkin pie with spiced whipped cream
- Mixed berry cobbler
- Honorable mention but didn’t make it to the table – buttermilk rolls and mini bourboun pecan tarts.
The meal didn’t come together without its share of Audrey-style mayhem – I was meant to do a big shop on Wednesday night so my Thursday night would be totally free for baking, but Glued to My Phone Election Night Blues got the better of me.
I went to the store, but it was only to buy bacon for dinner and to cry in the aisles like a basket case. So on Thursday, I did my big shop. 90 minutes and 30lbs of groceries later, I was exhausted. At 8PM Joel took command and made most of the corn bread (ok, he really made all of it but I read the recipe to him and grated the cheese and pointed out that I forgot to add the creamed corn, so I’m taking credit, too). Around 9 PM I started boiling the potatoes and putting the pie together. By 10PM the pie corn bread was done, the pie was baking, and the potatoes were still hard, and I was counting how many hours of sleep I’d need to be up at 6:30AM and not feel like a zombie for work. By 10:45PM the potato salad was done, the pie was burnt to a crisp (fucking *F to *C), the buttermilk rolls were scratched, and I was all “fuck it.” and went to bed.
But, the meal was still a success! Hugh is a genius with food, and it’s a meal I wish I was still eating. Here are some moderately good pics – mostly blurry and mostly forgetting key elements like the green beans and the whipped cream gun, but some pics are better than none:
It really was a fantastic night – friends, wine, great food, laughs, and even some interpretive dancing. Thanksgiving is intended to be a day where you reflect on your good fortunes, and for showing gratitude for those good fortunes. I felt the gratitude. And I felt the love. It was a night to not dwell on the negatives (Trump), and it was a night of reassurance that not everything is dark and terrible. As I looked down the table filled with people and candles and conversation and food being passed around and everything just felt – good. If I were the Grinch, this is where my heart would break the frame.
I am incredibly thankful for my Sydney family, for Joel’s friends who have never treated me like a stranger and who I now consider to be my friends, too. I’m thankful for my life here. I’m even thankful for this year, even though it’s been so hard, it’s been so eye-opening and revelatory to support systems I didn’t realise I had.
I’m thankful for the life I live, and I am thankful for the people around me.
And I’m thankful for that ham. Seriously, it was damn delish.
So who is waiting to wrap a big fat DONE ribbon around April, quietly put it on the shelf and just pretend it didn’t happen? *raises hand*
I can’t remember a month where I’ve felt more – fragile – I guess is the best word. Hence the sporadic appearances here and everywhere else in the social spectrum. It’s been a tough few weeks. I’ve been on the receiving end of more pep talks than I have in years. But I’m happy to say that being more proactive and attentive to what I need has been helping immensely, so I’m just taking it day by day.
BUT – April hasn’t been all bad! For one thing, we watched so many episodes of My 600lb Life that I think I’m *thiiiiiis* close to cutting out all processed foods from my life. Joel has become Head Chef around here and we’ve never eaten better. I’ve been able to skype/Facetime/phone date with many of my nearest and dearest. And my most favourite person had a birthday. We celebrated with a doughnut cake, Game of Thrones, and a night with friends… and a resulting Friday night of pizza and sweatpants recovery.
Annnnd we just had an awesome three day weekend of good food, good movies (ok, and some terrible movies), and relax times (and let’s face it, obsessive cleaning and rearranging #stressed) in honour of ANZAC Day.
So here’s to the last few days of April – fingers crossed that it all starts to shape up.
Christmas was perfect!
The weekend started off right: last minute gift errands, cronuts and coffee, then baking a cake, gift wrapping, and heading to Joel’s dad’s house for dinner.
Christmas was a day of spoils – of presents, fantastic food, and good times with Joel’s family at the Christmas Barbeque.
I don’t know if it was the slightly cooler temperatures, or what, but this year felt about 800% more Christmassy than it did last year. There were heaps of love and fun and good feelings all around, and everyone seemed to have a better time celebrating this year. I still missed my family like whoa, but I didn’t feel like they were too far away.
