The shish kebab saga – part 2

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Well, what a few days it has been. I tell you, if you’d ever like a little more drama in your life – feed your dog something long and pointy.

So after dropping Alfie at the vet we waited for an update and a decision about surgery. It seemed that the better he felt, the more likely he was to need surgery. Kind of ironic. Had he expelled the offending object from either end we may not have reached the decision we were forced to.

We transplanted his head with that of a tiger to make a fearsome beast with a comedy body.

That’s not entirely true.

We did, in fact, decide to do the surgery. Well, we agreed to the decision – we didn’t offer to wield the scalpel ourselves, just to be clear. The vet told me that the kebab stick was visible during the camera-down-throat process and had been snapped in two pieces (my guess of one clean bite was clearly correct) and was sitting ominously in his tummy.

I got off the phone and sobbed my little face off.

“They’re going to cut him open!” I howled dramatically. The Viking nodded sagely. Perhaps the hint of a single manly tear. I lay on the floor, beating my breasts without restraint.

We waited for the next call. Emergency wine was administered by a caring relative.

The phone rang. He had come through it well, but was tired and sore, and would stay the night at the vets in case anything happened. We were to ring and check on him in the morning and pick him up if all was well.

That night I slept surprisingly well. The Viking was up at the crack of dawn, which is rather unlike him. I asked why and he said that I had stolen all of the blankets. It turns out that Alfie sleeping on the foot of the bed acts as an anchor, preventing me from unconsciously wrapping myself in a duvet cocoon.

Our house is not a home without that pooch tripping us up in every doorway. Bubba’s scraps lay idly under the table, it’s been a long time since I’ve had to clean up dropped food from the floor.

When we went to pick up our boy he looked like he’d had a hard 24 hours. His normally long, tousled and glorious stomach hair has been shaved off entirely and he’s sporting a scar so impressive it makes my c-section scar look like a paper-cut. He’s exhausted and he’s tender, and he’s clinging to his Mama and Papa like there’s no tomorrow.

If there is a moral to this story I think it would be:

When it comes to meat, dogs are idiots. You could wrap an AK47 in a piece of schnitzel and a dog would swallow it whole. But you gotta love ’em.

No more meat on a stick! Doctor's orders!

No more meat on a stick! Doctor’s orders!

 

When chicken on a stick goes terribly wrong

Juicy roasted kebabs on the BBQ

Last night the Viking and I enjoyed a lovely dinner of coconut rice, stir-fried veges and chicken shish kebabs.

End of story.

Not really. After dinner I was busying my little wifey self in the kitchen cleaning up dishes while the Viking was putting the rubbish out. I sang a little ditty as I rinsed off the plates, such was my level of relaxation. There were two shish kebabs sitting in the pan on the stove, I popped them onto a plate and took the frying pan to the sink.

Nothing to see here, right?

I hear the clatter of plate and swing around in time to see Alfie going for the second kebab. I grabbed him by the collar and pushed the lone kebab back further than his little go go gadget paws could reach. Then, as I looked into the smug face of my furbaby I realised, he’d just ingested an entire kebab, including the stick, with, at most, a single bite.

Then I got my freak on. Not in a  good, Missy Elliot way.

I ran outside to holler at the Viking. Alfie was at my heels, he doesn’t often see his Mama sprint and he was excited at the prospect.

The Viking, as is his way, was calm and rational. I was spinning in circles. I decided I had to call the after hours vet. He said the word ‘perforated’ one time too many for my liking so I put my bra back on and piled my little honey soy spoodle into the car while the Viking stayed home to watch the obliviously blissful, sleeping Bubba.

The vet suggested removing the stick via surgery, immediately. I just found it hard to process cutting open my little pup who seemed happy as Larry, in fact he seemed happier than Larry because Larry didn’t steal a shish kebab.

We decided on a compromise. I would take Alfie home and watch him for the night and bring him back first thing this morning.

He made it through the night. I only woke up about 14 times to check he was breathing. At 7am he licked my face and rolled over for a tummy rub.

I’ve just dropped him back into the Vet’s for observation and possible endo… endo…camera-down-the-throat-thingo later today. If nothing shows up surgery is still an option for this afternoon.

And, while all this is going on, my thieving little furbaby is lapping up the extra attention and still licking the marinade off his lips.

The things we do for our animals!

To make me feel better, the vet’s receptionist told me about some pictures she’d seen online of dogs who had eaten crazy things. I found some here and am now, officially even more freaked out.

Cross your fingers for my pooch please, and hide your shish kebabs.

