The most Sensible of all

sense-sensibility

JANE AUSTEN – Sense and Sensibility

“I shall call hills steep, which ought to be bold; surfaces strange and uncouth, which ought to be irregular and rugged; and distant objects out of sight, which ought only to be indistinct through the soft medium of a hazy atmosphere.”

This telling line comes from Edward, our protagonist Elinor’s love interest. And as is so common in an Austen novel, the questions of sense and who we are, people in general and how varying things drive us, take central focus.

From pride and our bias in judging others, to how we differ wildly in similar circumstances, and hold and present ourselves to the world in light of it all… Sense and Sensibility is a novel of character study, and a novel one at that. 😉

But isn’t a novel about people, and who we are inherently, going to maybe, bore a reader? All those questions of why, how, and then throw in class and money… how can that be at all entertaining? How can it fill 394 pages with tiny type, and keep you enthralled?

Why, it is fascinating simply by being the focus on one of the most interesting animals on the planet… humans! We are the most unique species, in all of our differing views, the things that drive us, our individual opinions and those things that light our fire… the way we respond to things or NOT, and even how we conduct ourselves in our day to day… Jane Austen takes these questions and applies them to, yet another love story.

An interesting one. (There is no other option for her).

The story focuses primarily on the two eldest sisters in a family of 3, after their father has fallen to illness and passed on. Elinor, our protagonist: reserved, careful and smart with her statements which are well thought out and considered before they are brought to air –

“…as Elinor had had time enough to collect her thoughts, she was able to give such an answer, and make such observations, as the subject might naturally be supposed to produce.”

And then Marianne, the slightly younger sister, and also you could say, young and immature in heart and nature. Because Marianne is such a polar opposite of her sister, it is this difference that makes the story move in such an interesting fashion. Marianne is passionate, liberal with her thoughts and opinions, and thinks anything that isn’t bold and brash and colourful is just plain boring.

“I could not be happy with a man whose taste did not in every point coincide with my own. He must enter into all my feelings; the same books, the same music must charm us both… to hear those beautiful lines which have frequently almost driven me wild, pronounced with such impenetrable calmness, such dreadful indifference!”

And an interesting picture begins to form. Perhaps Elinor says it best (and so eloquently as she does) in regards to Marianne’s statement about having no one to watch falling leaves with:

“It is not everyone who has your passion for dead leaves.”

The outline of the story is that Elinor has feelings for a man named Edward – he like her is serious, introverted and takes care before he speaks, but whether that is due to a regard for others or due to his own character, is either here or there. Marianne meanwhile falls head over heels for the animated and vivid Willoughby – a character to match her own, he is passionate and robust, and the two hit it off immediately and you can imagine nothing but a bright future for the two… or can you? It is a novel after all, and if the characters are happy at the start, you can be assured that romance will not ride a steady course right through to the end.

Not only does the love story for both girls take a decidedly different course from the other, both still with an emphasis on the unfavourable, but the way both girls take to their disappointments also varies wildly. It is summed up perfectly and with such eloquence by Marianne when she says:

“..our situations then are alike. We have neither of us any thing to tell; you, because you do not communicate, and I, because I conceal nothing.”

Marianne cannot be reminded of Willoughby and her distress at his parting; she seems to be reminded of him wherever she goes, as portrayed here:

“…and though her family were most anxiously attentive to her comfort, it was impossible for them, if they spoke at all, to keep clear of every subject which her feelings connected with him.”

It is so true how when you are missing someone, you tend to see them in every place you go, every song you hear, every spot of sunshine and drop of rain… all these things, in one way or another remind you of the absence of who you love. Their loss, amplifies the memories and the reminders.

Elinor on the other hand takes an entirely different approach. It reads:

“Elinor sat down to her drawing-table as soon as he was out of the house, busily employed herself the whole day, neither sought nor avoided the mention of his name, appeared to interest herself almost as much as ever in the general concerns of the family, and if, by this conduct, she did not lessen her own grief, it was at least prevented from unnecessary increase, and her mother and sisters were spared much solicitude on her account.”

We see this theme dominant within Elinor throughout the novel, and even though she can be ‘practical’ around her loved ones and play pretend that all is ok, she cannot hide from her true inner feelings only known to herself in private, and us the reader:

“In Edward – she knew not what she saw, nor what she wished to see; – happy or unhappy, – nothing pleased her; she turned away her head from every sketch of him.”

This quiet torment isn’t lost on Marianne who is otherwise preoccupied with her own unattachment, or even their mother Mrs Dashwood, who later reflects that Elinor’s suffering may not have been as grand, loud or excessive in display as Marianne’s, but that does not mean it was not as strong.

Even in happiness, Elinor is subdued:

“Elinor could not be cheerful. Her joy was of a different kind, and led to any thing rather than to gaiety… it led to no outward demonstrations of joy, no words, no smiles. All within Elinor’s breast was satisfaction, silent and strong.”

