Its pretty chilly mid-winter here and on social media I have been gazing sadly at my home friends summer holiday photos- BBQs, beach trips, sunny parks…. (all whilst knowing that this still represents a very short amount of time in the Great British Summer). And my other half, who has been working largely from home on his own, has also been starting to feel a sense of chaffing.
Now that I’ve been here nearly 4 months some of the ‘novelty’ is wearing off a little I suspect. The days have been passing like a blizzard (without either snow flakes or weather cold enough for snow flakes thankfully!) full of work, and chores, and food shopping and I guess this is the bit when you work out that we are living somewhere for the foreseeable future not just visiting. And most of our ‘home’ friends and family won’t be able to visit any time soon. So we need to get stuck in. Properly.
Our flat is sweet but quite small and given the short days quite dark at times. When we had our flat warming party only 4 people from our neighbouring flats took us up on our invitation so we haven’t really got to know too many people here. Work is providing me with a source of friendly people to chat to (although given that we all work in the same sort of area things can get a bit work intense… and then intense again when I get home to talk to my partner who also works in the same area). I think partly because it is cold (and unlike when its cold in the UK you get to look forward to Christmas and the various associated festivities) our local friends seem to have gone into semi-hibernation. I suspect many people’s favourite occupations in the evenings and weekends at the moment is the ubiquitous “Netflix and chill”. We’ve also been partly in hibernation. My partner (‘s liver) has been recuperating after a week of frolics whilst his family were visiting Australia and I’ve been catching up with the latest season of “The Secret Life of the Zoo”. I know, super cool.
But now, we need to get out. The cabin fever is beginning to descend. Tomorrow, fortunately for our sanity, we have a housewarming dinner with a new colleague of mine and his family. Then I’m thinking I need to come up with some awesome plans for this weekend… so I’m trawling the local ‘What’s On’ pages in the hope of inspiration… inspiration strong enough to pull us out of our warm shell which is slowly but surely going to drive us crazy!
Wish us luck!
My partner and I wanted some art work to spruce up and add some colour to our nice but exceedingly colourless flat. Like almost all rental properties the ‘blank canvas’ choice of neutral colours means that you can put what you like in the flat and appeals to the widest range of tastes but also means (particularly in a relatively small place) that it can begin to feel rather like a hotel room or holiday apartment rather than a home. With it being winter here and dark quite early we don’t yet get to use our balcony and throw open our big windows which I am hoping will increase the sense of space when it gets warmer and lighter.
So, long story not very short we wanted to brighten the place up. We have slightly different ideas of how to go about this- I have put loads of photos of family and friends and us on various holidays around the place and my partner goes around grumbling and tries to stealthily remove as many as possible. So we thought about buying some local art work- we looked at the Bus Depot Markets which has some nice pieces of original art but its still really out of our price range, particularly if its possible that we won’t be able to ship it back to the UK! What, then, to do?
Well it turns out, make your own! We each bought a canvas and some acrylic paints, then some brushes, and (for myself) some other implements for painting- including a decorators brush, a roller and a loofah… well you never know! And then this weekend we coated our large table with bin liners and stuck them to the floor around the table, and I wore one as a whole body apron (my other half declined and managed to avoid getting paint on himself- I managed to get some on a t-shirt despite wearing this plastic tent! Of course!). We work in very different styles. My partner carefully copied an impressionist landscape (brightly coloured and contemporary impressionism). I threw paint at the canvas until I decided what I wanted to make in large, semi-abstract gestural strokes…. And these were my outcomes (my other half is still tinkering with his and I suspect that even when it’s finished he won’t let me photograph it! Although it looks awesome!). So I’m afraid you’re stuck with two of mine, one a homage to Georgia O’Keeffe and my interest in feminism…. and the other an abstract interpretation of a bottle of champagne…. “these are a few of my favourite things!”
Now they might not be gallery-worthy but I beats having Ikea prints on the walls and they certainly brighten the place up. Given that the canvases cost me about $12 a pop and the paints altogether about the same amount (plus about $6 for brushes and loofah!), and the entertainment value I would say they are pretty bargainous! In fact, I enjoyed it so much (and I think my other half did too) that we’ll have to be careful not to overstock the flat with our random daubings!
This evening, gentle reader, I am test driving a new Aussie novelty. Actually, importantly, I am not driving anywhere- I have just opened a ‘bag of wine’, affectionately known here as (please say I am getting this right and not accidentally saying anything offensive!!) a ‘goon bag’. Lovely. What could sound classier?! I bought a ‘posh’ goon bag because… it’s wine in a box/bag thing! I figured if I was going to try one out (which is obviously required as a cultural thing… ) I might as well try a decent-ish one?! I’ve no idea if I’ve bought a decent one but I know I can’t drink the £3 wine from Tesco anymore in the UK (sad times- my taste buds just won’t do it!) so this is apparently a ‘premium’ box of wine. Sounds oxymoronic.
