Four ways I’m embracing winter 

Dressing warmly has me hot under the collar 😉

I haven’t had a proper winter in a long time. I lived in the land of perpetual sunshine for three and a half years (Western Australia) and then chased summer around the world for a year and a half. As a result I am totally embracing the cooler weather this year. The foggy mornings, endless cups of tea, the chilly sunsets (why is it the clouds go the most insane colours in winter?!), snuggling up under 3 layers atop an electric blanket. It’s magic.

Along with Canberra and Hobart, Melbourne is one of the colder capital cities in Australia. Our weather is famous for being changeable and people love to complain about the seemingly endless winter. Here’s how I’m embracing the cold season:

Starting the day right 

I love porridge and I feel like it gets a bad wrap! My mum calls it ‘wallpaper paste’. I’ve had porridge for breakfast every morning for about a month now, I either have it with banana, cinnamon, a drop of vanilla essence and some desiccated coconut or I grate a pink lady apple into it and add cinnamon. It’s like apple pie for breakfast. It keeps me full for ages and warms me up from the inside out.

Dressing the part 

When I lived in Kalgoorlie, which is slightly colder than the rest of Western Aus, my Perth friends would put on a synthetic jumper and a pleather jacket and complain about the cold. Haha! Investing in natural fibres like wool, down, leather and fur (if you’re into that) is the way to go. I bought three 100% Merino wool sweaters from Uniqlo for $40 each and have had them on high rotation. They are so soft and warm; I got two turtle necks in white and black plus a maroon crew neck. They go with everything. I also purchased this 100% wool coat from Sportsgirl in anticipation of single digit forecasts.

I don’t know who was it who said ‘there is no bad weather, only bad clothes’ but it’s so true! Having plenty of tights, thermals and decent socks makes getting dressed in winter so much easier.

My what a warm neck you have!

Soups, soups, soups (and maybe a slow cooker) 

Pumpkin and sweet potato soup

I haven’t hit the slow cooker yet but I’ve been making soups like a madwoman. I mostly just throw a load of veggies (onion, garlic, carrots, celery, sometimes sweet potato and spinach or whatever is in the crisper) into a huge pot and add liquid vegetable stock and maybe a tin of crushed tomatoes. Then I might add a tin of lentils and a bunch of Moroccan spices or a tin of kidney beans and Mexican spices. When the veggies are soft and the soup has cooled a bit I put it through the blender in batches. I’ve added chopped up cooked chicken and pork leftover from a roast to add in for protein. I now eat soup for most lunches and dinners and have a freezer full of it! So cheap, tasty, warm and healthy.

Winter mini breaks

I have two winter mini breaks planned over the next few months. One to Bright which is at the foot of the Victorian high country and a base for hitting the ski fields. And a second to Hobart, Tasmania. Seeing snow makes me feel very affectionately towards winter! Even a light dusting is cosy and romantic. I can’t wait for open fireplaces and snowy walks. Although, I’ll never forget the time I had to move house, on a tram, during a snow storm in Vienna… that was less romantic!

Is it cold where you live?

Posted in Melbourne, Misc | 1 Comment

Life lately

Well, well, well. I seems such a long time since I’ve blogged consistently. To think I managed to blog more often when lived in a remote mining town AND when I was on the road contending with abysmal wifi is somewhat shameful. Life hey? It’s either busier or I don’t have a handle on time management. A bit of both probably.

So what’s been happening? Well a couple of weekends ago I flew over to Perth to celebrate the engagement of these two:

Bec and Scottie, whom you may remember from Rome or from when we lived together in an adorable cottage with a white picket fence. Bec’s parents hosted the party at their house and absolutely no effort was spared in putting together this spectacular evening. Bec’s mum painstakingly put together all of the decorations; everything from the floral wreaths to the lighting configurations to the forest of white trees lining the pool. It looked wonderful.

