Summer Bucket List 2017/2018

It’s not secret that the warmer months are my favourite time of year – I feel like I exist all year, but it’s only during these few months that I really live. Cold weather makes you want to just sit, wrap yourself in blankets, stay in bed and hibernate. It’s such a struggle to get going when it’s cold, wet and miserable. Sometimes if I’m outdoors and I get overly chilled, it will throw me into this awful state of extreme fatigue (mental and physical) until I’m able to spend hours warming myself back up again with hot showers, electric blankets and hot tea. I think my core just has a lot of trouble keeping its temperature, so of course I love spring and summer better.

When it’s warm, the days feel so limitless and full of potential. Nine o’clock on a Thursday night and you’re itching to do something? No problem, let’s go get ice cream and walk by the beach. That kind of thing is so nice. I have the biggest bucket list of things to do over the next few months – I’m sure I won’t get to all of them, but it’s a nice daydream. 🙂

This is my 2017/2018 spring/summer bucket list:

I want to grow some amazing heirloom tomatoes – some for sauce-making, others for slicing and layering with homegrown basil and mozzarella for the best kind of caprese salad.
I want to learn how to fly the kite that’s been kicking around in my office for the last eight years.
I want to go boogie boarding with Nathan at Jan Juc.
I want to listen to French music in sunshine at the park while eating expensive cheese.
I want to finally go to Werribee Zoo, because I’ve never been.
I want to take Posie and Rupert to have Santa photos taken.
I want to go to a pick-your-own cherry farm and make jars and jars of cherry pie filling (seeing as Nathan loved the cherry pie I made on the weekend so much).
I want to go out on my father-in-law’s boat for the day.
I want to demolish the old (probably haunted) wardrobe in my office and make a new one to store my dress addiction.
I want to get frames for a bunch of things so we don’t have so many blank walls in this house.
I want to take lots of photos with my big camera again.
I want to set up the dogs’ clam shell pool in the backyard and do what I did last year – laying under the oak tree on hot days with my legs in the pool, laying on a blanket, reading.
On that note, I want to read all summer long – widely and deeply.
I want to celebrate the mussel festival at Mum’s house.
I want a really huge thunderstorm, the kind that rattles the windows and floods the backyard.
I want to set up a kitchen herb garden in the front yard so I can have fresh herbs in all my cooking.
I want to try different champagnes and see if there is anything I like better than my current favourite (which would be handy because it’s $100 a bottle).
In the new year, I want to start a physical, pen-and-paper diary – nothing too full on, but somewhere I can write all sorts of half-formed thoughts and fragments of poetry without having the urge to hit backspace.
I want to make a recipe from the Supernormal cookbook.
I want to find the perfect new cushions for the sofa – obsessed with feather pillows particularly these days.
I want to finally go out with Sarah to eat fancy steaks for our 30th birthdays.
I want to take a few domestic trips to visit family in Sydney and the Gold Coast.
I want to finally finish Posie’s quilt and the two batik ones that I started after our first Bali trip.
I want to relax enough to nap during the daytime on hot days.
I want to take a big day trip down the Great Ocean Road and take a walk in the rainforest.
I want to turn my entire garlic harvest into garlic butter to be frozen and used throughout the year – I did that to half of my haul last year and it was so delicious and so handy to have for whenever I felt like garlic prawns.
I want to really kick some writing goals under my pen names, and start on my big women’s fiction novel that will be under my own name in January.
I want to grow my own baby cucumbers and turn them into dill pickles.
I want to do some agility training with Posie – she’s getting a collapsible tunnel for Christmas, and I’m thinking about making some beams and hurdles for her.
I want to try to make time every single week to do something fun with Nathan, because it would be a crime to waste this blissful newlywed period with being serious or boring all the time.
I want to let saltwater dry in my hair and go to sleep with sand still between my toes.
I want to do healthy things, like eat five serves of fruit or vegetables a day, or make sure that I eat oily fish a couple of times a week.
But I also want to do unhealthy things, like make a gingerbread house or perfect my recipe for the Heineken green tea lemonade cocktail I had in Taiwan.
I want to hopefully be able to swim in my mermaid tail at Eastern Beach.
I want to enjoy every moment of the only time of year that I can feel my feet!

The Wedding – Part Two

(All photos by Erin King – see Part One of the wedding here)

I think in the end the bulk of my planning went into the reception, because although us getting married was the most important part of the day, we always wanted to focus less on ceremony and more on having fun. We envisioned a really cool dinner party – intimate enough to feel like a family dinner, but with our absolute favourite food. We wanted it to be luxurious and a bit fancy, but still really relaxed and personal… and I think we nailed it. I suppose writing all these details down here is mainly for me – I don’t want to forget a single thing.

