Tag Archives: beach

Fake It Til You Make It

1 Jul

Distance Vision1

I have terrible distance vision. Both literally and figuratively speaking. I always want things to happen now. Today. Not next month or next year. And I have trouble seeing that a little bit each day adds up to a whole lot.

Which is a bit of a problem for someone trying to write a novel.

In the beginning, I would set aside whole Saturdays every once in awhile, work nonstop from dawn to dusk and then get frustrated that the novel didn’t seem any closer to being finished.

We’re often told to fake it til you make it. If you want to be a fit person, then turn up to the gym every day, until you are one. And, if you want to be a writer, then sit down in that chair, and turn up to that blank page every day.

It wasn’t until I started taking my laptop with me on the train to and from work every day that I started to see progress. Real progress.

Distance Vision2

But I couldn’t see that day to day. Thanks to my crappy distance vision. All I could see was how much I hadn’t yet done, how many weeks of editing lay ahead. But I just kept picking up that laptop, opening it up to a new page.

Within the space of two weeks I had advanced 10,000 words. And in the space of three months I had a novel.

And in hindsight (which is always 20/20) that was no time at all.

___________
Glasses image courtesy of Bart Heird on Flickr.
Vision quote image courtesy of Brett Jordan on Flickr.
Maldives image courtesy of Sarah_Ackerman on Flickr.
___________

This will be the last post you see from me for awhile, as I am off on our long awaited trip to France for the Wedding 2.0 followed by our honeymoon in Italy and the Maldives. Jealousy-inducing photos to come in August. À bientôt 🙂Maldives
Advertisements

Christmas Eve

24 Dec

In true Sydney fashion it is Christmas Eve and it is hot. We awoke early to do the early morning seafood run to the local shops. The temperature had barely dropped overnight, meaning that even at 5.30am jeans weren’t the smartest clothing choice, but I can’t complain. It’s Christmas tomorrow, and it’s hot.

Mum spends the day preparing the usual impressive array of desserts for the next day’s feast and Dad peels the five kilos of prawns in the kitchen, air-conditioning on full. Max and I head out for a swim and my sister is spending the day on a friend’s boat. It is shaping up to be a proper Australian Christmas.

xmas beach

This year is Max’s second Christmas in Australia. His first Christmas here was two years ago, and I was thrilled to introduce him to our traditions and Christmas en Australie.  Christmas Eve is the ‘day before’ in Australia, rather than the main event as it is in France.

Last year, we spent Christmas with Max’s family in Lille, and as snow fell softly in the backyard on Christmas Eve we gathered around the fireplace, glass in hand, table groaning underneath the weight of the aperitif, to open our presents.

Lille Christmas

This year, we might be back in Australia for Christmas, but there will be an element of Noël à la Française to our festivities. As a hat tip to Max’s traditions, tonight, we will drink champagne and snack on foie gras, before sitting down to an indulgent dinner of Confit de canard avec pommes sautées aux lardons et salade frisée. Then, we will indulge in one of my family traditions, and watch Carols by Candlelight on TV after dinner, with all the lights off except for the ones on the Christmas tree.  It really is the best of both worlds.

Sandman

What does your Christmas Eve look like?

____________________________

I’d also like to take the chance to wish a very Merry Christmas to all of my lovely blog followers, wherever in the world you are!
____________________________
Beach x-mas image courtesy of JoePhilipson on Flickr.
Lille at Christmas image courtesy of Mimidith on Flickr.
Sand snowman image courtesy of
mel5545 on Flickr.

Letting Myself Off the Hook

17 Dec

SONY DSC

I’m not very good at relaxing. I’m the sort of person who can’t sit down on the couch to watch a movie if there are dishes in the sink or clothes that need washing. I’m a big fan of to-do lists and often have several on the go at once. One for work tasks, one for writing goals, one for wedding things and one for exercise. I even make to-do lists for my weekends. Free time is viewed as dead time so I meticulously schedule in an extra yoga session, some essential toenail painting or research for new recipes to try.

