Where have I been? Where am I going?

pexels-photo-262508.jpegDo you know that slightly trepidatious feeling you may sometimes get when you’re about to see someone you haven’t seen for a long time? Would you recognise each other? Would it be awkward?

I feel like that after returning from a six-month blogging absence.  While I have presented as absent online, I haven’t been absent in my head. I’ve composed blog posts on the fly, a lot. Not just posts, but completely different blogs. But I haven’t transferred thoughts to pixels.

Life is running through my fingers like, like sands through the hourglass (former Days of Our Lives fan and some things never leave you). I haven’t made the time to write, but I think about it nearly everyday. But I put it off because so many other things need to be done.

But I’m sick of putting it off. I love it. I want the ideas and words in my head to come out onto a page (or screen). Because I love the process and I love the result. When I put words together to paint a picture, I’m in flow and things make sense.

If I’m feeling doubt or confusion, writing helps bring order to my thoughts. Maybe getting the words out of my head and into some semblance of order, helps me see the big picture, helps to remove some of the intensity of feeling. Helps me be more objective. It can be like taking a little mental holiday.

I note that it is almost a year to the day that I published a post titled, Happy New Year, now it’s Mothers’ Day! A post written after not publishing since December the year before. I can’t believe the same thing has happened this year, except this year, I haven’t published a post since November 2017 – 6 months! May it never be this long between posts again.

Looking back, I see my reasons for not posting are pretty much the same as last year. And some things didn’t go the distance, like my so-called “...renewed focus about what I want this blog to be.” I think those ideas have changed and I’m still working it out, but I don’t want to stop posting in the meantime.

It will be what it will be.

The trepidation is lifting and it’s great to see you again, Blog!

Focus Schmocus

Where has the year gone? I ask myself every year at about this time.

I was just reading my most recent blog post (apart from the Angelina Jolie garage sale reblog the other week) from SIX months ago…where I said, “…I’m clearer now about what I want this blog to be. So here’s to my renewed focus!” Blah blah blah.

Winter and almost all of Spring have passed since I wrote that sentence, and the new blog focus has clearly not manifested.

So what have I been doing? Plotting and planning for The Alexcellent Life, figuring out the best way to structure my actual life,which – I’ll let you in on a little secret – is sometimes the mediocre life rather than The Alexcellent life – but we have to have something to aspire to! There’s parenting, my school-hours job, any freelance work, other business ideas, family time, extended family time, social time, life-admin, house maintenance, and just the business of living.

I will sum up the past few months with a visual retrospective of what I didn’t blog about…

I also didn’t blog about:

  • My 30-year high-school reunion which I was nervous about going to but turned out not to be so bad. In fact I’m really glad I went. It was great to reconnect and realise that those girls are just real people and we’ve all had our share of knocks
  • Lots of joy in the ordinary, but also a decent amount of worry, tiredness, and frustration
  • Flu for Spider Boy and me
  • The passing of Spider Boy’s grandfather, my-ex’s dad
  • Lots of work. Work work, housework, personal work
  • Bill juggling, haggling and staggering
  • 9am Sunday morning soccer in Winter
  • Several Sydney visits as well as visitors from Sydney
  • Plotting, planning, thinking, consolidating.
  • NO Tinder-swiping which has been a big fat relief

I have loads more photos on my phone but my old MacBook already has so many photos on it that it really struggles to cope with more.  Otherwise I’d show you more pics here.  I really need to buy a hard-drive or something.

So that’s where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing. So I’m not going to talk about things like “my renewed focus”. I often think about something my year 3 teacher from 1978 said.  I can’t remember her name, but I remember her well. Our class motto was “Don’t say it, do it!”

And that is exactly what I will do.

 

Happy New Year… now it’s Mother’s Day!

It’s been a long time between posts here at The Alexcellent Life. The last post I wrote was about George Michael’s death while I was on a Sydney visit over Christmas/New Year.

January was busy. We had a beautiful wedding to go to, and raced around visiting family and friends and a couple of beaches because, Sydney in January.

