Finally, a Beach Day

On the weekend, I went to a quilting workshop with Mum, run by Anni Downs. The style was completely unlike anything I’d done before – it’s muted and a little bit country, but not in that fussy, dark, 90s American way – more of a naive, whimsical sort of style. It seemed like everybody else in the class had a good handle on the techniques we used, but I had no idea. I had never done applique before, not even once, so I felt very out of my depth. Everybody else just somehow knew how to trace in reverse or use Easy Fix, so I was so grateful for a little one-on-one attention to explain these basic things. I eventually figured things out and discovered that I might even have a bit of a knack for this sort of thing. My block (so far) looked lovely and everything was neat and tidy. I got a lot of compliments on my work, even if I was falling back to my usual habits of criticizing everything I’d done for not being supernaturally perfect. I was surprised at how much I achieved in the class, and the best part of all is that I feel equipped now to take on the entire quilt, even though it will take me forever with how exacting I get about my stitches. I’ll post some photos when I’ve got something to share.

But it was a fun day. And somebody who worked at Amitie thought I was seventeen, so that’s always nice too! Although it could have been the fact that it was forty degrees outside and all my makeup melted off, so maybe the impression was less “young fresh newborn baby supermodel gazelle” and more “sweaty bedraggled unkempt scrappy teenager”.

After the class, Nathan met me in Torquay and we went to the beach, meeting Dad and Patrick there. It didn’t start out very well – Nathan was in a terrible mood and was a total storm cloud, because he thought it was too hot to go and was already on edge and drained because of a stressful day. It was extremely hot, but what could be better than to dive into some bitingly cold water on a blisteringly hot day? He begrudgingly marched from the car to the shore, barely talking to me, but it all melted away once we got in the water. It was my first time at a surf beach this year, and it was everything. The conditions were perfect – icy water, absolutely clear like a tropical postcard, long periods of flat calm that was perfect for floating around, punctuated by some big waves, perfect for diving under.

Nathan has a bit of a habit of being grouchy and not wanting to do things, only to change his mind and decide “this isn’t so bad after all” once I’ve dragged him into action. Then he’ll act like he was never a stick in the mud, that he was enthusiastic about it all along. It’s frustrating, and it would be nice to just enjoy things without a little drama beforehand, but that’s how it goes. On the way home, I just felt so satisfied to have finally had a really, really good beach day. As we were drawing closer to the end of hot weather, I kept feeling this frantic edginess, like I couldn’t bear for summer to be over when I’d barely had a taste of it. After those two hours in the waves, there was a little more closure – I’m more ready for autumn now.

And now it’s Monday, time to start all over again.

One last thing – I have a favour to ask of you. Yes – you, reader, if you’ve even made it this far, if you even exist. If you are reading this, please leave a comment below. It can be anonymous if you like, but it would be nice to know if anybody at all reads this thing. Tell me a joke, or tell me something you love or hate about this blog, or tell me what you would like to see more of. Just let me know if you exist, so I can know whether or not I’m just typing into the void. Thank you!

Little Bits – Last Days of Summer

  • The kittens are out of the bathroom almost full time now – we only put them away at bedtime or if we’re going to be out for hours. Everybody has acclimatized and it’s feeling very harmonious right now. I’m still not there with adoring them, but I’m getting there. At least 50% of the time, I’m glad we got them and feel happy that they are a part of our little family. The other 50% of the time, they are snacking on my maidenhead fern. We’re working on it.
  • I’m realizing, in my old age, that self-care is actually pretty important. This doesn’t necessarily mean things like long bubble baths or shopping sprees, but little things. I am currently typing this blog post with an eye mask on, and it feels luxurious. Later I’m going to cook Mongolian beef for dinner so I can eat something delicious without feeling gross afterwards. Tonight I will put moisturizer and socks on my feet before I go to bed and wake up feeling like a newborn baby angel from the ankles down. Next week, I’m going to go to yoga and stretch myself out. All self-care, all important stuff.
  • Olivia Colman won Best Actress at the Oscars and I’m so happy for her. She said something like “I hope my kids are watching because this will never happen again”.. and it’s kind of true, and it makes it more magical that it could have happened to Hollywood elite or the more ‘usual’ choices, and instead it happened to her (and well deservedly, too).
  • I had the best appointment with my eye surgeon yesterday and a really positive plan is in place. I will be having botox injections in the muscles of my eye – probably in a few months when I have a better schedule for recovery time. I may have to wear an eye patch for a few weeks. Surgery is still a possibility for the future, but not right now. I might talk some more about this later.
  • We are finally planning on Taiwan trip, and oh boy, there is pressure. It’s essential that Nathan falls in love with it as much as I have, and there’s so much to show him. We are deliberately going in autumn so that the heat and humidity won’t be so oppressive. I hope he loves it, I think he will. I mean, there is food, of course he’ll love it.
  • I can’t believe summer is almost over. It has gone so fast, I’m not ready. I’m trying to pump myself up by reminding myself of all the perks of autumn (not getting sunburned! soup weather! time to plant bulbs! not too hot to exercise! cardigans, scarves and layering!) but it’s hard – I haven’t even made it to a surf beach this summer, which kills me. Hopefully this weather will last a few more weeks, at least.