Joel was gone by 7:30 this morning for work for massive Boxing Day Sales, which sucked. And I’ve done nothing more than talk to my mom on the phone, build a 3D dinosaur, play with my Christmas toys, and eat cake for breakfast:
It’s 3 PM and I’m still in pajamas, watching trash TV. Annnd it’ll stay that way.
I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday!
The awesome “twig-mas” tree is purchased and decorated, all the present shopping is finally done, and a shipment of gifts came in from the Santa Turners.
And now, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…
And it’s beginning to look a lot like I have two weeks off. Soon. So soon.
And speaking of soon, big update coming. I promise!
So, on Friday, Joel and I celebrated our
Thanksgiving, ThanksFriday, Thankschicken. As noted earlier, I was determined to make this year’s dinner a good one, and as close to how we do it back in the States, and we succeeded – grandly! I had the planning under control – menu set and recipes bookmarked on Tuesday; shopping done on Wednesday; pie made on Thursday; on Friday, chicken cooked first, then potatoes when there’s 40 mins left, casserole and pumpkin when there’s 20 mins left. But when I got home on Friday I was hit with a wave of cramps and a PMS cloud (hooray) and everything felt out of control and I honestly felt like throwing in the towel and getting Pizza Hut. Thankfully Joel stepped in got the ball moving.
There was an overestimated guess of oven space which resulted in menu items being scrapped (so long, hasselback potatoes and take n bake bread); OMG CHICKEN WILL BE DONE IN 20 MINUTES AND I HAVEN’T MADE THE SIDES panic; panic when the chicken took an hour and a half longer than planned; a bit too much wine and a bit too much panic led to over-salting my famous green bean casserole and accidentally swapping the cheese and onion layer; a destroyed kitchen; feeling a food and wine coma so hard it felt like death was near. It definitely felt like Thanksgiving. The only things missing were a huge family fight and that one relative who gets drunk and says awkward things before he passes out in front of the football game.
And here’s what it looked like!
Thursday night pie prepping: I was going to make crust from scratch, but I decided to tone down the ambition and just use frozen. My grocery store doesn’t carry pre-made shells, but they do carry “short cut” pastry, which is square. So I just used two shells and melded them together in the corners. I didn’t get that fancy lattice look, but I had crust, so that counts. And Joel suggested we use the leftover crust and pie filling to make pumpkin pie rolls, which was basically the best idea Joel’s ever had.
I did have to run to the store at 9 PM in my pajamas and flip flops to grab eggs… sometimes planning doesn’t go exactly as planned. And sometimes the Woolies employees will look at you like you’re homeless.
First up on Friday: lemon herb roasted chicken. I’d never roasted a chicken before, so I was incredibly nervous about getting it right, as there’s nothing worse than dry chicken. So I was messaging my parents all morning for tips, when Joel mentioned that he’d basically roasted hundreds of chickens in his time, and is a roast master. So I let him take the chicken helm. #problemsolved
We set the oven for 90 minutes and went on to other prep! Including whipped cream – last time I tried to make it here, I used thickened cream and icing sugar and whisked it for 15 minutes with nothing happening – except me eating the mixture with a spoon.
Then it was time to drink wine and have some hang times!
When the timer for the chicken went off, we jumped up to hurriedly get the sides items made. And of course, in the time it took to get them made, put in the oven, and baked, the chicken still wasn’t done. OF COURSE NOT. And that’s when I learned a valuable lesson: roast chicken recipes tell you to tie the legs together not because it looks cool, but because it makes the chicken cook faster.
When the chicken was done – almost 3 hours after we put it in – the onions at the base were incinerated, every inch of our apartment smelled of delicious roast chicken, and it was almost 10 PM (no, I didn’t want to have dinner on Saturday when we had more time to cook. I wanted it to be as close to the actual holiday as possible… even if it meant eating super late. haha)
We ate so much between the time I got home and the time we finished dinner that there was no room for pie – something I didn’t think was actually possible.
