Blessed: how a Melbourne girl finally acknowledges her birthday

I’m writing this post from the comfort of my couch, the latest episode of The Vampire Diaries on in the background, and my fur baby curled up by my side. It’s Sunday afternoon, and I’m pretty tired; it’s been a massive weekend. And the next few weeks aren’t going to be any quieter – Christmas parties, birthdays, weddings, dinners with friends… and tomorrow, another birthday for me.

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I’ve been pretty determined to ignore this birthday. It’s one of those big, ugly ones. Thirty. Blehh. It’s not so much the age that disturbs me – I neither look nor act my age (although I really hate that feeling I’ve been getting more and more frequently that the best years of my life are flying by and I’m not making the most of them…). It’s not the fact that I don’t have a big, fancy career title. Or that I’m childless. All things considered, I’m actually pretty happy with my choices and path in life. But that nasty depression/anxiety/disordered eating cocktail, some bumpy family ties, and my eternal predisposition to  instinctively go through life unnoticed has meant that I really didn’t want any acknowledgement or fanfare this year. No parties, no cakes, no gifts.

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I reluctantly agreed to a small lunch on the Saturday with just my family and in-laws to mark the occasion, on the proviso that there’d be no cake or singing or any of that crap. Seeing as we’d be out for lunch and had no big celebratory plans for the night, I decided to book a hotel room in the city for husband and I – getting lost in a busy city always relaxes me.

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A few weeks after that was all organised, I hesitantly, at my patient husband’s suggestion, texted my my four best friends to see if they’d maybe want to have dinner with me on Friday night – I felt like SUCH a twat asking them to mark my birthday with a dinner, because I really don’t feel worthy of celebration. But the girls were all excited, so I started to get a little excited, too..

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Just before last weekend, I started getting a little anxious about it all. With more going on than I’d care to admit, I knew it was time to take the advice I always tried so hard to ignore, and just slow down and take a breath. I applied for a day of annual leave from work so I could mark this birthday on my own, privately, in a way that I could only do alone and that would make sense only to me. So, on Thursday morning, I got up and enjoyed a cup of tea and a little bit of muesli. Then, I made my way to a tram stop and caught a tram to my favourite part of Melbourne (Fitzroy and Collingwood), where I did something very uncharacteristic of me; I indulged in some of my favourite things, slowly and deliberately. I ordered myself a pastry for morning tea, without a panic attack, even though I hadn’t worked out at 5.45am that morning. I sat and enjoyed it with a pot of tea while I spent some time on my favourite hobby – writing.

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After that, I did something even more out of character – I got a manicure and pedicure. It took me the best part of the pamper session to actually relax and enjoy it. I didn’t force myself to eat because it was “lunch time;” I walked around, slowly and aimlessly, and waited until I was actually hungry. I wrote a little more over lunch. I decided to get some new tattoos. Then, I eventually made my way to another cafe for another pot of tea. I ordered a chocolate chip cookie, too, because it was exactly what I felt like. I couldn’t tell you the last time I had a pastry and a cookie on the same day, let alone on a day when I hadn’t worked out for at least at hour…

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That last stop was the one I needed most that day. I sat down with a hot pot of tea, that chocolate chip cookie, and a notebook that’s been sitting on my little desk at home for the last few months, with the words “THE RECOVERY DIARIES” scrawled up its spine. It’s the little notebook I write notes in that might help me along my path to be happier and healthier. Notes from books like “The Happiness Handbook” by Dr Timothy Sharp, snippets of information and quotes from Brene Brown, points from Nia Shanks’ latest e-book, notes from the Girlspo+ workbook, and other random bits and pieces. Anyway, on Thursday afternoon with my tea and cookie, I started to think about where I’m at and where I want to be, and I started writing; my birthday gift to myself (other than the new shoes, hotel night, tattoos and matcha cronut) was actually investing the time to give myself a bit more direction for the weeks and months leading up to my next birthday.