At 6pm, we all met at Supernormal in Flinders Lane and went downstairs to their cozy but simple private dining room. The decorations were relatively stark, which is how I wanted them. Three tall vases of japonica blooms, and in the center of each table, a fishbowl full of sparkling lights and paper cranes that I had spent forever folding with Mum. At each place, there was a laser cut wooden name for each person and a box of four LuxBite macarons, each one a flavour to represent me, Nathan, Posie and Rupert (the flavours were rose & lychee, kopiko, sour strawberry and salted caramel).

We all had canapĂ©s and cocktails for a while until everybody got settled, and then the banquet began. And oh my god, the food. Supernormal has been our favourite restaurant since I dragged Nathan there for our birthday a few years ago. I always make an excuse to go there whenever I’m in Melbourne – even though I know I should branch out, it’s just always so good that I can’t resist. And it’s such a unique restaurant in the way that it bridges the gap between fine dining and something trendier and more casual – the food is amazing, but it’s not pretentious at all, which we love.

It was also a bit special to both of us in different ways – last year we went to Japan just before Christmas, which was such an amazing adventure, and I grew up in Taiwan (and went there mid-last year as well). It was really cool to have food at our wedding that incorporated inspiration from both of those places, among other countries. We are both really into Asian food (or any food, really) too, so I think we were always going to go a bit non-traditional in this aspect.

Anyway, I can’t remember the exact canapĂ©s that we had, but this was our menu:

  • Pickled vegetables
  • Moonlight flat oysters
  • Sea bream, white soy, pickled wakame
  • Smoked beef, mustard leaf, clam mayonnaise
  • New England lobster rolls
  • Prawn and chicken dumplings, black vinegar and chili
  • Duck leg bao with plum sauce and vinegar
  • Szechuan lamb, spring onion pancake, coriander paste
  • Cosberg salad, mint and ginger vinaigrette
  • Steamed white rice
  • Peanut butter parfait, salted caramel, soft chocolate
  • Wedding cake (the famous Lolly Bag cake from LuxBite) and sesame cookies

There were some variations for the people who didn’t eat seafood, which even Nathan’s notoriously picky grandmother ate and loved. We really wanted the night to be special, so we chose about seven cocktails to add to the already super extensive drinks list. It was really fun at the end of the night to look at the invoice and see which cocktails were most popular – everybody loved the espresso martini the best, it seems! I had spent days laboriously choosing songs for our dinner playlist, which went down well too.

We had a little guestbook situation set up with a polaroid camera but unfortunately I forgot to mention it in my speech, so only a couple of people signed it, but… c’est la vie.

I was always determined to make a speech. I write for a living, I have a degree in writing, it would seem odd to me not to write a speech. I lovingly went through a long list of people, thanking them individually. Nathan took his turn to tell stories about how gullible I was, soliciting more than a few laughs. We didn’t want anybody else to have to go to the trouble of making a speech, so we didn’t ask anybody else, but our dads surprised us on the night by offering a short but sweet toast from the both of them – it was so unexpected and so lovely.

We also had two special drinks arrive at our table, courtesy of Posie and Rupert, whose names were etched into the glasses!

A person who shall remain unnamed later told us that she was worried when we said our reception was going to be in a function room at a restaurant, and that she couldn’t see how it would feel like a wedding. But upon arriving, being led into the beautiful space and being given a cocktail, all her fears were blown away. She said that it redefined what a wedding could be for her, and now she wonders why everybody doesn’t do something small and personal instead of the huge things that she was used to.

It feels like bragging, but I am just so damn proud of the wedding that we managed to pull off. It was elegant, it was fun, it was intimate, it was like a really cool dinner party. It was small enough that we got to actually have some conversations with everybody who was there, and there was lots of seat-hopping between the tables, even between our families, which was nice to see. Everybody who came was somebody that we would happily go to dinner with for any occasion. It was so cozy, and we felt so completely and utterly enveloped by the love in the room – it was small, and there were definitely people we missed, but it was so personal and so romantic. It also says a lot that my dad said to me on the night, “can I live here?” and Nathan’s dad has been scheming for a reason to go back as well.

