Changes!

We’re moving house! After almost a year in our current house share we made the leap, for various reasons,  to a beautiful place for us and Toby and maybe somebody else. We’re all smitten. We’re waiting for electricity and things to be turned on but in the meantime we have the keys and visit every day, like you’d do for somebody in hospital or a friend with a new puppy. It is just a house, but I’ve never liked one so much.

Oliver has found his calling in local op shops (opportunity shops, quite a cute name) picking out tables and paintings and mugs. We’re slowly filling our new place with particularly special bits of crap. We found a bargain sofa on gumtree at 8am this morning and by noon we were sat on it, in our new living room. The power of the Internet. We’ve been to IKEA three times in a week and my credit card is strained.

Still, I’m very excited for coming weeks of actually living there; cooking, decorating, settling in. But mostly cooking, let’s be honest.

This American Life

The past few weeks have been chaotic and there are so many details I must make a point to record so I can remember them. It might be a sign of my age but I really enjoy at least one day a week, usually a Sunday, spent at home in my kitchen just cleaning and cooking and pottering. Since Serial podcast took over all of our lives I’ve searched for a way to replace it. There is a lot happening out there!

Oliver has had a stack of favourite podcasts for years, but for me This American Life is the best quality true life storytelling I’ve found. Every Monday I get a new hour long episode, they are always insightful and surprising. I recently found that I could listen to their archives (over 500 episodes!), though their website, iTunes and a paid for podcast app. In the midst of a chaotic week I really look forward to that hour. 

Often there are two or three, maybe four stories on a chosen theme. And sometimes they dedicate the show to one story, and I find these are spectacular. They stay with me. They episodes flow between politics, injustice, hilarity and everyday life. No matter the subject matter, I am usually enthralled. And I suppose that’s the point; because we all spend time on the little things just as much as the big things. Could I fail to mention that host Ira Glass has the best voice for storytelling?

So I have some recommendations for your next Sunday potter:

Episode 199: House on Loon Lake (listen here) – a full hour dedicated to one real life Hardy Boys mystery.

Episode 492: Dr Gilmer and Mr Hyde (listen here) – another full hour, the story of a Doctor who replaces his namesake and discovers that his predecessor committed a terrible crime, shocking his patients. 

Episode 246: My Pen Pal (listen here) – a traditional episode, with two acts, two stories, both touching and eye opening. Yes, I cried.

Episode 513: 129 Cars (listen here) – the first episode that made me take notice of TAL. No traditional storytelling, but a couple of weeks spent inside a car dealership interviewing salespeople about their day to day lives. I would never turn on a documentary with this description, but somehow it’s utterly fascinating.

Episode 436: The Psychopath Test (listen here) – named after the Jon Ronson book, this is a great introduction to the concept of the psychopath test. Listen to the podcast, read the book and then figure out who you know is probably a psychopath.

There are over 500 episodes for your listening pleasure here at their website. I also recommend Radiolab and Freakonomics for instant bursts of insight. You can use a podcast app for instant access to new episodes.

Kennett River, Great Ocean Road

Last week my Mum and Dad flew home to England after a three week holiday with us in Melbourne. We made a lot of new memories and we ended our holiday together with a trip on the Great Ocean Road of Victoria. It’s a spectacular journey. We spent 2 days driving and stopping at random points but could have easily spent another 2 days for all there was to see.

We stopped at Kennett River, about 30 minutes from Apollo Bay, to see Koalas in wild. We saw some, but they were overshadowed by some really friendly birds, and we took plenty of pictures!

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Down Under

After an exhausting week, it’s nice to get some perspective outside my bedroom window and remember that we’re here, in Australia, living a very lucky life. I’ve been reading Bill Bryson’s book Down Under and it’s a lovely read, constantly mirroring my own views about Australia. That is it a lovely, lucky country. I feel lucky to be here. People are pleasant, the sun shines, the landscape is beautiful. Life is good.

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Tour of the Salt Flats of Bolivia, Day Three, Part One

If you can’t tell from the sheer number of posts about this tour… it was very special. We saw so many varied landscapes over our 4 day tour that every picture looks like another world.