The starkly different characters that Austen paints does not stop with the two sisters. As is common in a Jane Austen novel, the supporting cast are hilarious, comical, and so vividly clear as your read their lines, it is hard to imagine Austen not basing these on actual people she came across, so precise is her description of them.

A fantastic passage that very accurately paints a clear picture of many characters is this section:

“Here comes Marianne,” cried Sir John. “Now, Palmer, you shall see a monstrous pretty girl.”

He immediately went into the passage, opened the front door, and ushered her in himself. Mrs Jennings asked her, as soon as she appeared, if she had not been to Allenham; and Mrs Palmer laughed so heartily at the question, as to show she understood it. Mr. Palmer looked up on her entering the room, stared at her some minutes, and then returned to his newspaper. Mrs. Palmer’s eye was now caught by the drawings which hung round the room. She got up to examine them.

“Oh! dear, how beautiful these are! Well! how delightful! Do but look, mama, how sweet! I declare they are quite charming; I could look at them forever.” And then sitting down again, she very soon forgot that there were any such things in the room.”

The subtleties and nuances on display here are so obvious in reading, and they paint such a vivid picture of each person. Another example of character is here, with the animated Mrs Jennings talking:

“… and how forlorn we shall be, when I come back!-Lord! we shall sit and gape at one another as dull as two cats.”

Some of these lines are so ridiculous, I think they surely came from a real person, they are just that outrageous to make up. Nonetheless, Austen’s ability to show character through dialogue is remarkably strong and a true talent.

Elinor makes her own observations on character when thinking about Mr and Mrs Palmer:

“…wondering at Charlotte’s being so happy without a cause, at Mr. Palmer’s acting so simply, with good abilities, and at the strange unsuitableness that often existed between husband and wife…”

Perhaps Austen’s character descriptions ring so true, because at their foundation they do display the genuine human condition. Regardless of this being written over 200 years ago, human emotions are fundamentally the same, and whether we have servants or not, how we react to misfortune, to good news, and to others, will remain as is through the years… subject to our own personal character of course.

It led me to calling out ‘I know people like this!’ when I read the following. In talking about her sister Marianne’s temper, Elinor thinks:

“Opposition on so tender a subject would only attach her the more to her own opinion.”

Ha! Tell me you don’t know someone like that!

Again with Marianne, and also her mother, Elinor reflects:

“They gave themselves up wholly to their sorrow…”

You know there are people who just get on with it and try to move on when something bad happens, and then there is the aforementioned, who wallow in pity and feel it in every part of their bones, body, and soul, and let ALL who pass their path know about it?

She captured that perfectly.

Even the practical Elinor falls prey to this pity at times, with the humorous thought:

“After sitting with them a few minutes, the Miss Steeles returned to the Park, and Elinor was then at liberty to think and be wretched.”

And there can even be stark differences between two outwardly passionate people, especially where matters of the heart are concerned. Here Elinor is observing Marianne at the shop compared to Mrs Palmer:

“Restless and dissatisfied everywhere, her sister could never obtain her opinion of any article of purchase, however it might equally concern them both: she received no pleasure from anything; was only impatient to be at home again, and could with difficulty govern her vexation at the tediousness of Mrs. Palmer, whose eye was caught by everything pretty, expensive, or new; who was wild to buy all, could determine on none, and dawdled away her time in rapture and indecision.”

Perhaps it was most hilarious (or I found it so as I have a child and know it to be true!) at the following observation early on in the novel:

“On every formal visit a child ought to be of the party, by way of provision for discourse. In the present case it took up 10 minutes to determine whether the boy were most like his father or mother, and in what particular he resembled either, for of course every body differed, and every body was astonished at the opinion of the others.”

SO TRUE.

As is the case with a Jane Austen novel, you (at least I) find things to be highly fascinated with, at the very least because of the time and era her stories were based in, as well as the way she writes and how she paints certain characters… well this time it was the reoccurrence of a certain word… monstrous.

Monstrous pretty. Monstrous glad. Monstrous lucky. There were so many ‘monstrous’ mentions, and by so many differing characters, I almost went around saying it myself… monstrous!

And then again, the era difference came through strongly in specific moments. Not just with their hierarchies of class or strong dependence on continual income through inheritance, but in the way they dealt with stress, or sickness.

Wine. Now I know that people do de-stress with a glass of red, I am not throwing stones from my glass house, since I do it too. But when you are sick with agony and distress and feel weak with an aching head, and the treatment is, wine?

Hell maybe they had something going there.

This is what Elinor ‘procures’ for her sister upon receiving some devastating news for her. It allows her to finally ‘speak.’

Of course.

And on another slightly more comical note, when Marianne leaves a room beside herself with sadness, Mrs Jennings laments:

“…how it grieves me to see her! And I declare if she is not gone away without finishing her wine! And the dried cherries too! Lord!”

Excuse me for a moment for being so blunt… but lady, the girl doesn’t give a shit about your cherries. She is heartbroken!

