06 May 2015

Jorpins 365 : April Favourites

What a blur April was! It went by so damn quickly for me, I felt like I barely got a grasp on it...was it the same for you? Lots of red last month; unusual for me. But I just can't resist that gorgeous wall; it's just around the corner from us too. There was Hong Kong, and then back in Sydney there was loads of wind and hail and rain - those crazy storms - and swimming in the rain. Some glorious gold shoes, lamingtons and hungry dogs too. And yes, yet more lovely vintage finds! 

You can see all my daily shots here, or follow me on Instagram here.

01 May 2015

Death by Doxie : Porch Watch

Outside of eating, the hounds most favourite thing in the world is to sit on the front porch and watch the world go by*. Preferably in the sunshine. And don't they look just adorable doing it? 

No really, it's been a pretty rotten week for the world so please - take a moment to just soak in Ferdi's paws, the way he tucks them in under his chest. And look at those folds in Elfi's little legs. Now breath. Ahhhhh. I've said it before and no doubt I'll say it again - hounds make everything better.

*Where 'watch the world go by' means barking your lungs out and spraying spittle all over the steps every five minutes because the nice neighbourly old lady or woman with pram and (previously) sleeping kid or - god forbid - the postman dared to pass within sniffing distance.

29 April 2015

My...Sport

I have a feeling those that know me well may have spat their morning cuppa all over their laptop screens when I announced this month's prompt. You see, sport and I have never really got along. You know those people that are a 'natural'? That can be good at any sport within five minutes of picking up a bat, ball or surfboard? Well, I'm the exact opposite of that. (Annoyingly my husband is a natural, just to highlight how very not a natural I am). 

I am terrible, at everything sports related. I have the hand eye coordination of a drunken mole-rat. At school I was always that awkward kid who got picked last for the team. (What kind of sadist invented that whole team picking system, by the way? I would very much like to have some words with them.). PE was torture, plain and simple. 

The school consistently forced me to play team sports, under some misguided notion that it was 'good for me'. But all it did was give me a lifetime of trauma. No really - I just had a horrendous flashback to me playing netball. I'd blocked that out until now. Excuse me while I go into the foetal position for a little while. Ugh.

Netball, softball, soccer, cricket, hockey, swimming, athletics, footy - it was all a humiliating disaster. Well...maybe not all of it. I do have two fond memories of sport at school. 

The first was around year ten, when we decided to start a girls soccer team. We had never played before so we had no expectation of winning. It really was just for fun. I remember playing a round robin, a full day of matches. We lost every game; I think maybe we only scored one goal! It was pouring with rain, which sounds awful but it was wonderful; all that mud to slip and slide about in, on our knees, Elvis style. We had a ball.

A bit later, a few of my friends decided to take over the school hall some lunch times so we could play indoor hockey. We took over the sound system too, and always had something a little bit retro, a little bit rock and roll playing, very loudly. Led Zeppelin was on high rotation at the time, from memory. I was still terrible, I had no skills, but I did have fun. It made me realise sport didn't have to be scary, frightening, humiliating. 

Actually there is one sport I am good at, with thanks to my Austrian step-dad, Erwin - skiing. Erwin loves the mountains, the cold and snow. So from a very young age every winter we'd head to Mount Buller or Falls Creek and spend a week or so skiing. We had lessons up until I was about sixteen, so I learnt proper technique, unlike my husband who is self taught. It's the one thing I can do slightly better than him. Not that I cling to that like a limpet to a rock. Not at all.

I adore skiing. I adore the brisk mountain air, the breathtaking views, the village feel of ski resorts, all the weird equipment and rituals and traditions (the queue jumping dares, the hot chocolates, the games of 500). And that feeling of freedom, being right on the edge of control and danger - pushing yourself, just enough, as you swoosh down the slope. One whiff of diesel fuel and I get excited; I immediately think of the ski lifts. 

Unfortunately you can't just pop your runners on and go for a ski. Especially in Australia it's an expensive and logistically tricky hobby. We don't ski very often these days, but when we do I still love it.

