Thursday, December 18, 2014

I'll be home for Christmas...

One of my favourite Christmas songs is 'I'll be home for Christmas' by Bing Crosby. Perhaps it's because the lyrics are 'I'll be home for Christmas.. if only in my dreams'. It's been on repeat lately.

I always spent Christmas in Melbourne. To me - Melbourne is Christmas, because family is Christmas, and family is in Melbourne... Before I moved to the US, I had spent only 1 Christmas away from my family, it was horrible. So I vowed I would never spend another Christmas away from them. Obviously I only got to keep that vow for a few more years. I wouldn't change a thing - I love KC and our life here. Being an expat is hard (anyone got a violin?) but it's normally so worth it. It's always harder around the holidays though.

So for right now, let's humour me. Let's pretend I'm back home and I am spending Christmas with my family. This is most of them below.

If I was still in Australia, Mum and I would take a week or two off work  and we'd make the 10 hour or so drive to Melbourne, where my Nana lives.  We have been doing this all my life, as far as I can remember. Somewhere along the line, the boys stopped coming but Mum and I continued..

We finally arrive at Nana's - did she get shorter? She asks how the drive was, are you hungry? Do you want to see so and so? They want to see you. Kristen, will you get this down? Will you put this away? You left this here last time. Are you going to take a shower? Make sure you dry the floor. Yes Nana, I say. Of course, Nana. Love you Nana.

Time flies in a flurry of Christmas activities and family. We see everyone bit by bit and then all together. Sometimes its four people over, sometimes just one, other times it's the whole family. My aunties and uncles have big houses but for some reason we always have a big fish and chips get together at my Nan's teeny tiny 2 bedroom unit. It's small and squishy and oh so loud and I just sit there and take it all in, because I've missed this. My cousins and I sit on the floor while the 'adults' sit on the couches. We put the actual children in our laps and watch carols in the domain, just like every year. Afterwards, we get out old photos and slides - we weren't there but it's fun to see our parents be children again.

Most days, mum comes in and wakes me, come on lets go shopping. Nana hates shopping, so we drop her off at the pokies. Mum and I meander around the vinnies and salvos, sometimes finding nothing and other times hitting the jackpot. I nearly always find a book. We stop and get some potato cakes and dim sims. Mum drops me off at the library and goes to pick Nan up.

Every night, Mum cooks dinner and Nana turns the TV on so we can watch the news while we eat.. I consider not finishing what's on my plate but I know my Nana won't allow it. Nothing gets wasted here. Afterwards, we sit in the living room and watch more news. Nana reads her paper, Mum reads a magazine and I read a book. A family of readers, we are.

The next morning is Christmas. I'm older, yes, but I'm a kid in Melbourne. As soon as I know they are both awake I jump out of bed yelling 'Happy Christmas!' and I wait not so patiently for them to be ready to open presents. I am the present hander outer and I say 'Happy Christmas Mum/Nana' with each present. I say thank you for the pajamas and the books and the Disney stuff. I'm still a child to them, and where it used to annoy me, now I love it. After we've unwrapped the presents, I fold up all the wrapping paper because my Nana recycles it.

Finally, it's time to go to my Aunty & Uncle J's. They are the Italians of the family and Christmas day has always been at their place. Lots of food, laughter and more food.. We stuff ourselves silly, I have a few drinks now and we pop our crackers and wear our silly hats.

bad picture, but the hat.
We eat some more food, open presents, take silly photos and talk the day away. It's late now, time to go home. Lots of hugs and kisses, promises to visit more often, we take leftovers and bags of presents, tears are shed. We wave goodbye, with a beep of the horn or two. The 3 of us are silent on the way home, broken only by my Nana's occasional hum-singing.

At home, we make some hot cuppas and sit around reading some more. What a lovely time I have in Melbourne. What a lovely family I have. I lean over to give them both hugs and kisses. Night Mum, I say. I lean over my Nana, trying not to breathe in the smoke and give her a kiss. She says 'See you in a porridge' quickly, trying to beat me. I let her. I say, 'aw shucks, you beat me. See you in a porridge, Nana. Love you'.

A couple of days later, it's time to head back to Sydney. We pack the car, Nana trying to convince us to take more food and asking again 'are you sure you didn't forget anything?'. Finally, we're ready. Mum starts sniffling. I start wiping my eyes. Nana calls us both dills, gives us a hug and a kiss that just feels like Nana. I hug her one more time before I get in the car. It's hard to let go. I'm not sure when I'll see her again, stupid ocean. I keep hugging, finally Mum beeps the horn. Nana pats me on the back, kisses me on the cheek and says "Stop crying you silly duffa. I'll see you in a porridge, won't I?'

I love my family. They are crazy and annoying and get under my skin like nobody else. They've caused me more grief and madness than any other person ever could. They are the worst of me. They are the best of me. I took them for granted. I didn't appreciate them. I miss them.

I'm not complaining. Truly. I just miss them. And this was therapeutic for me to get out. People always say to me they don't understand how I could live so far away from my family - that breaks my heart. I wouldn't wish this on anyone. To love someone from another country? To have to choose between the family you love, or the one you love? To have to choose between two families, two countries, heck two states? Pick a side? No matter what, somebody gets hurt. I don't relish the fact that I am away from my family. Of course I miss them, of course it's hard. So many people around the world have it worse than simply being an expat - at least I can talk to my family, others don't have that luxury.

I made this decision, and I live with it. More than that, I love my life, I wouldn't change anything. I am lucky to have found this guy I share my life with, that let me get 3 cats, that tries to make Christmas as good as it can be for someone like me. I am lucky to have my own little family.

That being said... the power to apparate across oceans would be greatly appreciated.

Now to throw this post in the complete opposite direction, I wanted to share my favourite song for 2014 and link up with Helene. I am zero percent ashamed to admit that it was Shake it Off. It could be because it's still fairly recent in my memory. I don't even remember what I did at the beginning of the year, let alone what song I liked. So there you go.

Where would you apparate to if you could?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Northanger Abbey

So I've now read 3 Austen novels. I feel quite accomplished.

Some time ago, I broke my 'books before movies' rule with Austen's other books because I never thought I would get round to reading them. Silly me. I have read Persuasion, which I loved, and picked Northanger Abbey as my next Austen because I absolutely, no shame, love the movie. I have seen it like 17 times. The guy who plays Henry Tilney is also in Austenland, be still my fangirling heart.

Northanger Abbey is definitely not Austen's most popular work, which is why I thought I wouldn't like it. I was so wrong. I truly love this book, I daresay it ties for second place with Persuasion in my heart. But considering I have only read 3 of Jane Austen's novels and P&P will always be #1; it seems all the others will tie for 2nd place. Based on their film adaptations, Mansfield Park will be my least favourite.

Anywho. Shall we?

This book has some real, heartfelt drama and romance, but mainly I like it because it's really, really funny. Catherine is awesome and kind of nuts, and the supporting characters run the gamut from really likeable and charming (Eleanor and her brother Henry) to excruciatingly irritating and shallow (John and Isabella). Austen makes fun of the (then) popular Gothic novels and authors who spurn novels. Henry is quite possibly Austen's cheekiest character.

If you don't know the story, it's basically as follows: young 17-year old Catherine Morland accompanies the wealthy Mr. and Mrs. Allen to Bath for her first introduction to Georgian society. She meets the charming Henry Tilney and sociable John Thorpe who both vie for her attentions, and befriends John's sister Isabella and Henry's sister Eleanor. She meets General Tilney (Henry's father), who mistakenly takes her for an heiress. After the whirlwind social life of Bath, she is invited by the Tilneys to their country estate, Northanger Abbey, where - due to the influence of her fondness for gothic novels - she thinks up some fanciful ideas about the General. She falls in love with Henry, but her fancies and the General's discovery of her family's true social standing land her in trouble and threaten to tear her and Henry apart.

The novel's first sentence is significant: "No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be an heroine." It sets up two ideas: first, that Catherine Morland is, or is going to be, a heroine; second, that she is an unlikely one. The first chapter focuses on the Catherine's practicality, her intelligent but not brilliant mind, and her lack of experience in the world. Austen introduces Catherine as a realistic character, while contrasting that realism to her role as the heroine of a novel. Throughout the book, the narrator articulates Catherine's thoughts more eloquently than Catherine could, perhaps, but she voices Catherine's perceptions. Also, Northanger has one of my favourite Austen lines: 

Northanger Abbey shows how life is, a simple over-imaginative girl finds love even though she is not the most clever, most pretty, most smart. She never pretends to be anything she isn't and puts to shame those who do. Northanger Abbey is a delightful read and I highly recommend it, that is, if you want to. If not, just watch the movie. Or Austenland. That's good too.

Have you ever liked a book after seeing the movie?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Save or Splurge

Thanks to Biana for this idea, though I'm so with Amanda, splurge is such a gross word.

Below are the categories:

1. A cocktail dress to wear to a wedding
2. A glass of wine at a restaurant 
3. A hotel room
4. A haircut
5. Wild name it! 

1. Save - I rarely go to weddings anyway, but I always check out TJ Maxx or Marshalls first, or I might have my heart set on a dress from RTR. Renting a dress isn't super fiscally responsible, but for someone like me who doesn't like to wear the same thing twice it's fun. I probably use them once or twice a year.

eva franco ora dress

2. Save / negligible - I never order wine at a restaurant. If I do get an alcoholic beverage (like a cocktail) I try to get one on the cheaper side. After Sydney prices though, everything is cheap here, so... I normally only ever get one drink, like the other night we went to dinner and I got some fancy blue cocktail and it was sooo yum.

3. Save / Splurge (to me) - I don't like to waste money on the place I am going to sleep. I shouldn't want to spend all my time there. I still want it to be nice, safe and clean. So while to someone else it will look like I'm staying in the cheapest hotel, to me it is a splurge because they are so damn expensive. I won't stay in a seedy 1 star motel 5 miles from where I want to be.. but I will find the cheapest, with the best reviews and best location for our budget. Sometimes we get lucky, like our Honeymoon.

4. Save - And I'm kinda cheating here because one of my best friends just happens to be the best hair stylist in the country, so..... Though it used to be a splurge because of maintaining the blonde and how long it was. I rarely get my hair done anymore. I got it done in October kinda ombre-y, and I'm already itching to have it all one colour again (my natural). What do you think?

5. Save / Splurge (to me) - My wild card is going to be clothes.. exciting I know. I have always been about the cheapest deals, if something was on sale, I'd buy it. But with a closet full of nothing to wear and clothes I don't like.. I'm seriously over that now. I know the Gap and Express etc aren't expensive stores to most people, but for me who almost always buys secondhand or super cheap, they are. However, their clothes tend to last longer and you can get them on super sale, so while they are still a splurge for me, in the end it works out as saving because I'm not wasting money on crappy cheap clothes that don't last.

What's worth a splurge to you?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Hoilday Weekending

Wow, 2 weekend recaps in a row? Who am I? Someone who does things and links up with Biana? How excitement.

Anyway. My weekend wasn't super exciting, but I did have some fun and wanted to share.

Saturday kicked off the 13 week countdown for the Rock N Roll Half Marathon, which meant that my training started. I'm not really training until January, for the rest of December I am just concentrating on running consistently, not focusing on speed or hills or anything.

So I went for a quick 3 mile. Can I just say a huge thank you to the idiots people who decided they didn't need to watch or tie up their dog? Because my heart and I just loved when he came charging towards me like he was going to bite my head off. I legit screamed, stopped running because you'd have to be an idiot to keep running when a big dog is chasing you, and just prayed to Zeus that he wouldn't bite me. I mean, wtf do you do in that situation? He barked at me for like a minute, lunged at me a couple of times and then ran back to his house. I had started crying a bit and was seriously freaked out, but had only run 1 mile so I kept going. Thankfully, he didn't follow. I love dogs and am not generally afraid of them, only when they are huge and running towards me like they want my leg for dinner.

After that KC and I went to his work's holiday party. There was lots of Christmas music, beers, jello shots, photos with props, selfies and loud people freaking out over who knows what. It was a good time.

In case you are wondering, my bestie and husband work together (as well as her husband) which is basically why we are always together.

I was quite tickled when I realised that both my dress and boots are from good ol Kmart. The dress is the one I posted on instagram, it is seriously so perfect for the holidays and winter, I know I'm gonna get lots of wear out of it for many years. The boots are from Australian Kmart (similar) and were only $15 and I have worn the heck out of them. Australian Kmart is better than American Kmart, quality and reputation wise anyway. Your Target is better, you win.

But seriously, this dress is so fabulous. It looks sequiny but it's not. It's thick without being too thick, I got a bigger size because I didn't want it to be super snug, but I just love it. I saw it on Jessie James Decker's instagram and swung by my Kmart the next day to check it out in real life. I sent the picture to my bestie and she sent back this:

Who wore it better? Just kidding. I still can't believe I got it at Kmart.. Thanks Jessie James!

The people who had the party love books (who doesn't) and have a bunch of old copies from a school that closed many years ago. You know I had to look through all of their bookshelves so that I could a) judge them on their book choices and b) look for Pride and Prejudice (no dice).

They did have a copy of Wuthering Heights from 1936. I mean, they shouldn't have let drunk people like me touch their pretty books, but oh it smelled so good!

We got home pretty late and spent most of Sunday doing nothing, and it was quite lovely. We have a dinner this week for my work, and that's really it for holiday festivities for us.

I have a favour to ask you all. As you can see, my hair and makeup are so-so in this post, I curled it but it dropped so quickly, I think it's getting too long, who knows. The point is, you can see the difference to when I do my own hair and makeup to when my bestie does it. I mean, the difference is crazy. She's a magician. I keep trying to convince her to start a blog or instagram, but she's shy. I'd love her to guest post on here to put her toes in the water and I told her you'd all be so lovely and nice and I'd almost convinced her. Help me with a comment to prove how awesome the blogging community is?