Welcome to Life at Number Eight! My monthly series that lets us recap the month and catch up with everything that has been going on.
Well here it is, the final monthly update of 2019! It’s the end of another year, and another decade. It’s easy to say that time has moved so quickly, that within the blink of an eye we find ourselves having moved through the days and the months without much awareness of where time has gone.
But when you stop for a moment and think back over the last 12 months, you remind yourself about where you were when it started. You remember the accomplishments and the failures. And you remember the moments that maybe changed the direction of your life.
It’s in the little moments of happiness and of sadness that we live. And these are the moments that we need to celebrate – not the time we feel got away from us, but the moments that have shaped our today.
While the new year brings about many declarations of resolutions, of new habits and bold statements of change, that is not really my style. I don’t believe that you can make a change because the calendar ticks over, I believe that any time is the best to start a habit, but what I do feel is that the new year gives us a chance to reflect and recalibrate and make sure the decisions we are making are reflective of our true values. And if they are not, then maybe that is what we need to work on.
But I am getting ahead of myself. Before we take on the new year, let’s look back at what shaped December 2019.
What Happened in December
Spending the first day of Summer freezing. This month started for me at a work retreat which was spent in Woodend in Victoria. It was a beautiful setting on a lake in the middle of nowhere about 40 mins from Melbourne Airport. But it was cold. So cold. I had an electric blanket, extra blanket and heater in my room so I managed to stay nice and warm but it was definitely a shock coming back to constant 30+ degree days in Brisbane.
Celebrating a friends 30th. A good friend of mine turned 30 and we spent the day on a boat cruising the Brisbane River and drinking countless glasses of champagne, laughing and dancing. It was one of the most relaxing and fun days I have had in a long time and it was so lovely to spend it with friends.
Travelling to Taree for Christmas. This year my husband and I decided it was time to spend Christmas with my side of the family. It had been so long since I had done this and it was so good to spend Christmas with the traditions I remember as a kid. We spent the days relaxing by the pool, reading, eating, talking and resting. And on Christmas day we woke to the sound of rain on the roof. For a town in drought and on level 4 water restrictions it wasn’t enough, but it was beautiful all the same.
Getting sick. As soon as we got home, both my husband and I came down with a cold. It was pretty brutal and rendered most of my time between that Christmas and New Year period in bed. Of course, it started to fade and I was feeling better just in time for my return to work!
Our country is on fire. I don’t know what you would have to be doing to not know that our country is burning, and has for the last few months. This month I saw just a small part of some of the devastation that has been caused by these fires.
In November, Taree was threatened by some of the NSW bushfires and as we drove in you could see that the town was surrounded by burnt bushland as far as you could see. We drove to nearby Old Bar to spend the morning at the beach and along the road you could see houses still standing in the middle of a burnt forest. The houses were surrounded by green, a side effect of having been soaked and saved by the Firefighters, making them look lush in a dry, burnt landscape. It was bizarre and amazing.
We visited Wallabi Point, a community that had only one road in and out. The community had been trapped, unable to leave and so they all made their way to the beach where they watched the fire burn through the nature reserve, threatening their homes. A month on, and you could still smell the fire in the air.
But this wasn’t all. On our drive home we had to make a detour due to a crash on the pacific motorway and so we drove from Grafton to Casino. I knew there had been fires around this area but I didn’t realise the extent of them until we found ourselves driving through a solid 20km of blackened state pine forest. As you looked out you couldn’t see where the devastation ended. Some areas were still smoking and there was a chopper flying overhead.
Seeing these sites broke my heart. I have seen the remnants of bush fire before, but what got me was that we could drive for over 600km and see the devastation the entire way. It’s the sheer size of it. And I know that I only saw a small part. Had I continued towards the south coast, I can only imagine what was happening there.
What makes me angry about this situation at the moment is not the discussion of a climate emergency, that part is obvious whether you choose to believe it or not. It is the denial about how bad this situation actually is by our government and the lack of compassion and leadership shown by our PM. It is always in times of crisis that we see the true nature of people and unfortunately we have a leader that cannot show humility at a moment that is so much greater than a single policy.
The only thing that we can do is stand together, united as the people of Australia. We can give support to the firies, who are determined and courageous in their job as they save lives and homes, working in harder conditions than many of us can even imagine and without pay. And we can give support to the organisations that are rescuing our wildlife, they have a long road ahead of them still and donations will allow them to get the supplies they so desperately need.
For more information on what you can do to help, visit the ABC site for a bunch of helpful links.
