Much Ado About Nothing

The roses are out and they are bloomin’ marvelous (I had to, I’m sorry) – I’m not sure what we did right, but it’s a good year for them. I’m calling our house Rose Cottage, I’m even going to have a little plaque made up and everything. Every house deserves a name.

I’m writing a novel about a house and a garden right now. I’ve only just started – I’m at that point where you stand at the foot of the mountain and look up, trying to figure out how many steps you’ll have to take, how many hours you’ll have to endure above the death zone, how many fingers and toes you’ll lose to frostbite. But you start, you climb, you keep going, and little by little, it happens. I want this manuscript done and polished by the end of July next year. Wish me luck! Or better, wish me persistence!

I’m also counting down the days until our new living room rug arrives, after the shipment was delayed by months, twice. These darling dogs of mine are going to be the death of me. Every car in the street, every pedestrian, every jangling cat bell, sometimes even the snapping of a twig or the shock of me getting up from the sofa too quickly… all these things send P+R into hysterics roughly 3-4 times per hour, sometimes much more. They leap all over the pappasan chair and bark their little brains out. With floorboards and no rug, the sound bounces around the room and transforms into something piercing and horrific. We are extremely lucky to have neighbours who are either very tolerant or very deaf, as both sides have told me that they barely hear a peep from us.

Aside from that:

I went to see MTC’s The Father with the father (mine) last week, and it was devastatingly good. Emphasis on the devastating bit. John Bell gave the best stage acting I have ever seen, and I cried. Some of the audience reactions were a bit off though – the play was about dementia, and Dad’s theory is that a lot of the audience are in an age category where all this stuff is frighteningly relevant for them, and their laughter might have been a function of their discomfort. Maybe.

I wore new shoes that night and ended up with horrendous blisters on my little toes. Still sore, still glowing red like little old fashioned Christmas lights. I did get to eat xiao long bao at Din Tai Fung before the theatre though – soup-filled dumplings that pop when pierced with your chopstick, which is a very icky thought when juxtaposed with my tales of toe blisters.

I’ve spent the best part of this week convinced that we had a mouse in the house, but now I’m having doubts. I saw a shadow move quickly across the hearth of the fireplace, but apart from that, there has been absolutely no evidence of anything. Now I’m wondering whether it was a mouse at all, or maybe a moth, or maybe it really was just a shadow cast along the floor from the sun shining in the window. We set traps and they haven’t been touched. I still won’t walk barefoot at nighttime or leave my slippers on the floor though.

My tomato plants are going splendidly, my cucumbers have shriveled and returned to the soil from whence they came. I’m not sure whether to try again, but the idea of making jars of my own dill pickles is calling to me. What else should I grow in my summer garden, once I rip all the broad beans out? I could just do an entire garden bed of basil, but how much pesto can one girl humanly eat*?

Nathan and I were meant to have a romantic weekend away in Sydney, which didn’t end up happening (he went by himself on a duty mission to visit a family member who needed some heavy duty cheering up). He is bringing me back a cheesecake from Uncle Tetsu though! I knew there was a reason I married him. Other than his winning smile, devastatingly handsome looks, and worthiness as a Scrabble opponent.

* If we’re talking about this girl, the answer is: probably more than you could imagine. When I was in third grade, we did a science project where we had to list the main foods in our diet and where they fit on the food pyramid. I had an argument with the teacher who told me that pesto was a fat, when I assured him that it was made mostly out of basil, so it counted as a vegetable therefore you should be eating heaps of it. But really, we all know that homemade pesto transcends the food pyramid altogether and should better be considered something like mana of the gods.

The Tulip Festival

Before I start this post, I have to say this: the wedding/honeymoon posts are coming, I promise! I’m still trying to get all my photos together, and the posts themselves are being written and rewritten over and over. The day was so perfect, it’s hard to sum it up, but I will try – it is coming.

