beloved creatures

I hate it when people say “it’s just a dog”, to justify being cruel or neglectful, or to make themselves feel superior to something. People with children seem especially affronted by the idea that I love (I mean, really really really love) my dogs, as though they have to prove a hierarchy of love or something. There is no set amount of love that a dog deserves, there is no rule that it must be less than a child-sized amount, or a husband-sized portion. Love grows and shrinks according to how big and open you let your heart become. And if I really, really, really love my dogs, it’s certainly not taking any love away from anybody else. I promise I’ll write an essay on it one day, but for now, on to the beloved creatures.


This year, I set myself the ambitious task of making three little quilts for the furry children in our families. Every dog (and cat) should have something special, something lovely that was made just for them. I made Rupert a special quilt when he was in intensive care, and now I want all of our animals to have one, as a little token to make sure they that know how beloved they are. It was a massive race to get them done in time for Christmas though, and there were more than a few teary moments of frantically trying to defluff my sewing machine so that the bobbin would stop tangling, but I got there in the end!


This one was for my sister’s dog Decima (who was, of course, born on 10/10/10). Deci is a completely black Cocker Spaniel, so she looks great with really bright colours.


This one was for my other sister’s little fatty cat Minou (aka Mr Kitty). He’s a ginger cat and a boy, so I wanted to find a balance between being pretty but not too girly. The only guideline I got from my sister Caitlin was that “his favourite colour is orange”.


This one was for Nathan’s parents’ dog Gizmo (also called Gizimozo). Gizmo is the oldest of the bunch, so I went for an autumnal, grown-up palette.

Despite the photos, they all turned out perfectly square (the wind was blowing when we took the shots). All three of them were just a simple disappearing nine-patch (the only pattern I know) made from two packs of charm squares per quilt. So, so easy, and looks more complicated than it actually is. The only reason they took me a long time to make is that I’m not particularly confident about techniques like chain piecing yet. To make them snuggly and easily washable, I quilted directly onto polar fleece and machine stitched the bound edges to save time. As gifts, they were a hit!


I think we’re getting better at Christmas*. Things seem to run more smoothly, like our practice from every other year is starting to pay off. We still have at least four different places to go, but it’s not such a marathon as it has been other years. Maybe it’s because we have so much unstressed time leading up to it, and Nathan’s not trying to fly home on Christmas Eve.

My favourite moments of Christmas 2013:

Laying in bed on Christmas morning as the puppies jumped all over us, trying to get their presents out of their stockings! Posie and Rupert each got a toy and a megabone; Posie got a frog with dangly legs and a squeaker in each foot, Rupert got a plush pink pig to snuggle with.

My sister first made this salad (leafy salad with pomegranate and feta) last year, and it was so good, that we decided to make it this year, to take to Nathan’s parents house. The smell of the almonds toasting in the pan permeated the whole house, and it was gorgeous. The salad was pretty awesome too.

Nathan’s parents’ dog Gizmo has me completely figured out. At dinner, he started snuffling and yowling and headbutting my legs. I knew he’d just been outside, but he was insistent. So I eventually let him take me for a walk, down by the shoreline as the sun was setting across the water.

My sister (who is 23 years old) and I were in the spa at my aunt and uncle’s house, and a distant family member who doesn’t know us too well walked past and asked if we wanted a beer, then backtracked and said, “Oh, I mean, I guess you’d have to check with your parents to see if it was alright”. We were really confused, but realized that she thought we were under eighteen. There was a time that I would have been so offended, but now, I’ll just be grateful that someone thought I looked that young!


*Except I forgot to take any photos. Oh, the regret of someone who has a nice camera but continually forgets to use it!

full-time boyfriend

Most of the time, I’m fine with Nathan travelling. We get into a rhythm. We’ll talk on the phone or play nerdy games together over the internet during the week, and save everything up for our weekends together. Sometimes though, the weekends get overloaded. We have parties to go to, things to do around the house, doctor appointments, et cetera. All worthy ways to spend a weekend, but even the most fun things can seem like such obligations when it takes away from the little piece of Nath & Jo time we get every week.

