Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Don't Look Back in Anger.

My Big Fat End of Year Meme

1. What did you do in 2014 that you'd never done before? 
I am very proud of myself this year. Not only did I continue to do well at uni (studying my BA in English and Creative Writing at Murdoch) but I also undertook several courses via Open Learning. I studied and passed units in Forensic Science, Forensic Psychology and the Scottish Referendum. It was all interesting stuff and, for the most part, I enjoyed it.

I also managed to achieve a number of tasks featuring things I'd never done before. Some of these include: paint my nails black, take the kids to the beach by myself (thereby facing a major phobia), mow a lawn (I enjoyed it so much I've sort of made it my thing) and make a Swiss Roll from scratch (a complete and utter failure, but it did become an amazing trifle).

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year? 
For something completely different, I decided to celebrate turning 45 by attempting 45 tasks for this year. I'm not going to go into all of them (I completed roughly 30) but some of the things I achieved were: wash and polish the car, declutter 45 things from the house, play hopscotch with the kids, and make a donation to a worthy cause. 

Every year, Lee, the kids and I make resolutions (we call them yearly goals) and yes, I will be making more for 2015. Even keeping half of them means noting  achievements that I might otherwise not have noticed.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? My daughter, Cassandra, gave birth to Anthony. Not long after this she became a single Mum to Aisla and Anthony. 

4. Did anyone close to you die? Yes. My Uncle Neville died and it was devastating. I cannot convey how much I loved Uncle Neville and what he meant in my life and I still feel choked up when I think about him. 

5. What countries did you visit? Trenzalore. 
6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014? Before I answer this, I'd like to hark back to the answer I gave to this question last year: "Connor's health returned to him. His illness is difficult on the family, but it's awful watching him suffer every day." Well, Connor has been Rumination-free since September and we have agreed to him rejoining the school system. So, the answer to this question now is: "Connor enjoying a full year at school."

In addition to this, I'd like to add that I'd like to see my adult children making choices that add security to their lives. I want my daughter and sons to step along a path that leads to a secure and happy adulthood.

7. What dates from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? December 9. Erin and Connor had a joint birthday party (13 and 10) which celebrated their separate year of triumph. Erin this year enjoyed being Head Girl, a member of the Mandurah Junior Council and was named Dux of her school. Connor started the year as an extremely sick little boy of 23 kilograms, but ended it at a healthy 33 kilograms. He also started the year without friends (his illness made it impossible to have play-dates) but ended it with 10 children invited to his party. 9 came. The party was such a joyful event because it was the culmination of everything we'd put into practice for the year.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Achieving 2 Distinctions and 2 High Distinctions at uni despite also homeschooling Connor. I learned a lot about myself this year. Now I'm considering what comes next; Honours or a Degree in History?

9. What was your biggest failure? I don't feel I failed anything. I completed 4 units of uni, I took Connor through Year 4 as a home-educated student, I helped him achieve wellness, I kept Erin focussed on her studies and her activities. Lee and I sold our house four days after putting it on the market and found a new home 3 days later. I call that a positive success.

Okay, if pressured to come up with a failure, it's this. Despite sending 4 stories out, I failed to make publication. I did receive an Honourable Mention in the Writers of the Future competition, which isn't too bad, but a real publication would have been fantastic.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? My uterus was destroyed via an Endometrial Ablation Procedure. I was told it would be painless. It wasn't and the pain lasted nearly 2 weeks. On the plus side, I've now missed 2 periods. On the negative, I am still rampantly hormonal.

11. What was the best thing you bought? My second slow cooker. Our oven died earlier in the year so I resorted to slow cooking. In the end we only got the oven fixed because we're moving house, not because I want it back. I learned to bake bread, make roasts and concoct fudge in the slow cooker which helped me feel as if I achieved new greatness within the kitchen.
12. Whose behavior merited celebration? Erin has had the most amazing year and has worked hard for it. People tell us we must be proud and yes, we are, not with the achievement, but with the effort Erin put in. Our daughter was made Head Girl, was voted onto the Mandurah Junior Council and attained Dux. She did this while going through the usual hormone changes that attack 12/13 year old girls and she did so with a smile and a willing attitude.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed? My daughter's ex-boyfriend. He routinely screws her over and then expects forgiveness. I hate this man more than I can express.

Also, those of my former religion. We are supposed to be a group that prides itself on love and yet, this year I saw no sign of this love. I went through a lot of hard times due to Connor's illness and not once was I offered a shoulder or a listening ear. As a result, I have decided I no longer associated myself as a member of that religion.

Conversely, thank you to every single person (a mixture of atheists, Catholics, Mormons and Pastafarians) who walked with us every step of the way. You actually epitomized real, human kindness and love.

14. Where did most of your money go? Bills, the car, the mortgage. Wine. Really. I spent 8 weeks alcohol-free and we had heaps of money during that time. 

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Christmas. Yes, I'm celebrating it this year and I can't wait. We have a tree and we have an angel, courtesy of our beautiful friends, Kris and Kim.

16. What song will always remind you of 2014? 

"Cap in Hand" by The Proclaimers. The Proclaimers are Connor's absolute favourite band of all and we could not take a car ride without one of their songs playing, usually "Cap in Hand." 

Also, it was the year of the Scottish referendum, which I studied, so the lyrics seemed particularly resonant. Really, Scotland, what were you thinking?