Anyway, onto last weekend. We went to the Tesselaar Tulip Festival in Silvan. I had wanted to go for years, but we’d always had one thing pop up after another and didn’t end up going. This year, I was determined to go, and I’m so glad we did. It was a two hour drive to Silvan through some of the most beautiful countryside and state forest. The Dandenong Ranges made me think of the piece of piano music (The Ascent) from Picnic at Hanging Rock – suddenly it made so much more sense. All the trees were so tall and majestic, but the endlessness of the forest was unsettling in how it reminded you of how easily you could get lost in there and never be found. We also saw a bunch of gorgeous houses in Belgrave and Silvan that were for sale, and the idea of spending winter in a cabin on the edge of the forest was suddenly very tempting. When I make my first million, perhaps!

The Tulip Festival itself was lovely. The tulips looked amazing, though I have a feeling that certain varieties would have looked slightly better the week before – it was the very last day. I think my favourite was a variety called ‘Asahi’ – warm sunshine orange-yellow with a deep blush. It was surprisingly hot, so after the tulips, we ended up sitting on the lawns in the shade, eating poffertjes with lemon, sugar and butter. I bought ten stems of pick-your-own tulips too.

We didn’t stay too long, but I was so glad we went. The tulips ran in vast lines of different colours, and the sight was pretty stunning. I would love to see the tulip fields in the Netherlands one day, but this was still good. Now I can’t wait to go to other festivals or special weekends – there is a strawberry and cherry festival in Bacchus Marsh next month, so that’s on my list. Any excuse to eat a spiral potato on a stick.

I definitely want to go to the tulip festival though next year. We’ve been talking about having some family photos taken with the dogs around the time of our first wedding anniversary, so maybe this would be the place. Dogs are allowed, and P+R would look so darling tiptoeing through the tulips. But for now, I’ve got some gorgeous tulips in a vase on my coffee table as a nice memento of a fun Sunday.

Just Throw the Whole Kitchen Away

It is a truth universally acknowledged that as soon as you feel like you are on top of something, something will go wrong. I think it’s the universe’s way of making sure you don’t rest on your laurels or get a big head. Anyway, since I got back from the honeymoon, I have been super on top of meal prepping. I’ve been throwing myself into it and trying really hard, and it has been working. We’ve had pre-prepared meals in the fridge, ready to go at all times. Vegetable heavy, low carb, perfectly portioned and definitely tasty. I’ve been feeling really virtuous about eating so many vegetables and so little junk food, too. And (probably mostly thanks to Bali Belly, but still) I’ve lost 3.5kg in the last week, so that’s nothing to sneeze at either.

Skip to last night. I decided to make breakfast frittatas that could also be eaten for lunch with salad. I was going to make them in California muffin tins; smoked salmon and leek for one lot, and chorizo, feta and spinach for the other lot.

First disaster: I forgot to grease the tins. So the first lot of frittatas stuck.
Second disaster: I was cubing chorizo and tossing it in a frying pan when I realized that it actually had a thin paper skin on it that I was meant to peel first. So I tried to fish out all the tiny cubes and peel their paper off (did not work).
Third disaster: the egg mixture had a small amount of flour in it and the recipe assured me that “small lumps were fine and to be expected”. Except once baked, my frittatas still had little white lumps on top of them. I flicked one and it exploded in a mini cloud of raw flour, which I’m sure would taste awful.

So basically, I wasted a whole packet of expensive smoked salmon, the kitchen was trashed for no good reason, and suddenly there was nothing for dinner. Between that and Posie having the biggest barking day of her life while I was trying to work, I was so over it when I went to bed. It’s so weird how going to bed is like wiping the slate clean sometimes, and most of the time I dread bedtime because all of my thoughts and feelings from the day are going to be smaller the next day. But last night, I couldn’t wait.

Getting My Wisdom Teeth Out As An Almost 30 Year Old

Wisdom teeth are outta here! I got them out last week (which feels like a million years ago by now) and it has simultaneously been better and worse than I expected. The actual surgery was a breeze. Nathan waited with me at the hospital until they took me away. I met the anaesthetist and told him that I had an extremely long recovery time from anaesthetic last time, so he said he’d go fairly light on things. Which ended up being a bit scary – he put the cannula in my hand in the waiting bay and I was out like a light, only to wake up for a few seconds in theatre. Luckily they hadn’t started yet, and as soon as it happened, I was out again.