At the end of the night, I couldn’t stand my heels anymore, so Sarah lent me her flats and we walked up Flinders Lane until Nathan and I caught a taxi back to the apartment. Our amazing dog sitter/chaperone handed over his very tired and well behaved charges, I took half a million bobby pins out of my hair and we threw our wedding clothes on the bed in the second bedroom to be dealt with the next day. The dogs were so exhausted from their little adventure and their wedding night sushi dinner that they slept soundly until 7am, then after a quick jaunt outside, went straight back to sleep so we could lie in until 11am – bliss! Then we got Pancake Parlour delivered for breakfast, Nathan fell into a sugar coma and we both napped with the dogs for the rest of the day – double bliss!

It was such a good day/night. So many people have said to Nathan that it’s really quite rare (at least, this was guys talking) to feel like you actually had fun at your wedding. But we did. Even up until the day, I was feeling so unsettled about the whole thing and so indecisive about what it was that I truly wanted for the day, but once it was over, it felt perfect. Like I couldn’t have wanted anything better, and I got exactly what I wanted. We had the best time and even though it was four weeks ago now, we are still harping on about it… it was just such a good day. I understand now why some people feel the need to renew their vows – if a vow renewal could replicate how good that day felt, I’d do it every anniversary, for sure.

So there we are! Now back to my scheduled newlywed bliss.

The Wedding – Part One

(All photos by Erin King)

I’ve been putting this post off for over a month. Even though we’ve talked about the wedding endlessly with our families, it feels so hard to sum it up. I always thought it was hopelessly clichĂ© when people say “it was the best day of my life”, but so far, it really was. No, not everything was perfect, but when I ignore those bits, all I can remember is wonderful.

Okay, so, I’ll try to keep it semi-chronological.

We chose a bridal party of six, long before the day. I chose my two sisters and my best friend to be my bridesmaids, Nathan chose his brother, my brother and his best friend to be his groomsmen. Neither of us wanted to choose a maid of honour or a best man because it felt wrong to elevate certain people instead of others, so Posie was my Dog of Honour and Rupert was Best Dog. They are, after all, our treasures. We did ask Sarah and Scott to sign the certificate for us though. The decision was fairly easy, because although Nathan only has one brother, we have four siblings altogether, and it seemed wrong to ask some but exclude others. We had one friend each, so that was perfect.

We rented a dog friendly apartment in Fitzroy and stayed the night before the wedding. Due to some disorganization on our part and a total failure to plan for peak hour traffic, we made it up to Melbourne at almost midnight. After getting into the apartment, getting settled and finally getting the dogs under control, I got about 4-5 hours sleep before kissing each other goodbye and heading for my Mum’s apartment on Flinders Lane.

We got ready, ate fancy chicken sandwiches and drank champagne. Something not very good happened that I might talk about later in the post**. One of my bridesmaids who shall not be named forgot her dress and had to make up an excuse to sneak back to her hotel to get it. There was a minor panic when a coat hanger left black lint all over my white dress, but it was fine.

One of the highlights of the morning was when the bouquets arrived. I know that every bride likes to think that her details were the best, and everybody will back that up when talking to the bride, but these bouquets were incredible. I’d been deeply involved in the planning process for these bouquets, and extremely specific about the exact flowers and colours that I wanted. Ranunculus, garden roses, dahlias, lavender, frilled tulips, sweet peas, hellebores, blushing bride, freesias, camellia leaves and sprays of gorgeous andromeda hanging gracefully. I wanted a palette of peachy pinks but with a lot of light and shade, and pops of raspberry. I also wanted to incorporate hints of yellow and lavender as highlights. And it all worked so well. I was so glad that I totally micromanaged this detail, because everybody loved them, and honestly, they were more gorgeous than any pinterest inspiration that I’d found.

That photo of the rings is so cool, but it’s actually a bit misleading – Nathan actually ended up getting married with a stand-in ring! He ordered an amazing wedding ring from America with three layers – dinosaur bone, meteorite and sparkly blue opal – but he ended up leaving it too late and it didn’t arrive in time. I’ll post another photo of his actual ring some other time. As for me, I loved the idea of mixing metals, especially because I love rose gold so much. My rings are different, but they work together really well – the little twist in the wedding band sits perfectly under the stone of my engagement ring. I love them… which I’m glad of, because I want to be wearing them for a very long time.

I always wanted a shorter dress – not exactly tea length, more like ballerina length, to show off my amazing shoes. I also wanted a pink satin sash, inspired by a line in the movie Hook (Peter Pan did not come to the wedding, that I know of), and a pink petticoat. I wore the sparkliest shoes in the world, a pearl necklace and earrings borrowed from Mum, and a beaded/bejeweled/pearl hairclip. Whether to wear a veil or not was a dilemma right until the eleventh hour, but I’m glad I skipped it – it felt like too much of a costume piece on me.

