Gougères.

In Australia, summer inevitably means cricket and cricket means I must share Boy Robin with what seem like endless games (both watching on tv and playing himself).

I can’t say I enjoy cricket.  I understand the rules enough to follow the game, but it seems that I watch for aaages while nothing happens, only to turn around to talk to someone at the very instant something interesting happens. And then, get in trouble for talking at a crucial moment.

However, one thing I can get behind is the food breaks.  I like that afternoon tea is considered important enough to have its own scheduled break (not to mention I just like afternoon tea).

I don’t watch Boy Robin play cricket (I did it once and once was enough for me).  However, if he is playing a home game, I drop in with some afternoon tea.  Gougères are my go to – quick, easy and super tasty.

Gougères

Gougères

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup beer
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 113g butter, thickly sliced
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup self raising flour
  • 1/2 cup wholemeal flour
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tbsp seasoning (I usually add garlic chives), plus salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, coarsely grated

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 220C with a rack in the top third.  Line 2 trays with baking paper.
  2. Bring the beer, milk, butter and salt to boil in a large, thick-bottomed saucepan over a medium-high heat.
  3. Reduce the heat, add both the flours and stir like crazy. The dough will eventually come together smoothly and give a nice, toasty scent.
  4. Remove from the heat and stir in your seasoning. At this stage, I usually add some freshly ground salt and pepper as well, but it’s not essential. Even if you decide not to add any seasoning, still stir occasionally for 5 minutes or so to let the heat out (I find it takes much longer on warm days). You don’t want the dough to cook the eggs when you add them.
  5. Once the dough has cooled, work the eggs into the dough one at a time. Add 1 cup of the cheese and stir through.
  6. Scoop 1 tablespoon sized amounts onto the baking trays, leaving a few centimetres between each. I usually manage to fit 12 or so onto each tray. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese on top of the gougères.
  7. Put 1 tray into the oven for 5 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 190C and bake for a further 20 to 25 minutes. The gougères should be a deep, golden brown colour all over, puffed up and well set (no soggy bottoms). Transfer the gougères onto a rack to cool.
  8. Bring the oven temperature back up to 220C before baking the second tray the same as the first. I find that now the oven has warmed up a bit, the second tray bakes a tad quicker, so keep an eye on it.

¡Buen provecho!

3 most important songs in my life.

Well, I’m not sure about “most important”.  How about just “important”?  Or “3 songs which embody 3 significant phases in my life and are therefore important to me”?  

1.  My first dance song.  Cheesy, I know.  Despite always running late, I know that Boy Robin will wait for me.  Plus, it was so much fun to dance to.

2.  The anthem of my exchange year.  Yet another cheesy song, but I cannot hear this song without my heart swelling.

3.  Finally, a song from my childhood.  Because it would seem that I cannot get away from the cheese.  Or the dancing.

Written as part of WordPress’ Writing 101: Building a Blogging Habit challenge.

There are no eggs in this nest.

And these are not childbearing hips (yet).

Wedding Hips

Tomorrow is Boy Robin’s and my first wedding anniversary.  I can hardly believe one whole year has gone by.  It kind of snuck up on me (hence my running around last night after work and again this morning, putting together Boy Robin’s anniversary gift, but that is a topic for another post).  The year has gone by so fast.  We are still totally newlyweds, right?

Certainly, we haven’t graduated to “old married couple” just yet.  We’re still savouring the newness of it all.  Still settling into our roles of husband and wife.  Granted, they’re not much different from boyfriend and girlfriend or fiancé and and fiancée, but different nonetheless.  I still get a secret thrill when I say “my husband”, or someone calls me “Mrs Robin” (although I studiously put “Ms” on any form I fill in, because whether I’m married or not is really none of your business, random customer satisfaction questionnaire).

While we’re still savouring newlywed life, it would seem that all and sundry want us to race to the future.  Well-meaning friends, family and acquaintances ask me when we intend to have children (note me, I’ve checked and Boy Robin seems to completely escape this line of interrogation).  My mother-in-law more than once has told other people in front of me that she has already put in her order for grandchildren, with the unspoken sentiment being that she is impatiently waiting for the order to be filled.

Of course, Boy Robin and I have talked about children.  Funnily enough, before vowing to love and honour each other all the days of our life, we sat down and talked about whether we both want to have children (we do).  I have known more than one relationship which has been unable to survive one person wanting children in the future while the other person does not.