When I woke up, I felt fine. I thought, why is everybody such a baby about wisdom teeth – this is a breeze! Nathan came to get me with a box of beautiful flowers, and I dribbled blood everywhere and said some hilarious things in a video interview that I cannot bring myself to post. I had a local anaesthetic after the general, so I could not feel anything from my eye level to my mid-neck.

When we finally got to come home, things started getting harder. I developed a lovely yellow bruise all over one side of my face. I ate my body weight in custard, fruche and apple puree in the first day. But the next day, the local wore off and the painkillers were making me extremely tired and sick. Every time it got within an hour of being due for those painkillers, I was not a happy camper. Nathan set me up in the lounge room with a mountain of pillows and blankets, and I slept there for maybe four nights, with my little guardian-nurse pups of course.

There was a breakthrough on the Saturday night, because it was Dad’s birthday and he was making a feast of white wine steamed giant prawns, Kylie Kwong’s fried rice, garlic spinach, pork belly and trifle. I was not going to sit there with my baby food and miss out on that – so I managed some of everything, very carefully! It was so nice to eat real food again.

Today, it’s a week and a half later. The pain in the incisions is completely gone, and the stitches are starting to come out, which is utterly revolting. The only bad result of the whole thing was that I still have some numbness in my chin, and I sort of always knew that there was going to be ongoing nerve pain in my face as my teeth spread out and rearrange themselves. It’s bad, and I’m not sure how long this will last, but hopefully it’s over soon.

So, good and bad. But for anybody who’s staring down the barrel at this kind of thing, do not be scared! My complications made it bad, but the whole thing was a lot easier than I had imagined. I’m still grateful I never have to do it again though!

Best Dogs

Posie and Rupert are the best little dogs. We took them to the rehabilitation hospital to visit Patrick and we all sat on the shady lawns together – P+R were so well behaved and everybody adored them. I always thought that Rupert would make a good therapy dog if he could just grasp basic commands and learn to not pee on anything resembling a pole. Posie loved jumping all over Patrick’s bed. How great is it that dogs are allowed in the hospital? I wish they were allowed in every hospital.

Aside from that, it’s back to the grindstone. I’ve switched my thesis from a creative piece + exegesis to a straight critical thesis, which feels like a cop out, but it’s kind of a relief. I just couldn’t find a bridge between the two parts I was working on, and neither of them was willing to compromise. The new thesis is basically an extension of the exegesis I was working on, but now I have to figure out ways to make it have finesse and be fleshy. It can be lonely devoting so much brain power to something that you can never talk about in any great depth with anybody else. Like when you are planning a wedding or having a baby or starting a new job, nobody cares about your wedding/baby/job/thesis as much as you do. That doesn’t mean they don’t care at all, but nobody is going to be as intimate with and invested in the details as you, and it can be isolating. Which is why it’s so important to stay interested in other things. I need to get my skates on and read more this year. I want to cook my way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cookinga la Julie Powell. I want to take a painting class. I want to teach myself how to use my big camera, once and for all, and I want to get some special lenses for it. I want to start running again and be one of those annoying people that brags about times. Lots of things to do. If only I had a few more lifetimes to do everything.

There is some bad news too – it looks like we will be postponing our super exciting European adventure for twelve months. I’ve mentioned it before, but this year is an absolute killer. In the next six months, I have to plan a wedding, finish my thesis, figure out my PhD application, do major renovations on the house, and a number of other things. I just don’t have the time or energy to devote to planning something amazing right now. If I’m only going to have one honeymoon, I don’t want to end up regretting not having worked harder on it. It’s a big trip, it costs so much just to fly there from Australia, so I really want to make the trip worthwhile once we actually get there. So the new plan is that next year on our 1+11 year anniversary, we’ll do it. And having had an entire year to plan it properly, it will be everything it deserves to be. And we might skulk around Bali for a little bit at the end of the year to console ourselves in the meantime! 🙂

Three’s a Crowd

Today, we have three dogs.