I could tell the meaning of a word like serene,
 D                            G        A
   I got some `O' grades when I was sixteen,----
 D                                  G             A
   I can tell the difference 'tween margarine and butter,
 D                                  G           A
   I can say "Saskatchawen" without starting to stutter.
         A          D            G               D          A
   But I can't understand why we let someone else  rule our land,
   NC           D
   we're cap in hand.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:i. happier or sadder? ii. thinner or fatter? iii. richer or poorer? 1)Happier. My boy has been well for 3 months, which is all we prayed for last year. 2) As for weight and money, they're about the same. We're moving to a smaller house in 2015, so we should see more money on pay-day.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of? I kept up my study, I wrote more than I did last year and I looked after my children. All in all, I'm happy with my level of activity this year.
19. What do you wish you'd done less of? Commenting on Facebook. What a complete waste of time and energy. I won't be commenting much next year, because really people just want you to validate their own opinions and that's not always the case.

20. How will you be spending Christmas? Drinking beer and eating food with my brother and his partner and our children. Raymond and I weren't the closest growing up, but we are beginning to discover just how much we love each other. I can't wait.

21. Who did you meet for the first time? My best friend Sharon introduced us to her husband, Adam. He is her third husband and he's perfect. Sharon and Adam have the sort of simpatico that you usually only see in partners who have been together a long time.

22. Did you fall in love in 2014? I am so in love with my husband, Lee. He is the reason I managed to get through 4 units of uni, Connor's illness and the stresses of Cassie's break up. He stands by my side, holds my hand and lets me know that all is right with my world. He is the love of my life, the most important person in my world. 

23. What was your favourite TV program? "Community"! Kate Eltham and Rob Hoge sent us a surprise package for Christmas and inside we found 3 seasons of this show. One episode and we were addicted and I've since watched them right through 4 times. Community was definitely my Number 1 show for 2014.

Also, this year we allowed the Battersby children to watch Battlestar Galactica for the first time. Watching their reactions to each important plot development made me fall in love with the programme all over again.
24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
No, not really. I don't do hate, not really. I hate actions, but not people. Well, apart from the one person I do hate, but I hated him last year, too. Treat me badly and I'm likely to forgive you. Treat my kids badly, however, and you're on my list of hate.

Oh, and Tony Abbott. Is he not the most hateful man in Australia?

25. What was the best book you read? I read some fantastic novels this year: The City and The City by China Mieville, The Chemistry of Tears by Peter Carey, and The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes. 

Without a doubt, however, by absolute favourite book was Havenstar by Glenda Larke. This was my Goodreads review: "There is so much I want to say about this novel but some how the words fail me. I've read a lot of books this year, for uni, for judging and for personal pleasure. This book is, without shadow of a doubt, my favourite to date. There was absolutely nothing I didn't love about this work: the characters, the setting, the world-building and the religion, each and every part of it was pitch perfect and believable. I fell into the world of Stabilities and Instabilities, into Havenstar and into the Chantries seamlessly." 5 stars. 

I can only gush about this work and how amazing it is. A masterpiece of our time.

I just want to add that the edition I read was published by Ticonderoga. There's history to this book and I'm glad Russell Farr went ahead and picked up with others left off.


This wasn't one of my most prolific years for reading, but it was a year filled with quality. 

26. What was your greatest musical discovery? I can't decide between Baxter Dury and The Hilltop Hoods. Dury's "Happy Soup" taps into my sadness and desolation, while "Cosby Sweater" by The Hilltop Hoods instantly lifts my mood. I find myself dancing the moment the opening beats start.

27. What was your favourite film of this year? "Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll." A docudrama about Ian Dury featuring Andy Serkis in the lead role. Not only did I fall back in love with Ian's music, I also discovered and become a fan of his son, Baxter. I also loved "Eric and Ernie", a docudrama about Morcombe and Wise.

28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I turned 45. My Triffitt kids surprised me by picking me up and taking me out for lunch. I had Chili Mussels.

29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Having one story published. My stories were good (one received an Honourable Mention) but they did not find a home and I am saddened by that.

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014? "Does my butt look big in this? How about this?"
31. What kept you sane? "Community." BBQs with the McMinns. Talking religion with Sharon. Watching Connor slowly get his life back. Wahu wine.

32. What political issue stirred you the most? I don't know. I'm fairly new to this politics thing and I seem to have come to it during a particularly bad time in Australian history. We have a dreadful Prime Minister who should be called to account for his actions. 

33. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014.  This, too, shall pass. I suffered a fair amount of depression this year, to the point where I considered self-harm. I got help and support from my family, but through it all I kept my eye focussed on tomorrow. 
34. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year. 
"I'm on my way, from misery to happiness today
Aha aha. Aha aha."
Yeah, that was my year. It started miserably, but we're finishing it as a happy and strong family that fuels itself with love and laughter.

Oh, dear. Is that the time?

On May 29 of this year, I posted that I'd be using this site to record recipes. And then, on May 30, despite my better judgment, I went back to Facebook. You know what happened next.

So, here I am on December 23, getting ready to record my year in review and accepting that, after seven months, maybe I need to update my blog.

Okay, to begin with, here's a recipe. I've been very active on a certain slow cooker site on Facebook which links really well with the slow cooker central website. I've been an active member for about four months and, as a result, have been exposed to a couple of fads. My favourite recipe to come from the site is this Obsession sauce which I use for all sorts of sauces.

Obsession Sauce

1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp Mint sauce (I probably use more like 3 or even 4 Tbsps of the thick sauce because I really like mint)
1 packet French Onion soup
1 onion, diced or sliced into half rings (I personally prefer sliced into half rings)

Mix together, pour over any cut of meat (I love it on chicken) and place in slow cooker on low for around 4-6 hours depending on speed of slow cooker.

Too easy. Too delicious. I serve with mashed potatoes and carrot, but you could also serve on rice or with roast veges. I have also used the sauce to marinate roast lamb before slow cooking (cook on low about 8 - 10 hours).