Monday, December 09, 2013

dear summer

Dear Summer,

It was great seeing you on Saturday, and the Sunday before. But I've been thinking that it's time to take our relationship to the next level. I think you should move in. You living in Sydney and only visiting Melbourne once a week is really hard on me. I feel like you're being a tease. You maka me crazy with this game you're playing!

I just...I love you so much and I really want to spend some time with you. Let's go swimming! And have picnics in the park! And play catch! Let's get our legs waxed and run around in short-shorts! It'll be fun, I promise. I won't even make you commit long term. You can leave again in April! Just promise not to leave me alone with Winter. That guy is such a douche.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

scaling back

I've been doing a bit of thinking lately. A bit of thinking about anxiety. I've been an over-worrier my whole life, but I really feel like my anxiety has gotten worse in the past year or so. Or at any rate, I feel physical symptoms of anxiety more readily and more pronouncedly (that's a word, right?)

Three out of my five immediate family members are currently or have been in the recent past on medication for anxiety. I've been thinking lately about what I can do, short of medication, to change my symptoms and learn how to chill out.

My new job has forced me to think about this a bit more. For the past year, especially after reading The Happiness Project, I've been trying to fit more into my day by being more efficient. I've renewed my commitment to writing letters, I bought an entry-a-day journal, I've started learning to sew, I've decided to move forward with trying to start an Etsy hand knits store, I want to post at least one good photo a day to Instagram, and make new friends in this newish city by attending knitting groups and playing softball three times a week. Not to mention making a list of topics to follow up related to global health, in an effort to improve my research career prospects. Oh, and trying to design and secure a phd.

I'll try to be clear here: I was failing miserably at everything on that list before I started this new job (especially the letter writing. I don't think I've written a letter in two months). Those of you who have had a birthday in the past few months will know that I haven't been acknowledging every birthday with a hand-written note. You're lucky if you get an email! Now with the new job, I spend a lot of time in transit and have much less downtime at home than I'm used to. "I'll just bring my work and my reading books and my knitting and my sewing projects and my letter writing paper and my journal on the train!" And then I get on the train and...fall asleep.

What I've realised is that trying to make myself more efficient in order to accomplish more isn't making me happier. It's increasing my levels of anxiety. Surprise surprise, right? If I stop expecting myself to be an amazing knitter and seamstress and letter-writer and photographer and book-devouring intellectual, I'll be able to stop beating myself up for failing miserably at all of it. I might still try to have 15 different hobbies, but I have to stop holding myself up to unreasonable expectations.

I'm just gonna knit. For fun, when I have time. And post photos on Instagram when I see something worth sharing with the world. And journal as often as possible. I'll try to start writing letters again, but I make no promises. And that's plenty enough for the time being.

Now, to write all my Christmas cards and start on my Christmas decorations. :-S

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Katniss's District 12 cowl

Did you notice the wool cowl/shrug thing that Katniss wears in the opening scene of Catching Fire? I know you did. Despite the fact that the film was only released a couple weeks ago in the US and UK, there are already several patterns for the cowl available on Ravelry, and you can buy one made-to-order from Etsy. Loads of people have made various versions for themselves. Lion Brand have released a knit pattern and a crochet pattern (for using their wool, of course).

The patterns in Ravelry are much less structured than the real thing. They have big, thick collars like the film version, but then just kind of hang down limply. Still, these versions all look significantly more like the film version than the Lion Brand version does. It looks nothing like what Katniss wears! I might have to experiment myself, but I really don't know anything about knit construction. I can't seem to stop thinking about it! (Not that it ever gets cold enough in Melbourne for two layers of outerwear!) It turns out, though, that the original was woven, not knit, so that's part of why the reproductions can't quite look the same. It was designed by Maria Dora.

These are the Lion Brand versions. They make me laugh. They must be trying to avoid lawsuits for copying Dora's original designs.

This might be the most exciting thing to happen to the sci-fi knitting community since Jayne's hat (Firefly) and Rose's wristwarmers (Doctor Who)!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I bought a new purse

A couple weeks ago, we were shopping at the outlet mall that's 10min from our apartment (aren't we lucky?) In the window of the Fossil store, I saw the perfect bag. I've always loved Fossil brand. For years, I carried a green leather wallet of theirs with a pineapple embroidered on it. When it got stolen, I knew I wanted to replace it with another Fossil, and now I've been carrying that one for five years.

I'm very picky about handbags, because I tend to carry a lot of stuff around with me. I don't know how other people travel light! I can't seem to manage it. So the bag has to be big, but as I'm quite small, it can't dwarf me. And since starting the new job, I've been thinking it would be nice to have something that would fit my work laptop. kikki.K have nice Italian leather bags that are meant to fit a laptop and more, but the colors are boring and they cost more than $250.

The bag beckoning to me from the Fossil window was sage green and retro, a bit of a 1960s doctor's bag. "I think I could fit my laptop in here," I said to Hugh.

"No way," he responded.