To do

These lists are, by their very nature, neverending. When it comes to writing especially, there is always going to be more. Last weekend however, I found myself in the strange position of having no urgent deadlines. I had submitted my December article, and made a rough plan for my January one. I had a couple of blog posts up my sleeve waiting to be published, and I had even achieved my ‘by-Christmas’ goal of 30,000 words (halfway!) for my novel. I was officially up to date.

So what did I do?

I scheduled in some more novel writing time. All day Saturday in fact, and instead of congratulating myself for reaching what had been a stretch goal, I pushed the goal out again and revised it to 35,000 words by Christmas.

So when Saturday morning rolled around, bright, sunny and promising a whopping 37 degrees, I found myself torn. These kinds of days are rare in Melbourne, and to have one fall on a Saturday is downright miraculous. It was The Perfect Pool Day if ever I saw one. I faltered, mid-way through writing a text to my pool buddy as the little voice inside my head piped up and said ‘Hang on a minute, you were going to write today. How are you ever going to finish your novel if you abandon ship at the first hint of sunshine?’ it continued, laying the guilt on nice and thick. I almost gave in, too, until it struck me what was actually difficult about this situation.

It wasn’t that I desperately wanted to take the day off writing to laze by a pool, gossip magazine in hand. My preference was to stay home and write; to adhere to my strict list of tasks for the day. What was difficult was letting myself off the hook for a day. I needed to enforce some time off.

So against my every principle (and with Type A Ali screaming in my head that the world would quickly descend into anarchy if I diverted from The Official Weekend Plan), I went to the pool.

Sunlounger

I spent a gloriously unproductive four hours alternately lying in the sun, reading magazines, chatting to my friend and taking dips in the pool. It was pure bliss, and as trite as it may sound, it was like a vacation for my soul.

I was dangling my legs in the warm water, perched on the edge of the pool when I realised something. Not only am I allowed to take time off; I am obligated to do so if I ever want to finish my novel. I need to make relaxation a habit as much as I make writing a habit and it is imperative that I keep the promises I make to myself along the way.

That when I reach the word count, or when I sort out that tricky chapter, I’ll make good on my own word and relax. I’ll forget the to-do list for a day. And I’ll probably achieve much more.

What about you? Do you struggle to let yourself off the hook?

____________________
Relax sign image courtesy of
twicepix on Flickr.
To do list image courtesy of the green gables on Flickr.
Sunlounger image courtesy of Michael Keen on Flickr.

Finding France in Malaysia

17 Oct

As you’ve probably already worked out – I love food. I love good food even more. So when it came to choosing the destination for our holiday it was a key factor. Malaysia itself is renowned for delicious street food and we did take the opportunity to discover some of the local flavours, but that’s a blog post for another time.

Many people hear all-inclusive resort, or buffet dining and think immediately of sub-standard salad bars, overcooked meat and mass-produced dishes with little flavour. Indeed I have visited resorts that take this approach to food. Club Med Cherating Beach is not one of them.

The breakfast buffet was plentiful and offered a staggering amount of variety. Traditional Asian breakfast options complemented the Western-style hot food selection, with beef bacon the only nod to local customs. Ever-changing omelettes cooked fresh to order were a real highlight as was the incredible selection of freshly baked breads (seaweed bread, anyone?). Fruit, yoghurt, cold meats and salads also featured but for me, the real standout was the French-inspired pastry buffet. Almond brioche, sugar brioche (even an experimental mocha brioche), croissants, pain au chocolat, pain aux raisins – all of my French bakery favourites right at my fingertips every morning. And the best part – they were all in miniature, meaning no tough decisions necessary.

Lunch tends to be the least impressive meal in Club Med, but I was pleasantly surprised. Daily specials at each of the Asian corners were sure to delight. Everything from Japanese tempura to Korean bibimpap; Chinese noodles to Indian curries (caution – very hot!) – we truly were spoilt for choice. Beautiful cold buffet items offered a myriad of fresh flavours and vibrant colours, whilst the salad bar provided more than ample opportunity for guilt alleviation. Local and international speciality dishes were a permanent fixture with everything from beef rending and laksa to roasted quail and steak béarnaise on offer.

