Happiness is …

Happiness is seeing the first signs of spring.

Of course, I should have posted this about a month ago. The blossoms have all gone now, and spring has well and truly sprung. In fact, it’s having an identity crisis and masquerading as summer, with a forecast high today of 38 (that’s just over 100˚ for all you Fahrenheiters). Ouch. That’s a sweltering summer day.

Nevertheless, we were talking about spring, weren’t we? I love it when the first flowers of spring start to appear.

When I was a kid I had a little ritual. Despite being completely uninterested in gardens any other time of the year, at the beginning of spring I always wandered around the yard looking for new flowers. It was a joy to find those freesias poking through, and to smell their beautiful scent. Some years Mum had jonquils too, or snowdrops, and I would carefully admire and sniff each one (even the ones that had no scent – wouldn’t want them to feel left out!).

Not being a gardener, the only pretty flowers in my garden these days are the ones that appear by themselves on trees and shrubs.

But I still like to walk around and admire them all.

Tell me I’m not the only one! Do you have any odd rituals to mark the turning of the seasons?

Happiness is …

Happiness is walking through your childhood fantasy world.

I was ten years old the first time I read The Lord of the Rings. It caught my imagination as no other book had done before, and few since. I wrote stories set in the world of Middle Earth, using my favourite characters. I forced my uninitiated (and probably bored) friends to play endless games of make-believe where we dressed up as Elvish princesses in my mother’s old dancing petticoats and lamé dresses. I committed many of the poems to memory, and reread obsessively, adoringly.

It’s safe to say that The Lord of the Rings is The Book that started my lifelong love of fantasy, and when the movies came out and – oh miracle of miracles! – they didn’t suck, I fell in love all over again with Aragorn and Sam and the elves and the Riders of Rohan, with the glories of faded Gondor and the sweet green fields of the Shire.

So you can imagine my excitement when I got to walk those green fields and see the Shire FOR REALZ on our New Zealand trip. (Actually, you probably can’t. I was so ridiculously thrilled to be there I didn’t stop grinning like a loon the whole time. Is it shallow to admit it was the highlight of my trip? No offence, New Zealand, you’re beautiful and all, but you can’t compete with the love I bear the Shire. Even though you kind of are the Shire. I know. Don’t try to use logic on me.)

It was a picture-perfect day for a trip to Middle Earth, too. Bright sunshine, beautiful blue sky, absolutely glorious.

Oh, those hobbit holes! They were divine! They had the sweetest little cottage gardens:

Such attention to detail! Each one had unique features: bellpulls, woodpiles, letterboxes, tools left lying around. Some front doors were weathered-looking with faded or peeling paint. Others obviously belonged to houseproud hobbits and were painted bright yellow, red or blue.

Bag End, of course, had a handsome dark green door and stood high on its hill overlooking the rest of Hobbiton. It was very large by hobbit standards – no wonder the Sackville-Bagginses coveted it! – and had thirteen windows, whereas the most any other hobbit hole had was four.

The oak tree on top of it was the only fake tree on site, and boasted over 250,000 fake leaves imported from Taiwan and individually hand-wired on.

The tour was very informative, with lots of inside info about the making of the films. Highly recommended if you’re ever in New Zealand!

Now, if only they’d build a real Lothlorien, my childhood dreams would be fulfilled!

If you could pick any fantasy world to visit in real life, what would it be?

Happiness is …

Happiness is a steaming hot bowl of scrumptious soup on a cold night.

Add a loaf of fresh crusty bread and you have a match made in heaven!

I’ve been making this soup a lot lately. Lots of vegies, beans and pearl barley, so it’s healthy as well as delicious. Great to come home to after standing around in the cold at netball training!

Easy to make, too:

3 carrots, 2 zucchini, 1 onion, half bunch celery, some green beans, all chopped small
10 cups vegie stock and/or water (I use a mix)
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can mixed beans
1½ cups pearl barley
1 tub tomato paste
Herbs (I use basil, oregano, salt, Tuscan seasoning)

Saute the vegies in a big pot for 3-5 minutes, then throw in everything else, bring it to the boil and simmer (with lid on) for an hour.


Happiness is …

Happiness is curling up with a good book.

Sometimes when the house is quiet I wander around and find all three ducklings lost in a book. It always gives me a thrill. I love that we’ve managed to pass on our love of reading to the offspring.
Of course, even more frequently I’ll find one or more of them glued to their ipod instead, which doesn’t make me feel quite such a success as a parent, but oh well. Can’t win ’em all.
The other thing that makes me happy about this picture? Look at that quilt Baby Duck is parked on. A finished quilt, actually on a bed, being used for its intended purpose! Something of a rare sighting around here.
I know I showed it to you while it was in progress, but I forgot to show the finished article (something I do a lot!), so here it is for your viewing pleasure, ladies and gentlemen – Baby Duck’s “bugs in bottles” quilt:
And a little close up:
Some cute fabrics in this one. Thank goodness I finished it before he outgrew the cuteness!