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I’m a great planner, but my low confidence and self-esteem means that I’m not always great at following through (certainly not always, but undeniably more and more often, I’m inclined to just give up when I think I’m not good enough to actually achieve something). I’m an efficient organiser, but I struggle to focus (instead of having the confidence to develop one or two main passions, I tend to try everything in the hopes that maybe I’ll be good enough at one of them). Everything’s hunky dory in theory, but in practice, anxiety often gets the best of me and I never get the chance to put my step by step plans into place. So Thursday afternoon was the time I’d finally set aside to start working on a realistic game plan.

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I realised a few other things things year in the lead up to the birthday:
— I’m only human. There is only so much I can do. And that’s ok.
— My mother is also only human. We are really, truly, undeniably polar opposites, and that’s ok, too. Circumstances and situations over many years that are more complicated than any standard therapist’s pay grade dictate that our relationship will never be less than complicated, and that is ok.
— I’ll always feel like I need to be strong around my dad, who I absolutely love to bits. I will always feel like it’s my job to assure him that I’m ok, even when I’m not. And I know I’m not fooling him, but he also respects me enough to allow me the dignity to carry on working things out myself without interruption.
— I cannot wear every single hat every single day. I need to learn when to let shit go. Just because I was a black belt martial artist and a dancer and a pianist and a personal trainer and a blogger and tried to be a runner and took up yoga and wanted to learn to cook from 15 different cook books at one point or another in my life, does not mean I still need to do everything. My passions and goals are allowed to evolve and change.
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— It’s ok to say no to people I just don’t connect with, events I don’t feel comfortable attending, things I don’t want to do.
— I also need to make more of an effort to find my tribe and attend events that I really do want to be at, even through anxiety. Because why should anyone else make an effort with me if I don’t put any effort in myself?
— I’ve got a long way to go before I have this disordered eating business under control. But even one step forward and two steps back is a type of progress.
— Marrying my best friend was the best thing I could have possibly done. Whether we make it to our fiftieth wedding anniversary or end up divorced in a few years, I wouldn’t change what we’ve had for anything. He’s had my back from day one (God only knows why), and we’ve experienced the highest highs and lowest lows together. We’ve both had lofty dreams which we’d never have achieved without each others’ support. He can handle me at my worst, and can bring out my best.
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— I might not have a massive group of friends anymore, but the ones I do have are some of the strongest, most beautiful women in the world. They’re girls with balls, with goals, with dreams, with more to talk about than a spray tan appointments and the new heels they’re breaking in. These are women that have been there for me and have allowed me the honour of being there for them. A soul mate isn’t necessarily a spouse – while my husband is my best friend and one of my soul mates, the small group of women I have the privilege to call my friends are my soul mates, too 🙂
— At the end of the day, when my time is up, no one else is gonna give a shit about what I did. No one is going to congratulate me for either working non stop or taking lots of time off to travel the world. No one is going to high 5 me for either having three children or deciding to stay childless and pursue my own dreams. So I need to stop giving a shit about what everyone thinks now, because none of them are going to be there at the end of it all.
– Does it make you happy? Do it more. Does it make you sad? Stop doing it. Simple.

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So, I’m gonna call it a night now guys, counting my blessings for this amazing weekend and one of the best birthdays I’ve actually had in a while, despite all of my protesting… And throughout the week, I’m going to have some suggestions on places to visit in your own Melbourne backyard, places to enjoy a meal at with your friends, and some ways to treat yourself if you’re feeling a bit flat and in need of a pre-holiday season perk up – because you shouldn’t wait until your birthday to make yourself a priority 🙂 xo

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Tea time: Mámor Chocolates High Tea Szalon, Melbourne

Mámor Chocolates High Tea Szalon
153 Johnston St, Collingwood, Melbourne
https://www.mamorchocolates.com/

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Ahh here we are, at the end of a lovely, long weekend. Easter long weekend, to be precise. Chocolate long weekend. Pity it’s just about over. But if you’re not quite done with deliciousness and decadence, and need something to look forward to for next weekend, Mámor might be able to help you. Think luxurious, old, Easter European glamour. Red velvet and golden trinkets. Delicate china tea sets and piles of pastries. In a hidden little den of deliciousness. Welcome to Mámor.