Be prepared, for there are a lot of characters. I am ashamed to say it took me well over a year to start and finish this book, to no fault of the novel, but moving house happened somewhere in between the reading, and every time I read the book in dribs and drabs, I honestly had to turn back to earlier pages and remember who everyone was, and why so many names seemed so alike… from Dashwoods to Steeles to Ferrars’ and Jennings’… not to mention the Sirs, Colonels and Lady’s! Keeping them straight was a task, yet towards the end of the book it was slightly easier to remember a cast you had been acquainted with for a while already.

But while we are at it, can I say, what kind of daft name is Fanny? Why, Austen cast that name perfectly I think 😉

At the end, things wrap themselves up perfectly, as is common in this type of classic literature… but Austen’s clever storytelling definitely has you stressing and guessing ‘how,’ repeatedly. In fact she writes herself into such a corner, that at one point I could see no way out! And then, an escape hole!… and not the garish “wake up and realise it was all a dream” weak attempt to solve everything and bring everyone to some kind of equilibrium. Austen managed to untangle the situations she had set up so brilliantly, doing it so realistically, and using the one main important trait the whole book was about: sensibilities.

And yet it was this thing that slightly irked me. Sure I was content with the ending… but the way it came about, and what was said… no, not really. Sacrifice and settling were themes that prevailed, and in one such situation the matter of ‘duty’ was heavily featured… I was at first quite jarred by this sentiment, but I took a step back and looked at the time this book was set in… and even though I was in complete disagreeance with the choice and how it came about, I was understanding that that is just how it was at the time.

My frustration due to my preference for passion and outward displays continued with the theme of ‘settling’… what? This seemed like a bit of a weak explanation for me, and even though things evolved to something grander and fuller, still this was something that upset me. I could understand the story, the realistic ending, sure, but it was something that did not sit well, even now as I think back. I still like the story, and yet this one thing, maybe more so than the ‘duty’ theme, irritated me to no end. I wondered, just because I disagreed, does that mean it was not right, it was not true? Many questions may arise when reading this book, and nothing more so than the ending will have you questioning: what would you do? What would you be happy with?

This novel in short, is a great character study on why we do the things we do, what drives us to do them, and more specifically, why we do the things that we do when in love. What makes sense for some can be completely alien for another, and yet it is in these differing ways that we learn about each other, we grow, we experience something we have not been privy to before, and we gain an enormous insight into the ‘monstrous’ complicated human condition.

And that is what Jane Austen does so well, and explores methodically with great humour, wit and sensitivity.

I will close on some lovely observations. I loved the insight and attention to detail in the following expression:

“Mrs. Ferrars,” added he, lowering his voice to the tone becoming so important a subject…”

Oh wow. Just magical. Her observation of how people speak and react is another level. She has to be one of the greatest writers of all time. And lastly, this gem:

“But it was too late. Hope had already entered; and feeling all its anxious flutter, she bent over her sister to watch – she hardly knew for what.”

Ahh… Goosebumps. If you haven’t already, please do yourself a favour and read this book… it would be highly un-sensible, not to. 😉

Please let me know your thoughts on Sense and Sensibility in the comments below, I would love to discuss with you. 🙂

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Umpteen reasons why you should LOVE Winter

It hit me one Saturday morning during a work shift, as I left the warm confines of my place of employment to walk down the road and grab a coffee. Feeling that fresh air, that Winter chill on my face, reminded me of the time I felt it last year, and suddenly I was down memory lane, remembering the things about Winter you choose so hard to forget when it is done and dusted for the year.

So, then, I tried harder to remember. What fascinates me about this time of year, is that once it is upon us, it’s actually not that bad. It’s the anticipation of it – that is the shits, and one of the major factors of making the entire season that much more unbearable.

Hey, calm down… I’m not like, a ‘Winter ambassador’ or something! I am the first to put up my hand and forge ahead with the get-rid-of-Winter fan club. I wouldn’t say I HATE it, since that is a strong word, that I HATE to use (see what I did there?) but I do in fact, detest the coldest of seasons to a degree that once the longest day has come and gone in January, I am in slow grief over the gradual dissemination of Summer.

But like I said above: it ain’t too bad. I’ve been most surprised by my own attitude towards it, in finding that there are actually plenty of great things to enjoy, and celebrate, about the coldest time of the year! You don’t say! Let me hear it! Well ok then, here is my list of things to get your blood boiling…

(And don’t fret, this isn’t one of those bullshit ‘buy a really good coat and scarves’ nonsense post. We all know that we need more than layers to make up for the fact of Winter, duh).

1. But First, Coffee.

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And so one of my fave coffee quotes signals the beginning of this Winter Warm-up list. When else to drink, and enjoy coffee most, than in Winter? Not only does the caffeine hit give you a burst of much needed non-hibernating energy, but it is WARM, and therefore, heats you up from the inside-out. This is a super simple and accessible way to keep you happy, buzzing and hot, ALL DAY LONG. Make it at home, or buy it out and about… really, this one is a no-brainer.