I had many post ideas to write in the last quarter of 2016, but they remained in my head. Time constraints, as well as not having a clear direction for this blog, contributed to the lack of actual posts. As did my finally working out how to hook up Netflix. I binged on episodes of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend every night.

But now that that’s over, I’m clearer now about what I want this blog to be. So here’s to my renewed focus!

While the changes to The Alexcellent Life are brewing, here’s a little retrospective of just some of what I didn’t blog about…

Things you might not know about me

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I’ve been Liebsterised!

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The awesome Alana from Housegoeshome has nominated my blog for a Liebster award! For those that don’t know, the Liebster awards are an opportunity for bloggers to answer questions about themselves and then nominate other bloggers to do the same. It’s a great way to discover new blogs.

You can read Alana’s answers here.

And mine below…

What makes you happy?
Having a hearty chuckle with my son. hearing him singing to himself after he’s gone to bed. Watching him in his element. When my family is happy. sitting in a cafe with a hot coffee and my laptop or a notepad, maybe with a scroll of some sort (of carbohydrate, not paper). Sister-jokes with my sister. Having a wine (as opposed to a whine) and chat with friends. Writing, blogging, taking photos, colouring in. Time for craft. Being in the flow of creating something. A good night’s sleep.

Why did you start blogging?
I blog because I enjoy the process, and sometimes I just feel a need to tell a story. I like packaging words and photos together and sharing information. I also wanted a “digital scrapbook” of sorts.

I started reading blogs when I was home with my new baby 7 years ago, and I realised that what I write doesn’t just have to sit in a drawer going to waste (well some most of what I write should) but some of it, I wanted to put out there for other people to read, and hopefully enjoy. But it took me a few years to get the confidence to actually put it out there and to define the focus of Alexcellent. I’m still defining it, but it’s morphing into more of a food and lifestyle blog.

What’s the best thing anyone has ever said about your blog?
People have said certain posts are funny, well-written, and that the photos are good.

What is the one piece of advice you would offer or one saying you live by? Sorry, there’s going to be more than one here…
Progress, not perfection. If you want to do something, just start it, because it is in the doing that it takes shape.  I tend to be reluctant to start things until it’s all perfectly planned, I need to take my own advice and “just do it!” I wish I’d started blogging years ago – I’m not exactly a futurist; When I was trying desperately to “break into magazines” in the early 90s, someone advised me, “You should write a gossip column – on The Internet”, to which I replied with a derisive snort, “The Internet?? That’ll never take off!”.

Also, enjoy the little moments. Life itself is difficult (as M. Scott Peck reminds us in The Road Less Travelled  – and it is), but try to be conscious of the things you enjoy or are grateful for during particular moments. Being able to isolate and appreciate little chunks of good, makes life sweeter. Tend your roses – the rocky patches will still be there, but hopefully if you tend your roses, you won’t notice the rocky patches so much. (Picked up that sparkler of a metaphor in a positive psychology seminar during my time in the Public Service).

What are your top three bucket list items?

1.Take my son to Disneyland

2. Write a novel and have it published. A proper hard-copy novel.

3. More travel generally.

There’s many more items on this bucket list but I will stop at three today as requested.

What is your ultimate guilty pleasure?
Lightweight popular culture; Celebrity gossip in trashy mags (feeling guilty just writing it) and second-rate reality TV. I know it’s such a waste of time, nothing more than brain-candy (everything in moderation though, right?). Caught a cracker of an episode of Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners last night, the show where obsessive compulsive cleaners meet housework-dodging hoarders (perhaps I should actually clean the house instead of watching people literally dry-retching at the sight of other people’s dirt and clutter). Also, every year I say I’m NOT going to watch The Bachelor, yet I always get sucked into it. And I just know I’m going to succumb to Farmer Wants a Wife.

What is the one product or service you can’t live without?
The Internet! Ha! Note the irony. I could live without it, but in this day and age would be very frustrated without it.

What’s your favourite Australian travel destination?
I love north eastern Victoria and all those tiny little towns (Beechworth, Bright) on the way up to the Victorian Alps, and all the ski fields. Also south east Queensland. And Cairns.

