Monday, April 20, 2015

winter is coming...

Autumn has arrived in Melbourne, and it has been a wee bit chillier. It's not quite cool enough for my winter coat (which is too small anyway), but thick, cozy sweaters are needed. Over the last week, I keep finding myself going through my sweater basket and coming away disappointed. On Friday, I wore my trusty University of Washington hoodie (purchased in 2000...) over a cardigan. A sweater over a sweater. My current cardigans and sweaters just don't cut the mustard for warmth! Several of them are 3/4 length sleeves, as well. Useless!

So I went digging in my knitting pile and pulled out a chunky sweater I started February 2014. I haven't worked on it in months, and was surprised to find that it was only a couple of inches of one sleeve from being finished! C'mon Karen, get 'er done!

So I should have a new chunky sweater to wear soon. But here are some other patterns I have my eye on.

image title
Taking a Break, by Debbie Bliss

Naima, by ANKESTRiCK (pictured is lilalu's version)

Fallow, by Maria Magnusson in The Knitter

And while I'm at it, how about some of these:

Aisling, by Justyna Lorkowska

Drachenfels, by Melanie Berg (pictured is michamade's version)

Adventurer's Cowl, by Katherine Leek

Maybe if I wear them ALL together, THEN I'll be warm!!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

a February project

Last week, I decided it was time to give up the ghost of my blog. I'm obviously not motivated to keep it going, I've got a lot on my plate at work and at home, and I decided to let it go to seed.

And then this week, I changed my mind. 😄

I have had a bit of time lately to hit up a couple local libraries, and I keep grabbing crafting and home decor books, and it feels like every other page inspires a new project for our new home. There's so much space to decorate, and the house already has so much charm that it takes decoration well.

So I decided that I might try to refocus my blog into just projects. And since I'm slow with projects (real slow), and I don't want to over-commit myself, I've decided to aim to blog a new project each month.

We bought some gorgeous new furniture from IKEA a couple weeks ago (is that an oxymoron?) It's aqua/teal-coloured metal! My new fav colour! But one of the pieces in our living room is looking bare and needs some stuff on top. I thought a furniture cozy might help, so I knitted one!

I used some yarn I bought from Spotlight ages ago (I think it's a wool-acrylic blend, but no one needs to know). I used two skeins. It's a thick-and-thin, chunky yarn, so I knit it on 9.0 mm (US 13) needles. I cast on 30 stitches and knit in seed stitch.

Seed stitch:
Row 1: [Knit 1, purl 1] to end of row.
Row 2: [Purl 1, knit 1] to end of row.
Then just repeat those two rows until desired length! Voilà!

Saturday, November 08, 2014

moving out!

We're moving out!!! I'm so excited!! We applied for a place on Thursday and they phoned Hugh almost immediately, then called our bosses, then approved us. I worked from home on Friday and kept looking around at different things in our apartment and thinking, "I don't have to put up with you much longer!"

The house we applied for has been on the rental market for ages and no one has been interested in it. We ourselves viewed it twice, a month ago, and didn't take it. I loved it the first time we saw it, so when we went back the second time, I tried to be really objective and focus on the negatives. But I just noticed more things I loved! We've been debating back and forth about whether we should apply, because the location wasn't ideal. Finally, we decided to go for it.

Here's what we were looking for in a new home: more space, particularly for things like crafting and building, but also a bigger kitchen; a location that would reduce my commute to work; a location that would put us closer to town or in a younger, hipper suburb; someplace we could have BBQs, because an Australian who is not barbecuing is not living the Australian dream; preferably, a house, with no one living above, below, both sides, and with a balcony that looks directly onto ours.

This house has Loads more space. More space even than lots of the other properties we viewed. It has both a front and back garden, albeit small, but neither has a lawn so Hugh is happy about that. He doesn't want to mow. We could have a BBQ out the back. And it's a house. There are neighbors either side, but none of our windows look into their windows, and there is an wide alley separating us from the neighbours at the back.

But the location. It's only two train stations further into town than we currently are, so doesn't cut my train journey down by much. The train station is a 15 minute walk away, and there's no tram on the doorstep, or anywhere near. Our friends are still unlikely to want to trek out there to visit us, so we will still be home-bodies. And the road it's on is kinda busy and noisy. These are the reasons we hesitated to take it.

Then I looked up buses, and realised that there's a bus just down the road that takes me to the train station where my regional train to work stops. I.e. instead of taking a tram, a train, another train, and a third train to get to work, I can just take a 20 min bus, and one train. Boom.

And I decided that I want to take swimming lessons this summer cuz I never learned proper strokes or how to breathe while swimming, and there's a big "leisure centre" just down the road that offers adult swimming lessons!

There is much more that we love about this house, but I might save that for when we move in and I can do a photo tour. Here is a preview:  Isn't it just TOO DAMN CUTE?!?

Sunday, November 02, 2014

the property game

Hugh and I are looking for a new place to live. There is an ad running on TV at the moment that says that Melbourne doesn't have a property market; it's a property game. While I don't agree that those two are mutually exclusive, finding a home here is certainly a game.