I understand this line of questioning.  People seem to ask it as a matter of course and without any thought of the implications.  To have children is the next logical step and people fall back onto it as a conversation filler.  Not to mention society generally views children a joy.  Why wouldn’t anyone want to jump on the baby-making train as soon as possible?

However, it is a deeply personal decision, with so many personal tangents.  Children are life changers.  They are permanent.  A certain financial position makes having children a lot easier than if you have not reached that position.  And on the other side of the coin, what if we were trying to have children and failing miserably?  Such questions would be rubbing salt into an already painful wound.

In any event, I’m still revelling in this wife thing and children seem a long way off.  There is so much I want to do with Boy Robin before we settle down to have children – see where our careers take us, travel the world, enjoy our little nest (which, by the way, is not particularly child-friendly).

Have you seen The Ugly Volvo‘s Why You Should Never, Ever, Ever Get a Tattoo (but Having a Baby is Fine)?  Hilarious.  I’ve known some people to respond to the question of  when they will have children with: “Unfortunately, I’m barren.”  Usually my response to people who ask when we will have children is: “Boy Robin and I have talked about it and have come to the conclusion the world is overpopulated enough as it is and we’d rather not contribute to that overpopulation.”

Maybe the next time I am asked, I will respond with: “You know, when I think about it, having children seems like such an expensive, permanent decision which will cause people to judge me, limit my career, ruin my body and cause me a great deal of pain.  I’m thinking of getting a tattoo instead.”

We apologise for this untimely break in broadcasting.

Hi!  I realise I have been missing in action for some time now … Work was suddenly so busy, I was taking work home (something I promised myself I would never do again …)  I started ballet classes and when I wasn’t working / at ballet class / trying to make sure my house didn’t look like a bomb had hit it, I was mostly collapsed on the couch, binging on episodes of Parks and Recreation.  I think I want to be Leslie Knope when I grow up.

Don’t get me wrong – I also did bit of socialising.  Australia Day was spent chilling at Kings Park, I have been checking out FringeWorld and Boy Robin and I had a romantic “this is the month we first started going out / got engaged / celebrate Valentine’s Day” dinner earlier this week at Pata Negra.  (If you’re ever in Perth, check it out.  Their Crema Catalana is to die for.  The entire meal was beautiful, but they had my heart at dessert.)  However, on the whole and despite the socialising, the last thing I have wanted to do lately is sit in front of a computer some more after work.

Don’t worry, that will change!  I was keeping an eye on the Zero to Hero challenge and have stored up in my mind some posts (although that deadline seems to have flown right past me as well).

In the meantime, I leave you with my go-to dinner recipe for when you know the week is going to be a bit nightmarish.  It feeds Boy Robin and me for the best part of a week, including lunches.  While that sounds like a rather boring week of meals, there is enough flavour and texture there that it is still pretty tasty come Thursday.  And that totally outweighs that sinking feeling when you get home an hour and a half after you had planned to and realise that although all you want to do is put your bag down and pour yourself a stiff drink, there is still dinner to make.

This recipe is courtesy of a friend of mine.  She is very adventurous in the kitchen and is great with flavour combinations.  I apologise for the photo.  It really doesn’t do it justice.  The original recipe calls for a packet of fresh spinach.  I was experimenting with frozen spinach, which is better value for money than the fresh stuff.  You can pack more in and can keep it handy in the freezer, but it also tends to disintegrate and colour the entire meal with a greenish tinge.  You will just have to imagine how tasty it is.

Pork sausages and cider lentils

Pork sausages with cider lentils

Ingredients

  • pork sausages – enough to meet your meat preference
    (Boy Robin is quite carnivorous, so we tend to go with 6 to 8 sausages.)
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 sticks celery, diced
  • 2 apples, chopped into about 1 inch or so pieces
    (They’re going to be cooking away for a while, so keep the pieces relatively large, or they’ll turn into apple sauce.  I don’t bother peeling them, because I think it keeps the pieces together better, but it’s up to you.)
  • small bunch of thyme
    (Or other herbs you have to hand.  Parsley would go well.  Or if you don’t have anything else, a few liberal shakes of the Italian Herbs container also works.)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 bottle apple cider (33oml)
  • 1 tin lentils
  • stock, as required
  • 4 medium sized potatoes, if you think it’s necessary, chopped into bite-sized pieces
    (We left them unpeeled, because peeling is fiddly and the peel is nutritious and holds the potato pieces together.  The recipe doesn’t usually call for potatoes, but when we made it this week, we steamed some potatoes in the microwave until they were partially cooked through and added them towards the end.  It thickens it up a bit, as well as bulking it out, extending the number of meals we can have from it.  If you’re adding the potatoes, use a large bottle of cider rather than the usual 330ml to increase the liquid content.)
  • packet of fresh spinach
    (Frozen spinach also works, although it doesn’t look as pretty.)