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I’d heard of Mámor for the first time a few years ago at a food exhibition – maybe the Melbourne Good Food & Wine Show? I can’t remember now. I do remember how good the chocolate was, though. I also remembered they offered high tea. And hen’s nights. Small, bespoke parties of all types. But when I called to enquire about taking my lovely friend out for a little bit of tea and cake for her 30th birthday, I found out you can also just do that! The exceptionally fantastic customer service well and truly began before we even set foot through the door, with the darling Hanna talking me through all of my options when I first called to enquire, explaining that organising the big “high tea” wasn’t necessary – she’d be more than happy to reserve us a table and we could just order off the a la carte menu of sweet and savoury delights, plus as many pots of tea as our premature nanna hearts desired. Perfect!

We arrived around 11am last Saturday morning, ushered in and seated with glasses of water and menus. We enjoyed a very lady-like two hours of tea and bubbly, sweets and savouries, gossip and laughs in the most gorgeous setting. We quite enjoyed picking and choosing our way through the menu, and the food was fantastic. Before we got stuck into the sweets, we decided to have a few savouries: chicken paprikash tartlets and pogácsa, a Hungarian savoury scone. Hilariously coincidental and ironic, considering the birthday girl is of Hungarian descent! The tarts were lovely, the tiniest bit of kick to them, deliciously flavoured chicken. I loved the savoury scones – they were kinda of like a super buttery scone/gnocchi hybrid, somehow light and airy despite being made of heavy potato and flour. Delicious!

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After a few tarts and savoury scones each, we hit the tea and sweets. Tea first: I went with the Chocolate Meringue Magic tea, which was incredible. And Indian black tea with chocolate praline, meringue pieces, strawberry, almonds and rose. Sweet, subtle, perfect for afternoon tea. The birthday girl had the Chocolate Banana Split – China-Ceylon tea with ripe banana, chocolate and cream. Thumbs up from her, too.

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Round one of sweets: the raspberry macarons and the Black Forest cupcakes. The macaron shells were a little hard, but the filling was lovely, but the Black Forest cupcakes were a huge winner. Super light and fluffy chocolate cakes with just the right amount of cream and cherries. We both loved those!

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Round two: the Rákóczi cheesecake. Upon Googling, I found out that this is a traditional Hungarian cheese curd. meringue topped cheesecake. We both really loved the cake base, and I quite enjoyed the fact that it wasn’t a super sugary sweet cheesecake. I couldn’t tell you exactly what was in it other than cheese and a meringue top, but it was very, very good!

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Round three: last but not least, what’s tea without scones?! They were thicker scones than a lot of high tea places serve, but they weren’t clumpy or doughy at all, and the strawberry jam was really tasty. We also had a chocolate each; a butterscotch truffle for the birthday girl and a salted caramel truffle for me. Amazing way to finish off!

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We were so well looked after and attended to while we were there, from the “happy birthday” greeting when we arrived, to the constant checking to make sure we were happy with the amount of food we’d ordered, menu suggestions, our tea pots and water glasses frequently re-filled. It was such a fun way to spend a few hours, and time flew so quickly! It was warm, comfortable and welcoming, and I can see why so many people choose to celebrate special occasions there as well as it being a great spot for a casual morning or afternoon tea. I imagine we’ll be back!

 

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Another year, another birthday…

Another year passes, and another birthday with it. I feel like “celebrating” my birthday less and less every year, it just doesn’t seem very important to me anymore… I can’t really say why, I can’t say it’s that “I’m just not where I thought I’d be at this age” because I’ve never had a plan for where I wanted to be at any point in my life! I haven’t got it l figured out – far, far from it. I don’t know it all – most days I feel like I know nothing. There are a few things I’ve managed to work out so far, so in “celebration” of the last birthday I’ll celebrate in my 20s, here are the 29 things I know for sure…

