Friday, 28 November 2008

Thanksgiving

I've been catching up with my blogroll, and all the Americans are posting about Thanksgiving (The Canadians had Thanksgiving a while ago, which confuses me - why a different date?).

None of my 3 countries celebrates Thanksgiving. In a way I'm pleased because family gatherings can be annoying, and fattening, and stressful, plus I just know being so far away from my loved ones would make me sad... Christmas is bad enough!

Conversely, what we don't have in my countries is a day when we take a big step back and consciously list the things we have to be thankful for.

Some of my bloggers have had the most horrible year, and they still have the grace to be thankful for things. It's inspiring. And humbling.

So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving... I am grateful for:


  • My family

  • A loving husband who wants a family with me

  • My excellent health

  • Having a good job during this recession

  • A house that I own

  • Not having to struggle to pay the mortgage

  • Friends around the world who care about me

  • Being a whole lot fitter and thinner than I could be

  • Living in Sydney

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Sydney - Botanical Gardens

The other day it was just too nice to go to the gym, so I went for a walk at lunchtime instead. What can be hard to believe when you are surrounded by high rise buildings in the centre of Sydney is that there are acres of trees and gardens nearby - the Botanical Gardens.


How big is that tree?!

It took me about 15 minutes to reach the closest gate and step inside the gardens (entry is free). Immediately I could feel my spirits lifting as I moved into the shade of an enormous fig tree. There are indigenous plant areas, rose gardens, herb gardens, Chinese gardens, ponds and fountains, reached through beautiful avenues of trees. Rolling green lawns all sport "Please walk on the grass" signs, and are populated with tourists, schoolkids and suits picnicking, socialising or quietly reading a book.


I was listening to a dramatised audio book on my mp3 player (The Chronicles of Narnia. I've got the lot and am working my way through them - I think I was listening to Prince Caspian that day) and I let my feet take me where they fancied.


I meandered along in a general downhill direction until I reached the sea (the gardens are on the edge of a bit of Sydney Harbour) then headed back towards the city. It was glorious and I could have relaxed under a tree for the rest of the day! Sadly I had to go back into an air conditioned office, but it had been a lovely break.


These are "flying foxes" - big ginger fruit bats - which hang out in many of the trees of the gardens.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Sketching

When I was in school I knew that I wanted to make my career as an artist. I took Art to the end of school and when I left school I went straight to art college.

It didn't work out for me - I didn't have the self discipline for Graphic Design, and I realised Fine Art was not a good career choice! So I dropped out and today I'm a senior software developer which I'm pretty good at. And it pays very very well!

Art has remained my hobby. When I lived in South Africa I always had my easel up with a sketch or painting in progress. I thought I was rather good at my hobby and I'd give the best ones away as gifts.

Then I moved to England and I didn't have space for my easel for 5 years, and once I had the space I'd lost my "touch" and my drawings were a little embarrassing! I briefly dated a bloke who was a graphic designer and he was very unenthusiatic about my art which was another blow to my confidence.

Now I'm in Australia. I have the space, I have the light, and I have a gorgeous husband who encourages me to indulge my hobby. It has been nearly 10 years since I drew regularly, and I'm very nervous!

I drew this on Saturday while Milord was playing golf. It is from a photo we took at the Sydney zoo earlier this year...


I'm not entirely happy with it, but Milord went "Wow! That's fantastic!" when he came home. He's a lovely man!

Monday, 24 November 2008

Whitsundays Holiday - Part 4

Continued from here.

Day 4 – Wednesday 15th October

We got underway shortly after breakfast and our morning “sked” – a pre-determined radio call from our boat provider checking on everyone’s plans for the day. They’d call every morning at 8:30am, and again at 1pm in the afternoon to see what we were up to.


We were on our way to Chalkies Beach (10) on Haslewood Island, where we’d had brilliant snorkelling on our last trip. Chalkies has a challenging anchorage because the bottom plummets away to 100m not far away, but provided you are among the first few boats to drop anchor you’re ok. We sailed there passing Whitehaven Beach (9), a beautiful, long, perfectly white expanse of sand – and a popular day trip from the nearby resorts by boat, helicopter and sea plane. We got to Chalkies by late morning and at high tide, threw on our masks and fins and swam towards the reef.


