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How to Have a Happy Birthday

Birthdays have always been a bit tricky for me.  For a long time I believed that something bad would always happen on my special day (mostly because, for several years in a row, I had disastrous birthdays where loved ones became gravely ill, pets died, people got in car accidents and general chaos and doom reigned) and so I tended to try to just get it over and done with as quickly as possible.

As I got older and, particularly after surviving a life-threatening illness, I starting believing that having another birthday was actually pretty good.  Bad stuff could still happen, but then it could on any other day, so why worry about it?

Usually, I try and organise a dinner out, or a get-together of some description with friends or family or both.  This year, I just wanted time on my own.  I didn’t want to involve anyone else, which sounds really selfish and unsociable, but I just wanted to spend my day pottering about by myself, doing as I pleased and not having any schedule to follow.  I highly recommend it 🙂  I don’t get lonely and am quite happy with my own company.  I wanted a stress-free, restorative, recharging kind of day.

So, my idea of a good birthday goes something like this…..

1. Dress in a comfortable outfit, in your favourite colours.  
Makeup and hair done for no one else but yourself.

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I don’t feel blue wearing blue!

 

2. Take yourself out for a delicious, hearty breakfast…….

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Field Mushrooms on Sourdough, with Goat’s Cheese and Poached Eggs…

3…..and eat it all up.  Don’t feel guilty at all.

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All gone!

4.  Visit a favourite, gorgeous shop.  Wander around for an hour or so and don’t buy anything.  Feel good that you didn’t spend unnecessarily (even if it is because you’re a bit poor right now and couldn’t afford to even if you wanted to).

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Antidote in Mount Hawthorn
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Hammered and stamped recycled spoons at Antidote – Love them!

 

5. Make yourself a birthday cake and share it with loved ones at dinner time.   It doesn’t matter if the cake is a bit homely looking.  People will be polite and eat it anyway.

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6.  Drink vast quantities of tea, preferably out of pretty china so you feel like a lady.

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Tea for one!

 

7.  Go op-shopping.  Buy shoes for a ridiculously low price (in this case $4.25).

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New shoes! (well, 2nd hand new!)

 

So, for me, a perfect birthday is one in which I spend time doing things I enjoy, with no schedule or plan.  I ended the day with my brother and his family, which was lovely – I even had candles on my cake and everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to me.  Delightful. Maybe spending a day on your own isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it was exactly what I needed and I’m so glad I did it.

So how do you spend your birthday?  Do you like to ignore it, go all out and spoil yourself, or plan a quiet day of solitude and reflection?  Whatever you do, I hope you always feel loved and appreciated on your special day.

Thanks for dropping by x

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Now I am Forty-Three

So, today is my 43rd birthday.  Forty-three.  Four decades-and-a-bit.  Where the hell did those years go?!  I’m sure time speeds up as you get older.  I know I am very aware of time passing and, more depressingly, time running out.

Last year, I wrote a post about being forty two, and what I knew to be true at that point.  Not much has changed since then.  I still don’t know what the heck I am doing half the time, but I guess that’s ok.  I hope so anyway.  Though there is still a tonne of stuff I don’t know, there are some things which I know to be true FOR SURE.

  1. After forty, the body basically gives up and tells you where you can stick your diets and exercise.  Things sag and bulge and lose the ability to look like they did when you  were twenty.  This is ok.  Horrible and annoying, but ok.  No one else will notice except for you, because they are all too busy worrying about their own saggy bits, so don’t focus on it too much.  If you do, you will become dull, depressing AND saggy.  And that’s just sad.
  2. Don’t worry too much about trying to figure out your face shape.  Whether it is a heart or an oval or a dodecahedron doesn’t really matter.  Just wear what you like and grow your hair in a way that causes you the least amount of stress.  No one is going to come up to you in the street and berate you for having a fringe with a round face.
  3. Now that you have given up on trying to understand boys,do not turn your attention to understanding men (who are, after all, just little boys with bigger and more expensive toys).  It’s even harder and will give you a migraine.
  4. Try new hair colours.  Blonde is inevitable, but these days so is pink, lilac and blue. Avoid doing that black-underneath-and-white-on-the-top style.  You WILL look like a back-to-front skunk.  Do not trust your friends who tell you you look “fabulous” with such a style.  “Fabulous” is code word for “We understand you are going through a phase and hope you grow out of it soon”.  Cover grey hair if you feel you must – don’t feel guilty or vain for doing so.  Similarly, don’t let people tell you you shouldn’t let yourself go grey.   Schnauzers are grey and they are awesome.  Do what you want and what you can afford . Unless it’s the skunk thing.
  5. Hang out with small children when you can.  It’s best if you ask their parents first. Don’t just pick up random children on the street – that is frowned upon.  And frowning causes wrinkles.
  6. Be kind.  Always.  To yourself and to others.  It is painless and gives you brownie points in heaven.  Maybe.  I’m not sure about that one.  At the very least, it makes you happier and will stop wars from happening.  Maybe, I’m not sure about that one either.
  7. Read all the books you can.  Do not waste time on books you “can’t get in to”.  Life is too short to be wasting it on books you don’t connect with.  They’re like people – some of them are just not your type and can be annoying and obnoxious, dull or long-winded.  Give them away and start a new book.  If one thing in life is guaranteed, it’s that you will NEVER run out of books.
  8. Don’t worry about getting married, or finding a boyfriend (or girlfriend) or being in a relationship at all.  You’re perfectly ok without that stuff.  Don’t settle for something just because everyone else is doing it.  You’re not everyone.  You’re you.  And you’re amazing.  If someone comes along who deserves a piece of that amazingness, by all means hold on to them for dear life.  But don’t wait for them.  They might be a little bit tardy, and you can waste a lot of time hanging around, hoping they show up.
  9. Don’t buy shoes you have trouble walking in.  You will look like a twit.
  10. At some point you will find yourself saying “Music today is RUBBISH!” and bemoaning the fact no one can write a decent song any more.  Face it, you have become your parents.  Don’t fight it.
  11. Try a nice bright lipstick.  And then immediately wipe it off because it looks ridiculous.  But yay you for trying new things!
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    Bright pink lipstick – not convinced.