After hearing the neighbour's car alarm go off all night Rover took matters into his own hands

After hearing the neighbour’s car alarm go off all night Rover took matters into his own hands

The Biology of Boganism

A flanno, mullet and frosted tips - this bogan's got it all

A flanno, mullet and frosted tips – this bogan’s got it all

I would love to say that I have noticed more of this strange beast as we get closer to the warmer months, but alas, it appears that the ‘bogan’ is an evergreen, he takes no break for cold seasons and has no need for hibernation as he warms his denim-clad cockles on smoking exhausts and roll-your-own ciggies.

My hometown is not shy of a bogan or two, a fact I’ve been reminded of recently. We live on a street that leads down to one of the city’s main beaches – which is fantastic, although many a bogan likes to drop some phat beats out of his pimped-out ride (I know, I’m SO gangsta) on the way to check out the waves. Actually, I remember going down this very street as a youngster, probably in someone else’s bogan-wagon to a party in the beach carpark. A party that was to farewell one of the town’s brightest young things on his way to, well I don’t know, and he wasn’t ‘bright’ so much as good looking and probably a rugby player. In fact he was so cool he didn’t even show up to the party.

But I digress.

The bogan. I am somewhat of an expert at recognising bogans as one of my earliest suitors was a definite bogan. All he ever wanted for birthday, Christmas or anniversary presents was car speakers. I remember doing a count up at one stage and he had 17 speakers in his 1970s Ford Escort. For a short time he had two of those huge wooden box house speakers on the backseat, leaving so little passenger space that only his smallest friend could squeeze in between. I was left to sit in the front on the knee of his 6 foot 5 best friend because, y’know safety first. It’s no wonder I can’t hear the TV now with the way he pumped Violet Femmes through those speakers.

I remember one particularly enchanted evening when we were out a cruisin’ and the car’s normally grunty exhaust suddenly became noticeably more grunty. It started to sound more like a machine gun and, I kid you not, as we turned a corner a young man threw himself down on the pavement – sure he may have seen Boys In The Hood one time too many but he was genuinely frightened. Luckily for me, my Romeo had an old bit of rope in the boot and it was my job to hold the piece of rope – which was wrapped around the broken exhaust – outside of the passenger window of the car until we could get to a safe area for some quick repairs. Oh the romance! I still swoon whenever I hear a car backfire.

And now, as I look upon these lovely little motorhead morsels revving their engines up and down my street, noses barely visible over the steering wheels from their bucket seats, sunglasses on on the darkest, rainiest days I think to myself – far out, that was a lucky escape.

Have you ever dated a bogan? Or are you, proudly, a bogan? How fat are your rims?

 

Four years and one day

beach-sand-water-heart

The Viking and I are heading towards our six month wedding anniversary. I reminded him of this on Wednesday night while waving Tiffany blue coloured boxes in his peripheral vision to plant the subliminal seed for a present.

“It’s actually tomorrow.” He said.

“No it’s not. We got married in May, that’s only five months ago.” I retorted, with rather a superior twang.

“Yes but tomorrow’s the tenth of October, four years since we met.”

That smart-arse was right. It’s now been four years since our paths crossed on a beach in Vietnam.

If you fancy, take my hand and let me lead you down memory lane – it goes something like this (insert appropriate flashback music, and fuzzy image slowly sharpening to reality):

I was but a lass, *cough cough* of 31, I was in Vietnam for my second stint volunteering with orphans. I know that makes me sound a little bit Mother Theresa-esque, but in a way it was a good balance for my normal life of spin doctoring and online dating. Anyway, I’d just come back from trips away to typhoon-ravaged villages where I’d helped families whose lives and homes had been devastated by Typhoon Ketsana – it had been the worst and best thing I’d ever done. I was placed back in Da Nang and set up with my regular visits to help at orphanages and homes for displaced people – including children who had been found living on the streets. It was work I love, work I still think about every day, but it was also work that it was important to take a break from every now and then.

Hoi An is about an hour and a half, by bus, from Da Nang, and was the regular weekend escape for the volunteers. There were other volunteers in an area called Tam Ky who would meet us there for a weekend of massages, shopping and ridiculously cheap fruity cocktails. Two of the Tam Ky girls were young Swedish beauties. They were the types of girls everyone fell in love with on sight, beautiful yes, but warm and open and funny. They called me ‘Steffie’ and I wanted to be their Kiwi big sister and take them everywhere with me, those little blonde bombshells.

