Women in the Know

Expert women weaving in Peru

I am fortunate to be surrounded by incredible women. Women who are smart, creative, strong, resilient and know how to get shit done.

They know about everything from travel, craft, makeup and paperwork to being sustainable, cooking, crunching numbers, keeping fit and healthy.

I love learning from them and I feel like we don’t do enough knowledge sharing anymore. Skills that were once passed down from mother to daughter, aunt to niece, classmate to classmate, woman to woman. So much is lost when we don’t ask and don’t share.

I want to learn from the women in my life and share their knowledge, so I’ve started a new series called Women in the Know. I’ve asked some of my close family and friends to contribute, but I’m definitely branching out and asking YOU what you’re an expert on. If you want to write about what you know (where to get the best dumplings, how not to get ripped off at the mechanic, how to train for a marathon) whatever it may be, do drop me a line! My first post is coming up next, keep a look out.

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How to walk to work avoiding blisters, creeps and getting sweaty

*If only* I walked to work across the Brooklyn Bridge! ❤

I recently had a message from a lovely follower on Instagram who asked me to cover the topic of walking to work. I was delighted on two fronts; firstly to have a topic to blog about and secondly because I have a weird affection for morning routines. It turns out a lot of people do! Remember this post on breakfast? So many great comments.

When I began working in the city in late November I opted to walk instead of commuting via tram. I had just left a job where I drove 17km to the office in the suburbs and the prospect of walking was honestly the main reason I was excited to start my new role. I had visions of arriving at work fresh and invigorated from my 4.5km jaunt and getting home in the evening, sufficiently wound-down and clear-headed.

There are a few considerations with walking to work; how do you manage all the pairs of shoes needed? How do you get to work without being drenched in sweat? Here are my tips for pounding the pavement to work and back again:

Shoes

When walking at least 9km a day ‘comfortable flats’ is an oxymoron. Flat shoes generally don’t provide enough support, so super light runners are the way to go (also quite the fashion statement!). I keep a pair of suede black heels – that I’m highly unlikely to need on weekends, under my desk to swap into or carry work shoes in a tote bag with me.

Clothes

I’ve tried walking in active wear as well as my work clothes. Unless it’s really hot or I need to walk super fast I prefer just wearing my work clothes. I find it too risky to pack a change of clothes in case I forget something or crush a freshly ironed shirt. Plus it’s a lot to carry with everything else. Sometimes I do arrive at work a little hot and sweaty, so I just sit and cool down on a bench out the front or at my desk for a moment. Then I head to the bathroom and cover myself in a light cloud of deodorant. No complaints so far!

Bag

I don’t have a very big handbag so I carry a material tote bag over my shoulder containing my change of shoes, lunch and an umbrella. The bag is super light (I got it from Tommy Hilfiger at least 10 years ago) and folds up really small, it’s also wider than your average tote so if I need to grab food on the way home there’s plenty of room.

Podcasts

A commute that takes an hour and a half a day (most of which is waiting at pedestrian crossings) leaves plenty of time for my all-round favourite pastime: listening to podcasts. If you like true crime I recommend: My Favourite Murder, Dirty John and Trace. If you like great human interest stories/storytelling and interviews I recommend: The Moth, Death Sex & Money, Mortified and S Town. If you like high production value stories on human behaviour, science and history I recommend Human/Ordinary, Invisibilia, Revisionist History and This American Life. That is an overwhelming list, at the moment I pretty much just binge My Favourite Murder with a few This American Lifes thrown in. I’ll do a dedicated post on podcasts with episode recommendations soon!

Safety

There are some really average drivers and cyclists around… Make sure you stay alert while crossing roads and for the love of god please don’t look down at your phone while walking! Also once I had a weird experience with a man who sidled up next to me while I was completely zoned out listening to My Favourite Murder. He practically stood in front of me to get my attention, so I had to stop and take out my earphones. Then he asked me out. I was SO mad at being interrupted! And also worried I’d encounter him again. But I didn’t! Be aware: creeps are everywhere. SSDGM

Enjoy!

Walking is a really nice way to commute and if you live close enough to work, I highly recommend giving it a go. It’s good for your health, cheaper than public transport and a whole lot better for the environment than driving.

How do you get to work?

(How walking to work changed my life)

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I moved!