1. Makeup is not for me, and no matter how hard I try, I’ll never be the girl who rocks red lipstick. I’ll also never be able to walk properly in heels.
2. I’m actually really good at saving money when I have a goal, preferably travel, on the horizon.
3. My freckles will always make me look younger than I am and therefore usually lead people to underestimate me.
4. I will never master the art of packing lightly. That said, I would happily live the rest of my life out of a suitcase if it meant I could spend my life travelling.
5. I will always spill food on my clothes. Always.
6. If there are 90s tunes playing, I will always sing along, even if I’m in public, whether it be 2Pac or the Spice Girls or anything in between.
7. I’ll never be as skinny as I want to be because I love food way too much, so I’d better start learning to love the body I have.
8. I’m an absolutely horrible housewife – I cannot vacuum or mop to save my life.
9. “Unconditional love” got a new meaning for me when Marley came into my life – he may be a midget Beaglier, but he was my heart’s missing puzzle piece.
10. If I’m not working on at least 3 projects outside of my “real job,” my soul freaks out.
11. If I take on too much, my body will shut down.
12. Depression is hard, and anyone who feels the need to tell me to “stop complaining and just be happy, heaps of people have it worse than you!” simply does not understand and therefore I should stop giving any weight to their opinions.
13. Unless it is incredibly interesting, I have the attention span of a goldfish.
14. I am physically incapable of leaving the house without a book, a notebook and a few pens in my bag.
15. Books will always be my escape and my solace; writing will always soothe my soul.
16. Being married is hard work, but it’s infinitely easier when you marry your best friend.
17. I may not have a big friendship group anymore, but the few real friends that I do have are the ones that is trust with not only my life, but with my heart, too.
18. If it’s at least 20% off, I truly believe that I’m no longer spending money; I’m saving money.
19. I don’t want kids.
20. I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up.
21. The older I get, the lower my tolerance levels get for idiots. And racists. And sexists. And people who complain about their awful first world problems. And people against gay marriage. And all the other imbeciles out there.
22. I can’t work in silence – without music constantly filling my ears, I’m nothing.
23. I love the strange pain of being tattooed. It’s oddly comforting.
24. I’d be only a sad little shell of the self that I am today without my husband. It completely defies my logic that this man has stood by me for the past 10 years, never once failing to have my back, pushing me every damn day to be a better person, supporting every insane thing I try to do, seeing me at my absolute worst and still loving me more than anyone has any right to be loved.
25. If I’m coming home after a night on the drink, there had better be a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter in the pantry, because I won’t go to bed without it. I’ll also need it in the morning as a hangover cure.
26. I’m pretty sure I’m lactose intolerant after a few recent ice cream incidents. I wish I could say that stops me eating more ice cream than I should. In my defense, I have switched to soy milk…
27. You can’t choose your family, but you can choose whether or not you give up on them or keep trying to pull them together.
28. The knowledge that eating raw cookie dough and cake batter will make me sick will never stop me from eating it by the spoonful.
29. Even though I didn’t want to celebrate this year, I’ve got an amazing group of people in my life who made it a great weekend anyway!

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Hamburger cakes :)

Thought this needed a quick little post of its own… There’s not much I do that I’m really proud of, but I’m damn proud of my hamburger cakes! I first made them a few years ago for a cousin’s birthday – mini ones, like the size of a really little cupcake, and they were a MASSIVE hit! My grandfather particularly was quite partial to them once he overcame his initial confusion as to what exactly he was eating (he couldn’t understand why we were being served little hamburgers with tea and coffee) and polished off more than a few. Since then, I’ve also made them as big, full sized cakes for family and friends, always met with big smiles.

This week, we have a birthday at work of my colleague and manager. Like me, she loves cakes. Also like me, she loves hamburgers. I offered to forgo the usual buy-a-cake-from-a-bakery thing and make one myself. I hope she likes it!

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I also had a heap of batter and dough left over, so I made some smaller ones (regular sized cupcakes) for husband to take to work and share. If they don’t get eaten tonight. Which they might.

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They’re actually pretty easy to make… it’s just really fiddly and time consuming. Basically, what you’re looking at is…
– Burger bun: vanilla buttermilk cake topped with sesame seeds
– Pattie: a chocolate fudge brownie cookie
– Lettuce: shredded coloured coconut
– Cheese: coloured royal icing
– Sauce: runny vanilla icing

Then you just kinda build your burger! They’re really fun to make, but the best part is seeing the smiles on the people who get to eat it. That’s the best part of baking and cooking for me; when what I can create brings a smile to someone, helps them recall a really good memory from childhood or travels or a good time past, that’s what makes me the happiest 🙂