Anyhoo, the Swedettes talked me and my lovely friend Roz into a dinner and drinks and then somehow conned us into going to the beach party. I had thought I might be a bit long in the tooth for such malarky but I forgot about that after a few mojitos. To get to the beach party you catch a mini-van from a bar to a beach club and dance the night away. So we did that. As we sat in the van, waiting for it to fill up, two dashing young men approached the vehicle – one was as blonde as sunlight with big blue eyes, the other tall, lean, bearded and balancing two beers with expertise.

“Well they look Scandinavian” said one of my Swedettes. And then a conversation followed where they chatted away to the boys in the same language as the chef off the muppets while I eyed up the bearded one.

“Hello!” I shouted forth to him, with the subtle grace of a fishwife.

He looked down at his beers.

Oh well, I thought, no English I guess.

Later that evening, and for four years since, the Viking would debate that he didn’t hear me, such was his focus on keeping his beers in tact.

As we arrived at the beach party and the evening progressed, I moved my attention to the dancefloor. A lovely and tiny local chap was quite amused by my dancing prowess and I recall spinning him around ala the Ultimate Warrior to a Daft Punk song. One of my Swedettes approached me and mentioned that there was an Australian boy who was becoming a little too amorous.

“Ooooh Steffie, I don’t know what to do. He’s trying to kiss me and I don’t want to kiss him.”

And I was off. Trying to kiss my little sister? I don’t think so mate! She pointed him out and I delivered a long and eloquent diatribe to disuade him from his advances:

“She’s not interested. Fuck off.”

To which he responded something along the lines of:

“Who are you? I can do …”

“Which part of ‘fuck off’ don’t you understand, my friend?”

And that was the end of that and I think I cemented my place in the heart of my little friend.

I went back to the dancefloor, aglow with my quashing of the horny Australian combined with the consumption of cheap cocktails served in kids sandcastle buckets. I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and found myself staring into the ice blue eyes of the Viking.

“So what brings you to Vietnam?” He said.

And that was that. We talked. We danced. We decided to take a swim in the ocean. We danced some more and dried off. We took another swim. We had our first kiss as the waves lapped around our waists (not very water-safe, I know). After the beach party finished we bussed into Hoi An to find somewhere to have a coffee at 4am, and failed to do that.

After that fateful night we managed to coordinate another get-together in Ho Chi Minh City a few weeks later. Again, our meeting was brief and when we parted I saw how sad my Viking looked. I realised he thought he would never see me again. I didn’t feel sad because I actually was 100% sure I would see him again. He put me in a cab to the airport, lifting my pack into the back and hugging me goodbye. I watched him out the back of the cab as he walked away. He was stopped by a streetkid asking for money, he put his hand up to say “no” and took a few steps, and then he turned back to the kid and reached for his wallet to give him some money. My heart melted.

I flew on to Cambodia and met my friend Nicky who was working with girls who had been rescued from the sex trade. She was doing amazing work and I was so happy to be able to see what she was doing and offer any help I could for the short time I was there. I told Nicky about the Viking. She rolled her eyes at me. I sat at her table in small town Cambodia, wrapped in nothing but a cotton sarong and sweating all over the place and read an email from the Viking. He’d quoted a book he was reading on the plane back to Norway, he said it reminded him of our last night together.

While in each others arms entranced they lay,

They blessed the night, and cursed the coming day.

And I turned to Nicky and said. “That’s it. I’m gone.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m in love.”

And that was the exact moment, when we were a million miles (give or take) apart, him trudging around in the snow in Norway and me melting in the Cambodian heat. As many who have read this blog know, I went from Cambodia to Egypt – where I stayed with another good friend and confessed my new love. I tried to coax the Viking to Egypt to visit me, I mean, Egypt’s not that far from Norway, right? He said he couldn’t, he’d used up his leave from work and had to pay his credit card off. I thought it was over before it began. I took myself off to Dahab and met a lovely guy from San Francisco and told him of my conundrum – he said “follow  your heart.”

The Viking and I started skyping in Egypt. From Egypt I went back to New Zealand and we skyped, texted, phoned and messaged every day. I started shyly referring to him as ‘my boyfriend.’ He would send me messages in Norwegian and laugh at my creative translations.

I decided that I might move to Cambodia, to work with children and join their war against the sex trade. I didn’t have a clear plan but I knew I wanted to leave in April or May – which is when the air in Cambodia is as cool as fire. I thought a little sight-seeing on the way wouldn’t hurt. Europe is lovely at that time of year. I’ve never been to Scandinavia.

I floated the idea with the Viking.

It went down a treat.

