Halloween

I do not get all the Halloween hate in Australia. People get so unreasonably outraged about it and act like it’s a hill to die on, to prove that Halloween is something that only happens in America and never in Australia. Which is utterly ridiculous. Halloween comes from All Hallows Eve, which is Pagan, and Australians don’t seem to have a problem with things like Easter eggs or Christmas trees, both of which are Pagan. And America is far from the only place on earth to celebrate Halloween. Anybody who argues that it’s strictly American must have a very shallow understanding of how cultures melt together – which is hilarious in the context of how Australian culture is a melting pot too. And the last thing is… at the end of the day, Halloween is really just a bit of fun. There is no great pressure on anybody, no great expense, no arduous expectations. It’s just an excuse to wear a cute costume and, if you like, go beg your neighbours for lollies. Which they are under no obligation to give. If you don’t want to participate, then don’t answer the door. There really is no need to go on epic rants in the comments section on facebook posts about how we’re Australian and anybody celebrating Halloween is stupid. It just makes you look like a massive killjoy and culturally isolated. Like the kind of person who doesn’t eat pasta because it’s too ‘ethnic’ for them.

It’s also a bit ridiculous that nobody seems to have any problems with celebrating Oktoberfest or St Patrick’s Day, but Halloween is just a step too far. If you don’t like it, then don’t do it. Nobody is forcing you to open your door or dress up. It just seems totally mean-spirited to try and dump on other people’s fun though.

Anyway. I have a special reason for loving Halloween – growing up in Taiwan, it was a big deal. Making our costumes from scratch every year was so much fun, even if my sisters and I would usually end up with variations of the same costume because that was what we had fabric for. One year, we decorated the whole house with plastic spiders and fake cobwebs, and watched scary movies on HBO. I remember there was one about a haunted voodoo doll that somebody brought back from the jungle, and something about vampires called Bordello of Blood. Not that I had any idea what a bordello was as a ten year old.

This year, we’re not doing much. The dogs get so rattled every time somebody knocks on the door, so we’re leaving a big bowl of candy on the front porch so people can help themselves. We didn’t make jack o’lanterns this year, just little pumpkins everywhere. Because of my Bali trips, this is the first time in years that I’ve actually been home on Halloween, but with all the wedding stuff, I just haven’t been organized enough to decorate much. It’s a pity we’re in the southern hemisphere – the place that I get my heirloom seeds from has a decorative gourd pack that has some of the most amazing pumpkins and squashes that would be perfect for decorating, but of course, it’s not autumn here.

My little unicorn and hot dog. P+R are thrilled to be wearing costumes (not). I cannot believe how many outfits and costumes these two dogs own. Sometimes they love dressing up, other times they act like they are being tortured – today was one of those days. But they did better than me… I didn’t dress up at all this year, unless you count wriggling into my mermaid tail for ten minutes and flipping my fins around.

Schmalentine’s Day

To all the lovers: happy Valentine’s Day! And to everybody else, treat yo self. It’s a rule.

We had romantic plans of a yoga class and dinner, but Nathan had a work commitment and didn’t get home in time. Instead, it was pizza on the couch, watching the worst kind of television while I knitted. So romantic. But I suppose you can’t get to ten years without having a lacklustre Valentine’s Day here and there – at least it was better than last year, when I had food poisoning and Posie had just ruptured a disc. The new plan is to go out for dinner later in the week – there is a French restaurant in town that I have wanted to go to for a million years but never had the chance. And to be mysterious for a second, I probably should get some practice eating French food in the next few months… 🙂

To make up for not being able to go out, Nathan brought me a little gift that he snuck out of work at lunchtime to buy. It was a Harry Potter wand that you can program to change the television channel or volume. Extremely nerdy, but extremely fun. There is a story that goes along with this – when we were in Tokyo, we went to a game arcade. One of the machines had a Fantastical Beasts wand as the prize, and I was desperate to win it. I emptied my coin purse and even got change for notes so I could win this damn wand. The girls who were staffing the venue even unlocked the machine to nudge the wand a bit to give me a better chance of winning, but I still couldn’t get it. I spent more than $20 to get nothing, which is so stupid.

