On the eve of 2017, there’s talk of 2016 being the “Worst.Year.Ever”. Terrorism, natural disasters, celebrity deaths, disturbing political shifts, continuing conflict in Syria, the list goes on. I won’t attempt to delve into it here as I am certainly in no position to evaluate these events. But I do hope that those who have suffered from the above can find the resilience and hope to look forward to 2017.
Personally, 2016 has been a remarkable year. Great milestones have been achieved — first house, promotion and marriage. All wonderful achievements that have come about following years of planning, commitment, hard work, compromise and calculated risk.
I didn’t expect that Cam and I would be in a position to buy a house so soon after our year long travel, but the increase in Sydney’s property prices whilst we were away on travels allowed us to leverage off the apartment we bought in 2011 and make possible our goal to buy a family home.
In what ended up to be a lucky turn of events, we couldn’t buy the house we had originally set our sights on — we ended up buying the house next door! Located in Lewisham, in Sydney’s inner west suburbs, it is a renovated 1915 semi-detached cottage. We were pleasantly surprised that compared to the adjoining property (which we had originally wanted to buy), the house we ended up with had a more straightforward internal layout, real grass in the backyard as well as shade from the neighbour’s tree.
In July, I was promoted to an Associate after six years at LFA. Despite the challenges that the early half of 2016 brought, and my new found responsibilities, the second half of the year saw the achievement of some key clientele goals that make the outlook for 2017 very positive. I am truly grateful to be working in a profession that I am passionate about (urban design) in a company where my Directors are true mentors and with peers that are supportive, team players, and overall great people to be around.
In October, Cam and I got married at Sequoia National Park, California. With the blessings of our family, we had a small ceremony with just four people — Cam, myself, my dear friend Simon (our photographer and witness) and Darrin Cantrell, our officiant. I had never envisaged what my wedding day would be like, but had always admired the way in which my parents had eloped.
Our choice of Sequoia National Park as a wedding venue was a bit of a fluke — the primary reason for us travelling to the US was for our best friends’ wedding in Sanibel Island, Florida. We had planned to travel to California after the wedding and by the time we had decided to get married as part of the same trip, all signs pointed to Sequoia National Park. It was the perfect location for us and in many ways symbolic of our relationship — Sequoia trees have an interconnected root system that gives each tree its strength, allowing them to grow to the greatest of heights. That the trees are thousands of years old was like having earth’s elders witness our marriage.
We were blessed with sunshine on a day that was forecast to be 10ºC and misty. We had a short ceremony in the morning, a casual lunch and rest, and spent the rest of the day shooting photos at various locations throughout the park. We ended the day with a three course dinner at The Peak Restaurant at Wuksachi Lodge (where we were staying), with exceptional service and a even complimentary buffet breakfast for the next day.
[I promised Gino that I would write a separate USA blog but unfortunately I was out of time, so I’ve included a summary in here…]
As mentioned previously, our trip to USA was primarily for our best friends’ wedding in Sanibel Island, Florida for which Cam was the best man. It was a perfect wedding in a beautiful setting and not even Hurricane Matthew could stop us from being there for Dan and Laura’s special day (even though we did arrive morning of). One of the highlights (apart from the wedding) was our entourage scootering around Sanibel and Captiva Islands.
After Sanibel, we made a quick pitstop in Miami before flying to Las Vegas.
What a strange and captivating place Vegas is. We didn’t gamble or have a crazy time – our main reason for heading to Vegas was to take a helicopter over the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam. It was our first time in a helicopter and although pricey, it was definitely worth the money – highly recommended!
From Vegas we drove to Sequoia National Park for the wedding (see above). From there we went to Yosemite National Park, perhaps the most awesome national park I’ve been to yet…
From Yosemite National Park, we drove to San Fransisco. Tired from the tail end of our trip, Cam and I took it easy. We did manage to visit Alcatraz and I enjoyed one afternoon browsing the shops of Northbeach and talking with a local artist in his studio.
Last stop was LA, where we stayed with Laura’s twin sister Nicolette near West Hollywood. I enjoyed the vibe of LA much more than I did San Fransisco, but perhaps it was more of the case of ‘the people make the place’, as Nicolette and her crew showed us around to some great places to eat and drink.
The Little Things
2016 has also been a year of doing things ‘I’ve always wanted to do’. Not ’goals’ as such, but rather things of interest that sometimes fall off the radar when you are pre-occupied doing the bigger things in life. For me, these things were 1) reading more and 2) mastering breads/pastries.
For someone who rarely reads books (i.e. me), I thought four books would be a real challenge and surprised myself by exceeding my target not for the sake of achieving my resolution but developing a new interest in reading. My initial booklist was:
- Preserving the World’s Great Cities by Anthony Tung
- Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
- Learning from Las Vegas by Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour
- 1Q84 (Books 1-3) by Haruki Murakami
This then extended to Down and Out in London and Paris (George Orwell), Children of the New World (Alexander Weinstein) and currently Triumph of the City (Edward Glaser).
I swapped Facebook feeds and echo-chamber internet articles for ink on paper and its something that I would like to continue for years to come.
As for mastering breads and pastries…baking is a real passion of mine. If I had a choice for an alternative career, it would be as a pastry chef. I had always stayed away from recipes requiring yeast, and after mastering pizza bases a couple of years ago, I figured it was time to push forward on bread making. My first victory of 2016 was making decent croissants (that even my sister’s French boyfriend approved of). Second victory was making cinnamon scrolls. Third victory was sourdough bread from scratch. As a pre-martial gift, my sister took me to a sourdough making class at Bourke Street Bakery which prompted a couple of months feeding starter and making loaves for family and friends. And lastly, bagels.
As 2016 draws to a close, and despite all that has happened globally this year, I will look back on 2016 as an unforgettable year for all the right reasons. I look forward to what 2017 brings!