Our new lounge room

It’s been a long time between drinks around here. I could blame my lack of blogging on being busy (which I have been!) but I’ve also just lacked inspiration, if i’m completely honest. This blog will be 7 years old in May, it’s taken many forms over those years and I’m still figuring out what it will be in 2018. If you have any ideas let me know! I do take requests- a lovely person in Instagram asked me to cover a certain topic on here so I’ll be posting that soon.

So my biggest news is that we moved house a few weeks ago! I’ve been having the best time decorating. Andy and I moved from a share house where we owned almost none of the furniture to our own 2 bedroom apartment, so there was a bit of a mad scramble to get the vitals. Like forks! I’m happy to report all of my plants survived and a few more have joined the family. So far only the lounge room is complete, but I’m looking forward to sharing more rooms soon. We also moved to a new suburb, so I plan on finding the best local smashed avo and happy hour.

How are things with you? Have a great week!

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3 easy summer dinners

It’s summer, I don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen with the oven on and I’m sure you don’t either! These are three super quick, easy and cheap dinners perfect for this time of the year. ‘Recipe’ is probably a stretch, these require mere assembling and you’re good to go! A few tips: lime, salt and coriander will make anything taste Mexican, keep tinned corn and beetroot in the pantry, a jar of jalapenos in the fridge and microwavable rice packets are a god send.

Coriander and spinach rice with smoked salmon, avocado, beetroot and feta

test

– Microwavable brown rice (the ones from Aldi are super cheap, I always have at least 2 in the pantry)
– Fresh coriander
– Spinach leaves
– Smoked salmon slices
– Avocado
– Tinned beetroot
– Crumbled feta

Microwave the rice, then pour half the packet into a bowl. Microwave the spinach in bowl with a tiny bit of water until wilted and then stir it through the rice with the coriander and some salt and pepper. Then add smoked salmon and whatever else you like on top! For me it’s avocado, beetroot (slightly warmed in the microwave) and feta. I squeeze a generous amount of lemon juice on top and enjoy with lashings of hot sauce.

Mexican kale salad with chicken

Test

– A bag of kale salad mix (I like the ‘kale-slaw’ from Aldi, just ditch the creamy dressing packet inside… not an ad, I WISH I was getting paid by Aldi though)
– Fresh coriander
– Fresh lime juice
– Tinned corn, drained
– Cherry tomatoes
– Avocado
– Jar of jalapenos
– Chicken breast
– Packet of taco seasoning
– Red capsicum

Cook the chicken and capsicum in the taco seasoning according to the instructions on the packet. Tip your desired amount of kale into a bowl, add chopped coriander, salt and lime juice to taste. Then add your corn and cherry tomatoes. Top the salad with the chicken, chopped jalapenos and avocado.

Haloumi and pumpkin salad

This one requires the oven- I usually make a big tray of cooked veggies (pumpkin, sweet potato, red capsicum, carrots plus whatever else I have) on a Sunday to use throughout the week.

– Spinach
– Cooked pumpkin
– A block of haloumi
– Lightly fried onion and capsicum
– Jalapenos
– Coriander
– Balsamic glaze (optional)

Slice the haloumi and fry in a non stick pan (use olive oil spray if you need) with the sliced onion and capsicum. Once the haloumi is browned and the onion and capsicum are soft add them to a bowl with the spinach, cooked pumpkin, jalapenos, coriander and whatever other veggies you like. Top with dressing if that’s how you roll (I like it without).

What’s your go to summer meal? Ice cream included.

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A month of Mondays…

Isn’t that how January feels?!

The post-weekend slump constantly hovering overhead, while you never quite know what day it is and your hand continues to magically write last year’s date on its own.

Societal norms dictate we thrust into the new year with renewed vigour and energy, ready to tackle unpleasant tasks like losing weight and credit card debt, but the second we try to do anything productive we’re met with brick walls. The gym closed early because it’s still on a holiday timetable, your accountant is on a beach somewhere and any work email is met with a raging torrent of out-of-office replies.

Last week upon discovering the slow cooker containing dinner had been turned off by the cleaners, Andy and I drove to one of my favourite southern BBQ restaurants to find it closed. A quick Google search revealed our five backup restaurants were closed. Five! Damn January.

Trying to find a new home during this period has been laughable. I’ve never left so many pointless voice messages in my life, but somehow we managed to sign a new lease on a two bedroom apartment! A big win. More on this later.