 

2. To café, OR, to café…

And, how to get to your hot coffee? Why, you enter a café of course. Just picture it: you are in the freezing winds, walking briskly to your café of choice so as to remove yourself from the unnerving elements, when you finally, step inside, and –

Ahhh. That moment.

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You know that moment, when the feeling of cold is replaced by the scent of coffee beans, and you are away from the outdoors, but can still see everything including all the fools still stuck out in the real world? And you’re ‘in here?’ and about to get a coffee? Yeah that’s great. Café-ing it, not just for coffee, but for anything in Winter – be it brekkie, lunch or any other fare – is a beautiful way to while away the day. Choose a good one, a cosy spot, and watch the world go by… just see if you don’t feel better about Winter when you put yourself in this supreme predicament…

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3. Walk This Way…

On a contradictory note, on those cold and still Wintery days, sometimes it can be somewhat, what is the word, rejuvenating! to take a nice long walk.

Yes, the air can be biting. Yes, the cold will still seep through your clothes. But there’s something about a fresh, freezing-cold walk that awakens the senses, both physical and mental, as it is often when I am walking in the cold that my creative mind is switched on. I don’t know why, but a brisk walk in Winter allows me to daydream and plan for any future blog posts (how this one came about) much more efficiently than in Summer. Maybe it’s the fact that other than getting into a heated area immediately, there is no other thought trying to take up head space like it does in Summer, where I would be planning future events and social gatherings, and the things I’ll be doing for the next 3 weekends. In Winter, it’s just Winter, and my creative thoughts are allowed to fly beside the recurring thought of ‘get inside.’

I don’t like to be in the cold, and yet a walk like this brings about a whimsical dreamlike effect to my walk, where I find myself observing, being in the moment, and smiling often. I’m not wishing myself out of this hellhole, I’m just smiling. I’m not trying to prove a point… Next.

4. Stay IN

Although I absolutely love Summer, there is one thing that gets tiring by the end of the season: the constant go-go-go. Summer makes you feel like you have to be super-efficient and on top of the world, heading to every social event, enjoying every ounce of sunshine, waking at the crack of dawn, and starting a new body-building course when you’re not preparing your new gluten-free, dairy-free, animal-free, everything of any joy or texture or enjoyment-free diet. It is FULL on.

But Winter allows you to just chill. Hibernate like a bear, and in doing so, drink all the hot chocolate/tea/coffee before doing so. If there is any season where you should feel the least guilt about doing nothing, and where you should completely and utterly embrace the act of doing absolutely nothing, it is Winter. It’s okay, you will be at it again in a couple of months time…

5. Pimp up your home

But, if you absolutely HAVE to, you could always forgo sitting around and chilling on the couch, with doing something around the house. Just as our sanity and ‘me time’ gets neglected in Summer, so too does the house, and house ‘stuff.’ You know those odd jobs. The broken door handle. The 3rd light bulb that has been burnt out in the lounge room for 4 months. The pile of boxes that hasn’t been broken down into pieces. That heap of junk in your garage that you know a charity would love, but alas, Summer time.

In Winter, it is ALL possible. Case in point. We had bought new door handles from Bunnings to replace our old ones, as we wanted to spruce up the 80s-style house we had recently moved into. They remained untouched for months and months, ALL THROUGH SUMMER, and it was only when the cold hit, that Hubbie finally started replacing them.

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Winter is the best time to look outward-in. Look around you and see what needs a little TLC, and then proceed accordingly. Home improvements, up-dos, renos – whatever it is, you will feel soooo much better for it, and not at all like a lazy bear once you are done.

6. Go OCD, mofos

And for those of you like me, that love to sort and clean and organise… well, what are you waiting for? Use these cold months to file away. File to your freaking hearts content. Label and shelve and box. Store those photos in chronological order, organise your home family videos, and clean up your menu folder so that you don’t have crappy old recipes in there that you won’t even sniff at again. There is no better feeling then tackling a long, put-off job, and I swear, as Winter ends and Spring begins, the sense of accomplishment you feel in knowing everything is sorted and ready for another season/year… GOLD. GO you OCD peeps, GO!

7. Jump!

Ok, so this is kinda parent-specific. But, you don’t need to be a recently-acquired trampoline owner for a cheeky monkey princess like I have, to jump. You probably do need a child of some kind, so if you don’t have any of your own, borrow one – like you probably have a niece, or nephew, or know someone who would LOVE for you to kindly offer their brood a day out? (You will be on their Christmas card list FOREVER, I promise you).

But my point is, be childlike. Jumping is not only fun, good for you, and is healthy (hey, exercise), but it warms you up too! And if you think jumping is only for kids – 20 seconds on the thing and you will remember what a jumping extraordinaire you used to be 20 or so years ago… and then it will be the kid trying to get you off the trampoline, not you, them.

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8. A good book

So, a no-brainer. Totally. But when else is it more acceptable and necessary to snuggle up with a book and lose yourself within its pages? Never, ever, EVER. Even on holiday, you should be doing things and seeing things, but at home, in Winter? Perfect reading weather.