Happiness is …

Happiness is being reminded what a great guy you married.

Being an old married couple, the Carnivore and I haven’t celebrated Valentines Day in years. It’s too commercial, we don’t need a special day to say “I love you” – the usual reasons. Occasionally we might give each other a card if we happen across one that’s insulting enough (I was tempted this year by one that said They say opposites attract. Happy Valentines Day from your intelligent, beautiful and amusing wife) but usually the day slips past with no acknowledgement.

But …

This year at the girls’ school they had a scheme whereby, for the princely sum of $2, you could buy a rose for a friend and have it delivered during roll call. There was much excitement and planning of who was buying roses for whom. All would have been well, except they underestimated the number of people wishing to buy roses.

Demon Duck came home devastated. She’d managed to order a rose for her new best friend, but they’d run out before the friend could get her one in return.

“I’m not going to get a rose on Valentines Day!” she wailed.

You might imagine this wouldn’t be too much of a problem, since she’s never received a rose on Valentines Day any other year either, and managed to live through the experience. But she was really quite disappointed. Briefly I toyed with the idea of buying her a rose myself, but a) roses are hideously expensive on Valentines Day and b) I’m a cheapskate, so that idea didn’t fly.

I decided to do something more in the original spirit of the day. I gave each family member four red paper hearts and told them to write a loving message for each other member of the family. We sealed each person’s messages in an envelope to be opened and read out at dinner on Valentines Day, so we could all hear the nice things we’d said to each other.

Satisified that Something Was Being Done about Valentines Day, I thought no more of it, and was taken completely by surprise when I came out for breakfast on the day and found this:

The Valentines Day fairy had been and left me a beautiful bunch of flowers, a single rose for each girl, and a beautifully wrapped present for Baby Duck (which of course turned out to be a box of lego).

Demon Duck was thrilled that she got her rose after all, and I was touched that her thoughtful daddy had taken in all the lamentations on the subject and decided to do something about it. It was such a sweet surprise. He’s so sneaky! And obviously not as much of a cheapskate as his wife. I think I shall keep him.

As for the messages we wrote each other, they were a lot of fun too. Some members of the family cough cough demon duck cough couldn’t quite get the hang of being unreservedly nice, and had to get their snark on. For example, her note to her dad began “I love how you think you’re so funny even when you’re not”. Others, like Drama Duck, crammed whole heartfelt essays on to their little paper hearts.

Baby Duck’s note to me said “You are the awesomest mum in the whole known galaxy”. Can’t do much better than that, can you!

Hope you enjoyed it too, if Valentines Day is your thing. And if saying it with flowers doesn’t appeal, maybe next year you could take a leaf out of the Carnivore’s book and try saying it with lego instead. Guaranteed to make an impression on the small boys in your life.

Happiness is …

Happiness is a pretty rainbow of threads making a bright spot in your day.
I took this photo in the midst of the renovation horrors of last year. I was sitting on my bed in the middle of the kitchen, sewing little birds and resolutely ignoring the chaos all around.
It looks so pretty and serene, doesn’t it? – almost like something out of a magazine. But just out of shot the debris of our lives was piled up in huge, depressing, tottering stacks. I can still see it when I look at this photo.
Sometimes sewing is a real sanity-saver.

Happiness is …

Happiness is a sister to cuddle up to when you’re having trouble falling asleep.

It’s nice to remember the little things that make us happy. I’ve been thinking for a while of doing a photo series to remind myself to appreciate the everyday. A good excuse to practise my photography skills too!

They look so peaceful in this photo, don’t they? Ironic really, when you consider the hundreds of thousands of dollars we’ve just spent and the months and months of angst, living through the renovation from hell. All so that these two didn’t have to share a bedroom any more, because they fought so much.

And now they have their own bedrooms, where do I find them? Squished into a single bed together, naturally. That’s kids for you.

On the subject of the renovation, it occurs to me that I never posted a photo of the completed project. Because it is – finally! – complete, landscaping and all.

We started with this:

progressed through this:

and this:

(oh, the horror!). Till at last we arrived at this:

Renovations are a bit like childbirth. Once you have the finished product, the pain of getting there recedes into memory. It’s certainly a wonderful house now, set up to suit us perfectly. But unlike childbirth, I don’t think I’d ever line up to go through it more than once. We learned a lot of valuable lessons about dealing with builders, but the main one was: don’t.

Next time, just move.