     

  12. Accept and embrace other people’s lifestyles.  There are billions of people on the Earth and every one of them is a bit weird.  We’re all weird so, technically, nothing is weird.  As long as you’re not hurting children, kicking puppies or mugging old ladies, you’re fine.  You don’t have to join in with someone else’s lifestyle, but you should allow them to get on with it, as they see fit.  Mind your own business.
  13. Don’t try to be someone you’re not.  It’s too hard and makes people think you’re a wanker.  Just be you.  Crazy, perfectly imperfect YOU.  People will like you or they won’t.  Better they decide based on the real you.
  14. Be silly.  As much as you can.  If no one wants to join you, do it by yourself.  Don’t grow up – it is tiresome and makes you forget all the wonderful things that still make up life on Earth.  Believe in fairies, delight in rainbows, and remember how big the world used to seem, and how many possibilities it contained.
  15. Do own and wear comfortable, sensible underwear.  If it itches, rides up, cuts in or just makes you angry, don’t wear it.  Do not buy into the tabloid horror that is “CELEBRITY CAUGHT WEARING GRANNY KNICKERS!!!”  You are not a celebrity and, even if you are, your undergarments are your own business.  I’m sure most road rage incidents are caused by people wearing too-tight knickers.  It just makes you cranky and unable to make rational decisions.
  16. Let it go.  Forgive.  Love.  Don’t hold grudges.  Build a bridge and get over it.  Life is too short to hold on to bitterness.  It will eat you up and make you unpleasant to be around.  You will probably not get invited to parties and people will do a lot of eye-rolling around you.   Don’t be that person.  Let it go, let it go, let it go.  If that doesn’t work, makes yourself a voodoo doll and have at it.
  17. Grow a garden.  Whether that means a tiny succulent in a teacup on your window sill, or an acre of vegetables, grow something.  Nurturing another living thing is good for your soul.  It tunes you in to the Earth and life and the nature of things.  But if the tiny succulent in a teacup on your window sill dies, for Goodness’ sake get rid of it.  A dead thing is unsettling and depressing and will make you feel like a failure.
  18. Cultivate friendships.  Make time for them.  Let your friends know you love and care for them.  Be soppy about it.  People might pretend to be embarrassed  but they secretly like it.  Just knowing someone is thinking about them can brighten a person’s day and make the world a little less lonely.  Add smiley faces to your emails, be cheeky to your boss, and bring cupcakes to work to share.  Life is hard, smiles are free – to combat one, give lots of the other.  Hug.  Listen to people’s stories and remember small details to talk about later (so they know you paid attention).  Notice when someone is sad or anxious or just struggling with the weight of the world.  Just being noticed can make a big difference.
  19. Being sensitive is a good thing.  Empathy is not weakness, it is very much a strength.  Don’t let others “toughen you up” or tell you how to feel.  The world has plenty of  tough, un-empathetic, un-feeling people in it, and look where that has gotten us.
  20. You can’t fix everybody.  This is something I have taken a long time to learn, and I am not done learning it.  Be a good listener, offer practical help where you can, and support the people you love.  But do not try and fix them.  That’s not your job and you are setting yourself (and them) up for failure.  Everyone is on their own journey and it is not your job to run ahead every few miles, filling in pot-holes and watching out for pedestrians, stray dogs and traffic jams.  You can give them directions and point out a few landmarks, but you can’t drive the car for them.