Anyway, I didn't need it, I didn't have the money, I couldn't justify it. I put the bag out of my mind...temporarily.

This weekend, I got my first paycheck. I had no intention of going to the outlet mall. Hugh worked on Sunday, and I was gonna go to Carlton and explore the little shops there. First, I paid my bills and balanced my finances and figured out how much I have to spend until my next paycheck. After months--years, really--of living hand-to-mouth, it was a shock to see that my very first paycheck from the new job is more than enough to cover my living expenses, set some aside for savings, and still do a bit of shopping.

I still wasn't thinking about the bag, though, I swear! Not until a few hours later, when something reminded me of a bag I'd seen on Pinterest. It's a gorgeous weekender bag from Deux Lux, but they're sold out of the pretty green. I was debating whether the bold red one with green details would suit me, when I remembered the Fossil bag. I had my work laptop with me, so without really stopping to think, I grabbed the laptop and a water bottle and hopped on my bike. 

Hugh was wrong and I was right. The laptop did fit. sticks out the top slightly, but it fits lengthwise! That's all that matters. And it's pretty. That matters, too. It was the last one in sage, and they were sold out online, and it was down to $150, so I bought it. And it makes me happy. :-D

Sunday, November 17, 2013

a day in Sydney

Hugh and I went to Sydney for a day to see some old family friends who are visiting from the UK. We flew over on Saturday evening, after a busy day of shopping and attending Hugh's coworker's pear cider launch (the cider was pink and very tasty!) Hugh booked the Hilton, claiming that every decent hotel in Sydney would be equally as expensive, and they put us on the top floor with a sliver view of the Harbour Bridge. We were so high up, Hugh had to stand two feet away from the window in order to look out. Haha, wuss!

The weather had been really pretty hot in Sydney for weeks (dry enough to have really awful bush fires in much of NSW), but it went cool and rainy just for us. Gee, thanks Sydney!

Where'd that harbour view go?

On Sunday, we killed some time with shopping while Hugh's mum and her friends attended a Rememberance Day church service (same as Veterans Day). Then we met up and walked down to Darling Harbour for a nice wander. We ended up at the Chinese Garden, which Hugh and I visited when I first arrived in Australia.

I've been to my fair share of Japanese and Chinese gardens, and I've always rushed around them, taken photos from the vistas, and walked out feeling like I wasted an hour. It wasn't until Sundau that I got the point of these kinds of gardens. I realised what's probably obvious to everyone else, that they are designed for you to savour and enjoy. The vistas and pagodas and giant, interesting rocks aren't placed randomly; they're put in certain layouts to maximise peaceful moments. I'm not supposed to rush along the path; I'm supposed to sit and relax, with the sounds and sights of the big city muffled by pretty trees and birdsong.

Of course, we were a group of seven, so we didn't do loads of peaceful relaxing, but we did stop and sit by the lake for a while and notice the wildlife. In a plumeria tree, someone spotted a tiny mama bird nesting in the crook of two branches. Like the last time we were here, I was drawn to the tall, weather-worn rocks arranged upright in various places. I found a sign that explained that a rock should have three interesting faces if it is to be used for decoration. I find the "rules" of art and design, especially photography, really interesting. I wish I had more of a head for seeing them in nature.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

more washi tape

They opened a washi tape pop-up shop at Melbourne Central! My last shift at work there was on Sunday, but the pop-up shop didn't open until Monday and I started the new job (plus long commute) on Monday. I managed to delay gratification until Thursday, when my new boss and I were stationed at the city center campus. After work, I made a beeline for MC.

I only bought three rolls. Aren't I good? Then I brought them home and started decorating everything in sight. I needed a pen cup for work, and I had just finished a large pot of yogurt, so I covered it in stripes of all my different tapes. Fun!

(See my awesome mermaid washi tape from Hobart?)

Sadly, when I was running for the tram on Monday morning, the pen cup flew out of my bag and rolled under a moving car :-( When I went back in the afternoon, this was all I found. So I still need a pen cup for work.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

new job

So I started my new job last Monday and I'm really loving it so far. It's always such a relief to return to research after being out of it for a while. I may not be a great researcher, but I feel most comfortable in the research environment. I feel like there's so much I could learn, and it's stuff I'm actually interested in.

I'm working for one of the universities in Melbourne. But I'm not working in Melbourne. I'm working at one of their campuses in Geelong, a town about an hour's drive from Melbourne. The train ride from central Melbs takes about an hour, but of course, we live roughly 30min from the city and after taking a tram part way into town, then changing trains twice, it takes me just under two hours to get to or from work. It's a bit of a commute, but I'm still in the stage where it feels like an adventure. I get to take the train!

Plus, Geelong is pretty cool. I think it's the second biggest city in the state, and is maybe the size of Federal Way. It faces east onto an inlet of Port Philip. My building is right off of the waterfront and faces the Geelong Pier. Though my office is underground and only has one small window up near the ceiling, it makes me happy to know that the window is facing the bay! I keep forgetting to take a picture on sunny days (there haven't been many; where is the gorgeous Australian spring I've come to expect?)

