21 December 2013

All wrapped up...

I love a good cohesively themed pile of wrapped gifts. I love it so much that not even doing xmas out of a box (or three!) was going to stop me from having one. Luckily I'd decided on this year's theme early on - black wrapping with white, silver and gold highlights. 

Aside from the odd rogue gift tag, all my supplies were from The Wrapping Paper Company. A Twitter friend put me on to them and I'm so glad they did - gorgeous products, timeless designs and made in Melbourne too! I especially love their 'belli-bands', and the calico and linen ribbon (and look at these lovely striped herringbone ribbons!). But be warned, they are mainly aimed at retailers so everything is sold in semi-bulk packs and you need a minimum order of AU $100 (very easy to do, believe me…). 

Anyway, I'm pretty pleased with how it all turned out - the black wrap adds a degree of classiness, yes? 

ps. I've already got ideas for next year - I'm thinking super bright pink and aqua with pops of gold, white and black. And polkadots, lots of polkadots!

16 December 2013

Xmas in a Box!*

This xmas we are kind of nomads. The Big Project isn't finished (we were pushing for a pre-xmas move-in but we realised that was insane, so now it looks like a late January move-in), and we are kind of completely over paying so much for the serviced apartment - especially when a) we can't even have our furry friends with us and b) we already have two separate trips away planned and booked over the next month anyway. 

So tomorrow we check out of the place we've called home since we touched down in Sydney three and a bit short months ago. It's the right thing to do, and we'll make it fun (with a week in Melbourne, a week in Bondi, a week in the city, a week in…). But...it has meant life has been a bit of a logistical nightmare of late. 

It's been a whirlwind of shopping and wrapping and packing and sorting and figuring out what clothes are needed where, and when. Things have been moved to our storage unit in methodical order, so we can go back and access what we need, when we need it. (Including all the doggie things which we'll need come January 1 when we are reunited with Ferdi and Elfi, for good! Best new years gift ever!)

We have three boxes marked XMAS! which will be pulled out of storage xmas week. They'll join us at a serviced apartment in Bondi Beach, where we'll have a festive lunch before heading to the in-laws for dinner. 

Here's what's in my xmas in a box: 
- All the presents for the big day
- Stockings for the step-sons, stuffed with fun things
- A rather festive table runner 
- A handful of xmas decorations - paper ones that pack flat like these (I need to decorate something, living vicariously through Instagram will only soothe my inner Martha Stewart so much…)
- A few precious vintage baubles, brought via Etsy at a time when I thought we'd be in the new house by xmas (*sigh*)
- Xmas crackers, the ones with bad jokes inside (I don't get this trend towards 'fun facts' or 'mottos' - it's not a cracker unless it comes with a bad joke…)
- Champagne and chocolates (of course!)
- Barbecue Shapes in the shape of xmas trees
- Spare wrapping paper and ribbon, and a few gift tags and cards, just in case I missed someone (somewhat likely...)


*Technically it's in three boxes…

ps. How are your festive preparations going? Have you done xmas out of a suitcase before? With a family? How did you manage it?

22 November 2013

Death by Doxie : We Still Miss Our Hounds

My husband and I often have a discussion which goes a little something like this:

Him - "Is there anything you'd change about Ferdi?" 
Me - "Well…his legs are a little bowed and his teeth are a little bucked and, let's be honest, he's not the smartest dog in the world. But, I guess those things are what make him endearing so…no?" 
Him  - "Which makes him the most perfect hound in the world" 
Me - "Ummmm…." 
Him - "You said there's nothing you'd change about him, right? So therefore he must be a perfect dog, the perfect dog." 
Me - "Okay…" 

I've learnt not to argue the point, as we just end up going around in circles. For hours. It's best to just admit that yes, Ferdi is a perfect hound. Looking at these photos, from our last night in Seoul, I'm kind of thinking the husband might just be right. 

(Do I need to point out those paws?)



18 November 2013

Things I Miss...