So, another year older and probably not much wiser.  But that’s ok – life is a learning process, right?  I’m glad to have reached the ripe old age of forty-three.  I wouldn’t like to be twenty-three again, although I wouldn’t mind having the extra twenty years up my sleeve to do some things over.

Hope you are happy today, whatever your age 🙂

Thank you for stopping by x

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Easy Chocolate Truffles

Tomorrow is my Mum’s 70th Birthday.  I decided to make her birthday cake, as you do, so she would have something to offer guests when they came to visit her (she’s having several little soirees to stretch her special day out).  Cue much culinary disaster and chaos. Everything I tried to do tonight ended in failure.  To start with, I couldn’t find my kitchen scales so couldn’t make the cake I had wanted to create, then I spilled sugar all over my bench, then the cupcakes I made were horrible and inedible.  Finally I decided to make truffles because I only had a few ingredients left and couldn’t bear having to bake anything else.  I had seen truffles made with only a couple of ingredients, and not needing butter or cream, so I looked for a recipe that would suit and – hey presto! – Slice of Kitchen Life  came to the rescue with this easy-peasy truffle mix.  I have adapted it slightly but it is still the basic recipe and principle of the original.  They’re made with water, which goes against everything we all know about cooking with chocolate but, trust me, it works!

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INGREDIENTS
  • 200g dark (70% cocoa solids) chocolate
  • 6 tablespoons espresso coffee (cooled to room temperature)
  • 2 and ½ tablespoons maple syrup (at room temperature)
  • Two Tablespoons Crunchy Peanut Butter (the 100% peanut kind -not the kind made with added oil, sugar etc)
  • To serve:
  • Sifted cocoa powder and / or dessicated coconut for rolling truffles in
 
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. In a medium bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, gently melt the dark chocolate.  I usually take it off the heat well before it is full melted and then just keep stirring until it’s all melted down.  The residual heat in the bowl will do the work for you, and then you don’t end up with burnt choccy!
  2. Allow to cool for a few minutes. Add the liquid coffee and begin gently stirring with a silicone spatula. As the liquid is incorporated, the chocolate will seize and thicken.
  3. Add the maple syrup, a spoonful at a time and again, gently stir until the mixture is smooth, glossy and thick.  Stir in peanut butter.
  4. Chill the truffle mixture for at least 45 mins – 1 hour. It will continue to thicken as it chills which will make handling a lot easier.  Be patient – it seems like it isn’t working at first but then – voila! – it suddenly hardens and you’re good to go.
  5. Measure out a generous teaspoonful of truffle mixture at a time, and roll into a smooth ball in the palms of your hands.
  6. Roll the balls in sifted cocoa powder or coconut until well coated, pop into mini-cupcake papers, and store in the refrigerator until serving.

This recipe makes about 15-18 truffles, depending on how large you like ’em!  They are very rich so smaller is better.

I’m so relieved something worked out tonight.  My kitchen looks like something exploded and I have melted chocolate all over me, the benches and the floor, but hey, your Mum only turns 70 once, right?  I wish I could have made her something a bit more spectacular but hopefully she will appreciate these anyway.

Happy Birthday Mum – I love you very much xxx

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Distinctive Qualities

Nothing I worked on today worked out.  NO-THING.  It was horrible and debilitating and tear-inducing.  I suck.  My art sucks and I am sucking at everything.  It sucks. Etc.

So, did I give up and boo-hoo and feel sorry for myself?  Why, yes, I did.  Very much so.  But I also kept going (after the giving up part).  I also didn’t eat a cookie (which is my normal way of dealing with a bad day).  To be fair, I didn’t HAVE any cookies, so I couldn’t be tempted, but still…I didn’t go down the shop and get any either.  Probably because that would have required shoes and a bra, and that wasn’t happening today.

I just kept trying.  Trying in vain, mostly, because everything I touched turned into absolute rubbish, but trying nevertheless.

In between rounds of self-loathing and looking for cookies (ok, I’ll be honest), I made a card for a lovely penpal of mine.  Rem and I have been writing to each other for 21 years (count ’em!) and despite my inability to remember his birthday even after all these years, I consider him to be a very dear friend.  You can tell a penpal stuff you wouldn’t tell your regular friends.  You can pour your heart out in a letter and never have to worry about seeing looks of disgust or disappointment on their faces.  It’s very freeing.  Also, they sometimes have amazing partners whom you can also be friends with (Hi, Dianne!) and be supported and inspired by (check out Dianne’s blog HERE – it’s awesome).

