Tuesday 2 January 2024

Reflections on 2023

Welcome to 2024.  I bid 2023 farewell with mixed feelings.  It promised much, had fun surprises - a work trip to Indonesia, the Rone exhibition in the Flinders Street Station Ballroom (photo above), visiting amazing cafes with Sylvia, and Barbenheimer - but it was also unsettled and challenging.  It was especially disappointing to end the year with the lack of acknowledgement of Australian's First Nations people in the Voice and the tensions and devastation of the Israel-Hamas war.  My yearly update is a long one so grab a cuppa and settle in.

Melbourne Now Exhibition, NGV Ian Potter

For me, 2023 offered opportunities to get out a lot more than I had for the past 3 years, to catch up with friends, to work with some amazing people and organise some stuff at home.  My energy was still lower than previously and all the medical niggles - asthma, eczema, sleep problems, swollen feet - made me feel tired and old but I am glad most of these are more under control now.  Early in the year I stopped wearing a mask in most settings, though Covid is still among us.  We had some major changes around the house.  Our big purple sofa was replaced by a recliner sofa, our decommissioned gas wall heater was replaced by an Ikea cupboard, and my dad installed new locks on our cat flap.

Although I didn't have much energy for reading books, I got to the cinema much more (I saw Barbie and Oppenheimer on consecutive days), relived my student days at a Billy Bragg gig, attended my first Women's AFL game, saw some art exhibitions, saw Peter Garrett sing at a rally for The Voice to Parliament, loved Lightscape in the Botanic Gardens, had ice cream at Sydney Road Street Festival, caught Matildas fever during the Women's Soccer World Cup, found tempeh chips at a Festival Indonesia event, ate interesting food at markets, and I celebrated finalising my divorce by going axe-throwing with a friend.  And Sylvia developed great skills at finding excellent cafes to go for lunch.

Voting at the Indigenous Voice to Parliament Referendum

Politics was crazy. Actually the world seemed crazy.  And unsettled.  Covid ceased to be a public concern as the government collected less and less statistics until we got to the point where we know it is about but it is hard to determine how much.  Our state premier, Dan Andrews resigned after leading us through Covid times.  The cost of living and mortgage rates skyrocketed.  ChatGPT made AI seem more part of our lives than ever.  Australia had the shameful stories of the Robodebt Royal commission, the Bruce Lehrmann defamation trial, and the toxic opposition to an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.  Internationally there was so much mess with Trump court cases, the UK Tories plans to send refugees to Rwanda, the Ukraine war going on and on, the Israel-Hamas war wreaking so much death and destruction in Gaza, etc etc.  No wonder so many embraced the triumphant phenomenon of the Taylor Swift Eras tour.  Of the meany changes in the world, I was sad to see the resignation of Jacinda Adern, the end of Hugh Jackman and Deborra-Lee Furness's marriage, and Virginia Trioli no longer doing her ABC Melbourne morning radio show.  This hardly scratches the surface but is as much as I can do here.

Borobudur Temple, Indonesia

I travelled more in 2023 than for I have a long time.  My first international travel since 2016 was to Yogyakarta in Indonesia for a work short course.  I also went to Brisbane and Cape Schanck for other work meetings.  Plus there were personal trips to the Grampians and Lake George.  There was sightseeing, swimming, amazing food and visiting university friends.  And more travel is planned this month.

Halloween decorations, Melbourne

There were lots of notable deaths.  The above photo is of a house decorated for Halloween with skeletons dressed as Dame Edna Everage and Tina Turner plus a host of gravestones remembering Barry Humphries, Michael Gambon, Pele, Lisa Marie Presley, Tony Bennett, Ron Barassi and Fantales among others.  Other high profile deaths that had meaning for me were Cal Wilson, Michael Parkinson, Steve Mackey (Pulp), Sinead O'Connor, Burt Bacharach, Jane Birkin, Shane McGowan, Andre Braugher Brooklyn 99), Ryan O'Neal, Shirley Barber (Flower Fairies), Matthew Perry, Rolf Harris, Richard Belzer (Law and Order: SVU), Renee Geyer, Mary Louise McLaws, Galarrwuy Yunupingu, and Fr Bob Maguire.

Street Art near ABC Southbank Studios (on their open day)

My blogging energy was much improved in 2023.  I wrote 70 blog posts, three times as many as in 2022, and the most I have written since 2019.  I have had moments of tinkering with formatting indexes and would love more time to get this blog into good order.   Having written 2,430 posts makes blog housekeeping quite overwhelming.  It seems I could do this full time and still take years to get it anywhere near how I would like it.  And by then the blogging / social media world would have moved on many times.

I was sad to hear that Zomato Melbourne is no more this year.  I contributed quite a few reviews but also found it really useful for searching cafes.  However the landscape of the world wide web continues to morph and change.  Blogging today is so different to when I first started blogging that I doubt I would start a blog today - too much pressure.  I was also sad to check in on FoodGawker and find it just hanging in there. It takes a lot of energy to constantly be following new social media and styles. 

Meanwhile I continue my old style blog and appreciate other bloggers I have followed for years or discovered recently who have enough affinity to connect and/or provide much food for thought (and meals). Although I use Google's Blogger platform, I have been having problems with commenting on other Blogger sites (including ones that I have long loved sharing comments with - Where's the Beef and One Hot Kitchen).  I used to participate in a lot of blog events but now just do In My Kitchen on Sherry's Pickings - and I am grateful to Sherry for continuing to run this event.  I miss some of the blogging community that was once so rich and vibrant, and even now continues to be meaningful to me.

