Saturday, June 29, 2013

1000 Steps

I joined a hiking club! Can you believe that? First softball, now hiking. You'd almost get the impression that I like being active.

I joined my first hike on Monday. It was in the Dandenongs, a little mountain range on the outer edges of the greater Melbourne area. (I think. Don't quote me on that information.) I caught a commuter train to the start of the hike and met up with the rest of the group. We were climbing a track called The 1000 Steps, though the others informed me that it's really only about 750 steps.

I quite like hiking, compared to jogging or running, which I passionately despise. But I'm out of shape, and it wasn't long before the rest of the group had disappeared and left me huffing and puffing at a snail's pace up those 750 steps. Meanwhile, lithe young ladies in exercise gear jogged past me.

When we reached the top, there was an option to hike back down and go home, or continue on a longer track for the next several hours. I was the only one to choose home. It's important to know one's limits! And it did afford me a nice walk through peaceful woods.

Well, somewhat peaceful. Now and again, a branch would creak threateningly. A few weeks ago, when we were in Adelaide, I had dinner with my friend and her new man. Her man carried a pager, a satellite phone, and a iPhone which all kept bleeping at him. It seems he is a weekend volunteer for tree-clearing services, and there were some felled branches that needed attention. I commented that I found that odd, given the weather. It had rained very heavily the previous day, but there hadn't been any wind to speak of. Was the rain causing branches to fall? They explained to me that gum trees drop their branches willy-nilly, whenever they want. Tree-clearing services operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. So yeah, good information to know as you walk through a forest of eucalyptus trees...

A little bit of research tells me that these trees are giant mountain ash trees, or eucalyptus regnans. The tallest living tree of this species is the third tallest (living) tree in the world, but historical records indicate that there used to be an even taller one, giving the species the potential to be the tallest in the world. Hard to say for sure, but it certainly competes with the redwoods and other western U.S. giants.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Recycled yarn

I was in the mood yesterday to do some second-hand store trawling, but I've been to our local Salvo's (Salvation Army)  recently and there's never much there. So I caught a bus to the Salvo's in Brunswick East, which someone recommended.

First, I found a pair of daimty purple and black heels, in my size, which might be just the thing for Amy and Diana's wedding.

Then I found some melamine souvenir ring dishes from Malta. One in particular caught my eye and I figured I could use it on my dresser to hold all the random bits that inevitably collect there. It has a photo of a sunshiney scene with palm trees. That makes me happy.

Then I found a knit sweater that I thought was rather ugly, but which was made with a cool rose-and-metallic yarn that is just what I've been looking for! I've been seeing lots online about unpicking op shop sweaters to recycle the wool, so I've had my eye out lately. Patons has a great chunky wool with metallic bits called Stella that I quite like, but the balls are $7.99 each. While that's actually really cheap for yarn, it still means I'd have to pay about $60 for enough to make a sweater. But here was a sweater's worth of metallic yarn for $6.99! I couldn't pass that up.

This sweater was actually hand-knit by someone. It doesn't have manufacturer's tags or anything, and that hole on the front is an error, not a rip. It made me feel a little bad undoing it, but the maker (or recipient?) obviously wasn't very happy with it, and I am providing an opportunity for it to be reincarnated. Lots of love surely went into it, and it deserves to be pretty and appreciated.

I spent the evening unpicking it all, then I soaked my hanks in hot water with a bit of shampoo. I meant to only soak for a couple hours, but I forgot about it and left it for ages. Makes no difference, though. Now the hanks are drying in our dish drying rack ;-)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

From the library

I love libraries. I don't know why more people don't use them. They're great!

I grabbed this little stack of books as things to flip through during quiet moments, to get inspiration.

I have flipped through Things I Love several times in book stores, hoping that it would be a crafting book (it always seems to be located with the crafting books), and I always return it to the shelves slightly disappointed. But when I saw it on the library shelf, I decided to give it a proper going through, because a) it's free! and b) design books are great for inspiration and just general ogling of pretty things. It is a pretty cool book. Morton separates it into four sections: houses I love, things I love, people I love, and tasks I love (or something like that, can't remember what it was called, but it's a section with great tips for styling.)

D.E.S.I.G.N. really impressed me. I think it is aimed at kids, but not so obviously that adults can't enjoy it as a coffee table book. It is illustrated throughout and features 69 pieces of instantly recognisable furniture or home wares that have changed the way people think about how functional items should look. There's the lips couch, bean bag chairs, the egg chair, the indestructible IKEA couch, even a sofa made to feel like you're sitting in a patch of giant grass. It was a good reminder that some of the world's most common funky furniture was once an impossible or unlikely idea in a brilliant designer's head. D.E.S.I.G.N. would be a great book for any school library to get kids' creative juices flowing.