[Missing, last seen scurrying under the sofa]

And Decima:

I’m babysitting, so it’s a little crazy around here. Deci will not stop crying, Rupert must be sitting on me at all times in a display of dominance, and poor little Posie is so out of sorts that she is hiding under the furniture. P+R are not exactly ‘doggy’ dogs and prefer their own company or to be with humans, whereas Decima has pretty bad attachment anxiety so she cries constantly and follows you like a shadow. Posie is so unsettled by Deci’s big swinging tail because it’s at the exact height to hit her in the face, and Rupert’s little internal turf wars always result in some growling. Deci cannot relax until Nathan is home, because she really relies on an ‘alpha’ male figure to feel secure. It’s not ideal. They all tend to get along a thousand times better when they are together at Mum’s house, but not here.

I would love a house filled with dogs, but even three is so stressful. Maybe it’s just this particular mix and how sporadically they are thrown together, but it’s hard work. Feeding them is like the scene from Jurassic World where Chris Pratt takes on the trio of velociraptors. I can’t even go to the bathroom without at least two of them tagging along or crying outside the door if I dare shut it. I can’t even walk around my own house without everybody getting unsettled and panicking about whether I’m going somewhere. Deci is great, but I’m really looking forward to handing her back at the end of the night and getting to snuggle my own dogs again.


My brother is still in hospital. I still haven’t figured out exactly what to do about my thesis. I still haven’t got a haircut. I still need to weed the entire garden. I still haven’t picked a photographer or an officiant for the wedding. I am still on a weight loss plateau. Our house is still messy and unrenovated. I’m still drowning in clutter. I’m still finding that it takes all my mental energy to figure out healthy meals every day.

So, basically: BLAUEUURRGGH.

Can’t I run away to Bali already? I’m such a bogan – it will be the first time in four years that I haven’t spent at least a week there, but I really love it there. I’ve been brainstorming all sorts of hare-brained schemes to facilitate a mid-winter escape. It would be so nice to go to my favourite hotel in Ubud and lounge around in the sunshine in quiet solitude. I would actually take my laptop this time and get huge amounts of work done during the hottest part of the day, then swim for hours, drink watermelon juice and eat green papaya salad every day. I could do yoga and ride a bike through the Monkey Forest, now that I’ve decided it’s not so scary after all.

I wouldn’t have to talk to anybody if I didn’t want to. I could just write and read all day. No demands, no deadlines, no schedule other than the sun rising and setting each day.

It’s a nice daydream, but…

Must. Stay. On. Task.

Brain Drain

Apologies in advance, it is going to be a little quiet around here. Nathan and I are doing an eight week health and fitness challenge, and it is leaving me absolutely zonked. I can’t concentrate, I can’t have a proper conversation, I can’t read. It’s a little scary to see how much my body relies on eating processed carbs just to function. But I know this is a positive change and one that needed to happen – hopefully in time it will get easier.

Well, it better get easier. I have to write an honours thesis soon enough and if this is my brain’s top functioning speed, it’s going to be a disaster.

The Mussel Festival


I took one photo, total, for the whole day – and it’s still rubbish. Mum always keeps her house way too dark that it’s too difficult to take a nice photo there, plus Rupert was trying to murder my aunt and uncle’s new puppy and had to be held the whole time, which was a total joy and prevented me from taking photos or even eating with two hands as well. Anyway, we ate: cold steamed mussels with green mango salsa and hot chips with aioli; coconut and lemongrass mussel soup; mussels in white wine with butter and parsley; and everybody else had (but I missed out) mussels cooked au naturale over a fire pit. Then of course pavlova, fruit, jelly and my brother’s homemade cookie dough ice cream which was too amazing.

I wasn’t having a great time on the weekend (coming off a two day migraine, sore ribs and some sporadic TN), but those mussels were so good. Next time, I’m going to buy an extra box for us to keep and eat on the Sunday as well. Nathan wants to experiment with bacon and chorizo and beer and tomato and chili… I’m happy to eat whatever, so long as it tastes good. Never too many mussels!