Method

  1. Fry up the sausages in a deep pan until brown and then set aside.  Alternatively, get Boy Robin to do them on the barbecue, so you can get on with the other cooking and can eat dinner sooner.
  2. In the same pan, saute the onion, garlic, celery and apples with a decent slurp of olive oil.  While the onion, etc is cooking, chop up the sausages into reasonable bite-sized pieces and steam the potatoes if you’re adding them.
  3. When soft, add the thyme, bay leaf, apple cider, sausages and the tin of lentils, juice and all.  If you’re worried about the added salt, you can drain the can before adding the lentils and add stock instead, but stock contains salt as well.  If you’re adding potatoes, now is the time to add them.
  4. Simmer away for 10 or so minutes, or until the sauce reduces a little, and season to taste.  If you’re adding frozen spinach, add it at the 5 minute mark and stir through, using your spoon to break it up a bit.  If you using fresh spinach, add it right at the end.  The heat in the saucepan will wilt the spinach and allow you to stir it through.
  5. If you’re making it sans potatoes, serve with some bread to sop up the sauce.

Guten Appetit!

P.S.  Happy Valentine’s Day!  I am slightly conflicted about Valentine’s Day.  I love being doted on with flowers, chocolate and cups of tea in bed, but why reserve those demonstrations of affection for just one day?  Plus, it leaves me with a nagging suspicion that it’s just an excuse for crass commercialisation.  Stay tuned for Valentine’s Day ideas which can be used any time of the year.

Family at Christmas.

A holiday debrief. 

Christmas

For the purpose of this story, let’s say Boy Robin’s (and now my) surname is Robin and my pre-marriage surname was Maiden.

Christmas 2013 was Boy Robin’s and my first Christmas as a married couple.  We had spent Christmas 2012 with his family in Perth because at the time of planning the Christmas holiday, I was going to be working on the days between Christmas and New Year and didn’t have the leave available to take time off in order to spend Christmas with my family interstate (the approximately five hours travel time each way would pretty much devour the two day Christmas break).  Prior to that, we had spent Christmas with our respective families, although we did try to spend some time together either on Christmas day or the days either side.

After I resigned from my job of misery in the weeks leading up to Christmas 2012 and without any job to go to, the cost of booking last minute flights without any stable income in the foreseeable future made spending Christmas with my family unfeasible.

I knew my parents would be disappointed.  Christmas is traditionally a time for my parents and extended family to come together.  Growing up, we would alternate Christmas between my mother’s extended family and my father’s extended family and I have many happy memories of spending Christmas surrounded by family.  My parents had moved interstate fairly recently and it would be the first Christmas I had spent away from them since my stint of travelling after university five years previous.

To soften the blow, we said to my parents that although I could not go to them for Christmas 2012, Boy Robin and I would go to them for Christmas 2013 – our first married Christmas.  They were still disappointed, but it was something to look forward to.

Fast forward part way through the year when my parents were in Perth in the lead up to our wedding.   Inevitably, the topic of when we would visit them came up and we reiterated it would be for Christmas.  They had big plans – massive home renovations to be completed by Christmas with an extended family get-together hosted by my parents over Christmas Day and Boxing Day.  At one point, the topic came up while we were with Boy Robin’s parents.  His mother said that it all sounded like fun and my mother said those fatal words: “You should come too.”

Fast forward further through the year to the week spent at my parents’ house for Christmas.  It truly was an extravaganza.  The renovations were not quite finished, but that didn’t stop it from being a beautiful setting for a family reunion.  The garden was stunning.  The weather was beautiful.  There was family that I hadn’t seen in over a year.  Good food and drink flowed.

