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I’m moving house. So if I don’t respond to emails or comments on the blog immediately, I hope you’ll forgive me.

I’ve been in this house forever, and I thought I’d stay here for the rest of my life, but it badly needs renovating — new kitchen, new bathroom, new laundry and more — and that’s been on the cards for several years now. Friends have been urging me for years to sell this house and buy another, but I’ve resisted that. I love my little house, and it’s in a nice quiet street, with nice neighbors and is close to public transport and walking distance to shops and a few good restaurants, and just down the hill is dog park where I walk my dog (see pic below). So I haven’t wanted to move.

But I’ve had continuing bad luck with tradesmen, and now, after waiting more than three years for the last one — with no contact at all over the last 18 months (though I know he’s working), I’ve given up. Last week, in a rush of blood to the head, I bought another house, and now am madly getting this house ready for sale. 

Which involves a great deal of decluttering. Having been in this house so long, I have accumulated so much Stuff, I can hardly believe it. Books, beads, clothes, craft stuff, workshop notes, and who-know-what. So I’m trying to divest myself of a lot of it. If I had more time I could sort and cull things more thoroughly, but I don’t have the time for that.

And I have to bite the bullet and get rid of things I am attached to. But I don’t use them, and it’s pointless taking them to the new house, so they’ve got to go. I know I’ll feel so much better — and lighter — when it’s all done, but oh, it’s hard. So many little things send me down memory lane and it’s hard enough not to get distracted, let alone give the things away. 

But I’m getting there. Not that you’d notice at the moment — the house looks like a bomb has hit it and my poor little Milly-dog is slinking around, worriedly following me from room to room and getting underfoot, wondering what on earth is going on — because this is not normal! Poor little sausage, she likes her routine.

The new house is gorgeous. It’s the same era as mine, and looks a lot like it from the outside, but it’s a little bigger, and fully renovated. The only thing I’ll need to do when I move in is get a dog door put in for Milly. And unpack. And do some more decluttering. I wanted to take with me only the stuff I was keeping, but the timeline is tight and I don’t have time to sort everything now. 

So please forgive me if I don’t write back to you for a while. I do love getting your comments and emails and I appreciate the time you take to write. Normal service will be resumed in a few weeks, I hope, and in the meantime, I’ll try to keep you up to date here on the blog.

This is dog park, and I know we’ll miss it when we move. But the new house is only five minutes drive away, so it’s not as if we can’t come back here for walks and to play with other dogs.

Happy New Year — again

Hi everybody, and Happy New Year — yes, I know I wished you that a month ago, but now I’m talking about the new lunar year, which in Chinese terms is the Year of the Tiger.

Lunar years are important in many Asian cultures including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tibetan and many more. They’re also celebrated in western countries that have significant populations from these cultures — certainly it’s big in my Australian city, Melbourne, where we have big Chinese and Vietnamese celebrations, and cities like Bendigo and Ballarat, which have had significant Chinese populations since the 1850’s also celebrate in style. I also enjoyed the celebrations in Malaysia when my parents lived there.

  An old friend of mine has a birthday on 31st January, and I recall one year, when we were students, a group of us had gone for Yum Cha at one of our favorite Chinese restaurants in the city. We’d forgotten it was Chinese New Year — the date changes every year — but we saw all the decorations in Chinatown, and thought it all looked great. We were happily tucking into our yum cha when into the restaurant came a lion dance, which circled around us and the other tables — it was fabulous and fun and really made our day. After our yum cha we went down into Little Bourke St (the heart of Chinatown in Melbourne) to join the celebrations.

Other years I’ve headed over to Richmond to join in the Vietnamese New Year celebrations. I’ve taught a lot of Vietnamese people over the years and it’s wonderful to be able to join in the celebrations there, often bumping into former students.

Customs and traditions vary widely — most people prepare by thoroughly cleaning their house, getting rid of old or worn-out clothing — and buying new clothes to put on in the new year. Some people decorate their homes with all sorts of red ornaments — paper cutouts, hanging ornaments — red is considered a lucky color. Many families gather for a big family dinner on New Year’s Eve. One thing that I love about the “lucky” food served at New Year is that often the “luck” is because of the names, which sound like desirable things like money or health. Food as a pun — I love it.

Fire crackers are set off, and gifts of money, real or imitation is given in red envelopes. The imitation money is burned to send good fortune to the ancestor spirits. It’s all in the hope of bringing good luck, wealth, and longevity. 

There are too many different ways of celebrating the lunar new year to cover here, but google them and be delighted.

Celebrations generally last for 10 days or more and are immediately followed by the gorgeous lantern festival, which is one of my favorites. Happy new lunar year to you all. 

Are there Lunar New Year celebrations where you are?


A few years ago, a single frond of bracken popped up unexpectedly in my garden. Bracken is a wild plant, and regarded as a weed, and you almost never see it in the city, which is where I live. I have no idea how it got here, but I was intrigued, and the fronds are very pretty, so I left it to grow.

Of course, it grew and proliferated — to the extent that it blocked out a lot of my other plants. A couple of the neighborhood kids even used to sneak in to break off bunches of the fronds to make scary-looking head-dresses and other warlike things, which amused me greatly. Birnam Wood, only in bracken. 

So I kept it, having a slash-back every now and then. I had one of those recently, and I expected my gardener friend would have slashed it all to the ground. (I’d just asked for a general tidy-up.) Instead, he left a couple of fronds growing here and there, especially these ones that were growing at the foot of my big ironbark (eucalyptus). Isn’t it pretty? I think of it as my little touch of bushland in the city.

My grandfather and mother would have been horrified, both at my allowing the bracken to flourish in the first place, and at my gardener friend for leaving some intact. My grandfather was a Lands Department Inspector, and one of his tasks was to ensure that farmers controlled weeds — of which bracken was one.  Bracken flourishes in cleared lands, so farmers were required to control it before it got out of hand. It’s also toxic to many farm animals — horses, pigs, cows and to a lesser extent sheep, and goats. 
Mum must have been infected by Pop’s antipathy to weeds, because she would tsk tsk whenever we drove past some paddock that was filled with bracken or other weeds. I remember once when I, a small child, was exclaiming with delight over a mass of purple flowers growing over an ugly railway siding. “Oh how pretty,” I said (or words to that effect.)

“That’s not pretty, it’s a dreadful weed,” my mother snapped. “It’s Paterson’s Curse and whoever let it spread like that should be shot!” Named after the farming family who is said to have deliberately planted it in their garden, after importing the plant from Europe in the 1840’s, it’s also known as Salvation Jane and other names in different parts of Australia. It’s toxic to livestock, especially horses, and can cause liver damage to sheep. When handled, it can cause skin irritation in humans, and honey made solely from Paterson’s Curse flowers, though delicious, can be a problem to pregnant or breast feeding women, or if eaten in quantity.

So I’m not planning on allowing any Paterson’s curse in my garden, but the bracken can stay.