Sarah walked me to Treasury Gardens and we saw a brick red jacket in the distance, so we hid behind trees until we got the signal from my photographer. Then I walked up to the JFK Memorial fountain where Nathan was waiting for me. It was such a relief to see him – not because I thought he wouldn’t show up, but it had been a rough morning and sometimes you just need your person that is ‘home’ for you. We took some gorgeous photos with the puppies before they got too overstimulated and eventually walked to the registry office.

Then Dad walked me down the aisle and when I saw Nathan waiting at me and everybody turned to watch me, I cried. I never thought I would, but it just happened and it was so sweet. The ceremony was very short, which was exactly what we wanted. The three songs we included were “God Only Knows” by the Beach Boys as I walked in, “Playground Love” by Air while we signed things, and “Roam” by the B-52s at the end. We laughed and kissed and hugged and both of us said afterwards that it really felt like we were the only ones in the room. We were in such a happy, loved-up bubble. And Nathan totally teared up on his vows.

We had written our own vows, and I’m so proud of how much work we put into them. They were so personal, and although they had lighthearted moments, I really felt like they were the truest distillation of everything we were promising on that day. We both took the vows extremely seriously, and will forever, I’m sure. Right now, it feels too intimate to post them online, even though we read them to a room full of people… maybe in a while, maybe in another post.

Afterwards we took photos in Treasury Gardens again, this time with family and our bridal party. It got a bit exhausting. Especially after what had happened earlier in the day. I ran out of emotional energy and kind of crashed a bit. I wish I had been smiling more in some of the shots, but our photographer Erin did the most amazing job of making me feel at ease. And she got the dogs to smile like the little stars that they were. Photography was always a high priority for me in the planning process – I didn’t know at first that Erin did weddings as well as pet photography, but before I figured that out, I had probably looked at over a hundred photographers’ websites and wasn’t completely happy about any of them. I’m so glad we went with Erin.

My bridesmaids wore navy dresses of their choice. I was extremely easy-going about the whole thing – I had no stipulations whatsoever, except that it was navy and that they wore metallic shoes, because those are items that you are guaranteed to be able to wear again because they are practically neutrals. As it happened, they all looked amazing together, and I promise there was no micromanaging on my part! Our guys wore black suits that they already owned and we picked some pale blue non-matching ties for them, and some sprays of feathers to wear as boutonnieres. I think they all looked pretty dapper, especially my brother Patrick!

We said goodbye to the dogs just as Rupert was about to crack it from too much time outdoors in the cold. He got wrapped in a blanket, placed in the pram and driven back to the apartment by our incredible dog sitter/chaperone Rob, who stayed in with them all night and fed them sushi for their special wedding dinner.

But for us, then came the reception… (next post, which you can read here!)

** So, the Very Bad Thing that happened… well, I don’t even want to dwell on it too much, because I’ve already spent too long feeling upset about it. Basically my makeup artist supposedly got sick, was completely hysterical and attention-seeking about the whole thing, ended up running out of time and spending half as long on my face as she had on my bridesmaids. And what she did was definitely not what I had asked for, or what I’d had at the trial. On the day, I was devastated and it was too late to fix it, so I had to go with it. I got quieter and quieter until somebody handed me some valium, which unfortunately made me a bit dazed-looking in some of the photos.

I accepted a partial refund and decided not to post negative reviews because I think just the act of writing them would have made me more upset. But for any brides reading this post, email me if you want to know who it was so you’ll know who to avoid.

A part of me is still really upset about it, but I’m trying my hardest to forget about it as much as I can and focus on all the amazing bits of the day. Because really, 99% of what happened was wonderful. And to make me feel better, we’ve decided that we’re going to take some fancy one year anniversary photos, and next time, I’ll be doing my own makeup.


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.

