Five nice things

Five nice things that happened this week:

One. Feeling alive and salty

We went into Byron one evening, after a sweltering day hanging at home in the Alstonville plateau. It was ten degrees cooler by the coast. We ate Japanese at our favourite Byron eat place, Japonaise Kitchen. The beach was choppy and blowy, and it was already 6pm. But my daughter and I ran and danced and sung into the ocean. We belly flopped into the waves. I drank the salt water. We felt alive. Then we drank a coconut.

Two. Crying and feeling

I was meant to be working, and the girls and Greg were planning to see Moana at the cinema. I felt exceedingly jealous, but then hung up my keyboard, so I could come along too. I think I started crying in the first five minutes, when Moana sung, and didn’t stop until the credits stopped rolling. I can’t cry about my own problems, but somehow, Disney gets me by the tear ducts. Then Elka got a Cyndi Lauper inspired undercut, and my day was complete.

Three. Drawing and painting

The girls were busy pottering. Greg was working, I think. I have a loose commitment to myself to join the 52 Week Illustration Challenge. I say loose, because if I miss a week or two or three, I won’t be hard on myself. But if I have time, I will use it to paint or draw, instead of aimlessly looking on my phone. I drew a picture of a flying snail called Cleo, and a jealous flamingo.

Four. Playing on rocks

I was given a voucher to get a family photoshoot done by Kate Nutt, which is very lucky, because she is very good. We met at Shelly’s Beach, and the girls played with bubbles and hula hoops. When the shoot had finished, I followed the girls along the black rocks, while Greg bought fish and chips. They skipped from rock to rock, and deliberately sunk themselves, fully clothed, into pools. Picked up starfish which looked like star rainbows, instead of starfish. I didn’t think about anything much as I followed them, except that maybe spending as much time in nature with your kids is about the best piece of parenting advice I could ever offer.

Five. A string of nice moments

Elka went on the big waterslide with her cousins, so I took Rosie down the road to the Serpentine in Ballina, which is my favourite waterside place, because you can sit under a giant weeping fig, and run into the water when you feel like it. We were surrounded by families at first. By lunch time, most people had gone. Rosie put sand and water into the bucket, tipped it out and did it again on repeat for a couple of hours. Under the weeping fig, I decided that if all I can do as a parent is give my children a string of nice moments and pleasant feelings, then that’s okay.

How was your week? Tell me your five nice moments?


Welcome to Marry Land

Most couples make it out on a date night once in a while. For many couples we know with kids, date night is an essential ingredient to remaining connected, and happily married.

For us, my husband and I, date night comes but once a year; our anniversary. It’s enough of an excuse to ring in a willing family member to take the kids. We savour our together time without kids, melting into each other’s company, and feeling 31 & 22 respectively, the age we were when we met, and fell in love.

This year, we are ten years married. And even better than making it a full decade, our anniversary fell on Friday the 13th. Thirteen has somehow been our lucky number.

A few babysitters fell through. We eventually lined something up. I prepared a surprise Adventure of Love through the hinterland, which all centred on me getting dressed into my wedding dress, and buying champagne while Gregor took kids down the road to friends.

Trouble was, Rosie was onto me, and refused to go. She could sense something fun was happening, and didn’t want to miss out. When I whispered the plan into both my daughters’ sweet little ears, they banded together, and decided that neither would be babysat. They were coming with us.

And so we went. Our date-day of the year, encumbered with two {delightful} darlings.

First stop – the place we married, ten years ago today, out the front of God’s fine Eureka abode, looking over the rolling hills.

As it turned out, having two {delightful} darlings made the occasion even more perfect, because, as they pointed out, they missed our actual wedding.

Little Rosie named our wedding place Marry Land. In Marry Land, snakes get married, the wedded couple dance, and we all climb frangipani trees.

I remember most details of our ceremony ten years ago, up to the feel of the wind whipping our hair.

What I didn’t remember was the ancient frangipani tree, which turned out to be the perfect place to sit under ten years later, in a bed of fallen flowers, with flowers in our hair, drinking champagne. The girls made a treasure hunt out of  flowers. We took slo mo movies of us kissing.

Marry Land was better than I remember. Maybe it was because our daughters were there this time too.

Next stop, Doma Cafe, Federal. We’ve shared many a happy meal in the surprising and wonderful Japanese cafe, in the heart of the hinterland. I got burned in the shade, but still. Nothing beats that halloumi burger.