Suddenly Cambodia became less of a reality as I planned a quick trip to London and around Austria and Germany with my cousin, before taking a one-way trip to Norway. We figured it would be a short stay or a long one. Turns out it was a long one.

Four years and we’ve lived in three countries, four houses, adopted a spoodle, had a daughter, got married, cried, laughed, eat and drunk, travelled around Norway, France, pockets of Australia and, hopefully soon, stretches of New Zealand. These have definitely, without doubt, been the best four years of my life, and all because of two Swedish girls, a party on a beach and cocktails in buckets.

Jeg elsker deg, min Viking.

Body Shop Giveaway!

Up for grabs!

Up for grabs!

This post is brought to you by Sassmouth Mama and the sweet, sweet smells of The Body Shop At Home.

There were a lot of things I did wrong at university, superloose jeans, cherry red hair dye and flaming sambucas to name a few. But one thing I did right was to spend a decent whack of my student loan at the Body Shop. At any time I could be packing up to three mandarin flavoured lip glosses. I may have looked like an overweight Gwen Stefani but I smelt like Vanilla Bliss.

Well the nice people at the Body Shop asked me if I’d like to host a little Body Shop At Home party I jumped at the idea. It was a few days before we were due to leave Melbourne, so my house was a complete hovel – I opted to have a Body Shop At Someone Else’s Home party, which was a far safer option.

Karen the Body Shop lady showed up and was not at all put off by the fact that there were half a dozen 18 month old toddlers racing around, eating chips and dip using the ‘no hands’ method, tipping over the water bowls set aside for facials and squeezing samples on the floor. Asking Karen to create a sense of serenity in the midst of the chaos was a big ask but she pulled it off.

I did not eat the chips. Honestly.

I did not eat the chips. Honestly.

My friends and I took turns getting mini facials and juggling children. We drank wine. We called the Dads and said “come and take these bloody kids away.” We drank more wine. We relaxed.

Getting her glow on

Getting her glow on

And the smells of my university days came flooding back to me, no – not the sticky pub floor smells or the dodgy mystery item in the fridge smells, but the freshness of fruity scents that never go out of fashion. I remembered the time in 2nd year when I reached past a friend and he told me my arm smelt so good he wanted to eat it. I think I guffawed, blushed and then bought the Body Shop out of shea nut body butter.

Now I’m very excited to say that I have an AMAZING Body Shop gift pack to give away, valued at $200.

It includes:

* Hemp hand protector
* Peppermint cooling lotion
* Body scrub (range will vary)
* Body polish (range will vary)
* White musk hand and nail cream
* Milk Bath
* Body Butter (range will vary)
* Vitamin E cream cleanser
* Warming mineral mask
* Milk body lotions

You will be smelling like a field of wildflowers dipped in citrus juice before you know it! I’m jealous!

All you need to do to win is like Sassmouth Mama on Facebook (if you haven’t already) and comment below and tell me what your favourite smell is. It could be peppermint, it could be the whiff of freedom as the door shuts on your baby’s door at bedtime, it could be your boyfriend’s converse, enlighten me! The winner will be picked at random and notified via Facebook.

Boring bit: Entries close on Friday at midnight and I’ll make the draw on Saturday morning. Entries are open to Australian and New Zealand residents only. The winner will be chosen at random and the comments are really just to give Sassmouth Mama a laugh. Prize will be shipped directly to the winner’s postal address. Sassmouth Mama cannot take responsibility for any issues with delivery of prize.

Good luck!

Sassmouth Mama was rubbed down with aromatic salts and spritzed with absinthe lotion in exchange for this blog post. And she loved it. 

*Can’t see the ‘comments’ section? If you’re reading this post from the home-page the comments are hidden, just click on the title of the post and it will take you to the page where you can comment.

**Don’t have Facebook? That’s okay. Enter in the comments below and shoot me a quick email at steph@sassmouthmama.com with a copy of the comment, so I have a way to contact you if you win.

ENTRIES FOR THIS GIVEAWAY HAVE NOW CLOSED AND OUR WINNER TAM IS EAGERLY AWAITING A GOOD OLD BODY SHOP DOUSE OF DELICIOUSNESS.

CONGRATS TAM!!!

Is this the world’s ugliest lampshade?

I like to call this 'the lightshade effect'

I like to call this ‘the lightshade effect’

There is so much I love about being home in New Zealand, some things are weird and unexpected, others are part of the what drove me back to these fine shores. Here’s a few of the things I’ve noticed since I’ve got back:

Surprise benefits of living in provincial New Zealand

– Incredibly cheap parking. 50c an hour. No wonder everyone learns to drive at an early age here, it’s cheaper than busing and SO much cooler when you can wind the window down on your 1995 Holden and pump that awesome bass. Oh yeah.