Day 3 was my favourite. We saw a beautiful green wetland, full of animals, lakes, bright flora; it was utterly serene and peaceful. I was completely in awe. It was probably the only time I’ve ever used ‘awesome’ and meant it!

Before that though, we travelled through a desert with huge rock formations. Carla told us a story of Italian tourists who had ridden to this area on bikes, ditched their bikes and were never seen again. We were spooked, but later we searched for this story and couldn’t find anything online. Good try Carla!

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^^Stuff we found on the floor in Bolivia!

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^^The aforementioned storytelling.

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Note on our tour: We took our tour with Hostal Los Salares and Moses and Carla were our driver and cook/guide respectively. The hostel is based in Tupiza, so we took the 4 day trip from Tupiza, ending in Uyuni. Our group highly recommends this tour for the landscape, really good Bolivian food and the lovely tour staff. You can book the hostel on hostelworld.com and book the tour when you arrive.

Trees: 6 ways – Black Spur Drive, VIC

A good few weeks ago (when am I on time posting pictures?) Oliver and I took a drive in a friend’s borrowed car to the Yarra Valley, east of Melbourne. Before we even left Fitzroy, picnic and camera packed, we had to contend with a smashed wing mirror on the loaned car. Actually the wing mirror was on the floor by the time we found it. 2 hours, $85 and a little panic later we left Melbourne and took the hour drive out of the city.

Actually, even though it was an unnecessary stress, we dealt with that situation as calmly and quickly as possible. And the wing mirror wasn’t exactly the same colour as the car but Liz didn’t mind. At least she didn’t show that she minded.

We didn’t visit any vineyards that day, but we found a tiny dairy farm, Coldstream Dairy, and ate a bargain $15 cheese plate before we did any sightseeing. It was really good, interesting cheese with a little pot of delicious creamy feta and spicy home made chilli sauce and that made up for the morning’s delay. A variety of cheeses make up for most of the bumps in your day I’ve found. We drove to Healesville and began on the Black Spur Road that Oliver wanted to visit. It was a pretty spectacular 30 minute drive through a national park, the tallest trees and winding roads. Every time an oncoming car came into view I thought I was in a car commercial. If you’re a fan of pictures of trees you’re in luck, just scroll down.

We did take a visit to the White Rabbit Brewery on our way home, but Oliver as the driver had to watch as I enjoyed a really good glass of beer and he drank ginger ale. We plan to return, with somebody else driving, for beer and wine and more cheese.

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How we spent Christmas…

Merry Christmas! This was our first in Australia and we spent it in the only way I could have hoped – on the beach! I know, what a cliché. Well, clichés exist for a reason, and this one exists because it’s a delight. It’s kind of life affirming. That abyss between Christmas and New Year (those few days of not knowing what day it is, feeling over indulged during 5 hours of sunlight) are my least favourite. The festive feeling dies off, January is approaching, it’s cold, it’s dark…. ugh. Well, this time around.. none of that. It’s summer here! Christmas is the beginning of summer. So Boxing Day and today, usually my least favourite, I’m quite enjoying them this year.

We spent Christmas Day on the beach with our friends (total bucket list event), had a backyard BBQ, ate prawns and interspersed that with some traditional things like early evening Home Alone, Baileys, Pictionary, Cadburys (are all my traditions reliant on familiar brands?). Then we slept on a blow up mattress, certainly not traditional, and travelled back to our house yesterday, Boxing Day, morning. We showered, napped and wandered to Richmond for a really good bowl of pho in the afternoon. We ambled back and watched a DVD and ate ice cream. It was so different from the usual.

And the main difference is the sunshine. I get it from my Dad, this dislike for winter. I love December and the Christmas build up but I really could lose January and February. I get up before the sun does, the sun leaves before I leave work. It does something to me. I am an SAD believer!

In January my parents are visiting us for 3 weeks, unbelievable! I could not be more excited. I know they’re excited to see Oliver and I but I suspect that my Dad will gain more than our company. He gets to escape 3 weeks of that awful British post Christmas winter that makes him miserable. The sunshine here should be enough to see him through to the spring when he gets home. Some pictures of the festive season around here…

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