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Whether it’s at home, on your lunch break, or on the train, waiting for your doctors appointment (that brisk walk/jumping probably gave you a little cough, ahem*) or at the park while the kiddies play, there is really no better time to invest in a good book.

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9. SLEEP

So a totally acceptable place to read is in bed, but if you’d rather not even do that, you can just sleep. I know this is such a ‘Duh, Fred’ point, but still, it HAS TO be said. Fred.

Sleep ’til your big hearts content. Of course this is totally dependant on whether you have a paying job or go to regular schooling (most of the Western population), but in your down time, this is a perfectly acceptable hobby. Yep. Even if you have kids that don’t let you breathe, just pull them in, throw a blanket over your heads, and once the hilarities have died down, watch them fall into a slumber. You will be there too soon, don’t worry.

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Sleep on the bed, sleep on the couch… wherever you wish. Just make sure it’s comfy and inviting, there are plenty of blankets, and a real nice place to rest your head. Ahhhh.

10. Shop ’til you Drop

Let’s change tack and ramp it up a little, to my favourite past-time! Like seriously, how annoying is it in Summer, when you need some new clothes/shoes/pillows/coffee beans, and you head into the confines of a multi-level shopping centre, but it’s a stunning, and I mean STUNNING day out? You don’t want to miss out on that, and stay indoors most of the day? This is so especially true for us Melburnians, as sunshine, even in Summer of all seasons, can be soooo fleeting.

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But in Winter? Hell, bring the shopping on! You won’t miss out on ANYTHING because its so cold and miserable out! YAY. Shop to your hearts content, in fact, shop for all seasons, and stay ahead of the pack.

11. Work it out 

Ok, so I know some of you might wanna swipe me over this one, as I am known for finding gratitude in the most wide-ranging of places… but I tell you, work really IS better when it’s cold. I mean, just look at the below:

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How miserable is the above photo? Okay well it is oddly pretty in the dim light, but you know what I mean… I am not really missing out. It’s taken from my work window… do I wanna go outside? Hell no!

Work is actually not too bad, and you can almost be grateful to be in the confines of work, when it is so shit-faced outside. You will never be sad being at work during Winter, unless of course you had to get up at 5am like me, and are staring out the kitchen window at 7am thinking of Hubbie and baby girl asleep and warm in bed… damn.

TRY to be grateful for work while you can, in Winter, at the very least.

12. Let’s go to the beach

Your welcome. Ok so maybe not Summer-thumping-beach-vibes weather at the mo, but you know where I’m headed.

This may be a bit left-of-centre for some, but for me being fortunate enough to live BY the beach, not so. But either way, a trip to the beach is for most in our fair country, accessible and do-able.

Why should you do it, you cry? Cold, winds, uninviting waters…

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What do you think? I’m not telling you to jump in. No, hell no. I’m just saying that the ocean views bring about a sense of calmness, of peace, of reflection, and retrospection, and the waters don’t even have to be still and unrippled. No. They are in fact most beautiful and spectacular when they are savage, wild and unleashed, ripping against the shore or pier or rocks, and showing you the brutal nature of Mother Earth herself.

Rug up and try it. See how your mind feels afterwards.

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13. Do something NEW

While you’re out and about at the beach, how’s about you keep trying new things, and enrol in a course of some kind. (Like not literally walk down the road, just think about it). Is there something you’ve always wanted to do? Like maybe, learn a new language? Try your hand at some knitting? Learn how to cook like a chef? Drive a manual car? For some creative pursuits, you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your own home – just log in and you’re connected.

Doing something you’ve been wanting to do for a while is not just fulfilling, as you are catering to yours truly, yourself, but you are putting yourself out there in a vulnerable position. Only when you are vulnerable, can you really learn anything. Since everything is on the down-low in Winter, there is no time like the present to focus in on yourself, and give something new a go. Time to study, reflect on where you want to go in life, and centre yourself both spiritually and mentally, is the perfect cold-time creative pursuit. Just try. You won’t lose a thing.

14. Cook up a storm! 

While doing something new, you may want to try your hand at some new recipes.. or old, whatever tickles your fancy. But what I love about this coldest of seasons, is the deliciously warm dishes to match. Or should I say, warm you right up. Whether it be a vegetable curry

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a cauliflower soup

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or some yummy baked goods

there is nothing quite so inviting on a cold Winter’s night, than to indulge in warming, delicious and comforting, Winter-specific foods. Slow-cooked meals, lasagnes, roasts… the list goes on and on and on. And the upside? When you are buying Winter-y things like cauliflower for your soup, you are buying in season, so it is cheaper! Winning 🙂 Go foodie mad.

15. Catch up with some old ‘friends’

Now, I don’t mean ACTUAL friends, and boy would it be appropriate here if I actually  loved the show of the same name. Instead I’m talking of your movies and your DVD box sets. Plop yourself in a comfy place, and get ‘re-acquainted.’ I feel forever-guilty whenever I sit on the couch – I always feel like I should be doing something more worthy, more important, and being a Mum makes the feelings more so. This is an activity I rarely indulge in.

