Monday, September 13, 2010

Aussie Party time for Justine

All women who have ever entertained at home know it’s no small feat.

It started on Thursday. Usually, for just the two of us, I shop around the corner at the Co-op and with smiling Sakti at the Fruit & Veg, but this party called for a trip to gourmet-splendiferous Waitrose.

Because we don’t own a car since moving to the big city, and being impossible to haul 20 bags of groceries on the bus, we hired a car from the Connect club to pull off the mammoth shop.

When sis-outlaw Christine touched down at Heathrow on Saturday morning, fresh from the Land of Oz, she set off with Andrew to pop in on Liz at Buck House while I got stuck into the wonder dips.

In the midst of the messy business of baking eggplants, (that’s aubergine to you English readers), boiling chickpeas, chopping garlic and chilli and squeezing lemons, I wondered ‘why bother’ with whipping up homemade dips when I could rip the lid off the fantastic plastic in a snap and be done with it! Nevertheless I was eager to show off my healthy new cuisine to the party throng so I ended up with a mountain of Baba Ganoush and Houmous fit for an Arabian feast and Guacamole any Mexican mamma would be proud of.

The gooey lentil burger mixture was left to bind in the fridge overnight and the hand-ground pesto, bursting with fragrant basil, was set to go.

On Sunday, the day dawned bright and sunny. What a lucky break in Autumn which can swing either way. So we borrowed some chairs from the neighbours, Andrew zapped the mower over the tiny patch of lawn that is our backyard and we assembled the seating and tropical drinks trolley alongside the squirrel feeder and jasmine bush.

I whipped up the now famous vegan chocolate cake loaded with the last of the summer raspberries. This was Justine’s 22nd birthday cake. She was in Australia for her 21st with her larger-than-life, adorable boyfriend, Andreas who threw the most spectacular surprise birthday bash so this was our chance to give her a homespun party in our new digs.

As coincidence would have it, seemed every stray Aussie under the southern cross decided to blow in right on cue for the celebration; Auntie Chris was returning for the first time ever to Old Blighty after migrating in her parents’ arms as a baby. Tom’s beautiful girlfriend, Hannah had arrived with her dancing shoes ready to take on West End. Emma’s parents Andy and Cathy were over from Bris Vegas and the marvellously mellow Marcus had jetted in, all sun-kissed from Bali.

What a delightful collection of friends Justine has gathered around her in just 18 months of moving countries and getting established in London. It was a hoot to meet animated actress Teresa who could launch into an entertaining performance with every turn of the conversation.

Jussy’s bubbly flat mate Gillian is the genuine article Brit amidst a bevy of Aussie chicks. Sweet young Emily is a girlfriend from Jussy’s high school days doing her Overseas Experience (OSE).

Big Brother Daniel was looking sharp in a new jacket. He has made his little sister welcome in the UK by including her in his vast circle of friends, amongst them the amiable, fun-loving Michael and his stunning finance Alma.

And the muso lads, Andy and Tom, Jordan and Kano were fast converting to my pitta pizzas, while soaking up the fading rays stretched out on the sun loungers. I’m sure the beer helped the chewy crusts go down!

My new gal pal, the flamboyant Chrissy made the trip from Derbyshire to join the festivities and witness the extravagant speeches, our great family tradition. After proud dad, big brother and me had all made lavish tributes toasting our adorable Jussy, exuberant boyfriend Andy stepped up and sent shockwaves through everyone’s spine and sparked a collective gasp when he dropped to one knee to propose! But it was just a teasing practise run for the real thing.

And then Devoted Dad suggested we go around the circle and everyone got to say nice things about Jussy. The love and genuine affection flowed like honey for a gorgeous girl with the kindest heart. But as her dad stated proudly, she is no longer a girl but a young woman in all her radiant beauty, on the threshold of her glorious 20s.

As if all this wasn’t enough to fill a mother’s heart to the brim, once we could coax Tom to pick up the guitar, the Beatles sing-along session got underway. My lover-man was on the other guitar and everyone was in fine voice. Young Jordan graced us with a dramatic flourish on the keyboard.

It was outrageous fun belting out old favourites until late into the night and if the neighbours didn’t know we were Aussies before they sure did after our rowdy rendition of Still Call Australia Home!