Do you have any New Years resolutions? Mine is to have my knees strong and ready for a ski trip to New Zealand in August! Spin classes here I come. I also have plans for some excellent (I hope) new content on this blog, so stay tuned for a fun new series. Also I’m always open to suggestions so let me know what you’d love/hate to see.

If you’re just getting back to work or like me, have worked all through the Christmas-NYE period, I hope January goes as quickly and painlessly as possible!

 

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Wedding in Rwanda!

Sitting at the dining room table over Christmas, mum and I reviewed 2017 in between bites of our bagels and both agreed that my sister Sarah’s wedding to partner Nady was the number one highlight.

Sarah had always said she was never getting married. A decision, whether spurred by stubbornness or feminism, we had long come to accept. Of course it really just took the right person to come along (and for marriage to be the answer to a barrage of various international visa requirements). Nady came to Australia for Christmas 2016 and instantly won everyone over with his huge smile and enthusiasm to rival my father’s, a man who excites over the opening of an envelope and whose catchphrase is repeating ‘how good is this’ while gesturing at whatever is happening at the time. Hours after being grilled by brutish Australian immigration officials, having a Romanian passport, an Egyptian name and being inbound from Rwanda will, sadly, do that to you, Nady met 20 of Sarah’s closest friends and their babies followed by 35 Brewins at our annual Christmas beach weekend.

“So why Rwanda?”, a question I’ve faced at least 50 times. The pair met at the London School of Economics while completing post graduate studies in international development. Then they moved to Rwanda, where they’ve lived for two years. The plan was a very low key affair to coincide with mine and Andy’s trip to East Africa. Naturally, the occasion blew out a tad as these things tend to do and my parents, Canadian aunt and about 20 international guests ended up coming. Unfortunately because it was quite last minute, there were many people who would have liked to be there who couldn’t make it. They were there with us in spirit and not forgotten.

It was a morning ceremony at the registry office followed by a small champagne reception at home drenched in duty free Veuve Clicquot. Then in the evening there was a big reception hosted by friends at their large house overlooking the hills, complete with an amazing local food stand, marquee (booze tent), photo booth and a ridiculously fun dance floor. The next morning about 40 of us headed to Gisenyi, on the shores of Lake Kivu, to keep the party going.

I fancied myself as the unofficial wedding photographer. And having seen the photos from the professional photographer I feel I could easily open a wedding photography business there…

Getting ready:

The entire occasion wouldn’t have happened without the efforts of Kigali’s extremely proactive expat and local communities, aka Nady and Sarah’s friends. From the flowers to organising an office to marry them after one pulled out at the 11th hour, to the dulcet tunes and excessive air horn from DJ Toilets (not so named because he was shit, I promise), everyone did an outstanding job of getting Sarah and Nady hitched. Especially when Sarah was busy touring East Africa with Andy and I in the four weeks leading up to the wedding.

It was a fairly untraditional wedding. There was no hiding from each other in the morning. I did Sarah’s makeup. They travelled to the ceremony together in a car with a couple of friends.

Getting ready to leave

We took a bunch of photos before the ceremony, while waiting for the paperwork to go through.

Mum, Nady, Sarah, Dad and Nady’s mum

Nady and ladies

Mum and Sarah

Andy and I

Dad, me, my aunt Jo who flew in from Canada

Photobombed by the soon-to-be happy couple

Before long it was time to head in to the ceremony. I assume the room was mostly used for citizenship ceremonies, given it’s patriotic decor. It was a long, secular ceremony entirely in Kinyarwanda and English. The terms of the contract they were entering into were clearly outlined, clause by clause, including what would void the marriage, like domestic violence and one of them disappearing for 12 months. Sarah and Nady were told of the responsibility their union and children would bring to Rwanda and its future and to seal the deal, they recited vows while holding the flag!

It was fascinating!

Wedding certificate!

After the ceremony we headed back to the house to get ready while Sarah and Nady had their professional photos done. In the two minutes warning we had before they arrived home all the guests lined up along the driveway with champagne, confetti and ‘All you need is love’ playing on a speaker. I managed my one annoying little sister act of the day; to piff sequins directly at Sarah’s head.

Sarah, still with the sequins in her hair

The party that night was next level amazing. Unfortunately I didn’t get a single photo, except for this crappy iPhone shot during the speeches:

Here are a couple of the professional shots:

This doesn’t at all do justice to how beautiful the place looked with all the fairy lights, tiki torches, candles and flowers. Sarah and Nady exchanged the vows they had written, as well as locally made rings. There were speeches, I played a message from our very unwell grandmother who would have loved to have been there. We danced our feet off and had the best time.

