Thursday, December 22, 2011

Rainy Day Pickles

...or Lagab Nu Achaar (wedding pickle, apparently)

Shout out to the lovely Cyren for the idea and the recipe, plus the use of her nice big kitchen during the (rather messy) preparations.

100g dried dates
300g raisins
300g dried apricots, thinly sliced
2kg brown sugar
2kg grated carrots
250g jaggery (palm sugar)
750mls vinegar
50g grated ginger
100g garlic (I press this in the garlic press)
Salt to taste
15 dried red chillies
2 tbspns garam masala

Soak the dates, raisins and apricots overnight in 1 cup of the sugar and as much vinegar as you need to cover.

In a heavy bottomed pan cook the carrots, the remaining sugar, jaggery, and the rest of the vinegar on very low heat, stirring occasionally. When soft add garlic, ginger and salt until mixture turns sticky and syrupy.

Add the date, raisin and apricot mix and bring to the boil. Add chillies and garam masala. Remove from heat and pour into sterilised jars (sit clean jars in hot hot water or for 2 mins in a slow oven).

I've been including these in mini Christmas hampers, in pretty jars tied with ribbon and a hole-punched name tag cut from old cards.

Enjoy on a sandwich with cold meat (I have been) or with soft cheese. Scrum!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Blogging instead of sleeping

A few great cover songs of 2011

Cee Lo Green covers Band of Horses - No one's gonna love you

Karmin covers Chris Brown ft. Lil Wayne, Busta Rhymes - Look at me now

Dum Dum Girls cover The Smiths - That light that never goes out

The Black Keys cover Buddy Holly - Dearest

Happy Christmas...

Have a relaxing break, everyone. Sorry I've been a little quiet on the blogging front recently. Work is quiet; life is busy.

See you in the New Year!


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sunday 7-Up

How's your week been?

Reading: Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs
Browsing: Sweet Swedish designs
Watching: The Apartment
Eating: Home made chutney
Listening: Metals by Feist
Visiting: Collingwood Childrens Farm
Wanting: more exercise

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I ♥ Melbourne, and so do lots of other people by the looks of things

Is it just me, or has Melbourne grown up and found it's (beautifully shod) feet? Everywhere I go, people are telling me how great Melbourne is, how much they want to move here, and declaring that this here is the creative hub of modern, urban Australia.

Preaching to the choir there.

Every week it seems there's a new rag on the streets extolling the virtues of Melbourne living, from the endless cafés to the pop-up shops to the burgeoning cycle culture. And to complement this new-found Melbourne-crush are a host of goods and services that celebrate the lovely, quirky and iconic things about my home town.

The trams:

The coffee obsession:

The skipping girl:

The architecture:

The slightly grungy, vintage style:

Hook turns:

The Nylex sign:

The railway stations:

Even the good old Melways:

I'm feeling the Melbourne-love right now. It's in the air like the pollen, dusting you gently every time you step out of the house.

(click on images to visit supplier). 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday 7-Up

Reading: outdated copies of British Vogue (from the library, yo)
Browsing: Creative Women's Circle
Watching: Marty-bom and his class performing "The Billy Goats Gruff"
Eating: Lindt Passionfruit Intense
Listening: Ceremonials by Florence and the Machine
Visiting: Harvest workroom
Wanting: Christmas to hurry up

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Inter-generational friends

A few weeks ago, my good friend Karls informed me that her 6y/o Marty would like to invite me to  'Special Friend's Day' at his primary school. My heart melted a little. Soon I received my invite in the mail, complete with sunshine/rainbow drawing and xo's around my name. Lord, the cuteness. So this afternoon I caught a train and cycled to his bayside primary school, where a bunch of grandparents and I watched the kids perform 'Billy Goats Gruff', followed by scones with jam and cream.

Let me tell you a bit about Marty. He's the epitome of sunshine; full of high energy in that 6y/o boy way, and he talks at HIGH VOLUME, ALL THE TIME (which might have something to do with sharing a house with 3 teenage girls). I've never seen him throw a tantrum, although once he got mad for about 2 minutes when an old guy pretended to tip his chair over. He's thoughtful and caring, loves to talk but also listens. He's curious and playful, a natural acrobat who likes to use me as a climbing gym. He will talk to anyone and throw himself into any new situation with absolutely no hesitation. He's told his mum, a social worker, that he would like to be a nurse when he's older so he can look after people.

He has the most beautiful head of curls and leonine eyes. If I had to sum him up, I would describe him as a 'happy lion'.

What an awesome kid. I'm proud to be your special friend, Marty.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Anatomy of the perfect weekend

I had a super-busy, super-lovely weekend.

Friday night: Roman Holiday and tim tams on the couch. Audrey Hepburn. Cary Grant Gregory Peck (I always get those two good looking men confused). Rome. *the mother of all contented sighs*

Saturday morning: Up and off to yoga class in the warm rain. Afterwards, stretched and calm, a friend and her curly-headed moppet of a 6 y/o pop over for an impromptu brekkie, bearing flowers and raisin bread. Then off to Williamstown, where we enjoy a delicious veggie lunch with friends and play with their 3 crazy dogs, driven inside by the continuing rain. On the way home, after a quick detour through Costco at Docklands, we catch the King Tut exhibition at Melbourne Museum and ogle at the ancient treasures on display.

Sunday: Local coffee and breakfast with a mate. Come back and read the weekend papers on the couch. Wander over to middle bro's to say hello to mum and dad, who have dropped in on their way to the city for a quick cuppa. Lots of hugs and banter. Browse the outlet shops on Bridge Road, where I buy these:

Aren't they amazing?? I don't even want to wear them, I just want to look at them and marvel at their awesomeness.

The shop assistant tells us that we should go to the Spanish fiesta in Fitzroy, he would if he wasn't working, it's such a gorgeous day for it. Why the hell not, we decide, and jump on a tram. 20 minutes later we are caught up in the festive crowd, handing out balloons  to gorgeous hispanic kids and being told off by the police for drinking Sangria in the street. We head home before dark, and end up watching The Big Bang Theory/Mythbusters on the couch before falling asleep.


You may have noticed I'm using the royal 'we' for this post. There's a boy in my life right now, and I'm having trouble keeping a lid on the gushing.

Let's just leave it at one word: 'lovely'.

Creativity takes time

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunday 7-up

Reading: Australian Rolling Stone mag
Browsing: Vintage bike poster set on Flickr
Watching: Breaking Bad
Eating: Aussie mangoes
Listening: Theme Time Radio Hour, with your host Bob Dylan
Visiting: Espresso 3121
Wanting: A cure for hayfever

Monday, November 14, 2011

Welcome back to Australia!

