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!

Mixtape: A Particular Moment

It’s weird how the internet works – I can’t actually write the title for this post that I wanted, because I know it will attract all sorts of spam. But basically, this is the ultimate mixtape of my 10-14 year old self.

Rules: it has to be what I was listening to at that time, preferably taped onto a cassette straight from the radio after I’d spent all night on the phone, on hold, waiting to request it. Bonus points if I saved together my pocket money to buy the single (even more points if it was a weird Taiwan-only release). And most points of all to the song that I sang on the radio to win a pair of Wrangler jeans in 1998 – you have to guess which song!


If you can’t see the spotify widget, it’s because I still haven’t figured out a way to make it appear on mobile versions of the site and feeds like bloglovin’. Working on it!

February – Taking Stock

Inspired by Pip Lincolne’s list, here’s mine for February (even though we’re not even halfway through) –

Making : tentative honeymoon plans
Cooking : everything from scratch and with limited ingredients, which is sometimes great and other times it’s a gigantic expensive pain
Drinking : only water, unfortunately (we saw chocolate milk in the supermarket the other day and nearly cried)
Reading : a Jackie Kennedy biography that I started years ago, and abandoned as soon as it got to the funeral bit
Trawling : through the neverending chaos on our dining table, so many things still not unpacked from Japan
Wanting : to just go to the beach every day
Looking : at the tendril of wisteria that has worked its way into our living room through a gap in the window
Deciding : what barely edible low carb food to spend hours cooking tomorrow
Wishing : that I could eat all the bread and soft cheese I wanted and still lose weight
Enjoying : the last few weeks of freedom before it’s back into honours coursework
Waiting : until I get a bonus point on this awful diet so I can eat some cheese, but…
Liking : that I have actually lost some weight so far and I have a single chin again
Wondering : whether the minor TN that is bothering me today is going to explode into another week of horrible attacks
Loving : all the roses in bloom in my garden right now
Pondering : some big decisions regarding the wedding
Listening : to Swan Lake, over and over
Considering : whether the risk of terrorism in France is enough to put me off traveling there
Buying : (or planning to buy) bulk bulbs to plant in Autumn
Watching : Martha Stewart (good) and Married at First Sight (bad)
Hoping : that the camellia that Dad gave me can just hang on through the rest of summer and lay down some good roots in autumn
Marvelling : at the sheer volume of Christmas stuff we own, now that it’s all in giant tubs that have nowhere to live (we need a garage)
Cringing : at the general state of affairs in the US right now, not that our government is much better
Needing : somebody to come and repair my television aerial
Questioning : whether the living room should stay charcoal, or whether all-white-scandi-everything is just a fad
Smelling : the heady perfume of the rose bush that Grandma got me, every time I open the front door
Wearing : a peachy pink ombre swing dress from Bali that Nathan said “really brings out your eyes”
Noticing : that the more effort I put into my skin, the better it looks
Knowing : that I need to get my skates on with this novel and with my thesis – even one alone is a huge undertaking, but doing both at the same time is scarily big for anybody, but especially for me and my long history of collapsing in a heap whenever I have too much weight on my shoulders
Thinking : about planting an apricot tree in Posie’s Forest (aka Rupert’s Wood)
Admiring : NASA and the EPA and the Parks Service for their committment to science and truth in the face of dangerous fascism
Getting : over not being able to eat any cheese (they actually did studies that proved that cheese is as addictive as cocaine, so this is serious, okay?)
Bookmarking : articles about how to force tulip bulbs in an indoor glass vase
Disliking : that my finger is still bruised from mis-catching a falling Vegemite jar
Opening : packages, containing French and Italian phrasebooks
Closing : the door to my incredible messy office – out of sight, out of mind
Feeling : thinner than a couple of weeks ago, but still at least a third fatter than I should be
Hearing : Posie barking endlessly at some tradesmen working on next door’s chimney
Celebrating : little everyday victories – last week, it was a major triumph to even have a shower… the fact that I could even do that was worth celebrating
Pretending : that I’m not a little sad that if everything had gone to plan in 2016, that I would have another graduation ceremony coming up in a couple of months
Embracing : the fact that I’m turning into a bit of a plant lady (no such thing as too many plants)