There was no time to be tired the next day as we boarded a charter bus to Gisenyi, on Lake Kivu near the boarder of the Congo and Rwanda. We continued the celebrations there. These fantastic photos are from Sarah’s friend Anders Kjemtrup (check out his instagram here).

Photo by Anders Kjemtrup

We drank.

Photo by Anders Kjemtrup

Photo by Anders Kjemtrup

Photo by Anders Kjemtrup

We ate.

Photo by Anders Kjemtrup

Photo by Anders Kjemtrup

And we danced.

Photo by Anders Kjemtrup

Photo by Anders Kjemtrup

Photo by Anders Kjemtrup

Photo by Anders Kjemtrup

Sometimes in the water.

Photo by Anders Kjemtrup

But mostly we celebrated these two:

Thanks for being the highlight of my year guys, love you lots xx

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Gorilla trekking in Uganda

One of the absolute highlights of 2017 was trekking into the Ugandan jungle to hang out with gorillas. We had originally planned to see the gorillas in Rwanda, but a few months before our trip the Rwandan government doubled the price of the permit. Literally doubled. Overnight. So to Uganda it was! It cost $US694.

I was actually pretty nervous, part of me was convinced one of these huge primates might freak out and eat my face off. But they didn’t! Just as everyone had told me, the gorillas actually couldn’t care less that we were standing just a few short metres away.

But first things first. We got a taxi from Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, to the Ugandan border which took about two hours. We, being my dad, Andy, my aunt Jo and I, then walked across the border. I got held up because the immigration officer noticed I’d been to Tanzania, effectively voiding my East African Visa which covers Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. He had to check this with many people and I think I developed at least three grey hairs while he disappeared with my passport for 20 minutes. I ended up having to buy a Ugandan visa for $US40 which was annoying because I was only there for 24 hours and Andy had made it through with no problems. But I digress. On the Ugandan side we were picked up by Prime Safaris and dropped at the Lake Bunyonyi Rock Resort.

Lake Bunyonyi is a beautiful, extremely deep lake with a murky past. Some of the islands in the lake were previously used as prisons  or ‘colonies’ for unwed pregnant girls and people with leprosy. Nowadays it’s slowly emerging as a tourist destination. It was absolutely beautiful. We took a swim and had a ridiculously huge dinner.

View from the Lake Bunyonyi Rock Resort

The next morning we left at the crack of dawn to drive to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest for our trek with Prime Safaris.

There are trackers who keep up with the location of the gorilla families. You can choose a short trek or a long trek and then your guides take you in the directions of the trackers who connect you with the family. We opted for a short trek and after 45 minutes of hiking along a track we’d reached the point where we started bush bashing uphill to see the gorillas. Side note: one of our trackers was a woman, the only one in the job in Uganda!

We climbed over tree roots, under branches and thick vines and eventually we stopped and heard the thundering sound of a gorilla moving quickly downhill towards us before hitting a nearby bush and shaking the leaves. A few seconds later he rolled downhill right in front of us. It was such a comical way of moving we couldn’t help but laugh.

Next came this mama and her baby:

We followed them, encouraged by the trackers to get close (the 7 metre distance rule they talked about was completely forgotten!) and have a good look.

The silverback (which is the alpha male, not a type of gorilla) was absolutely massive:

This lady sat for ages pulling leaves off vines with her hands and eating them:

The way the moved their hands was so humanlike it was mesmerising.

You get an hour with the family, towards the end of our hour we watched the silverback, mother and baby, and two ‘teenagers’ playing and sleeping:

As I mentioned, they are so accustomed to humans they couldn’t care less about your presence. They look right at you. I took thousands of photos but I didn’t want to bore you with all of them!

All too soon it was time to say goodbye.

There are only 880 mountain gorillas left in the wild, so if you can visit a few I highly recommend it. This was absolutely one of my top travel experiences ever and well worth the cost and effort to get there.

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The last Friday before Christmas

Happy holidays! How’s your week been? Have you finished buying presents? Someone played ‘All I want for Christmas for you’ by Mariah Carey OUT LOUD in the office on Wednesday. That should be illegal. I couldn’t get the tune out of my head for an hour.

How are you spending the weekend? I’m having an early Christmas celebration with mum and then Andy and I are flying to Tasmania.