Luckily, this won’t be an issue anymore. Nathan got a job in our town – ten minutes from home. It will be such a big adjustment, going from barely seeing each other to being together almost all the time. I’m full of excitement for so many silly little things. Like going grocery shopping for two: I’ll be able to cook things again, instead of eating sad Lean Cuisines almost every night. Nath will be able to mow the lawns any night he wants, instead of trying to squeeze it into already packed weekends. When the dogs are driving me nuts, I’ll have backup: Nath will be able to play with and entertain them when I need a break.


But the thing I am looking forward to most is actually sleeping in the same bed. It’s such a pleasure to wake up next to the person you love most, even if he’d rather snuggle with the dog.

wax on, wax off

Tonight I went to my first karate class in a long time. Maybe ten years? It’s definitely been a while. My whole family did karate once upon a time, but we all eventually gave it up as life got too busy. I’m starting again, mainly because I need something – anything! – to kick my butt into gear and start getting fit again. I cannot and will not be fat forever.

The karate school has just opened a new branch in my area, so I am currently the only student. It’s nice getting some one-on-one tuition, especially as they are starting me off as a green belt, which is where I left off. I have so much catching up to do, but the first major hurdle seems to be my overall fitness. In the class, we ran through all the kicks, punches, blocks and knife-hand strikes, and started on some of the combinations and kata. I surprised myself so much with how much I remembered – I guess it must be some sort of muscle memory.

It was fun and nice to get back into it, but boy, I’m going to be sore tomorrow.


(literally) cold feet

After almost three weeks of gorgeous heat (though I could have gone without the humidity), it’s a bit of a rude shock to be back home, where it is undeniably winter. Since I’ve been back, we’ve had squally winds and pouring rain punctuated by little moments of sunshine, but it’s not enough.

Jonquils are sending up their little flower buds in my garden, and I keep telling myself that winter is more than half over. I’m trying to romanticize some of the things I can’t really do in summer, like snuggling with the puppies under a mountain of blankets, or eating hearty stews and soups. But if I’m honest with myself for five seconds, I just can’t wait for summer.

From my garden, last year.

I love…

Going to the beach after the heat of the day has passed, then heading to Mum’s house for fish and chips, with sand and salt in my hair. Being barefoot without my feet turning a lovely shade of ‘zombie’.
The way that flowers wilt in the hot sunshine, then come back to life at dusk, releasing their perfumes.
Eating endless icy poles, and always having a gin and tonic within arm’s reach.
The freckles that appear all over my face, even when I wear a hat.
That everything seems to start later in summer – the day is for dozing, the night is for doing.

home sweet home

On Saturday morning, we touched down in Melbourne after more than 36 hours spent either in the air or in airports. Everyone in my group couldn’t help but clap and cheer as that last plane finally landed – we were that relieved to be home. I ran out towards the baggage claim area, searching for Nathan, and when I found him, I couldn’t stop hugging him. So many days of missing him were suddenly concentrated into one sweet moment – I was finally home!


As I opened the door, I realized that Nathan and my Mum had been secretly conspiring when I was gone. The house was spotless. And Nathan had added a few little personal touches. We have some framed photos of the puppies and our nieces in the house, but none of us as a couple. But on my return, some happy snaps of us had appeared on the mantelpiece, and I realized – despite his tough guy act, he must have missed me too.


new york, new york – part three

On my free day in New York, I was determined not to waste it wandering around aimlessly like I had for some of the time in Washington and Boston – I think I was so overwhelmed with options that I became paralyzed about making choices. So I had a plan. I got up early and headed straight across town to Tiffany’s. No, I didn’t eat breakfast there, and because I was alone, I didn’t even get a photo of myself outside the windows – next time! I bought a little charm of an apple for my bracelet (the big apple, get it?) and a necklace.