October – Taking Stock

Just realized I haven’t done this since July! The last few months feel like I’ve fallen into the Bermuda triangle or something – I have absolutely no idea where all that time went. Back to life, back to reality…

Here is my October, inspired by Pip Lincolne‘s lists:

Making : progress with decluttering and sorting through wedding stuff
Cooking : homemade hamburgers tonight, and barbecue lamb with rosemary and garlic tomorrow
Drinking : rosella tea from Bali
Reading : a book that I’m only sort of half into, but I feel like I should see it through before starting something else
Trawling : internet sales for new bookshelves for the bedroom, that I can paint and line with pretty paper
Wanting : these dogs to stop barking at every single little thing (how dare the neighbours walk in the street or get into their cars? the nerve!)
Looking : out the window at the wisteria that is starting to bloom
Deciding : that we are going to Halls Gap in autumn/winter for my first ever camping trip (which will actually be glamping, but baby steps!)
Wishing : that Aldi did home delivery or click and collect
Enjoying : how much Posie loves broccoli now that I’m mixing vegetables in with their food every night – the other night she asked for seconds and wolfed down half a bowl of plain broccoli
Waiting : nervously to hear what is going on with Nathan’s work situation
Liking : that it is shorts weather again!
Wondering : what I can do to make my indoor plants a bit happier than they are currently
Loving : still loving how great the wedding was – at least once every few days, one of us will bring it up and we’ll go over and over how much we loved it
Pondering : how Christmas is going to go down, with the current state of communications in various pockets of family
Listening : to my wedding reception playlist over and over
Considering : whether I should feed the baby magpies that hang out on my front lawn in the mornings, whether that will endear me to them so they won’t swoop me when they get older
Buying : azaleas, sweet peas, and lavender
Watching : Counting On right now, though Stranger Things is starting again soon (!)
Hoping : that this new rib pain is just a blip – I’m really not up for a repeat of what happened in December and January
Marvelling : at our new dishwasher and how much time and stress it saves us
Cringing : at something inconsequentially stupid that I said when I was a kid, as I lay in bed at night trying to sleep – always
Needing : my new living room rug to be delivered as soon as possible – right now, there is nothing to dampen sound in that room, so the dogs’ barking is like breaking glass or nails on a chalkboard, every time
Questioning : whether some people are just not worth helping or even caring about
Wearing : my new wedding ring, almost every day, and still getting surprised every time I see it on my finger
Noticing : that there is a particular ad on television, for chocolate, that absolutely does not make sense – it’s like it’s been workshopped to the point where it’s illogical, but everybody is in too deep to notice
Knowing : that I will have to get a proper pen-and-paper diary for next year, because I’m really not good with remembering everything I have to do without writing it down
Thinking : about how the menu at Supernormal has all changed recently – it’s exciting, but it’s also kind of sad, knowing that there were dishes we had at our wedding that I won’t be able to taste again
Admiring : a particular fancy Bundt cake tin that I’m thinking about putting on my Christmas wishlist
Getting : a mermaid top to match my tail
Bookmarking : everything I can about backyard chicken keeping
Disliking : the plebiscite yes campaign, and why on earth they think that they can influence what should be a vote of conscience by bullying, degrading and belittling people then hitting back with “well, gay people are bullied more” as if it excuses their actions (I voted yes, for the record, but I’m just pretty disgusted by the vile behaviour on both sides)
Opening : my eyes to the fact that there is no particular movement or political persuasion that has everything 100% right – and what’s scary is that the side who claims to be about free speech and higher level thinking lose their minds if you actually think critically for yourself on any issue
Closing : my mouth and my supply of sympathy, when it comes to supporting ridiculous melodrama that I really cannot be bothered with
Feeling : mostly content, and very settled (not in a bad way) – a bunch of people told us things like “the first year of marriage will be the hardest”, but I feel like we’ve already been through so much hard. So far, it’s been a breeze… it’s as nice as it always is, but without this big, looming, stressful deadline hanging over our heads – it’s probably actually easier than it’s ever been
Hearing : all the allegations about Harvey Weinstein and thinking that I’ve known about it for years, so it’s surprising that it’s only just coming out now
Celebrating : the fact that it’s spring, finally!
Pretending : that I’m not stressed about having done 0% of my Christmas shopping, and still not having a concrete list of who I actually need to buy for – I just really hate leaving shopping to the last minute
Embracing : messy hair and flip flops

Non-Ambitious Meal Prepping

Meal prepping is so hot right now. However, it is more than a little intimidating to see all those Pinterest mums who spend a day covering their gigantic island benches with enough containers to feed a family of five with three meals a day plus snacks for a whole week. Bonus points if they are catering to some obscure allergy or intolerance. It’s just a little too ambitious for me.

What I’m doing is not quite as strict, but it also ends up working better for me because I am really not a fan of eating food that was prepped six days ago. Basically, I am cooking once every few days, sometimes longer, and trying to have two different types of containers in the fridge ready for us at any given time. So far, it has been great – we are eating heaps less junk food and takeaways (though we really have to work on our tortilla chip addiction). It also helps that we get all of our meat (except for bacon and fish, and chicken which I rarely cook anyway) through a CSA arrangement – it forces me to be creative about meal planning to use what we get, but it also means that I don’t end up getting overwhelmed at the supermarket by all the choices.

