Like many people, I’m ready to leave 2016 behind. It wasn’t a difficult year for me personally, but it was for some of my friends, and the backdrop of global political and humanitarian crises, one after another after another, infused everything with an air of chaos and confusion. As The New Yorker’s Susanna Wolff aptly writes, “2016 was a turd of a year”, which I think sums it up pretty well. This year we should avoid over-ambitious New Year’s resolutions, she advises, and “get ready for 2017 by collectively aiming a little lower”.
Last year I made some resolutions: the first, actually, since the year when I fulfilled my resolution to drink more wine rather too well. This time around I joined a group of friends for a focused goal-setting session, and out of that process I identified that in 2016 I wanted three things: to carve out a dedicated space at home for work and creative activities, to travel overseas and to cook more. It might sound strange that someone who writes a food blog would need to resolve to cook more, but I find that mid-week cooking in particular is hard work (don’t we all?). I wanted to commit to fewer dinners of crackers and cheese and by and large I have achieved that. As the photos below show, I didn’t do too badly with my other goals, too.
My annual Year in Review posts always follow the convention of selecting one photograph to represent each month, using a photograph that was taken during that month. This year was more difficult than usual, revealing that throughout 2016, I had taken out my camera for food and for travel, but for shamefully little else. This year I was fortunate to receive a seriously good camera lens for Christmas, so an obvious resolution for 2017 is to get out more often, to tramp the streets and surrounds with my camera as I used to do when we first moved to Brisbane. Beyond this, I would like to step up my cooking skills by hosting more dinner parties and brunches at home. I cooked a formal dinner for 12 people for the first time in 2016 and it was a great challenge – lots of work and lots of planning (there was even a spread sheet involved!) but I was surprised by how much I loved it.
So despite Wolff’s cynical advice I’m not really aiming lower in 2017. Admittedly, I pitch pretty low to begin with – there’s no get fit/lose weight/avoid junk food/stop drinking here. Resolutions are notoriously hard to keep and I suspect that mine have worked in the past because I keep them modest, focusing on what I already enjoy rather than what I should be doing. You’ll also notice that I avoid any precise quantifications because if I can achieve a sense of “more” (more photos, more dinner parties) then I’ll consider the job well done. On this note, I’m interested to hear your take on the practice of resolutions – do you make them, break them or avoid them? Are they helpful or motivating, or just another source of pressure?
Wherever you’ve landed at the beginning of the new year, I wish you all the very best for the year ahead. Thank you for reading Chez Moi in 2016 and being part of my small world. Let’s collectively do our part and create a little more compassion, humility and reason in 2017. But let’s face it, if turns out that there are simply fewer turds, I’ll consider it a win.
January: 2016 started positively with some clear goals for the year to come. One of these was to tidy up the mezzanine office area of our apartment, establishing it as a productive work and creative space. Seeing this photo reminds me that I’ve let it grow cluttered once again…must sort that out.
February: In February we celebrated our wedding anniversary with a trip to the Currumbin Valley in the Gold Coast hinterland. This was our first Air BnB experience and it was a good one. The house was beautiful and isolated, and the wild weather made it easy to justify a reclusive weekend with wine, books and many cups of tea. Between downpours, I snapped this photo in the green garden of a local cafe.
March: By March my resolution to cook more was in full swing. I went to the markets most Saturday mornings, looking for fresh, interesting and seasonal produce. These borlotti beans were delicious, braised simply with olive oil and stock. In March I also refined my homemade tonic syrup, which required many gin and tonics to get just right.
April: My instagram feed and photo library attest to many cakes in April, including this deliciously toothsome Apple & Lemon Cake from Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers of River Cafe. In April I also started brewing water kefir at home; the beginning of a new interest in fermentation.
May: By May the weather was cooling and it was time to make large pots of Thai-Spiced Pumpkin Soup. May was a social month with lots of lunches with friends, outings and trips to the cinema (which memorably included a re-run of Breakfast at Tiffany’s). We also shopped, stocking up on warm winter clothes for our impending holiday.
June: I turned 40 in June and we celebrated with three weeks in South America! Our first stop was Santiago de Chile, where we explored the city and visited the snow before flying off to Buenos Aires, Argentina. We took a ferry to Uruguay while there, before returning to BA and flying to Mendoza. It was an amazing, whirlwind of a trip that changed our perspective for the better.
July: In early July we were still overseas, enjoying Valparaíso, Chile; a gritty, colourful and chaotic city where we climbed a million stairs and ate some of the best food of our whole trip. My blog posting still hasn’t caught up to this part of the holiday, but isn’t far away now. Not long after we got back I got the short, pixie haircut I had been daring myself to get for ages.
August: Back at home in August I decided to throw a belated 40th birthday party for myself, which took the form of a dinner party for 12. I cooked Middle Eastern dishes that I had learned while attending a cooking class (a previous birthday gift from the same 12 friends). The feast included prawns wrapped in kataifi pastry, lamb rump in zhoug paste, hummus, baba ganoush, date and coconut chutney, spiced couscous and chickpea salad.
September: In September I travelled to New Zealand for my sister’s 30th birthday party and another sister’s baby shower – a lovely long weekend of celebration and catch-ups. It was predictably chilly, as it often is in Auckland, while back in Brisbane the sunrises were already hailing the rapidly approaching summer.
October: By October work pressures were starting to pile up but I continued making time to cook and started to get back into a regular exercise routine (a new yoga school opened close to home, so I didn’t exactly have any excuses). This photo was taken on a lovely weekend trip to the Sunshine Coast hinterland with members of my book club.
November: In November I experimented with my latest obsession – fruit shrubs. Strange name, yes, but these sweet, fruity, syrups are all I want to drink now that the humid Brisbane summer is here. I’m almost ready to post the recipes for these jewel-like strawberry and pineapple versions.
December: The great thing about December is that it feels like such a short month. I worked hard to complete a major project then by 2.30pm on the 22nd I was blissfully on holiday. This photo shows part of our table setting for Christmas breakfast, which we hosted at our place with friends. Our three course breakfast of fruit platter, salmon kedgeree and Belgian waffles with berries and cream went down so well; a fitting abundance with which to welcome the new year.