And then, a bare foot walk to the base of Minyon Falls. Even 100% humidity, and 36 degree heat couldn’t spoil this.


I love that the children come alive as soon as their fingertips touch a fern, or their feet touch the earth. The little fairy door some clever person has carved into a fallen log added more magic. And if you ever go, swim in the waterhole, stand under the waterfall, and look up. The sight of drops falling…

At home, we made Chinese soup, drank champagne and sat in the garden. I asked Gregor what’s the best thing about the last ten years, and he made a few jokes, which is exactly why we work so well together.

I said his legs were the best thing about the last ten years. And the fact that he’s an incredible father to my girls. And a great support to me. I forgot to mention how much I love the fact he washes up every night.

There was more than one raised eyebrow when I told friends and family 10 + years ago I was throwing away my life on a random Dutch guy.

Today, a friend said it was lucky I followed my instincts.

It was instinct, I guess. It was also a lot of luck, and a little work. Like, for instance, recently, when I resolved to use my ‘nice voice’ as much as possible, and not dump my irritation on Greg. Relationship patterns develop without you even realising it, and suddenly they feel unbendable. But they can bend. Neither of us want a nagging relationship, for ourselves, for our relationship, and for our kids.

Anyway, the Adventure of Love, and our trip to Marry Land, kids and all, was the perfect way to celebrate ten happy years together.

Here’s to ten more? I hope.

Hello, 2017

Hello! It’s been a little while since I have written here. I can’t tell you why, exactly. Maybe it’s that life has been busy. Maybe I have been conserving writing energy for other projects. Maybe I want to conserve words until I have something burning to tell you. There is a flood of words out there, on our screens, surrounding us and closing in on us. We can turn away, and turn them off. But I feel like, unless words mean something, and actually provide something – a smile, a warm feeling, worthwhile thought – I’ll let them ebb to the edges of my brain.

Home life is good. We have made our little sunshine house cosy, and full of exactly what we need. Nothing more. We have spent nearly every second night with friends or family, filling social cups and hearts with festive warmth.

I hope you too are having a happy, relaxing time.

As 2016 gently folds away, and a new year emerges, I’ve been thinking about what this year has brought me.


Having just moved to Europe, my paid work slowed in February. I momentarily panicked. But ends got met, somehow, and I realised how wonderful time could be. Time to hang out in English-style gardens, and read novels to my kids by the canal. Time to squander in ice-cream stores, or on long bike trips to flea markets. Time for my children to tell themselves stories, in their rooms or in the garden, without the structure of school hours. Time to get dressed in the mornings – hours, and hours, some mornings, until the day was almost gone.

Money is earned, but time is a gift. The Italians have the right idea. They get to work early, then close up shop by 12.30. They spend four hours eating, drinking and sleeping in the best part of the day, then do a little work in the afternoon and into the evening. The day swivels on time spent together, and soaking up life, rather than being industrious and busy.

What else has 2016 brought?


Between occasional frantic jaunts, looking for work, cultivating new work or developing would-be businesses, I spent empty hours writing, or drawing. I let myself write anything; in any form, and any length. I started several novels, for various age groups. I tried finishing one. I played with picture book manuscripts, and scribbled ideas.

For about a month, when my eldest was transitioning to sleeping alone, I sat beside her room, with a laptop. ‘Can you lie down with me?’ she’d ask at first. But we had a deal. I had to write her another story about two characters, Florence and Fox. When she woke up, we’d read the story.

‘Are you there?’ she’d called out. ‘I’m here,’ I replied, and tap-tap-tapped a new story for her.

The ritual was a discipline, in kind. Like this blog has been for me, over the years, my daughter’s requirements for new stories helped me write without inhibition. I felt like it opened up my writer’s voice. Words came easily, as I sunk into the characters’ world.

When I had a slice of time, I could have spent it scrolling through Facebook. But instead, I started a new chapter or a new story. May the flow be with me.

And what else?

Grey hairs.

Two, to be precise. And they aren’t sporadic, accidentally born bleached. They are persistent grey hairs. Because this was the year I got older and wiser. It was the longest time I’ve spent away from my parents, so maybe it was the catalyst I needed to finally become an adult.