However, for me, an aching sense of being torn between two identities prevailed.  It probably didn’t help my sister arrived a few days before and had already settled in.  Or that I arrived with Boy Robin and his immediate family.  Or that my parents no longer live in the state I grew up in, let alone the house I grew up in, so while I recognised the contents, the location and house itself were unfamiliar.

I felt displaced.  I was a guest in my parents’ house and every offer to help prepare the Christmas meal was knocked back.  In the lead up to my arrival, I had pressed my mother about what I could contribute and suggested that given I was only arriving a couple of days before Christmas and everyone (including Boy Robin’s mother, who had brought her homemade Christmas pudding and established herself as a fount of knowledge in the kitchen) seemed to have already “baggsed” other parts of the meal (the three different types of cooked meat, the multiple salads and roast vegetables, several types of dessert and enough drinks, soft and alcoholic, to stock a well-stocked bottle-o), I could provide a cheese platter.  Upon my arrival, and wanting to make plans to take the car and buy the components of said platter, my mother said not to worry – she had already done it.

While my sister was the go-to person regarding where to set up the table and and her opinion was actively sought on which tablecloth to use and which decorations to put out, every offer of mine to set the table, pour drinks and otherwise contribute in some meaningful way, was politely declined.  While everyone bustled in the kitchen or set up outside, I was told to sit down and relax.  It sounds like the perfect holiday away, except it left me with a nagging sense of not belonging.

Around me, there were the knickknacks of my childhood.  Shelves of my parents’ books, which I had slowly worked my way through as I grew up and my reading list expanded.  My mother’s shells, which she had collected over the years and which I had sketched – that same sketch hanging on the wall.  The clock which had always sat in the lounge room and which you could hear ticking like a heartbeat when the house was quiet.  The couch on which I had whiled away my childhood, learning needlepoint from my mum, listening to music first on cassette tape and then on CD after my family bought a CD player to commemorate me starting high school, reading the aforesaid books and camping out when people came to stay and I had to give up my bed.

I sat on that couch in a foreign room.  Immersed in the memories of my formative years, how could I be anything other than a Maiden?  And yet, the Robin family were visitors in my parents’ house and by marriage, I was a Robin and had become a visitor as well.

After all my offers had been knocked back and the Christmas extravaganza had been and gone, I spent a lot of time going for walks by myself, or with Boy Robin.  There were tears, lots of tears, of frustration, anger and loss.  Of not belonging and not knowing how to fix it.

I think it will get better over time.  The feeling of not belonging will not blindside again me like it did this Christmas.  I will feel more able to articulate that I want to help and not take no for an answer.  And beyond that, Robin and I will continue to forge our own united identity together.  Time will make it stronger and we will create our own family traditions, while working our way through the three distinct stages of the holiday learning curve.

Looking back, a week with both families in an isolated environment when our own little newlywed family was still so new was never going to be easy.  I just never expected it to be so hard.

Spring.

Signs of Spring on my way to and from work.

Most of the blogs I subscribe to are from the northern hemisphere. Their writers have said goodbye to Summer and have braced themselves for the cold months ahead.  They speak of spiced pumpkin lattes, cute sweaters and the onset of the festive season (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas / Hannukkah / Kwanzaa).

I, on the other hand, have spent my Winter months studiously bookmarking all the Spring- and Summer-celebratory posts.  Cocktail recipes, cotton dresses and icy-cold desserts galore are temptingly twinkling in my “saved for later” list, begging me to open and make use of them.  Spring has most definitely sprung here in Western Australia.  After a few false starts, temperature ranges across the State from less than -6 degrees Celsius to more than 45 degrees Celsius and Perth’s wettest September for 40 years, we are now about to bid Spring goodbye and are gearing up for Summer.

Although just over 6 months into marriage is a little early to be touting the new beginnings that Spring signifies, it is a good time to take stock and reflect.

I am thankful for having someone who loves me so unconditionally.  We may have our not infrequent sharp words, but they quickly blow over, leaving no trace.  I am comfortable in my skin with Boy Robin.  However, sometimes I think I am so comfortable, I am selfish and I need to be mindful of not unthinkingly lashing out at Boy Robin as proxy for something else that is bothering me just because he makes me feel so comfortable in my skin.  It is something I need to work on, as the infinitely shared “Marriage Isn’t For You” suggests.