But this Winter, I am really going to take it on board… and what better way to feel better about the blowing winds outside, than to be laughing/crying/hysterically shaking, over the antics of some old faves.

You don’t even have to have the DVDs. Shows like Sex and the City are on repeat on TV, there are streaming devices, and have you heard of Netflix? People even ‘download’… I’m not condoning it, I’m just saying, ok?

It’s never been easier to catch up with, or watch a brand new series to get stuck into. Need tips? Some of my old faves:

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The above mentioned, my fave gal pals. “Abso-fucking-lutely” amazing.

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Angel. An amazing series that is 5 seasons long, and is totally worth investing your life into. Get ready to have your soul literally ripped apart, thanks Joss Whedon (no really, thank you!)

Dawson’s Creek is actually on free-to-air Go! at the moment. My face when I realised this? Bliss 🙂  I know it’s a teenage show, but it’s one of my ol’ faithfuls, and besides, the actors were probably my age when they filmed it, so….

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my current must-watch on TV, Shark Tank. This is splendid in every way. Seeing the investors rip through and tear to shreds some of the up-and-coming entrepreneurs and inventors, is just brilliant. You must watch this show.

So grab a warm drink, snuggle up on the couch (child or partner is optional) and chill-ax….

16. Bust a move.

Exercise. I know I know, it’s not bikini time, and it’s probably the only time of the year when there is no pressure to be beach-ready… but it doesn’t mean you can’t devote time to yourself to be healthy.

Still not sold? You don’t even have to leave the house. There are a world of gyms, gym classes, personal trainers, and get-fit programmes out there, and there as just as many exercise DVDs! Find what tickles your fancy, and do it in the privacy of your own home.

Do as I do, and pop on some trakkies, put on that old Zumba DVD, and get dancing! Exercise gets you going and warms you up at a time when it is so easy to be sluggish and sloth-like. And you know what I was so surprised to find? Even one session a week (baby steps) has given me increased flexibility and energy to run after a certain 3 year-old rascal. True story.

17. A ‘warming’ drink

I couldn’t bulk ‘warm drinks’ with ‘coffee,’ as coffee is just too damn important to me to be watered down like that… but I conclude with the option, that if you don’t like coffee, maybe tea is more your fancy?

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Or maybe a spicy chai latte can rub you totally up the right way

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No? Vino? There’s nothing like a good glass of red to get the fires burning

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Wanna get more creative? I give you, a combination of the last two options, Gluhwein…

https://www.chowhound.com/recipes/german-mulled-wine-gluhwein-30925

Which is German Mulled Wine. It’s a whole lot of fabulous spices and wine/alcohol, warmed up, and you will create some GREAT memories in the making and drinking of it, let me assure you.

If you can’t be happy with a glass of wine/mug of tea/brew of gluhwein, while the winds are raging outside your window, well then YOU CAN’T BE SAVED!

 

So, how did I go? Have I given you renewed (or maybe just NEW) inspiration to totally LOVE Winter? We may be about half-way through the coldest of seasons, but living in Melbourne, we ALL KNOW it’s going to totally screw us up right up ’til November, if we’re lucky.

So guys. Pick a point and get to it. If you think I’ve left anything out, drop me a line!

(I say as I finish off a warm mug of tea…)

 

 

Spring on over to (glorious!) Panton’s

Panton Hill Vineyard and Winery
145 Manuka Road Panton Hill

Visiting a winery had been an event-in-waiting for over three years. Before we had fallen pregnant with baby girl, I had been desperate to go to one and quite honestly, get nicely plastered before officially getting off the alcohol wagon for my lonngggg stop-over to responsible-parentsville. We had managed to stop at one, but it hadn’t really fulfilled my winery desires: there had not been a menu available on the day we visited, and though we sampled some wines and did take a bottle home, I had really wanted the full winery experience: food, wine, sitting in the splendid sunshine, ALL OF IT.

I’m an elephant, and I don’t forget. These unfulfilled experiences stay in my mind until the mother-fuckers are ticked off my anal to-do-in-life list.

I don’t even know how we came to the idea though – I think it went something like ‘this Sunday is going to be super awesome weather/this Sunday we are free/what can we do on such a nice day/let’s eat out…. Winery!’

Yes something like that.

So, on the first super amazing Spring Day of September, we headed over to Panton Hill Vineyard and Winery to make my winery dreams come true.

Why Panton’s? Honestly, I was looking at wineries close to our vicinity of town. This one was a 30 minute drive, and compared with wineries of similar distance as well as neighbouring town wineries, this one had a menu on weekends and looked really lovely. The website mentioned something about blending Australian and European surrounds, and I immediately went ‘ding! sold.’

I called them on a Thursday to see if I had to book in advance (if you go somewhere with your child and you don’t book beforehand, you’re uber-confident as well as playing roulette with some gangster Murphy’s Law fairies) and when no one answered I left a message revealing our Sunday intentions.