But best of all was the card that I got. The front is stitched felt characters of bacon and eggs, in love. Inside he wrote a lot of things, but the best part said: “loving you makes me so happy”. Loving you makes me so happy too, Bugalugs!

it’s the most wonderful time of the year

On a day when it rained and rained and rained, forever and ever, I decided to put up the Christmas tree early. My main reason was to distract the puppies. Thunder shook the house and rattled the windows and vibrated through the floorboards, and those dogs were hysterical. I tried bribing them to be calm with fruit loops, which worked for a while, but soon realized I needed a bigger distraction. My other reason is that I’m pedantic (read: control freak) about decorating the Christmas tree and don’t quite trust Nathan to do it while I’m away. Or even trust that he would put the tree up at all. He’s not exactly into Christmas.

Our tree is a hand-me-down, and it’s old and kind of threadbare in places. I wanted to get a new, super tall bushy one this year, but there was no time. Plus it would be kind of sad to get rid of this old tree, the one we put up for our first Christmas in this house. I know, I’m putting irrational feelings onto an inanimate object, but I have a lot of happy memories decorating our little house for Christmas. So, to make it look our old tree a little less sad and pathetic, I completely covered every spare branch with decorations.

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So here are my completely unqualified Christmas tree decorating tips:

Even if your tree is up against a wall or in a corner, decorate all sides.
This is really important, especially if your tree isn’t particularly bushy. The appeal of a decorated tree is not in the individual decorations, but the sum of the total effect, and how you catch little glimpses of them as they twinkle amongst the branches. This is also true with lights – trees with lights only on the front look weirdly one dimensional, so wrap your entire tree in lights, front and back. Leaving the back bare gives you less layers of colour and texture, making it look less lush and festive.

Put the lights on first, then test them to see if you have any gaps.
Apparently this is common knowledge, but it completely slipped my mind the first time I put a tree up. I ended up wrestling a tangle of lights, trying to string them around the tree without knocking ornaments off. I use three different sets of lights on my tree – some cute Hello Kitty ones, regular candy coloured rainbow fairy lights, and a set of red lights shaped like bells. It’s important to test them after arranging them so you can see where you need to rearrange for balance.

Think about your colour scheme or theme.
I’m a hypocrite on this one, because I usually just say that my Christmas theme is “Christmas”, but it does make things look a little more cohesive if you plan ahead for what type of aesthetic you are going for. Our ornaments are every colour of the rainbow with lots of sparkle and glitter, and our stockings (that my fabulously talented Mum made especially for us and the puppies) match the rainbow theme. Nathan’s parents live near the sea and have a fabulous nautical themed tree, all in blues and metallics. My aunt goes for a very traditional look, with pure white fairy lights and ornaments in rich reds, greens, gold and silver. While you don’t want to be too cookie-cutter matchy-matchy, it does help to have even a vague idea of the look you are going for.

Think about scale.
In December, every second facebook post is a photo of a tree, and something I have noticed is that some people tend to buy a whole bunch of baubles in the same size, stick them on the tree and call it a day. I’ve already talked about layering colour and texture, but it’s important to make sure you have a range of different sized decorations on your tree as well.

Bows make everything awesome.
They just do.

Christmas tree skirts make everything look a thousand times tidier.
I’m definitely not qualified to give this advice (my grand plans of making a tree skirt fell by the wayside this year), but it’s true. I hate looking at the tangle of power cords and the plastic tripod stand at the bottom of my tree, plus it’s nicer to lay your presents on something prettier than just bare floor.

There you are! This will be the extent of my Christmas posts this year because I’ll be away in Japan, but I promise I’ll have more next year. I might even be able to convince Mum to do a guest tutorial on how to make her amazing personalized patchwork stockings. Maybe I’ll do a repeat of the most amazing gingerbread house that ever existed. Whatever I do, at least I’ve got thirteen months to plan it all.

trick or treat

Always treats with these guys. Happy Halloween! (We weren’t home to celebrate with these guys, but we got them costumes anyway – Rupert is frog-boy and Posie is bee-girl, which I think suits their personalities well. Their cousin-dog Decima came over for a puppy party).

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*Also, please don’t give me the whole “we don’t celebrate Halloween in Australia” thing. Firstly, Halloween is derived from an ancient European pagan holiday. Secondly, we live in a multicultural society, and Halloween was a part of my childhood from growing up in Taiwan. Third, Australians have no problem with co-opting traditions from other cultures, like Christmas, Chinese New Year, et cetera. I will celebrate it because it doesn’t hurt anybody and it means something to me! Rant over.