This morning, I woke up at 4 feeling like I drank the Dead Sea, a blistering red wine headache, and the smell of roast chicken STILL hanging in every room, now making me queasy. It took a fair bit of time to clean up the kitchen (no way in hellll that it was getting done last night), but then it was time for tea and the best part of Thanksgiving: Pie for breakfast.
and later, the second best part of Thanksgiving: leftovers for days.
I always spent my Thanksgivings outside of the kitchen, wine glass in hand, hanging around with relatives and snacking. So I’ve always loved it and I never understood why people hate it and get so stressed out – but now I know. If you’re in charge of the cooking, it’s pretty stressful, as I had a couple of moments when I thought “fuck, it’s all ruined” and I had Joel helping me and it was just the two of us so there was no (obvious, company oriented) pressure. I imagine it’s easier if you have two ovens and a dishwasher, but yeah. I have a new found respect for people who host. And I kinda want to go back in time and help my mom more in the kitchen on the big day.
Maybe next year we’ll just have tacos.
I remain thankful for my supportive and loving family and friends, my new job, the roof over our heads, wi-fi, modern science, tooth brushes, the fact that I have yet to be slaughtered or kidnapped, and Joel, my biggest cheer leader and roast chicken master. I have more blessings than I can count (one being my parents sent me two boxes full of Thanksgiving food prep and two being Joel picked up both boxes from the post office).
I hope everyone had a fabulous Thanksgiving! And that everyone survived Black Friday (and didn’t steal anything out of the hands of children)
I feel like it isn’t November yet. In fact, I’m still thinking it’s early October and I’m confidently telling Joel I want to plan a big Thanksgiving party this year, knowing I have 8 weeks to get my shit together.
Well, well, Thanksgiving is actually this week, and I didn’t realize it until yesterday morning. I did what I always did and filed “Big T-Day Party” away in the “this will sort itself out” pile and went about my business.
Party or no party – I am bound and determined to have a better holiday this year. Last year, I spent the first three weeks of November fruitlessly going to job interviews and fretting every day about my shrinking savings account, and I finally scored a job in the week before Thanksgiving. Needless to say, planning a big dinner was the furthest thing from my mind. I was also deeply homesick, a bit hungover, Joel was working late and drained from it, and I had no idea where to buy stuff or what to cook. So I settled on a rotisserie chicken, frozen veg, mashed potatoes, packaged gravy and a subpar box of brownies with ice cream. And tap water. Joel got home around 8 and we watched American tv on my laptop because our TV was broken. He was super cheerful and the spirit of Thanksgiving was there, but the food wasn’t.
This year, though. This year will be different. I’m a bit more savvy in the kitchen, and a bit more savvy about where to shop. I’m still not at the “make an entire Thanksgiving meal by myself” stage, but yesterday morning we thought up an awesome meal that I’m pretty excited about:
- lemon herb roasted chicken (our oven is way too small for a turkey)
- spinach salad with feta cheese and roast pumpkin and macadamia nuts
- my famous green bean casserole
- sliced & baked potatoes (my own experiment – I’m pretty excited)
- Garlic Turkish bread with herbed butter (I thought about pull apart rolls with honey butter, but the salad is sweet and garlic Turkish bread is so good)
- pumpkin pie for dessert
Since it’s not a holiday here, I don’t get a day off, so we’re having Thanksgiving on Friday, so I have more time to cook and hang out. A late dinner on Friday, with wine and cheese and cracker appetizers while the chicken roasts and the other dishes bake. I’m also drawing up a time line of shopping and when to bake what and fantasizing about setting the table. I’m really excited!
Last year, I just let the holidays happen to me. It was my first year doing both Thanksgiving and Christmas without my family (i.e. I didn’t have someone making my plans for me), so between work and finances they both just kinda slipped on by. This year, we’re looking forward to making them count. I love Thanksgiving, and I’m bound and determined to make this an awesome day for us.
ALL THE FINGERS CROSSED that I can stick to this plan, and we don’t end up eating KFC.