Sunday, 22 October 2017

Nine months later...

Well, when we announced the pregnancy, I totally geared myself up to regale you all with HUHLARIOUS stories of antenatal mishaps - being sick in bins at work whilst live on air*, ridiculous things that I did/said/thought, and my waters breaking in the most embarrassing place possible, and it has all come to naught! Well, except the waters thing, which could still totally happen. I’ll keep you updated.

* Stenography is a unique profession where once you’ve started, you can never, ever stop for any reason whatsoever...

But honestly? We’ve had the most boring pregnancy ever! Except I can’t say ‘boring’, as we got frowned upon in antenatal classes when I described it this way... because pregnancy is magical and special and so very precious and all. So I mean ‘uneventful’ and ‘#blessed’ of course. I’ve had precisely no morning sickness (puking in shock at a positive pregnancy test totally doesn’t count apparently), no cravings, no exhaustion and no crazy mood swings* or anything. I’ve really enjoyed it all, genuinely - minus a slight trauma over the removal of my stomach piercing and the subsequent stretchy hole that’s developed (all hail to Bio Oil!). And now I’m on maternity leave and we have somewhere between the next 5 minutes and 2 weeks to go, and it’s all gone so quickly, but also, I’ve been pregnant for pretty much the entire year, which seems like forever, and I feel like I should probably at least write about some of it. So here’s a few things we’ve experienced over the months...

* Shut up, Jan..

Going for scans...

Putting a face to the puncher of my bladder...

The first time you go for your dating scan, you will be all excitement and nerves - is there really something in there? Is this where I awkwardly find out I’ve made the whole thing up in my head and it’s been really bad trapped wind for all these weeks? What the heck’s going on? And they give you very specific instructions about exactly when and how much to drink before the scan to ensure a nice full bladder, so the uterus can be seen properly.

Now, I am a total people pleaser - especially with authority figures - so despite thinking, “Huh, a litre of water that I have to hold for an hour before the scan seems rather excessive”, I dutifully sipped my way through the requisite amount, and then insisted on getting the bus to the scanning place, cos I ain’t no fool. Except... when we got to the sonographer, we realised we’d totally forgotten the doctor’s referral, without which they refused to see us. But neither would they let us leave to go fetch it. They insisted we ring our doctor from there and have them fax it through. 20 minutes later and still no fax in sight - but what was in sight was me dancing around the waiting room in the age old “dear god, I can’t hold it any longer” pee dance of doom. In fact, so compelling was my performance, the receptionist finally took pity on us and said we could see the sonographer without the form, and would I like to try and “let some out” in the ladies? All I can say is if there’s one thing worse than the exquisite torture of needing the loo and not being able to go, it’s the pure hell of trying to stop halfway through the most desperately-needed pee of your entire life... Twice. Because once just wasn’t enough. Then the sonographer STILL commenting on how full your bladder is, whilst pressing down hard on your stomach with the scanner. And you having to pee twice more during the scan. So, newly-pregnant ladies, for God’s sake, REMEMBER THE DAMN FORM.

It’s not always you that gets the hormones...

When you start reading pregnancy literature,  all you hear about is hormones, hormones, hormones! Morning sickness? It’s the hormones coursing through you! Sobbing because the person in front of you in the queue took the sandwich you wanted? Hormones! Staring in a crazily stalkerish manner at all babies/pregnant bellies/variety of prams as you walk down the street? Hormones, oh pregnant one! Only... well, it wasn’t me who got the hormones in this pregnancy.

It wasn’t me who started nesting for the gods, trying to build our own baby monitor, and declaring he really wants a shed for carpentry projects; it wasn’t me who cried at all the scans we’ve had; and it definitely wasn’t me who sobbed at every birthing video we’ve watched so far... I fear my face was more of the totally-grossed-out-and-traumatised variety at the “miracle” of birth.

And if that makes me sound like a stone-cold, emotionless robot, well...blame it on the hormones.

There will be baby brain...

Finally! A symptom I did get! Anyone who knows me well, knows I’m not the most, ahem, organised person at the best of times, but wow does pregnancy really up the ante. I’ve waltzed out of countless cafes without my handbag, on multiple times forgotten my antenatal card (which I’m supposed to carry everywhere) to routine appointments, and on one occasion even booked an appointment with completely the wrong doctor. Convinced my doctor’s name was Young, I confidently booked in a check-up, only to discover on the day that my doctor is Dr Ryan. There’s no Dr Young at my surgery at all - although annoyingly there is a Dr Yong, and much hilarity ensued when the receptionists discovered the mistake...

The best thing about all this though is (HORMONES) you totally don’t care about any of it at all, it’s just so nice that people are willing to chase you down the street with all your abandoned belongings, or politely indulge you in letting you waddle off to collect all the paperwork you’ve forgotten. And speaking of waddling...


This is one* of my new names now. It basically means “waddling duck”, although I prefer to view myself more like an oversized penguin trying to make it back to penguin home base with a stomach full of fish.

Either way, it’s somewhat dispiriting when you get all dressed up in your spiffing new maternity togs, proudly walking down the street with bump in full “miracle of life” mode, only to catch sight of yourself in a window and realise you’re walking like you’ve just **** your pants...

The other is Jan relentlessly singing “Big Belly” at me, to the tune of “Black Betty”. He has been firmly warned that any continuance of this after the birth will be looked upon most severely...

People are lovely!

There’s something about a baby bump that makes you instantly approachable. Complete strangers will come and strike up conversations with you out of the blue, purely because you look like you’ve eaten a cannon ball for breakfast. I’ve met an artist from the next suburb over, a woman who has had three children herself, talked about numerous birth stories, and had a man on a bike ride past and shout, “there could be twins in there”! Which... well, OK, uhm, thanks?! And suddenly you’re the special one on the bus who people jump up to give a seat to! And goddamn it, I will take the seat, regardless of the fact I’ve just left the most sedentary job ever where I’ve been sitting for the last 8 hours. You’ve got to make the most of this! And I won’t tire of people making a fuss and telling me how cute and lovely my bump is, because... it totally is!

So that’s about it from pregnancy land. We’re almost ready to move on to labour land, with every twitch and movement now being anxiously assessed to see if “this is it”. Although, I’m getting the feeling this little lady has her parents’ sense of humour already and will hang on in there until the absolute last second just to really freak us out...

But don’t worry, little bubba, we’re ready for you....

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Antenatal Adventures

So for Facebook friends, I guess we posted our happy news, then I left you with a lovely picture from Uluru, with Jan contemplating his future in the corner, and we've told you nothing else! For non-Facebook peeps, uhm, hai there, Jan and I are having a baby! Surprise!

So for everyone keen to know the "usual" news - I'm feeling fine (criminally fine, but more on this later); we are 15 weeks along; everything is looking good so far; and the due date is 30 October. Which, come on, I'm totally going to cross my legs for an extra day to get a Halloween baby, purely for the joy of bringing it home in a costume. With The Omen music playing in the car. Or something.

As for the other big question, not only do we want to find out the sex, WE ALREADY KNOW! Thanks to the wonderfulment of modern science (and a chunk of cash), we had a test called the NIPT (non-invasive parental testing), which takes some of the mother's blood, whisks it about a bit in a fancy flask, and gets the baby's DNA out to test. With the added extra bonus of finding out sex! And....... Jan is overjoyed to tell you he will now be bossed about by two* women in his house! Which maybe accounts for the look of fear on his face in that Uluru snap... Or it could be the dingoes.

* As in, me and Baby Girl. I re-read this and realised it sounded like we were having twins, which... PLEASE LORD, NO.

In all honesty, though, I think it's me who is actually the terrified one here. When we did the test and it came out positive, Jan was overjoyed and shed some happy tears, and immediately wanted to text his parents. I.... paced the flat wild-eyed and breathing heavily, and then decided to just up and get the morning sickness out of the way in one big go. And then do a bit more wild-eyed pacing. And then... nope, wait, not done with the sickness quite yet, thanks. I mean, we had been trying, but I honestly hadn't quite believed it could actually happen TO ME and MY BODY and, oh crap, one and one really does make three, and what now, OMG WHAT NOW?!?!?! IT'S GOT TO COME OUT AGAIN AT SOME POINT AND... gah, time for more puking.

Anyway, I'm coming round to the idea, what with it actually being real and really happening and all. And it really is real cos they've given me scans and everything and there's actually a real live human bean all up in my womb, taking up valuable bladder space and everything:

Subject at 11 weeks and chilling...
So now it's time for the biggest (scariest) adventure of all - and it doesn't involve moving to the other side of the world!

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

The Love Bingle.

We don't tend to celebrate Valentine's Day in the Kollhof house*, as we're sort of all bah humbug, stupid confected commercialised rubbish our love is perennial and needs no one single special day for 'tis special every day sort of thing. That and we're really rubbish at remembering dates.

* We celebrated it once. Jan made a beautiful dinner of mushroom soup followed by steak, but we had to eat it at 10pm as that's when I got home from work. I'd bought him a CD but had no wrapping paper, so had to make my own out of random bits of coloured card.

But this year, we've inadvertently made our biggest grown-up purchase yet around this date, so we're totally pretending it's our VDay gift to ourselves! Ladies and gentlemen, introducing Ravi:

She is BOOTIFUL. I also may have made lots of unnecessary squeaking noises over the bow when we picked her up. The last car we had, I was just plain thrilled that it had electric windows and a CD player. This one has CAMERAS FOR REVERSING. REVERSING. That thing I'm hopeless at because I'm too darn tiny to see the stupid kerb or anything else you're supposed to be able to see to reverse successfully. I. AM. ECSTATIC.

The reason we upgraded from our old car is because it got totally smushed in November. Or, as they say here, "I had a bingle". Let's just say it involved emergency stopping, and me being the rather shocked filling in a metal car sandwich. The main things to remember are: no-one was hurt, it wasn't my fault*, and WE GOT A FANCY CAR WITH REVERSING CAMERAS.

* Important for self-esteem (and insurance) purposes.

Now all we need to do is take her for a big drive somewhere exciting!

Sunday, 1 January 2017


Well, what a year. As so many people have stated on t'interweb already, that's another trip around the sun and what an horrific, traumatising, nightmarish, sh*tstormy, craptabulous interesting trip it's been.

Usually, I'm one of those people who looks around at the end of a year everyone else has found horrendous, and apologetically says, "Well mine was rather good, actually". But nope, this year has pooped on my head too.

That's not to say it was all bad! It actually started off quite well!

Friends visited us...

..and we visited family and friends (and watched them get married <3):

But after that, well... things took a turn. Brexit happened. Trump happened. Countries turned their backs on innocent people needing help. Other innocent people died at the hands of those who would spread fear. People we've grown up with died (and so many so young!). Well, you all know the global horrors we've been through and thanks to having to caption the whole sorry mess every single day at work, I'm slightly world weary as we slip into 2017.

Things in our own smaller world took a tumble too. My parents were involved in a car crash in July - and it was a bad one. Dad was mercifully unscathed thanks to the airbags*. Mom was not so lucky, and spent nearly 4 weeks in a coma. It's amazing how one voicemail message instantly shows you exactly what living on the other side of the world means. We'd always comforted ourselves that if anything happened we were 'only' 24 hours away. But boy, that's the longest 24 hours you'll ever spend. I'd never been to an airport feeling nothing but dread before, never flown somewhere not happy to be going on a new adventure, never sat sobbing in Singapore as my friend insisted she was coming to meet me at 6am in the morning and drive home with me to face everything because people were worried about me driving alone. Never sat in a hospital, watching someone's life being held more in the machines around them than in their actual bodies. Never seen so many darn plug sockets to keep all those machines going! Never been to my parents' house before without my mom being there. Never been in her kitchen, with all the pots and pans and spoons and forks from my childhood**,  and no-one to tell me where to find things, or what to do. But we got through it, with much help from family and friends, and I really learnt how wonderful and special support like that is - from kind words and thoughts, to coffee sent from my favourite place here, to all those people who've helped my dad get around and not kill himself from food poisoning!

* Or 'hairbags' as he likes to call them - one of the very few things that made me smile about the whole episode.
** I had a favourite teaspoon as a child. Seriously. And they've still got it!

More importantly, mom got through it all too. She's still in rehab, but wow - watching her get better has been amazing. I see a determination in her I kind of knew was there, but never expected to see so much of - she was scaring the nurses pulling herself up on the bed and trying to get off when she couldn't even walk! She's got straight back on the computer to re-teach herself, instructed my dad about all things household, insisted on still writing all of her Christmas cards and even made a Christmas cake for all the nurses! Fingers crossed, early next year she will be home again properly.

I guess from there, things could only get better! And they have, towards the end of the year. We made a promise to ourselves to get out there and do 'stuff' this summer - and we have been doing. I'll post more about some wonderful summer December* weekends soon!

* December = summer. Still can't get used to that 3 years on!

And Jan turned 40! Again, a whole other blog on that, but suffice to say, he's still lookin' mighty good:

For now I'll just say... TFI 2017!

For all of us who've had a tough 2016 (and also for those quietly saying "actually mine was rather good"), may 2016 be like this ice sculpture and slowly melt away into a misshapen lump that no-one will remember - and may 2017 prove to be the year we all win the lottery* and live happily ever after!

* We actually have won the lottery already this year! And we'll be getting the best bottle of vino $14 can buy...

Monday, 31 October 2016


Hello?! Hellooooooooo..... *dusts off (seasonally appropriate) cobwebs and sneezes in the dust*

Uhm.... so much for my new year's pledge to write more blogs! I do believe resolutions are death to intentions....

Well, I'm lying in our new swinging chair, in our freshly-gardened garden, basking in the first real bit of sunshine I've been able to expose myself to this summer. And I feel like writing again*!

* Actually, I feel like not doing the washing, or deciding what's for tea, then going shopping for it, but potato, tomato...

So I'll turn over a fresh (virtual) page on the blog. I may talk about stuff I blatantly should have blogged about at the time (WEDDING, anyone?!) and tell you about all the exciting things coming up (when there are some!) and generally just waffle a bit. Cos I've weirdly missed this little space of ramblings! (Plus, I'm really scraping the barrel on the Netflix boxsets, now, and it's getting embarrassing, and I'm way too cackhanded to take up crocheting things off Pinterest).

But for now I'll leave you with a picture of our beach. It was hit by a storm in June which left it battered and feeling changed. I'm sure a lot of us feel that way about 2016.  But it has come through and been repaired and actually now has times of complete calm that I don't remember from before (it was all crashing waves and glasses-stealing malice). May we all make it through so well!

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Of senators and sausages...

So we're heading into officially Politically Interesting Times here in little old Aus. Due to some machinations involving cheeky senators using certain issues to get their own way, it looks like we will be in for an election in July. I think. It's... complicated. But more on the senatorial shenanigans later.

 First, I want to introduce you to the Democracy Sausage.

Photo by Alpha (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Which is an honest-to-god thing over here.

In Australia, you are legally required to vote - you can actually get fined for not doing so - but in order to sweeten the bitter pill of participating in democracy, they reward you with a Sausage Inna Bun*. Or as evidenced above, a Sausage Inna Piece Of Bread.

* All hail Terry Pratchett and Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler...

The Democracy Sausage is a very important thing - so important, in fact, there is actually a website dedicated to helping you find your nearest meaty treat... It even has a 'deliciousness' rating. No, really. And I'm pretty sure it's not the only one.

This is all part of a larger cultural event - the legendary Sausage Sizzle. It has long been known here that the best way to get people to amass in one place and hand over their hard-earned money is to crack out the barbie and throw a few 'snags' on it. Glam them up with some cheap white bread, your choice of sauce* (and maybe even go crazy and add onions), charge a buck or two,
and - boom! Bona fide charity event!

* Tomato or BBQ. This ain't no fancy middle class famers' market with your aiolis and such.

Sausage sizzles are mainly held for local charities and community groups like sports clubs, or the surf life savers, and the Aussie version of B&Q (Bunnings) holds them for charities at the weekend too - cos everyone needs a hotdog with their hardware.

Sadly, as mere temporary visitors to these golden shores, we are not allowed to vote in anything. However, come election day, I might still attempt to sneak a snag! After all, we're living in a democratic society, no? SAUSAGES FOR ALL!!

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Sashimi, slippers and snow...

So we're nearly four months into the year already and the New Year's resolutions from my last post are going really...uhm... not well? I've done NO exercise, been ever more vocal with both TV and computer at work, and have written precisely zero blog entries. But, dudes, is it me? What just happened to January, February and March?! I've barely finished stuffing my face with BBQ Christmas prawns and the darn Easter Crocodile* has been and gone!

* They had an Easter bunny here too, but he went for a swim and, well, you know... he wasn't seen again. They've named a swimming pool after him, though...

Although the 'no exercise' part of the above isn't entirely true, as in February, we over-excitedly dusted the cobwebs off our winter clothes and got ready to go skiing! And those of you who have ever been will know that one week skiing = all the exercise you'll ever need to do for the rest of the year.

Having seen the Australian snow already, we decided to pack everything up and go and see what Asia had to offer. Squeeeee - our first big trip together to Japan! When we first got to Australia, we were under the stupidly mistaken impression we'd be a whole lot closer to Asia than we had been in the UK and could do all our 'Eastern' travels whilst here. Uhm..... no. The only benefit with flying from Sydney to Japan is that, although it's a ten hour flight, there's only a two hour time difference - so no jet lag - a great boon if you're about to spend the next week on an intensive exercise program...

So off we went to the airport, full of pep and vigour. And wine, of course:

We had a bit of an 'incident' when we arrived in Tokyo. When I'd booked the flights, I'd clearly not paid enough attention, and we had only one hour to get off our international flight, collect our bags and board the domestic flight to our final destination, Niseko. It all might have worked, if only the damn international and domestic terminals weren't two different buildings separated by a 10 minute bus drive - which we discovered only after 10 minutes of following rather misleading signage in the international building. After a very tense, "We've already missed it, it's too late, alack and alas" bus journey, followed by an actual real-life 'mad dash' through the airport we made it onto our plane, mostly intact but very sweaty in our winter jackets.

The rest of the trip was far more relaxed* and we met our friend Sophie (who had flown from Perth to join us) with no problems. We got the coach the rest of the way to Niseko, which, to my complete delight (you'll see it later...) was drowning in the white stuff. 

* Except for the moment I ventured off to buy tissues at the airport and, having to guess what to get because I know NO Japanese, came back with what looked suspiciously like sanitary towels to everyone else. This caused hysteria for at least five minutes, until I opened them to find they were tissues after all.

The hotel we were in was pretty nice, although it had a smell of sulphur about it, due to the natural springs in the area (at least, that's what we hoped). Our room was a lovely apartment with a kitchen, living room and two bedrooms - one with the traditional tatami (rush-covered straw mat) and futon. As part of the hotel etiquette, too, you get an outfit to wear and two pairs of slippers - one for inside your room and one for inside the hotel. That's quite a lot of slippers for a person who spends most of her time at home walking around barefoot and treading on sharp things.

I have no clue why all the Japanese people kept laughing at us... We look chic, no?! I am sporting the 'inside the hotel' slippers at this point. The white slippers are in the 'in room' slippers.

And now to the question I know has been on your minds since I mentioned 'Japan'. The toilets. The weird mystery toilets of buttons. You thought toilets were for numbers one and two only, but in Japan there are numbers three, four and five as well.

Full disclosure - we had a go at all of them. And... yeah, it's a bit eye-popping at first, to press a button, hear a grumbling of machinery, followed by a dreaded pause, then to have warm water shoot out at your, ahem, bits and pieces. But after getting used to it, I have to admit I kind of missed it when we left! Something I was more ambiguous about was the heated seats - awesome, cos your little botty is cold in the freezing weather, but not-so-great because you can't quite shake the feeling that in fact it was someone else's little botty that 'warmed up' the seat before you...

Well, now we've addressed that cultural hot potato, it's onwards to more palatable topics! One of the big things we were looking forward to was sampling all the food in Japan, We love going to Japanese restaurants generally, so were keen to see what was on offer. The first thing to say is Japanese people seem to LOVE LOVE LOVE weird desserts and sweets. The airport is chock-full of them (or should that be 'choc'-full?!). We tried one which was a sort of wafer thing with thick honey in between the wafers and covered in sesame seeds. It was quite yummy, but... I wasn't convinced. We also bought what we thought was chocolate in the hotel's snack shop - only to discover it was some sort of bolognese sauce. The perils of relying on the beautiful packaging when you don't understand a single word written on it... We were on safer ground with the Green Tea KitKats we found - sounds gross, tastes delicious. Multiple bags of those were eaten - all in the name of keeping our skiing energy up, of course.

In fact, one of the best things about skiing is it leaves you bloody starving - erm, I mean with plenty of stomach space to sample to regional delicacies. But first, it was always time for a small aperitif, post-piste and preprandial. And we found the perfect place:

It was a little van containing the friendliest man ever (although to be fair, EVERYONE in Japan is the nicest person ever. I've never bowed and said 'thank you' so much in my life!), serving hot sake, mulled wine and plum wine. Almost every day, we brushed off the seats and settled down to re-live our day on the slopes.

Then it was off to the restaurants. We tried as many as we could in the week we were there (although must admit to one lunchtime where we went French and stuffed ourselves with crepes - savoury for main and sweet for dessert. And, yes, they were huge and, yes, we all ate two each). But otherwise, we tried to keep it traditional and ate yakitori (meat on sticks), sushi, sashimi, gyoza, dumplings, ramen, udon (all the noodles, really), and hotpot.

The smile of hungry people about to be fed...
One of the restaurants we went too - wooden booths all the way!

I could wax lyrical for a very long time about all the YUM*, but I'll tell you about the hotpot. Basically, you get a bowl of home-made broth brought to your table on a heater, followed by a selection of raw meats, fish and vegetables and a small hourglass.

* I will never forgive the school careers 'counsellor' for not telling me that 'food critic' was an actual career choice...

One of the plates of YUM to cook in the broth
With each type of meat/fish,  you get a guide as to how long to cook it for. Then you turn over the timer, grab a piece with your chopsticks and swish it about in the broth until it's done. Rinse and repeat for all the delicious things - and the bonus? You end up with an even yummier broth, full of the flavours from the veggies and meat juices.
My 'feed me NOW' face...
All in all, we ate very well for the entire trip, complementing the food with sake and plum wine, and following our main courses up with green tea ice cream where we could.

Another thing we had to try while we were in Japan was the onsen. These are thermal baths/hot springs, where you go to relax and get clean - in the nuddie. There are many rules to the onsen and most are single-sex. We did manage to find a 'mixed' outdoor onsen a few hotels down and went for our first experience there. When we arrived, we found out that because it was mixed, the girls had to pay for the pleasure of wearing a bright orange, linen 'dress' and Jan had to pay for a face flannel with which to cover his vitals. Obviously cameras are not allowed in or around the onsen, so the image of Sophie and I running through the freezing outdoor complex in our bright orange one-size-fits-none dresses to meet Jan, wading about in a pool, trying to hold a floating flannel to his privates is one you will have to conjure for yourselves.  Once in the pool though, it's lovely and warm  to lounge about in, and at one point it started snowing, which made it all poetic and beautiful and stuff.

Sophie and I ventured to our single-sex hotel onsen later in the week, This was slightly less 'touristy' than the mixed one. We immediately shamed ourselves by walking into the tatami-covered changing rooms in our 'inside the hotel' slippers, and incurring the wrath of a lady, who kept shouting 'NO SHOES' at us. Apparently slippers on the tatami is highly verboten - oops! Once inside the onsen, there are plastic stools in small, open shower cubicles where you go and wash yourself before and after going into the pools. You get a small hand towel whilst inside the onsen, which most people seem to wear on their heads, given the lack of pockets to carry anything in. We spent our time in the outside onsen, unsure of the rules, and slightly paranoid when a Japanese lady walked outside, took one look at us and walked back inside again. I do love a good hot spring though, and it's a great way to ease the aches and pains after a day of skiing.

And talking of skiing - which I realise I haven't done any of yet - it was awesome! So awesome, that words are just not enough - you should totally check out Jan's amazing video - behold the powder and weep! Then cheer yourselves up by watching us crash into trees! 

Niseko is famed for its powder snow and, boy, there was plenty of it. Sophie and I took lessons and both of us loved learning the new skills of off piste skiing, going through trees and into deep snow, while Jan also amused himself off the slopes:

We had heard rumours of a great volcano - Mount Yotei - opposite the mountain we were skiing on, but for three days it was so snowy we couldn't see it at all. Then came the sunshine, and.... wow.

So all in all, we had an AMAZING holiday in Niseko and will definitely be going back there for more! We learned loads on the slopes, and ate and drank loads off it - which adds up to the perfect skiing holiday if you ask me! 

Arigatou gozaimasu, Japan!