The work is somewhat similar to work I did at the University of Edinburgh, and in enjoying it. There's lot to be done, though, and I'm starting to feel a bit overwhelmed. I have no real deadline, so I should relax and ease into it. The work isn't going anywhere!

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

building a wardrobe

(I meant to post this a week ago :-s)

The day we returned to Melbourne, with a whole day stretched ahead of me, I started to unpack my suitcase. I had been awake for some 30 hours, but was hit with a second wind and before I knew what I was doing, I had sorted through my whole closet and all of my drawers removing items I no longer fit or wear. Shirts, dresses, shoes, pajama. I've always loved a good purge, and it's spring, so it just felt right.

Ages ago, I pinned a link for a blog series teaching you how to build your wardrobe. In a moment of boredom last night, I finally started reading the posts. I'm starting a new job in a week (!) and feeling it might be time for my wardrobe to grow up a little bit. According to the series, the first step for building a wardrobe is to purge. Done!

Step two is to define your style. This requires looking at the pieces you currently wear that really work for you, and looking at pieces that you "pin" or rip out of magazines that really inspire you. I've been "pinning" for several months now and have noticed two themes: I pin ultra feminine pieces composed of tulle, lace, silk, and sequins, and I pin quirky feminine pieces. Honestly, there are 170 pins on my Clothes Horse board and 90% of them have lace, tulle, sequins, or silk. But I don't tend to wear ultra feminine pieces. I tend to trash my clothes and have never dry cleaned anything in my life, so I should really steer clear of delicate pieces. That's ok, though; I have some pieces that look delicate but are made of cotton or linen.

Step three is where you get to go shopping for key pieces. I haven't actually read the post yet, but I couldn't resist going shopping today. I don't get my next paycheck until next Friday, so I really shouldn't be buying clothes this weekend, but I work all next weekend and start the job on the following Monday.

So I went shopping today. I bought a skirt from Zara and a shirt from Topshop. They were each $60, so I felt like I overspent. I had a bit of spender's remorse on the way home. (Though logically, I know that is really cheap...for Australia.) But when I got home, I tried on the shirt with half of my wardrobe and quickly decided it was the best $60 I've ever spent! It goes with nearly everything. It's one of those pieces that shows up frequently on Pinterest and everyone says you should have one as a staple, but good ones are actually hard to find. It's like a button-down chambray type, but is a light flannel in gray. It might be slightly too warm in the summer, but it's still been cold around here so I hope I'll get some good use out of it. And the skirt will definitely be worn a lot as well. It's a long, tight, high-waisted pencil skirt in a stretchy, dark denim. I think I could get away with wearing it with most of my t-shirts and blouses.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

melbourne cup and new job!!

Today is Melbourne Cup Day, which is equivalent to the Kentucky Derby. The race is (obviously) held in Melbourne, at Flemington Race Course, about 20 minutes down the road from us. The Victorians hold this day in such high regard that it's actually a public holiday state-wide!

But I'm on day two of my new job (!!!), and the university I work for has decided that it's too much of an interruption to give the day off today, just as students are getting ready for exams and the end of the year (which is the end of the school year here in the Southern Hemisphere). Instead, they give their staff two days off in December.

So I'm off to work, which I'm totally okay with because I'm loving my shiny new job! It's always sooo good to return to academia after working in annoying customer service for a while. Also, we get to dress up for the races today! I decided not to wear my super fancy dress that I wore for Amy and D's wedding, and sadly I left my fascinator in the US, but in going with a floral sundress.

Last year, I placed a $2 bet on the Melbourne Cup and I won back $32! I doubt I'll be so lucky this year, but everyone at work is going to pitch in a few dollars to a pot. In Australia, you can go to the local pub to bet on horse races or any other sporting event. Wish me luck!

Monday, October 28, 2013

the bachelorette party

Day 2 in Seattle was the Bachelorette Party. Amy and D decided to forgo tradition (since they're not exactly a traditional couple) and have a combined party. We met Becky, John, Jody, Josh, Jody's friend Kaleigh, and Amy and D at Kushibar for dinner, then headed over en masse to Hula Hula karaoke bar.

I always thought that I could never get drunk enough to be comfortable singing into a microphone in front of other people. I think that's a sign that I grossly underestimate just how drunk I'm capable of getting. I got very drunk at the bach party.

Hugh started us off with two large tiki bowls of cocktails. They were called something like, Zombie Volcano and Zombie Apocalypse. They came with fire in the center and extra long straws. I should have known I'd be trollied before long. (Sorry, photos are awful)

I realised that night that all three of my sisters are stars. My mother and I, however, are far too shy to ever be stars.

Becky and John killing it, Billy Joel style
Amy starts laughing and can't finish the song
She makes up for it when she aces Vanilla Ice

I love Diana's face in this one. She is serious about her tiki-dancing!