Struggletown

It has been a hard week. Apart from one good night, I was averaging 3-4 hours of sleep a night. Then, with the puppies and kittens, it was just bananas. Oh, and Nathan was in Canberra, so it was all on me. A regular daylight hour would look like this:

Sit down to get some writing done.
Get up – somebody has jumped on the dining table; Posie barks.
Sit down.
Get up – the water bowl is empty.
Sit down.
Get up – Posie needs to go outside.
Sit down.
Get up – Posie needs to come back in.
Sit down.
Get up – the kittens have knocked over a lamp; Posie barks.
Sit down.
Get up – the mailman knocked on the front door; both dogs bark.
Sit down.
Get up – the kittens have gotten tangled in the cords behind the TV; Posie barks.
Sit down.
Get up – Rupert needs to go outside.
No, just tricking, he just wants a treat.
The cats heard the treat packet, and now they want a treat too.
Sit down.
Get up – Rupert really does need to go outside this time.
Sit down.
Get up – the kittens are scratching the furniture; Posie barks.
Sit down.
Get up – Rupert needs to come back in.
Sit down.
Get up – Rupert and Clover are fighting; Posie barks.
Go and fetch the crate; set it up; put Rupert inside.
Sit down.
Rupert is upset and whining for my attention; Posie barks.
The phone rings.
The kittens jump and drag their claws down the curtains; Posie barks.
Look at the clock, look at my word count, and despair.
Go insane and jump out the window, running far away, never to return.

There were a few stretches here and there where everybody was asleep and it was heavenly, so I did eventually get some writing done. Which was just as well – I had a deadline this week. I had to submit work for a masterclass I am attending in April, and it was nerve-wracking. I can’t say too much, other than that this class is a golden opportunity. It’s a very big deal. It wasn’t an ideal week to have such a big deadline, but I got there in the end and I’m so proud.

I can’t wait until I can finally share my work, or be able to say “you can buy my book at X”. It will be indescribably sweet.

Oh – it was also Valentine’s Day! I was completely taken by surprise when a lady knocked on my door with flowers and treats (as in, completely taken by surprise – I was in pajamas, looking like I’d been dragged through a hedge backwards). Nathan wasn’t here, but he still made it lovely. And I also did Galentine’s oysters and Pimms with Mum and Caitlin, any excuse.

Year of the Pig

Last night, we had a big family dinner. Dad made two types of broth – spicy and not so spicy – and we cooked all sorts of things on the tabletop, like tofu puffs, pork, beef, prawns, scallops, fish and mushrooms. In Chinese, it’s called 火锅 (pronounced huŏguō) – also known as steamboat, hot pot, or shabu shabu in Japan. It was fun, but sweaty! Sometimes it’s such a drag living in the southern hemisphere and having all sorts of cozy wintery holidays fall in the middle of our hot summers. But c’est la vie, still fun.

I’ve started thinking more seriously about a Taiwan trip. One thing I have to do is really work on my Chinese – when I returned in 2016, I was speaking (very slowly and extremely simply) to most people within a few days, but I’m kind of concerned that I’ll have stage fright if Nathan’s with me. It’s so hard to stay on top of a language that you have no daily opportunity to practice. Sometimes – rarely – I will have dreams in Chinese, but it has been more than a decade now since I actually studied it. I will confess that some of it is an ego thing, because it’s pretty nice to be able to say “I speak two languages”, but it’s also a practicality thing – Chinese is the second most spoken language in Australia, but aside from that, Taiwan will always be my second home.

Making Pickles + Other Stuff

Yesterday I harvested six gigantic cucumbers from my summer garden, sliced and salted them, added chillies and onion and garlic, and tonight I’m making jars and jars of bread and butter pickles. I don’t really like cucumbers, but I’m mad for pickles, so it works for me. I’ll post photos on instagram if they turn out, and but this recipe is a secret.

It’s February tomorrow and I’m not ready for the summer to be more than half over, it feels like we’ve only just got started. Everything is feeling so fleeting, in a way that it never has before. When I was a kid, it felt like school holidays lasted for a lifetime, but now I can completely relate to old people who say that their children grew into adults in the blink of an eye.

So what else is happening?

I got two gorgeous picture books in the mail this week – Antoinette and Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio and Christian Robinson. They are so cute, but then I love any story about a dog.

The kittens are out of the bathroom and wreaking havoc wherever they go. It’s kind of exhausting as they are constantly getting into mischief. Posie and Rupert are coping very well with the whole thing, though fights happen here and there. Every now and then, we’ll have a few magical moments where everybody is calm and sometimes even sleeping, and this little home of ours feels positively cozy. And then it’ll be back to racing, barking, fighting, scuffling, eating each other’s food, knocking things off the dining table and getting tangled in the cables behind the television.

I’m trying to plan a few little diversions in this first half of the year, and so far I want to go to Canberra to see the Pre-Raphaelite exhibition, to Phillip Island to see the fairy penguins (since I’ve never been), and out on the Great Ocean Road to see the Twelve Apostles. I got an email alert for cheap flights to Tokyo today and was sorely tempted, but unfortunately no. Though, we are tentatively planning a possible trip to Taiwan in the third or fourth quarter, if all goes to plan.

Aside from all that, life right now is…

Trying not to eat cake.
Laying in bed watching The Crown.
Cups of tea made by my husband.
Being brave enough to eat the world’s hottest chilli pepper, but not brave enough to let the seaweed touch my feet when I’m swimming at the beach.
Turning the other cheek when people act like toads after you’ve done something nice for them.
Learning how to knit on double pointed needles.
A carpet burn from leaping onto the floor to break up a dog/cat fight.
Taking my vitamins and washing my face.
Reading all about the current debacles with the royals and feeling simultaneously grossed out and secretly enjoying that I have something even more dramatic than the Diana years happening in my era.
Finally taking the plunge to buy expensive bedside table lamps after having fretted about the purchase for almost a decade.
Practicing my driving and daydreaming about what sort of car to get.

Not very exciting, but I’ll long for this kind of calm soon enough, I know it.