"Oh hai there!! Ooops! Looks like you dropped your soap. You just continue your shower, girl, don't mind me hanging out here on your window. I'll keep an eye out for you, in fact I'll keep FOUR eyes out for you, that's not creepy AT ALL hahahaa! Can I borrow your razor? I think my legs need going over..."

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Workin' for the man... oh wait, I'm the man

Six months in and this 'working for myself' thing is turning out great...SO FAR. I don't know why I'm so reluctant to jinx myself by talking about how well it's going - I'm usually the opposite of superstitious (I can't believe that people still get upset about opening umbrellas indoors - as Napoleon Dynamite would say, GOSH) but for some reason I'm reluctant to celebrate the fact that I'm doing alright. It still feels a bit precarious, and I'm still getting used to surviving quiet weeks/months (August... yeeesh) without fretting that I will never work again.

But overall, I'm surviving. I've met some great people. I am loving it, still. I am never going to be rich, but that has never been my motivation. I just want to work. I still have a little trouble getting motivated in the mornings, but I'm quite happy to work into the evening, so - hey, it doesn't really matter, and I love that freedom. My interest in design has been rekindled. It was the corporate office environment that was killing me - the clock-watching. The time-wasting. Feeling hemmed in and straight-jacketed, even though I could wear jeans and flip-flops (I mean thongs).

More things I've learned on the way:

1. Be transparent about costs. Most people have no concept of how long something takes to design; and even less about how much time is spent mucking around with it (at their behest) afterwards. Be clear with your clients about how much time you're spending on a job and what it will cost them.

2. Protect your intellectual property. This is such a grey area, but after a client alerted me to it, I have added a clause about my designs remaining my property until the invoice is paid in full, and specifying that I retain the right to use the work for my own promotional purposes (unless they opt out).

3. Marketing without tears. I've been somewhat proactive about marketing myself, but I could certainly do more. However, networking is not my strong point and I'm not going to bust a gut going to events where I hand my card to 3 people and never hear from them again. I tend to do more 'passive' marketing, like leaving my postcards at cafés, posting (and replying to) ads on gumtree, and emailing studios with a link to my website. If I'm going to do networking, I want it to be fun - which is where meetup interest groups come in. This is something I was doing anyway, and occasionally I get asked for my business card, or even make a lovely new friend (hello, local buddy!).

4. Roll with the punches. You just have to go with the flow - enjoy the lulls - my flat, btw, has never been cleaner - and put your head down in the busy periods.

It's a fun, challenging, and endlessly interesting ride.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Cycling = community

I have certainly been spoilt by living right by the Yarra bike trail: I can ride into the city anytime, in complete safety and comfort (apart from the odd renegade lycra-cycla or kamikaze duck). However, I think this lucky state of affairs has left my road cycling skills somewhat lacking.

On the weekend, I had to cycle from Williamstown to North Melbourne, along some very busy stretches of road. Man, it was scary. Most of the time I was pedaling like mad on my big ol' Pashley, fingers mentally crossed and breath held as a truck/motobike/car seared past me. Every time I got onto the footpath after such an encounter, I would release my breath and say a little prayer of thanks.

It got me thinking, why don't we have more bike paths around Melbourne? Not just a laneway painted on the side of the road which might, for instance, COME TO AN ABRUPT END HALFWAY ACROSS A BRIDGE WITH NO FOOTPATH (hello Maribyrnong city council), but proper cyclist/pedestrian only paths that are separate from the road? It would certainly go some way to encouraging timid or new cyclists to take more journeys by bike, which has multiple benefits for everyone involved, as well as society in general.

Less congestion. Less pollution. More space. More freedom. Better health. Less expense. More enjoyment!

The cynic in me thinks that politicians aren't interested in supporting cycling infrastructure as it doesn't provide any source of revenue. If only they saw that investment in the quality of our collective environment and lifestyle will have it's own many knock-on benefits.

Lately I've been getting more involved with the Melbourne cycling community, which is made up of various interesting people from all walks of life; families, sporty types, alternative thinkers, hipsters. I'm proud to be associated with The Squeaky Wheel, a fantastic volunteer group that's all about promoting cycle culture in Melbourne. Next weekend we start the My Bike program, where we'll be working with migrant communities to pair up young people with bikes donated by the Victorian Police.

One of the things we'll be doing is teaching them about road safety. I could brush up on this, myself.

I can't wait!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Stolen cumquat marmalade

Walking around my neighbourhood on a regular lemon raid - if they're hanging over the public walkway, I declare them mine under the little known 'footpath bandit' act - I came across bunches of these gorgeous orange delights dangling tantalisingly over a head-height fence. Being a true neighbourhood bandit of the solitary and sneaky kind, I looked each way for spies who might be taking note of my interest, calculated that I couldn't carry as many as I would need*, made a mental note of their location and concoted a plan to return later with a plastic bag to cart off my booty.

Black polo neck and camo make-up optional.

Post fruit-burgulary, I decided to make some marmalade with my haul. The end result was the first time I've attempted a jam, and oy, there's a lot of labour involved. But the end product is so good, it's worth it.

2 cups cumquats, washed and sliced
2 cups water
juice of 1 lemon
1.5 cups sugar (more if you don't like your marmalade 'sharp')

Wash and slice fruit finely, removing the seeds for safe-keeping (warning: this take ages). Place the fruit in a large saucepan, cover with water and soak overnight. Put the seeds in a mug and soak in a small amount of boiling water overnight.

Next day strain the liquid from the seeds into the cumquats. Discard the seeds. Cook the fruit gently on a low heat until the fruit is tender and the liquid is reduced by half. Add the sugar and lemon juice. When all the sugar has dissolved, turn up the heat and boil rapidly until the mixture jells (around 30-45 minutes). Stir often, or the marmalade will burn.

I tried the test where you put in on a cold plate to see if it sets, but I just stopped when it seemed thick enough and my arm was about to fall off from stirring.

Pour into hot sterilised jars (to sterilise: wash in hot soapy water and dry in a slow oven for 20 mins) and seal.

I got 2 big jars from this. Larga vida al bandido de frutas!

*Wasn't sure what I 'needed' them for at this stage, just had a vague idea I would need more than two grabby handfuls.

Monday, October 03, 2011

This video tells you everything you need to know about having little brothers

It's EXACTLY like this. Multiplied by many years interspersed with lots of cork legs, arm punches and giggles.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Peanut Butter cookies (WARNING: may not make it out of the mixing bowl)

Oh my goodness, the batter for these cookies is TOO GOOD.