And I’m adding a couple of my own…

Fearing : sharks, especially because Dad and I are going snorkelling on the weekend (which will be the first chance to try out my new awesome pink gear)
Accepting : that there will be times when I will fail or stumble, and that’s okay so long as it’s a comma and not a full stop
Worrying : about people being angry or upset by some of our wedding plans, but also recognizing that I really shouldn’t care what anybody else thinks apart from Nathan
Enjoying : the fact that even the smallest amount of the right exercise can have a marked impact in a short time
Daydreaming : about how nice it would be to fly first class, just once
Plotting : what sort of traveling I want to do and the places I want to see in the next five years, and wondering how that will fit in with everything else I’ve got planned

Little Bits + Posie in the Gardens

I was baking my own tortilla chips earlier today (curse this horrid diet). They had to be cooked in several batches because our oven is awful and wrecks every baking tray we put in it. Now, I can’t shake this edgy feeling that something is still in the oven that I have to babysit or else it will burn.

Aside from that, 2017 reading is not going very well. My particular brain chemistry situation is a blessing and a curse; if a book catches me at the right moment, I will devour it in a day and not stop for anything. The rest of the time, I will start a page with good intentions then find myself flying right over paragraphs without picking up a hint of meaning – then I backtrack and the same thing happens all over again. All while suddenly wondering about whether the word ‘dandelion’ refers to different species of plant in different regions, or daydreaming about delicious Alsatian (the region, not the dog) cuisine that I read about the other day, feeling the urge to google why I always get eczema on my left foot but never my right. ANYWAY.

We took the pups to Ballarat on the weekend and it was an experience. We may need to just concede defeat that they are never going to sit nicely with their seatbelts on when there is an alternative of jumping all over me. Also, the air conditioner refused to work the whole time except for the last five minutes, so I turned up sweaty, windblown and covered in dog hair to an extended family picnic. That was great. Posie loved the Botanical Gardens – she is a dog that must smell every flower.

I’m so glad we finally have a working air conditioner in our house. Last night, we set up an inflatable mattress in the living room because it was seriously like 28°C outside at midnight, and our bedroom would have been much hotter. I watched Martha Stewart’s Cooking School until 2am, drooling over things that I don’t even like. Why do eggs always look so delicious, even though I know I don’t like them? They are so sensual in their silkiness, the way that the yolk oozes and coats everything like a perfect sauce. Even scrambled, Martha Stewart managed to make something that looked cheesy-without-cheese, fluffy and gorgeous. I kind of hate that I don’t like eggs. It’s so ridiculous and I will confess that I think it’s silly when people write off an entire food category not for an allergy but simply because they don’t like it. Eggs look so good, but I know that as soon as that texture gets in my mouth, I will gag. It’s an irrational, uncontrollable response. Sometimes I can trick myself by making scrambled eggs with so much cheese, bacon and herbs that I can’t even really taste the egg, but egg by itself, I will always gag or throw up. I can dip soldiers into egg yolk, I can eat Hollandaise and meringue, but there is something about eggs by themselves (probably the whites) that I just can’t handle. But that’s going to change. 2017 will be the year that I eat an egg, all by itself. And I will enjoy it. Baby steps though – I’m going to start with frittatas and omelettes first. But I’m determined to be a person that likes eggs, especially since I am hassling Nathan to get some backyard chickens.

Games

I’m doing some writing prompts by Ann Dee Ellis. Eight minutes, unrehearsed or edited. Today it’s about games. Photo is from happier times in the same year.

When we came back from Taiwan, my parents gave me the option of going straight into Year 7 at a brand new high school or slotting back into Year 6 at the same primary school, with the same kids, that I had gone to before we left. In hindsight, I think I made the wrong choice because I was bored out of my brain, but I was so blinded by the idea of being “with all my friends” that I went backwards. Note: only one of them turned out to be my friend.