– Our new ride. Speaking about cars, we said a sad farewell to the Hulk in Melbourne, actually – that’s a lie, I barely glanced at the Hulk in the madness that was the morning of our departure. We then pimped the Hulk out on social media and eventually sold it from New Zealand to a Dutch guy with a love of passenger airbags and very, very shallow pockets. But we now have the Ewoo, another wagon that has the automatic windows the Hulk aspired to but never quite achieved and a radio that continues playing when travelling over speedhumps – there is nothing worse than belting it out to Katy Perry (hey, we’ve all done it – don’t judge me) and then being dumped into the world of off-key acapella when the radio quits. The Ewoo gained his name because he is actually a Daewoo, but the d and the a went AWOL, hence the Ewoo. Sorry Hulk, you’ve been usurped.

– The Op Shop Paradise that is Taranaki. I hadn’t realised how seriously New Zealand takes all things retro, and I am SO down with it. If you follow me on Pinterest you’ll notice, amidst the crochet devotion, that I’m now all over teacups and vintage crockery, because I am nearly 100 years old – no, but I’m slightly ashamed to say I’m a Shabby Chic lover. You can take your minimalism and clean surfaces and shove ’em, give me a beautiful upcycled hutch filled with pretty vintage any day.

Hope Santa doesn't slip a disc delivering this to me for Christmas

Hope Santa doesn’t slip a disc delivering this to me for Christmas

– In keeping with my Op Shop addiction, I’ve also been clearing my parents’ garage of all of their amazing old stuff. My Mum is ecstatic to offload a bunch of stuff that’s cluttered their back rooms for years, Dad’s got a touch more ‘hoarder’ about him so I tend to whisk things away before he has a good chance to consider how he really could use that decanter.

A box of deliciousness rescued from behind the lawnmower at Mum's place

A box of deliciousness rescued from behind the lawnmower at Mum’s place

– Small town manners. I haven’t lived here for over ten years, and I haven’t been back in New Zealand (for longer than a week) for almost four years, so it’s kind of a weird culture shock settling back in. People look you in the eye here, all the time. You walk down the street and people will look right in your eyes and acknowledge you, that doesn’t happen in big cities – and I like it. People want to talk to  you, I bought a magazine and left knowing the name, age and behavioural oddities of the saleswoman’s grandson. Coffees take a lot longer to make and deliver, there’s not the sense of hurry. Everywhere I go I see people who are vaguely familiar, which can be disconcerting. Because it’s been a while since I’ve been here it’s like being surrounded by those drawings of how celebrity babies will look as adults, I know the faces but they’re a bit more wrinkled than I remember from high-school. I asked a friend what the protocol is, am I meant to approach everyone who I vaguely recognise? She said no, that that will do my head in – “it’ll be non-stop Steph, pick a few you want to talk to and just smile at the rest.” Sage advice. But I do love a good chat – I met the woman who trained me to make coffees at my first cafe job when I was 16 yesterday, she still makes a killer flat white.

– Our house. We love our new house. The location is amazing and our daily beach walks have seen the size of Alfie’s butt decrease ever so slightly (the size of my own is staying strong though, lots of family catch-ups means lots and lots of cake) and Bubba is loving trotting up and down the walkway, spotting ducklings and rock towers. (We told her Macca Pacca comes from Taranaki – that’s an ‘In the Night Garden’ reference for those in the know). Our house has many amazing features, two fully-functioning bathrooms, an industrial size washing machine, a double-door fridge – I know, I know, it’s the stuff dreams are made of, but there is one screaming beacon of ugliness that adorns the lounge.

This:

A rainbow lighthouse? A Baroque traffic light? The losing find in Bargain Hunt? No, no, no it's the feature item in our eclectic loungeroom decor

A rainbow lighthouse? A Baroque traffic light? The losing find in Bargain Hunt? No, no, no it’s the feature item in our eclectic loungeroom decor

It’s a lampshade with a fetching ‘traffic light’ colour palette. It hangs low in the lounge, which is on the street-side of the house. Mum is most concerned that the red lamp is closest to the window – perhaps encouraging horny vagrants to knock on the front door – I’m sure they’d be a bit deflated by the sight of a grumpy bearded Viking answering the door though.

I love the deco ceilings, I can live with the dodgy paisley carpets – but this lamp, oh you’ve got to go my friend.