Bec and I

It was a major Kalgoorlie catch up and so good to see everyone and get up to speed on two years of gossip.

As per usual we burnt up the dance floor into the miniscule hours and spent Sunday a little worse for wear. Totally worth it!

So many laughs

It’s amazing to think back to how young we were when we all met in Kalgoorlie in our first graduate journo jobs, figuring out life and love in the dusty Goldfields. Not these guys are gettin’ hitched!

I also saw my old community theatre friends and had an amazing evening with them over cheese platters, pizza and sparkling wine. Wish I’d remembered to bring my proper camera out!

What else? It’s getting very chilly here in Melbourne which I’m loving. I’ve been working a lot which I’m not loving. I have a few mini breaks coming up which will be wonderful. I’ve been binging hard on Orange is the New Black (so weird to think we watched the last season in London!) and Master of None, are you watching? And eating a lot of soup!

OH! And this biggest update is that I am now blonde.

What’s news with you?

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What’s your food philosophy?

Tucking into dinner in Naxos, Greek Islands

That was the first question on a list I was given by Liz from I Spy Plum Pie when asked to feature in the Foodie Files segment of her blog. I was kind of stumped. I’m not someone who only eats organic, locally sourced produce. I don’t kneel at the altar of paleo or gluten free living. Do I even have a food philosophy?! Turns out I do, and you can read my answer here.

What dictates what you eat? Time? Flavour? Where you live? Health benefits? Money? I remember hearing from a woman on a podcast who was amazed at the variety of foods the chefs at her college could make, even if it was just spaghetti or mince meat tacos. The reason? Her family had eaten chicken for dinner every single night of her childhood. She just thought that’s what everyone did!

When you’re fortunate enough that daily food is a given and not a luxury, it’s interesting to think about why you eat what you do.

Even if it’s a burger in a bikini in Bali.

Extravagant

Your thoughts?

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My top 8 blue water travel destinations

Some people love mountains, others a quaint countryside. Some are fascinated by volcanoes or find ultimate paradise in the mist of a thundering waterfall. Me? I love blue water. Especially the kind you can snorkel in. Here are my top 8 best blue water locations around the world:

Savai’i, Samoa

I visited Samoa in 2013 when my sister lived there. After I arrived by plane on the mainland we took a ferry to the smaller island of Savai’i. It was my first (and only!) experience on a South Pacific island and it was magic. So many of the beaches in Samoa were completely deserted, it was bizarre and wonderful. I’ll definitely be back in the region one day.

Crete, Greek Islands

I knew I would love the Greek Islands and Crete didn’t let me down. The water is that deep rich blue, different to what you find around tropical islands. I probably swam more there than in my entire life.

Coral Bay, Western Australia

Andy took me to Coral Bay for my birthday after we’d been together about 6 months (way to set the bar high early!). The water is extremely clear and the Ningaloo Reef provides some of the best snorkelling in Australia.

Caye Caulker, Belize

Kayaking near the Split

I don’t think I’ll ever be over this small island off the coast of Belize. When someone asks me where my favourite place is from our 16 month long trip I always say Caye Caulker (and Mexico). The snorkel trip we did there was probably the best day of my life to date! I have a large framed photo of the turtle below on my desk at work.

Snorkelling in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve off Caye Caulker

Dhermi, Albania

Dhermi

So blue. So cheap. Friendly locals. What’s not to love?

Floating

Banff, Canada

Moraine Lake

A controversial entry, given all my other blue water destinations are warm and involve swimming, but the glaciers in Banff give the lakes the most incredible blue colour. It almost doesn’t look real. I actually think Moraine Lake is even more spectacular than Lake Louise.

The Archipelago of San Bernando, Colombia

The Archipelago of San Bernardo is a set of nine coastal coral islands and one artificial island belonging to and governed by Colombia, located in the Gulf of Morrosquillo in the Caribbean Sea. We stayed in the most incredible floating tree house hostel there, surrounded on all sides by the most beautiful water.