Op Shop Chic was not so much my taste. It was a bit more granny than I like my crafting books to be and involved a lot of ideas like, "Buy vintage fabric from a charity shop" (not really that easy to do). Then, "If it's a tea towel, turn it into a pillow. If it's a sheet, turn it into a tea towel!"


Well, it is done...kinda. After weeks of stressing and worrying about a plethora of minor details, I submitted my de facto partner visa application this morning. I arrived at the Department of Immigration and Citizenship half an hour after they opened. It was a good decision, because it was nearly empty and I hardly had to wait at all. I was really nervous last night and this morning, because I still haven't received statutory declarations from three people. I'm supposed to have at least two from Australian citizens, but I've only received one from Hugh's sister's boyfriend, and one from Becky and John (who are obviously not Australian citizens). But my visa expires today, so I had to submit it.

As before, the people on reception were really friendly and helpful. The guy told me it wouldn't be a problem that I didn't have the stat decs, as long as I had my application forms. Oh man, I had way more paperwork than just the application forms! I meant to take a picture of my stack, but I forgot. In the end, it wasn't as massive as I'd expected, but it's still substantial.

The agent who processed my application (and relieved me of $3975), confirmed that I could just mail in the stat decs when they arrive, but she said someone "in my circumstances" didn't even really need stat decs because I'm on a valid visa and applying from within the country. That would have been nice to know before I harangued Hugh to harangue his friends and family every three days! But it's always better to over perform than to under perform, isn't it?

Anyway, now I wait. Approximately 13-18 months. But I really think my application is solid (I hope), so I'm not too concerned about the outcome. What matters is that I can breathe again, and start looking for jobs again.

I'm left with a feeling that I really should start smiling more in public. And if I really want to fit in in Australia, I need to learn to chill out. Today marks my one-year anniversary of leading a charmed life in this lucky country. Yay :-D

(In celebration, I bought a giant arancini ball. Yum!)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

My first softball game

I told Hugh not to pay my softball fees yet because, after my first practice last Wednesday, I wasn't sure I still wanted to play. I'm so bad!! At least as bad as I was when I was 11, if not worse. I told him I would play in the game on Sunday and then decide.

It was fun. The team I'm on is...not hugely better than I am. So it's all good! I don't feel like the weakest player on the team! I might be tied for worst, but that's something.

The field was pretty muddy, particularly behind the second baseline, where I was stationed. Our coach said there would be an award for whoever was dirtiest at the end of the game, and I thought to myself, I'm perfectly happy to leave that award to someone else. The ball came near me and as I ran to grab it, I somehow fell feet over head in the mud and ended up rolling towards first base so that almost every part of my body was covered in mud. Oops. Hugh said he was really proud of me, though, because even though I was a bit surprised to find myself on the ground, and soaking and covered in mud, I made sure to chuck the ball as best I could towards first base. It didn't make a difference, the runner was still safe, but I think I earned an A for Effort.

My prize for being the dirtiest was that I got to ride the tram home covered in mud. Yaaay!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Cleland Wildlife Park

On Sunday, Hugh's mum and I weren't sure what to do for the day, but I happened to mention that I hadn't been to Cleland Wildlife Park yet, so it was settled. At Cleland, you can hold a koala. That's right, a koala! And they have all the other wonderful Australian animals, too. Wallabies, wombats, Tasmanian devils, potoroos, kangaroos, bandicoots, and more! In my year here in Australia, I've seen one pet baby kangaroo, and that's it. I haven't seen any other Aussie critters (except birds), not even from the road! So I was pretty excited for Cleland.

I fed lots of little guys and patted a koala's butt. I even saw a kangaroo with a joey! So cool!!

Either potoroos or bandicoots (can't remember which)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Exercise gear

Hugh and I both have a weakness for junk food, and our apartment building sits directly across the road from a McDonald's, which is next door to a KFC. Needless to say, both of our waistbands have been expanding lately. And now that I'm not working, I spend almost all of my time sitting on the couch like a slob. So Hugh and I have been talking about joining a gym. I'm normally totally resistant to such nonsense, since I'm allergic to both exercise and wasting money, but I need to make a change. There's a YMCA nearby, with a pool!, so we'll probably join there. But Hugh also started looking up sports clubs, since he'd like to get back into fencing and/or field hockey, and he found a softball club for me to join. Practice is tomorrow! Eep!

So now I'm joining a softball team, if all goes well. Hugh took me shopping yesterday to get running shoes, and while we were at it, I also got a sports bra, some leggings, some tracky bottoms, a hoody, two t-shirts, and two pairs of underwear. Oh, and socks. Almost everything was Bonds, my absolute favourite Australian brand. They make underwear and comfy loungewear. I'm so excited to wear it all to practice!