10 Happy Things

Hiroshima was pretty sombre, so let’s take a moment for something else. Here are ten things that are making me happy right now! (And back to the Japan posts afterwards, I promise)

  1. I rediscovered this ugly little beanbag cushion that I had when I was about 16, and the dogs are in love. It’s like sleeping with their head in someone’s lap. It’s so cute the way that they will guard it from each other and always seek it out for a nap.
  2. I ordered some different types of heirloom vegetables seeds, seeing as my big plan to grow tomatoes and cucumbers all summer isn’t going to happen (the nursery decided to stop sending seedlings instead of seeds because they weren’t arriving in good condition, and forgot to tell me that until I had waited 6 weeks wondering where my seedlings were). We’re getting: purple/red Brussels sprouts, a watermelon variety called ‘Moon and Stars’, French breakfast radishes that are ready to harvest in just over a month, beetroot, red spring onions and spaghetti squash. Not my ideal summer vegetable garden, but it’s still making me happy. I also have some lettuces and purple dragon beans; let’s see if I can find a spot for them.
  3. I don’t care what anybody says, Crocs are awesome. I have a pair for gardening and they are brilliant. Any dirt that get in my shoes just shakes straight out, they have a wide but light base so I can tread carefully without leaving big dips in the garden beds, and if they get muddy, I can just hose them down and leave them outside to dry. Vanity is such a stupid thing when it stops you from being practical or actually getting things done, comfortably and efficiently – I can’t believe I didn’t get some earlier.
  4. Nathan got a vinyl turntable for Christmas and it has been wonderful to play the few records that we own. I have some St Vincent (Strange Mercy, and Love This Giant with David Byrne) as well as the Banjo Kazooie soundtrack, Nathan has a few video game soundtracks and some metal. It’s utterly mesmerizing watching it go round and round, and it makes me so happy to listen to music that isn’t just zeros and ones in a file – it’s mind-blowing that a needle and a groove can produce such perfect sounds, and that it’s a technology that goes back thousands of years. Sorry, I guess this is my version of nerding out over (very old) technology.
  5. The dogs have been so good during Nathan’s recovery. He lays on the sofa and Posie curls up by his feet, Rupert drapes himself over his shoulder and submits to being hugged like a teddy bear or used like a pillow for hours at a time while gently snoring away. We haven’t quite perfected staying quiet when the mailman comes, but you can’t have everything.
  6. The dogs also got a paddle pool for Christmas from their granny (thanks Mum!) and although they aren’t totally sold on it yet, I am. A few afternoons this week while Nathan was sleeping or gaming, I filled it up under the shade of our giant oak tree, laid out a towel and brought some cushions from inside, ate Japanese kit-kats while reading with my legs in the pool. I am really campaigning for an adult-sized inflatable pool for next year, because I would use it every single day.
  7. Paul Newman’s ranch dressing. First ranch dressing I’ve tasted from the supermarket that doesn’t taste sweet like awful Australian mayo. Let’s ignore the fact that it’s 50% fat.
  8.  We went a little crazy at Bunnings last week and came away with a ridiculous number of plants, including some for inside the house. Upon leaving his childhood home, Nathan had unfortunately been conditioned to believe that potted indoor plants were unnecessary and untidy, and he never liked them… until now, and he’s finally come around to my side. I happen to subscribe to the idea that a well-tended indoor plant makes everything seem fresher, more vibrant, cleaner and more alive – less stale. We got a fiddle leaf fig that will hopefully grow as tall as the ceiling over the coming years, and I got another phalaenopsis orchid – a mauve one. It’s perched next to my other white one and they are both covered in glorious big blooms right now, with many more buds coming up soon.
  9. It’s my last week of self-imposed holidays before I begin: a) my first writing sprint of the year, and b) refocusing on my honours thesis and potentially overhauling the entire direction of the whole thing. A lot of hard work ahead, so I’m putting a lot of effort into relaxing as much as possible right now (doesn’t that sound like a oxymoron?). It is nice though to spend an entire afternoon reading and not feeling any guilt that I should be being more productive, because it will be all production all the time after next week.
  10. A special Christmas ornament arrived a few days ago, just in time to go on the tree before it all gets packed away. Wonder what will turn up on the tree next year!