Aren’t holidays blissful! That photo sums up exactly how I feel. Time off is such a break for the mind. Without the rushing and clock-watching and have-tos and shoulds, life is so much more enjoyable, isn’t it? Stress becomes a minor player instead of strutting about in its usual role of main character. I’ve been amazed at how many nice things it’s possible to fit in when you’re on holiday: writing, reading, knitting, cooking, sewing, catching up with people, listening, noticing, thinking, walking.
It hasn’t all been fabulous: my credit card was hacked, and that saga’s still not over. Then my computer died just as I was finishing an application for a writing mentorship. An aeroplane suddenly took off from within the hard drive and then…nothing, which led to much scrambling to find another writing implement. (Bring back the quill pen! They never crash!) Like Lazarus, the computer rose from the dead just in time to upload the application, but I was on the edge of my seat as it painfully sent packets of data into the ether in tiny increments. It was (almost) as dramatic as an episode of a Scandi noir thriller!
I went to the coast for a couple of days to hang out with a friend, two teenagers and a dog. One teenager was delightfully bossy and organised. She cooked breakfast, arranged cheese platters like a caterer and cleaned up brilliantly, all the while talking a mile a minute. I offered her money if she could stop talking for two minutes so that I could film the peaceful view from the back deck. She couldn’t do it. The money stayed in my wallet. But I did manage to capture ten seconds of serenity.
I was hoping to upload it for you, but I wasn’t able to. So imagine you’re lying in a hammock on a covered verandah, looking out at lush vegetation. The leaves of the palm trees are waving in the soft breeze. Rainbow lorikeets are flitting about. King parrots, jewelled green and scarlet, come and land on the end of the hammock. In the background the waves wash in and out: hush, hush, hush.
All that beauty went unnoticed by the other teen because she was a sulker. If sulking were an Olympic sport, she would win gold for Australia. Sulking is so annoying. I had to keep reminding myself to be nice to her, saying over and over like a mantra: “It’s because she’s a teenager.” I hope she grows out of it. You miss a lot of life when you waste time sulking.
“Let’s go for a ‘splore,” said my friend, so we took the dog and left the teens at the holiday house (one tidying up and one moodily painting on fake eyebrows) to go and see what we could see. We found a sheltered little bay with a dog-friendly beach and perfect water in all shades of blue. From the headland above, we looked out to the deep ocean and saw whales blowing and breaching. They were a long way off, but it was very exciting.
One thing guaranteed to bring a moody teen out of a sulk is this truly excellent chocolate slice:
I’ll include the recipe at the end of this post. It’s from Our Village Table, a lovely book of recipes put together by the residents of Exeter, in the New South Wales Southern Highlands. I got a copy at the Exeter General Store last time I was travelling that way. The store is a cafe/post office that also sells books, gifts and basic groceries, so you can pick up your mail, have a coffee, read a book and buy a pumpkin all in one go. The world needs more places like that.
Back at home it’s chilly but not as cold as last winter. There are jonquils and white violets flowering in the garden already, which must be some kind of record. I’ve started painting the trim on the front of the house. “Am genius painter,” I thought, as I happily slapped paint on to wood. Then I looked down and realised I’d also slapped paint on to my clothes and the ladder.
So far I’ve knitted some socks and done a bit of sashiko embroidery and a bit of sewing. I’ve learned how to fix some sewing mistakes but I’ve also learned that one dress I’ve made is going to have to be repurposed because I will never wear it. It makes me look either like a clown or like a character from Little House on the Prairie. Honestly, when I put it on I couldn’t decide whether to honk my nose or go out to the barn to fetch a jug of molasses. Am definitely not a genius seamstress.
There’s one more week of holidays left—just enough time for a walk along the Murrumbidgee, a bit more house painting, then a quick trip to the Blue Mountains. Hopefully, a little of that holiday bliss will hang around once it’s time to go back to work. Fingers very tightly crossed!
Toodle pip! Bye for now. And here’s that slice recipe for you:
Chocolate coconut slice
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup self-raising flour
1 cup soft brown sugar
½ cup coconut
125g melted butter, slightly cooled
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1½ cups icing sugar (sieve it if there are lumps)
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons boiling water
extra coconut to sprinkle on top
Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease a slice tin and line the bottom with baking paper. (My tin was a 9-inch square.) Combine the dry ingredients then add the butter, vanilla and egg and mix well. Press into slice tin and bake for about 20 minutes. It will feel springy on top. Cool for five minutes.
Mix the boiling water and the butter then add the other icing ingredients and mix well. Add a bit more water if you think it’s not spreadable. Spread on top of the warm slice and sprinkle with coconut.
Wait until the slice is cold before you slice it! This is important because it might fall apart when it’s warm. (Also, patience is a virtue.) Put the kettle on and make a pot of tea, then cut the slice into small squares so that you can eat several pieces and not feel like a greedy guts.