 

Finally, the lady opens the kimono

p12993aart

Mount Taranaki is the ultimate provincial icon, her silhouette is etched into everything from logos to tattoos to the hearts of every local. When I told a friend I was moving back she said “they say the mountain calls everyone home.” Which was a bit eerie at the time because I do feel like it’s true.

But our mountain is an elusive beast, much of the time she’s cloaked in clouds, seldom offering more than a glance of snow-peaked tip through the grey. Some people wonder if she exists at all, as she loves a good hide from the weekend roadtrippers. She’s all peek and no boo. She’s not exactly flirtatious, you need to court her for some time before she’ll show you her wares. I wish I could say the same was true for most of us ladies from the provinces, who’ve been sometimes known, (cough cough) for our friendly spirits (tarring myself with the same brush there, my friends).

Like many new visitors the Viking has been hanging out for a bit of mountain. (If you want to read a childish pun into that last sentence feel free, I know I giggled when I read it back.) But of course she has draped herself in thick grey rainclouds since we arrived. Even when the sun shone through yesterday she was nowhere to be seen.

“That mountain’s got until Tuesday to show itself” said the Viking.

“And then what happens?”

“I’ll start complaining.” (which was funny because he’d already jumped the gun by complaining from our arrival about the absence of snow-capped wonder).

“Maybe I’ll write a letter or something.” he added.

“To whom?”

“The Mayor.”

During our picturesque walk yesterday, where we passed by a gorgeous lake and drank in the beautiful spring aroma of those little white flowers I don’t know the name of (a little help?), and I commented that I think my heart-rate actually drops down a few beats just being close to the ocean, the Viking said that the only thing that would improve things would be the mountain.

Lake Rotomanu

Lake Rotomanu

 

And then, this morning, I was called forth from the boudoir, still encased in chenille and flannel pjs to behold the majesty apparent from our front yard….

In all her glory

In all her glory

And oh what a happy Viking I had on my hands! Maybe the sight of snow does for him what the sound and smell of the ocean does for me.

If Mount Taranaki looks familiar to you, and you’ve never made it to these parts, she made a cameo appearance in The Last Samurai as Mount Fuji a few years ago. It was a time when the province counted Tom Cruise as a local and started referring to itself as Tomanaki. A little bit shameless but the film did wonders for this place. Even Mount Taranaki came out to play when Hollywood was in town, although I’d do what I was told too if I had this running at me:

theLastSamurai-tom

*The painting at the top is by Christopher Perkins, my parents have a print at their house.

What’s your home icon? Do you feel the gravitational pull of the sea or does a good cafe with a righteous flat white cut the mustard in your neighbourhood?

A very Kiwi homecoming

New Zealand - doing fruit flavoured marshmallow wrapped in chocolate like no other country

New Zealand – doing fruit flavoured marshmallow wrapped in chocolate like no other country

We’re here!! We touched down in New Zealand on Thursday night after a gigantic day of travel. I think time travelling with a toddler should be measured like dog years, the flight was three hours but felt like about 14. And then there was the rigmarole trying to track down a fretting spoodle after we hauled our own selves through customs. That was three hours of my life I’ll never get back. But we got our shaggy little sidekick in the end and he celebrated with masses of kisses for us all and a wee on the grass outside the imports warehouse that went for about 15 minutes. Bless.

We stayed the night with my sister on Thursday before driving south to Taranaki the following day. As we drove through the frankly spectacular New Zealand countryside I looked at my lovely husband and said

“So what do you think? Of MY country?”

There was a pause.

“It’s very green.”

Oh darling, stop with the gushing already.

Twenty minutes passed.

“And quite hilly.”

Hang on, is that Tourism NZ on the phone, busting a gut to have the Viking pen their next campaign?

New Zealand – very green and quite hilly

Look out Peter Jackson, I think you have a competitor in the promotion of New Zealand stakes.

But anyhoo, effusive praise aside, my Viking does seem quite pleased with the lay of the land. Our new house is so much better than the dodgy dark photos we were shown online, with a massive kitchen and double-door fridge – of course stocked full of every delight you can imagine by the world’s happiest grandparents.

Bubba has a line-up of new toys, and a reserve line-up of new toys for when the first lot need refreshing. Alfie has a comfy couch to lie on and a front yard to bark from – it’s elevated above the street so he can peer over the heads of passers by and feel quite mighty, important features for an anxious dog with a ‘small canine’ complex.

And me? Well I’m glad to be back in a place where I won’t have this conversation for a while:

Person: So you’re from New Zealand?

Me: Aha

Person: You don’t really have an accent? I didn’t pick it up.