At the end of each day, the classroom would play some sort of group game as a reward for concentrating. One of them was called “Murder in the Dark”, I can’t remember the other ones. They would just launch into the game without any explanation, because all the rest of them had been together, in the same class, for seven years. They knew the rules. I was so confused, I didn’t know what to do. I would squeak out an “excuse me, can somebody please tell me how to play?” but they never listened. They just got frustrated that I was slowing them down. I asked the teacher, who never had much patience for a dreamy, inattentive kid in desperate need of extension work. She told me to ask the other students. I asked them, they mostly rolled their eyes at me or offered explanations like “look, you just play the game, okay?” or “don’t be stupid, everybody knows how to play the game”.

What ended up happening was that I would dread the end of every day. I would get more and more anxious, and I started asking to go to the bathroom but really just going for a panicked walk around the playground, hoping it would be over by the time I got back. It never was. They all knew exactly what to do. I would open or close my eyes at the wrong times and ruin the game, or not know what to do when somebody tapped me on the shoulder or gave me a piece of paper or winked at me. When I got it wrong, everybody would groan and kids would call me stupid or angrily blame me for wrecking the game “on purpose”. I picked up some of the games over time by sneakily opening my eyes to see how it all worked, but some remained mysteries. And I was always in a state of panic that they would choose one of the ones that I didn’t understand.

It was awful. It’s kind of no surprise that I had terrible culture shock, or that this was the first year that I could really pinpoint being seriously depressed. I’m always surprised that my teacher didn’t notice me tensing up and trying not to cry every afternoon when she announced we were going to play a game. Or maybe she did.

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.

Something is Wrong on the Internet + Rupert’s Hospital Adventure

As you might have noticed, I have a weird little secondary sidebar menu that has popped up on my site out of nowhere after my last update. It’s annoying and I can’t figure out how on earth to get rid of it. Never mind that though – I’m planning a bit of a revamp around here sometime in the next month or so, so expect much bigger changes!

Apart from that, we’ve had some mixed news this week. Rupert had surgery on Monday to remove a tumour from the inside of his eyelid. It was originally slated to be a major ordeal – they were going to cut an upside-down house shaped wedge out of his lower eyelid and stitch the sides back together. But once they examined him, they realized they could just freeze it off. He came home and was completely normal within 24 hours, seriously acting like nothing had ever happened. We had been told to expect swelling, but there has been nothing. It’s as though he never even went to hospital.

Anyway, the complicated part of all this is that we got a call last night to let us know that the tumour was in fact cancerous. We were not expecting this at all. But there is a silver lining in all of this. It was definitely cancer, but the type is not a cancer that can spread or create secondaries in any of his other systems or organs. And there is only a tiny chance that it will ever come back; and if it does, it will be in exactly the same spot and will just need to be frozen off again. Which is extremely good news.

But then there is the guilt factor. We originally found out about this tumour in November. The vets assured us that it was extremely unlikely to be cancerous. It was too close to our Japan trip and we didn’t want to put the responsibility of his surgery recovery time onto my family, so we decided with the vets that it would be fine to wait until we got back. Then there was back and forth about whether we should opt for the invasive surgery that the vet could provide, or whether to take him to the specialist vet opthamologist. We eventually picked the specialist and had to wait another two weeks for an appointment. I just feel so terrible that our little boy had cancer this whole time and we let him wait nearly two months for treatment while we went on a freaking holiday. Worst owners ever. I realize that we didn’t know and we made the best choice we could based on the information we had at the time, but I still feel terrible about what our actions and choices boiled down to.

But if I can take any solace from this, at least he’s well now. He’s currently asleep on top of a pile of clean laundry, snoring quietly. Later, I’m sure somebody will give him a bit of lamb chop (it is Australia Day, after all). He is completely back to normal and I’m so glad that he’s alright. I know this is just part of having a senior dog and that we have to prepare ourselves for all the other little (or big) things that are going to pop up in the future. But for now, he’s alright – he’s happy, so I’m happy.