225gm butter (I used sunflower margarine)
100gm caster sugar
200gm soft brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
240gm crunchy peanut butter
340gm plain flour
2 1/2 tsps bicarb soda
pinch salt
75gm dark chocolate, chopped

Cream butter and sugars together, add eggs one at a time (either by hand or with a hand beater). Add the vanilla and peanut butter and mix. Add flour, bicarb soda and salt and mix well until you have a delicious, fluffy, irresistible batter. Stir in the chocolate bits.

Fight the urge to eat every last bite and spoon onto greased baking trays. Cook for 10 minutes until just golden brown.

Makes about 24, depending on how much you managed to not eat in the making stage.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Bikes and boys ahoy

The more observant amongst you may have noticed that I put a blog post up recently, only to take it back down again a few days later. The truth is, I'm sick of hearing myself whinge about singledom/men. As someone* pointed out to me earlier tonight (when I was less drunk than I am now**), I was making lots of generalisations about an entire gender. I really need to stop doing that. People are individuals who happen to be male or female, beyond that - well, it's really not up to me to make sweeping judgements based on a handful of experiences with individuals.

*changes subject apropos of nothing*

You know one side effect of riding a beautiful bike that I really love? The people who start up random conversations with me because of it. It's like having an adorable puppy***; everyone wants to stop a while and  exclaim and fuss over it, ask questions about it, and maybe even pet it. Tonight as my friend* and I approached the princess, there was a small group of well-dressed people taking a close look over it, and as I got closer they cooed over my panniers, wanted to know where I got my (knock-off knogg) lights, and asked did I buy the bike from Steve, purveyor of fine bicycles in South Melbourne?**** We all stood around and had a nice little late night (drunken**) chat about how fine it is to ride a bike in Melbourne.

And just like that, I'm feeling more hopeful about the world once more.

Good night!

*you know who you are!
**two glasses of wine and I'm officially off my face.
***God I wish I did have an adorable puppy. Then my life would truly be complete.
****Details may not be correct, see '**' above.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What's your favourite memory?

Sitting across from my grandfather at his kitchen table, watching his face light up with laughter.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Shake it like a polaroid picture

Lately I've been feeling a little... restless. A little spike of existential angst is poking me in the side. I feel like I need to take off and drive away for a bit. Like I need to shake things up and toss them around like salad. Like I need to break free and cut loose and do something a little... dangerous. Not dangerous as in shooting-up-and-sleeping-with-strangers, but dangerous as in, unconventional and new.

Isn't it funny how you crave for things to be settled, and when they are you feel a bit... bored?

I read this article about how more women are leaving their marriages out of boredom than ever before, because we have the freedom to do that now, or because we are more narcissistic than previous generations, depending on your point of view. I think a few of my relationships have ended out of boredom and restlessness, especially when I was younger and more flippant about these things. It takes a great deal of discipline to stay with one person for ages, to just put your head down and trudge on through the crap bits.

Respect, crap-bearers! I never had a great tolerance for it.

In conclusion, it's time to try something new and different. Cute boy? Yes, please. Holiday? I'd love to, but it will have to be short and sweet. Learn a new skill? Hmm, sounds intriguing... suggestions?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Friday, August 26, 2011

The reluctant (semi-)vegetarian

In an ideal world, I would be vegetarian, no question.

(while we're at it, in an ideal world I would be married to a vet/retired model, with two adorable adopted kids and a house with a veggie garden. And someone would pay me to write this blog. In chocolate.)

But here in boring old "reality", I have found myself moving further and further away from meat in general, and red meat in particular, for various reasons.

Environmentally, eating meat is one of the worst things you can do for the planet (up there with driving a car and having kids). It's horrendous how much waste goes into that chain of raising animals, feeding them, slaughtering and butchering them, packaging them up and shipping them to supermarkets all over the world.

Ethically, it's not nice to treat sentient creatures so abominably just so that we can enjoy a roast dinner on a Sunday. As the website says, if slaughter-houses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.

Finally, eating meat is kind of gross when you think about it. Eating the cooked flesh of a living creature. Especially with red meat, there is a particular smell it gives off when it's just starting to cook that is stomach-turning.

And yet... human beings were designed to eat meat. We're omnivores. The smell of a sausages frying outside Bunnings is undeniably attractive. It has even been argued that meat was the essential ingredient that allowed us to evolve into the brainy idiots we are today. Closer to home, my mum recently gave me a lecture about getting enough protein when she thought I was looking a bit pale and skinny.

And so my answer for now is, in the emminently sensible words of my Pa (oft repeated by my Mum): "Everything in moderation". I eat a small portion of meat maybe 2-3 times a week, and try to buy meat from animals that are outdoor-raised and free-range. I am aiming to ultimately cut down to "only on special occassions when I really feel like it" meat consumption. I'm not there yet, but I hope to be in the next couple of years.

* * * * *

For those of you with concerned mothers, good non-meat sources of protein are: potatoes, whole wheat bread, rice, broccoli, spinach, almonds, peas, chickpeas, peanut butter, tofu, soymilk, lentils and kale. Peanut butter, y'all! I'm going out to buy some right now.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I do love a colourful kitchen gadget...

... almost as much as I love a gadget with a backstory! The lovely mug that I stole from a large Generic Financial Corporation (it was lying sadly neglected at the back of a communal cupboard and I love it to bits. Je ne regrette rien!). The ice-cream scoop given to me by my lovely ex-flatmate when she moved out, in commemoration of my voracious ice-cream devouring habit. The retro orange teapot with wicker handle gifted to me by a friend who spotted it at a garage sale. An old-fashioned egg beater that never fails to remind me of my grandma and her elegant hands.

I love being surrounded by colourful, cute and quirky things. My idea of hell is a beige room with white couches, glass coffee table and a black and white print on the wall. *Shudder*

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Fantasy Dating: Nerds-Done-Good edition

I'm taking a little break from online dating. The endless cascade of rejections was getting a little disheartening. Seriously, how do people survive this?! You need the skin of a rhino to withstand it, I reckon. It's certainly not for "sensitive young weeds" like myself (and Stephen Fry).

Back to daydreaming, where the men are hot, available and infinitely variable.

Bring on the charming geek-fest!

It's probably best to take your glasses off, Mr. Tempah. You can leave the bow-tie on, though...

Moss from the IT Crowd: the ultimate tech-geek, complete with "reboot" chime.

Um, hello STEVE URKEL?!

Ditto Neville Longbottom.

I wasn't sure about Michael Cera at first - he seemed so weedy in Juno, and like an effeminate Jesse Eisenberg in everything else - but I watched Youth In Revolt last night and I found myself won over by yet another understated dork-at-peace-with-himself performance.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Girls on Bikes (a sporadic series)

The gorgeous Audrey Hepburn (and terrier).

Man I'd love to get a dog. A little basket-sized dog.