Esperance, Western Australia

This was meant to be a list of 7… but then I remembered one of my most beloved places on this green earth. There’s a reason I look 25 trips to Esperance over the three and a half years I lived in the region. It has the most beautiful, secluded beaches I’ve ever experienced. So often I’ve been the only one on the sand (save for a few friendly local kangaroos). It’s a long drive there but so worth the journey.

Got any blue water destinations you can recommend? What do you look for in a travel destination?

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East Africa is calling

Full photo credit to my sister Sarah for these beauties

My sister took these photos in Rwanda. That’s where she lives, with her man Nady in Kigali. I’ve just had 5 weeks of leave approved so in September/October that’s where I’m heading. To see animals, to climb volcanoes, swim in lakes, stand on white sand beaches and spend time with some of my favourite people. I can’t wait!

We’ll hopefully get to see not only Rwanda, but Tanzania (hence the white sand beaches), Uganda, Kenya and the DRC. I’ve never been on the African continent so this is extra exciting. If you have any travel tips or advice please let me know. I’m excited to blog all our adventures. But for now I’ll be saving money, hibernating all winter, updating my passport which has run out of pages (!), pretending to do a bit of research (I’ll be relying heavily on Sarah to show us around) and staring at dreamy photos like these.

A close encounter in Akagera National Park, Eastern Rwanda

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What’s your best coincidence story?

I love a good coincidence story, like a lot of people. This American Life (aka the greatest podcast in the world, if you aren’t already well acquainted what on earth are you doing reading this and not on their website downloading EVERYTHING?!) recently did an episode on coincidences and it was so fascinating, I found myself attempting to relay each story to Andy and failing at doing them justice. Because that’s the thing with coincidences; you always think yours is the best. You feel like you have something bizarrely wonderful and ‘small worldly’ happen but upon retelling it to others, barely manage to muster any interest.

That was my experience last week when I had, what I thought was, an incredible small world story. I mentioned, absentmindedly, to my friend at work that this time last year I was in New York City seeing Matilda the musical. To which she replied “I was in New York this time last year as well! But we saw Jersey Boys and Aladdin“. Long story short, it turns out we both saw Jersey Boys in NYC, on the same night, in the same theatre, both with our parents and partner AND scrolling back through our phones, we both took almost exactly the same photo just 13 minutes apart…!!!

The 8am part is wrong as our phones would have been on NYC time when the photo is taken

At the time, neither of us worked at our current organisation. I wasn’t even sure I’d end up back in Melbourne. Doesn’t it seem amazing that a year after seeing the same show in NYC, we are sitting on the opposite side of the world at adjacent desks?! Doesn’t it?!

Probably not. Because it’s my coincidence story, not yours. I want to hear yours and I’ll let you know how it rates to an outsider. Go on!

Posted in Misc, Social Commentary | Tagged , , | 12 Comments

5 things the photo-taker in your life wants you to know

That’s me on the left, the photo-taker. Taken backstage at the Goldfields Repertory Club during our performance of Don’s Party in September, 2014

You know that person, the one always wielding an unwieldy camera at social gatherings just snap, snap, snapping away capturing life’s greatest moments? That’s me. I’m definitely the photo-taker in my family and in my circle of friends and I love it. I love looking back at old photos and I think it’s important to capture and preserve memories. I use the term ‘photo-taker’ as opposed to the word ‘photographer’ because the former is more of a ‘memory maker’ and doesn’t necessarily have a keen interest in the mechanics of photography.