Little (Big) Things

Inspired by C. Jane Kendrick, I’m doing some writing prompts by Ann Dee Ellis. Eight minutes, unrehearsed or edited. Today it’s all about little things. I’m a little scattered today, so here’s a list of the littlest things that are sometimes the biggest things:

Getting the butter-to-vegemite ratio perfect on your toast (dark rye bread, please).
Suddenly realizing how quiet is and looking around the house to find two happily snoozing dogs.
A package arriving, containing a new dress.
Making eggs for somebody you love even though the smell makes you gag.
A wilting plant magically reviving itself after watering at the end of a hot day.
Fresh bed linen, bonus points if it dried on the clothesline in the sunshine.
Apricots so ripe that their juice dribbles down your chin.
Text messages that say “Just landed, see you soon Chicolina”.
Plain cotton Bonds quarter crew socks, nothing else will do.
The satisfaction of writing or reading or hearing a well-crafted, melodious sentence.
Ticking off a big To Do list.
Little clusters of gorgeous roses still blooming, here and there.
Being in possession of a ticket to see B*witched in a few weeks.
The coffee table stacked high with folded laundry, ready to be put away.
The effort-reward equation of slow cooking (so worth it).
Sending photos to my grandma so she can see what I’ve been up to.
Posie training us to give her lots of pats by following us around and giving us tiny love-licks on the back of our calves.
Letting somebody else make you a healthy dinner when you are exhausted and would otherwise eat junk.
Owning a particular book and remembering that you bought it secondhand at a book fair in Taipei 20 years ago.
Really, really, really wanting a cheeseburger but preferring the pleasure of my clothes getting looser each day.
Crunchy saltwater hair and sandy feet.
Planting a tree in the garden and seeing it grow before your eyes.
Discovering brilliant new-to-me songs that were actually recorded decades before I was born.
My super prolific phalaenopsis orchids that just won’t quit with the new blooms.
The video of David Bowie performing Starman on Countdown.
Stealing Nathan’s t-shirt at the end of every day, to sleep in it.
Really, really, really good licorice tea.
When flocks of peachy pink galahs gather on the oval across from my house at dawn or dusk.
Rupert’s popcorn barks, especially when he’s trying to mount an argument that your dinner actually belongs to him.
Having a man willing to massage my right foot for over an hour if that’s what it takes to get rid of a migraine.
Finally owning a DVD copy of the Japanese The Little Mermaid with the real ending.
Lighting tealight candles, just because it’s nice.
Realizing you have about seven months of your twenties left.
Seeing great sales on flights and restraining myself because we have a plan to stick to, but still researching the hell out of places for next year.
Tasting all the wines we are going to serve at our wedding party and realizing it’s real.
Pineapple and watermelon, in all their glorious forms.
Returning to yoga after a break and feeling my spine unfold like a concertina.
Being able to say “I’m writing my first novel” because it’s true and it’s really happening.

The Mussel Festival

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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!

Japan with Nathan, Part Six: DisneySea

Last Japan post (finally), I promise! But this is the big one. Doing the whole Disney thing was another thing that I had put off both other times, because I wanted to do it with Nathan. He admitted that he was a bit half-hearted about the whole thing in the lead up, but we were both utterly blown away. It was the most wonderful day ever and I just wish we could have spent more time there. There’s no point in me going too far into the nitty gritty details, because there are blogs all over the internet by hardcore Disney fans who have been to all the parks in the world and have literal strategy guides and multi-day itineraries mapped out, so I’ll leave that stuff to the experts.