This is the perfect last minute dessert recipe for Christmas (I’ve made it twice!)

5 ridiculous pieces of advice for avoiding weight gain this Christmas

An amazing gift guide for those hard-to-shop-for-people

5 of the best (and 5 of the worst) wardrobe investments ever made

Have you seen the trailer for Ocean’s 8 yet?

40 Of The Most Powerful Photos Of 2017

Got any New Years resolutions? I’m thinking I might actually make some this year! Have a wonderful holiday x

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The magic of Zanzibar, Tanzania

Zanzibar was the only place I’d researched ahead of our East Africa trip. So needless to say I was beyond excited for the blinding turquoise blue water, traditional architecture and history of the old town.

After our safari we flew from Arusha to Dar Es Salaam (we spotted Kilimanjaro out the plane window!) on the coast. We stayed the night with a friend and then got a ferry to Zanzibar. We didn’t book ahead so had to buy ‘first class’ tickets for $USD50 (only $15 more than regular tickets) and then squeeze our way through hoards of porters and people selling cashews to get to the dock.

This was the view when we arrived:

Magic

Two of my greatest travel loves: blue water and incredible movie-set style buildings in one destination. Zanzibar was like a far more touristy Lamu, a very similar Swahili settlement island in Kenya that Persian, Indian, and Arab traders used as a base for voyages between the Middle East.

My sister Sarah and I

Just like in Lamu, Zanzibar has the (far more pristine) waterfront…

There’s the ornate carved doors…

Love them

And the bustling, twisting alleyways. These ones bursting at the seams with souvenir shops instead of local butchers and women selling fruit. My sister and I bought sarong muumuus for exclusive wear on the island.

Andy and I bought a chapati from this little stand and locals kept commenting on it as we walked and ate?!

We spent our first evening in Stone Town and went for sundowners on the rooftop terrace of the Maru Maru Hotel.

Sisters

It was happy hour and I tried my first dawa, an East African cocktail with Tanzanian konyagi (kind of like gin), of the trip.

Sisters with dawas

The following day we got a taxi from Stone Town to Bwejuu beach. We stayed at Mustapha’s Place, 50 metres from this:

Not bad!

Aforementioned muumuu

Sarah models her muumuu

The best thing about our accommodation was probably the pool:

Someone was a little heavy handed with the chlorine though and after a day of floating and splashing I noticed my hair had turned slightly green!!

It took a few treatments of tomato sauce, a bottle of which my sister swiped from the bar, to get it back to normal. I was amazed it worked!

Dawas in the pool

We wandered south along the sand to Paje beach.

That water!

Sarah and Andy

The tide was coming in which made for some climbing and detours.

Detouring along this sea wall.

After ripping my shorts in a climbing incident and cracking the sads (true story- my sister will tell you!) I cheered up with a dip.

Devotin’ full time to floatin’

We wandered further and stopped for a delicious lunch at Mr Kahawa, followed by reading and snoozing.

A local kitty joined us

For our final day, Andy and I took a snorkelling trip to near Mnemba Island. It’s privately owned so you can’t touch it without paying! The snorkelling was very average but we saw dolphins and it was worth it just to be out on the water.

Such dags in our hats

On our last night we went to Zanzibar’s must-see restaurant The Rock for a few drinks. It’s insanely popular due to its amazing location and you can’t get a table without booking ahead.

The Rock

At high tide you have to take a small boat attached to a rope to get to the restaurant.

View from The Rock

It was pretty cool but the service wasn’t great, it was definitely the kind of place you feel like you have to go to.

After Zanzibar it was finally time to fly to Rwanda for my sister’s wedding!

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Safari final day: Ngorongoro Crater

The night before our final day on safari we stayed in camping ground I’ll never forget. It was a big open field on a slight hill and all the other tents were on one side at the top and we were on the other. When it got dark a group of about 30 zebras stood in the field (presumably about to sleep?) and as we walked across their tiny, beady eyes glowed green and just stared at us. Then one of them would spook and they’d run in random directions. It was so creepy! I had visions of our tent being crumpled by a stampede in the night. But it didn’t happen, as it turns out I’m not typing this from beyond the grave.

Anyhoo, our final day on safari was in Ngorongoro Crater which according to Wikipedia is the world’s largest inactive, intact and unfilled volcanic caldera.

Looking into the crater

Team safari! Us with our guide Hans

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