What two countries make you happiest to visit?
My first pick is definitely Hawaii (I know it’s a US state, but to me it’s like a country in it’s own right). Hawaii is more than a geographical location, it’s the Aloha vibe. I really loved England when I was there 16 years ago and would love to go back and see more of it.

What is your dream destination?
See above. And also Alaska. Never been but would love to see it. I like the extremes. And somewhere else rural and rustic. And Paris.

Now it’s my turn to pass on the baton…

Lyne from Sugar Coated Baking

Shannon from Dash of Tonic

Holly from Simplify. Create. Inspire.

Maria from Pastels and Macarons

 

Meeting my blogging neighbour

image credit: Hubspot. The Gingerbread Gem.

image credit: Hubspot. The Gingerbread Gem.

In my last post I wrote about my real-life neighbours.

I also have virtual neighbours who I only know via a screen. But last night, I met one in real life; a blogger called Alana House – a pretty neighbourly surname now that I think about it!

Alana, a former weekly magazine editor, writes a brilliant blog called Housegoeshome. She started the blog in 2011 after leaving her workplace of 20 years, asking the question, “Is there life after work?” In the past year, Alana’s blog has documented her personal journey dealing with marriage separation, going back into the workplace again, adventures with her two young daughters, and setting up a new house. She blogs about the juggle of work and family, with plenty of hilarious posts that articulately capture the vagaries of modern life.

On top of all that, this former magazine editor loves to cook, often posting her recipes as well as a decent sprinkling of Hollywood gossip.

She also has an amazing talent for party-planning and puts the average party goody-bags and cakes out there to shame!

Alana via Housegoeshome exemplifies the above definition of “To blog”.

I had the pleasure of meeting Alana for the first time last night, after “meeting” her virtually through the comments section on her blog. As she mentions in her post, Exchanging war stories, our paths had crossed before but we’d never actually met until now. And it’s all thanks to the blogging neighbourhood.

Do visit Alana’s blog: housegoeshome.com

Image credit: [Hubspot] [The Gingerbread Gem]

Blog love: The Liebster award

I’m thrilled to say that one of the bloggers I admire, Hannah from  Popcorn and Polka Dots (formerly Put The Kettle On)  has nominated me for a blog award – the Liebster! To receive a blog award for Alexcellent is truly the icing on the cake – despite all the baking disasters I’ve blogged about!

So I would like to say a huge Thank You to Hannah for nominating me. If you don’t know Popcorn and Polka Dots yet, please do check it out.  It’s full of tales of travel, food, lifestyle and gorgeous images from the life of newly-engaged Hannah, who is settling back in to life in England with her fiancé after spending much of her youth in Canada.

 

Thanks Hannah!

Thanks Hannah!

 

Here are the rules of the Liebster Award:

1. Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog.
2. Display the award on your blog – by including it in your post and/or displaying it.
3. Answer questions about yourself, which will be provided to you by the person who nominated you.
4. Provide random facts about yourself.
5. Nominate blogs – that you feel deserve the award – who have less than 200 followers
6. Create a new list of questions for the nominated bloggers to answer.
7. List these rules in your post. Once you have written and published it, you then have to inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster award and provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it.

Now onto the questions from Hannah for me to answer:

1. If there was a movie about your life, who would play you? I have a soft spot for Drew Barrymore.
2.  What is your favourite book and why? That’s a tough one… so many genres! I love Pride and Prejudice because it’s so beautifully written and because I love being transported to a different era where I can vicariously experience the bits I like; the art of courtship, afternoon tea in the drawing room and taking a turn about the room after needle point. I love anything by Marion Keyes because her books are funny and poignant. Also Bridget Jones Diary is a firm and sentimental favourite.
3. Where would your dream vacation be? Always Hawaii. I have been twice and I now regard it as one of my spiritual homes. If only I had an actual home there. But I also think Canada could potentially be another spiritual home. I love the spirit of Aloha, but I also love mountains, skiing, and cold weather.
4. What is your favourite season and why? Autumn. Because the trees look so pretty with their red and gold outfits on. I love that first Autumn chill in the air. When I was a child we use to get that in March. This year we just got it on June 1. Eeeeek! Climate Change!                                                                 5. If you were a super hero what power would you have? I would like the ability to freeze time. But then, I’d probably never get anything done because I’d have all the time in the world, right?
6. If you could pass a new law, what would it be? When I was 11, I wanted to be Prime Minister so I could ban computers, because, you know, “Those machines are gonna take all the jobs.” Hey, it was the 80s.
7. What is your favourite movie of 2014 so far? Frozen. I saw it with my son (Spider Boy) and ex-husband. Ex-husband and I both shed tears. Well, a tear or two. Let it GO, already!