Anyway, a few recollections and a million photos: I was amazed at the level of detail. The monorail to get from the train station to the park had little Mickey shaped windows. The Christmas decorations everywhere were all gorgeous, and all the gift shops in different zones were all themed or had specific special items that weren’t available anywhere else in the park. We didn’t see a single piece of litter, and when somebody dropped their popcorn, previously unseen staff members (sorry, “Cast Members”) zoomed seemingly out of nowhere and had it all cleaned up in less than ten seconds. There were surprisingly few children there (maybe 20% or less of the total crowd) and they seemed generally well behaved. And after going to a Disney park in Japan, I’m so glad we didn’t go to the original American one first – everybody was so polite at this one, you didn’t feel like you had to watch your bag at every moment, people waited in orderly lines with no pushing or complaining, everything was just efficient and punctual and pleasant. Somehow, I don’t think that would have been the atmosphere anywhere else in the world.

Anyway, photos!

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^^ We got a few nice photos together, a few by ourselves.

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^^ Nathan loved the Arabian area. Even the food court seemed like a place where Aladdin was going to jump out a window at any moment. This photo of him on the carousel is one of my all time favourites; he is so excited, he looks like a kid who won a prize and just met their hero and got a puppy on their birthday which is also Christmas.

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^^I was winning all the style awards with my fabulous sartorial decisions, as usual. Nathan said I looked like a kid who’d dressed themselves for a school field trip and was sure they had covered all the important bases – “Disney hoodie, check. Miss Bunny hat, check. Socks and ballet flats, check. Emergency popcorn supply, check.”

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^^I loved the fact that the centerpiece of DisneySea is Ariel’s castle. She normally gets overlooked for Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty, and as a part-mermaid, how could this not be my favourite? Plus, Thumper really enjoyed his scallop croquette sandwich served in a clamshell bun.

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^^ I was so tired by the end of it all, like falling asleep on my feet. It’s a long day, there’s a heap of walking and waiting in lines, and so much to take in.

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^^ Nathan was pretty tired too.

But it was so wonderful.

My biggest tips for anybody who is thinking of going:

  • Wear trainers. Not even cute sneakers, wear proper sports shoes with cushioning and support and everything. Do not attempt to look stylish or sexy because you will be on your feet non-stop for over 12 hours, and you will be kicking yourself if half of that time is spent either limping around the park or having to sit around on park benches because your feet are so sore.
  • Take a small backpack – if you buy stuff during the day, there are plenty of coin lockers around to store it all in. All the rides have a little pocket on the back of the seat for you to put a small bag in.
  • Get there early and head straight for one of the big rides to get a FastPass straight away. There is a time limit on when you can apply for your next FastPass (like, say, in two hours time), so you want to start early. Some of the rides had queue times of 90+ minutes, so you will definitely want to take advantage of the FastPass system for the bigger rides.
  • There is an app called TDR Wait Time Check that gives estimates on wait times, which helps you decide which rides to head to next. It also gives you information about whether any rides are closed, if certain parades or shows get cancelled, etc. Not always 100% accurate, but it helped.
  • Wear layers.
  • Buy one of the popcorn buckets (they are pricey, but cute!) and get cheap refills all over the park. There are different flavours in different ‘lands’ – my favourite was black pepper, but there was also salted, caramel, chocolate and cappuccino that we saw. It’s also handy having popcorn in a bucket because then you have a snack if you have to wait in line.
  • And of course, you and your sweetheart/mum/BFF/whoever must wear matching hats. It’s practically compulsory.

But overall, it was completely magical and I can’t wait to go back.

I’m not sure what the highlight of this trip was for me, but Disney was up there. I think Nathan loved the trains and the deer the most. But every moment of it was just so much fun, it really was an adventure. And it was so good to experience it all together. We will be back – Nathan’s already planning to go back after 2020, because apparently a Nintendo-themed land is opening at Universal Studios. And I never did manage to get my Harry Potter wand. There were so many other things that we planned but ended up running out of time, but I suppose that’s to be expected when you are only in a country for less than two weeks.

Next time! Because there will definitely be a next time!

Read my other posts about Japan here:
Part One – Getting There
Part Two – Fushimi Inari Shrine
Part Three – Hiroshima
Part Four – Nara
Part Five – A Bunch of Things