Afterwards, we went for Dick's! Dick's Drive-In is an institution in Seattle. They do a few different types of burgers, fries, and three flavors of milkshake. They are the perfect after-party food.

My mother has kindly posted photos on Facebook which indicate just how wasted I was. I might have done quite a bit of inappropriate dancing on my boyfriend. When he didn't really respond (he was concentrating on keeping me from falling over), I might have started inappropriately dancing with my mother. I'm not really sure, my memory is a bit hazy.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

on the way to Merica

Hugh asked the night before we left for Seattle whether he would need a visa.

"Nah," I replied. "We're all Schengen states. We don't need visas to travel to each other's countries as tourists."

And he trusted me. Silly boy.

It turns out, I was sort of right. But also very wrong. First of all, the Schengen thing only applies to travel in Europe. Second, Australians don't need a visa to travel to the US. But they do need a visa waiver. "What's a visa waiver?" you ask. It's kinda like a visa. It's something you have to apply for and pay for, and it allows you to travel to the US for 90 days. But get this: it counts both Mexico and Canada as "the US." So if you spent 85 days in Mexico and then tried to spend 10 days in the US, you wouldn't be allowed to. I'm sorry, but since when were Mexico or Canada territories of the United States?

Anyway, luckily, you can apply at the airport and it only costs $14. Good thing we arrived early, though!

We flew Qantas, which is a pretty great airline if you can afford it. It was my first A380 journey! When I lived across from the Airbus factory in France, I got to see some of the first test flights of the A380s. They seemed to take to the air just fine, but Hugh doesn't like them. He has a fear of flying, and the larger the airplane, the more he worries that it'll fall out of the sky.

To be honest, we couldn't really tell we were on a two-story plane. The cabin felt just like any other airplane cabin (cramped, screaming children, queues for the bathroom). But the food was pretty good quality and the entertainment selection was fantastic. We watched loooots of films.

Our arrival was uneventful, and Mama, Amy, and D picked us up from the airport. It's always wonderful to be welcomed home! We introduced them to some emu and kangaroo jerky we picked up at the airport, and then we went for dinner with Pops and Michele. After dinner, even though we'd been awake for I-don't-know-how-long and the room was starting to shudder and spin around me, we met Mama, Amy, and D for cocktails in a bucket! I just can't resist them. I must find somewhere in Melbourne that serves such a thing...though it's unlikely, because Australia has rules to stop you from overdrinking and having fun.

Friday, October 18, 2013

I ❤️ Australia

I've been feeling a bit bad. When we were in Seattle, several people asked me if I was enjoying Australia or if I liked it or if I'd be staying here forever. And my response, every time, was lukewarm at best. Hugh, who was standing right next to me every time, felt a bit miffed. At one point, he apologised for taking me away from Seattle, even though I picked Australia and I've made it clear that I don't want to be in Seattle.

I've been trying to figure out why my responses weren't more enthusiastic, and I think it's a combination of factors. The main one is probably that, because I live here, Australia has become everyday. It's not mundane, exactly, but it's not hugely dissimilar to life in the US.

Anyway, why is beside the point. On the plane ride home (to Melbourne), I watched a film about an Aboriginal boy, called Satellite Boy, which was really sweet, and I also watched several episodes of a show I hadn't heard of before, called Upper Middle Bogan. It was really funny! The two portray polar opposites of Australian lifestyles, but it reminded that I do really enjoy this diverse culture, even the bits of it that are criticised for lacking culture (a "bogan" is comparable to a redneck). This is a fun place to be. And Melbourne is a beautiful place to be. And a sunny place. I like that a lot.

A customer yesterday, an international student from China, told my colleague that she didn't really like Australia, that she thinks she should have gone to America, because everyone in Australia is too laid-back and the Americans are more serious about business. Lol! I'll stick with Australia, and maybe someday some of their relaxed nature will rub off on me. Maybe.

Monday, October 14, 2013

home at last

We were in America!! And now we're not!

We went to bed at 8:30pm last night and slept soundly until 7:30am. We tried to last until at least 9pm, but I very suddenly found it impossible to be awake. I lay down on the couch and fell asleep, which Hugh took as a sign that it was bedtime, but in my fitful half-asleep state, I refused to get up and go to bed properly.

So let's figure out how long we were awake! We woke up at 9am Seattle time on Friday. We caught our plane from Los Angeles to Melbourne at 11:30pm. That's 14.5 hours of being awake.

The flight was roughly 16 hours long, for a current total of 30.5 hours. (We slept a bit on the plane, but it's such poor quality and so brief that I wouldn't count it as sleeping.)

When we landed in Melbourne, it was 9:30am. We were good and stayed up all day without napping, until I totally crashed at 8:30. So that adds 11 hours to our total, for 41.5 total hours awake! No wonder I was not a very happy Kusems! I'm amazed I even managed to stay up that long. It didn't really feel like that long, but I guess sleeping on the plane helped.