It started in primary school when I would take disposable cameras on school camps and wait eagerly to get the films developed so I could look at grainy photos of kids in a canoe. Or standing in front of a flimsy looking hut they’d built. I have photos from the hallways and classrooms at high school, at the tram stop where I spent so may hours. If you’re not a photo-taker I guarentee you have at least one in your life. Here’s what we want you to know:

I take photos of you because I love you

I want to capture a memory of you laughing with a friend, in absolute awe at the top of a mountain, swapping stories with your grandma or dancing like a maniac at a 21st so in many years you can look back and remember how happy and beautiful you were and still are. Sure, people take these kinds of photos on phones but phones get updated, lost or are just poor quality. I take photos on cameras, I print them, I blog them, I share them on social media and importantly, I back them up. What’s the first thing people say they regret losing in a house fire? Photos. Because they are precious and intrinsically linked to history and memory. I’ve literally never heard anyone say ‘I wish I didn’t have so many photos from my childhood’. This article about a man who only discovered he had zero photos of his mother until after she died brought tears to my eyes.

It does sting when you roll your eyes at me

If I had a dollar for every time someone got annoyed at me for taking so many photos, but then used one of my snaps to post to their own social media I could buy a pretty darn fancy camera! It’s the epitome of hypocrisy and not to mention rude. On any given day I see photos I’ve taken used in #flashbackfriday posts or in a collage for someone’s birthday. That’s awesome! But don’t roll your eyes or make fun of my photo taking only to benefit from it later. I always tell my friends they’ll be grateful when they’re old and ugly and have photos of their youth, but the truth is I’ll still be taking photos when I’m ancient and withered.

The photo bombing/pulling a funny face thing is really lame

I get that this is a mechanism for covering up shyness or feeling awkward about having your photo taken, but if you’re pulling a dumb face I’m just going to stand there until you stop, thereby dragging out the process and making it even more awkward… So yeah. Those ‘joke’ photos rarely make it off the camera’s memory card so lets not waste our time people.

Stand straight/sunglasses off/big smile please

It really doesn’t matter how much makeup you have on, or how tired you think you look, a big beautiful smile will always look good. As will standing or sitting up straight. I also often ask people to take their sunnies off for a photo (something people usually hate) because I want to see their eyes, it really makes the photo more personal.

I want to be in the photos too

I’m really lucky to have a boyfriend and friends who will happily jump behind the camera to get me in the picture too. I am not afraid to ask to have my photo taken and I won’t apologise for it. I’ve certainly copped flack for appearing to be one of those women who demand their boyfriend (aka the #instagramhusband) take photos of them but I don’t care. I take photos of other people all the time. Am I not worth having photos of? Speaking of people who are worth taking photos of; mothers. There seems to be a trend of mums taking photos of dad with the kids but never being in the photos themselves. To quote blogger Sophie Cacia in her open letter to dads on instagram ‘take the goddamn bloody photo‘!

So without further ado, here are some photos I love:

The Gang in Esperance, June 2014. I love how this looks like we’re the cast of an angsty teen TV show.

Darling Emily at the Beaten Track Brewery in Kalgoolie, August 2014

Lauren’s circus themed 30th in Kalgoorlie, May 2014

Me in Santorini, breaking the no sunglasses rule, July 2016

Easter Feaster, April 2014

Hopetoun, January 2014

Elly and Jordan on the beach in Esperance 2013

Beach babes emerging from the water at Twilight Beach, Esperance 2014

Andy and I at dinner in Chanie, Crete 2016

A staged candid photo before the Ball in Kalgoorlie, March 2014

Apprehensive Elly and excited Bec ahead of quad-biking in Bali 2013

Andy with his beers in Boston 2016

Exploring ruins at Palenque in Mexico 2016

Niki underwater in Ometepe, Nicaraugua 2016

Kate and I taking advantage of the nice light in the Guggenheim Museum NYC in 2010

My sister Sarah in her kitchen in Samoa, September 2013

Men I know in the water at Point Roadknight 2016

Bec and her pink champagne at the races in September 2013

Brosnan telling a story at my birthday breakfast in August 2013

Alexis and her kilted men in July 2016

My beautiful grandma Jill with dad at her 80th in 2011

Andy the groomsman in Tasmania 2017

Gang at the Nullarbor Muster in Rawlinna 2014

Bec snaps me on the catwalk in Kalgoorlie 2013

Family at Point Roadknight 2016

A beer, book and the woods = Andy’s happy place. Oregon 2015

Lovers laughing at a cocktail party in Kalgoorlie 2014

Mum and I at lunch in September 2014

So many great memories. Go on, take more photos of your loved ones. You won’t regret it.

