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?

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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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Scrumptious coffee cake

Coffee cake

So this feels like a bizarre follow up to my last post about weight gain… But what’s a birthday without cake?! It was my boyfriend’s birthday yesterday and he has a certified coffee obsession. So I whipped up this coffee cake which has the most obscenely delicious frosting I’ve probably ever experienced (big call!). So here it is:

For the cake:
– 1 tablespoon instant coffee dissolved in 1 tablespoon boiling water
– 125g softened butter
– 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
– 3/4 cup of brown sugar
– 2 eggs
– 1 & 1/2 cups of unbleached self-raising flour
– 1/2 cup of sour cream

for the frosting
– 3 teaspoons instant coffee
– 3 tablespoons boiling water
– 2 cups icing sugar
– 20 grams softened butter

Preheat oven to 160°C fan-forced, grease and line an 18cm cake tin.

Dissolve the coffee in the boiling water and in a separate bowl, beat the butter, vanilla and sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the coffee and then beat again until combined. Add one egg at a time, beating until combined and then sift the flour over the top. Stir the flour in until just combined, then add the sour cream and again stir until just combined.

Whack the mixture into the cake tin. The batter should be quite dense and stiff, not a smooth runny mixture. Bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the tin for 5 minutes before putting it on a wire rack to cool.

For the frosting, dissolve the instant coffee with the boiling water in a bowl. Then sift the icing sugar over the top of the coffee, add the softened butter and then stir until combined. Spread the frosting over the cake. If you want you can decorate the top with chopped walnuts like I did.

Enjoy!

The Money Shot

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I went travelling and I got fat

So you know when you go on holiday for a week and spend the entire time lazing around like a fat seal by the pool sipping sugary cocktails, moving only to devour a delicious meal that definitely involves a bread basket? Well imagine doing that for 16 months straight. I did. So yeah, I went traveling and I got fat.

It was a heady combination of inconsistent exercise, lack of easy healthy food options and an all-out YOLO diet that did it. It wasn’t so bad at the start of the trip when we were camping around western USA, hiking and cooking all our own food. But then came the South, where we stopped camping, started staying at party hostels and gobbling up all the soul food we could stomach.

A Po Boy in New Orleans? Of course I’m going to eat it

After that came South America where the prospect of a dull 16-hour bus trip was brightened only by purchasing a Mars Bar to eat along the way and where fried cheap street food was abundant. It seems absurd but a packet of chips can provide a bizarre level of comfort when you’re somewhere strange and slightly scary and can’t stomach the prospect of eating in a restaurant when all the meals seem to have hair in them (Hello Bolivia). Towards the end of our trip in Greece, Italy and Albania there was nary a dining moment that didn’t involve dunking bread into oil. I am not exaggerating when I say we ate pizza every single day from Naples to Rome.

Hello lover

I haven’t even mentioned the drinking.

Cheers!

I’m not going to pretend the weight gain didn’t bother me at the time. Oh it did. Never had I eaten with such abandon, spent so much time in a bikini and had so many photos taken of me at the same time. A truly harrowing combination. I have no idea how much weight I really put on because I didn’t dare step on scales. What’s laughable is I even drafted a ‘how to keep fit on the road’ blog post, before quickly realising I was vastly under qualified to speak on such a topic.

I got very good, if I do say so myself, at posing in flattering angles (notice the casual placement of my purse in the pizza photo!) and it turns out underwater photos taken on a GoPro are surprisingly slimming.

The tried and tested skinny arm’ pose

Apparently it’s hard to look fat under water

So why am I writing about this?

A few reasons; firstly I got really sick of seeing viral travel photos on Instagram featuring a perfectly tanned girl looking back over a skinny shoulder and laughing into the camera while perching precariously over the edge of a cliff. Notice how the most liked and shared travel pics always include tiny women?! Why? Normal sized people travel too. So do those who may or may not have ordered a family sized Texan BBQ meal for two because they saw it that time on Man vs Food. It’s just not possible to travel long term and maintain the exact same diet/exercise routine that you do at home, whether that results in weight gain or loss. Fact. Let’s be realistic.

Secondly, I feel a tad foolish about the amount of time I spend worrying about how I looked, analysing photos and agonising over whether to post them on social media. I was travelling the goddamn world! What a privilege. Who cares how I looked?! When I look back at photos now I think about the moment, not the dress size. I’m lucky I have such a patient boyfriend who was prepared to re-take photos of me… What a diva. Sorry babe! Believe me for every photo on this blog there were many that didn’t make it… But thankfully my negative feelings towards how I looked never stopped me from doing anything; I was swimming every day, pulling on leggings to hike up a volcano and silently praying the ‘one size fits all’ safety gear was adequate so I could mountain bike down the reassuringly named ‘death road.

You can’t see in this pic but those pants where waaaay too short

Thirdly, food is such an important part of the travel experience for me. I’m not someone who can travel somewhere and cook chicken and salad at the hostel every night. Would New Orleans have been the same without eating jerk chicken and rice while sitting in a gutter having danced my heart out to a jazz band on Frenchman Street? Would Italy have been the same without my dedication to sampling as many flavours of gelato as humanly possible? Could I really say I’d been to a Scottish wedding without trying the haggis and three kinds of potatoes served up?! Food and culture are so intensely intwined and I wouldn’t feel I’d properly experienced a place without trying the local cuisine. Sure sometimes I probably took that to the extreme but I don’t regret anything I ate.

Tacos were literally my life in Mexico

With that in mind, now that I’m back and settled in a job and home it feels good to have a consistently healthy diet. I joined a gym and am back doing the Spin classes I love. I’ve also got an awesome new housemate and we’ve started doing circuit workouts at home. It feels good.