I feel great so far today, but we'll have to see how jet lag affects us this week. Wish us luck!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


I had a massive pout the other night while applying for a job. I was complaining to Hugh through the entire application process. I was just frustrated that I'd applied for countless jobs in the last six and a half months and been rejected for all of them, without so much as an interview. I didn't have much hope for this one, but I knew I needed to apply for it. I'd wanted to go to bed early that night, but I ended up working on the application until about 11:30pm, so then I was really grumpy. And after I submitted it, I realised there had been an error and it said that my current visa expired this past January. I was soooooo grumpy. I went to bed with a horrendously sour face and Hugh asked me what was wrong, then told me to just email them explaining the error. He is a wise man.

Eight days later, on Monday, I received an email inviting me to interview for that job. And the next day, yesterday, I got another invitation to interview for a different job. Two in two days, after six and a half months of nothing! Further evidence that I need to quit being a Negative Nancy and just keep chugging along. One step at a time.

In other news, I suspect my visa application may be inching forward. In order to travel to the US (or rather, in order to get back into Australia after going to the US), I had to apply (and pay for) a special travel visa. I'm on a Bridging Visa A while waiting for my Partner Visa to be approved, but you need a Bridging Visa B in order to travel. They processed that application last week, and sent me an email to say it was approved. But also included in the email was a letter requesting I get my health exam for my Partner Visa. I have to get tested for HIV and TB, among other things. So I think that's a good sign, right? I think it means they've started processing the application. Anyway, I get poked and prodded tomorrow. Wish me luck! Hopefully, I won't faint when they take blood.

Monday, September 16, 2013

some notable meals

I used to say, before I met Hugh, that I needed to find myself a man who either loved to cook, or who was rich enough that we could hire a personal chef. Luckily, Hugh fits the former description. He makes me the tastiest meals for dinner!

The other night, he was craving a Big Mac, but we're on a diet (it's a no KFC or McDonald's diet). So he decided to make a Big Mac pizza. He used a focaccia bread base, then added sausage bits, onions, pickles, and lettuce. He googled a recipe for special sauce. It didn't quite taste like a Big Mac, but it was really tasty! No complaints from this McDonald's baby!

A few nights later, he decided to tackle Kentucky Fried Chicken. My mouth is watering just remembering the result! He used little chicken strips, panko breadcrumbs, and a beer batter mix. When he had battered all the chicken, he had a bit of batter left over, so he battered a couple chunks of cheese and some slices of chorizo. Soooo yummy!! The chicken was super tender and juicy, and we ate it in pitas with lots of veggies. There might be a reason, though, why I haven't lost any weight on this "diet."

Friday, September 13, 2013

I heart Hobart, Part 2

In the late afternoon on Saturday, Hugh and I grabbed some tasty sausages for a snack, and I dripped sausage grease all down the front of my only pair of trousers. The evening was to be full of schmoozing whiskey industry peeps, so I decided to go buy a new pair of jeans. Except that shops were starting to close, and I panicked a bit, and ended up buying a silk hippie skirt that showed off my unshaven calves. It also looked totally ridiculous with my brogues. Hugh and the others went ahead to the whiskey event while I shopped, and when I turned up to the event, the girls on reception were obviously not impressed with my fashion sense. I probably would have been better off with my greasy jeans! Oh well. We had a good night anyway, and Hugh totally impressed the crowd with his talk of cold filtration and micelles (did you know that adding water to whiskey has a completely different effect on the flavour than adding ice does?)

The next morning, we headed out of town to the New Norfolk region. We grabbed breakfast at a place called Salmon Ponds, the saddest excuse for a tourist attraction I think I've ever seen. Breakfast was stellar, though! They specialise in "pancakes" (the European kind). Then we headed further out of town to Redlands Estate to visit the onsite distillery.

The Estate was large and beautiful, with loads of historic brick buildings, including a main house, a butchery, a general store, tenements, and barns/warehouses. Oh, and what looked like a Victorian tennis court, of course. It's located next to a river, and there's a resident platypus, named Mr. Scratchy that comes and runs around sometimes. On the drive back to town, we caught three mountain goats climbing the hill by the side of the road.

Hugh's coworker's girlfriend and I spent an hour in the town of New Norfolk while the boys explored the distillery. The town is small and doesn't have much going on at all, but they had an awesome stationery store called Flywheel. There was an old printing press at the back of the shop, and they sold old unused letter blocks. There were also lots of larger home decor pieces like you'd find in Anthropologie. I bought some cute shield stickers by mt.

From there, we went to the Museum of Old and New Art, or MONA, which has improved the cultural reputation of both Hobart and Tasmania. It was created by an eccentric Tasmania who has won millions as a professional card counter. The site includes the museum, living quarters for the owner, a vineyard and winery, a brewery, and a restaurant. The owner's parking space is labelled "God" and his girlfriend/wife's spot is labelled "God's Mistress." The museum is housed mostly underground, in a cavernous space that would make a fantastic evil lair. Modern and classical art pieces are scattered throughout in artistic fashion.

