Grateful

By Vita Forest

Seen this year

Seen this year

It’s time to look back at 2015 and be grateful for the year that was.

In 2015 I am grateful for:

  • my children and family.  My children continue to develop into insightful, quirky and genuinely good people.   They impress me with their resilience and energy.  My family as always, loyal and down to earth.
  • my friends, new and old, for their inspiration, honesty, support and acceptance.  Lots of laughs this year.
  • my job, this is the year I won a permanent teaching job.  Phew!  Makes life a little easier and it’s
  • meaningful work, where what I do has real effect, where I work with inspiring people who care and make a difference, where children feel valued and have the opportunity to shine in their own special way.
  • my home, never underestimate the value of having a peaceful nourishing place to refresh, reflect and relax.  A place to feel safe and in control.
  • my health, both physical and mental.  Not much you can do without it.
  • my creative outlets and the satisfaction they provide.  Whether teaching, writing, crafting, knitting, designing, choreographing, directing or blogging, creativity has made me feel alive right to my nerve endings.
  • books and their opportunities for escape, new understandings, experiences and delight.  They have been the source of many lively discussions with family, friends, students and even strangers.  At school this year we devoured Fearless, Matilda and Harry Potter (amongst others).  At home I discovered the wonders of Barbara Trapido and Cheryl Strayed.
  • adventures both near and far, beach holidays, bush walks, art galleries, museums, gardens, city and coastal walks, festivals, music and visits to Canberra to see my friend Fleur and to float in colour in James Turrell’s Perceptual cell.
  • the great outdoors. I am lucky to live in Sydney where nature spoils us.

What are you grateful for in 2015?

Advertisements

This week

By Vita Forest

 

IMG_3434[1]

Bird’s nest fern seen on a local bushwalk

This week I have been

  • READING
    • The Boat by Nam Le
    • Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy (on the recommendation of Max)
  • WRITING
  • MAKING one of Ann Wood’s lovely ships
  • VISITING the Powerhouse Museum and the Goods Line.
  • WALKING and
  • SWIMMING at Manly on Christmas Day with Saskia and Vastra.
  • WATCHING Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes

Are you in?

By Vita Forest

Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre

Are you in?

Sydney, as you might imagine, has a large collection of pools.  We went to one of them on Tuesday – the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre.  It is not the closest pool, or the most scenic, but it does have other advantages.  We picked up Max’s friend Max (yes, two friends with the same name and even the same initial.  That’s what happens in real life) and I battled through the pouring rain in the car.

It is a large indoor complex with a selection of pools to suit all swimmers.  And the water is warm.  Warm enough to stay in for nearly four hours (when the free parking runs out).  There are pools to swim laps in, dive in, sit in and play in.  And even one whose floor can be raised and lowered depending on the activity (Water polo? No problem).  We spent a bit of time on the waterslide, in one of the spas, and on the wet playground (with its warning bell sounding when the enormous bucket of water at its peak was almost full and about to tip).  But the funnest of the fun was indeed the Rapid River.

This is an undulating circuit which careers around in a snaking loop, it starts with a great surge of water at the path’s opening which propels you forward with great speed immediately, and ends in a larger open area where you can catch your breath, swing off and hang out under one of the shower-like fountains, or keep your feet up and be carried around again.  It has jet outlets around the walls which push the swimmer forward and make it difficult to move backwards.

We spent most of our time here because this was the best place for a monster game of tip.  Tip has evolved somewhat since I was at school.  Now they use hand signals.  It’s quite easy and quite fun.  Holding up two fingers in a Peace sign means you are not “in”.  If only one is displayed (as if you have just thought of a great idea), you better get away from there fast!  If you get tipped, you have to give the tipper a ten second getaway.  This can also be counted wordlessly, displaying the diminishing timeframe on fingers disappearing into a fist…

There were lots of strategies; you could wait opposite a screen which showed live camera images from further down the river (when another player surged closer, you could swim on yourself), you could float by at the back of another group of revellers and hope that you might be mistaken for a piece of flotsam (like Harrison Ford did in The Fugitive), or you could slowly drag yourself the wrong way back through the current and huddle behind a bulge in the tiled wall.  And wait.  Sometimes it was a case of speed – crashing and diving through the crush of bodies, sometimes it was crouching in the stiller water like a crocodile with only your snout and eyes above water.

I was not the only adult in the river and I was not the oldest.  All of us had silly happy grins on our faces.

Because it was just a lot of fun.

This week

By Vita Forest

IMG_3396[1]

This week I have been

  • READING
    • The Boat by Nam Le
    • What Alice Forgot by Lianne Moriarty
  • WRITING
  • WAVING goodbye to my lovely class for 2015.
  • MAKING a long archway out of our raised arms for the students who are leaving our school to walk through.
  • VISITING Kiama and
  • SWIMMING in a rockpool with waves breaking over it…
IMG_3382[1]

Markets along the harbour at Kiama

wALKING in a wINTER wONDERRRLAND

By Vita Forest

Wonderland?

Wonderland?

9am in the morning and it’s already 28 degrees C.  Driving through the drowsy streets and parking the car a few blocks away, not even attempting the crawl into the car park.  (It’s the Saturday before Christmas and all that.  But we still need groceries).