The CSA idea is pretty great so far. We signed up for a kilo amount per month, paying six months upfront (though we can change the amount if we find we’re eating more or less than we ordered). Each month, we go and pick up our pack of beef, lamb and pork, plus some free range eggs. The pack contains different things each time, and it’s a way for the farmers to reduce waste by making sure that more parts of the animal are being eaten, not just all prime cuts. We also get some handy things like mince, kebabs and sausages. I also like that we are reducing our food miles, because all of the livestock are locally farmed. The farmers told me about their welfare standards as well, and said that their philosophy was for their animals to have wonderful lives with only one bad day. I have a lot of guilt about eating meat but can’t seem to make the leap to vegetarianism, but it makes me feel better that I can at least be mindful about this stuff through my choices. It is also meaningful to me to be able to track exactly how many kilos of meat we are eating through the year, and what that amounts to in terms of actual animals – hopefully once we’ve been doing it for a while, we’ll be able to reduce our consumption. The only thing I would change about it is that it would be nice to get less variety, but bigger portions – sometimes we will get one piece of gravy steak, which is fine, but I have to stick it in the freezer and wait until we get more portions of the same thing, until I have enough to make a decent sized stew.

Right now, most meals revolve around roasting a piece of meat or cooking steak, chopping the whole thing up and sticking it in a container with various sides. This includes things like black rice, mashed sweet potato, green beans, broccoli, stir fried Asian greens, et cetera. I do need to branch out a bit in this area, but all these things are so easy because I always have them in the cupboard or the freezer. As for the meat, so far we’ve had teriyaki pork, steak, beetroot sausages, lamb rissoles stuffed with feta and pinenuts, and roast lamb studded with rosemary and garlic. It’s been good for me to think of meals in terms of mixing-and-matching proteins and vegetables, rather than sticking to some rigid ideas about what goes with what. Once I’ve got some experience with this, maybe I’ll share some recipes.

Tonight, I’m making my first ever pot roast with a big chunk of bolar roasting beef.

I basically followed these directions, adding in a few extra bits like mushrooms, and I’m really just hoping it will work out. It’s currently bubbling away in a cast iron Dutch oven on the stovetop, making my whole house smell like cozy anticipation. There is a whole bottle of wine and a whole bulb of garlic in there, so if it works, it will be glorious. We will be eating this concoction with green beans and broccoli, but if you’re not averse to carbs, mashed potato or bread would be great. I’ll update this post when it’s done, because I’m sure that the two people who read this blog will be dying to find out how it went! 🙂

Edit: It was good. Definitely room for improvement (next time I will brown the meat more and work on the timing for adding different vegetables, and next time I will not forget to put some potatoes in) but it was really tasty!

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.


It was our honeymoon, but it was also our birthday (yes, it’s the same day), and this year, I turned thirty. In some ways, I felt like I was already there – I was definitely tired enough to feel thirty. But in other ways, it felt like a relief. Like you’ve been waiting for a wave to crest and potentially crash onto you, but the swell lifts you up and drops you back exactly where you were.

Thirty feels kind of nice. It feels like… this next decade will be full of wonderful things and I know so much will have happened between now and my next milestone birthday. It also feels like confidence and satisfaction and safety and a million other things I can’t quite name yet.

Thirty doesn’t feel as fraught as my twenties. It feels kind of cozy and optimistic. I was so worried (and I think this is pretty common) that I would feel like I peaked in my twenties and it was all downhill from there. But I feel the opposite – I can already see so many wonderful seasons of my life still ahead of me, some closer than others, and although I am very happy being thirty, all the other years stretched out ahead are looking pretty good too. I hope I never feel like I peaked. I hope that life just shrinks and expands, shifts and deepens, and becomes more and more beautiful every year with the details, memories and wrinkles it accumulates as we go along.

Wedding Advice, From Somebody Who’s Been There!

Photo by the amazing Erin King.

Wedding post (or maybe posts) is still coming – I haven’t gotten my photos back yet, and even though it’s been three weeks, I am still exhausted from the lead up. I have sent out my thank you cards though, so that’s a win. I’ve mentioned it before, but planning a small wedding has almost exactly the same quantity of planning that goes into a big wedding – it’s just that the numbers are smaller, and you probably have less people annoying you about inconsequential details. I have discovered that I am an extremely detail oriented person though, so there were probably a lot of things that I took upon myself that wouldn’t have been considerations for more easy-going brides.