Hugh and I failed to grab audio guides before heading down the spiral staircase into the museum, so we didn't really understand much of what was going on. But it was modern art. I doubt the audio guide would have changed much. I always want more explanation for stuff than the audio guide, or even the artists, are willing to supply. It was a cool museum, though, and I enjoyed it, even though I chickened out and didn't have a go on the bell-adorned trampoline.

And that was about it! Back in Hobart, we had fish and chips and caught a plane home!

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Elections, blech

Ugh. Australia had a big election today, and the result is not pleasing. I won't begin to try to explain Australian politics, because I don't understand them in the slightest, but the Liberal National Party being in power does not bode well for Australia. Hugh is ready to leave the country!

The Liberal Nationals aren't very liberal. Tony Abbott, the leader of the party, is strongly against gay marriage. He opposes abortion being legal and has made so many negative comments about women that his wife and daughters had to go on TV defending him as "a good father and husband." On the election trail, he told voters they should vote for a certain female member of his party because she had "sex appeal."

The party's campaign has been all about how awful life in Australia currently is, due to the Labor Party of course. Except that life in Australia is pretty damn good. While the rest of the world is still recovering from economic recession that started in 2008, Australia has sailed through relatively unscathed. The economy here has flagged slightly, unemployment has risen slightly, but overall, people are doing fine. In the recent list of most liveable cities, Australia takes four spots in the top ten. And they only have five cities! Okay, like, seven. But Tony's gonna introduce what equate to austerity measures. Cuz those have worked so well in other countries. And also, WE DON'T NEED THEM!!

Ugh, I'm just upset because I haven't been able to get a research job, or even a research INTERVIEW, in six months, and the chances that the Liberals are going to support public health research seem pretty dang slim. So yeah. I might be working in retail for the next few years. Ohhhhh, that is a depressing thought...

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

I heart Hobart

Hugh and I spent last weekend in Tasmania, and it was so fun! I really enjoyed myself. We went to Hobart, which is the capital city of the State of Tasmania, which is an island off the southeast coast of Australia. Nine of Australia's 21 currently-operating distilleries are located in Tasmania. Hobart is a pretty small town, with just over 200,000 people living there currently. It is located to the southern end of Tasmania, and is really not all that far from Antarctica (relatively speaking). The climate is more similar to the Pacific Northwest or to southern Scotland than it is to the rest of Australia.

The Australians love a bit of what I call "regional racism," and Tasmania is the favorite object of their scorn. Because it's an island, and perhaps owing in part to its history as a penal colony, the rest of Australia likes to claim that Tasmania is rife with incest and two-headed people. They also imply that there is no culture or anything of interest to do in Tasmania, despite the fact that Hobart has loads of great shops and is a thriving bastion of hipster culture in Australia.

Hugh and his coworker were invited to present at a whiskey event on Saturday night, so we decided to make a big trip of it, with Hugh, his coworker, his coworker's girlfriend, and me flying over on Friday night. We stayed at the self-catered "Apartments on Star," in a 2-bedroom apartment. The apartment was gorgeous and had a view of the water. On Friday night, Hugh and I tried to check out the whiskey bar run by Lark Distillery, but they closed at 10pm. On a Friday. Small towns, eh? To be fair, as we wandered back to the apartment on foot, we passed quite a few raucous bars and pubs, so it's not a completely dead town.

Saturday was a big day, starting with tasty breakfast at the Tricycle Cafe off Salamanca Place. Prior to leaving Melbourne, I had made a short list of shops to check out in Hobart, and I set about checking them off my list, starting with The Maker. They had lots of little wooden craft supplies, decorative papers, homewares, and clothing designed by the woman who runs the shop. I bought some mermaid washi tape!

The Salamanca Market was in full swing, so we wandered through there a bit, then I headed into town to Liverpool St to find The Stash Cupboard. This was a really great yarn store with quite a selection of luxury wools. I bought last season's Pompom Magazine, which I've been meaning to buy but it isn't available in Victoria. I looked for wool for a sweater for Jody, but all the good ones were from a company in Seattle. It didn't feel right to buy wool in Australia that came from Seattle, for someone in Seattle. Right? Plus it was super expensive (because of the high quality). I wished there was more Australian wool available, but I know there aren't many companies making luxury wool in Oz. I tried to go to another yarn store, called the Craft Hive, but alas, it was closed.

I met back up with Hugh and we ambled back toward Salamanca Place. On the way, we stopped in at Store & Co, which was very Anthropologie-esque with pretty stationery, awesome homewares, and a smattering of clothing. They had a vintage tin dollhouse that made my heart skip a beat.