Random facts about me

1. When I was 6, I had a 12-year-old Prince Edward pegged as a future possible marriage partner for myself (that’s right, Prince William’s UNCLE  – that’s how old I am, people).

3. When I was 8 I lost consciousness (briefly) after falling off a flag pole I’d climbed (it was only half-way) at the local yacht club while my parents were lunching. Does that explain some things? Who can say?

2. When I was 11 I broke my arm going over a bike jump wearing a pair of rollerskates. They were white boot ones with red wheels, just like Olivia Newton John’s in Xanadu.

4. When I was 15, I really thought it was possible that I could marry George Michael – as a career move and because I loved him. (NB to younger readers – George was from 1980s pop duo WHAM!) So I must have a thing for pop stars and princes.

5. When I was 25, in the mid-90s, a friend of a friend invited me over to “show me the Internet”. He said perhaps I could write a gossip column online, like, you know, just publish my own content on the Internet. “No way!” I said, “That’ll never catch on… surely it wouldn’t count unless it’s done with paper and ink!” Wrong about George Michael AND the Internet.

6. When I was 27, I broke a heel chasing Keanu Reeves through the streets of Sydney’s Darlinghurst when he was in town to film the Matrix.

7. When I was 30,  I posed in my underwear for Cosmopolitan magazine for a story on how different women’s bodies can look very different even if they wear the same clothing size. My boyfriend at the time didn’t like it. He should’ve been grateful it wasn’t Ralph or FHM.

 

My Nominees for the Liebster Award:

I’m a Big Girl Now | This fashion blog by Wendy from Sydney, Australia is about her style journey as she puts together stylish looks for women 40+. Wendy has always been  interested in fashion but as she’s grown older has become more comfortable in her own skin. She shows that being “plus size” and over 40 doesn’t mean wearing boring clothes! Right on!

Sugar Coated | This blog by Lyne from Ottawa, Canada is sweet by name and in nature, with beautiful food photography to match.  Lyne has a real passion for baking and cooking, and the joy she gets from it is evident in the words she writes. Blog posts cover Lyne’s family baking traditions, her own creations and guest bakers. From bread to brunch, pasta to pastry and cakes to cookies, if you appreciate the heart and joy of food, you’ll love Sugar Coated.

Sweet Tea | This blog by Bec from Canberra, Australia is your one-stop shop for afternoon/high tea advice and inspiration! Bec has a vintage crockery hire business, and the blog has scrumptious recipes for slices, cakes and biscuits, venue and styling ideas as well as tips and tricks for things like “How to fill a tiered cake-stand”. If you appreciate afternoon tea and fine vintage crockery, or just want a dose of pretty, check out Sweet Tea.

Urban  Rustic | This blog by Sandy from Sydney, Australia, is a virtual emporium of beautiful, functional and well-made vintage and second-hand objects for the home.  Sandy is a designer, stylist, collector and bargain hunter. Just about everything in Sandy’s collection is available for sale or hire. Urban Rustic is lots of fun and an antidote to the mass production of chain stores.

Questions for my nominees to answer:

1. When and where in your house do you blog?

2. Describe the view from your nearest window.

3. What would be your ideal meal?

4. What’s your favourite fashion and/or decorating era and why?

5. How do you spend the first hour of a typical  day?

6. What would be your ideal way to spend a day?

7. If you could give one piece of advice to your 15-year-old self, what would it be? For example, mine would be, “You ain’t never gonna marry George Michael, so stop researching which brand of Whiskey he prefers and study for your exams instead!”

Thanks again Hannah for the nomination! Please do check out Hannah’s blog Popcorn and Polka Dots, as well as the other blogs I’ve nominated today.