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How do you celebrate Easter where you live?

I’m not shy about the fact that I love Easter. It’s a very low key holiday in my non-religious family and we usually just get together to relax and eat delicious food.

My experience of Easter in Australia:

In Australia Good Friday is a public holiday during which people often eat fish. It’s like Christmas Day in that everything is closed; all the supermarkets, restaurants and especially booze shops. Nothing really happens on Saturday except the shops are open again so people who went into an pre-apocalypse style shopping frenzy on Thursday can once again go and buy things (I am one of those people). On Sunday morning children run around maniacally collecting chocolate Easter eggs left by the ‘Easter Bunny’ (aka their parents). People often get together and have a family meal like they would on Christmas Day. Throughout the entire Easter period and the weeks leading up, people eat delicious hot cross buns. If there was any doubt Australia is truly a Christian nation just take a look at the way we get into Easter and Christmas! People also use the four day long weekend to take a mini break, maybe go camping. There are no doubt church services on the Friday and Sunday but I’m the wrong person to ask.

Last year Andy and I were in Mexico in the lead up to Easter and then in Belize, on Caye Caulker Island for Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Being in such strongly Catholic countries (well mostly Mexico, where Catholicism represents about 80% of the population, in Belize it’s about 40%) I was expecting for Easter to be a big deal. But I certainly saw none of the materialistic markers of Easter we have in Australia; no Spring paraphernalia all over the shops, no hot cross buns and certainly no chocolate Easter eggs. On Caye Caulker we couldn’t buy alcohol and I vaguely recall there was some kind of disorganised looking religious procession down the main street. It was the only year I can recall not eating a single Easter egg.

I was fascinated to hear Easter is not a big deal in the US. Do you celebrate Easter? What’s it like where you live? Do you get a public holiday? Do you have chocolate Easter eggs?

Posted in Misc, Social Commentary | Tagged , | 4 Comments

How to travel with your significant other without killing them

Jumping for joy in Panama

Today is mine and Andy’s three year anniversary! To celebrate, I’m going to share how we managed to travel together for over a year (16 months to be exact) without breaking up, breaking down or killing one another.

Spend time apart

You’re living in each others’ pockets day in, day out so it’s fine to choose to do separate things once in a while or even frequently. I quite enjoyed browsing through shops by myself or staying in bed to read while Andy went out drinking with new friends (wow I sound old). We had a good few days apart when he did his dive course in Crete. It gives you breathing space and new things to talk about when you get back together.

Do some activities for your significant other but have a limit

It’s no secret that hiking is not my favourite activity, but Andy loves it and the first 6 months of our trip involved camping and national parks so of course I hiked with him. But after hiking the Inca Trail I was done, really really really done. So were my knees. As a result I felt no guilt in sitting out of hiking into the Colca Canyon in Peru or saying no to hiking a cloudy volcano in Nicaragua. Having a break meant I really enjoyed the next hike in El Salvador. Sitting out on the hike in Greece meant I really enjoyed the one in Italy. There’s no point being a martyr and going along with everything someone else wants to do, it won’t be enjoyable for either party.

Don’t revel in being right

“I told you we should have gone left at the fork!” is a really unhelpful thing to say when you’re lost and stressed. Blaming each other for inevitable travel bumps in the road only builds resentment. Just focus on solving the problem together, not keeping a tally on who has made the most mistakes.

Be honest, not moody

Travelling can be really mentally and physically taxing. If you’re tired, grumpy or generally having a crappy time just say so! There’s no point in snapping “I’m fine!” and soldiering on when you’re not. There were many times when I said “sorry babe, I’m just feeling really sh*t and need to lie down for a while”.