And swam, and swam and swam… where was the reef? Milord got fed up and headed back to the boat to pick up the dingy and I carried on. After about half an hour I still hadn’t found the reef and I was getting a bit freaked out so I turned and swam towards shore, navigating around a rocky headland. Around this point I realised I was swimming into the current too, which while not very strong was still unpleasant. Milord finally returned with the dingy as I staggered angrily onto the sand, and we went back to the boat for lunch and a rest.

Low tide happened at about 2pm, so we buzzed across in the dingy and found the reef right where we thought it was – it had just been too deep to see! We snorkelled around for a while complaining about the visibility… and suddenly it got so bad that I couldn’t see anything at all – not even my hands! We got very uncomfortable and high-tailed it back to the dingy, dodging corals that loomed out at us at the very last second. Brrr - creepy. That was it for me, I’d lost all desire for snorkelling, although Milord had another go the next day.

We had a glorious sunset over the sea, and cooked steaks with salad.

Day 5 – Thursday 16th October


A lazy start and a gentle sail over to Whitehaven Beach (9), where we had bacon and eggs sandwiches before taking the dingy to the beach. Commercial day tripping boats are restricted to either end of the beach, but as a private charter we could anchor anywhere so we picked a secluded patch. We buzzed ashore, anchored the dingy in the sand and took a long walk on squeaky clean bright white sand. They say the beach is pure silica, and it certainly is stunning. We put our towels down in a patch of shade under a scrubby pine and went for a swim in the crystal water, followed by a bottle of cold champagne. There was enough breeze to keep the flies away and to stop it being too hot.


After about half an hour we walked back to our dingy, just in time to stop it floating away on the rising tide! Luckily the breeze had been on-shore! Then back to our boat and back to Chalkies (10), where we dropped anchor almost exactly where we’d spent the night! We grabbed our books and relaxed in the shade of the awning.



I read several books on our trip. Kat had sent me a novel set in Venice (she and I travelled there together a few years ago and loved it) which I enjoyed – the author managed to really evoke the spirit of the place. As much as I tried to eke the book out I finished it in a couple of days and I would have gone insane but happily the boat had a small library on board. What a bizarre collection! A Shakespearean play with handwritten notes all the way through. The “Backpacker’s Bible”, which I thought would be a travel book but turned out to actually be a Bible… for backpackers. And a few novels. Kat, I left your book aboard in the hope that someone enjoys it!

During the afternoon I got very hot and decided to go for a swim. As I was about to dive into the water I looked down and did a double take. The sea seemed to rushing past like a fast river! I dipped in a toe: yep, the current was wild! I gently lowered myself down the ladder and laughed as my body was pushed horizontal in the water. Milord brought me my fins and I powered up to the front of the boat and hung onto the anchor line letting myself flutter in the current. Then I let go and the water swept me along the side to the rear where I grabbed the dingy line before swimming to the front again – it was great fun! Milord put his fins on too and came to join me and we played in the current for ages. I wouldn’t have liked to have been in that current without my fins though!


For our last night aboard I tried to use up as much food as possible by making a spicy pork stew with lots of vegetables, and we drank the last of the wine. Sadly I’d got the catering a bit wrong and we ended up with lots of food left over and ran out of booze – we had to ration ourselves over the last couple of days! Milord was quite indignant.


I love this pic of me. I look so tanned and relaxed and ungroomed... even the scar running down my cheek doesn't bother me too much.

continued here.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Desk yet again

Oh and now they tell me I'm not moving to level 9 after all... ridiculous bunch!

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Desk again...

Darn, I've just heard I'm about to move to level 9, which I know is surrounded by highrises... I'm about to lose my view.

wah

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Desk

So where do I spend most of my life? Behind a desk... wanna see?

(Looking at someone's desk you can tell a lot about them. Even the completely bare desks say a bit about the personality that has to be so ordered!)


From the left:

  • Pot plant (belongs to the office, but there's a good chance I'd have brought one in if there wasn't one).

  • Wedding photo.

  • Phone.

  • Printouts, pad and pen: this is whatever I am currently working on. Completed/upcoming work is in the tray on the right of the desk.

  • Mug (tea usually).

  • Litre bottle of water and a glass: I try to drink the whole thing every day. Yes I do visit the bathroom a lot!