So…. cheers! Let’s see what this is like….
Ok, it smells slightly musty… (nice). I’ve put about 11 ice cubes in it to ‘help’ and it tastes… fine… It’s not hideous but I’m not sure it’ll be my favourite wine but it is drinkable. (Unlike the other bottle of wine in the fridge! Which I have relegated to ‘cooking only’, shockingly!)
Ohmigoodness it is seriously chilly here this week! Over the weekend it got down to -6 degrees at night. Last night I slept in a t-shirt, long sleeve t-shirt, hoodie, trackies and woolly socks!! The housing here (confusingly) doesn’t seem to be made to withstand the cold- whilst the heater does a good job of blasting warm air into the flat the moment I turn it off the heat dissipates!
So the above is the forecast for here. Let’s compare with the forecast for my parent’s back in the ‘cold and rainy UK’:
Please note that this is my “not even slightly impressed” face.
As I result I have been doing a good job of pretending to hibernate. The office is sort of warmer than the flat and its good to being around my office mates whilst my other half is away (otherwise I’d totally end up as some kind of hermit!) but when I get back (even if I stick the heating on for an hour or so) I tend to get wrapped up in hoodie, trackies, socks, dressing gown, and blanket and do a bit more work… which makes it super tricky to muster the effort to go to yoga. Its cold and dark out there. I have to walk in the cold and dark. My yoga pants are thin. I’d be cold on the walk. Plus, did I mention, it’s dark out there. Besides I’m doing some good work here… sort of… and anyways I’d be cold on the walk, in the dark. Might as well just stay here.
It has not been a good few days for exercise! #fail
(Can’t wait until I’m bitching about the heat on here…. 😉 )
Recently I bought a shed load of toilet rolls and tissues from the company “Who gives a Crap”. I was drawn to their site by their aims to spend half of their profits providing toilets for those who don’t have them (around the world) and the other half is invested back into the company. I really admired this because, let’s face it, toilet roll as a product isn’t sexy or cool, and providing toilets for those who don’t have them (good sanitation helps prevent the spread of disease and is important for dignity and reduecing pollution in the environment) is not a particularly easy sell either. The title of the company, Who Gives a Crap, also seemed to speak to this lack of incentive to try to get people concerned/interested in a cause/product related to pooping and peeing!
Buying loo rolls without a car is one of those slightly annoying things to get home- its not heavy but it’s cumbersome! So the free home delivery was a major plus for me. Additionally, the rolls are ethically produced in terms of using recycled paper products, not being dyed, and generally being sustainable. HOWEVER my personal fav part about the rolls is the cuteness of the wrapping- which I know is ridiculous, but given that it’s a unsexy product which makes us reflect on very necessary but generally unspoken things, cuteness should not be under-rated:
I’m sorry, I’ve been very remiss about writing! We slid back into life here and my voice sort of dried up. There have been some fun and games around work projects and we’ve had some of my partner’s lovely family here. In addition it has been super cold, and today hideously grey, flat and flattening. Seeing all my UK friends enjoying the summer there has made ending up in a winter for the second time in 12 months all the more challenging.
So what to tell you? We went to a wonderful restaurant with my partner’s family called Tipsy Bull on Lonsdale street. We ended up there slightly by accident as the restaurant we had planned to go to was fully booked. But it worked out wonderfully and I cannot recommend the place enough. Lots of small tapas plates (not necessarily or indeed often Spanish tapas in style) which meant tasting and trying lots of really interesting things. I particularly enjoyed the Kingfish Sashimi, and the Pork ribs- both of which was surprising- the first because I’m not much of a fan of fish, and the second because pork is rarely something I feel I want to wax lyrical about! But they were delicious! The restaurant also does, like, a million different types of gin (which is RIGHT up my partner’s street!). I stuck to an Aperol Spritz (although this was slightly too watery for my taste) and then some excellent white wine. The place isn’t cheap by any means but it was ridiculous particularly given the quality of food, wine and service.
Today I braved a new challenge. The hairdressers. For some reason finding and booking somewhere to cut my hair always stresses me out. You wear your hair with everything and I’ve been to my fair share of good, bad and indifferent snippers over the years! So this time I took soundings off local friends and in the end booked myself in with Off London. I have frizzy-curly hair and people tend to think I am just being overly coy about it when I say that. I’m not. Blow-dry this bad boy wrong and I end up with some kind of kinky pompom on my head!