Unloading my pull-along shopping trolley and pulling it behind me under the trees and the high rises.  Glancing at the current crop in the shared veggie garden at the side the apartment block near the park (cherry tomatoes, beans).  A white haired couple walking hand in hand, he in long grey pants and a tie, she in crisp white linen.  A stroll in the cool of the pine trees.  Crossing paths with a swaybacked pregnant woman, pushing a pram.  Empty at the moment, perhaps brought along just in case?

Doors sliding back at the entry to the shopping centre like lips stretching into a fake smile.  A blast of cold air and competing pop songs greeting me.  Shoppers striding back and forth, past scrolling billboards and an older couple sitting primly and silently in tall black winged armchairs.  The ambient music of the centre entreats us to go “walking in a winter wonderland.”  Sweat dripping down by back, lips pursed in concentration.

Swinging off the main path and around to the escalator down to the supermarket.  Santa cocooned in scarlet and fur, awaiting visits from children in the line already stretching out of sight.  At the front of the queue, a woman, her long hair straightened, holding two chihuahuas…  Detouring to the toilets and almost running into a Dad and Daughter.

“Stop!” she squeals at him and bends down slowly to carefully lift the yellow elastic strap back up over her ankle from where it has fallen under her heel.  Her sandals are blue and yellow and she really likes them.  She stands importantly and rocks back and forth on the heels.

In the dumpling shop, the workers stand around a spotlit bench in white robes, gloves, caps and masks.  As if they are performing surgery.  “Christmas dumplings!”  a sign shouts, the casings are green and red but “ALL natural!”  apparently.  Christmas trees flashing with hot white lights, Sale!

Entering the supermarket and loading my trolley with cherries and nectarines in season.  Remembering the cheese, forgetting the rice.  Paying for the haul then getting outta there, back onto the hot street beneath the colourless garlands of lights strung between the buildings, resting during the daylight.  Back along the road toward the station, the yellow and grey train streaking by over the bridge while the cars duck under it.  Past the teenage boys slouching past on scooters and skateboards.  Past the park where a toddler claps her hands as her parents feed the pigeons forming a fluttering grey puddle around her.  Past “that house with the garden”, neatly trimmed lawn lined with pots and clipped fuschias and roses.  Five pots of the footpath “Chilli and Basil plants” written in texta on a piece of cardboard.  “Ring the doorbell to buy.”  The succulents squatting in terracotta beside them.

The whirr of a machine across the road and a cloud of white dust drifting across the front garden.  Turning my head to see what they are doing and tripping and going flying hard onto the footpath, my trolley tipped behind me.  Crawling to my feet  and inspecting my knees and legs for grazes.  Tilting up the trolley and dragging it around the corner to the car.  Driving home again,  the heel of my hand burning where it hit the concrete.

 

Mum’s masterclass

By Vita Forest

IMG_3367[1]

Last Saturday, my mother held a master class in how to cook her special Florentine biscuits.  In attendance were Saskia, my sister Briony, and I.  My father drifted in and out for taste tests as a break from his current carpentry project.  It was just like old times.

Florentines are a toffee-like biscuit made with slivered almonds and orange peel and coated on the back with a thin layer of chocolate… Is your mouth watering yet?  My mother and her friend Jenny, used to sell them to a number of shops including a swanky boutique, whose owner used to serve them as elegant treats at her regular fashion parades.  They were packaged in glistening cellophane bags which were sealed with a length of ribbon, ringletted into curls with the blade of a scissor, and finished with a hand-made paper rose inserted through the knot.  Very fancy.  Let’s just say they are something of an institution.

There have been numerous experiments over the years, leading to adaptations and alterations of the original recipe (its page in the old recipe book is now covered with updated ingredient quantities, tips and conversions for making larger batches.  Oh and splatters of butter and chocolate.  It is a messy operation), and the technique has been honed and perfected.

Mum marshaled the troops, ordering us about, as is her wont.  It was a regular production line, one apprentice placing blobs of the mixture onto one tray, while another tray cooked (carefully monitored to reach just the right golden brown), another minion peeled cooled, cooked discs off baking paper, while another picked these up and applied a thin coating of warm dark chocolate, before setting them down on another tray to be packed.  Quite an operation.

I took time out from apprentice duty to type out the recipe on the laptop, adding in all the special tips.  These included – if the cooked Florentines harden before you get to adjust the spilled edges to form perfect circles, pop the tray back into the oven to soften again, and – coat the back, not the front with chocolate – it’s smoother.  Saskia and Briony reviewed the document and added their own observations.

We chatted as we cooked, and remembered how after a session of Florentine-making, Dad would often find smears of chocolate on the underside of the kitchen bench where Jenny had wiped her fingers.  About how we were (and mostly still are) a family that needs to have some project on the go, even while watching T.V. – be it knitting, quilting, cross-stitching, leather or woodwork.

During the cooking, I dropped the chocolate knife on the floor, leading to another story of how I once spilled silk paint on the very table we were using, leaving a permanent stain.  Oops.   Apparently I am a rusher.

I gave out small packets of the finished product to some of my work colleagues today.  One of my friends, who is trying not to eat sugar, just rang to tell me how she and her kids have devoured the whole lot already. Her conversation was punctuated with quite a few “Oh my Gods!”  I might have to go an eat one myself.

 

This week

By Vita Forest

IMG_3363[1]

This week I have been

  • READING
    • Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
    • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
  • WRITING
  • MAKING my Mum’s special Florentine biscuits for Christmas presents (might be a post there).
  • VISITING the Finders Keepers market in Eveleigh.
  • WATCHING The Fall Series 2.  Very creepy.