You’re Gone And I Still Miss You

“If I had a flower for every time I thought of you… I could walk through my garden forever.” 
~ Alfred Tennyson

Yesterday was July 4. It’s our niece’s birthday. It was our first dog Charlie’s birthday, Charlie who is now Harry. And it was Kate’s birthday.

Kate was such a dear friend. I met her hanging over the fence at my Auntie Doff’s when I was a kid – both of us in primary school. I was a goody-two-shoes. Kate was a foster child, a tough kid and ‘bad girl’ who secretly had a heart of gold, a wicked sense of humour and a shared love of books. She became my penpal at a time when people used to write letters to stay in touch and we became entwined in each other’s lives, using each other like a ‘Dear Diary’ and witnessing each other’s trials, tribulations and wobbly successes.

She died in 2010 and yesterday, July 4, she would have been 49 years old.

Kate was a crap cook, and a lover of junk food, a killer musician, circus and aerial artist and street performer. She was famous for her cupcake kebabs and Horses Doovers Towers – her only two and best dishes!

It’s been nearly ten years since she passed. Still, sometimes I find myself thinking that I’ll call Kate or send her some stupid Facebook thing I know she’d love. Sometimes the grief I feel and the still-missing-her is ferocious. I never knew it could continue to take my breath away at unexpected moments after all this time.

My friend Carls (none other than THE Carly-Jay Metcalfe) was a mate of Kate’s too and we always remember Kate on her birthday, message each other and make sure to eat cake. Kate would have been all for that. She was a girl who loved life and lived it hard.

The older I get the more my heart is marked by those strange unhealable wounds that are created when a loved one has left this life. I’m glad for those wounds, and for my dinged-up battered heart. I feel these departed loved ones around me still and they live on inside me. I still talk to them. I still think about them. I still hold them close.

And sometimes, just sometimes, I miss them so much I can hardly breathe.

That’s okay. That’s just what love does to you.

Hugs and love, Nicole xx

50 Things I’ve Learned From 50 Years of Life

“A happy birthday this evening, I sat by an open window and read till the light was gone and the book was no more than a part of the darkness.
I could easily have switched on a lamp,
but I wanted to ride the day down into night,
to sit alone, and smooth the unreadable page
with the pale gray ghost of my hand” 
~  Ted Kooser

 

It’s my birthday today. Yay me!

I’m fifty, and it feels GOOD. Originally I was going to post a quick picture of me as a kid, looking all cute, and a few others through the years to now. But when I dug out all my old photos and memorabilia a funny thing happened. I saw so many pictures of friends I have loved and lost, so many family members who’ve passed, and friends whose lives have been touched by tragedy. It made me realise just how lucky I am to still be here at fifty, well loved, safe and secure, with work I adore, despite having had so many health diagnoses and prognoses predicting my demise or failure, and several near-death experiences, starting back when I was in my early twenties. Sure my health is still an ongoing adventure, but hey – I’m alive, and determined to make the most of every day. I’m still here! That deserves celebration!!!

Here are fifty things I’ve learned that have been helpful to me and which might come in useful for you too:

  1. Everyone needs cake on their birthday.
  2. I am not everyone’s flavour, but I am some people’s favourite, and that’s enough for me.
  3. It’s always better to be kind.
  4. No-one is immune to suffering. We all get to have our turn.
  5. Big old trees have much wisdom to share if you can get still and listen.
  6. The sun comes up after even the worst nights and things do look better in the morning.
  7. Sleep is under-rated as a coping mechanism.
  8. Clean sheets and a shower always make you feel better.
  9. Life is too short to live it for other people’s approval.
  10. If you don’t do what matters to you now you might never get your chance.
  11. Don’t wait for things to be perfect.
  12. Surround yourself with people who are real, caring and who think well of you.
  13. Shut the door on mean friends and people who treat you badly or with a lack of respect.
  14. Life needs more picnics and less overtime.
  15. Good books, movies and music are a kind of soul medicine.
  16. Sometimes you just need to take a road trip.
  17. Yes, you really do need to eat your vegetables and get enough fresh air and exercise.
  18. Never be afraid to seek a second opinion.
  19. Getting older is a privilege.
  20. Practice good hygiene, wash your hands after you go to the toilet and before eating, and consider others when you are ill. Not everyone has a robust immune system.
  21. It really is okay to indulge your craving for junk food, sweets or ice-cream occasionally.
  22. A part of you never changes, and stays solid and anchored inside you through all of your life experiences. That essence is always there for you to tap into.
  23. A part of you will change and grow and move you far from where you started. As you change you may outgrow people, places or situations. That’s normal. Don’t let it stress you.
  24. Sometimes we come full circle and find ourselves back where we started, but with new understanding and wisdom. That’s a sweet moment of realisation.
  25. Love is worth the risk of pain and loss.
  26. Laughing opens your heart and lets the light in.
  27. There is something magical about being a stranger in a new city. It unlocks all kinds of mysteries inside you.
  28. You need comfortable shoes for big adventures.
  29. Forgiveness is almost always about you and not the other person.
  30. Listen to your instincts, and honour your intuition. It was given to you for a reason.
  31. Some time on your own to think about everything or nothing is time well spent.
  32. Everyone should be able to cook a handful of meals well. Not just for survival but for satisfaction too.
  33. You’re never too old to learn something new.
  34. Do what you can to help others, if you are in a position to do so.
  35. It’s okay to put your own needs first.
  36. Follow your passion, or at least your curiosity. Who knows where it might lead you!
  37. Life rarely goes to plan, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be awesome anyway.
  38. There is always someone or something that can help you manage pain better. Ask and keep asking until you find what you need.
  39. Being vulnerable is a strength.
  40. If you don’t want to do something say no.
  41. If you want something say yes.
  42. It’s better to have been rejected or to fail than to never have tried.
  43. Failure often leads to success.
  44. Every week needs a complete rest day. On the other days? Meditation gives rest on even the craziest of days and can be done in minutes. Learning to meditate is a gift for yourself and an investment in your well-being.
  45. Treat yourself well, and allow yourself pleasure.
  46. Find the things that make you feel like you and then surround yourself with that energy. It could be yoga, a perfume, soy chai lattes or books. Let something define you. Be okay if it changes.
  47. Fall in love. Keep loving, even when it gets hard. It always gets hard. Once you learn how to navigate the first hard bit the wonder of an ever-deepening relationship can reward and comfort you your whole life.
  48. Fall in love with yourself. Let it be a life-long affair and treat yourself gloriously well.
  49. It’s a good thing to be a little different, odd or unusual. Keep being yourself.
  50. Celebrate life – the milestones, the anniversaries and seasonal festivities, the successes and the ordinary. Celebrate on your own. Celebrate with loved ones. Celebrate with strangers. Let each day bring at least one small moment of grace or gratitude. Feel everything deeply and be unafraid.

Thanks for being part of my life.

Sending so much love your way, Nicole  ❤ xoxo

It’s My Birthday!

Image from hdwallpapers.com

Image from hdwallpapers.com

“With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.”  William Shakespeare

It’s my birthday! Sit down, have a piece of cake, and let me pour you a cup of tea…

Today I’d like to thank you for the gift of your friendship, for supporting my blog, and for reading my offerings. You being here means the world to me.

I started the day with meditation, and soon I’ll go for a short walk to enjoy the Outback dawn. Then breakfast and some journalling – birthdays are always a time for reflection and planning for me. This afternoon we’re visiting a friend’s cattle property to have a proper bush-bash birthday dinner with cake and good company. And tomorrow I am giving myself a sleep-in and a day off blogging. I hope you don’t mind! But I’ll still be writing because my head is crammed full to bursting of story that needs to get onto the page.

Go on – have a piece of cake or a little tasty treat today and help me celebrate. I’d be so grateful! Thank you and much love, ♥ Nicole 🙂 xoxo tea party

A Day without Context has No Meaning

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it.” ~ Edith Wharton

Yesterday was my birthday.  Last night a girlfriend called to see how my day had gone.

“Did you spoil yourself?” she asked. “Did you get massages, and go somewhere fabulous to eat, and get heaps of presents and stuff yourself full of cake?”

“No, not this year,” I replied.

She began to express disappointment for me, but I stopped her. For me, it was a beautiful day. It just didn’t look the way my friend thought it should.

Things started well. I woke from a deep sleep at 4am, slipped out to meditate for my students, clients, friends and family, then I blogged and jumped back into bed for cuddles with my husband and my dogs. I was blessed with lots of kisses, two birthday cards, a beautiful steampunk ladybird necklace, and a windmill (well, the windmill is on someone else’s farm right now, but soon it will be pumping the water from our spring, making my little piece of heaven even more ecologically sustainable ♥.)