However, I am proud to announce that I didn’t go Bridezilla at all, through the whole thing. I might have cried my eyes out more than a few times, but I tried my hardest to not put unreasonable demands on people, and to always accommodate everybody where I could. Because I’ve been to enough weddings where I’ve had to stand around for hours outside in the freezing cold in the dead of winter, or have seen people across the table served food that they just can’t eat but were too scared to say anything, or shelling out for an expensive gift and never receiving a thank you. Stuff like that. I wanted everybody there to feel like our special guest, rather than an audience that we felt obliged to feed.

The most ironic thing about planning a wedding though is that (if it’s your first marriage) you are going into it with absolutely no experience. But you learn as you go, and by the time you are done, you’re an expert… with absolutely no cause to plan a wedding again anytime in the near future. It’s kind of like putting years of work into a university degree, having a graduate job for one day, then retiring for the rest of your life. It’s odd. I’m definitely in a good position to give my sisters advice when it’s their turn, but then again, they could opt for something entirely different and then my skills will be useless all over again. But I suppose I can bask in this sense of personal achievement – I learned something new, it was hard, I got through it and I did a damn good job, and I should be proud of that.

But there are little bits of advice I can pass along here, for anybody who might find them useful. No situation is the same, but if it helps anybody, it will be worth it!

  • A wedding can look however you want it to look. Don’t get sucked into the idea that you have to do it the way that everybody else has done it, because at the end of the day, it’s about two people getting married – that is it. That’s the common thread in all weddings. What happens before and after that moment is completely up to you and there are no rules. Well, there are a couple – I would advise that you should feed your guests, especially if it’s at a meal time, but that does not have to mean a beef-or-chicken alternate drop three course meal. It could mean tacos, or a brunch buffet, or cake and punch – whatever you want.
  • You do not have to go with a wedding reception package at a wedding reception venue. For a small wedding, lots of restaurants have private dining rooms, and some don’t even charge a hire fee (just a minimum spend). Don’t think that it won’t feel like a wedding, because with the right decorations, the right music, the right crowd… it will. Simple can be special too. And an advantage of picking a restaurant is that, if you are foodies, you can pick something really good or unusual instead of standard wedding food where you often don’t have a lot of choice or variation. And you avoid the wedding tax**.
  • Registry offices can be lovely, so don’t write them off before you’ve had a look. The one in Melbourne has an open hour once a week where you can go in, have a look around and talk to the celebrants. Many of our guests commented that they thought a registry office wedding would be plain and dingy, but it was anything but. The room has gorgeous architecture, high ceilings, antique furniture and floral arrangements already there. We got to pick our own music and personalize our vows. The ceremony was very quick and to the point, but it never felt rushed or procedural.
  • You do not have to invite every person you know. Nathan has a Catholic family on one side, and I got a double dose, which equals a LOT of aunts, uncles and cousins. Some of whom we are close to, others who we could pass in the street and not recognize. We were faced at first with a situation of inviting all or none, but I didn’t want that either, so we just invited a very special few. If people love you, they will understand – I got messages from aunts and cousins who weren’t invited who were just so thrilled for us and sent nothing but love and wishes of happiness. Some people will be petty about not being invited though, other people will consider it a tit-for-tat thing if you went to theirs, but it’s just not the way things should work.
  • Pay for it yourself, if you can. I cannot stress this enough. One of the reasons we chose a small wedding was because we wanted to fund the thing ourselves without taking out loans. As generous as it is when parents offer to contribute, it does give them certain rights to decide how that money should be spent, and how many of their friends should be invited. They basically become a shareholder. We got to make every single decision for our wedding without any interference, and I honestly don’t think I could have dealt with the stress of having to navigate other people’s extremely different views on what our wedding should look like.
  • In terms of budgeting, I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all approach to this. We ended up actually doing a retrospective budget for ours. We researched all the things that we wanted to include and made a ballpark figure as our absolute maximum total, but we definitely didn’t assign arbitrary amounts to different aspects and try to make them fit regardless of whether or not we actually liked those choices. But we were mindful the whole way through – if we spent more than we had imagined on one thing, then sometimes we would find a way to get a better deal on another thing. There were a few things that blew out significantly from our initial projections, but other things that were surprisingly cheaper. When we added it all up after the wedding, we were happily under our maximum – Nathan especially was thrilled with how I managed to throw together so gorgeous and fun for so much below the average cost of a wedding (plus he thinks I’m super smart… 🙂 ).
  • Figure out which things are your non-negotiables and which things you don’t care that much about – do this together, and it will give you a better idea of where the bulk of your budget should go. Our priorities were amazing food and an extensive cocktail list (Nathan), beautiful flowers (me), gorgeous photography (both of us) and pretty stationery (both of us) – so that’s what we focused on. But we had absolutely no interest in spending money on fancy cars for the event – we ended up walking and catching a taxi at the end of the night. Likewise, we could have easily spent a thousand dollars on an amazing wedding cake, and I’m sure it would have been beautiful. But instead we went with a extra-large size of what was essentially a party cake from a boutique bakery – it was definitely not a wedding cake, but it was so cute and so different and so tasty and it was definitely our wedding cake.
  • Realize that something is inevitably going to go wrong on the day. Something tiny and something much bigger went wrong for us, but you cannot get through a wedding without something falling over. Try to keep your cool and realize that when it’s all over, the main thing you will remember is how wonderful it was. Do not fixate on one of your groomsmen forgetting their tie or having a chipped nail or the celebrant mispronouncing your name, it’s totally inconsequential and nothing can be a hundred percent perfect.
  • Make sure you eat breakfast or at least snack while you are getting ready. It’s a long day, especially for the bride, and you don’t want to crash mid-afternoon like I did because I’d been too nervous to eat much.
  • Order extra invitations and save the dates, especially if you have pretty stationery. I have put away a bunch of them so our future hypothetical children can have a copy of their own. I’m also thinking of framing a copy of the invitation, a la Father of the Bride, for the house.
  • Brides – make a speech! It’s your wedding too, don’t just leave it to the guys. It turned out that I wrote the big heartfelt thank you speech, and Nathan just ended up (lovingly!) roasting me, but I’m so glad I spoke.
  • Do book a honeymoon. Even if it’s just something tiny and local, even if it’s just a weekend away – wedding planning is stressful, you deserve it. So many people say that they will do a honeymoon later, but life will always manage to get in the way. After all the stress of the lead up, it’s so nice to have some time together as a couple to completely de-stress, drink champagne and giggle over calling each other “my husband/wife”.
  • Write thank you cards as soon as you can. Please, please, please do this. Your guests have arranged babysitters, got their hair/nails done, bought new outfits, traveled long distances, potentially booked hotels for the night just to see you get married AND probably given you a gift too. It is the very least you can do to thank them for it. Emily Post says that personalized and handwritten is best, but a mass printed thank you postcard is better than nothing at all, which is what I’ve gotten from a lot of weddings lately.
  • Have fun on the day! Be present. Remember why you are there, what it means, and how much it means. Put aside any fights you will have inevitably had in the stressful lead up, and enjoy each other. Let yourself be excited. Look around the room at all the smiling faces of all those people who love you and are thrilled to be witnessing one of the most important milestones in your life, and be grateful for them.

