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Look back, leap forward

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.

Clean, tidy and revitalised - a space to work, January 2016

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.

Weekend escape in Currumbin Valley, Gold Coast hinterland, February 2016

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.

Fresh borlotti beans from the market, March 2016

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.

The River Cafe's Apple and Lemon Cake, April 2016

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.

Spices and flavours for Thai Pumpkin Soup, May 2016

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.

Exploring Santa Lucia, Santiago de Chile, June 2016

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.

Colourful Valparaiso, Chile, July 2016

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.

Dinner party for my 40th birthday, August 2016

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.

Beautiful sunrise, September 2016

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.

Weekend escape in Sunshine Coast hinterland, October 2016

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.

Jewel-like fruit shrubs, November 2016

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.

Christmas breakfast table, December 2016

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.

15 Comments

  1. Pingback: From Guestwriters 2016 in review | From guestwriters

  2. Cook/eat more good food; travel more … perfect expectations for the start of a New Year. I am a bit of a wowser when it comes to NY celebrations. Generally in bed getting a good sleep … and trusting that will be the norm for the year ahead. Resolutions … I’ve had a few, but to paraphrase Sinatra ‘too few to mention’. Like another of your followers, I habitually forget them.

    However I am a tad appalled at Wolff’s recommendation to lower our expectations. Global values seem all too low at the moment and it may well serve us to raise those expectations.

    Your year 2016, month by month, appears to have been delicious and exciting. Just ignore the mundanities which filled the cracks! They provided your much needed down time.

    Chez Moi, the blog and the person, has inspired me over the past year or so to experiment with food and drink, as well as develop a greater respect for Street Art. So I am trusting 2017 posts will stretch me further. Thanks Chez.

    Only disappointment is that we didn’t see the December photo of January’s pristine work space.

    • You are so kind Michele, thank you! I will do my very best to keep you interested in 2017 🙂 Re: Wolff, I probably should have clarified that her article is very tongue-in-cheek cynicism – which is the kind of dark humour that appeals to me. I certainly don’t advocate lowering expectations in the real world at all. Absolutely agree with you there. Re: the work space, if you want a shock, maybe I’ll send you a photo!!

      • Ah. You had a link to Wolff’s article. I should have checked it myself. Just did. I’m up for a new shower curtain I reckon. Shock me with a photo of your work space and I will retaliate with a photo of my filing trays, which are now empty for the first time since 2014! Start the year as you intend etc etc etc

  3. When it comes to resolutions, I swing wildly from sweeping themes (my current: do less; enjoy more) to small changes in habits (i.e. eat a piece of fruit before dinner). That way I get a sense of making progress even though nothing major changes. 😉 Your year is an inspiring collection of moments and achievements – congratulations on the road you traveled in 2016 and here’s to many more adventures in the new year!

    • I like your approach! An overall mantra, which you can interpret and apply as the mood strikes, and a modest, achievable new practice. So sensible! I read a list of resolutions someone posted a few days ago and they had about 20 of them, all very specific (go to the gym minimum 4 times a week; read 1 book per month; get an early night 2 times a week etc). Oh the pressure! Best of luck for 2017 and for your new resolutions. I look forward to reading more of your interesting stories about life in France xx

    • I have heard of that book Elizabeth! How wonderful that you know the author (virtually!). I must get it as I have many more ideas but have already had some failed experiments. In the interests of reducing waste I really should consult an expert. Thanks for the reminder about this book 😊

  4. happy 2017!
    i don’t think i really do resolutions, i tend to forget/neglect them. instead, i keep up with what i like, and let go of what i don’t and it all evens out.

    here is to a year of evening out the crazy turdness of 2016!

    • I like your loose approach to resolutions Lan – it sounds pretty close to my own. And as we all know, turds make great fertiliser. Let’s see what grows in 2017!

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