My wonderful steampunk ladybug necklace by Chris Huebert

We headed down to Byron Bay for an early morning walk on the beach, followed by breakfast at a favourite cafe. There I was showered with birthday hugs from the staff, who kindly gave me my meal for free, and we bumped into friends who gave me more hugs and who stayed for chai and chats. I had that lovely heart-swelling feeling of being home, in a well-loved space.

And then my day altered course. On the trip home from breakfast I got a phone call from my Dad to wish me happy birthday and tell me that my Nana was worse.  I packed a bag, jumped in my old farm ute and headed up to the hospital, an hour away, to spend the day with her.

Dad came too, and we spent precious hours talking, sharing and healing.  Birthday Lunch was a toasted sandwich and an ordinary coffee in the hospital cafe.  But I got to spend it with my Dad, who I don’t see nearly often enough. That was a precious gift in itself.  We also talked about the unpublished manuscript of ours that he’s reading, and got lost for a while in the world of stories, history and the Pacific we’ve both travelled and loved.

My Dad, helping Nana to smile for the camera ♥

It was hard to see my little Nana frailer, weaker and less with us.  But I brushed her hair, and rubbed cream into her hands and face, and hugged her often and talked with her, and for her. I got to share one last birthday with my other September Girl. And I never cried once.

I saved that for the car.

By the time I got up to Brisbane late yesterday I was wrecked. I fielded more phone calls from loved ones who are all deep in their own issues and dramas right now, and I got to tell them that I loved them, and to help where I could. They sent me love and well wishes too, and I felt that deep connection that ties us all together through time and space, ups and downs, and everything in between.

Ben and the dogs came to spend the night in the city with me and dinner was take-away Chinese from the dodgy restaurant down the road, after which I read through an avalanche of birthday wishes and love on my facebook page, and in my email in-box.

There was no cake, no candles, no fancy meals, no extravagant gifts or lush pampering.

But there was so much love, and life, and connection.

I went to sleep last night feeling truly blessed.

And this morning I shall go somewhere nice and eat cake for breakfast! I might even have some for lunch too.  ♥ ♥ ♥

A cake like this one would be just the ticket…
I ate this one at Queenies Tea House, Nundah, Brisbane, some months ago.

 

Celebration Chocolate Mudcake Recipe

It’s my friend’s 40th birthday today, and we’re having a ladies lunch in her honour. Of course we need good cake.  There will be grandmas and new babies and friends coming from afar. Twenty cake-loving women, and we need enough cake leftovers to make the men happy when they join us later.  Somehow it always falls to me to make the cake…

The picture above is a double recipe.  This cake is a triumph – so easy, and it never fails to please.

Ingredients for cake:

250 grams unsalted butter (I’ve used salted and that’s fine if it’s all you’ve got), 200 grams good quality dark chocolate, 1 cup caster sugar, 1 cup soft brown sugar, 3/4 cup plain flour, 3/4 cup self raising flour, 1/4 cup cocoa, 1 teaspoon instant coffee, or one shot of espresso, 1 1/3 cups of water (a teensy bit less if you used espresso), 3 eggs

Method:

  1. Break the chocolate into pieces and dump into a large saucepan.  Add in the chopped butter, sugar, water and coffee.  Melt together until all ingredients are dissolved and then cool.
  2. Sift flours and cocoa into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Gently mix through the cooled chocolate liquid by hand with a large spoon.
  4. Finally, beat the eggs together to combine, then gently fold the eggs into the cake mix.
  5. Pour the batter into a double lined 20cm deep cake tin, and bake at 150 degrees celcius for 1 3/4 hours. **check cake towards the end so it doesn’t overcook.
  6. Allow to cool in tin before removing

Chocolate Ganache:

Melt together 250grams of broken dark chocolate and 1/3 cup of cream in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from heat and allow to cool until it thickens, stirring occasionally and then pour/spread over cake.  (Don’t leave ganache in fridge and forget about it or you’ll have to eat the lot!)

I also made some chocolate leaves by melting dark chocolate and using a clean paint brush to paint camelia leaves.  Just peel the leaf away carefully when the chocolate sets.  Ivy leaves also look brilliant, but the cows ate my ivy, so camelia leaves had to suffice. Any non-toxic leaf will work. Then I used smarties (chocolate beanies) to make flower patterns. It looks a bit like I channelled my inner 1950s housewife, don’t you think!

♥ Serve in small slices (be warned – this is rich!) with some vanilla icecream or a good double cream.  It keeps well, but never seems to last.  Enjoy! xx