There! That’s all we could think of – I’ll try to add to this list when we’re no longer on a post-wedding high. 🙂

** The wedding tax! There are a lot of things that cost more as soon as you mention the word ‘wedding’. Sometimes it’s necessary to let vendors know that it’s your wedding, so they can put extra special attention and care into their service for you. Other times, it’s really worth looking outside the box. We had our reception in the private room of a restaurant that said they held ‘functions’ – no mention of weddings. And surprise – for something like ten courses plus canapes, it ended up costing less per person than I had been quoted for ‘wedding packages’ of only three alternate drop courses elsewhere. Look around and don’t be afraid to step outside the square.

We Got Married!

About time!

On Friday, the first day of September, the first day of Spring, and our ten year anniversary, Nathan and I finally got married. We ended up going to the registry office (which is gorgeous and not sterile or boring at all), followed by a banquet at our favourite restaurant with just a handful of our nearest and dearest – parents, siblings, grandparents, one best friend each and a couple of others. It was such a great day – both of us cannot stop smiling about how perfect it all was. Planning the day seriously did my head in, but it was so worth it. It’s so funny that almost everybody who has been through wedding planning has told us that it was too stressful and they wished they had just eloped… I guess we are rare then – people who are glad we didn’t end up eloping, because what we had was so wonderful.

Best of all, our darling dogs got to be there with us. It was a long and tiring day for them, and Rupert got a bit fed up when it started to get cold, but I was so glad they could be a part of everything. After all, as much as we were beginning a new chapter as husband and wife, we were also reaffirming the little family of four that we already had. I think both dogs are still tired from the whole thing.

I promise I will write about every single detail – soon. Let me bask in newlywed bliss for a little bit!