The downsides of being self-employed

It occurred to me recently that I should offer a counter-point to my previous post on the joys of working for oneself; detailing the not so great stuff about being self-employed (and the pleasure of referring to oneself as "oneself").

I hereby present to you the downsides.

1. Work dreams (in which your clients refuse to return your calls/you miss an important deadline/your mac dies). Yep, you're involved in your work in a very personal way - it's hard to leave it behind when you're utterly immersed in it.

Speaking of which:

2. It's always there. The work, that is. You find yourself tinkering into the evening, sending emails at all hours and working in spare time at weekends. This doesn't bother me so much, as I tend to have plenty of downtime throughout the week in which to do my laundry/go to zumba/meet friends for coffee.

3. If you don't work, you don't get paid. No sick leave, no holiday leave, no public holiday pay, no super or benefits. Be sure to take this into consideration when setting your rate.

4. You're on your own. This hasn't affected me too much yet, as I've been spending a fair bit of time working with a bunch of lovely people. But I am aware that I could quite happily slide into hermit-ville if I was working from home more often, so I have been making a concerted effort to get out and about in my spare time. Meetup has been a great forum for social events, and the dating has been keeping me busy (if driving me crazy). In fact, my social calendar is more crammed than ever.

Apparently there are places where you can rent some studio space with other freelancers. I haven't looked into this but it's a great option for those more in need of regular social contact than myself.

5. Oh, the irregularity! It's hard to make plans when you don't know what tomorrow is going to look like, let alone next week. You just have to take each week as it comes, and make/change plans on the fly.

6. It's all down to you, baby. I have had moments of mini-panic at the thought that soon, I will be solely responsible for paying a mortgage out of my piecemeal income. It's up to me to find work, keep my clients happy, get paid. There's no back-up or Plan B, it's just one chick at her computer. That's f*cking scary, let me tell you.

I find it's best not to dwell on this one, for reasons involving my sanity.

* * * * *

Taking into account all of the above however, the pros definitely outweigh the cons for me right now.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Online dating: The Dealbreaker Edition

– Have a kid from a one night stand several years ago? But it's 'OK because you never see him'?

– Still live at home or recently moved back in with your parents?

– Have to borrow money off me to take me out to dinner?

– Follow an obscure religion that allows you to eat chicken but not duck, because ducks 'have webbed feet'?

– An aspiring fantasy novelist?

– Ill-advised facial piercing/tattoo?

– Not a fan of punctuation? Or conventional spelling? Frequently confuse 'your' and 'you're'?
(a little grammar-nazi of me, I admit, but if you can't write at an 8th grade level, I cannot bring myself to respect you)

– Hungover every time I meet up with you, even on weekdays?

– Look like a gangster in your profile picture, complete with mutton-chop sideburns, shaved head and mirror sunglasses?

– Never returned the CDs that I lent you on our third date?*

Well those, my friend, are what we in the biz like to call DEALBREAKERS.

Good day sirs!

* still waiting.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Girls on Bikes (an intermittent series)

A fresh-faced Marilyn Monroe (and puppy).

The joys of being self-employed

Well, this particular experiment seems to be going better than hoped, thus far. I was hesitant to become self-employed, but ended up gradually being nudged across the line by a variety of events and I can honestly say I haven't looked back.

I've been thriving on the challenge, the freedom and newness of my situation. After many years in the same position at a large firm, it's so nice to be doing something different.

Here's what I've learnt so far:

1. It's all about relationships. I can't even think of that word without hearing my dad saying it in an OTT American accent. Sorry pops, but the yanks are right on this one - life is all about relationships. I work hard to keep up a good relationship with my clients and I can see the benefits.

What I am aiming for ultimately is having clients who are more like friends - how great would that be?

2. The internet rules. I have clients who I've never spoken to in person, y'all. They email me, I do the work and email it back, they transfer money to my bank account. It's fantastic. Without the internet, my job would be difficult limited impossible.

Thank you, computer nerds, for this most brilliant invention of my lifetime (after the ipod).

3. Anyone with a brain, a computer and a modicum of talent could do this. You don't have to be an entrepenuer. You don't have to be rich. You don't have to be ruthless and cut-throat. You don't even need to be particularly business-minded, you just have to be smart. If you're not good with numbers, you can get someone else to look after that for you. I'm doing everything myself right now, and it seems to be manageable so far. Then again, I haven't yet done my first tax return...

4. It is surprisingly satisfying to be able to do a load of washing in the middle of the day. I've spoken to several self-employed people and this always comes up as one of the main benefits of working from home. Likewise, wearing pyjamas/trackpants all day long. Also, feeling smug when you see all those suited commuters rushing for the train at peak hour.

We're a weird bunch.

5. I owe a debt of thanks to my old bosses. Without even realising it, I've absorbed so much from my previous bosses. They've all had a hand in shaping me, as an employee and a person. I was so lucky to have had a succession of nice, genuine, normal bosses. I've heard some horror stories.

6. I wish I'd done it sooner. Working for myself would have been unthinkable before now - too scary, too risky, too damn hard. Actually, the hardest thing was taking the mental leap.

Thank goodness circumstances conspired to push me into this. I really hope things continue in this vein.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Online Dating: The Stealth Version

The advice pretty much everyone gives me re: dating (those many happily settled friends of mine, that is) can be pretty much summed up as follows: "Forget online dating. Join a group." Hmm. I tend to bristle at this advice for several reasons:

1. The things I'm interested in doing in my spare time are inherently girly and do not tend to attract folks of the manly persuasion (baking, cycling my vintage pashley in a skirt, crochet, watercolours, zumba, reading, yoga). I know girls who have taken up rock-climbing/football/beer-tasting for the sole purpose of meeting a husband; but I just can't bring myself to do it. It just seems too much like... faking it.

2. Groups scare me.

Well that's it, which really isn't much of an argument now that it's laid out in print.

But the truth is, I have quietly been getting out there and meeting people through various online forums since I've been back. Just dipping a toe, in typical 'fraidy-cat fashion, into the waters of Socialising With Strangers. Just every so often when I've got nothing better to do on a quiet weekend. I've been to a couple of arthouse movie meetups, a group bike ride to a gallery, and I'm off to a (women only) book group this weekend. It's a little strange, and I'm still getting over the awkwardness factor, but it's also kind of interesting. People are generally interesting, don't you think? Everyone has some kind of story.

I've found I've met more interesting girls than guys - I'm in that age bracket now where there's a surplus of amazing, accomplished girls and a dearth of comparable guys, sadly - but you never know, I guess. And if I only meet great girls via this particular avenue, I'm fine with that.