Admittedly, I do not completely agree with the article.  If you are suffering within yourself, it will affect your relationship, no matter how happy the other person is.  In fact, it can be even more disruptive to your relationship.

I found that to be true before we were married, when I was working in a job that made me completely miserable.  That misery was exacerbated as I saw Boy Robin happily excelling in his career, leaving me wondering what was wrong with me.  Maybe if I tried a little harder and worked a little longer, then I too would excel and be happy.  (Spoiler: I did not and was not.)  Ultimately, my misery overflowed into our relationship, sparking arguments about things completely unrelated to my job, but stemming from my innate unhappiness.

I disagree with the inflexible premise that “a true marriage (and true love) is never about you.”  I needed to “selfishly” reflect on my job and “what’s in it for me?”  Once I realised there was nothing of value for me if I stayed in that job, I decided to resign.

However, I also agree with the premise that a true marriage (and true love) “is about the person you love – their wants, their needs, their hopes and their dreams.”  Boy Robin supported for my decision to resign, giving me the courage to carry out that decision, despite not having a new job lined up.

As much as Boy Robin supported me, I had to ask myself what made me happy and make that change for myself, not just revel in Boy Robin’s happiness and hope for the best for my own happiness.  And so I think a true marriage (and true love) is about both people as equal partners, figuring out what makes themselves happy and unselfishly supporting each other in their quest for happiness, especially when life throws misery in the other’s path.  Not so much a focus on directly making them happy (although, surprising Boy Robin with dessert and seeing his happiness also inspires joy in my heart), but by ensuring that you do not selfishly make them unhappy.  You do not selfishly lash out at their happiness as a remedy to your own unhappiness.

Having it all.

Source: www.retronaut.com

What Tony Abbott’s Cabinet does not look like.
Source: http://www.retronaut.com

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s announcement of his Cabinet and ministry in September 2013 prompted criticism on a number of levels.  Never mind that it foreshadows portfolio emphasis with which I am not all together happy.  I have previously stated my opinion on the previous government’s asylum seeker policy.  The Coalition takes an even more hard line approach, and a Minister for “Immigration and Border Protection” does not bode well.

And do not get me started on the fact that there is a Cabinet-level “Minister for Sport” in a country already saturated with support for sport, but no Minister at all for important issues I consider Australia must tackle on a national level if it is to make progress on those fronts.  Australia has a worsening situation in terms of homelessness and housing affordability, an aging population and a new-born National Disability Insurance Scheme; general society appears to demonise immigrants, despite its history being steeped in immigration and climate change is one of the “greatest moral challenges of our generation” (or as Mr Abbott put it so practically from a political point of view, “The argument is absolute crap.  However, the politics of this are tough for us.  Eighty per cent of people believe climate change is a real and present danger“).  Surely areas such as housing, aged care, disabilities, multiculturalism and climate change (or at the very least science) deserve some priority in our national government?

However, what I find most thought-provoking is that Mr Abbott could only find space for one woman in his 19-strong Cabinet and six women in a 42-strong executive, despite there being “some very good and talented women knocking on the door of the Cabinet and lots of good and talented women knocking on the door of the ministry.”  Zoo Weekly’s staff meeting has more women than the Cabinet.  And Mr Abbott’s statement begs the question:  if there are such women knocking (and some examples can be found here), when is he planning to open the door to them?

It also gives another perspective to the chorus of opinions regarding working women, the option of “opting out” and whether women can in fact “have it all”.  (And why we are only wondering whether women can have it all?  Does this mean that men do have it all?  That the definition of “men having it all” is somehow different to “women having it all” and that having children and playing a pivotal role in a child’s upbringing is not part of men “having it all”?)

I do not agree with women being promoted to meet strict quotas rather than on merit.  But that conveniently brushes over that workplace conditions and society pressures often make it more difficult for women to prove their ability and gain the requisite experience that demonstrates “merit”.  The idea of merit is complicated because it presumes all people have the same opportunity to succeed.

I was asked at a job interview whether I had children, whether I was planning to have children in the future or whether I had any other reasons for needing a flexible work hours policy … and then the person asking the question queried aloud whether he could ask such questions.  He reiterated that they were a flexible workplace that could work around my other commitments (such as children).   It was clearly not meant to be offensive.  I replied that no, it was probably not an appropriate question to ask at a job interview, but that I had no problem in answering that I currently had no children or other commitments that required taking advantage of their flexible work hours policy on a regular basis and left it at that.  But I doubt I would have been asked that at all (even in the guise of “flexible work hours policy”) if I was male and it is indicative of the unthinking different treatment of men and women in the workplace.