  • Computer... of course.
    On the PC is my glasses case (sigh - getting old), a DVD I need to return (Horton hears a Who), raffle tickets for Surf Life Saving (the draw is in Feb), a highlighter pen and a couple of post-it notes with my user id, the helpdesk phone number and a test system login.
    Plugged into the front of the PC is a USB connector that I use to charge my mp3 player and download photos from my camera.
    And a mouse and wrist-rest thingy.
    And that's a mobile phone charger next to the mouse.

  • To the right of the PC is hand sanitiser, hand cream and a box of tissues.

  • A bowl of fruit. I eat lots of fruit.

  • Tray of paperwork that I'm not working on right now, and a file with manuals and so on.

  • Ugly but very functional handbag.



Under the desk:
  • A backpack for the gym: this lives at work, I just take sweaty clothes home and bring clean clothes back.

  • A backpack for walking to or from work.

  • Running shoes, airing between gym and walking home.

  • Bin.

  • Drawers: mostly containing packet soups, tins of tuna, herbal teas and work socks. And a few bits of office paraphernalia.


And if I turn to the right this is what I see:


Very nice.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Movember



So I've already told you guys about Ocsober : an Aussie month-long sponsored sobriety challenge to raise money to educate kids about the dangers of substance abuse.

Well, now we're well and truly into Movember: an Aussie month-long sponsored [mo]ustach-growing challenge to raise money for men's health issues, specifically prostate cancer and depression research.

Now, while I don't know of anyone who took up the teetotal month, there are a few boys in my office doing the "mo-grow".

Gawd it's nasty!

Of course they're having fun with the idea so it's all a bit porno, with sideburns and handlebars and... ugh. Sooo unattractive! Did men really wear them as a matter of course back in the 60s? I'm finding it hard to believe.

One particular bloke in my office, a stunningly attractive American who is usually the epitome of clean-cut, well dressed, nicely built easy-place-to-rest-my-eyes-ness (hey, I'm allowed to look, right?) has started his mo. And overnight has become the epitome of sleazy, unwashed would-cross-the-street-to-avoid! Very sad.

If you feel like a giggle then google images of "movember". And be very very grateful that the mo is out of fashion!

Monday, 10 November 2008

You want me to eat what?

I've mentioned before that the area we live in is a bit of a melting pot, with a strong Asian influence. Every time I walk into my nearest little grocery store I spend a lot of time thinking "What on earth is that is that and how (or why) would you eat it?".

About once a week Milord or I take the plunge and buy something we've never tried before. Last week he came back with 5 little parcels of banana leaves.
"What are those?"
"I don't know but they looked interesting!"


(image nicked from here)

Luckily there was a label on one saying "sticky rice", so I googled for a while and discovered that this is a snack of pre-cooked sticky rice usually with some sort of addition (which can vary wildly). We boiled them for half an hour, peeled the leaves off and nibbled at the compact rice cake revealed. Turns out there was a kind of bean paste in the middle.

Verdict: bleah.
We won't be bothering with these again!

Yesterday I came back from the store with these:


Salted Duck Eggs. You should have seen Milord's face!
"What are you trying to do to me?!"
(this from the man who is still munching his way through the jar of dried anchovies coated in wasabi)

Take a duck egg and soak it in very salty water for a couple of weeks. The egg absorbs loads of salt and will keep for many months, plus it now tastes rather different.

I sat down and googled for recipes for ages. Sounds like one generally uses the yolk in cooking, or else you hard boil the egg (like a normal egg) and use it in salad.

So I boiled a couple of eggs, let them cool and peeled them. I lined up a few crackers, topped them with a slice of tomato, added a slice of yolky boiled egg, sprinkled some pepper, and handed a plate to Milord. After a long hesitation he took a bite.


"Hmmm. Not bad. Guess we don't need to add salt though!"

The white of the egg is incredibly salty - I discarded any that didn't have hardboiled yolk in the middle. The bit left on the cracker was deliciously salty, and the yolk was rich and, yes, a bit salty too!

Verdict: yum.
Now I need to think of something different to try with the 4 eggs left over!

Friday, 7 November 2008

Sick Puppy

I'm at home with a nasty cold...

I woke up on Wednesday night with bad hay fever and kept Milord awake for ages while I sneezed and snotted and waited for the meds to work. I get the sort of hay fever where it feels just like a couple of thousand ants have taken up residence in your sinuses and pharynx and are running around. It's mind bogglingly uncomfortable and all you can do is wait for the antihistamines to kick in.