I'm sort of treating my life like a giant science experiment at the moment; meddling with the ingredients, recoiling from spillage, agitating the mix, and trying not to set anything on fire.

Men of 30 Rock

Mmm. 30 Rock satisfies on so many levels.

30 rocks

If you overlaid Tina Fey's and my Chart of Hotness, you'd end up with an almost entirely overlapping Venn diagram. God bless you, Liz Lemon!

Oh, and sorry Kenneth.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Reflections in a rain-spattered train window

Ever have one of those weekends that makes you so glad to live the life you live? It's weekends like these that make me regret ending my OneHappyMoment experiment. This weekend has been chockers with them.

I shared pizza with middle bro on Friday night (using a voucher I got from my estate agent), went for an epic bike-ride to Hiede Museum of Modern Art with a group of like-minded women and a couple of dapper gents on Saturday, and had a lovely lunch and vino with friends at the Shadowfax winery today, followed by a winding game of 'tag' with her little boy giggling hysterically the whole time.

Lately I've been thinking, if only I had a boyfriend, things would be perfect. Then I realised that actually, no they wouldn't. It would just make my currently reasonably balanced life way more complicated.

What is it with us girls? It's like we're conditioned to believe that without a man, we are nothing and none of our achievements amount to anything. I have a good life, I am enjoying my work more than I ever have now that I have a certain amount of autonomy, and I am surrounded by loving family and friends. My life is great. But still I feel like something major is missing. I can't tell whether it's society at large that is responsible for the pressure on women to settle down and procreate; whether it's biological; psychological; familial/tribal; or just innate.

I like to think that if I had a daughter, I would make sure she understood that the choice to be with someone or not is hers and hers alone. The choice to have children or not is hers alone, and no one has the right to judge her based on those choices. That her life is entirely her own to enjoy and experience. I like to think I would teach her to think for herself so that she could see beyond the social and cultural templates that offer women a limited number of roles.

So why can't I apply these beliefs I support so passionately to my own life?

I guess we all need love and intimacy. Sure, relationships are hard work at times, but there is nothing like that feeling of having someone on your side. It doesn't make any sense. But I still want it.

I guess that makes me a typical woman, huh?

Friday, July 01, 2011

365 days of Happy Moments

One Happy Moment Every Day, my year-long experiment in positivity, has come to an end!

I'm a little bit sad, but I hope the habit of noticing the small, good things will stay with me. Read more here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Any Woman's Blues

Oh boy. This dating thing is all fizzy lemonade while you're not that emotionally involved; when it's all: "let's go for coffee! Yeah, I like Peep Show too. Oh, you like dark chocolate? Yeah white chocolate shouldn't even be CALLED chocolate". Once you've made yourself vulnerable though - this is not a euphemism, by the way, I haven't so much as smooched one bloke - and put your heart out there on that line, the pain of a million remembered heartbreaks comes roaring back. The pain that brings all your insecurities out of hiding and returns you back to that angsty teenage girl wailing to Tori Amos in her bedroom all over again.

Yup, it's time to put on some sad songs and wallow like a hippo.

Best comment under an Elliot Smith video: "everytime i feel depressed, i listen to this song. then i feel more depressed; it's awesome"

(worth repeating. *Sigh*)

Friday, June 17, 2011

All Ages Pumpkin and Ginger Tea Bread

This lovely, soft, sunflower yellow bread/cake was devoured by everyone from little Nathan (aged 9 months) to my Dad (aged 59) with gusto and relish. I baked two in a row, it was so good!

175gm butter, melted
140gm honey
1 egg, beaten
250gm raw grated pumpkin/butternut squash
100gm light brown sugar
350gm self raising flour
1tbs ground ginger
2tbs demarara sugar

Pre-heat oven to 180°. Grease or line a loaf tin. Mix the butter, honey and egg, and stir in the grated pumpkin/squash. Then mix in sugar, flour and ginger.
Pour in the prepared tin and sprinkle the top with the demarara sugar. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until golden brown.

Serve thickly sliced (mine was so soft it fell apart when I tried to slice it!), buttered if you like. Gorgeous still warm from the oven, but still bloody good the next day - and believe me, it won't last beyond that!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Mr. Slater does it again - Late Night Chicken Stew

Nigel Slater is the creator of my all-time favourite food book, The Kitchen Diaries (it seems I'm not alone in my fandom). Part diary, part cookbook, with the most beautiful photography and production, Nigel's bible is my go-to book for elegant and unfussy meals.

150gm canellini beans (I used a tin)
1 large chicken, jointed (I just used 3 chicken marylands from my butcher)
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
garlic, 4 plump cloves
3 or 4 bay leaves
Dried Herbs du Provence (I used mixed herbs)
Orange rind, pared (I used lemon)
2x large leeks
1 massive Silverbeet leaf (or several smaller ones), sliced - my own addition
mash, to serve

Put the chicken joints in a glass dish. Pour over 50ml of olive oil, a couple of tablepoons of balsamic vinegar, then tuck in the peeled cloves and bay leaves. Scatter over the herbs and pared orange peel, and give it a good grinding of pepper and salt.

Leave in a cool place overnight (or for as long as you can).

Heat enough oil to cover the bottom of a pan, then fry the chicken pieces (shaking off the marinade to save) until golden brown on each side. Transfer the chicken to a clean plate, then fry the leeks in the same oil. Add the garlic, pour in the remaining marinade, the rest of the balsamic vinegar and add a litre of water. Bring to the boil, season generously, then return the chicken to the pan (Nigel transfers it to the oven in a casserole but I don't see the point of making more dishes so I just left it on the stove top). Leave on a low simmer for as long as possible (I think I had it on for over an hour), until the chicken meat is falling off the bone. Make sure the chicken is always covered in water. Add the beans and the silverbeet for the last 5 minutes or so.

Serve steaming hot over mashed potatoes.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Two-timing, double-dating hussy

Wow, this online dating thing really is an emotional roller-coaster. One minute you're top of the world, ma! with four dates lined up in one short week. Next minute you're All-by-myself-ing into your chocolate gelato after a date gone bad, wondering where it all went wrong.

Lordy! So, there are currently two* potential dudes (although after last Saturday, it may have been whittled down to just the one). I don't want to go into too much detail about these guys, in an attempt to protect their privacy - Melbourne is a small town, after all - but I will say that they are both lovely and decent, but also quite different in nature. Light and dark, you might say. One is a confirmed urbanite who reads the Guardian online and wears a suit to work, the other grows his own vegetables and wears hi-vis. I'm intrigued by both of them, and I am enjoying the process of getting to know them.

But oy, it's taking me from one emotional extreme to the other, sometimes in the same day.

Dating in your thirties? Completely different ball game to dating in your twenties (frisbee in the park vs. juggling sharks, let's say).