Women as baby makers is the unspoken elephant in the job interview room.  If I were to have children within my first year of employment with my new employer, they would not be obliged to give me paid parental leave.  I would benefit from the national government system proposed by the Coalition during the election (depending whether they manage to get the legislation through both Houses of Parliament).  But it would mean that I would likely be out of the workforce for some time and rely on Boy Robin’s support, at a time where some would argue I would be better placed investing in my career.  (Although that premise has been criticised as well.)

Even if I decided to go back to the workforce soon after having a child, I am not sure I could cope.  Through my university and working life, I have been exposed to women who do indeed seem to have it all.  I had a tutor at university, who not only oversaw a number of tutorials a week, but was a senior associate at one of the top four law firms in the city, as well as having four children, one of which was (from memory) eight weeks old at the beginning of the academic year.  After I started working in commercial law firms, a number of the female lawyers I worked with held senior positions, including partner, as well as seamlessly running a household, getting children off to school and all their extracurricular activities, having dinner on the table each night and (presumably instead of sleeping) keeping the clothes washed and house cleaned.

However, as previously discussed, I have a pretty light schedule of commitments.  And yet, some days I struggle to go to work, come home, (help) prepare dinner, keep the house clean and tidy and do washing regularly enough to ensure I always have a surplus of clean underwear.  I certainly do not make my bed every day.  Boy Robin helps immensely.  He mostly does the grocery shopping and we share cooking.  I have no idea how I would manage with children as well, although to be fair, I am sure Boy Robin would help immensely on that front too.  But, society seems to expect women to be able to “have it all” and if they do not, they are somehow lacking.  They have sacrificed their career for their family, or given up the chance to have a family in order to progress their career.  Never mind that a man who does not take paternity leave is only considered to have continued with his career without any reference to his family (if paternity leave is raised at all).

I am not sure whether I want it all.  It sounds very tiring and busy, without taking time to actually enjoy life.  But I want to be able to make that choice.  What troubles me is that at our highest echelons of government, the glass ceiling is still going strong and our current government seems to prefer women sacrificing their career for their family and those who do not are not considered to have the merit to qualify them for promotion.

52 shades of love.

Bread

My previous post could easily lead you to believe that once the honeymoon period is over, marriage stretches out like a monotonous wet blanket, smothering all pleasure and spontaneity in life.

This is very untrue and I am reminded of Manya’sHow to be in Love” post on A Practical Wedding (which, as an aside, was an absolute God-send when on the brink of a wedding-planning-induced meltdown) in April 2013.  Manya describes her piece as “a loving mediation about [her] husband, [their] vibe, and a few of the nice little things [she enjoys] about [their] relationship.”  A letter to her future self in case she ever needs to be reassured that her relationship is “good enough”.

They say imitation is the highest form of flattery and four months into my marriage, I am inspired to do the same.  I do not wish to hold myself out as having the beautiful eloquence of Manya’s piece, but it is a reminder to cherish everything that is good, rather than being led to think that the mundane and everyday are bad and need to be fixed.

Most days start with you turning over, just asking for “five minutes more”.  Though the alarm has long since sounded and you’re likely to be late, he agrees.  Snuggling in for one last cuddle at the same time probably helps.

Remember to cuddle.  In bed, on the couch, while waiting in line for the taxi after a long night out.  Don’t just lean in and let him to all the work either, as you are wont to do.  Revel in the simple act of enveloping him in your arms while at the same time you lay your head on his chest.  It is one of the warmest, safest places you know.

Remember to talk as well.  And keep talking, even when your instinct is to turn away, close your eyes and clamp your mouth shut.  Sometimes it is difficult to find the words, but it will help you both understand each other.

On the weekends, he’ll bring you a cup of tea in bed with a gingernut – he knows your love of bed and lets you lounge a little longer.  He also knows your love of cups of tea and will make them for you often, especially when you’re feeling under the weather, despite your chronic tendency to forget to drink them until they are cold.