If one of you is having a rough time ask “is there anything I can do?”

On the other side of the coin, if you can tell your significant other is feeling rough it’s really nice to ask if there is anything you can do for them.  You shouldn’t be expected to read their mind or drop everything to cater to their every whim, but letting someone know you’re there to help is really comforting. Even if there is nothing you can do.

Agree on how you will spend money

If one of you has a shopping addiction and the other one has a strict $50 per day budget, it’s probably not going to work out well… Andy and I were frugal but not the kind of travellers who pinched pennies to the point of missing out on a local experience. We have similar views on enjoying food and were both happy to make our own dinners for a week before splurging on a big Brazilian BBQ feast. We also agreed that there’s no point going all the way to Caye Caulker and not renting a (somewhat overpriced) kayak to glide along the glass-like water. If you have the same views on money and how to spend it you’ll save a lot of headaches.

Don’t hold grudges

If you do have a fight, forgive each other and move on. Nothing turns a relationship toxic faster than holding grudges. If you enjoy reminding someone of all the times they did something wrong and making them feel bad about it you should really question your desire to be in that relationship.

Remember that travel is meant to be fun

At the end of the day, if you’re not having fun it’s probably time to part ways. Andy and I get told all the time that after surviving 16 months of travel together we can get through anything. But travelling is easier than real life. Your biggest decision is often something like ‘should we stay at this beach paradise another night or move onto the next beach paradise?’ not ‘should we re-finance our home loan?’. Being on the road having the time of your lives should be easier on a couple than being at home in the real world with jobs, homes, cars and stress. So enjoy it!

Cave snorkelling in Mexico

At the top of a volcano in El Salvador

In the tobacco region in Cuba

At a wedding in Scotland

Hanging out in Santorini, Greece

Visiting the Colosseum in Rome, Italy

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Some thoughts on making my own acai bowl 

At the risk of sounding pretentious, I really fell in love with acai in Brazil. Pronounced ‘ass-eye-ee’, it’s a delicious sweet treat made from frozen acai berries blended into a thick smoothie-like consistency. A few years ago someone declared acai a ‘superfood’ and it started popping up in cafes and on instagram as a breakfast food.

Last weekend, after waiting over an hour for an acai bowl at Top Paddock, I decided to try my own. Unfortunately in Australia you can only really make acai from acai powder, so it’s definitely not the same. Here’s what I thought.

  • Have you read the old folk story Stone Soup? It’s the one where these travellers show up in a village and convince the locals they can make a soup for everyone using just a pot and a stone… Oh and a few your carrots… And maybe some spices… Etc etc until basically they trick the villagers into giving them all the ingredients. Well making your own acai bowl is a bit like that. You blend a frozen banana, half a cup of frozen blueberries, some coconut water, oh and a teaspoon of acai powder and bam! You have acai! Well not really. I found my acai bowl tasted, unsurprisingly, of banana and blueberry.
  • I think the quality of the acai powder really makes a difference. In hindsight buying a packet for $10 from Chemist Warehouse probably wasn’t the best option. As you can see in these photos my acai doesn’t have that deep, rich purple hue that proper acai has. Also it tastes nothing like acai.
  • It’s really hard to make the arty looking acai bowls that have millions of likes on Instagram. I topped my acai with strawberries, shredded coconut and chia seeds and barely had enough time to take the photo before it all sank into the goopy mess below.
  • In Brazil acai is more like gelato or frozen yoghurt, there’s actually the option of having sweetened condensed milk on top… So even with fruit and hype foods like chia seeds and goji berries it’s hard to see how this could possibly be healthy.
  • Would I make it again? Probably not. Except I still have coconut water in the fridge that needs to be used up…
  • Conclusion; these look really cool. That’s about it.

Have you ever made acai? What am I doing wrong?!

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