Then I set out on a very important mission in Central Park. Every since I was a kid and saw the movie Balto, I’ve wanted to find the statue. I walked all the over the park, kept going even when it started to rain, got covered in mud, but I found it.



And for any diehard fans of the movie: yes, I did look up at that statue and say, “I would have been lost without you, Balto”. (Nerd)

After that, I went to the Guggenheim, which was good but I wished I had skipped it and spent more time at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The place was gigantic, and I didn’t even get to see a quarter of it before closing time. I took photos of literally every single thing I saw, mostly to show Nathan, but my favourite part was seeing the eternal bond between girls and their little white fluffy dogs throughout history.



Before I left, there was one last thing I had to do. And I wish I could say I did it properly, and Nathan is never going to let me live this down, but: when I went to see the Statue of Liberty, I didn’t get off the ferry. It was pouring with rain, the seas were rough, and the queue to get on the return ferry stretched all the way around the island. Hundreds of people getting drenched as they waited. I wasn’t the only one in our group who made this choice though.



After a farewell dinner, our group said goodbye to New York and began our long flights from Newark to Los Angeles to Sydney to Melbourne. My feet swelled up like crazy on the flights and I slept almost all the way home. Getting to Sydney was the hardest. We were literally so close to home, yet there were still so many hours ahead of us of waiting, boarding, flying, collecting baggage and finally driving an hour to get home from the airport. Although I was long overdue for some puppy cuddles and getting to see Nathan face to face, I will miss all three cities. I can’t wait to go back there one day, and show Nathan everything that I saw, and explore together all the places that I missed out on. All in all, it was a great trip!

new york, new york – part two

Three things:

1. One of my favourite things that we did was visit a gospel church in Brooklyn. Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos – I wasn’t sure if it would be appropriate to take any, so I left the camera in my bag. They were so welcoming, even to an agnostic sinner like me. The singing and dancing was incredible, even on a hot day with no air conditioning. There were even nurses on standby to check on the people who got so excited that they fainted. At the end of the service, there was a bit about being friends with your fellow man, so all the members of the church came around and hugged and kissed us all. I had never seen anything like that before!


2. We had soul food at Sylvia’s Restaurant. American food spans from the absolutely delicious (every single carnitas burrito that I ate on the trip) to the noxious and foul (think tater tot casserole or pumpkin casserole with marshmallows). I knew that soul food isn’t exactly about fresh fruit and vegetables, so I was a bit dubious going into this one. We had: scrambled eggs (except for me – I don’t do eggs), bacon, grits, juice and salmon croquettes. The grits were interesting, I ate them but I’m still not sure if I actually enjoyed them or whether I was just chalking it up to an experience. While we were eating, we learnt about the actual Sylvia behind Sylvia’s and how she worked from nothing to having a renowned hot spot with time-honoured recipes. The theme of the whole trip was for us to be exploring the American Dream, and it really was amazing to see some examples of how hard work and persistence could turn into something big and wonderful.

3. We also visited Ground Zero and the September 11 memorial. This was incredibly hard. I still remember it happening. I was thirteen years old and so excited that my birthday was only days away, then waking up to hear the news and feeling like I was still dreaming. The eeriest part came after the buildings were down, waiting to see if that was it, or whether there was more coming. I (and I suspect most people) had never seen anything like that before, and all I could think of was that there were going to be more attacks in other cities. My class at school was going on a field trip to hike through some rainforest that day, and after some debate, it still went ahead. But I will always remember getting on the bus and driving away from the city, not knowing whether I would come back and the whole world had been bombed or World War III had started. Of course, I was a million miles away on that day, and I cannot imagine how much harder it would be if it was happening in your country, in your city, to your family.





The memorial was so well designed; so peaceful and reflective, but there was such a heavy weight that seemed to attach itself to you as you walked through. Glenn (our professor) told us about some of the colleagues that he lost on that day. I read the names that surrounded by pools and imagined that they were my parents, siblings or friends, and the tears started running down behind my sunglasses. It was a very hard part of the trip, but I’m glad I went.