Cook together most nights, often with a tumbler of wine (because, as opposed to wine glasses, tumblers fit in the dishwasher) and a glass of water (because you are both getting older and want to avoid that hangover-like dehydration the next morning).  Marvel at how you both learn to seamlessly move around each other in your tiny kitchen and as he becomes more and more confident, you work together more instead of you mostly instructing him.

You are the yin to his yang.  You edit his thesis, work documents and other written work.  He rescues you from the quagmire of excel and math.  Together, you are unstoppable.

Love that he comes (less and less begrudgingly) to shows and may even enjoy them.  The ballet, not so much, but theatre, even the crazy, left of centre stuff that you want to go to just to see what it will be like.  You will come to watch the football and cricket, even if you do fall asleep.  You might even get excited in the last five minutes, when one point is all that stands between a team’s victory or defeat.  Ashton Agar was pretty damn good as well.

Appreciate his easy-going-ness in the face of your highly-strong, stressed, over-sensitive, verging on panic attack tendencies.  He will teach you to have a calmer attitude, rather than always going straight to a “Henny Penny” imitation, while you will teach him your passion for causes, ideas and beliefs.  Some things are worth a “Henny Penny” imitation.

Be quietly proud when his father says you have helped him become a better, more compassionate person.

It does not matter if sometimes you go to bed angry with each other.  You will inevitably wake up and the storm has passed and see each other with clear eyes again.

Hold each other’s hand, especially when out and about.  That simple act is aid, comfort, strength, relief, tenderness, affection, devotion and above all love, all rolled into one.

It is an effort, sometimes, to love each other.  But it is worth it.

This social life.

130810 In the pub

Why is it that after the newlywed glow dissipates, it becomes harder to nest?  The excitement of putting away jointly owned crockery and buying that perfect rug to finish off the space in front of our newly acquired couch just so, has worn off.  The mind-numbing reality of unpacking and dealing with that box that has not been opened since university days, combining household finances and changing my surname in every. single. facet. of. my. life. has set in.  Combined with the stressful situation of filling for a boss who is on long term leave (both of us) and starting a new job while staying on at the old job until said boss returns (me), it really takes the shine off newlywed life.

As predicted, living together, while convenient, exciting and fun, also has its share of frustration.

The social highlight of my week used to be visiting Boy Robin and when not visiting, my housemate was my go-to partner-in-crime.  It is much easier to arrange a spur of the moment trip to the ballet / gallery / new bar in the city when you live with a willing participant.  Living with Boy Robin has rendered the visits obsolete and made it much more difficult to organise spur of the moment trips.  While previously I used to look forward to those visits and spontaneous outings with a frisson of excitement and as an escape from the daily grind of life, my calendar does not so much consist of sparse social highlights, but a seemingly never-ending monotonous string of nights in.  If it was a heart monitor, my calendar would be flat-lining and the doctor would be shaking their head sorrowfully.

Although as a consultant, Boy Robin can work at home, by the end of the week, he has driven all over town, visiting clients and talking to people non-stop.  Wednesday nights he plays social sport, getting a bit of exercise and catching up with friends over beers.  Come Friday evening, he is spent and wants to stay at home, especially now that the Ashes are on.

I, on the other hand, sit in front of a computer all. day. long.  My work is not really conducive to talking to people.  In any event, I find I have so much work to do, even if I’m having a quick natter to a colleague over lunch, in the back of my mind, my desk is calling to me.  Corporate life also means that exercise has faded into the background because I just could not leave work in time to make classes and now I’m so unfit, the idea of going to class is embarrassing.  Come Friday evening, I am ready to cut loose, let my hair down and all those other clichés about having a good old social time.

Can anyone spot the problem?

Written down in the clear black and white of the computer screen, it is obvious I need to get out more, swallow my pride about my physical shape and exercise, make my own social plans and generally just be a bit more of a proactive adult.  Just because we’re married, it does not mean that Boy Robin must be joined at the hip.

Of course, it’s a lot easier to say that than actually doing it.  When your social calendar has revolved around your S.O. and your social partner-in-crime has been your housemate for so long, to suddenly adjust and actively seek out people is a bit of a shock to the system.

Another shock to the system is that socialising post-wedding has somehow caused us to travel back in time.  Putting aside the almost to be expected, but still inane “hmmm … just water at the pub … is there some news you would like to share?” comments, you would think we were suddenly transported to the 50s.  On one of our rare social outings, we were at a house warming where almost everyone else in attendance were either engaged, married or married with children.  And while the men congregated around the barbecue to talk about manly things, the women stayed in the kitchen to talk about … pregnancy.  And childbirth.  And  children.

