February 2011

A handbag full of dreams

Not many people know this, but about five years ago, I developed a rather fantastical ambition.

I was going to become an internationally renowned handbag designer. Think Chloe. Think Anya Hindmarch.

I am not quite sure how this idea initially began to take hold of my small brain, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Vogue was the culprit.

All those articles about budding fashion designers somehow managed to convince me that I, too, could create a successful fashion label. Despite no fashion training or background whatsoever.

What. So. Ever.

Not one to shoot down my ideas – no matter how crazy or far-fetched – my dear husband was surprisingly supportive (he really is the most wonderful man).

And so I began my amateurish foray into the fashion world: I read and gathered endless articles, both online and in magazines and newspapers. I attended a two day fashion design course in Melbourne. I attended seminars about setting up a fashion business. I bought books on fashion illustration. I did a course on import/export. I set up a little ‘workshop’ area in our home. I even rescued the old sewing machine from my parents’ attic under the impression that I would put it to good use with sewing samples.

Somewhere along the way, however, I fell pregnant with our precious Cam. And then of course he died. Naturally, priorities shifted. Grieving came first. As did getting through each day. Each hour. One by one.

Five years on, I have folders full of research and reference articles – all archived and neatly stored away in a trusty IKEA Kassett – as well as a box of leather handbags from Hong Kong which I imported in 2006 as part of my attempt to fund my fashion label start-up. These handbags have since moved four times with us and I think it’s high time that I finally let them go.

So in the spirit of purging, I’ve put most of these bags on eBay but I’ve saved one special bag for you guys!

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A day in the life…

So I’ve been doing this awesome photography course run by the Australian Centre for Photography. It was recommended to me by my friend Alana from Little Rock Photography.

Apart from the ridiculously long drive from northern western suburban Sydney to the very cool and stylish epicentre of Paddington, I’ve really enjoyed learning to use our Canon EOS in a way that doesn’t just involve putting the camera onto its Auto setting.

Finally I understand aperture and shutter speed and ISO and exposure compensation and white balance and that funny histogram graph that I’ve been playing around with for five years for work purposes (imagine that – and to think I’ve been calling myself a designer!).

I’ve also found it quite amusing observing the ‘street style’ on Oxford Street. Women seem to look like they just stepped out of a fashion magazine or a style blog. In a one hour session alone, I spotted two different women sporting a black harem style pant suit (they did look good though) and one mother ushering her little child along whilst wearing three inch heels coupled with tight leggings. Boy do I fit right in with my maternity dresses, bulging belly and undeniable waddle.

Anyway, Monday is our last lesson and I’ve actually made an effort to complete the final project – mainly because I feel bad for only completing my ”homework’ once in the last four weeks. (Clearly my diligence as a high school student has worn off significantly in the last fourteen or so years – North Sydney Girls would be so proud.)

The brief was to choose one subject matter that interested me and to photograph it in a variety of different and interesting ways.

It took me almost two days to pick a subject and what did I end up choosing: a mango.

That’s right, a mango. I chose a mango. What was I thinking?

Rick didn’t seem too impressed when I told him (and rightly so), but late on Tuesday afternoon when I was desperately running out of ideas and exhausted from little sleep, it seemed to be a brainwave. Especially as there was one last wilting mango just staring at me from the fruit bowl, calling out to me and longing to be photographed.

Now it’s too late to change. I’ve already done all my shots and I’ve even had the photos processed.

Anyway, below are a few of the shots I’ve chosen to present. Please be gentle and nice as you critically assess. Remember: I was not thinking straight and have had very little sleep.

If you have any cool ideas for a project title, please let me know.

For now, it may as well be A Day in the Life of The Last Wilting Mango.

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Fun times

There’s nothing like a good old photo booth to bring out one’s youth and immaturity.

It was my high school friend Kitty’s wedding last month, and she had one of these awesome Funbooths at the reception. Naturally, we put it to good use.

I don’t know about you but I remember back in my uni days, my friends and I used to have an obsession with taking photos of ourselves in these photo booths in the city. We would skip accounting lectures, trek out to Passionflower at Capitol Square for lychee and black sesame ice cream on crepes (mmmm….) and then head over to Timezone for silly photo booth sessions. (Don’t worry, we all managed to graduate with degrees intact. I don’t know how, but we did.)

It wasn’t so much that we were narcissistically obsessed with taking photos of ourselves (I like to think not anyway) – I think it was more that we desperately wanted to capture those fleeting moments of our youth and of those fun times. (Or maybe it was just an Asian thing. Or a Honkie thing.)

Anyway, I’m really glad I got to keep these Funbooth photos from Kitty’s wedding because they are my only record of the day! I’d left my iPhone 4 at home in my bedside dresser (which never ever happens) and, somehow, I’d managed to leave the Canon EOS on the whole morning before we got to the wedding so that by the time we took it out to capture Kitty walking down the aisle towards her man, the battery was flat.

Epic, epic fail.

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As I mentioned before, one of our next projects before baby James is setting up the ‘Mason boys room.’

It is a tiny little room (by Western standards – if it were in Hong Kong, it would probably be of colossal standards) with an awkward built-in down one side and a large window down another so there aren’t that many walls to work with.

The large window is awesome though – it overlooks the back patio which in turn overlooks the huge backyard we have (don’t judge me, but I’ve probably only ventured down the steps into our bushy backyard three or four times since moving in).

We think it will be so cool when the boys are old enough to stand at the window together, marvelling at the greenery outside that is our Australian bushland.

Anyway, I thought I would indulge my secret desire to be an interior stylist and share with you the mood board I’ve developed for the new room. The base palette will be white (naturally), with splashes of bright colours, in particular teal, yellow and reddish/orange.

I’m hoping to create most of the artwork myself and I’m even trying to hunt down a second hand bentwood chair which I would love to paint in that Persian Turquoise colour (by Wattyls) shown at the very bottom.

(Realistically, I will probably outsource the painting to Rick, because if my mum were to find out I’ve been painting whilst pregnant, she will no doubt freak out that James will be born with ink spots all over his bottom. Imagine that – mummy paints and baby ends up with an inky bottom. That’s hard, cold [Chinese] logic for you.)

To my best friend

So today is Valentine’s Day.

Rick and I aren’t the most romantic of people but today he did write me a poem:

Roses are red.
Violets are blue.
Today is Valentine’s Day,
And I’m thinking of you.

Gold, right? I mean, you can tell he put so much thought into that.

To reciprocate, I decided to dedicate the above collage to my better half.

These self-taken portraits seem to be our ‘thing.’ Along with Akubras and sunglasses. Don’t ask me why.

From top to bottom (left to right):

  1. This was back when we were dating in 2003. Very mature I was.
  2. This was on our honeymoon on the Gold Coast in 2004. You can’t tell, but we’re on a boat. I am clearly the maiden trying to distract the captain from his steering.
  3. January 2005. We went camping! Haven’t been back since.
  4. You guessed it, this one was taken in China outside the Forbidden City (who can spot Mao in the distance?).
  5. Holidaying on Hamilton Island in 2006, when I was still able to wear a bikini.
  6. At Lake Macquarie in April 2007, when I was 4 months pregnant with Cam.
  7. In Merimbula in December 2007, exactly 3 months after losing Cam.
  8. In Port Macquarie in April 2008, when I was 3 months pregnant with Angus.
  9. At the historical Gundagai train station, only 3 months away from Angus’ arrival.
  10. At the Memorial Gardens in March 2009, on Cam’s 18 month anniversary.
  11. Last September, on Cam’s three year anniversary.
  12. In Hervey Bay on our first family holiday with Angus and Pete in December last year. (Not sure how we managed to get two seconds without the kids to take this photo…)

To my husband and best friend, I love you deeply.

May our life together forever continue, whatever it may hold. I will follow you wherever you go. (Wow, I almost made that rhyme.)

Thanks for being you.

(And for always letting me position my head a bit further away from the camera so that it doesn’t look too big next to yours…)

Five weeks


This is it.

Five more weeks.

Five more weeks till we welcome James Edward into our lives and home. Five more weeks before I have to remember how to feed, burp and change a newborn’s nappy once again.

In true Mason form, this little guy likes to do backflips in my uterus whenever he hears daddy talking about cars and petrol. (Which is often.) In true Chan form, he doesn’t seem to like sleeping at night, even when it’s 2am in the morning.

Books always seem to encourage women to take it easy in their third trimester. Have the writers of these books actually been pregnant themselves?

I mean, seriously, the closer we get to James’ D day, the faster my to do list seems to grow. As Chandler says in The One With The Tiny T-Shirt: “Bullets have left guns slower.”

Let me see: There’s Pete’s baptism and 1st birthday party next Sunday.

Then we need to re-do Angus’ room to turn it into ‘the boys’ room.’ (This of course means trips to IKEA, which I have to say, is not the best place for a waddling and hormonal pregnant woman. It’s a true testament to how far Rick and I have come in our marriage that when we went yesterday, we managed to arrive amicably and depart amicably.)

Then there are the six design jobs that I have on. And Angus’ toilet training. (Or not.)

And of course there’s the photography course I enrolled myself into last November. No, I was not at all crazy to think that squeezing in a three hour weekly course would be an easy, breezy thing to do a month and a half out from giving birth.

Oh, and that’s right, I need to try and remember how to get a baby out of me. (It’s a good thing I have a ‘cheat sheet’ saved in Evernote somewhere.)

So yes, I’m all calm and everything. Really I am. The epitome of the relaxed, expectant mum.

How fast has this pregnancy flown by anyway? It feels like only a couple of months ago that I was freaking out about telling my parents that I was pregnant again.

And I still can’t believe that Pete is turning one next Sunday. I honestly can’t believe it. Where has my little newborn gone? I still remember bringing him home from hospital, putting him into his first Love Me Baby wrap and getting constantly peed on every time I had to change one of his dirty nappies.

I’m absolutely determined to make the most of these last five weeks with Pete being the littlest one in the house. He’s going to get kissed and cuddled and kissed some more, every single day, whether he likes it or not.

Oh, and remember the jeggings I couldn’t stop raving about? Well, they still fit me.

At 33 weeks.

As I said: Best. Pants. Ever.

Happy new year! (Again)

It is Chinese New Year again. Well, yesterday was to be exact.

When the boys woke up from their nap late in the afternoon, we ventured over to my parents’ in various shades of red (the traditional CNY colour – in case you haven’t already noticed) with a small bag of oranges (because arriving empty-handed is a ‘no-no’ – according to my mum anyway).

I could smell the tantalising food in the air as soon as we stepped in. The kitchen was laid out with all the fresh ingredients that mum had spent the previous day buying. There were of course also the usual red melon seeds on the kitchen bench, along with the lollies in shiny red and golden wrappers – all designed to usher in the new year with as much prosperity and wealth as possible. Naturally

Mum then spent the next two hours cooking our CNY meal while the boys systematically spread mess all around the living area. It is a true testament to my mum’s love for her grandchildren that she actually doesn’t seem to mind when they do this – considering that my ‘neat freak’ gene is most definitely inherited from my mother. One wonders whether I will be as selfless when I am a grandmum myself (no pressure boys, but if you have babies, I will let them be messy – in at least one room of the house).

Anyway, Pete decided that CNY would be the perfect time to try crawling. And crawl he did. For about twenty centimetres anyway. And it wasn’t a pretty crawl. No, it definitely wasn’t – not unless one likes watching strained squirming, painful writhing and awkward gyration of the derriere. But it was nonetheless a crawl and it was absolutely hilarious (and entertaining) to watch – and film. I felt very proud of my little man.

Dinner on the table looked – and smelt – amazing. I have to say that nothing quite tugs at my heart as my mum’s cooking. I’m quite sure that when I’m fifty, I will still be wandering over to mum’s, asking if she can make me soy sauce chicken wings, pork ribs with Chinese mushrooms and chicken feet soup.

Just as we were all seated and ready to commence our celebratory banquet, mum looked at me in utter shock and horror: she had forgotten to cook the rice! My poor mother – she was utterly devastated as she realised that our bowls would not be filled with white puffy grains of pure carbohydrate. I reassured her that it was fine – and indeed, all the food that she had prepared was more than enough to fill our tummies and quench our hunger. (Later I was thoroughly amused when she tried to suggest that I was meant to remind her to put the rice on at about quarter past five. How is a filial and respectful Chinese daughter meant to respond to that one? You tell me.)

Apart from food and family, there is one other aspect of CNY that has always appealed to me: the red packets. Yes, sadly and admittedly, I am a greedy human being who enjoys (rather immensely) opening crispy red packets filled with crispy (real) money. After all, the tradition was ingrained into me from the age of four – I never really stood a chance when you think about it.

It probably also doesn’t help my greed that I am now taking home five times what I used to. When I was young and single, my parents gave me two red packets (one from each of them). When Rick and I got married, they gave us four red packets (one from each of them to each of us). After Angus was born, we received six red packets (you do the maths). Last year when I was eight months and three weeks pregnant with Pete at CNY, we received double what we did when it was just us two. And now this year, with James only a month and a half away from popping out, my parents gave us ten red packets in total. Woot!

(Naturally, I wouldn’t recommend having more kids just for the sole purpose of reaping greater returns at CNY – after all, you probably have to be Chinese first – but it’s definitely a nice little fringe benefit.)

Anyway, here’s hoping that the new Chinese year will get off to a better start for our family than the Western one did. May the drama and sleeplessness of this last month not pervade the ever auspicious lunar calendar.

Happy Chinese New Year peeps! (Even if you are not Chinese.)

p.s. You can see some photos here.