[It appears that, after telling everyone we were moving to Sydney in November, we failed to tell a significant number of people that we are NOT, in fact, moving to Sydney at all.]

Here's how finding a new place to rent works in Melbourne: is the most widely used website, and has a pretty good app. You star the properties you want to shortlist, then there's a feature where you can view all the properties being shown on a given day, in chronological order of when they're being shown, so it's easy to plan all your viewings. Here's what that looks like:

I love the little "time to relax" drink at the bottom of the list 😄

That's part of the dumb, game-y bit: real estate agents only show a property once on a given day, and for only 10-15 minutes. They might show a property twice in one week, but usually they'll only show it once a week.

At any given viewing, between 6 and 16 people will show up. Since most people shop by neighborhood, we'll go to one viewing on Saturday morning, then continue to see the same people at subsequent viewings. This could engender some form of comraderie, except that this is a game, and we are competitors. These bastards might snatch this AMAZING property from right under your nose!

The agent doesn't do much. They open the door to let the flood of people in, then stand outside handing out applications to the interested parties. And unless you hate the place, you take an application. When you're only given 10 minutes to see a place, and there are 15 other people there, it's difficult to make a decision on the spot. I'm amassing quite a collection of applications myself.

Of those 16 people you viewed the property with, whoever gets their application in first is considered first.

But most places aren't amazing. This is the other shitty part of the property game: apparently, the landlords have all the power. There is a huge epidemic of "investment properties" in Melbourne, as in, anyone with a bit of cash buys up properties, then rents them out to young people, who can't afford to buy properties because they've all been bought up already. The plus side of this is that, as a renter, there is a wide variety of properties available to rent; apartments, houses, warehouse conversions, you name it.

The downside is that most landlords can't be bothered to put any money into their investment property, so houses that are in awful condition get rented out in awful condition. We viewed one place in a gorgeous neighborhood, very convenient to the city, which had a breakfast nook with rusty brown marks showing through the peeling, no-longer-white paint. It looked like actual shit smeared on the walls. It would have taken someone three hours to slap one or two coats of paint on that wall before showing it to potential renters, but they couldn't be bothered. And they were asking $410 per week ($1775 per month).

So that's what we're up against. We've gone house-hunting every Saturday for three weeks now. We've applied for two properties and been rejected for both (we viewed on Saturday and waited until Monday to apply, so we were probably too late.) But we aren't in a hurry because we don't have to vacate our current place at any time. So we'll be picky, and keep collecting applications.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

an actual pillow

A long, long time ago, Hugh and I made a map pillow case together. Remember?? Probably not, it was a while ago.

But we sewed it...together. Then we went straight out and bought a pillow to put inside it, and some buttons to fasten it closed. And then, a year and three months later, I attached the buttons!

When we were in Italy, Kasia gave me this super cute owl. He came with little scissors and a spool of twine which feeds through his beak. He helped inspire me to finally finish the map pillow!

I tried to think piratey thoughts as I attached the buttons. When it came to the fasteners, my piratey thought was that the twine wasn't rope-like enough. What would a pirate do? Why, he'd make one of those knotted hair wrap things that we used to make in middle school!

Okay, that sounds a bit absurd, but when I think about, Captain Jack Sparrow definitely had a couple in his hair.

So I got to knotting, and made some little loops to hook around the buttons. And that was it! I finished something! As much as I looove procrastinating, finishing projects feels pretty amazing.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

edinburgh 2014

So, wow, news, right? Hugh and I have been back from our trip for a week now. It was a lot of fun! We went to Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, and northern Italy.

I'll always remember Edinburgh as being stunningly beautiful, but it still took my breath away all over again. Every turn you take in the city presents a view or vista like none anywhere else in the world. And the weather was just perfect.

We stayed at the Grassmarket Hotel, which is a new boutique hotel in, well, the Grassmarket. When we lived in Edinburgh, Hugh lived just up the other end of the Grassmarket, near all the strip clubs, so it felt like home being back in that area. The hotel was really nice as well (though super humid and very "cosy"). We enjoyed our stay there. It didn't take long to confirm, though, that I am definitely allergic to Edinburgh. Sad, hey?

At the end of our first full day there, when we were still battling jet lag, Hugh had a surprise for me. It was a little black box with a ring in it! He's such a romantic, and a sweetie, and doesn't he have good taste? It has cherry blossoms all the way around. He's definitely a keeper. The jet lag may have prevented us both from handling the proposal in the best possible way, though, and I'm sure our grandchildren will love hearing about how I shouted "What is this?!" at their grandfather when he gave me an engagement ring.

And here we are at the pub where we first met. It was first week back at university, and the pub was chock full of freshman being hazed, so we didn't linger. We had to make a pilgrimage back to where it all started, though.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

diy travel journal

We travel to the UK in less than a week! Then Italy a week after that! I'm so very excited!