You have been through so much. Sometimes you wonder if you can survive one more heartbreak. You're alternately wary and hopeful. You can't help imagining what someone you just met would be like as a long-term partner, a husband, a father, based on whatever crumbs of information you have to hand. Something about them reminds you of an ex. You recognise certain traits which put up a red flag. And of course, they're sitting on the other side of the table, also having experienced heartbreak and battling on and trying to find the right girl, looking at you and wondering whether their future wife would eat her pizza quite so messily.

You get pickier as you get older, no doubt about it. You live, you learn. Isn't it ironic? And other Alanis Morisette lyrics.

On the other hand, it is exciting. A text message gives you flutters of excitement. A great date leaves you on a high for days. You spend hours detailing your experience to friends and family, and they give words of encouragement or caution. I am loving this about being back home: my family have taken an active interest in the nuances of my love-life. I have my brothers threatening to beat up anyone who treats me badly, my sister-in-laws picking favourites, and my mum giving me dating advice that she's learned from god-knows-where (certainly not reality). My Dad is mildly amused by the whole shebang, concerned for my safety but also wanting the same stability and happiness for me that he and my mum have enjoyed.

So, I'll keep putting myself out there. It's been interesting. Mostly enjoyable, all told. I haven't entertained one dark thought about quitting and becoming a bona-fide hermit. I am, amazingly, hopeful. Once more unto the breach, dear friends! I'll keep you informed.

* Yup, two. I did not expect to be dating two guys at once. It's uncomfortable, and I don't like doing it; and I'm hoping the situation will resolve itself soon. It's just that I wasn't sure I was going to hear back from the first guy; so I agreed to meet the second, and then eventually I did hear back from the first guy**, and by then it was too late to cancel the second guy, yada yada, here we are.

** Word of advice blokes: a woman likes to know where she stands. We love it when you text the next day. Love it.

Virtuous Veg-Crisper Minestrone

I'm not a huge fan of tomato-based soups, but the ingredients I had in the crisper spelled one word: minestrone. It's a great hearty, healthy soup for chilly Melbourne, which is currently experiencing it's fourth coldest Autumn on record (I could have sworn it was the first). I also felt the need for a healthy dinner after a weekend heavy on the burgers/dim-sims/Mint Slice.

Thanks to Sanjosh, my lovely next door neighbour, who kindly let me use his microwave to defrost my home-made chicken stock. It would have been a very late dinner without your help Sanj!

2 tbs olive oil
1 onion, chopped
100gm bacon (I trim the fat from mine but it would probably be more delicious if you leave it on)
2 large carrots, chopped
1/2 fennel bulb, chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1x tin of tomatoes
1 litre stock (I used chicken)
Silverbeet (full-grown spinach) - 1 massive leaf, chopped
1x tin of beans (I used a mixed selection, haricot would be fine)
Handful of fresh parsley, chopped

Heat the olive oil in a big pan, then add the onion and bacon and fry until it starts to soften. Tip in the carrots, fennel, potato and garlic, and cook for a bit.

Add the tomatoes, stock and any seasoning you like (salt, pepper, oregano, sage, thyme) then bring to the boil, stirring. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes, stirring in the silverbeet for the last 10 minutes. Toss in the parsley and beans at the end.

Serve with sourdough toast, or a bit of parmesan stirred in.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Online Dating - Southern Hempishere edition: Jumping a bracket

It's back on, baby. The online dating escapades. The occassional thrills! The inevitable spills! The slightly hurtful bafflement of being rejected by three different men with three different automated responses in one evening: "Sorry, I'm overwhelmed with responses at the moment". "Sorry, I don't think we have enough in common". "Sorry, I may be on the cusp of 40 but I'm really looking for a supermodel aged 20-22, because I am a LAWYER".

Honestly, it's been ok so far. Similarly to my experience in the More Crowded Hemisphere, the online dating world in my experience is mostly full of nice people like myself, who are looking for a relationship but aren't in the habit of talking to strangers in bars (hello! Who does that?). The main difference between the site I used in the UK and the site I'm using here is the subscription fee; or lack thereof in the current case. It's literally a free-for-all. This concerns me a little, so I'm being quite discriminating about who I have contact with. Although, realistically? Psychopaths have money and addresses too, so I guess it probably doesn't make that much difference - I'm just working on the assumption that your average axe-killer would not want to give up their credit card details in case the detective on the case of MY MURDER discovers the electronic paper trail that leads back to said psycho.

Hmm. Well, I'm still here. FOR NOW.

I went on my first "Date" on the weekend (I don't classify the first meeting as a date, see here for more). We went ice-skating, at his suggestion. It was good fun, a bit silly, and reminded me of London. Aw! I hope I'll see him again, but I'm feeling quite relaxed about the process (the meds are helping with that). I have another coffee/milkshake meeting scheduled.

Of course, I've had those moments where a great weariness descends and I feel exhausted by the whole process; usually when an overweight, fifty-something trucker messages me to say "How about it?", or when you don't hear back from your awesome date first meeting. This isn't helped by the fact that sometime in the last 6 months I have skipped from the "could-be-late-twenties-on-a-good-day" bracket to the "definitely-in-her-mid-thirties" bracket. Sure, I scrub up pretty well, but there's no denying my age any longer - especially since I have lost weight (a nice layer of fat is nature's facelift).

But it's been mostly interesting and enjoyable so far. And eye-opening to boot - I was a little discriminatory towards my fellow aussies on my homecoming, I must admit. I'm ashamed to say I had fallen for the stereotype of the big, dumb, sports-obsessed aussie bloke versus the refined, well-read Englishman.

Current bogan hit-rate = 0 (discounting the trucker). Well played, Australian men.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A tour of Melbourne's laneways: Part 1

Hosier Lane.
Especially magic if stumbled upon by accident.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Need more silly

My kooky friend Karls - a refreshingly hands-off, let-him-discover-his-limits kind of mother - is over at my flat with her 5 year old son, who has disappeared to the bathroom. Eventually I realise that constant hissing noise is the sound of the taps running.

I pop my head into the bathroom. He's standing at the sink, both taps covered in soap - too slippery to turn off.

Whatcha doing? I say.

Washing the taps for you, he says.

The previous time he came to visit, he played with a soft Barpazoo toy of mine, which has traveled with me since I bought it during my first trip to Paris eight years ago. In his excitement and 5 year-old-boyishness, he tears it open. I am upset and a little annoyed, but then I realise that it's a toy for chrissake - it's meant to be played with.

This is the boy who, while riding his bike recently, yelled out "Look Mum, no hands!", let go of the handlebars and promptly fell flat on his adorable little face. This little scamp doesn't know the meaning of the word "fear". 