Back at the market, I pulled Hugh into the Tasmanian Woollen Co., which had a small selection of even more luxurious yarns than the last store! Hugh found two skeins of some really gorgeous dark green and blue hand-dyed merino wool. It was so beautiful...and $25 each. I spent a solid 15 minutes trying to decide whether it was worth the expense, whether I'd be able to make a nice scarf out of it, and whether Hugh would actually wear said scarf (he's never worn the one I made him last year that cost me $80.) In the end, it was too beautiful to pass up! We explored the markets some more and chatted to another whiskey distiller who runs a stall at the market. As we were talking, a long procession of zombies passed through the market. It was a pretty impressive turn-out, but the majority of the zombies totally didn't bother to stay in character. There was some very poor shuffling going on, let me tell you.

And I'm gonna leave this post there cuz this is getting quite long! Part 2 tomorrow! Or in a few days...

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Work in progress: frustrating scarf

Why do I continue to knit when I find it eternally frustrating??

I'm trying to knit Hugh a scarf. I love this wool so much, but I'm not loving trying to find an appropriate pattern for it. Hugh and I agreed that a simple (stockinette stitch) pattern would show off the wool best, but even after blocking the scarf on the left, it still curls up horribly (middle of the photo).

Plus, soaking it caused a significant change to the color, which is still pretty but no longer matches skein 2 (not shown). So I decided to try a 1x1rib, which makes it successfully lay flat, and I'm alternating skeins every two rows so there's no obvious color difference, but I just don't think the scarf on the right is as pretty, because the ribbing interrupts the natural flow of the color changes :-(

Am I just being too picky? Probably. But I want my man to love it!

Friday, August 16, 2013

I've just had an apostrophe

I've been saying for years, years, ever since finishing my Masters (and probably before), that I don't know what I want to do with my life. I've been bumbling around from job to job with a general idea that I want to do research, preferably in infectious disease, preferably tuberculosis, and preferably focusing on the social and ethical aspects of the disease and it's control. But that's as specific as I've ever been able to get. I told myself I wasn't trying hard enough to Figure It Out, that I really needed to sit down somewhere for a few hours and Figure It Out. But every time I did that, I came up with a different answer.

"What I really want to do is medical anthropology. I should get a second Masters in that!"

"What I really enjoy is sharing information. I should do a training course in health promotion!"

I never did these things because they cost shitloads of money, and while some career development courses are worth the money to advance one's career, I already have $75,000 student loan debt for a Masters degree that hasn't starting paying off yet. So I waited, and thought some more, but ultimately didn't get anywhere.

And then yesterday, at the ripe old age if 31 and a half years old, I Figured It Out. It's not that I don't know what I want to do; it's that I want to do everything! Tuberculosis, yes, but let's not neglect the neglected tropical diseases! Leishmaniasis, African trypanosomiasis, Dengue, leprosy even! And let's measure rates of notifications, and rates of underestimation, as well as using qualitative methods to understand how the disease affects the quality of life of patients, and why patients delay in going to the doctor, and why they do or don't use condoms! Let's measure health literacy and see if it correlates to outcomes. Let's evaluate interventions that provide added emotional, nutritional, or financial support to patients. I want to do it all!!

When I look at the research areas of established researchers, when I search for articles written by a specific researcher, I see that they're all the same--they want to do everything, too. And they do! Universities don't want one-trick ponies teaching their courses. They want people with a range and breadth of expertise. And I want to be one of those people!

Of course, I have to start somewhere, but this realisation liberates me. I can start virtually anywhere, and I'll still get where I want to go, because I want to go everywhere! And it gives me confidence in the conviction that the industry I want and need to be in is academia. I'd love to contribute to government health agencies, but not as a government office worker, more as a resident consultant who also works elsewhere.

If right now isn't quite the right time for me to do a PhD, then I'll be ready to pounce when the timing (and visa status) are right.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

first signs of spring!

It's spring!!! I totally wasn't expecting it. It's been colder in the last week than it has been all winter. Hugh even turned on our heater for the first time ever on Sunday. So I was happy to wait until at least September 1st before demanding that spring arrive. But the cherry trees weren't happy to wait! They have decided it is spring already and I'm inclined to follow their lead! It was also nice and warm this morning, though somehow, at 3pm, it's now freezing again. Oh well, that's spring for you!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

mysterious object, made by me!

I made a thing!

(Ignore the dust on the ukelele. We'll get around to dusting soon...) It's supposed to be a pencil case, but is actually rather large and not very strong (see below). The pattern book said I would need interfacing if I was using lightweight fabric, but I thought this twill was pretty substantial. It totally can't stand up on its own, though. Maybe if the whole thing was smaller.

I skipped ahead in my 1-2-3-Sew! book. I made projects one and two, then skipped ahead to seven. Projects three through six wouldn't have helped me make this tube less wonky, though, as none of them have anything to do with cylinders. I found the instructions for this project somewhat on the terse side, but maybe that's just because I'm a bit of moron when it comes to stuff like this.

So yeah, I have no idea what I'll use it for. With the cute vegetable print, I want to use it in the kitchen, but it won't stand up with our wooden spoons in it. I'm almost tempted to fill it with sugar! That would be silly, though, wouldn't it? I'll find something.