I have many more ambitions for my blog than I have energy.  But I do what I can.  I mostly maintain my two main blog indexes - recipes and reflections - and dream of more updating of the formatting.  I have even considered a new blog header or sorting out subscriptions but don't hold your breathe!  Meanwhile I continue to have lots of drafts I hope to publish and lots of good intentions.

A blood orange, olive and feta focaccia that was never posted

One of the nice aspects of having a blog has always been recording recipes I make and places I eat.  While not comprehensive, it is often useful to look back on.  More recently it has been useful with sharing cooking with my daughter.  I can point Sylvia to blog recipes and record what we are cooking together so she has notes on it when she makes it without me.

This year our eating patterns have changed.  (Always change!)  Some routines have become less regular, such as pizza nights.  One great change is that Sylvia and I discuss meals for the week before doing our weekly grocery shopping.  This helps us eat better and try new recipes.  It also means less food waste in this time of skyrocketing grocery prices.

We are still making some old favourites: fast track sourdough pizza, pasta, vegan omelettes, sourdough flatbreads, Tofu bacon, stirfries, dumpling okonomiyaki, orzo, roasted feta and tomato pasta, mushrooms.  Some of the creations I am most proud of include Vegemite and three veg pizza, Vegie mac and cheese money bag dumplings, and my Rustic gingerbread house.

Holiday dinner platter at our Grampians holiday house

Favourite blog posts by month:

Amazing chocolate mousse dessert at Westbourne Garden, Northcote

More of my 2023 favourites:

  • Novel: A Judgement in Stone by Ruth Rendell, The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
  • Non-fiction book: Wifedom by Anna Funder, Growing up Aboriginal in Australia by Anita Heiss
  • New release film: The Fabelmans
  • New release television series: Sherwood
  • Television character: Spencer Reid from Criminal Minds
  • Non-fiction tv show: Is it Cake?
  • Local eating out: BrewDog
  • Out of town eating out: Sir George Pub, Jugiong, NSW
  • Mocktail: Cuddle on the Beach at La Vista
  • Exhibition: Time by Rone, Art installations

Our cat Shadow with New Year's Eve sweet platter

Sylvia's favourites in 2023:
(She asked to list her favourites too and I said, why not!)

  • Book: Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • Song: Trouble by Twin
  • Album: Happier than Ever by Billie Eilish
  • Singer: Suki Waterhouse
  • New Release Film: Barbie, Taylor Swift: the eras tour
  • Streamed film: Ocean's Eight, Carol
  • Television show: Private Practice, Haunting of Bly Manor
  • TV character: Amelia Shepherd from Grey's Anatomy
  • Artist: Felicia Chiao, Jeremy Hush, Jenifer Prince
  • Crystal: Prasiolite
  • Recipe: Roasted tomato and goats cheese pasta
  • Cafe: Chooka's Cafe
  • Pizza place: Roccoco, St Kilda
  • Pasta place: Tiamo, Carlton

My dad's birthday cake with the AFL Premiers Collingwood theme

Interesting links

Mostly politics but a few more esoteric links from the year:

Nothing to see here by Richard Denniss in The Monthly, February 2023 "COVID remains a major public health crisis – so why isn’t the government talking about it?"

ABC’s lack of ambition on coronation coverage left Stan Grant to shoulder outsized burden, by Margaret Simons in The Guardian, 27 May 2023.  Discussion of problems with the media and racism in Australia that led to Stan Grant resigning from the ABC.

Robodebt royal commission exposes welfare bashing as a meanness at the heart of our politics by Laura Tingle on ABC News, 8 July 2023.

The enshittification of academic social media by Inger Mewburn on The Thesis Whisperer, 10 July 2023. A reflection on social media's changes, algorithms and diversification.

 Fat bear week, 4-10 October in Alaska - the website that gave me lots of laughs

The referendum’s result holds up a mirror to Australia, and the reflection is ugly by Maeve McGregor on Crickey, 17 October 2023.

Prominent journal editor fired for endorsing satirical article about Israel-Hamas conflict in Science, 23 October 2023.

Preserving our digital content is vital. But paying $38,000 for the privilege is not by John Naughton in The Guardian, 26 November 2023. "Storing online data in perpetuity is not just about photos and texts but thoughts and ideas. Platforms such as WordPress are starting to act, but it must be at a realistic price."

Albanese is prioritising governing over spectacle – but in an era of zero-sum politics, is it enough? by Kathryn Murphy in The Guardian, 2 December 2023.  Why the outraged tantrums of the opposition attracts more attention than good governance.

The weird but true history of cereal - from anti-sex campaigns to mind control by Matthew Cantor, 26 December 2023.

Open Justice by David Tyler, The Australian Independent Media Network, 30 December 2023.  Reflections on the Bruce Lehrmann defamation case.

So much incense

Happy new year to you and yours.  I hope you have a year of happiness and healthiness, of peace and goodwill, of meaning and merriment.  As always at this time of year, I wish to thank my readers and supporters, those who share meals and cooking, and everyone who takes the time to comment on my blog.  I hope my 2024 will be filled with more beach and bike riding, more salads and more smoothies, more writing blog posts and watering the garden, and more getting to bed early to curl up with a good book. I will finish with a quote I love from the wonderful Mr Jarvis Cocker "2024 - please wipe your feet before you come in."


  1. I really enjoyed reading this post, Johanna, and especially your favorites and Sylvia's! That focaccia is absolutely beautiful.

    It is true that the world seems to be hurtling into chaos as we enter 2024. But I hope you enjoy good health and good food and good books as we try and make the best of it.

  2. I enjoyed seeing more posts from you in 2023, and that you seemed to be getting out and about a lot! Sylvia's more active role in your cooking and food planning has also been evident and fascinating. Thank you for continuing to drop by and comment, even though the platform makes it difficult! Best wishes for 2024.


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