On Thursday I still felt a bit rough but assumed it was a hay fever hangover... until the afternoon when I realised I probably had something else because the tickle was gone but my head was still clogged and running.

We had a another horrible night last night (we have GOT to sort out the spare room soon, so that I can give Milord some distance at these times!) and there was no way I was going to work today.

I got up in the afternoon to wander around the shops for food, but that was actually very difficult. It is impossible to food shop when you have no sense of taste and no appetite and have a head full of cotton wool! I'm thinking of steak, salad and baked potato tonight, but I'm not bothered...

I almost paid $40 too much for something because I handed over a $50 instead of the $10 I thought I'd taken out of my wallet. (10s are blue and 50s are yellow. yeah)

Some nutty old lady with her spectacles held together with a sticking plaster cautioned me about showing too much skin (I was in a tank top and jeans) and said god wants us to be modest. I congratulated her on looking like she'd come in from a snowstorm.

I stumbled back into the house needing a serious lie down. The drugs have the cold under control but I still feel particularly rotten.

I'm on the couch with a glass of wine, reading a medieval drama set in ancient Sicily, and MTV on the telly. Some of the videos are utterly mesmerising after a couple of codeine!

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Whitsundays Holiday - Part 3

Day 3 – Tuesday 14th October
...continued from here.


It turned out our anchorage in Stonehaven (3) did not settle down much in the night! We rolled and swung in the current, and bullets of wind hurtled down from the surrounding hills to tear at the boat. Oddly enough I didn’t sleep too badly, as the night was cooler than the one before and with Milord in another cabin I was able to lie across the bed so that the rolling was feet-to-head instead of side-to-side. The sound of our anchor chain scraping across the seabed as we were pushed around was a bit disconcerting, but I got used to it after a while. Milord reckons he had a horrible night though – he hates high winds at anchorage.

We were up early and cooked breakfast in spite of the rolling, as well as coffee, orange juice and champagne (there is something really decadent about champagne for breakfast)! Then we raised anchor and went along to Luncheon Bay (5). The plan was to spend most of the day there and snorkel 3 bays (Luncheon, Manta Ray and Pinnacle Bay).


We anchored in Luncheon Bay and took the dingy over to the reef for a snorkel, after which we buzzed to the next bay, Manta Ray Bay (6), for some more snorkelling. It was pretty good, but we decided we were cold and had had enough, so we skipped Pinnacle Bay and headed back to the boat for a hot shower. The sea was really rolly back at the boat, making the shower a bit interesting! We decided to move on to our next anchorage, Cateran Bay on Border Island, in the hope that it would be more comfortable.

As we came around the northern tip of Whitsunday Island we realised why the water had been so rolly in the bays – the sea was very rough and lumpy as we rounded Pinnacle Point (7)! We had a bit of fun sailing through it, tacking[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tacking#Maneuver] a couple of times as we were heading almost straight into the wind. I learned quickly to move across the boat while Milord brought her around on the new heading, otherwise I’d end up practically in the water as the boat lay on her side and I would have to “climb” to the upward side!

You also learn very quickly to have everything on the boat well put away before sailing like that, as all loose items leap from one side of the boat to the other!


We came into Cateran Bay (8) at mid afternoon and picked up a permanent buoy mooring. Finally we were in calm water, and I produced a feast of cheeses, pates and biscuits, which we helped down with gin and tonics while stretched out in the shade with our books, listening to the Café del Mar cds[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caf%C3%A9_del_Mar] Milord had thought to bring along. A nap may have ensued, and as night fell we cooked salmon steaks on the barbie and had them with avocado and salad and white wine.



Continues here.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Weight Update

It's been a while since I did one of these, and that's because I do not have any good news...

Septsober did nothing for me, and last month spiraled out of control with weddings and holidays. Bugger.

I need to get back into exercise, as I seem to be doing less and less. Milord and I have done nothing for exercise on the weekends since before our wedding, and I couldn't run a 6min km right now if my life depended on it!

Look at this:


Revolting.

Can you see my holiday week? Oh yes.

Grump grump grump...

Milord is in the pub after watching the Melbourne Cup all afternoon. He sounds half-plastered. We are supposed to be going out to dinner together tonight but now I don't much feel like it...

Or maybe I should get over myself and go and join him and play catch up? Hmmm.

If you can't beat 'em join 'em eh! Byeeeeee blogees!