Me: Well, yes I’ve been…

Person: There it is! I heard it! Wow! It’s strong! How did I miss that? Do “fush n chups”

Me: I’d rather not

Person: “Choice bro Tafe?”

Me: Nah

Person: What comes after five?

Me: Yeah, I’m not really…

Person: “RILLY” ha! You Kiwis are hilarious!

There are a few things I’ll miss about Australian life but that conversation will not be one of them.

For the rest of the weekend we intend to keep up with the unpacking, and I will continue my barrage of all things Kiwi for the Viking. So far we’ve had perky nanas, New Zealand salmon, Vogels bread and the Sauv Blanc is on ice. Any other suggestions? So far he’s rated the Vogels very highly, I’m keeping whitebait fritters in my back pocket (not literally) for when I really want to pull out the big guns.

Have a great weekend,

 

Surrounded by awesome

Look out Bindi Irwin - I'm a natural!

Look out Bindi Irwin – I’m a natural!

It’s almost midnight and I can’t get to sleep because my head is still spinning after an amazing couple of days away at the Problogger conference. If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter you would have noted me hashtagging the shit out of PBEvent, and I was loving it. I mean, adventures have been fairly scarce in my life of late so a trip away, without a toddler to chase and surrounded by Australia’s blogging glitterati blew my mind just a little. Okay, a lot.

Now I’m not sure if you’re famous, but I’m certainly not – however I have some vague experience with stalking meeting some famous people. And it’s always kind of weird. I have a good friend who is an actor and is a pretty familiar face on New Zealand telly. Walking around with him has given me a brief look-in to life on the other side. People ogle, openly, and I’m not sure if they know they do it. I’m one of those people.

My actor friend (when plied with booze as he is rare form of modest actor) has told me about being a familiar face to people but a face they may not directly connect with their TVs. He’s had that quizzical approach ‘I know you from somewhere don’t I?’ more times than he can count. He’s also had a police officer slap him on the shoulder asking ‘you staying out of trouble mate?’ School teachers assume they’ve taught him.

I had that feeling at Problogger. I’d see people whose blogs I read regularly and wave out at them, forgetting that they hadn’t been staring back at me through my computer screen while I read about their lives  (although a few knew my blog which made me kind of fall off my chair a little). And it was just so bloody impressive to be surrounded by all these people who had made such a success out of being creative and following their passions.

I met people who were passionate about things I’d never even heard of, niche bloggers intoxicated by their love for mason jars, the digital afterlife (I didn’t know what this was – it’s your online ‘life’ and how it’s managed/handled/deleted when we die, told from the point of view of a woman who had tragically lost her brother in Afghanistan), a woman called Hayley who created 365 Grateful – which is a whole community of people who take photos of things they’re grateful for every day for a year. This project has changed lives and is now being published as a book and released as a documentary. Fascinating!

I met Trey Ratcliff, a dashing Texan who wore a Google glass the entire conference. He looked a bit like a cyborg Val Kilmer but in a totally good way. Trey is a brilliant photographer who has recently relocated to live in Queenstown (NZ represent y’all). Here’s Trey’s video called 30 Days and 30 Nights in Queenstown. (Steph’s Proposed Alternative title: New Zealand – we are more than just hobbits)

I got to listen to Claire Bowditch talk about following her dreams after being told she wasn’t cut out for working in a call centre. Then Claire sung and all the little hairs on my arms stood up.

I listened to the stories of Caz and Craig from Y Travel Blog and heard how blogging pulled them out of a deep financial hole and how they know fund their lives and their love for travel by writing a great blog and connecting with their huge travel community.

I heard about people blogging to bring attention to poverty, to fundraise for amazing causes and to reach out to their readers who were going through hard times and just needed to know someone else had been through the same thing.

And I held a snake. Not that gracefully. Not with any showmanship. It was no Britney Spears moment. But I did it. I only really did it because Mrs Woog told me I had to, and I made her jump in the photo with me. Look at that confidence and joy on my face. Now that’s at one with nature.

And I hugged Samuel Johnson who has been unicycling around Australia to raise money for breast cancer research. Sam’s sister is terminally ill with breast cancer at the moment and he’s created a huge campaign called Love Your Sister. If you can donate to it please do. He’s a legend and he gives great, great hugs .

I came a step closer to becoming just like Oprah by making a good friend called Gayel. She blogs at Modern Mummy Mayhem and you should check her out too.

And one final one, Business Chic is a blog about what to wear to work, so you don’t get stuck in the suit cycle or end up tucking your sweats into your high heel knee-high boots (I’ve seen this happen and it was frightening). The blogger behind Business Chic, Cheryl, is about the nicest woman you could ever meet and the fact she has done so amazingly well is testament to good things happening to good people.