But the guy, Chris, at Off London was great. And I LOVE having my hair washed, brushed and fiddled with. I think my fav thing is the head massage (and here the chairs also massaged!). The cut is lovely and the blow dry done with plenty of attention to detail which always feels nice. Next time I need my colour sorting buy I think I should feel like I’m in pretty safe hands! #win
The additional bonus is that I have an important meeting this afternoon and I do at least feel like I look reasonable 🙂
Today some friends took my partner and I to Fyshwick Markets (http://www.fyshwickfreshfoodmarkets.com.au/). These markets are a kind of Canberra institution- lots of fresh, local produce. Loads of interesting food stuffs. In addition to being able to buy all different kinds of fruit and veggies (including sugar cane- because, why not?), there is a beautiful smelling bakery, a delicatessant, a wine shop: somewhat awesomely called “Plonk” (where I discovered you can buy sparkling wine that has been made in Canberra… must try! Although it is a bit more expensive than my $5-7 bottles!), a fishmongers, a couple of butchers, and a Middle Eastern food shop. It was the latter in which we spent most of our time and money. My other half bought all of the herbs and spices. And I mean all of them. (He is still mourning over the loss of his carefully collated herb and spice collection when we moved out here- my parents were the lucky recipients and I’m not sure he’s forgiven them…). I LOVE middle eastern food and enjoy making Mezes. I was super excited to find Halva (which is a strange, powdery, sweet, crumbly dessert) that I used to have at a Lebanese restaurant near my parent’s house, and Baklava (ditto local restaurant… actually everything I bought reminded me of the wonderful food I used to enjoy there!) and stuffed vine leaves, which I love to add to a lunch time salad with feta cheese 🙂
In addition to checking out the market, our lovely friends took us to some other shops in the area (its a bit of a trek to get to by bus from our place) including a shop with plants. And we bought… all of the plants. Actually that is a lie. But we did buy some- which I am really excited about. I’ve been wanting to ‘green-up’ the flat pretty much since we’ve moved in. But moving plants around without a car is a bit of challenge! So, show some love for our new additions… How long do you think they’ll survive?!
My partner and I have been enjoying watching Master Chef Australia. Actually we’ve got a bit addicted. My goodness do they know their food! And the majority of the food out here, whilst it costs an arm and a leg, tastes amazing!
The other half loves to cook, and the odder the meal (or ingredients) the better. Recently we found the Great Australian Cookbook in a sale at a department store here. But it just sat on the bookshelf until he came back from the UK.
This week we watched an episode of Master Chef which included a ‘Aussie ingredients’ section and learned about quandongs (which I swear sounded like ‘condoms’ and confused me hugely!), wattle seed, wax flowers and various other delicacies that I had no knowledge of. So, after this episode the home-chef extraordinate digs into his recipe book and finds this gem: “Kangaroo steak with quandong jus and warrigal greens”. And he. makes. it. (admittedly it was a bit of a challenge to source the quandong jam) but look, look what I was served for dinner (with the addition of sweet potato mash and sauted mushrooms of course…)… I think I may encourage further adventures in this direction…
During my time here you may have noticed the occasional reference to wine… or maybe more than occasional! I’ve been gradually trying a range of different wines- when I first got here because the majority of wines are around the $14 mark I was suspicious of the cheaper wines. Since my other half came home with a brilliant $7 bottle of prosecco I have abandoned those concerns and leapt joyfully into testing/tasting the offerings of the bottom shelf- particularly those on 40% discount at my local ‘bottle-o’!
Some that I have enjoyed sampling have included:
Yarra Burray Prosecco- the $7 dream, lightly fizzy, and hugely drinkable! (It’s now back up to $14 at Liquor Land- Boo! I did also try the sparkling rose- it was not good) One Small Step- Cab Merlot- the bottle I bought for the other half to celebrate his return home. It was a bit more expensive at $12 (I think might have been 14) but I’m not a big red wine lover and he is, and we both really liked it. Smooth and spicy. Rapaura- one that is currently half price in Liquor Land at $8 which I bought when I wanted a change from the prosecco (I know, I know, this is a sob story right?!). This was clean, light, a little fruit, a little mineral, fresh but without making your mouth turn inside out. Eagle Hawk- a $5 fizzy treat whilst it’s currently half price. Also surprisingly nice given its price. Light and more prosecco-y that I was expecting (not too yeasty or sweet or in anyway nasty!). Winners all round! I’ll keep you updated as I find more gems 🙂