There is so much that is awesome about being back in Australia. 

The gorgeous Sydney beaches, the good wine, the nectarines and sweet, sweet corn. How my Mum can just 'pop up' to Sydney for a few days, or how I can head to Melbourne for my sister's super fun 40th without too much trouble. Being able to spend more time with friends and family, and finally meeting some of my virtual friends in the real world (and finding out that they are just as ace off line as on!). So much awesome.

But…there are things I miss, about being overseas and about having a home (we're still living in our 'cosy' serviced apartment and most of our stuff is still in storage somewhere). In no particular order, here are some things I miss right now:

Ferdi and Elfi
Namdaemun's ribbon shops (but finding this Australian website has eased the pain somewhat)
My scanner (you don't realise how many times a day you scan and email something until you have to walk to Officeworks every time you need to do it)
An internet connection that doesn't drop out every few seconds and can cope with having 15+ tabs open at once 
Mandoo! Soup! Noodles! Soupy Noodles! With Mandoo!
My husband having his own office (right now I'm hearing every word of his midnight conference calls…)
My washi tape stash 
Our books
Watching movies on long haul flights
The cold (I know this sounds crazy - I'm loving the beautiful early summer in Sydney but I'm also strangely missing that sudden drop below zero in Seoul...) 
My tote bag collection (I didn't bring any with me, but I refuse to buy anymore as I have too many…can't wait to break them all out of storage; I miss this one the most)
Not having to worry about my purse / backpack / camera being pinched 
Muji, Uniqlo and all the cheap but good 'Made in Korea' stuff (knits and socks especially)
Having only a short flight between me and two of my favourite cities in the world 
Everything being new and strange and kind of wonderful because of that...

11 November 2013

My First…Rebellion

I'm playing along with the hilariously talented Kerri Sackville today. She's started a new blogging challenge about firsts, and today's theme is 'My First Rebellion'. She's written about her's here. But read mine first so you don't make unfair comparisons. Okay, good, thanks…

Well technically this isn't quite my first act of rebellion. Although I was a pretty well behaved kid there had been little things before this. The odd bit of port pinched from the parents stash. Sneaking out at night for a moonlit walk*. That final week of year twelve when we staged daily events to protest the banning of 'muck-up day'.

But that all just seemed like harmless fun, and it was done as a group. It's easy to rebel when you're part of a pack; when you feel that truth, beauty and your god given right to throw eggs on the final day of high school is on your side. 

No, my first real rebellion was a solitary act. In a strange way it was kind of the first tangible sign that I had my own thoughts about the world and the way it worked. That I'd considered all the very worthy, very important stuff my parents taught me growing up and had reached a slightly** different conclusion. 

My first real rebellion was getting a job at McDonald's. 

When I was little, my Mum and Step-Dad were what you might call hippies. Middle class sure, but a very-left-leaning, grow-your-own, build-your-own, change-the-world kind of middle class.

We're talking an early childhood of communes, marijuana plants in the backyard, and friends who built mud huts in Warrandyte way before the word 'sustainable' was part of everyday PR speak. On weekends we made banners and marched for peace or workers rights or both. On school holidays we drove to Nimbin and fought off leeches and hungry baby goats (aggressive little critters). Or we got dragged to festivals in the middle of the Victorian bush, where there were teepees and nudity and mud. And drumming circles. (I still have nightmares). 

You can probably gather from all this that McDonald's was a very dirty word in our household. It was a sign of all that was wrong with the world - greedy capitalism, factory farming, American cultural imperialism, wastefulness, and just plain bad food. We did not eat there, ever.

(Side note - on the other hand, my Dad took us to Red Rooster every other Friday night and I ate pineapple fritters and drank coke! Coke! It was so great!) 

So I was 18 and studying at Swinburne Uni, and I wanted some extra cash, and I heard that McDonald's Hawthorn was hiring. How convenient, I thought. So I applied and I got the job.*** Cue general ridicule and mirth from the family. They laughed at the uniform, the terminology, the 'training'. 