Later on, we are lying on the grass in the park while he tears around the playground. She tells me that on their way over, he told her that he's in love with me. My heart melts.

The things kids can teach us, eh? Don't get too attached to objects. Take risks. Give your love freely and whole-heartedly. And when busted, make up a story so cute that the other person can't possibly be mad.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Home/time (part 2)

The top 3 questions I get asked since coming home:

1. What does it feel like to be back?

It feels a bit like being an astronaut who is going through a very drawn out and bumpy "re-entry" phase.  Starting my life over again from scratch. Selling myself unconvincingly in job interviews. Most of all, endlessly explaining to people - strangers and friends - why I came back; why I stayed in England and in my previous job so long; why I am single again. Coming back has been rougher than I imagined. I still don't feel settled but I imagine I won't for some time yet.

2. Do I miss London?

Overall, generally, despite everything, I have not regretted the decision to come home. Even when my parents and I have bickered over the most inconsequential things, even through the moments of extreme loneliness and "everyone's settled down except me" self-pity, even when I ended up on my brother's doorstep soaked by the flooding rains and streaked with tears; I never wanted to run back to London. I have had only a couple of flickers of missing the UK - literally seconds-long - but nothing more. Just the odd "oh, wasn't the Borough Market/Hampstead Heath/St Pauls in the early evening lovely?"

3. Has Melbourne changed?

Yes, Melbourne has changed. There are more people, more shops, more traffic, more restaurants. The cars are fancier, the houses bigger, everyone seems to have an iphone. People seem better off (except the poor sods who, like me, didn't buy before the boom). But the things that were always lovely about Melbourne, are still lovely. I am enjoying so much the thrill of rediscovering my home town after having been away for so long. The hidden laneways; the religious fervour of the coffee culture; the trams rattling and dinging around town in their own sweet time; descending to the cool calm of the Yarra.

It will get easier, I tell myself. I will feel more settled soon. I won't be on my own forever. The mantra of the lonely astronaut, separated forever by his experience.

Monday, April 18, 2011

In which I don't discuss any world events whatsoever, or indeed any events taking place outside of my flat.

Sorry I've been so slack on the blogging front. The world goes on spinning, Charlie Sheen goes on winning, my thighs are thinning. Helpfully, the stress of moving home combined with a new job have conspired to make me get back to my pre-London weight. Unhelpfully, that manifests itself in the following ways:
  1. Instead of shrinking, my butt just gets flatter. You ever see those plump girls with butts that stick straight out at the back like two basketballs? Yeah, I'm like a deflated version of that at the moment.
  2. My boobs have retreated back into non-existence.
  3. Shorts/jeans bought at the peak of my weight now fall off me. Literally.
However, I feel sleek and light and I can wear jeans on my bike without cutting off circulation to my thighs. Hopefully, once things settle down a bit my butt will come back. All is forgiven, butt! I'm sorry I ever cursed you and wished you gone from my life.

Despite the wobbliness of my job situation (and the lack of wobbliness in the rear department), I love my new flat. It's the one bit of stability in my life right now, and I'm clinging to it like a drowning polar bear to a chunk of iceberg. I love that I can watch the sunset behind the city from the POÄNG in my living room. I love re-organising my shamefully large DVD collection. I love puzzling over random pieces of furniture left out on the footpaths of Richmond, taking home what I can make use of (if I had have known about this new phenomenon of Melbournite's chucking out good furniture on a daily basis, I could have furnished my flat entirely from hard rubbish). I love the high pressure, hot-as-hell shower. I love that I can text my bro at random and meet up for coffee 5 minutes later. Good coffee, too.

Now, I just need to sort out my work situation. It looks like I will be going back to freelancing at the end of the month, and this time I need to sort out whether this is a viable long-term option for me, financially as well as emotionally. I'm a little worried about the possible isolation of living alone as well as working from home, but I'm sure there are lots of things/groups/events that I can sign up for to get me out of my lovely flat. I'm slowly rediscovering the fun stuff going on in Melbourne, which generally requires a little more research and forward planning than the stuff going on in London. Melbourne is revealing herself slowly to me, like a wary lover burnt by one too many heart-breaks.

I know the feeling, Melbourne. We are soul-mates, you and I.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Creamy pumpkin soup

Suitable for Melbourne's very un-Summery weather.

1kg butternut squash (or other kind of sweet pumpkin), peeled and cut into chunks
1 clove garlic, finely sliced
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
olive oil
tarragon (fresh if possible)
375ml low fat milk
750ml low veggie stock
low fat sour cream

Toss the pumpkin in olive oil with salt and pepper, then roast at 200 for 20 minutes or until tender.

tip the pumpkin, chilli and garlic into a saucepan with the stock and milk and bring to the boil (don't panic if it separates). Reduce heat and simmer for 8 minutes.

Cool a little then whiz with a blender until smooth.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a few pinches of tarragon.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ikea and me

I moved in to my new flat on Saturday. A little one bedder in Richmond, grimy (not to mention cat-smelly) from the previous tenant. But finally, living on my own "like a grown up" in the words of a dear friend. I spent a day or two scrubbing it from top to bottom, calling out the plumber when it transpired that the toilet leaked when flushed, and the locksmith when I couldn't get back in. I spent my first night sleeping on the thermarest in the bare bedroom, marvelling at how quiet it was for an inner city pad and imagining burgulars making off with all my worldly goods my mac while I slept.

Since then I have spent several days racing through the local Ikea store, mostly backwards (which is by far the easiest way to do Ikea, trust me), back and forth and in and out as I kept thinking of more things that the flat could do with. Once by car, with my mum, once by foot, once by bike and once by tram. All modes of transport explored.

I know people love to hate Ikea, and moan about what a hellish way to spend a precious Saturday it is, what with the shlepping around endless mazes of showrooms, trying to locate the right brown box in an enormous warehouse full of brown boxes, topped off with the nightmare of having to assemble it yourself when you finally get home, allen keys and anonymous bits of plank strewn around the place as you tear your hair out etc. etc.

Well, I have a confession to make.

I actually like putting together Ikea stuff. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I love it. I love the challenge. I love that it's a few-hours-long-project that has a useful and beautiful outcome. I love puzzling over the universal instructions and the moment of "aha!" when you realise the bit you were trying to attach to the bob was upside down. I love they way everything lines up perfectly - so Swedish! - and that there is the exact amount of screws/doohickeys needed for the job, so that you can watch the packet empty as you near completion. It's very rewarding; mentally consuming as well as physically demanding - the perfect antidote to worrying too much about whether living on my own is really a good idea.