That night I got a call back, advising that yes, we needed to book, especially as it was going to be a gloriously sunny day. The lady I spoke to was lovely and booked us for 1pm.

Come amazing Sunday lunch, and here Hubbie, baby girl and I are, driving through Eltham and then Diamond Creek, via winding roads and greenery in all directions to finally make our way to a gravel-y, slow, long, driveway leading to Panton’s. The first car park we came across was full, but Hubbie spotted a sign alluding to more spaces behind the building, and so he followed it to find it was so.

After walking into one of the buildings, where there was a private party at one end, and wine tastings up the other, there followed a bit of confusion. There were two nearby buildings, one opposite the one we were in, and one further along the trail, but those two I didn’t see people coming in and out of. Then there was the outside seated area besides this building, with some shaded tables and some next to unopen umbrellas. I had booked for 1pm, but where was the person to seat us? Not to come across all high-brow with my demand of being seated, but as I had been told we were required to book, with the time of 1pm given, it was almost expected that there would be a little reserved sign on a table somewhere with someone waiting to say “Hi Smikg, your table awaits.”

Nope.

I patiently waited behind a couple tasting wines to ask the older gentleman (he appeared to be the only one representing the property around) that we had arrived for lunch and didn’t know where to sit. He said “wherever you like,” and proceeded to point out all the areas we could sit. We headed outside, because we’d just come out of Winter and all.

Here too we hung out for a while. We soon realised there were numbers on other tables (the kind you get when you order so when you sit down the wait staff can find you), but again, no wait staff.

Wait! No, then they appeared. We managed to somewhat successfully flag one young lad down who informed us, once we’d explained our situation (we want food and drink please give it to us) that we were to order and pay inside the building with the gentleman who had been handing out wine tastings. Apparently there was a menu there. Alright then, and back I went. I felt a bit like a see-saw by this stage, but the sun was too damn bright to darken my mood.

I ordered some food and drink, before Hubbie went in to do the same while I now did the babysitting duties, making sure baby girl didn’t throw too many rocks into the nearby fountain and what not. She was having a ball, and usually distractions while we’re out and about, especially when dining, are heavily appreciated, however picking up rocks and throwing them into a pool of water, didn’t seem like it would be heavily appreciated by others. So containing her insane excitement at the task was not-so-fun.

But there was a dog! This was very exciting for baby girl, but we couldn’t let her just wander after it and grab at it, and at the same time, though this sweet dog did seem very hungry, sitting at our feet (and everyone else’s) hoping to be fed, its name tag informed us ‘do not feed the dog!’ Ok then.

We also had the issue of the sun. I know, I know us Melburnians, we whinge all the time “it’s too hot, it’s too cold, it’s too windy, it’s too still now I can’t breathe, it’s just too normal can we have all 4 seasons in one day again?” Anyway, yes we were rapt it was an amazingly beautiful day, and I knew so many people who were out and about and planning so many extraordinary things for this fine Spring day. It was the first one in a LONG time, which my facebook feed also gave testament too at the sheer volume of out-and-about posts that featured that day from almost EVERYONE. However, it was still, it was hot, and sitting under the sun without sunscreen (not used to the fear of not-being white yet so early into Spring) was intense, and then of course, was our sweet baby girl, who we protect like a magpie protects its young swooping down on unsuspecting passersby who hold no intention of malice, just because they are near this time of year. Her precious skin is not for the sun. Our umbrella though, seemed very hard to manoeuver, and it was only when a certain lady came out that I went ‘ahhhh.’

Boss lady. Because she was, it was so damn apparent.

She immediately came to us, knowing we needed it lifted without even asking. She moved through the tables, checking on people, getting things, talking to the suddenly present waiters about what to do. And then we had shade.

And then not long after that, food too:

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We had gotten a few things to share, along with a VB for Hubbie and a glass of Verdelho for me. The menu was primarily pizza, and even the specials that day included lamb on a pizza. It was a fairly casual menu, but still, I didn’t care. There was food, there was alcohol, and there was sun.

We shared the Potato pizza, Classico pizza and Cheese and Spinach Burek. What I had found humorous was when I had asked the man how large the burek was, and he proceeded to give me hand configurations adding that a Turkish man on premises made it. Dude, I know what burek is, my family makes it. That’s like describing to Willy Wonka what chocolate is. And his pronunciation of it was gold. He and his missus may have had accents, but that didn’t allow for the correct pronounciation of it. (Say bu-rek. Pronounce bu, not drawn-out ‘boo,’ but a short ‘bu,’ followed by ‘rek,’ rhyming with ‘neck,’ but the r is short as well, the r Europeans sound out, a bit of a rolling r. Anyway).

I now know that that ‘dude’ goes by the name of Teunis and boss lady, his wife, by Dorothy. I’m not psychic, their website says so. He may not know his burek, but he sure as hell knows his land, and his wine, having purchased that block of land in the ‘70s, transforming it single-handedly into what it is today. When you see the property, you know what an incredible achievement that is. I have such respect for individuals who turn nothing into something unique and spectacular, and Panton Winery sure fits that bill.