It was a night to remember and worth every bit of effort and all the washing-up (thanks Chris!) These celebrations are the reward for years of parenting, gifts from above, that make life rich and wonderful and make your heart swell with gratitude.

And by the way, for those of you curious about the results of my 28-day Detox, I have lost a total of 53 cms and now fit into my party dress and skinny jeans! We’re off to Ireland tomorrow. There’s no stopping me now!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Life Balance at Last!

Remember when you were in your highly-charged 20s, partying hard, looking for love in all the wrong places, battling hang-overs and dramas, sleeping late, scoffing junk food, working long hours, clashing with the boss, trying to pay your rent, buy your first car and save for that whirlwind trip!

Don’t worry, you were perfectly normal! The decade of your 20s is meant to be turbulent. It’s the stage of life when ambition and hormones are running rampant as you get on with the ‘psychological tasks’ of establishing your career, ‘mate selection’ and becoming an independent adult.

In your 20s, you were biologically wired to seek a mate at this prime reproductive season and that’s why manic energy was poured into partying and pursuing attractive partners. But simultaneously you were striving to become an independent, capable adult as you aspired to gain an education, achieve on the job and manage your finances.

That was a lot to master in a decade and it is no wonder that the notion of life balance was hard to grasp and even harder to pull off.

Along came the decade of your 30s and you probably found yourself raising a family while trying to hold down a demanding job and pay off a mortgage in between running the kids around to ballet classes and football games, supervising homework, battling loads of laundry, throwing barbecues for friends and scheduling ‘date nights’ with your spouse although you could barely stay awake for the romance! The 30s were exhausting!

Having survived the obligatory midlife crisis in your 40s when your marriage, health and/or career collapsed under the strain, you have now recovered your pep. Renewed and redeemed, you are sitting pretty, a little battered perhaps, but optimistic and resilient in the 50s, ready for a whole new exciting stage of life. Well that’s MY story anyway! And I suspect you have shared a similar jaunt through the decades because we humans are not really that different, as much as we like to imagine we are unique!

This brings me to the elusive topic of life balance. Life can be divided into three core areas; career, relationships and healthy lifestyle. Having reached the maturity and wisdom of your 50s or older, you have probably achieved, quite intuitively, a natural balance of time spent in these three parts of life.

Your career is the domain of your intellect and by now you will be feeling competent in your chosen field with a stockpile of knowledge and skills while hopefully being open to learn more and adapt to new ways.

You will be smart enough to limit the hours spent working to a reasonable amount; say four to eight hours a day. Whether part-time or full-time, paid or voluntary, your work represents the culmination of your career and life experience and a way to make a contribution to society and future generations.

At this mature stage of life, you are wise enough to know that time invested into close relationships with family and friends is crucial to your wellbeing. It is wise to make quality time with your husband or wife, your grown-up kids, grandkids and other family members and long-time cherished friends. However it is still possible and vital to make new friends because new friendships are invigorating.

I include ‘personal growth’ in the category of relationships because it is through close relationships with others that we really learn to heal old wounds, communicate and love.

Finally as an Empty Nester with kids flown the coup, you can reclaim the interests and passions of your youth and revive your Lost Self that was buried under a pile of mundane chores. This is the area of life I call Healthy Lifestyle.

You should now have more leisure time to fill with enjoyable recreations, hobbies and interests. Make sure you put effort into keeping fit and healthy.

My interests include travelling and discovering different countries and cultures. I have a massive bucket list of fascinating places to visit before I kick the proverbial.

I love music. I never did achieve my ambition of becoming a famous folk singer-songwriter however I can now fully appreciate the musical talents of truly gifted performers! I plan to attend countless London clubs and concerts and see every West End musical several times!

And I have a whole list of recreations I’m determined to have a go at over the coming decade! These strenuous activities include hiking on the Burren in Ireland’s county Clare (next week!) hiking in Tuscany, sailing in the Greek Islands, dancing in Spain, cycling in the South of France, horse riding in Montana and skiing on the Alps! I’m on my way to achieving my goal weight, ready to hit the gym to build core strength and muscles to support my skeletal frame so I will make ‘old bones’.

50plus is the time to live life to the full and live life in balance; spending the right amount of each day devoted to the three important aspects of life to be a well-rounded, fulfilled and valuable human being.