But the real shining star was dinner. Every evening plays to a different theme such as Ocean Delights, Chef’s Table and the Red Buffet. All were exquisite and we found ourselves having to share speciality dishes between 3 in order to have enough room to taste everything! Top quality sushi, sashimi, carpaccio were regulars, and Moroccan tagines had our mouths watering. Steak with Bordelaise sauce, salmon with confit potatoes and magret de canard were just a few examples of the fine French-style cuisine. But it was the foie gras served with apple tatin and toasted brioche that truly stole our hearts and enchanted our tastebuds.

Have you ever had an exceptional experience with buffet-style food?

______
Malaysian flag image courtesy of .ET. on Flickr.
Club Med Cherating chef image courtesy of musicalsound on Flickr.
Foie gras image courtesy of sygzy on Flickr.

Springtime is Picnic Season!

11 Oct

When the sun is shining and the nights start to lose their chill my thoughts instantly turn to picnics. I simply adore picnics and tend to spend the winter months eagerly awaiting the first picnic of spring.

I’m hopeful that this weekend might just be the time. We’re off to the Yarra Valley (to banish any lingering post-holiday blues) and I’ve tentatively pencilled in a picnic for Saturday lunch. The current weather forecast would seem to indicate that I’m being overly optimistic, but there is still time for this to change.

(It should be noted that two years ago, in Paris, I decided that one particular Thursday evening was the start of the picnic season and so off we went to the Buttes Chaumont, where we enjoyed twenty minutes of just-warm enough weather before the chill really set in and we had to take refuge in a nearby café).

The Yarra is a region that lends itself very well to the art of picnicking. Wineries, dairies and gourmet produce stores abound and the natural area offers so many great spots to choose from.

I’m also planning future picnics in my head for November and December, some to take place on the bustling St Kilda foreshore; others nestled in the tranquillity of the Botanic Gardens. I’ve started my shopping list, filling my mental picnic basket with pungent cheese, delicious fresh dips, a variety of more-ish stuffed olives (filled with everything from blue cheese to garlic to prosciutto), thinly sliced smoked meats and of course, some crusty bread to tie it all together – delicious!

But there’s no need to stick to a particular formula when shopping for a picnic, my general rule of thumb is, if it can be transported, it’s picnic food. So let your imagination run wild. Salads (caesar, pasta, greek) work well, as do sandwiches, fruit and quiches. And why not make it an afternoon tea picnic, complete with homemade goodies, or delicious pastries from your favourite bakery.

My love of picnics is so great that even when I have dinner plans I sometimes like to sneak in an aperitif picnic beforehand. The ingredients for this are simple: a bottle of wine (chilled rosé works well) and a small snack. Saucisson and mixed nuts go down a treat for everyday ease, whilst champagne and foie gras work make any picnic a special occasion.

What’s in your picnic basket?

_______
Picnic basket image courtesy of Paul and Christa on Flickr.
Yarra Valley wine image courtesy of crafterm on Flickr.
French picnic courtesy of Rollin’Riviera on Flickr.

Beat the Post-Holiday Blues

4 Oct

As many of you know I recently returned from holidays. I spent two fabulous weeks on the east coast of Malaysia and in Australia’s Hunter Valley region. I will be posting many jealousy-inducing details about my trip here in the coming weeks but thought I’d dedicate this post to the downside of fabulous vacations – the inevitable return to reality.

Post-holiday blues is actually quite a common condition, a quick google search reveals. And whilst I’m no doctor I am certain of my diagnosis – I’ve got it, and big time. Now I should start off by saying I am well aware that this is not a condition that elicits very much sympathy from others, indeed one should be grateful to have had the time and resources to go on holiday at all – but indulge me just a little.

I returned from Malaysia with a nasty bout of tonsillitis, a niggling chest infection, and a pulled hamstring muscle. So my expectations of returning fresh, rested and ready to take on the rest of the year were already a little dampened. Then there was the fact that amazingly, it is still cold in Melbourne. As in, winter coat cold in the mornings. Then there was that little thing called work that reared its ugly head early on Monday morning. Now don’t get me wrong, I love my job, but just not as much as I love sitting by a pool sipping mojitos.

