Monday, 24 December 2007

Gone on holiday. Back in 2008

As we’re leaving tomorrow, this is my last post of 2007. I’m pleased to say that my blog has survived the year, having begun in April, unlike two other unsuccessful blogs I started last year. I aspire to continue such a strong tradition next year.

Meanwhile, I’ve been catching up on plenty of movies, both recent and past releases, films I’ve seen before and those I haven’t, of which I will include a brief summary here.

Into the Wild - an evocative and intriguing film about the journey of a young man into Alaska. I highly recommend it.
Heavens Fall - a moving recount of the Scottsboro trials
Ghandi - a touching account of Ghandi’s life, movement and belifs
Death at a Funeral - a highly amusing comedy about what happens at the funeral of a father when his past turns up in the shape of a midget, everyone needs a valium. which turns out to a different kind of drug, and old Uncle Alfie – wheelchair bound – needs to use the toilet. Again, do try to see it if you can.
Erin Brockavich - just as enjoyable the second time, the fierce true story of one woman’s fight for justice
Clueless - light-hearted and very funny chick flick starring Alicia Silverstone
The Blues Brothers - a fantastic film that is a must-see; the entertaining efforts of two brother to reunite their band with devastating consequences involving car chases, Nazis and bursts of song from old favourites such as Aretha and Ray, to name a few.

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, as in I often make them but never fulfil them. Things can change – take my blogging abilities – so this year’s are: to be a kinder sister, a more patient daughter, a good student and a supportive friend. My new year’s ambition, wish, desire, or whatever you want to call it, is…to meet a boy, to fall in love (or lust, or some such teenage equivialant), and to be kissed. Call me desperate, but I just want to feel loved, you know? (Because Everybody Needs Somebody to Love.) I’ve reached sweet fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, never been kissed – sweet eighteen just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

I’ll be back in the new year, with plenty of (hopefully good!) news about my driving test and exam results.

Mele Kalikimaka!

¡Feliz Navidad!

Merry Christmas, and have a jolly new year!

Just a girl

Friday, 21 December 2007

For those without Christmas cheer

A forward from a friend that I actually read and reflected on, realising that we all have much to be thankful for this Christmas. Somewhat to my surprise, this poem is actually attributed to a Marine. May all our soldiers have a safe Christmas.

Twas the night before Christmas, he lived all alone,
In a one bedroom house made of plaster and stone.
I had come down the chimney with presents to give,
And had to see just who in this home did live.
I looked all about, a strange sight I did see,
No tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.

No stocking by the mantle, just boots full of sand.
On the wall hung pictures, of a distant land.
With medals and badges, awards of all kinds,
A sober thought came to mind.
For this house was different, it was dark and dreary,
I found the home of a Marine, once I could see clearly.

The soldier lay sleeping, silent, alone,
Curled up on the floor, in his one bedroom home.
The face was so gentle, the room in such disorder,
Not how I pictured, a United States soldier.
Was this the hero of whom I'd just read?
Curled up on a poncho, the floor for a bed?

I realized the families that I saw this night,
Owed their lives to these soldiers, who where willing to fight.
Soon around the world, children would play,
And grownups would celebrate, a bright Christmas day.
They enjoyed Freedom, each month of the year,
Because of these soldiers, like the one lying here.

I couldn't help wonder, how many lay alone,
On a cold Christmas Eve, in a land far from home.
The very thought brought a tear to my eye.
I dropped to my knees and started to cry.

The soldier awakened, and I heard a rough voice,
"Santa don't cry, this life is my choice;
I fight for Freedom, I don't ask for more,
My life is my God, my Country, my Corps."

The soldier rolled over, and soon drifted to sleep.
I couldn't control it, I continued to weep.
I kept watch for hours, so silent and still
And we both shivered from the cold night's chill.
I didn't want to leave on that cold, dark night,
This Guardian of Honor, so willing to fight.

Then the soldier rolled over, with a voice soft and pure,
Whispered, "Carry on Santa. It's Christmas Day, all is secure."
One look at my watch, and I knew he was right.
'Merry Christmas my friend, and to all a good night.'

[Source: Poem, a variation]


Thursday, 20 December 2007

Christmas in the air

I believe it would also be accurate to say “it’s everywhere I look around.”

Christmas is one of my favourite times of year, but it’s hard to say why. Not because I dislike it, but because of the many reasons I do like it. I remember writing a piece in primary school on what I like(d) most about Christmas, and I believe I said family; coming together to celebrate. Every year, we (my immediate family) travel to visit either my mother’s family, almost all of whom live in NSW, or my father’s family, almost all of whom live in Hawaii, and so we alternate every other year. I do love visiting my grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, and we always get together for Christmas day and Christmas dinner to exchange gifts. We all help with the cooking; in Hawaii, we all work in the kitchen together; when we visit my mother's family, we all bring a plate of food. A rather memorable Christmas was four years ago – spent in NSW – when I organised all of our cousins to participate in a “Nativity play” about three wise men and a farting camel. Oh, and a tractor driver. Don’t ask. But wherever we go, we never fail to have fun, because our families are generous, warm and funny. There are cousins that don’t – on my mother’s side – or can’t – on my father’s side – come, but nonetheless, we all get together for a good time. This year, we’re visiting my mother’s side of the family for two days, driving up on Christmas day and then driving to Sydney to stay in my grandmother’s apartment in Manly, though she doesn’t live there. Have to be back by the 3rd for my driving lesson and to receive my results on the 4th. What with all the travelling between families, we never used to be home on Christmas day itself, which never bothered me, but apparently bothered my brother, so now we try to be at home for Christmas day if we’re going to visit my mother's family; if we’re flying to Hawaii, we have to fly out a few days early.

Another of the said many things I love about Christmas is giving. For me, it truly is a gift in itself. I love shopping for people; there is a certain thrill in finding the perfect present. For example, when I went shopping for Pepito (with no particular ideas in mind) I found a mug with a cat on it. See, she loves cats (especially mine!) and tea; hence, it was a combination of her two loves. This year in my shopping I have found a new favourite place to shop; the Oxfam shop in Melbourne. Not only do they sell wonderful and unique gifts of great variety, but most – if not all – are handmade, and all are grown or crafted in countries such as India and Kenya. Money from your purchase goes towards these countries, so you really are buying a gift that gives twice.

Two more things I love about Christmas (really – what’s not to love? Well, Dancing Feet has a few ideas about that); cooking and carols. Specifically, I love the sweets; gingerbread (which I’m intending on making this year), cheesecake, candy canes, all that once-a-year special confectionary, dedicated to the season, advent calendars (which unfortunately I did not buy this year). And carols. It’s the one time of year we’re allowed to sing along, no matter how bad we are, and get away with it. To me, they just encapsulate the Christmas spirit, the merriness and the meaning of our celebrations. I may not be religious much at all, but there’s just something about them; Away in a manger, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (which I used to be able to play on piano), We Three Kings and Silent Night are favourites, to name a few.

Because there are only 5 days until Christmas, and I absolutely cannot wait, here are 5 comics that are vaguely Christmas, Thanksgiving or exams related:

As I’ve been speaking of Christmas decorations lately, here are four kinds I’ve seen in shops:

The Christmas decorations at Neiman Marcus are, every year, strings of butterflies hanging from the ceiling over the escalators. They tend to change; on previous occasions, they've been white and multi-coloured; but they're always spectacular.

The Christmas theme in Myer. I rather like it, I think it captures Christmas in two words. (Speak of Myer, did anyone see the Christmas windows this year? I took a brief look, but I didn't think they were any good. I mean, come on, Uno's Garden?! Is it even Christmas-related?)

An interesting take on Nutcrackers - less scary and more cuddly - in the foyer of the Marriot Hotel.

"Chior boys" - some of the most imaginative decorations I've seen - again, in the foyer of the Marriot hotel.

I seem to have started a Christmas countdown, so these are 3 things I want for Christmas (but won't necessarily get):

2 things I know I’m getting (because I told my brother to buy them for me, him lacking the necessary imagination and motivation I love about Christmas shopping):

And 1 thing I’ll miss this Christmas: staying out on our farm up near my mother's family. We used to own a property about an hour away, but we sold it four or five years ago. It’s only been this year that I’ve been getting really nostalgic about it. We used to stay at the homestead, which was a big, old house, with lots of character and memories. It’s hard to explain why I miss it so, but it became like a second home.

But this is the Christmas season, a time of goodwill and cheer! Time to get wrapping!

Just a girl

Monday, 17 December 2007

Word of the Year

According to the people at Merriam-Webster dictionaries - or, should I say, the people who visit the Merriam-Webster website - woot (or w00t) is the word of the year. I've never used it here, but I've become quite fond of using it in emails since stumbling upon it in various blogs (Pink is the new blog is one of the most memorable for using it.)

For those who don't know, woot is an exclamation of joy. Apparently - which I didn't know - it can also be an acronym for we owned the other team, an expression used by gamers, I'm told. Which would be about right, because my younger and immature brother uses the term 'owned' all the time (not particularly

This year's word of the year isn't found in a print dictionary, but online, and was voted the award from a list of the most frequently searched words on the M-W website, beating out facebook for first place.

My father, the less tech & Internet savvy man that he is, heard this on the radio, and was surprised to learn that it actually was a word, and not something I - or my schoolmates - had made up. He was first introduced to the word by me in an email home, in which I excitedly declared that I had finished all my CAS hours, a joyous moment indeed, and one which no other word could convey. (Yes, it's the nerd in me that I try - often unsuccessfully - to beat down.)

In the meantime, Blogger had better update their spell check, because woot is a word, and it's not just me that says so!

Just a girl

Saturday, 15 December 2007

January: month of mixed emotions

Though Christmas is the most wonderful holiday on my agenda and in the immediate weeks to come, it is overshadowed by a nerve-racking prospect, among others.

I am a graduated senior. What else am I worried about but my score, which will be released on January 4? Unlike Dancing Feet, I am not looking forward this. Though I want to know, I am nervous at the thought, and cannot imagine how I will be on the day (not to mention that I will have to get up early in order to call my school between 10 am and 12pm.) Is my goal of 39 too high? How will I feel if I get 38, or less? And I try not to hope that I will get 40 or above (though it is my deepest desire) so that I do not set myself up for disappointment.

And as if all those nerves weren’t enough, my driving test to get my provisional licence is the day before. My mother had booked the test for the 12th of December, but – apart from not quite having 50 hours – I’m not ready. So, in my mother’s haste for me to get my licence, it has been postponed til January 3rd. I’m glad there are no traffic lights in the town where I’ll be doing my test (though it may be a larger town than my own, it’s population boasts only 2000), but reverse parallel parks persist to be the bane of my life, or at least my driving ability. And hill starts. I hate hill starts. To be optimistic, however, I have not hit anything. Yet.

But that is not the end of my agony. No. On January 15th, I find out which university and course I have been accepted into. If the ENTER for Arts at Melbourne Uni is anything like it was last year – around 90 – I should be accepted, but what if I’m not? In 24-48 hours of receiving this – an – offer, I find out whether I have been accepted into the residential college of my first preference (if I receive an offer at Melbourne).

On the flipside of all this, there are a few things that I actually am excited about. The first of this (Christmas notwithstanding) is going to Melbourne around the 20th to see The Phantom of the Opera, which I am have not seen and am very much looking forward to (unlike my brother, who lacks an appreciated of the arts). We’re also going to the Australian Open, which is always good. This year is a little bit different, though, as we’ve got a day pass for Monday and we’re going to the night games on Sunday – we’ve never bought a day pass before, but it should be fun. Last year we saw Federer, and the year before that, Sharapova, both of whom were absolutely amazing. I’ve just been informed that we’re also going to see the musical Shout, of which I was completely unaware, but equally looking forward to!

Though of course, the photos don't do their playing justice.

Furthermore, around Australia Day my good friend Sara is coming to visit and stay with me! If I can survive all of the above, I shall be simply delighted!

As to those photos of Hawaii, an explanation is finally due. The first of the house through the hedge is actually my grandparents’ house. It’s a beautiful, big, old two-storey house that my grandmother’s parents owned and lived in. There’s a pool and the front and huge backyard that resembles a rainforest, with a stream that divides it from the mountain behind, of which there will be many photos. The photo was taken from behind the hedge that borders the house on three sides (the stream makes the fourth). I was standing in an overgrown road between their house and the next, which led from their unused garage to the next photo.

The overgrown shack, as I refer to it, was something I stumbled upon in my exploration of the garden (though it is far too large and untended to be called that). It may have been a garden shed once upon a time, but now it is simply forgotten, and a mosquito haven – I got eaten alive taking the photo.

Expect more photos – of Christmas and Hawaii – soon!

Just a girl

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Computers, Chicken and Christmas

Alas, I have been an absent blogger due to my parents' increasingly strict rules about internet hours and computer (a.k.a 'the box')/laptop usage, based on their misguided impression that I have a computer addiction. I am not in denial, nor do I have any such addiction. They do not understand because they simply cannot see how or why I can do so much on a computer. As I enjoy writing, I type a lot of my ideas, poems or stories up using word. I also take a lot of photos, and thus have to load them, delete them, or - occasionally - play around with them using photoshop (adjusting hues, shadow, and all that jazz.) I use my laptop to play music and print photos or files. I use 'the box' simply for internet purposes, as we have broadband, which is only connected to 'the box.'

Due to this misunderstanding, I was not allowed to so much as touch any computer yesterday, but instead was forced to clean my room, a very large endeavour. Such a large endeavour, in fact, that it must be tackled in stages. The first was to unpack my bag from Hawaii (completed a few days ago, about a week after I got back!); the second was organising my school books into ones for my brother to toil over glance at next year and ones to gladly throw out; the third has been to unpack and sort the rest of my clothes and assorted packed things, which has involved cleaning out my cupboard, my dolls' house and my dresser draws to do so. Call me a neat freak, perfectionist, or just plain weird, but I arranged all the furniture in my dolls' house neatly (for the purpose of being able to put other stuff in there, like my iPod box, camera box, sanitary items and toiletries) and - for want of having a life - think it actually looks kind of cool, so I took some photos to share. I just think that doll house furniture is cute, OK?

This is the front of the doll house. My grandfather made it (he's big with woodwork) and my mother painted it.

This is the kitchen. See the little cups? And the kettle on the stove? Cute, right? The cupboard at far right was given to me by a very good friend when I was eight - she even made two tiny little cards to go in the drawers!

There's even a tiny baby grand piano that I didn't know I had! I think my mother must have found it somewhere...

Yes, the doll house has Christmas decorations, and more than the four shown here. Aren't they the cutest?

Today's chore was slightly more constructive (and worthwhile) in that I have been cooking! Pulverising chicken, to be exact. I'm preparing a teryaki chicken dish for tomorrow night, which involves marinating the chicken overnight. Hence the pulverising. It was fun. However, such has my state of relaxation, sleeping in and not doing anything (in true holiday, I-just-graduated-and-I'm-recovering-from-the-IB style) that I have the following supremely stupid conversation regarding the chicken:

Mother: You can make the chicken tonight.
Father: What about Friday night?
Mother: OK, you can marinade it this afternoon then.
Me: How long does it take to marinade?
Mother: Overnight.
Me: But that'll be longer than overnight....oh,'s Thursday.

And here I was thinking it was Wednesday. The only things that structure my weeks are TV shows, and they've all pretty much concluded for the summer.

However, in terms of cooking, I am more a dessert and chocolate chef, as these are not only my specialties but my favourites. And, obviously, the best part about making them is eating them while you're making them. So, this afternoon I baked brownies. Yum.

In the meantime, I have also - productively - set up the Christmas decorations around the house. And as my good friend Pepito is not feeling the Christmas festivities over in Qatar, I thought I'd post some photos of ours to help her get into the spirit. So, Pepito, this is for you!

Christmas obviously centres around the story of Mary, Joesph and the birth of baby Jesus. This depiction is found on a wooden Nativity scene we have.

And Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without nutcrackers (which my mum loves) - who doesn't love The Nutcracker (which I remember seeing a fantastic production of in Honolulu some years back) - and angels? Hark, the Herald Angels Sing!

Speaking of angels...these two are possibly my favourite decorations. They're just so sweet and innocent.

That's just a taste of Christmas. More to come. And, of course, explanations of these photos.

Just a girl

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

I do believe in Robin, I do, I do!

I'll let Jonas do the talking (since he does it so much better), but the lowdown is that Sherwood forests - like many around the world - is being depleted and is in need of saving. Let's keep the Robin Hood legend - and location - alive. Vote for Sherwood Forest to win 50 million pounds for revegetation.

Thanks to Robin Hood for alerting me to this.

I'll do anything for Jonas. Sigh.

NB: This is my 101st post. How cool is that? And it is perfectly appropriate that I am celebrating it with a cause for a character - and a person - I love.

Just a girl

Monday, 3 December 2007

Jet Lag

Flew in last night to Melbourne at around 7.30 pm after catching a flight from Honolulu at 8.15 am (which required me to be at the airport at 6 and thus wake up by 5.30) and drove home (a 4 hour trip) immediately. Fortunately I was able to sleep most of the way home. Despite a 12 hour sleep last night I'm still prety tired. But a small price to pay for the absolutely fabulous time I had there.

In the meantime (as I sleep and unpack the mountains of things I not only brought back but all those books, clothes and accumulation of stuff from school...oh, gods), here are two photos from my trips. They are, please, use your imagination and tell me what you think I've been doing (and what these two places could possibly be)! Go on, get thinking!

* * *

Just a (mysterious) girl