I have had lots of Ikea furniture over the years, but I've outdone myself this time: I'm now the proud owner (and assembler) of a MICKE desk with LAVER chair, ENGAN bed, half-price EKTORP couch, KILBY bookcase, and the one I've had my eye on forever, the coma-inducing POÄNG armchair. Just so it's not totally generic, there are a few of my own pieces around - namely a pretty cane chair that belonged to my Nan and a couple of funky retro stools from a good mate who also supplied me with a fridge and various kitchen implements.

I'm thinking about going back tomorrow to get some sheer curtains for the living room (which looks straight into my neighbours tightly venetianed windows), and to check out a bedside table I spotted in the bargain corner today. And I could use a better reading lamp in the bedroom.

I guess the only problem I have with Ikea is knowing when to say "when".

* * * * *

I am all too aware that this post goes against all the anti-consumerist stuff I've been writing about recently. My priority at the moment is to make myself a comfortable home, as cheaply as possible, without a car, and Ikea provided the perfect solution to that. Also, I'm hoping that these will be some long-lasting pieces of furniture - especially the armchair, which I hope to be rocking in my old age (literally).

Friday, March 04, 2011

The madness that is my life right now

Gosh. To think that only a matter of months ago, I was drifting around Victoria, flitting around the great outdoors and having plenty of time to ponder and write and enjoy the squeaky green-ness of Spring.

My life could not be any more different right now!

Fast forward a few months and I've got so much going on, I feel like a robot spooling a constant reel of times, dates, names, appointments, interviews, invoices, login codes and timesheets. I am temping for 2 different agencies, freelancing, applying for jobs, squeezing in interviews and second interviews for various full-time roles, and hunting for a flat. Of all of these things, the most stressful has been - surprisingly - the flat hunting. Normally I quite like getting to peek at other people's spaces (by which I mean, judging their taste in art and soft furnishings), but flat hunting in Melbourne - as compared to flat hunting in London - is a b*tch. I mean, I know London is the capital of convenience (to wit: a convenience store on every single corner, those lazy poms) - but I think I got used to being spoilt for choice in the UK.

Problemo 1: Melbourne is experiencing a shortage of rental properties right now - which means that by the time you book a spot in your diary to see a place, it's probably already gone. By the time you've finished reading the ad, it's probably gone. I've booked in to see nine places already, and guess how many of those I actually got to see? Two. 

Problemo 2: The above situation fosters a tribal-like competive atmosphere where you have to bid against other potential renters, and it's common to offer more than the advertised rental rate.

Problemo 3: A typical viewing time for a flat will be - for example - from 2.05pm to 2.20pm (truly). On a weekday. Hello real estates agents! Some of us have jobs? In order to be able to pay to rent a flat? Why only fifteen minutes, real estate agents?!

So I've had to cut down on those luxuries like "sleep" and "toilet breaks", but apart from that, I think I'm coping. I'm doing my best to be a world-class juggler. Is this what it's like to run a family? Because I have seriously reached my threshold of number-of-things-in-the-air-without-dropping-one-or-all-of-them. 

It's not all bad though - I have had a few promising interviews (after diary-loads of ordinary ones) and I have committed my weekend to some military-style flat-stalking. Wish me luck. And Zzz'z.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Accidental Environmentalist

Dads, in my experience, seem to fall into one of two categories - the ones who rush out to buy the latest gadget as soon as it is available at the Apple store, bugger the expense; and the ones who will happily wait several years for their preferred brand of socks (Explorer) to go on sale (at $2 off).

My father falls squarely into the latter category.

As a teenager, my Dad's frugality was a sore point for myself and my brothers. We rolled our eyes at his home-made "security" system - silver-backed tape on the windows to fool the burgulars into thinking we actually had a security system - and derided him endlessly for taking his own snacks to the cinema (not even packaged snacks - apples and gladwrapped sultanas and almonds!). We begged him to buy some new clothes to replace his worn and mended overalls and paper-thin t-shirts. We refused to tell him how much a new pair of sneakers cost to avoid the outraged rant that would inevitably follow (as far as he was concerned, anyone who paid more than $10 for a pair of shoes was being ripped off).

It wasn't that he didn't have the money to spend. It wasn't that he was greedy and loved money; he wasn't miserly in that sense. It was just that he couldn't see the need for new things where old or existing things would suffice.

Naturally, we all reacted to this tight-arsedness in various ways. I became an avid bargain-hunter, who often lashed out on pretty, useless objects just for the joy of owning them. My middle bro became a model of generosity, a soft target for chuggers and friends who endlessly "forget" their wallets. And my youngest bro married a lovely girl who comes from a family where money is made to be enjoyed, who believe in buying the best quality that you can afford, and naturally he has swung over to that way of thinking.

My Dad never changed his position.

Over time, I've come to recognise the value in my Dad's frugality. I have even taken some lessons from him - I have no qualms about picking up items from a skip or hard rubbish collection, for instance. I will often make-do with whatever I have to hand, rather than replacing it with new. Buying anything over, say $100, causes me a little twinge of panic. Of course, I still buy stuff - but while my Dad taught me to wait for something to go on sale rather than pay full price (unless I really love it or it's shoes*), my WWOOFing experience taught me to question the impact of every purchase beyond the price tag.

Lately, I've come to see that my Dad has managed, unknowingly, to be what I like to call an Accidental Environmentalist. He's not motivated by some higher environmental or spiritual goal, he just doesn't like to spend money unnecessarily - and as a side-effect, without even trying, he's been saving the planet for fifty-nine years. His values are from a different era - the Great Depression, or post-War austerity, when everyone had to make-do and mend. A time before climate change and cheap long-haul flights; before shopping became our number 1 leisure activity; before the internet, even. Imagine that, kiddies.

At some point in the future, we are probably going to be forced to revert to a simpler, more localised way of living, because our current lifestyle is simply unsustainable. If this change occurs in his lifetime, my Dad will be in his element. People will be flocking to him for his words of wisdom; he will be a guru of frugal living.

"The best thing about them is they're already worn in!" (about dead man's pyjamas from the op-shop).
"I found this old hook at a construction site on the way home, it might come in handy" (twenty years later). 
"You can eat the whole apple, you know. Are you going to eat that core?"

My Dad, the unwilling eco-warrior. We should all be more like him.

*Shoes. My weakness. I have large size 10-11 feet; there are hardly any shoes in my size and never on sale, so I will happily fork over full price for a decent pair that fit me. Or a gorgeous pair that don't quite fit me. Sorry, Dad. And planet. I'll try harder.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Me n' Heidi Klum...

Sisters in colour pairings, yeah?

Heidi at the Golden Globes the other night...

...and a resin bracelet I made at a jewellery workshop recently. It's all about tan and hot pink, baby.
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