I've been spending an inordinate amount of time on stationery websites lately. Blogs about stationery, websites selling stationery, photos of other peoples' artistic stationery. I stumbled on the Seaweed Kisses blog and her description of how she uses her Midori Travellers Notebook. "What's that?" I asked myself, and followed the link to a shop selling them. That website provided even more journaling inspiration, and before I knew it, I was obsessed with having a new travel journal for this trip! The website provided several options, but I knew Hugh would judge me for buying ANOTHER notebook/journal. I have several in current use, as well as multiple waiting to be used. I have one Kikki.K journal I bought months ago that still has the wrapping on.

Also, I've had travel journals in the past, and haven't used them, or have used them for the first two days, then not the rest of the trip. Do I really need another unfinished journal sitting around the house?

I also love the idea of "smash" journals, or commonplace books as they were known in the olden days. One notebook that I can put everything in. Clippings, to do lists, thoughts, etc.

So I decided to use one of the three journals that I am currently using (and is super cute to boot), and turn part of it into a travel journal. Here's what I did!

First of all, ya gotta have a map of the world, just in case you forget where you're going or where home is. I googled world map pics, and printed this one out. Then what? Why, washi tape treatment, of course! Also, every good travel journal provides an area for your packing list. Some even include suggestions of ten or so common items to pack. The Moleskin travel journal assumes very little, printing only "toothbrush" on its packing lists. Clean underwear be damned!

Then I wanted a monthly calendar spread.

And pages to devote to scheduling each day of our trip. Not that I plan to schedule every moment! Hugh and I are both definitely fly by the seats of our pants-ers.

I wanted an expenses spread. I have absolutely no idea how to budget for this trip, so I'll record how much I end up spending, and maybe that'll give me an idea for future trips.

Then planning pages for each city, which I get to fill out now! Yay!

I also did a page for addresses, and an envelope stuck in to hold stamps and other bits, and more envelopes throughout. I'm pretty proud of how these two turned out!

For a while, I've been wanting a way to print out little daily photos for my daily journal. I thought about getting a Fuji Instax camera, which is basically a modern-day Polaroid camera. Then I was looking at a new Polaroid camera that has a bit more functionality than the Instax. Then Hugh was like, "Why don't you just buy the Fuji Instax printer, then you can print photos off of your phone?" Uh, the what-what? Off my phone? Why yes, that is actually exactly what I wanted. So I bought one! It arrived yesterday and I love it! It's only little, so I can bring it on the trip. And it prints any photo off of your phone or Instagram or Facebook accounts. The photo printed below (which is still in the processing of developing there) is from Valentine's Day 2013.

Friday, August 29, 2014

big news

So yeah...I GOT MY VISA!!!!!!!!!!!! Woohooooooo!!!!

I got it on Tuesday, while I was at work. My boss and coworkers were all really happy for me. I emailed Hugh and then called him, and he was all "Yeah, whatever, I knew you'd get it." Honestly, my friends and coworkers were more excited than he was. Silly boy.

It took 14 months to the day. That's a long flippin' time. And they still took my money for the travel visa, which I now no longer need. But it's a small price to pay, eh?

I've thought a lot over the last several months about how excitedly I would blog about getting my visa. But it's been four days and I'm only just getting around to it. I guess I did feel a bit like Hugh, that it was bound to come soon and it's not that big a deal. But at the same time, I feel more secure. In a way, I feel more like a person. That sounds weird, doesn't it? I don't know how else to describe it. I feel validated. I mean, I had rights to stay while waiting for the visa, and full work rights, and I had a job with a two-year contract. I even had free access to the national health service. Nothing has actually changed now that the visa is approved, except that there's now no possibility of being given 28 days notice to leave the country. And that wasn't even a very likely scenario. But I feel different all the same. It's a sense of security.

Friday, August 15, 2014

I wished for stickers

I was a bit annoyed today. Okay, more than a bit. I might have shed a couple tears.

I was frustrated with immigration. It's been 13.5 months since I lodged my visa application. It cost $4000 to apply. To travel to the US last October, I had to pay another $125 for a travel visa (to allow me to reenter Australia). Well now we're about to travel to the UK, and because my partner visa is still pending, I had to apply for another travel visa, this time $140. I went into the immigration office on Monday to apply, and the woman told me that they wouldn't process my travel visa application until closer to our travel dates, and they wouldn't charge me the money until they did, so that could give my partner visa more time to be processed.

And that's where the trouble started: I started fantasising that my partner visa would be processed before we travel, perhaps even by the end of the week! I wouldn't have to worry any more, my long year and a bit of wondering would be over, and I'd be saved $140! (That's the most important bit 😜)

So I was probably a little bit too disappointed today when I received an email saying that my travel visa was approved and thank you very much for the $140. Grr. Does that mean they have no intention of processing and deciding on my partner visa for at least three more weeks?

It's really not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. I have a well-paying job! I've got savings for this trip (finally). I can certainly afford $140. I'm just being impatient.

I had a cookie last night with a birthday candle, and I wished for stickers. So Hugh bought me stickers today because he knew I was upset. Mwaaaaahhhhhh!! He is the sweetest! He also bought me a little journal with a lions face on it! He is really too good to be true.

(I also bought myself stickers today, totally forgetting that I had wished for them last night.)

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