The classico pizza had salami, tomatoes, olives and cheese, with the addition of chilli. Hubbie, who had the majority of this one, said he couldn’t really taste the chilli, but still, he ate it all. I had most of the potato pizza, and its combination of rosemary, potatoes, Spanish onion and cheese is always a winner. We all shared the burek which was not served as a loaf as previously indicated (!) but cut up into tiny pieces, all the better as we all nibbled on it and easily fed baby girl pieces too. There were some marinated olives and mushrooms on the side too, and together we finished it all.

Hubbie thought it was fairly standard, however I loved it. Yes the menu was basic, but for me it was more the experience of the setting, wine and food together. Also what was perhaps slightly affecting him was baby girl’s inability to sit down and listen. We did the usual taking turns eating while the other watched her, and when it was my turn to keep her busy while he ate, she and I walked around the grounds while I took some photos of the surrounding bushlands, vineyard, and the picturesque buildings.

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It was getting peaking hot, and with it baby girl’s irritability was cranking up a notch. Getting tired, we didn’t want to push her, but before we left, there was just one thing left to do.

Hubbie watched her while I disappeared here for 20 minutes.

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At first Teunis was meant to give me some wine options, but he got busy and Dorothy stepped in. I had 6 wine taste testings, some red, some white, while two of them I tried decanted. She was asking me if I could taste the difference between the decanted and the standard, and you know, I could, but also, by then we were onto the 5th taste test and it all tasted fine by then. Then she tried to sell me a decanter, and that tipsy side of me was loose, very loose, and very easily persuaded, and Dorothy probably knows to try to sell the decanter on the 5th taste-testing rather than the first, but for some reason this narration kicks in when I start drinking, and the narrator was telling me ‘you know you’re well on your way, don’t just buy something for the sake of it.’

Fortunately for me, the narrator in my mind won out again and I didn’t make a flimsy purchase. I know her decanters were cheaper, but I think I’ll wait and buy a pretty one. Loved the tutorial on why you decanter though, it was very informative.

Anyway, from all of that I walked out with this

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All smiling into the sunlight and whispering to Hubbie as I approached “I just had 6 wine tastings and I’m drunk.”

Yep. Life of a Mum.

We left after that, relieved that baby girl was falling asleep in the car, with sweet memories of rolling hills and wine and mispronounced burek.

Food: 7/10. Yes it was a standard menu, but points for the fresh ingredients (I assume the rosemary we were picking from the shrub with baby girl was used for my potato pizza – but shhh!)

Coffee: N/A. We were really close to ordering it, but Hubbie just couldn’t take the heat (weak) and baby girl’s cheeky antics anymore so we thought we best not to push our stay.

Ambience: Very relaxed. Beautiful. Serene. Amazing surrounds. The buildings, reminiscent of something you may see in Tuscany, transport you to another place and make you feel like you are far, far away, rather than just 30 minutes from home.

People: I was surprised and relieved that we weren’t the only ones with cheeky toddlers. A big family was there, mostly though there were couples and older couples. Also that big party inside the wine-tasting building that was going through the bottles (and so they should).

Staff: I hate to say based on our lovely experience, but kind of not present at first. I put this down not to unwillingness to work or help the guests, but rather the demands placed on them by the people visiting and superb weather. Meaning, they were understaffed. Otherwise they seemed ok, but didn’t hang around to talk. Both owners were chatty, but due to the volume of people they also seemed rushed.

Price: We spent under $60 (and that wasn’t including my approximately $30 bottle of pinot noir), that included the two pizzas and burek all for $15 each, and then there was my white wine and Hubbie’s beer at about $6 each. Perhaps, a bit overpriced for pizza, but I get it, you’re paying for the surrounds, as well as the wine-tastings (how else are they going to justify giving each person 6 different wine-tastings?)

Advice: Go on a gloriously sunny day (have I said gloriously enough in this post yet?!), on the weekend, so you can enjoy both wine and food. Pay and order in the building where all the wines are lined up, and then sit ‘wherever you like.’ And just, enjoy 🙂

In a nutshell: I would definitely come back to this place. Taking baby girl with us, I’d probably go when we have other friends and their kids with us so she could play with them, rather than with the water fountain. Or I could even go as a brunch/lunch option when just meeting up with the girls only. It’s the right place for a relaxing gasbag. And a coffee too, must do that next time I’m there.

They have the right ingredients of setting, scenery, wine and food, but a little work needs to go into welcoming the guests and setting them up properly on arrival so they’re not left wandering the grounds, hungry and thirsty. All in all, an amazing find that I can’t wait to revisit.

To-do-in-life List:

Visit winery and drink and eat on sunny day.
Kiss in the rain.
Watch the sunrise come up while watching from a peak/hill.
See the Aurora Borealis.
See Madonna in concert – soon.
Get published.

Panton Hill Winery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato