Back surgery

A photo of my MRI. The discs that are degenerative are darker and the obvious protrusion is between L4 & L5.

Over the last 18 months I have had significant lower back pain after putting it out pushing a couch in Tennessee last year. (Tip: Avoid couch pushing alone!)

I’ve been to Physio… Chiro… Osteopaths… Masseuse… doctors… naturopaths… Had X-Rays… Acupuncture and  had Micro çurrent treatment. Some thing’s helped short term but nothing seemed to work long term. Eventually I saw a specialist, Doctor Robert Labrom who made me get an MRI before the first consultation and with in two minutes and worked out  what the problem was. I have three degenerative discs (I still feel too young for a problem like this!!!) – seems like bailing hay as a primary schooler and falling off too many horses as a teenager hasn’t helped or it’s possibly inherited.

One of the discs was herniated and bulging out impinging on the spinal cord  between L4 & 5 causing sciatica pain.

So yesterday with the help of modern western technology, Doctor Labrom performed a fairly non intrusive surgery called lumber microdiscectomy and rhizolysis. It’s purpose is to remove a disc prolapse and relieve pressure on the nerve roots that leave the spine and run down to form the nerves in your legs.

Four tips I’ve learnt through this process:
One: Get advice from different people who’ve been through similar problems. Sometimes their referrals go a long way in finding solutions.

Two: I would recommend seeing a good specialist if pain persists after three months of Physio, Chiro… Etc.  As I said earlier, Doctor Labrom ordered me to get an MRI before coming to the first appointment and within 2 minutes had diagnosed the problem a normal x-ray couldn’t detect. The MRI was then super helpful to my Physio who took one look at the horribly underused muscles structure around the degenerative discs and reckons she’d never seen muscles that look so bad in her whole career!!
Three: Find solutions that help you! I believe my situation would have been made much worse with aggressive Chiropractic or Osteo work. After two Osteopathic treatments I was in excruciating pain. By no means is this saying this would not be successful for some people. Basically you have to find what works. And for sure try all ‘non surgical’ options before going under!  Ir’s a painful option!

Four: Keep active. Walk… Walk… Walk.  My dads had a bad back for years and was once told he’d need back surgery and with or without it he would never work full time again. So he decided against the surgery and crawled out of bed and began walking. He’s had problems over the years but still works hard, long hours at a manual job 30 years later. He would say staying in bed would be the worst solution!

So I’m hoping this is the beginning of the end of back pain. Don’t know if I’ll ever be allowed to run again but I sure would love to run Bridge to Brisbane or a half marathon one day!

A verse from Psalms 90:12 has been a great reminder and encouragement over this time…  ”So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. ”

The trials and pain we go through on this earth are inevitable and should be used to steer is closer to our Heavenly Father and to give us more wisdom so we can know deeper his love for us. All the ‘stuff’ in this world fade away… Including our health. We kids eventually end up caring for our parents as they once did us. But the amazing assurance is we will pass from this life to the next and we will have new life and perfect health if we know Christ as Saviour.

Feeling very blessed. Thanks for your prayers!

Mouth watering Passionfruit Kiss Recipe


Melting Moments

Mouth watering Passionfruit kisses

Passionfruit Kisses or Passionfruit Melting moments are a delicious way to impress your guest and use up some passionfruits.




250g unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla essence OR 1 tbsp passionfruit
1/2 cup pure icing sugar
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 custard powder

Passionfruit filling
120g butter
2 large passionfruit
2 cup pure icing sugar


Preheat oven to 160°C.  Line two trays with baking paper.
Cream butter, vanilla and icing sugar with an electric mixer.

When mixture is light and fluffy, add flour and custard powder and continue to mix until a soft dough is formed.

The most artistic and probably easiest way to place mixture on the trays is to use a piping bag.  If this is not an option, roll mixture into a ball and flatten neatly with a fork.  I like to make mini ones about 3cm in diameter but they look great a bit bigger too.  Depends how far your want your mixture to last!


Place in oven for 15mins or until firm – note they don’t really change colour.

Allow biscuits to cool completely before creaming.

To make the passionfruit cream filling, beat butter until light and fluffy and then add in icing sugar and passion fruit.  Mixture should be nice and creamy.

Again, if you have a piping bag it is easiest to pipe icing onto biscuits and then place a second biscuit lightly on top and squeeze together.  If you don’t have a piping bag gently spoon icing on and smooth with a knife.


Then let them melt in your mouth with a nice hot cuppa tea!  My sister taught me how to make these delicious melting moments.  If you want to change them up a bit use freshly squeezed lemon, vanilla or even coffee instead of passionfruit!

Happy baking!

A Saturday in Auckland…Matakana Markets

If you ever happen to be in Auckland or somewhere in that northern vicinity of the North Island of New Zealand on a Saturday I HIGHLY recommend driving to Matakana for at least a day to visit Matakana Markets.  It takes about a one hour, peaceful drive from Auckland, through beautiful green rolling hills.  It is a central hub to vineyards, beaches, restaurants, cafes and parks and has everything you need to enjoy your day or weekend away.


Every Saturday, Matakana Village Farmer’s Market comes alive!  From 8am to 1pm the place is an absolute hive of activity with local stall holders selling organic eggs, cheese, wines, chocolate, fruit and veges, soaps… you name it!  It’s amazing.  You wander around taste testing and buying little samples of different types of amazing food.  The aroma’s are intoxicating.  Wood fired pizza’s are being cooked in one corner in handmade ceramic fireplaces and fresh coffee is brewing in another.  Local artists are playing in another corner… all creating the perfect concoction for a relaxing Saturday morning!  Very difficult knowing where to spend one’s money!
























My friends, Jared and Kelly, had their children babysat for the day so we could enjoy the day – adult style – strolling through the Matakana region.  After thoroughly enjoying the markets, we visited a few of the local art galleries and then Bella Fuego the place where the handmade ceramic fireplaces are handmade.  The artist was ‘home’ and he even gave us a tour or his workplace.  Love to get my hands into some of that clay one day!

For lunch we visited the most amazing winery, OBV Omaha Bay Vineyard.  It’s in an absolute stunning location overlooking Omaha Bay and Little Barrier Island.  Upon arrival you taste whatever wines you desire and then pick one!  The cheese platter we bought for lunch was delicious.  Amazing hummus, olive pates, cheeses, breads….etc… let the photo below wet your appetite!

So, if you are ever in Auckland, get yourself to Matakana.  You can happily spend a day up there and feel like you’ve just had a weeks holiday.  Most of the restaurants have kids playgrounds so it can be an option for a family day out.  Thanks Jared and Kelly for such a wonderful day!

From City to Nature in San Francisco

One of the most appealing things about San Francisco is it’s location.  Like check out the bay!  How beautiful is it?!

Directly across the Golden Gate Bridge is Golden Gate Natural Recreation area.  Plenty of amazing places to stop and snap a picture of the bridge and the city scape  The city, beach and woods are all just so close.

Lynette, the new friend I mentioned in my San Francisco by foot post took me to see the redwoods at Muir Woods.  The Redwood groves are as huge as you always imagined and beautiful.  The air so crisp you feel like you’re doing an ‘oxygen cleanse’ or something! There are ‘tours’ you can join to see the woods for $50+, but if you find your way there it only costs $5 to enter and there are literally days worth of treks you can make and from some you can even see ocean views.  We kinda got lost and missed the ocean views unfortunately.

Real close by is Muir Beach and Stinson Beach.  Spectacular views… with incredibly windy roads.  Take those car sick tablets!  Here’s some pics of our adventure.


So if you want to take the expense out of San Francisco but still get a little adventure on, I highly recommend a day in the city (at least) and a day in nature!  The beaches aren’t quite as ‘golden’ as the Gold Coast in Australia but the shore line with all its rock formations sure is beautiful and reminds me a little of the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia.

One more week till it’s back to work… currently blogging from LAX airport whilst waiting for my flight to Auckland and then on to the South Pole…. I mean, Invercargill.

Blessed and grateful for the many, many friends God has blessed me with!


San Francisco by foot

San Francisco by foot… armed with an iPhone 4 I set out to explore another US city I’d never been too.

Foggy city

Golden Gate bridge peaking out of the fog

A ‘friend of a friend’ met me at the airport with a bottle of water and some vege chips.  We set out on an adventure to get to know each other and to explore San Fran.  The weather was miserable and wet… the famous fog had settled in and had earlier delayed my flight two hours.


Lynette, born in San Francisco, has travelled the world – a couple of times, dabbles in few different languages and was just the best host one could have wanted!  She first of all took me to her favourite hippy coffee shop - Philz Coffee and I got myself a hand made caffeinated peppermint tea (that I didn’t know existed!) that had real peppermint leaves floating around in it.  Delicious I will say!  Phil took seven years crafting his coffee blends and apparently they are to die for too. Check out his video if your a coffee connoisseur.

We then hit up Lynette’s favourite hole in the wall, Thai restaurant, Sai Jai Thai off O’farrell and Larkin for an early dinner… possibly up there with the best Pad Thai and Kor Moo Yang (pork dish) I’ve ever tasted!  Highly recommend it!

We also hit up San Francisco’s crookedest street – Lombard Street.  It’s kind of random and all downhill… great place to get car sick if you’re not careful!

I then checked in to Pacific Winds Hostel for the night.  Thankfully I was able to leave my 50 pound bag of luggage with Lynette because four flights of stairs to the hostel would NOT have been a happy moment!  My ‘southern’ slightly conservative, super caring friends in Nashville were all a little concerned about my safety and wellbeing staying at a youth hostel… but for $30 in the heart of the city I couldn’t resist the adventure… at least for one night!  This hostel was great… very friendly.  Their moto…

“Our hostel unlike most others in that it’s not just a cheap place to stay.  We are a small extremely social community of international travelers.   We hope you will come with the expectation and desire to be part of our friendly community.   There are no strangers here, only friends you haven’t met. We look forward to meeting you.”

The manager was Australian and was super helpful pointing out cool places to visit.  Obviously it’s wise to pack a set of ear plugs… the party-ers in the group are loud till late.  I bought a lock to lock up my luggage but didn’t use it and returned it the next day.

This has to be the coolest building I've ever seen a Forever 21 store in!

Because of the rainy weather the next best option was to go shopping of course!  I even found my favourite stores, H&M and Forever 21 and tried not to buy anything because as I said earlier… my bag already was 50 pounds (23kgs)!


The next morning I awoke fairly early and solved all my iPhone syncing issues at the San Francisco Apple store and then began my ‘walkabout’ adventures of the city.  I’m not very good at ‘planning’ a city tour.  I get the basics covered – transport and accommodation – and then just like to wing it.  In my quest for ‘free’ accommodation – or places to ‘couch surf’ at a few people had made some recommendations I vaguely remembered.

Pier 39 was obviously one of those ‘things to do’ in San Francisco.  Seems it was only about 2 miles from the Apple store I decided to just walk.  One thing I wasn’t really aware of was HOW hilly the city is.  Wow… my thoughts of biking it around were quickly eliminated.  Walking along the The Embarcadero was fascinating.  The historic Cable Cars made you feel like you were stepping back in time.  Also the bus system is all run via an electric circuit.  I found that facscinating… added to the hippy, eco friendly, tree hugging, free spirit of the city.

Pier 39 has heaps of restaurants and tourist attractions – Alcatraz, Aquarium of the bay, boat tours of the bay…etc…. but in typical tight budget Joy style I just enjoyed wandering around and following my nose whilst trying to capture it all on my trusty iPhone.

Most appealing food find for me was this fruit market on the end of Pier 39, where you can buy (and then wash!) the nicest looking fruit I’ve seen in forever, for lunch.  You can even buy some ‘dipping’ chocolate to de-healthify the fruit if need be and then eat it looking over the bay.  Very sweet!

Next I kept wandering along the Embarcadero towards Ghiradelli Square.  This is one American chocolate I actually like and they give out free samples.  The company was actually started in this area.  So… I made my way from one Ghiradelli shop to the other and got myself a free piece of caramel chocolate at each and then bought a cuppa hot tea to compliment…. ahh… divine.

Next I navigated my way, the least hilly route to Coit Tower.

Coit Tower

It’s on top of Telegraph Hill (so I still got a work out!) and is a 64 metre high monument to the firefighters of San Francisco.  For $7 you can catch the lift up inside to the top and get spectacular views of the city.


Once again traveling by foot made way for some awesome photography… with my trust iPhone.  I just loved the contrasting colouring of buildings and every day objects.




To top off my day I met some more ‘friends of friends’ from Mill Valley – Jeff and Marissa Page.  They rocked my world!  I felt like we’ve been friends forever after just spending a couple of hours with them.  I love the way God does that!  Jeff and Marissa run a youth group in the area and sure have their work cut out for them… San Francisco and the great area would be the opposite of ‘the bible belt’.  We had hours of rich conversation over a Puerto Rican meal at Sol Food in San Rafael.  So good!!!

So all in a day in San Fran… I think I did alright considering I didn’t do a lot of ‘prior preparation!’

Thanks Lynette, Jeff and Marissa for being awesome ‘friends of friends’!  Definitely my favourite way to travel.  Locals are the keys to local goodness!


Yard sale house decor

I recently met Stoney Noell one of the most amazing creative person I’ve ever met.  He is an entrepreneur and graphic designer in Franklin TN.  You can see a smidgin of his work showcased here at Epic Life Creative. I love when an artist takes creativity beyond work into everyday life.  His office is amazing…. and his house even more so!   Stoney’s collection of random ‘junk’ is definitely an indication of how one man’s junk can turn into someone else’s treasures… or at least awesome house decorations!

Here a few iPhone pictures I snapped at Stoney’s house!


A barn wall covered in sconces!

His anal collections of random junk is painted, repurposed and turned into master pieces!

Wall paper made from pages in a dictionary

New purpose for old drawers

Using an old door for a dining table

Bedroom decor made from window frames

Check out the build in cupboard around the bed

Random collection of TV’s turned into a useful side table

Table made from a clock

So inspiring hey?  Why spend thousands of dollars on beautifying an area when you don’t need too!  It’s amazing what you can do with a bit of spray paint, some creativity and a whole lot of random junk!

What do you think?

A picturesque Savannah, Georgia

After visiting Atlanta, Georgia last week, my friend Holly and Melissa (both friends from Nashville) joined Holly’s family on a couple day holiday in Savannah, Georgia and stayed in the heart of the historical district.  It was fascinating!  The historical heritage is still incredibly rich with the city being established in 1733 it had escaped Sherman’s scorched earth strategy during the Civil war.

It really is a place you must just visit to fully experience the beauty and essence of this place.  I struggled the whole time I was there trying to capture in a photo exactly what I saw… and failed miserably!  Here a few snaps I took that hopefully give you enough of a taste to check it out for yourself!

Cobble stone roads made from stones ships brought from China to keep them afloat when empty!

The streets of Savannah look awesome at night... haunted like... with veils of draping moss

I just loved taking photos of doors

Aren’t they just fascinating?!?!

How about the secret garden?

Holly’s tempted to steal a bike…


Fascinating church built in the 1800′s


Put Savannah Georgia on the bucket list!   Pack a book and escape the business of the real world and enjoy one of the many park ‘squares’ the town has.  This historical district of Savannah is impressive… so if you are an artist or writer I’m sure this place will inspire you no end…  I guess that’s why they have an art college there – SCAD.  It’s also less then half an hour away from Tybee Island so if you wanna include a visit to the beach while you’re in the area you can.  Definitely recommend a visit to Savannah!

5 ways to enjoy a weekend in Atlanta, Georgia

Recently I got a to spend a weekend in my friend Holly’s hometown, Atlanta, Georgia who visited me in Australia in January 2010.  She organised a weekend of touristy fun in Atlanta for me after I showed here around my neck of the woods in Australia.  Here’s a post I wrote about our Australian adventures together – 13 things to do in South East Queensland in four days.

So here’s 5 things to do on a weekend in Atlanta, Georgia.

1. Check out the World of Coke.

This is a very ‘American’ place to visit.  You can sample over 50 different Coka-Cola products from around the world.  My favourite was a Lemon Lime bitters flavour from the UK.

You can watch a semi weird 4D movie… it gets you wet and something pokes you in the back while you’re watching.

I also enjoyed checking out the Coka-Cola Pop Art. Some people sure are passionate about their Coke!

We only had about 2 hours to go through. Probably if you wanted to get your money’s worth you should probably allow a bit more time to get sick at the taste testing!  Tickets are $16.

Some Coka-Cola Pop Art

Sampling some coke












2. Climb Stone Mountain

Stone Mountain was a fascinating climb that gives you a view of Atlanta’s skyline.  It’s a really steady 1.3 mile climb up a huge Qaurtz rock and has sporadic trees over it making some of the hike in shade.  We successfully climbed in our sandals - so it’s a relatively easy climb.  Stone mountain has become a huge tourist attraction.  You can even catch a cable car to the top and eat at a restaurant or buy a souvenir on the top.   It costs $10 to park.

Whilst climbing the mountain I couldn’t help wander how it differed to Uluru – my favourite ‘big rock’ in Australia that I once got to visit.  So here’s some facts I’ve found out!

Stone Mountain

Elevation - 514 m (1,686 ft)  Prominence 251 m (825 ft)

Stone Mountain granite extends underground 9 miles (14 km) and is more than 8km (5 miles) in circumference at its base.


Elevation - 863 m (2,831 ft)  Prominence 348 m (1,142 ft)

Uluru is made from sandstone  and is 3.6 km long (2.2 miles) and 1.9 km wide (1.2 miles) and is 9.4 km (5.8 miles) around the base (that’s walking) and has very little vegetation on it.  It is unclear how deep the rock is underground.  Read more here.  Uluru, from an Aboriginal point of view, is very sacred and they’d prefer if tourists didn’t climb it… and if it’s too hot… too windy… too wet… the rangers WONT let you climb anyway.  Check out my blog post here.

Huge granite rock climb

Check out our awesome working shoes!













3. Get some American patriotism on and watch Stone Mountain’s Laser show

One of the many gimmicky things to do at Stone Mountain is watch the FREE Lasershow Spectacular.  Pack a picnic dinner, a blanket and some camping chairs and chill out.  It’s on just about every night in the summer I believe and is projected on the side of the rock.  There is an absolutely HUGE  Confederate Memorial Carving in the side of the rock depicting three Confederate leaders of the Civil War, President Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson (and their favorite horses, “Blackjack”, “Traveller“, and “Little Sorrel”, respectively).  Apparently a man can stand in the horses mouth on the carving!  More details of how huge it is here.  Get there a few hours early if you wanna find a parking spot.

It’s very patriotic… you’ll find out lots of random facts about America via lasers lights and massive projector screens.

4. Explore Underground Atlanta

Under the city of Atlanta, remnants of an ‘underground city’ can be found.  ”During the 1920′s, construction of the concrete “viaducts” elevated the street system one level to permit a better flow of traffic. Merchants moved their operations to the second floor, leaving the old fronts for storage and service. Thus, giving birth to what is now Underground Atlanta.” Wikipedia

The ‘Underground’ has a bit of an ‘interesting’ vibe.  Lots of African American merchants selling everything from shoes, clothes, souvenirs and just a whole bunch of random junk really.  I do recommend checking out the shoe store down there… I got a pair of heels for $10!   I don’t think I would want to explore this area alone day or night.

Outside of the 'Underground'

5. Get cultured and eat at Atlanta’s very own Australian bakery

My favourite place of all time would have to be the Australian Bakery of course!  Yep!  An Aussie has started his own cafe/bakery in Marietta, GA and sells all the Aussie specialties including meat pies, lamingtons, pavlova, ginger beer, hot cross buns at Easter and real bread!!! (For whatever reason over here when you visit an American bakery you don’t find fresh bread…. haven’t worked that one out yet!)  Nevel started the bakery in 1991 and knows pretty much every Aussie in Franklin and Nashville I reckon!  He distributes meat pies up this way regularly to the ex-pats!  Definitely recommend stopping by!


Enjoying some Aussie goodness!  BTW the American flags were EVERYWHERE that day for Memorial day holiday!


Lamington (bottom) – sponge cake covered in chocolate and coconut and Pavlova – Meringue with cream and strawberries!


So thanks Holly for an awesome tour of Atlanta!   I definitely feel like I spent more time on Atlanta roads then anywhere else though!

Traveling between Australia to America

Here are some of my random travel tips if you are planning a visit to the US anytime soon while the AUD dollar is in our favour!

1.  Getting from Australia to America

Firstly, I recommend researching flights and THEN going to visit your local travel guide.  My pick is Australian travel agent, Flight Centre.  They will actually beat any flight you find online by $1 even if it costs them money to match your flight!  (That’s just about a coffee in America ok!)

Secondly, consider flying into Los Angeles and booking your own internal flights.  I recommend  Southwest for the most convenient and economical option. (You cannot book Southwest flights through a travel agent) They don’t fly everywhere but they allow two free 23kgs bags (most airlines charge extra for any baggage so don’t be deceived by cheaper flights!), their flights are often less expensive – especially if booked more then a month out AND you can change flights and receive money in credit rather then getting charged huge fees!

Also if you download DING on your computer or iPhone you can be alerted of extra discounted fares daily.  Seats are not allocated, so when you check in you are given a number which gives you the order in which you will board.  A boarding pass with A23 boards before B13 for example.  You can check in up to 24 hours prior.

If you plan to fly out of Los Angeles the same day you arrive, I would recommend at least a four hour layover.  It recently took me just under two hours just to clear customs and I didn’t arrive during peak.

Caution: LAX airport is the most boring airport I’ve ever been to… don’t be deceived by the concrete massiveness from the air!

You will almost certainly have to collect your baggage and check into a different terminal – especially if you did choose to book internals yourself.  Check this with your travel agent.  Here is a link to a great map of Los Angeles Airport (LAX) so you can work out how far you would need to walk.

When you pick up your bags there are free trolleys.  So I recommend grabbing one of them and walking to your next flight.  It will most likely be an ungodly hour of the morning by the time you arrive (Australian time!) so the best thing to do is get as much sunshine as you can!

2. Getting cashed up

If you are wanting to get cash out prior to traveling (a good way to stay within budget!) you can avoid $8 bank fees by ordering cash through the Australian Post Office rather then a bank.

If you have a Westpac Bank account you can withdraw money out of a Bank of America atm without being charged fees – just the standard currency conversion rates.   Or you can just use the Westpac Credit card and just get charged the daily currency rate.  You can buy $1.50 coffees in the US… they like plastic over here.

3. Avoiding getting kicked out of the country

To holiday in the US you must have a Visa Waiver.  This costs $14 per person and can all be done online here.  Print out the form and keep it with your tickets just in case you’re asked for it… most likely though, they will scan your passport, take all your fingerprints and a mug shot and they’ll already have the visa waiver number.  They know everything about you!  It’s kinda creepy!


If you have travelled to the US before have you got any travel tips or recommendations to add?  Or if you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to leave me a comment and ask.  I’ve done this leg more times then I can count so I’m sure I can help!

Happy planning!

My best friend’s wedding…

Jenna and Aaron reading their vows to each other...

This past weekend I had the honour of being a bridesmaid for Jenna and Aaron Horn’s wedding!

Jenna was one of the first friends I ever met in Nashville when I first moved here.  She reached out to me at a young adults gathering at Michael W Smith’s barn during one of the first weeks I was here and we’ve been great friends ever since!

Last year you may recall me posting updates about Jenna going in for brain surgery after she had a brain seizure in March.

Just a few weeks before that horrible day, unbeknownst to her at the time – Jenna met the love of her life!   They’d gone on just three dates before she ended up in the hospital.  Admirably, Aaron pursued Jenna even though they were still at that awkward stage of ‘just getting to know each other’ and not totally knowing where each other were at.  I remember Aaron just hanging out in the waiting room hoping to be able to deliver flowers he’d bought for Jenna… and Jenna wanting to see him but not being sure whether or not it was appropriate.  Needless to say, she allowed him in and he barely left her side – for the months of recovery.  Caring for her like a husband would and should.  It was precious to watch.

Getting ready for the big wedding!

LOVE is my God, & God is LOVE.


It was truly a blessing being part of this Godly couples special day.  The couple, both in their early thirties had saved themselves for each other and had faithfully waited for the Lord’s perfect timing!

My favourite line from Aaron’s vows was when he said he was making his princess his Queen on this special day… with tears in his eyes!  It was all a bit moving!  Why don’t they make movies this good!

All the best Aaron and Jenna!