Outside of skiing, my husband goes through phases where he decides we need to do a family activity. When we were living in Hong Kong, that was squash. Since being back in Australia it's been tennis. We haven't played much lately, but for awhile we were playing semi-regular doubles matches with the step-sons as partners. Yes, I'm terrible, but that's okay. And yes, surprisingly, I do actually enjoy it. 

I guess in spite of all those traumatic school sport memories - the ones that make me shiver and sweat in fear - exercise and movement have become a really important part of my life. I discovered yoga about seven years ago and loved it - the feeling of progression and accomplishment, building your strength and flexibility week on week. I love doing hand weights and pilates and a weird mix of other exercises I've pulled off the internet. And, of course, I could walk for days and days. When I don't move, when I don't exercise, I feel terrible - emotionally and physically. Maybe school sport was good for me after all? 

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ps. In all honesty I did not feel like writing this post today. It's been such a sad, grim, heart breaking week. But I made a commitment to do one of these My... posts a month, and to write more, and sometimes writing is just about focussing on the task at hand and getting it done, even when you're feeling bereft of hope. Kindness and compassion and gentleness - that's what I'm seeking out right now, that's what I'm looking for in my corner of the world. I hope you are finding it in yours. x


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The My... posts are a way to get me writing more throughout 2015. There'll be one a month, each with a different My... prompt. You can play along as well, whenever and wherever you want. This month's prompt (April) is My Sport. Next month's prompt (May) is My Travel. Interpret each prompt however you like - a story or a jumble of thoughts, fact or fiction, personal or not. Don't feel too constrained by the months either, if you like a prompt then have a go. And make sure to let me know if you do join in!

26 April 2015

On A Year And A Bit of Saying Sure, Why Not?

When we first moved back to Australia eighteen or so months ago I was feeling a bit lost. It was partly the standard dislocation and general weirdness that is a normal part of the repatriation process. But is was also partly something more.

Living in Seoul I legally wasn't allowed to work. So I dabbled in things here and there. I explored on foot and took lots of photos and wrote lots of words. I read and embroidered and did loads of paper craft. I always had projects on the go; I was never bored. And there was never any pressure to get a job, to go to work. My spouse visa wouldn't let me, but more than that people just accepted that as an expat wife my role was focussed on supporting the family and that was as it should be. But then we moved back home and suddenly everyone was always asking - sometimes tentatively, sometimes expectantly - Are you going back to work? 

Let's rewind a little. Before we moved overseas, I worked. Since my first 'proper' job in a bookstore at 16-ish I've worked. I've always wanted independence, I've always wanted to be self sufficient, I've always wanted to do well. Then we moved overseas and I stopped working and at first it was a bit scary, but after a year or so I adjusted and it was ace. It was fun to devote my time to my husband and step-sons, and to the house and the dogs. It was fun to have spare time for crafting and reading and blogging. And I appreciated it for the luxury it was.

But then we moved back home and it felt different. It felt like I should do something more with my time, with my life - and not just because people were telling me I should. I felt it too. I just didn't know what that something was. I knew what I didn't want to do - return to full time corporate work - but I didn't have a clear idea of what I did want to do. I was a bit confused about it all.

Within a few months of landing back in Australia, while all this was just starting to swirl about in my head, I found myself at ProBlogger. It was wonderful and fun and I met so many ace people. It was exciting and motivating, and completely utterly terrifying. I kept having these ridiculous circular conversations with myself that followed one of two themes:

Theme one: There's some things I think I'm pretty good at and I should totally dive in and just do those things, but - what if in reality I completely and utterly suck at those things? Let's face it, I have no f**king idea what I'm doing... 

Theme two: There's some things I think I'm pretty good at, but I'm in the ridiculously lucky position of not needing to make money so why should I feel the need to enter the marketplace, with all the pressure and stress and potential corruption of ideals that it may entail? Why can't I just enjoy life and employ my skills in non money making ways? Isn't ambition just thinly veiled vanity? A desperate need for outside approval? 