Most Popular Blog Post
As always, I had grand plans to post a heap of holiday themed recipes in December yet I managed to only do one. I also published my usual best of the year recipes and books posts as well as an acknowledgement of my 5 year blogging anniversary.
The most popular of those published this month was of course these red velvet crinkle cookies which as I mentioned was the only recipe I published this month.
What I Read This Month
In 2019 I read a total of 35 books. While this doesn’t come close to my record of 53 books read in 2017, I am still really happy with this achievement. I read some amazing books this year and I went through my favourites in my annual blog post. I was also happy that I started to get a bit more diversity in the types of books I was reading, and found myself drawn to non-fiction more than years before.
Here are the final two books that made it onto my reading list in 2019.
Educated by Tara Westover (2018) Audio
I have already given an in depth review of this book in my favourite books of 2019 posts, but I’ll summarise it again here.
Tara Westover was raised in Idaho in a large Mormon, doomsday prepping family. Her bi-polar father ran a scrap yard and her mother was an unlicensed midwife and became a skilled alternate healer using herbs and oils.
This was often out of necessity as the family didn’t believe in hospitals or traditional medicine and the dangerous nature of the work in the scrap yard often led to many terrifying injuries, such as the time Tara’s brother caught fire and she had to put his leg in a garbage can full of water as that was the only option. Or the time Tara was helping her Dad on the crane and nearly fell to her death, managing to scramble out of the way of the crushing tin sheets at the last moment.
Having never attending school because her father didn’t believe in the education system, Tara decided she wanted to go to university and with encouragement from her older brother who had shown her it was possible, and she managed to gain entrance into Brigham Young University in Utah.
Tara goes on to study at Oxford and gain a doctorate. All the while she continues to struggle with the line between her religion, her family and her new found education. This is not a story about education saving Tara from her family situation as such, but rather it is a pathway that gives her greater understanding of her situation in life, but she continues to struggle with how to live a happy, fulfilled life and to maintain a relationship with her family which she still so greatly cherishes.
This was such an incredible story, and I found myself unable to put this one down.
City Of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert (2019)
There was a lot of anticipation around Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest novel. She can be a polarising author, for reasons I am not really clear on, but in my personal experience of reading her books, I remain on the fence when it comes to her writing.
I did not enjoy Eat Pray Love, nor The Signature of All Things, however I LOVED Big Magic. There is no doubt she is a talented writer and she has the ability to craft a complex, layered storyline and take the reader on a journey with her.
This story is much the same as The Signature of All Things, being that it tells the life story of the main character and spans over many years. This is Gilbert’s strength, the weaving of history through her story, and this does just that. She paints a vivid picture of New York in the 40s with its excess and flamboyance as the story is told by Vivian, older lady recounting her youth through the parties and wild characters she meets along her journey.
The story transitions as the war begins and Vivian sees the New York she has loved be changed forever.
It’s hard for me to explain why I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I wanted to. While I can appreciate that it was well written and there is a level of depth to the story that many other authors cannot achieve, I found that I struggled to engage with the main storyline. I felt as if the events in Vivian’s life where just happening without a common thread that linked the entire story together, or one that made me want to read more.
This one might just come down to personal preference and gets filed in the good, but not for me column.
What I Watched This Month
The Crown: Season 3
I loved the first two seasons of this show, but as much as I was looking forward to the third, I was also a bit hesitant about the recasting. I completely understand that in order to move through the history at a quick enough pace they need three generations of actors, but I wasn’t sure what the transition would be like and I had loved the original cast so much.
But I loved it still. The new Queen is perfectly the evolution of Claire Foy’s portrayal and I loved the little moments between her and Philip in this season. This season also introduced Charles as a young adult and goes into the relationship between him and the Queen.
Cannot wait for more. It’s been a while since I’ve loved a show as much as this one.
What’s coming up?
In January it’s back to work and into a routine. It’s starting to eat more fruit and vegetables because I certainly didn’t eat enough over the holidays. And it’s looking after myself and being kind.
With Australia Day coming up at the end of the month, I am hoping to share some of my favourite classic Aussie recipes to stay tuned for that! And let me know in the comments of course if there is something you would like to see.
A Final Thought
There is a lot happening at the moment. We are in the midst of a crisis and our country doesn’t know what to do as it looks for a leader. For us as individuals it is easy to feel helpless in these situations. But if we give what we can, support our friends and family who might be in need and remain hopeful for rain, then we are doing something.
Wishing you all a very happy new year, even to those who may be struggling. We will get there together, the best is yet to come.