Friday, June 07, 2013

Incoming mail: cuff links

Hugh has been wanting to get crafty, and he has a coworker who is leaving, so he decided to make him a parting gift of cuff links. He purchased the metal bases from Etsy , which arrived in a homemade envelope. Now he will attach whiskey bottle stoppers to the cuff link bases.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Art Gallery of South Australia

I had some time to kill on Friday afternoon while Hugh and his coworker got started with their whiskey conference. We all had lunch together at the Central Markets Asian food court. The boys had yum cha while I went for Korean. It was delish, and I was reminded that Adelaide has some great things going for it!

Then I headed out on my own to kill time. Annoyingly, it was raining, and didn't stop raining until late in the evening, and my suede moccasins were soon a bit damp. We were lucky, though--Melbourne experienced record rainfall on Friday, with 48.6 millimetres in 24 hours (that's, like, 2 inches). Five motorists were stranded in floodwaters!

I visited my old work to say 'hulloo' to work buddies, but then I was at a bit of a loss. I decided to hang out at the library until it closed at 6pm, then take advantage of late night shopping to stay dry in the department stores.

Note: In Australia, stores and malls generally close at 6ish. But once a week, Friday in the city and Thursday in the suburbs, stores and malls stay open until 9pm. This is called, "late night shopping." Oooh, they live large out here!

However, the Art Gallery of South Australia is on the way to the library, and I remembered that I never did check it out when I lived in Adelaide. So I stepped inside. There was a large desk in front of me, staffed by two women. I tentatively approached. "Hello," I said. "Er, how much..."

"It's free," the nice lady informed me. Ah, excellent, my favorite price! I checked my coat (also free!), deposited a couple dollars in the donations box, and stepped into the first gallery.

It was then that I remembered that I hate art, especially old art. Meh, too late, I'm committed now. I checked my coat, after all. But it wasn't long before I found a pretty piece of Australian metalwork that I quite liked: it was tall, like a large candlestick or a small side table, and held a crystal bowl at the top. Basically, a candy dish holder. But the candlestick bit of it was made to look like a palm tree, and had a metalwork landscape at the base of the tree, and even a metalwork Aboriginal man with a spear. It was beautiful, and there were several of them! As I ventured deeper into the museum, it became clear that the museum was under a bit of construction. The floorplan definitely didn't match my map. I also noticed that some of the rooms had a mixture of old European artwork, and modern artwork. I'm not sure if this was intentional, or simply because of the construction, but it was brilliant! It drew me into the "boring" rooms with really interesting installation pieces, so I ended up looking at everything. One room, featuring homewares, included a plaster toaster decorated in bright colors and referring to the Cold War, as well as a beautiful Japanese bookshelf created for Westerners, with shelves at offset levels, which for some reason I really wanted to be a dollhouse. I never quite did grow up...

All in all, I was really pleasantly surprised with the gallery. I shouldn't have put off going there, but it was a perfect diversion for this rainy day. When I left, I deposited a couple more dollars in the box.

Certified Copies

Filling out the application for my de facto partner visa is not a completely straightforward task. There are a lot of ambiguities and questions, and for each of these, there are five different answers to be found online. For example, today I am wondering if photocopies of cards, letters, bank statements, etc need to be certified by someone to say they are copies of originals (i.e. you take the original document and the photocopy to someone like a pharmacist and they certify that they are copies of the same document).

The answers found online are:

No, you only need to certify identification documents (passport, birth certificate)
Yes, you need to certify everything
Yes and no, certify bank statements but not cards and letters

So I called Immigration. Actually, that's a bit misleading. I called Immigration, then searched the web in the 15 minutes of hold time before an operator was able to answer my call.

She said to certify anything that has been photocopied. So there you have it, from the horse's mouth, in 2013, get everything certified. This is my stack of photocopied letters from family members. This doesn't include any of the bills or bank statements or life insurance policies, etc, that I'll need to include. In other words, this is just a fraction of the paperwork that will need to be signed (and yes, they have to stamp and sign every page). My local pharmacist is going to HATE me!

Monday, June 03, 2013

Drive to Adelaide

We drove over to Adelaide on Thursday, arriving in the Adelaide Hills in time to catch the sunset from Mt. Lofty. I was surprised how green everything was! I visited the hills a few times in July of last year, mid-winter, and maybe I've just forgotten how green it was then. Or maybe it looked less green because there weren't bright orange leaves on the trees to contrast with the green fields. Anyway, it's lovely and makes me think of Halloween and Thanksgiving and Christmas...sigh. I'll have to create special Australian holidays to get me through the winter. Pi(e) Day is in July...I could make something of that. Anyway, June will probs be taken up with my visa application.

Giant Koala, somewhere in Victoria (it has red laser eyes that glow at night.)

Port Adelaide from Mt. Lofty.