In 2016, I dumped a box of trophies that have sat under my bed for years, because I no longer need stuff, and I no longer need plastic validation. I write, or do anything creative, because I love doing it. I work on something because I want it to be good, not be awarded. I’ll probably never grow out of that pleasurable rush that comes with receiving an award, or a compliment. But unlike my fourteen year old self, I’m not starting the new year with a wish to win an end of year academic prize.

I also stopped needing others so badly. Years of FOMO seeped away, and here I am at home, on a Friday night (while others are sharing pizza and end of year fuzzies). Happily.

A hang-over from boarding school, I’ve felt the need to be everywhere and with everyone. I have a lot of friends, and nurture each friendship. But this year, I spent time nurturing friendships that nurture me back. With grey hair comes deeper and richer friendship, or so it seems.

And so…

Look through Facebook, and you feel as if 2016 has been the year our idols died, and populism took over the world. But we humans are good at seeking patterns, and finding connections, and making stories. Each famous person who passed away added another notch in the supposedly weird year that was 2016. And yes, some very difficult stuff has gone on.

But I am not wishing this year away. Instead, I am keeping it wrapped up safe in an album of photos, on my mantle.

2016 has been a year of growth for me. It’s been a year of excitement. Depth. Exploration. Experience. Productivity. Time. Pleasure.

And what will 2017 bring? Let’s turn the page, and find out, shall we?



Books stacked on shelves.

Cartons  flattened.

Tea cups laid out and dusted.

The dust has settled, and we are too. Slowly. Surely.

The Sunshine House is as we left it, more or less. There’s a tree missing, blew down in a storm, and a few things amiss and a’broken. We’ve rearranged bedrooms, and emptied the house of everything everything we don’t need. After cozy Dutch houses, our own house, small by Australian standards, suddenly feels enormous.

But that’s the funny thing about perspective.

Like that one time, we went away to Europe for ten months, and it felt like forever, but now we are back, it felt like it barely happened. There’s another language floating around the house now, and a store of images and pictures and memories and feelings. But did we ever actually leave?

Before we left Europe, lots of people asked me how I felt about going home. Now I am back, lots of people ask me how I feel being back. Truth is, if it weren’t for the fact that people ask, and I like to give as honest answer as I can, I wouldn’t really think about it.

As we drifted from place to place this year, and reshaped ourselves into various rooms and houses, it all felt good, and it all felt right. If circumstances allowed, I could have stayed in any one of those places for a really long time. I could have called any of those places home.

So my answer was, and is, that I was happy there, so I assume I’ll be just as happy here.

Happiness goes with you, and all that.

But under the harsh Australian sun, in the heat, unpacking boxes, and popping down to the less than inspiring town plaza, with its fluoro lighting, it’s hard not to miss Europe just a teeny bit.

Things I will miss, include words like wanderling and pantoffel. I will miss fresh haring, with onion. I will miss mountain walks in fresh air, and getting strong without even trying. I will miss not wearing sunscreen all summer, and sitting out in the heat without frying. I will miss playing in the forest, and looking for fairy houses. I will miss beautiful houses. I will miss old things. I will miss an easy, communal way of life, where people just look after each other, no question. I will miss long mornings and so, so much time.

I will miss our Dutch and Austrian family and friends.

But there are so many good things here, too. Like family. Like friends. Like the sea and the beach, and a beautiful school. And home.

‘I don’t like the Sunshine Gypsies,’ my youngest gypsy declared in the car the other day. ‘I like the Sunshine House.’ She’s the home loving one, and has been counting down the days until we returned.

And now we are back, and the dust is settling, and it is very homely.

Travel Bug


The Travel Bug had always dreamed of adventure. But he lived most of his life tucked under a bed in an AirBnB.

Until the day a little hand reached under, and extracted him from his safe burrow.


Unsure at first, the Travel Bug ventured out.

His first taste of fresh air blasted his lungs. But he soon got used to it. He found himself on bridges in Venice, in barred windows, in busy piazzas and between selfie sticks.


The Travel Bug had lived a safe life under a bed, but his taste of Venetian life left him wanting more.


‘I am not going back,’ he decided.


So the bug spent the rest of his bug life in Venice.


Beware the Travel Bug, who photo bombs your selfie photos, and takes his espresso black, with no sugar. The Travel Bug, with big dreams, who finally found his place in the world.