But I was earning a decent hourly rate and kind of having fun. And I turned out to be pretty awesome at the whole fast food thing. I got little promotions and I won some awards. One year, I won 'Drive Thru Crew Member of the Year'. Go me. And I remember xmas day, my Mum and her best friend rolling about laughing, literally in tears of laughter about this award. And it pissed me off. Because by that stage I'd realised that my silly casual job at Maccas was turning out to be something more. 

As a shy introvert, working at McDonald's gave me confidence. That job taught me how to make small talk, how to deal with all kinds of people and situations I'd never encountered before. It showed me I could be witty, funny even (who would have thought!); and that working in a team didn't always suck. 

As I continued with my studies I continued to work for them, and slowly, slowly I showed my folks that McDonald's maybe wasn't as evil as they thought. As a manager I helped give training and a career to kids who may have slipped through the cracks otherwise. Later, McDonald's gave me my first 'real' job in the area I'd studied to work in. And it's been thanks to McDonald's that we've enjoyed the past six amazing years of overseas adventures.

And, best of all, it's this first act of rebellion many many years ago that eventually led me to my husband, my best friend, my partner in crime. Kind of awesome, the twists and turns of life. 

*************

*Seriously. I was such a nerd / good girl that my friend and I used to sneak out at night just to go for a stroll in the moonlight. We'd sit in the park and eat Aero bars, dipping them in yogurt. Party on. 

**Note the slightly. I am still left-leaning. I still believe in equality, fairness and human rights. I believe in public services and the power of education. But I also believe in personal choice and the free market, and that some times for some problems government regulation isn't actually the best solution.

*** Yes, I was hired, by McDonald's, at the age of eighteen. 

06 November 2013

Frocktober : Week Four


I've been avoiding this post, just a little, because really - who wants to put a collage of ten goofy selfies on their blog? Not me. But here it is. Frocktober, the last ten days. (In case you're wondering, it's not too late to sponsor me. Go ahead, click on over, cough up a fiver or two for the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation. Thanks.) It's been six frock less days (well, not completely frock less. I have frocked up for dinner most nights). Have I missed it? Well...yes and no. 

Yes because it was fun being a part of something; it was ace getting those 'you've received a donation' emails. And yes, because I always like having a little project to do, something I'm committed to and accountable for each day. And yes, because we raised just under $1300! So great and way beyond all my expectations. Thanks again for all the support! 

But also no because it was harder than I thought it would be. Which sounds so stupid and kinda lame. I mean, I'm complaining about wearing a dress everyday? Get a grip lady! But it was tricky. No 'uniform' to fall back on; having to actually think about what to wear each day. And don't even mention the often uncooperative weather (it was a very windy month here in Sydney!). (Clairey Hewitt wrote a bit about this too, about the surprising challenge of wearing a frock every day for a month.) 

And then there was the whole selfie business (which stupidly I hadn't even considered when I signed up). Taking and posting a photo of myself every day was something very far outside my comfort zone. But I did it. And towards the end I didn't care so much about my weird looking knees or my shiny, frowny face. I felt a bit more comfortable in front of the camera, I had a bit of fun. And I realised my legs are pretty ace, actually. I might even do a few more 'what I wore' posts. Might. Quite surprising what a journey a month of dressing up can be. 

Frocktober also forced me to have a good, hard, honest look through my frock-drobe. I've rediscovered hidden gems and I've parted with a few frocks that really just weren't me. I've also re-embraced a bunch of frocks that were relegated to the 'too booby' pile while we were living in Korea...

Korean ladies love tiny skirts and super short shorts; they'll wear bottom bits so small you sometimes think they've forgotten to put pants on. But their busts stay very well hidden - even the lower neck area is a no go zone. In the early days of moving to Seoul I made the mistake of wearing a tee with a slight scoop neck, and I've never felt so conspicuous and so uncomfortable. From then on I was pretty cautious about my necklines, and a lot of frocks became unwearable for a few years. But - in Sydney these same frocks look positively chaste! So welcome back, booby frocks! 