I got home after 9pm tonight, well past Bubba’s bedtime. So it’s time to tuck myself in and get a few hours sleep before I cuddle my Bubba for the first time in three days. And then, of course, we’re packing this house up and moving our little NorKiwiSpoodle family back to New Zealand.

Change is definitely in the air. I’m amped.

Who’s inspired you lately? Have you ever had a brush with fame?

 

 

 

A failed Garage Sale and a very handsome houseguest

Rush hour at the Garage Sale

Rush hour at the Garage Sale

What a weekend it was. Our house has transformed from showhome spectacular (maybe ‘spectacular’ is a bit strong) to squatter’s quarters in 48 hours. We had the open inspection for the house on Saturday morning, which meant cleaning the house totally ruined my Friday night mandatory So You Think You Can Dance viewing, and yesterday we had a failed Garage Sale and the beginning of the sad goodbyes. Now, our house is a dump of half filled boxes, with random pieces of furniture and toys spread across the floor.

We tried to tempt people into the Garage Sale with the promise of free coffee, but considering I made the decision on Friday to have the sale our campaign to attract crowds wasn’t exactly far reaching. In fact, the campaign included one free ad online and half a dozen hastily taped up posters down the street. The result was maybe ten or so shoppers, including a local lady who stayed for about two hours, stepping me through every medical procedure her and her siblings had ever experienced. She bought a wheat-bag and a blanket.

During our emergency-room themed conversation I drank about four cups of the superstrong perc coffee the Viking had brewed up, and ate about 14 of the biscuits I had placed out as a sly sales tactic (or so I told the Viking). Nowadays, I rarely drink coffee – I might have a soy latte once a fortnight but nothing stronger. So my heart raced like a hungry greyhound all day. It’s a shame more punters didn’t show up, I think I would have been on fire with my sales spiels.

A couple of my girlfriends from my mothers’ group turned up. Mothers’ groups seem to fall into two categories over here, nasty little cliques of ultra-competitve mothers marking off their child’s achievements like notches on a belt or a group of fantastic women who openly share all the crazy, wonderful, vomit-inducing, sad and scary experiences of being a new Mum. I’m so, so fortunate that my group falls into the latter category. In fact, had it not been for the friendship of these women I doubt whether I would have made it this long without being drawn back into the supportive family circle of New Zealand. And I guess it’s just starting to hit home that after next week, I won’t be seeing them every few days. I won’t be marvelling over how much their kids have grown every time I see them or taking turns either drinking wine or ‘running DE-fence’ with six toddlers at the local RSL. And that makes me more than a little sad.

It reminds me of when I moved back to New Zealand after two and half years in London, and had that harsh come-down of finishing a big adventure and arriving back to old friends whose lives hadn’t changed and who really weren’t that interested to hear that yours had. And I found myself seeking out other travellers, who I could talk to about my backpacking experiences without feeling like they thought I was bragging. Travellers just got it. Well now, after becoming a Mum and having my life changed forever, these girls just get it. I’ve had close female relationships before, but it’s a whole different level with these girls. We’ve talked about everything from our fears for the future with our kids being plunged into a world of Facebook and sexy selfies to how much we love our husbands pretty much 99% of the time – but exactly how we’d finish them off and hide their bodies if they pushed their luck that bit too far.

One of the mums is on holiday at the moment and the Viking and I gleefully accepted the offer to petsit Harry the headstrong pussycat and Archie the Hercules Morse Rhodesian Ridgeback. Harry is great but our love is a bit restrained by the VIking’s cat allergy, our love for Archie though, knows no bounds. Especially the Viking’s love for Archie. Men and big dogs – frank and beans.

The look of love

The look of love

As we were on a double-dog walk the other day the Viking pondered out loud – “I wonder, if people see us with these dogs which dog they think matches each of us?”

I replied coolly, “Gosh Honey, I’m not sure. There’s Archie – all tall, lean and handsome, calm and quiet but worth listening to when he does make a noise; and then there’s Alfie – unkempt blonde affro, chunky butt, incessant barking and penchant for processed cheese. I’m not sure there’s any resemblance whatsoever.” And I did that dangerous glint in my eye look when I said that last bit.

And then I tugged Alfie away from the three week old chewing gum he was trying to lick off the footpath and we both sauntered off, blonde ponytails swinging in the breeze behind us.

 

"You got my back, right Arch?"

“You got my back, right Arch?”