(A nest) with a view.

A room with a viewLately, newlywed life has seemed wearisome.  Alarm goes off.  Procrastinate by listening to the radio, before hauling out of bed.  Get ready for work.  Go to work.  Come home.  Make dinner.  Make a half-hearted effort to wash up / tidy up / water the sad little herb garden on the balcony, but ultimately slump in front of the tv before collapsing into bed.  On some days, get to ballet classes (at least that’s one tick on my resolution list).  Rinse and repeat.

There is a slight variation on weekends, where instead of work, there seems to be other commitments – never-ending errands, obligatory family get-togethers, catching up on reading research papers for work, volunteer work (or in Boy Robin’s case, just more work) … Our house has become a place to exist in transit, as we rush from one item on our to do list to the other.

Since when did all the excitement of nesting dissipate and unbearable weight of everyday life take over?  I’m not talking about a modified social life, but a more overall feeling of stagnation.  That existential, self-indulgent navel-gazing which leads to thoughts of “What is the point of all this anyway?  Is this rinse and repeat cycle all I have to look forward to for the rest of my life?”  The Coulda Shoulda Wouldas raise their collective heads.

I used to have vague daydreams of the future of marrying someone exotic and foreign (obviously with a wonderfully attractive accent), living abroad in a vibrant city, employed in some exciting, high-powered job and leading a sparkly, fast-paced life, against a backdrop of culture, art and history.  Paris?  Berlin?  Don’t mind if I do.

Instead, I work as a policy officer for a not-for-profit.  I think it’s important work, but not particularly exciting or high-powered.  And I fell for a country boy with a broad Australian twang, who likes nothing better than the wide open spaces of the farm.  Not quite the exotic accent I had in mind.  Perth would seem to be a suitable compromise for us both: the biggest country town in the world trying its darnedest to be a city.  But sometimes, I look at the monotony that life represents and it makes me restless.

So, if I could zoom through space in the speed of light, what place would I go to right now?  My first thought was London in the Summer.  A bustling cultural heartland, full of people to meet (and people-watch) and things to do, heaving with the electric energy of beautiful weather in place where sunshine is a precious commodity.  Everything that our little nest is not, especially as we approach the depths of Winter (well, as deep as Winter gets in Perth … Today a maximum of 24 degrees Celsius was forecast).

But that would most likely mean a life without Boy Robin, which would be unthinkable.  For the time being, work has rooted us here.  Although we’ve talked about spending a year living abroad, it is still a distant plan.  And to be honest, as much as I would love to pack a suitcase and fly to London tomorrow, I’m not entirely convinced that having to deal with the normalities of life: work, paying the bills, putting food on the table and trying to keep the house halfway tidy, wouldn’t take the shine off London as well.  It’s something to look forward to, but perhaps I need to get the hang of everyday life first.

On reflection, where I would really like to be is our house, but with the time and energy to make it our home, looking with anticipation to the future.

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

Caramel walnut loaf.

Last Wednesday night, I was home alone and desperately in need of dessert to satisfy my sweet tooth.  It was one of those rare moments that chocolate would not cut it.  Despite it being officially Spring, there was a Winter chill in the air and our little apartment was practically begging me to use the oven to warm it up, both in temperature and ambience (nothing warms up our apartment like the smell of freshly baked goods).

My former house mate is truly a kitchen goddess, making up recipes as she goes along and whipping up muffins, cakes and other sweet treats just about every weekend.  I am not very adventurous on the kitchen front.  I spend too much time poring over the recipe, measuring everything to the n-th degree and setting the timer rather than my house mate’s style of just going with what seems right by using her eye and taste.  I much preferred eating the produce of my former house mate’s forays into the kitchen than attempting to creating them myself.  Plus, it always tastes better when someone else bakes it.

This caramel walnut loaf, however, is simple enough to whip up on a Wednesday evening, without even the slightest pinch of apprehension and still have time to finish the dishes and curl up on the couch for a little Wednesday night tv viewing (Adam Hills, how I adore you).

No special equipment is required – just a saucepan, a wooden spoon and 9.5 x 20 cm (ish – a little bigger or smaller will not make a difference) loaf tin.  You could ice it after it cools, but I like it on its own – the sweetness of the caramel balanced quite nicely by the walnuts.  I hope you enjoy it too.

Caramel walnut loaf

Ingredients

  • 100g butter, cubed
  • 200g (1 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar
  • 100ml milk
  • 1 egg, lightly whisked
  • 75g (1 cup) coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 150g (1 cup) self-raising flour

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170oC.  Grease the loaf tin and line the base and long sides with one piece of baking paper, allowing it to overhang the sides.
  2. Place the butter, brown sugar and milk in a medium saucepan over a medium heat.  Stir until the butter is just melted and remove from the heat.
  3. Stir in the egg and walnuts.  Add the flour and stir until just combined.
  4. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for approximately 30 minutes (or until a skewer comes out clean).
  5. Stand for five minutes before turning it out on to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  6. Serve with your hot drink of choice.  Also works well as breakfast.

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.

Driving home.

Image

It was a whirlwind of a fortnight.  A turbulent tempest of final wedding preparation, fleeting catchups with out-of-town visitors, a wedding extravaganza and then a brief, wine-soaked sojourn douth (otherwise known as down south).

But even only a few days into that honeymooned bliss, a tentative “I can’t wait to … when we get home” started to creep in.  Timid contemplations and plans about feathering our nest together.

Of course, they’ve always been there, those dream-filled “I can’t wait to …” and “when we’re married …” fancies of our future.

“I can’t wait to curl up with you every night.”  (True.)

“When we’re married and live together, everything will be so much easier.”  (Slight generalisation, but still true on many practical levels.)

“I can’t wait to make our home together.  It’s going to be so much fun.”  (Also true, if we ignore for the moment the very real possibility that we each have hazy, undefined, but still very strong, ideas of what “home” is and while those ideas overlap, there will most likely be some vehement disagreement, which may or may not involve the colour pink.)

“When we’re married and live together, you can make me cups of tea all the time and I can bake every weekend.”  (I think that’s just wishful thinking on my part, but, Boy Robin, take note about those cups of tea.)

We know each other (and ourselves) well enough to know that life is not going to be all sunshine and lollipops (although, hopefully there will be lots of rainbows).  But building our little nest together is such an exciting marker for the beginning of our new life.

Those carefully clandestine contemplations of “I can’t wait” and “when we’re married” became that little bit more solid and “tingle-filled” as the time draws closer.  A bit less “I’ll be able to work from our house rather than go back and forth between your house and my house” and a bit more “we can set up the office this way and I can work there and then when you get home we can cook dinner together over a glass of that beautiful wine which we just bought on our honeymoon.  Can you believe we’re on our honeymoon?  And we’re married?”

And so, as we drive back to our house, we map how the objects of our lives will fit around each other (we are having that buffet, dammit, and you will like it).  Hopes and dreams for the future are obliquely expressed and our little nest is slowly built.