Don’t get me wrong.  Boy Robin and I have talked about it extensively and we will have children in the future, God willing (although an evening of childbirth stories may have made that time later rather than sooner).  What kind of reflection of society is it when a group of well educated 20 and 30 somethings, all with diverse backgrounds and interesting lives, almost unthinkingly fall into a male / female dichotomy and the female group seem to have nothing else to talk about other than pregnancy?  I do not expect to solve the world’s problems through our conversation (although I am sure we could have a good crack).  Surely getting married does not mean being relegated to the life of a stepford wife with no interest other than children?  And surely I could have come up with a better conversation topic, rather than sitting there with my legs crossed and nothing to say?

And so, I need to flex that social planning in advance and conversation muscle.  A little coffee here, a little city-tripping there, and slowly but surely, I will re-learn the art of conversation and how to make plans when the other person is not a metre away.

And I will more consciously take pleasure in time at home.  Because staying at home does not have to be a flat line.  There is still so much to do to make our house a home (the aforementioned unpacking a prime example).  I still have not baked and there are those post-wedding thank you cards just waiting to be done, not to mention the filing … let’s not mention the filing.

Looking back over the past three months (yes it has been three months and I have not finished my thank you cards – please don’t judge me), Boy Robin and I have done quite a bit together.  We do the grocery shopping together most weeks.  We often have Saturday coffee at the new coffee shop next door to us and trips to the local farmer’s market (albeit for breakfast rather than grocery shopping).  We have bought furniture, put it together and admired it.  We cook together just about every evening, have shared glasses of wine and litres of tea.  And in doing so, our nest slowly takes shape.

Moving in.

Little House 2

Well, to be exact, why I wanted to wait until we were married to live together and Boy Robin gracefully gave in to me, but really, did not really care, except to kind of lean towards sooner rather than later because, when all is said and done, wouldn’t it be more convenient?

I’m not adverse to living together before marriage.  Family and friends do it and I respect their choice to do so.  And I feel for those who have outside pressures which force their decision one way or the other against what they would prefer.  The familial, societal or religious pressure to marry first.  Or the decision to move in together to alleviate financial strain.

For me, it didn’t feel right.  Not only because I had a brilliant house mate for more than six years and I wasn’t ready to kick her out.  But also because for me, marriage is a sacred institution.  I say “for me” because marriage is such a heavily loaded concept with different meanings for different people.  My own view and definition of marriage influenced and shaped my decision about living with Boy Robin, but that it not to say that my view is true for anyone else.

For me, marriage is a public declaration to unite “as long as you both shall live” because of your love for and commitment to the other.  If I was not willing to take that vow with that public acknowledgement, if I did not think our relationship has the strength to withstand the inevitable strain that that commitment entails, why would I want to live with that person?  To commit to a kind of semi-permanence, with the unspoken escape clause of moving out when things became difficult?

A few words about living with people, whether you are expecting to say (or be told) “yes” any day now, you casually day dream of marriage some time down the track, the other person is a friend and it just makes sense, or an advertisement on Gumtree for house mates was involved: I know from experience that there is nothing like living with someone to sour a relationship.

If you do not have the capacity to forgive the other person’s shortcomings.  If every idiosyncrasy, without the buffer of space and time apart, grates on your every nerve until they are red raw and inflamed.  And the mundane chore of taking out the rubbish starts a bitter “who did it last and, who, even if they didn’t do it last, does it the most”.  It can damage a relationship.  Friendships have dissolved over such things.  There is a reason why siblings tend to get along after they have left home.  And so, a decision to share a home with someone is not something that should be taken lightly.

Boy Robin is pretty forgiving and laid back (second only to his brother, who, if he were any more laid back, would be horizontal).  Not much phases him and if it does, he’s pretty good at not letting it get to him.  Contrast me, who has a tendency to descend into childish stubbornness and irrationality, especially when tired.  This is probably not going to change any time soon.  But I think our relationship is robust enough to withstand my crabbiness and influence us to be more indulgent of each other’s shortcomings.

Personally, moving in together seemed like the perfect way to celebrate our public declaration and start of our new life together.  A milestone of sorts.  I can’t wait to see what comes next.