By the time Monday lunchtime rolled around I was well and truly in a bad mood. I had no food in the house, nothing but 20 loads of dirty washing awaiting my attention and nothing on the horizon to look forward to (you know, except for Christmas, a wedding and a honeymoon but those are AGES away). Moodily, I turned to the internet for inspiration. After ruling out the possibility of moving to Club Med Malaysia as a permanent guest ($100k for a year was just a little too steep) I started looking for other more cost effective remedies.

Many websites cite extended exposure to sunlight and time spent doing only what we want to do as reasons why we feel so well on holidays. The suspension of reality (i.e. no bills to pay, no deadlines to meet) also adds to this feeling of intense freedom. This sensation is intensified when one stays at Club Med, where everything is prepaid and included, and internet/ phone reception is limited – a true getaway.

Suggestions for getting over the post holiday blues included bringing some of your holiday activities into your everyday life. Whilst flying trapeze is a bit out of the question, there’s no reason why I can’t continue to play tennis (albeit badly) once a week. And whilst I might not have a Indian yoga instructor at my disposal for sunrise yoga sessions everyday (nor the time or inclination to practise daily) I can remember most of his class and try to practise by myself on weekend mornings.

Experts in the field also recommend scheduling activities to look forward to in the short term, so tonight we are taking advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and going to a live music venue in St Kilda. And, (though technically I think this might be breaking the rules of holiday rehab) we’ve just booked a weekend in the Yarra Valley full of wineries, good food, tennis, golf and maybe even a massage.

Making any large life-changing decisions immediately after a holiday is apparently not a good idea (it’s like they could read my mind… I guess now isn’t the best time to drop everything and become a yoga instructor – and perhaps I should work on my shoulder stand a bit more), but I think a bunch of small changes will be just what the doctor ordered.

Have you ever suffered from the post-holiday blues? What are your tips?

______________
Mojito image courtesy of mikelbelza.carbonmade.com on Flickr.
Beach yoga image courtesy of patriziasoliani on Flickr.

Reflections on 2012

12 Sep

Most people set their goals around New Year’s, and December is often a time for reflection on what we’ve achieved in the year that has just passed. I’ve never been a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions myself, but I find that whenever I’m on holidays, or taking a long plane trip I can’t help but reflect.

And so, with my much-awaited holiday coming up this week, and amongst the endless to-do lists, to-pack lists and of course, to-buy lists I took a few minutes to think about the year so far.

A lot of my achievements relate to writing, and that’s what I’ve been most proud of this year.

In July, I made the frightening leap into a writing career which turns out to be exactly what I’d hoped it’d be, and more.

I started this blog back in May and have loved sharing my observations about all things French with you.

My first article written for My French Life was published in March and I’ve had 11 articles published since then – examining everything from the French political system to childcare and why French women don’t get fat.

Other achievements inlude planning most of a wedding (with a more than generous serve of help from Max and my Mum) and finally getting around to cleaning out my wardrobe. Whilst it seems like a minor thing, nothing has been more uplifting to my spirit than getting rid of the guilt-inducing hangers filled with clothes I never wear.

Certainly I’d look upon 2012 as a successful year, but it looks nothing like I thought it would. Towards the end of 2011 I envisaged spending my year working and studying – I’d planned to get my HR diploma, my Cert IV in Training and Assessment and pass the DELF B2 language exam. I’d planned to get back into yoga fulltime and finish the first draft of my novel.

But I think that’s okay.

And as I head off overseas on Thursday for several weeks of sun, relaxation and good food no doubt I’ll feel again the urge to plan for the year ahead. So far, I know that I want to write for a food or travel magazine, buy an apartment in Paris and stop dyeing my own hair.

But if there’s one lesson I’m taking from 2012 it’s to not get too caught up in the details, because slowly, (and almost certainly in a roundabout way) I’ll get where I need to go.

See you in three weeks!

_______________
New Years Resolution Coasters image courtesy of BazaarBizarreSF on Flickr.
Pool image courtesy on Simon_sees on Flickr.

%d bloggers like this: