Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places



Sharing books from my childhood 

Arddun’s getting ready for Bigger School – transitioning next year from preschool to Kindy. And I suddenly got nostalgic about school and the books I used to read. 

Found these online and decided to buy them. This was the edition I had growing up – same illustrations, same paper smell. The Naughtiest Girl in the School was my second Enid Blyton and Big Girl book that I read on my own. (My first was The Three Golliwogs but even then, the font was too big for me to feel like I was reading a properly grown-up book.) 

I’m planning to read a chapter a night with Arddun. Hope she loves it as much as I did. 

Monday Me

A wonderful Mommy photographer I just stumbled upon on Pinterest had put up a post to encourage mothers with cameras to get in front of them once in a while. I really needed that boost. For one thing, I’m never satisfied with how I photograph; I don’t have a symmetrical anything — even my eyebrows are different — so seeing a mirror image of what I look like in the mirror throws me all the time. And of course, I always think I’m looking fatter with each photo — and maybe I am. But that really shouldn’t matter, if the bottomline is about documenting my family life for my family. Because if I should get hit by a bus tomorrow, I want to leave my children and husband something a little more lasting than a hazy memory of a Chinese woman with a DSLR where her face ought to be. It’s not just about me… even if it’s all about photographing me. So yes, here’s another Good Blogging Intention that I will no doubt end up breaking, like my Thursday’s Three Thankfuls. I should start by not promising that this will be a weekly thing. But I’m going to try and get in front of my camera more often when photographing family moments. Here was my very deliberate start; after going trigger happy at Ivy’s party, I handed the very lovely and obliging Sara my camera, and asked her to take a photo of Arddun with her bestie Leila, and Leila’s mummy, Fam — one of the sweetest, most thoughtful women I’ve ever had the pleasure of getting to know. :-)

Fam, Leila, Arddun and me at Ivy's 4th birthday party
Enjoying Ivy’s 4th birthday party. Arddun, struggling with the harsh idea that the Lollies After Lunch rule still applies at parties.

Christmas 2014

I’m finding it more challenging to photograph our family’s shenanigans lately. Still to master the art of farfing DSLR camera settings with one free hand only. Yes, Atticus’s feeds are inversely proportionate to my success rate for capturing the moment.

Nevertheless, I tried. With any and every camera within grabbing/lurching distance.

Christmas lights montage 2014
Cruised around the neighbourhood on Christmas Eve to marvel over some serious Christmas lights displays
Christmas window montage
One home converted their living room into a miniature Christmas display village. Awesome effort. Even had an electric train.
Opening presents on Christmas day
The only (lousy) shot I managed to take of Arddun opening her presents on Christmas day
Getting ready for Christmas lunch
Raymond BBQing in the background while we get ready to tuck in
Christmas lunch at the Kirkies
Enjoying our non-Christmas-on-Christmas-Day lunch at the Kirkies
Tony posing with Pavlova
Tony makes beautiful Pavlovas. This one disappeared very soon after this pic was taken
Atticus crying while wearing Christmas onesie 2014
Atticus’s First Christmas. Spent mostly sleeping and occasionally yelling his precious head off
Arddun having a laugh with daddy Christmas 2014
Sharing a private joke with her daddy
Arddun close up Christmas day 2014
Merry Christmas, baby girl

Water play

While the days are still longish and warmish, it’s nice to play with the water hose after dinner and before it gets dark.

Arddun with water hose and standing right in frame

Collage of Arddun playing with water hose

Arddun playing with water and smiling

Arddun holding water hose and standing left in frame


We’ve been away for 15 days on a much-awaited holiday that surprised us when it finally rolled up after months of anticipation. It had been something we told ourselves we’d do once we got back from Singapore and the dust had settled a bit. The body had been feeling weary, the soul somewhat diminished after a year of emotional battering. So we took ourselves up to Brisbane to spend a week with Arddun’s Poppy and Nanna, and then to Fiji.

Here’s some holiday snaps. I do apologise for the quality; I’m not in love with the camera in my Android phone, and I’ve gotten out of the habit of taking photos of Arddun because the darling girl Cannot Keep Still Long Enough. (And also because this phone camera has the reaction time of a sloth with the flu.)


The three of us arrived at Tony’s parents’ place to find their house had been transformed into Toddler Wonderland. There’s a swing. And a sandpit. With sand in it! And building blocks… and new books… and a large toy garage with cars to slide up and down ramps… and the dolls have their own high chair and a nice wooden bed – with its own top sheet, blanket and quilt, of course – and their own pram… and there’s crayons, and playdoh, and strawberries to pick, and veggies to harvest, and…

Arddun was in love. I’m utterly convinced that at one point, she had looked at me as if to ask if she could live there for good. She had a grand time. And we got good rest. The moment her eyes opened in the morning, she’d ask for Poppy to take her out on the swing, and she’d look for “Nina” (Nanna) for cuddles and other treats yet undiscovered in the house. Brisbane life suits Arddun.

Evie with Allie
Finally, we meet sweet Evie in the flesh! She is such a happy, contented bubba and greatly impressed me with her magic ability to sit in one position and entertain herself for 2 hours in our midst.
Blowing bubbles with Great Aunt Anne
Blowing bubbles with Great Aunt Anne in their gorgeous garden
Arddun chasing bubbles in Tony and Anne's backyard
Chasing after bubbles
Reading with Poppy in pergola
Reading with her beloved Poppy. The red swing was hers and Little Kitty’s very favourite means of passing the time.
Picking strawberries with Poppy
Picking strawberries was a huge novelty, and a real treat.
Lunch table of Ladies Retreat
Went to a Woman’s Day retreat, hosted by The Point church. Was an interesting ladies-only retreat, fashioning its lessons layout on typical women’s magazines. I had to take a pic of the lunch table, which my lousy photography does little justice to. Each lunch bag was HANDMADE, and included a rather gourmet sandwich. That palm tree made out of stacked pineapples? Courtesy of Pinterest.
Arddun with Nanna
Thanks for a lovely time, Poppy and “Nina”!


Fiji turned out to be a funny sort of holiday for us. Arddun felt miserable for the first three days; I suspect she had a bit of the flu, and after travelling and adjusting to yet another new environment, her usually good humour packed it in, and Tony and I had a rough time of it as we tried to soothe her, while gingerly picking through the minefield of illness-induced tempers and general Toddlerisms.

Then she emerged on Day 4 tonnes happier and raring to go. And that was when we got to see more of Fiji proper.

We poshed out this trip, and decided to stay at the Sheraton. Perched on the edge of the island, it boasted ridiculously postcard-perfect views of the waters, and made for very nice photography if one came better equipped than I did.

Random view of scenery at Sheraton resort
Took this impulsive shot while walking from our villa to reception. Yes, there really are coconut trees everywhere. And the weather was as sun-kissed and perfect as all that.

Staying at the villas worked well for us because we had a kitchenette, which we used at least once a day, and a washing machine with a dryer, that also got a reasonable workout. Most of all, we had the space to spread out and mooch when we didn’t feel like wandering the resort.

Arddun with socks and slippers
Arddun’s latest party trick is to put on her own socks All By Herself. She has yet to learn that socks do NOT go with thongs/slippers/open-toe-anything. Unless you’re English and don’t know any better.
Arddun and Tony in Infinity Pool
This is the Sheraton’s infinity pool, which is also the baby & kids pool. And yes. It’s the pool. Then rocks. Then ocean. And it’s insanely pretty.
Flying Fish restaurant view
Flying Fish restaurant, where you’re literally dining on the beach, salty breeze brushing your face, soft sand beneath your feet.

There isn’t anything in the way of attractions outside of the resort; Denarau, at least, seems content to lead their tourists from one resort to another, and the short cruise we took around some of the islands and islets showed us more of the same. Resorts all look and feel alike after a while, and by Day 5, we were starting to feel restless for some local culture and sightseeing. We took a couple of day trips to the town centre and walked around a bit. Totally reminded us of parts of Malaysia and, to a lesser extent because traffic wasn’t that insane, Hatyai. Our most reasonably-priced dinner was at a Chinese restaurant called Bohai, which really took me back to some of the Chinese family restaurants in Chinatown from when I was a kid.

Nadi town centre
Nadi town centre
Vegetable markets
Vegetable markets in Nadi town centre.
Goofing around with Tony
Goofing around with Daddy’s cap at the Mana Island resort while waiting for Aunty Famiza to show us around.

Yes, we managed to meet up with Famiza twice during this trip! All a happy coincidence that they were also holidaying in Fiji at the same time. Other happy memories include our last and dearest meal at the fine dining restaurant at the Sheraton, called Ports O’Call. No children allowed, and the waiters would bunch up now and then and sing four-part harmony like a dream. We scored a farewell song because it was our last night in Fiji and at the resort. The food acrobatics (blue flames dancing down a Cointreau-drenched tangerine peel) suitably impressed, dinner was yum, and the dessert in particularly sent me to heaven and back.

Blue flamed orange
Can’t really see much in this piccie, but this was the blue-flame-cointreau-orange thing I was talking about
Singing waiters farewelling us
Farewelling us in style: we asked one of the waiters if they had to audition to get a job as a waiter. Of course he didn’t have to. Singing is practically a given with most Fijians, it seems.

Fiji, as a whole, has a gorgeous climate and a very warm people. And their singing is like melted butter with warm caramel. We were greeted with “Bula!” every 10 paces. Even Arddun got into the swing of things eventually. Once she got past the fact that Bula also meant Hello (so she stopped saying “Hello, Bula!” to those she chose to greet), she was quite happy to Bula anybody who happened to pass. But only in the evenings, around dinner time.

Arddun putting on her socks on hotel bed
Putting on her socks before we head out the door for the last time

A collection of little moments

I’ve been getting rather slack with the photo-sharing, and so after some loving hints (“We’d like to see more photos of Arddun, please!”), I thought I’d load up some random photos of Arddun and caption what she’s been up to lately.

Arddun pats Sienna's head
Arddun loves babies. Unfortunately, what she thinks is a loving pat on the cheek often becomes an overenthusiastic head-squish-into-neck thing. My friends have been very patient with us. (Arddun with Sienna, 13 December 2012)
Hanging out with Shannon and Sally
3 grown women, 4 babies and tots = shopping bags + a lot of vehicular real estate. (From left: Shannon with Malia, Sally with Isla, and Arddun with “Ao-wie”.)
Arddun builds big tower
Lately, Arddun’s started building towers with blocks (wooden and life-sized), only to knock them down again in toddler glee. After this block, for instance, she took a running start from stage left and demolished her handiwork. 
First chocolate milk shake
It’s been so stinking hot, we finally relented that one afternoon and allowed a tiny sip of Tony’s milkeshake for the very first time. Boy, did she make that sip last… (Christmas Eve 2012)
Arddun at the aviary
The aviary at Gold Creek allows tiny tots to feed birds apple slices straight from their hot little hands. Unfortunately, this tot had a tendency to entice birds over with her apple slice, let the birds nibble at the edges, before snatching the slice off and scoffing it down. What a tease. (Christmas Eve 2012)
Arddun and Tony share some tea
Here’s Arddun getting a quick tutorial from her daddoh on how to serve high tea like a proper young lady. (Christmas morning 2012)
Mother and daughter
Enjoying a picnic at a playground/park in Albury. It was real hot that day. (New Year’s eve 2012)
Arddun and Alex in bumble bee car
Our nearest neighbour (in our mother’s group) and good pal, Alex.
Arddun pushing Alex in wagon
Here’s a better shot of Alex, with Arddun literally pushing him around. Taken 7 January 2013
Arddun on playmat during worship
We don’t always accomplish this, but most Sundays, Arddun will keep to her playmat and do some drawing or read her books. The challenge lately is to encourage her to do all those things without singing Row Row Row Your Boat. Taken 13 January 2013
Arddun honks Tony's nose
Arddun and Charlie sharing apples
This is another of Arddun’s friends, Charlie. They’re trying to share an apple. About 3 photos after this one, the bowl of apples mysteriously moves across to the corner chair behind Arddun… (Taken 19 January)
Charlie and Arddun drawing in the garden
Conversing in the shade while doing some landscape art.
Arddun wears green washing-up glove
Gloving up to wash dishes in sink. She hopes. (Taken today.)
Arddun's plaited hair - front view
Arddun’s hair got plaited today for the very first time! Handiwork by Sarah V. (Taken this afternoon)
Back view of plait
Back view of plaits. Cannot believe the little girl sat through the entire thing, while she’d wriggle around like a fish out of water when I so much as attempt to tie ONE miserable whale spout.

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