As you can imagine, neither were productive lines of thought.

And then Voices of 2014 happened. Some lovely person (I know who you are and I'm so very grateful!) nominated my little blog, and somehow I made it through to the top forty in the personal category. And because of that a few emails came my way - invitations to PR events and sponsor challenges. And I still had no idea what I wanted to do, and those circular arguments were still swirling about in my head, but I just started saying yes. I figured I'd see where things went, see what felt right. I figured I'd cross the river by feeling the stones beneath my feet (thanks for that one, Deng Xiaoping).

So I said yes to some fantastic freebies and to some things I put cold hard cash behind. I said yes to blogger brunches and photography workshops. I finally said yes to a Photoshop class, and a pretty intensive weekend learning all about freelance writing (both worth every penny). I said yes to Facebook groups and Instagram and real life meet-ups.

I thought that maybe saying yes would help me figure out what I wanted to do. And it has. After a year and a bit of saying sure, why not? I'm definitely more certain about a few things.

Firstly, I'm clearer about why I want to make some money. I know that in the grand scheme of things I'll never contribute to the family finances in a meaningful way (I contribute much more in other ways). But I want to have enough cash to pay for a camera lens, or a magazine subscription, or to buy that dress that I really don't need, or to cover the cost of upgrading my flight to Europe (that's what I'm working towards right now!). It might all sound frivolous and silly, but it gives me a strange peace of mind. It means something, to me.

Secondly I'm much clearer about how I want to make money. And it's not through my blog, at least not directly anyway. It's through freelance writing, and photography, and collaboration, and through saying yes to very select opportunities that do come my way thanks to Good Things*.

And I've realised just how much doing things leads to doing other things. I've realised how little actions that may not feel like much at the time can lead to opportunities down the track. Sometimes way down the track.

And all of this has lead to where I'm currently at. I'm writing six posts a month on this blog which was my intention at the start of the year (yay me!); I've been nominated for Voices of 2015 (thank you, whoever you are!); I'm writing for the Threadless blog (I'm working on a post or three for them this weekend, actually); I've hit 24 sales in my Etsy store; and I've just submitted a 4000-ish word article - with photos - for one of my favourite magazines (my first properly paid commission, and the editor loves it! Yippee!). I've also recently submitted a paid-in-kind interview with one of my favourite illustrators for a fabulous little magazine; plus I'm in the midst of organising a trial run as a contributing photographer (yes, a paid position!) for a website I've long enjoyed (really hope I can pull that one off...). Oh, and I'm a finalist in the mobile category at the Head On Photo Festival.

I know that not all of these things will work out (and yes part of me is scared to publish this post in case it all goes to s**t). I know that next month may not be quite as awesome and opportunity filled as this one. I know that I'll have to work hard and stay focussed and keep thinking and planning and pitching if I want to continue writing. But right now it feels like there are some pretty ace things afoot, some pretty ace things indeed!

I still don't really know what the f**k I'm doing (does anyone?), but I reckon I'll keep saying yes for a little while longer.



24 April 2015

Three Etsy Things : Soup Bowls


As much as I love the long sunny days of summer (and living in the sparkling harbour city of Sydney how could I not?), I do get a bit excited when the nights cool and the light softens. I adore autumn. Partly because of the gorgeously coloured leaves and that misty, filtered sunshine. And partly because it means a chance to wear boots and scarves and jackets, long socks and big wooly knits. And partly because cooking in the cooler months is so much fun! Throw everything in a big pot, simmer for a few hours, serve with comforting carb of your choice - yum! 

Summer did take a long time to say goodbye this year, but autumn has now arrived with a bang (see #sydneystorm...). We've wholeheartedly embraced the cold and rainy turn with two stews and a mince pie under our culinary belts already. 

Next on the kitchen hit list? Soup! I'm thinking a creamy leek and potato, and then something a little mistrone-ish, with loads of veg. Maybe later I'll tackle the mother-in-law's two day oxtail soup recipe. And what better way to celebrate soup season than with these gorgeous bowls?