I‘ve just had to remind myself that blogging is not always or only about photos: it’s about telling a story.
Last Saturday night Colin and I had a party to celebrate one year of living in Australia. On 8th July 2011 we flew into Gold Coast airport from Kuala Lumpur via Bali, tanned from three months in Asia, with calloused feet and not enough clothes to cope with the Australian winter. One year on, we did something that we rarely do – we marked an occasion that was personally significant, and invited others to share it with us.
There was an invitation, which went out to every awesome person we have met since arriving here (and there have been more than a few). It’s kind of funny that a few hours before the party I was struck with terror that hardly anyone would show up (I needn’t have worried).
There was the venue, our favourite Brisbane bar, The Hideaway, complete with bowls of fruity punch, the relaxed and groovy atmosphere that we love, and the promise of a funky band later in the night. Jimmy and Chris accommodated our group with their usual hospitality, blending professionalism with wry humour (qualities also present in their cheeky-yet-sophisticated Ginny Hendricks cocktail).
There was also cake, over which I agonised for weeks before deciding – definitely – on Tiramisu Cake, because who (really, who?) doesn’t like tiramisu?
And then a few days before the party, I got sick. All week I avoided acknowledging a persistent cough and headache, only to awake on Saturday morning feeling really unwell. My plan for the day had been to shop for remaining cake ingredients, make the cake while photographing each step, then spend the afternoon resting, washing my hair, and painting my nails blue. What actually happened was that I dragged myself nauseously around the supermarket, dosed myself up on Sudafed and cough medicine to get the cake made, and wouldn’t have even taken one photo if Colin hadn’t insisted that I take a few (and moved the table and opened the blinds; practically everything but hold the camera). More Sudafed enabled me to get out the door and sustain a semblance of normality for the evening.
I didn’t think I could write a blog post about the cake and party without a selection of images, which is silly, because bloggers post image-free text all the time. In my mind I guess I saw a great post, with visually appealing photos (that hinted, oh so modestly, at my skill as a cake-maker), accompanied by a carefully written recipe with a bit of wit and story woven through. That wasn’t to be, and control-freak though I am, I’ve just become ok about that. Because whatever happened that day, and no matter how sick I was, the party on Saturday night was right up there amongst the most fun and memorable nights I’ve had over the past couple of years.
So, here’s the story.
Colin and I aren’t big party people. Gemini’s (both of us) are supposed to be sociable, but we’ve always known ourselves to be fairly reclusive – enjoying other people’s company, but never tiring of our favoured cocoon of home and each other. We’ve only ever thrown a few parties in our adult life, and haven’t, admittedly, always been the best at attending those of our friends.
A few years ago someone taught me that only you can really celebrate you; that happiness will sometimes come, but on the whole, you need to do what you can to create it. This includes marking the passing of time and special events, in special, celebratory ways. I’m a cynical type that easily dismisses this kind of thing as so-much-cheese, but the whole need for ‘change’ that prompted our travels was partly an experiment in this very sentiment. The chance to re-new, re-make, to see what would happen, well, it has been freaky, exhilarating, exhausting, and just plain good. This transition – the construction of a new home – was worth celebrating.
It was also, let’s be honest, an excuse to make cake. On the night that Colin and I first discussed the idea of the party, it was taken as a given that I would make cake. Not long after, I started to worry about what cake to make, worrier that I am. I’m fond of making humble cakes, constructed of rustic ingredients and simple methods. But a celebration clearly required something more, something fancy.
I considered Deb’s Tiramisu Cake for a while, before temporarily losing my cool and searching the Internet for alternatives. I have never made a layer cake, for a start, let alone one with as many components and steps as Deb’s recipe. However, her recipe would not leave me alone, and I eventually surrendered, comforted by Deb’s meticulously described steps, by the pedigree of the recipe (via Deb, via Dorie Greenspan), and by the aforementioned conviction that this cake was bound to be a crowd pleaser.
And what do you know, I/Deb/Dorie was right. I made it exactly as specified, with the only alteration being to double the recipe. This wasn’t intentional, but when I made the first batch of sponges, Colin and I were both concerned the cake wouldn’t be big enough, so I made another batch, turning the cake into three delicious layers (using the fourth sponge to make a mini-cake for Colin and I to feast on while hung over on Sunday). The cake received several compliments, I’m not going to lie; in fact I suspect that I might have gotten a marriage proposal if I hadn’t already been married. Not bad, especially considering that I somehow managed to plant my left boob right in that tasty mascarpone frosting while transferring it from car to bar. Not my classiest entrance to a party.
Sickness and cake mishaps aside, it was a great night, made more than wonderful by the people who went out of their way to come. Thank you, seriously; I hope you know how much it meant to us.
And because I just can’t post without a photo or two (no matter how bad they are), below is a picture of the cake (sans the chocolate star decoration (à la Deb) that was applied shortly before leaving our apartment), and a photo of the Aussie-themed surprise gifts we received from Maria (Vegemite and Buderim Ginger Marmalade), Gary and Karen (Australia-themed tumblers), and Angela (a basket of Nerada Tea, Ozenuts Peanut Butter, honey from Victoria and Carmen’s muesli bars). We’re pretty lucky, Colin and I.
* Virtual hug to Ying-yue, celebrating her own one-year anniversary.