Friday, August 09, 2013

melbourne zoo

Our friends Owen and Jen are having a party this weekend. They are going to roast a whole pig! They asked Hugh for a bottle of whiskey to use in roasting the sucker, so I dropped it off at Owen's work yesterday. And guess where he works? The zoo! I got to see the tigers and the seals and the lions and the meercats! But the cutest of all, of course, were the otters. The ones at the zoo are littler than the ones in Seattle, and one of them kept making this adorable squeaking noise. So cute!


TRESemmé, for the well-groomed tiger.

Thursday, August 08, 2013


My softball team spent a couple days away in Anglesea this past weekend. Anglesea is a small, coastal town an hour and a bit out of Melbourne. One of the girls on the team has a holiday home there. I got totally trashed on Friday night, lounged around like a slob all day Saturday, got drunk again but not as bad on Saturday night, then we all headed back to Melbourne and played double-headers. Yeesh! By Tuesday, I had a sinus infection. I'm clearly too old for this kind of partying! (Incidentally, it didn't take long to establish that I was the oldest person in attendance. And yet I neither look it nor act it.)

The whole weekend, I only took pictures of the beach. haha! Those are my priorities! There were 16 of us there, and only four of us even bothered to go to the beach. To be fair, Anglesea is set about a mile from the beach, across marshland. And it's winter. Sadly, I think I may have ruined my Minnetonka moccasins traipsing through the mud :-( But look at that sunset!!

Friday, August 02, 2013

diy coffee

This morning, I was thinking of buying myself a coffee, but then remembered that we're super poor. (I still have some of my UK tax return, but trying not to use it all up.) Then I remembered that Hugh bought us a caffetiere, and a special plate to hold it on our stove because the gas rings are just ever so slightly too wide for it. The plate just arrived this week, so we haven't tested it out yet.

So I made myself espresso for the first time ever! I don't think I did it right, though. It seems a bit watery. I shall keep experimenting until I get it right!

Complete with one heaping teaspoon of sugar :-)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

nice surprises

I have the sweetest boyfriend in the world. He had to go to Canberra this weekend, and he had to leave at 5am on Saturday. But he left me a surprise.

He filled the electric kettle with water and set out my teacup with a tea bag ready to go.

He set out some butter and put a muffin in the toaster.

And he put some oil in the frying pan.

Ready for bacon! (He knows me so well.) He also left an "I love you!" note, of course. I realised it's the first night we've spent apart since I arrived in Australia, but it's good practice for next weekend, when I'll be ditching him for two nights!

I did sort of ruin the surprise by getting up to find out why he was making so much noise at half past 4 in the morning! Haha! It still put a huge smile on my face, though, and that's all that really matters, right?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Pi(e) Day 2013!

I woke up Monday morning and for some odd reason, my brain thought, "It's the 22nd of July." I'm not normally one to mark the date as I wake up, so I'm not sure what triggered this, but my next thought was, "It's Pi(e) Day!"

Outside of America, dates are written with the day first, and then the month, so March 14th is 14.3, not 3.14. Non-American nerds were sad to miss out on Pi(e) Day, so they designated 22/7 as Pi(e) Day, because 22 / 7 = 3.142857, which is close enough to Pi.

Anyhoo, I made a chicken and mushroom pie for dinner! Yay!

There was a bit of pastry left over, and I had some frozen berries, so I chucked those in to a pie plate, added some double cream, and put the pastry lid on. Now, I knew that I should cook the frozen berries first. I knew they were full of frozen water that would make my "pie" watery. But I couldn't be bothered. So I made some berry soup, with a soggy pastry topping! I'm so talented.

Monday, July 22, 2013

crafty weekend

Hugh and I got super crafty this weekend! On Saturday, I was planning to go to an introductory sewing course (for free!) at the Wood Street Arts Space. At the last minute, Hugh decided to come along, too. The Arts Space had sewing machines for us to use, and I took all my bits of fabric I've been collecting for the last few months. The problem was, some bits weren't washed, and others were washed but not ironed. Oops! We decided to make a cushion cover out of the world map fabric I got from Spotlight. The woman leading the class gave us lots of helpful tips about stitches to use and how to make a button closure. We switched spots so we both got to work on the machine. This pillow was a team effort! Couples sewing is fun!

After sewing, we went to Spotlight, because they were having a 40% off sale on all their yarn! I bought 12 balls of yarn, and Hugh grabbed some supplies to work on his own sewing project. Then we came home and got to work!


I made napkins! I used my 1-2-3 Sew! book--napkins are the second pattern in the book. In this project, you learn mitered corners. Trying to figure out what the instructions were telling me to do took a while, and there was a point where I wanted to shoot the author, the napkin, and myself. But once I figured it out, I was so impressed! Mitered corners are fun! I was really pleased with the result, even if it wasn't exactly square.

It rained heavily on Saturday, and I was really hoping my softball game on Sunday would be cancelled so I could stay home and craft some more. Joy of joys, it was cancelled and I got to stay home and craft! Result!