I’m not looking for sympathy or for comments like “you look fine!”, self image is deeply personal and entirely internal; no amount of you-look-fines from people will help if you’re feeling low. Feeling uncomfortable in your own skin is horrible.

I’m aware that what I’m talking about is often seen as largely a first world problem, but crippling low self esteem should not be underestimated. I experienced a very small dose of what a lot of people experience every day for years without end and the results can be devastating. It never got quite that bad for me.

I just wanted to be honest about my experience and to encourage people to fully experience the world, regardless of how they think they look, and to leave no burger untasted. Because you really do only live once. #noregrets

 

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Bank Street Pizza, Avenel

What’s better than crisp apple cider, great company, wood fired pizza and a garden in which to enjoy all of this? Pretty much nothing. That’s why it’s absolutely worth the hour and a half drive from Melbourne to Avenel to get to Bank Street Pizza.

I went on Saturday with my cousin Sebastian and his girlfriend Alannah who are visiting from Canada at the moment. Avenel is a half hour country drive from where my mum lives.

We made a booking which was somehow lost but luckily there was a table for us anyway. We ordered drinks and set about trying to choose from the outrageously good looking list of pizzas on the menu.

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Cheeky Cider from the Cheeky Grog Co, they use apples and pears from the Murray and Goulburn regions of Victoria

We somehow narrowed it down to three; the Scotty with pork and fennel sausage, the Faz and Cal’s Capricciosa.

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Alannah & Seb

It was the best pizza I’d had in a long time; super fresh local ingredients combined in interesting flavour combinations.

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Hard to pick a favourite but I can’t go past a pizza with olives and anchovies. I once heard anchovies described as ‘salty eyelashes’, so accurate!

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The Faz

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Cal’s Capricciosa

By dessert time the sun had well and truly set. We enjoyed Jock’s ice cream; coffee and coconut lime as well as a slice of chocolate fudge cake in the lantern light.

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Amazing food. Book ahead if you’re going, it’s wildly popular and only open on weekends. Check out the menu here.

The next evening I took the Canadians out looking for ‘roos. We headed up into the Strathbogie Ranges around dusk.

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Dusk and dawn are prime time for hitting kangaroos with your car. I drove very slowly and carefully.

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It wasn’t long before we spotted a pack of kangroos bouncing along. The way they slip through fences is masterful.

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Hello

Remember that time I hung out with kangaroos on the beach? Good times.

Have a great weekend x

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Lately

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My ‘Valentines Eve’ flowers

What’s new with you?

I’m going through a crappy, stressful, tiring patch, just to be completely honest! Looking forward to doing absolutely nothing this weekend.

Are you watching the new (last!) season of Girls? I’m so sad it’s going to be ending, but I watched the first episode with my friend Kate tonight and I loved it. I also loved Vogue’s 73 Questions with Lena Dunham. I went back and read this Q&A with the costume designer from just after season 1, so fun! And the part about Spanx! Fascinating.

I always find it interesting seeing peoples’ feelings on Valentines Day. It’s such a polarising holiday. Andy sent me some ‘Valentines Eve’ flowers as per a joke from our first Valentines Day when I got ‘Friday 13th’ flowers the day before Valentines Day. Very sweet!

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Hello

My Canadian cousin Sebastian and his girlfriend are visiting at the moment. On the weekend we ate delicious pizza and went looking for kangaroos. We were successful!

I’ve been madly filling out our new house with furniture and decor bits and pieces. We lost a lot when the last two housemates vacated so it was looking very bare. I had two photos from our trip printed as huge posters which I can’t wait to hang, I’ll share photos when I do.

Do you send thank you notes? I got a card, completely unexpectedly, today. It was so lovely and made me wonder why I haven’t sent one in ages. It’s so uplifting to be on receiving end of one, day changing even.

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Thank you for reading

Enjoy the rest of the week

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A wedding in Tasmania & a new camera lens 

Last weekend Andy and I attended a wedding in Tasmania. It was a lovely few days and a great opportunity to try out my new camera lens. I have a Samsung NX1000 mirrorless camera (also called a compact DSLR) and I smashed the only lens I had while we were in Mexico, quelle horreur! I couldn’t find a new lens anywhere so we had to buy a little point and shoot camera which actually did take pretty decent photos. Anyway, since being back home and making money I could finally afford to get the camera body professionally cleaned and buy a brand spanking new lens!

I found the 50-200mm lens on Gumtree, the seller is a lovely man named Eunice who conveniently lives around the corner from me. I used that lens to take a lot of photos over Christmas but I soon realised I would need something smaller so returned to Eunice for 16-50mm lens, again, new in box. He knocked $10 off the price. Shout out to Eunice!

I used both lenses to take photos at the weekend and although more bulky, I really can’t fault the quality of the 50-200mm lens. Take a look:

I haven’t included a lot of faces because as I’ve mentioned previously, I’m not sure how Andy’s friends feel about appearing on Le Blog. My friends on the other hand! #famewhores

That cheeky grin ❤

How insanely beautiful are these flowers?! And these buns?

How come mine never look this amazing?!

I bought my dress on sale at Gorman a few weeks back, I never buy expensive clothes anymore so I felt a little sick handing over my debit card! Did I mention I bought two dresses?! Ouch. Gorman have such fun prints.

The light in the evening was really beautiful

The food at the wedding was insanely good; probably the best wedding food I’ve ever had. So much seafood! The entertainer was amazing also; he performed live songs as well as DJ’d and it was the perfect mix of crowd pleasers that had us dancing the night away. What is a wedding without dancing?! I’ll leave you to ponder that.

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