Rem and I usually email each other now – such is the technological world we live in and it’s cheaper than stamps – and I look forward to catching up with him and Dianne each week.  He’s seen me through illness and depression and crappy marriages and unemployment and new jobs/bad jobs/looking for jobs.  He is a man of distinctive qualities indeed (ie he has put up with me for a couple of decades).
So I owe him a card or two…or twenty.

So, Happy Belated Birthday Rem!  Hope you had an amazing week and will forgive my tardiness yet again – the card is in the mail, I promise x

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Water Baby

My niece is turning six this week.  Six!  Where do the years go?  She was born the week I got out of hospital and I remember her being such a beacon of light and love and joy.  She was the beginning of some better times (no pressure kiddo!).

I made her a little birthday card last night, squinting and fussing over it in my dark lounge room (why do I always start these things at stupid times of night?) and can now see there’s a few boo-boos on it (her arms for a start a little bit bent!) and the writing is dodgy but it’s cute enough, and it’s the thought that counts, right?

She and her siblings spend a lot of time at the beach, so I thought a mermaid was appropriate (and, honestly, I just felt like drawing a mermaid, as you do!).

Happy Birthday Miss Six – you’re a delightful little water baby and we love you very, very much.  Enjoy your special day  xxx

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Cactus Girl

Hello everyone.  I’ve been doodling and card-making over the weekend, despite not feeling the best and having squinty eyes.  I actually had my eyes tested last week – the optometrist said my eyes were healthy but that I would probably need glasses in the next 12 months.  He said if I was coping ok and not getting headaches that I could probably manage without.  I’m very long-sighted but my general vision is ok.  I am finding it hard to do very close work now though so I think I will have to bite the bullet and get me some specs.  At least for my crafting as I will insist on doing teeny, tiny, detailed stuff.

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I had a weird episode this week where I suddenly got flashing lights in my eyes and blurred vision.  It was horrible – I thought I was having a stroke or going blind or something (you know me – always has to be worst case scenario).  Looks like it was probably just a silent migraine.  I do get normal migraines from time to time – this was just one of the painless silent ones.  That make your eyes go weird and your head foggy.  Freaked me out.  But the doctor assures me my eyes are healthy so…

But I will get glasses in the next week or so.  I am getting far too squinty and that can’t be good.  I’m not opposed to glasses and it will complete my librarian look I suppose.  I keep getting that quote from Grease in my head though :

Marty : Do you think these glasses make me look smarter?
Rizzo : Nah, you can still see your face.

Anyway, moving on.  I managed to squint my way through several cards which I will complete over the next couple of days.  First up, this little Cactus Girl.  Well, she’s supposed to look like a cactus but just kinda looks like a hairy green person.  Never mind.  Hopefully people will know she’s supposed to look prickly, as in cactus spikes, as opposed to prickly, as in my legs when I haven’t shaved for a few days 🙂

Hope your day is smooth and is free from prickles of any kind! x

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Robot

My nephew turned 9 years old today.  Oh, how the years fly!  When he was born, I thought he was the most perfect and precious thing I had ever laid eyes on, and I can’t say my opinion has changed much (although with the subsequent births of his three siblings, I have had to extend my love and adoration to that little trio as well).  He’s a gorgeous little boy – very sweet and well behaved (as much as any nine year old boy is) and he is kind and generous with his brothers and sisters.

I wanted to make him a birthday card.  He and his siblings make the most delightful little cards for us, so I am only too happy to return the favour and make a special one for him.  I didn’t have a lot of time – I was waiting for a handyman to come and fix my garden gate, plus I had lots of errands to run during the day.  I didn’t want to make a mess in my clean house (cleaned up for the handyman who probably couldn’t care less what my house looks like and most likely didn’t even notice if I had vacuumed or not) so I kept it simple and just made this little robot card.  Master Nine likes robots, but I must say, I don’t think I’ve ever had to draw one before – probably not since I was his age anyway.

So, I just doodled a quick sketch or two of some not-very-technical-looking robots, until I came up with one I liked.  I think he’s kinda cute and I don’t even mind my slightly dodgy colouring-in.  I had to give him a heart – partly to add some extra colour, but mostly because, um, I just like hearts on things, and wanted to sneak in some love for my nephew without anything being too “girly”.

I simply attached it to a card blank and wrote “Happy Birthday” underneath.  Nothing too fancy. Master Nine loved it (“Oh Cool!  It’s a robot!  I love robots!”) which made me happy. Doesn’t take much with me!

A handmade card will always trump a bought one, even if it’s simple and not-very-perfect.  Anything made with love is better than a shop-bought product, and so I am glad I spent some time making this one.  The recipient is TOTALLY worth all the handmade love in the world.  Happy Birthday little dude – you will always mean the world to me x

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PS Please excuse my chubby legs in this photo (below).  I was making the card on my lap in the lounge room…

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