Outfit details: 
22. Frock - Totem / Sandals - Zara 
23. Denim Sack of Awesome (number six - and yes, I know technically it's chambray) - French Connection / Sandals - ALDO / Bangles - Kate Spade 
24. Frock - made590 / Heels - ModCloth / Movie star hair - Desmond & Molly Jones
25. Frock (well, more a tee shirt really) - Threadless / Sandals - ALDO 
26. Frock - ModCloth / Heels - Anne Klein / Really messed up pose - A crazy day
27. Frock- Threadless. That is all. 
28. Frock - Ganni via asos / Belt - Sportsgirl (I think. I bought it years ago.) / Heels - ModCloth 
29. Frock - H+M / Blouse - American Apparel / Heels - Hoehyundong Underground Shopping Centre 
30. Frock - ModCloth / Heels - Nine West 
31. Frock - ModCloth / Cardigan - Marks + Spencer / Heels - Midas / Brooch - Samah Designs on Etsy / Goofy Grin - Thanks to you!

22 October 2013

Frocktober : Week Three

Week three - DONE! We are in the home stretch people! And I've raised my target again - hit $1K, now aiming for $1300. Really amazing. I thank you. The ovaries of Australia thank you. And if you haven't donated yet there's still plenty of time to support the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation - just click on over. Even five dollars is awesome, if that's all you can spare. 

Week three was a busy one for me, and a rather emotional one too. Lots of ups and downs. There was a photography workshop with Brooke Holm, where I got to meet the ever colourful Gourmet Girlfriend in real life. And I met Megan Morton too which was pretty ace. (More on that at a later date). I went to a play and saw some art and ate lots of food, and stayed out late on a Saturday night for the first time in a very long time. I battled stinking hot days (Sydney) and hail storms (Melbourne) and I got to hang out with some of my favourite people. Hurrah! 

Outfit details: 
15. Denim Sack of Awesome (number four) - ASOS / Ankle boots - Novo 
16. Frock - Oasis via ASOS (now half price!) / Slingback heels - Vintage Bruno Magli (from an Etsy shop which seems to have closed down) / Belt - Gorman 
17. Shift dress - Gorman / Top - Witchery / Ankle boots - Novo / Overexposed photo - Exhaustion 
18. Frock - A Wear via ASOS / Top - Uniqlo Heattech (aka the best thermals on the planet) / Scarf - Zara (I think) / Ankle boots - Novo (get the impression I'm a bit in love with these shoes at the moment?) 
19. Frock - Marks + Spencer / Peep toe heels - Moschino / Weird knees - Mother Nature / Underexposed photo - Exhaustion
20. Denim Sack of Awesome (number five) - Zara / Sandals - ALDO / Arms of steel - Low weights, many reps 
21. Frock - ASOS / Flats - Ecote via Urban Outfitters / Jazz hands - By popular demand / Humiliation - It's for a good cause...

I didn't realise how much ASOS I was wearing until I put this list together!

ps. If you want a better look at each outfit and/or each ridiculous facial expression you can find bigger pics on my Instagram (posting daily) and on my sponsorship page (posting almost daily).


15 October 2013

Frocktober : Week Two

Frocktober week two, in which I manage to look like a complete goose in every photo except one (pick which one!). We're at the halfway mark and - I never thought I'd say this - I'm a bit over frocks. Oh to be able to throw on a pair of jeans and a tee! (By the by, I'm pretty sure I'd be a little less over frocks if you sponsored me...)

It's a bit sad knowing that once I've worn a frock I can't wear it again until November. I'm a uniform kind of girl, not a wear-something-different-every-day kind of girl! At any one time I have a handful of outfits that I rotate through the week, but not this month. I've been very conscious of not binging on my most favourite frocks in the first half, I'm trying to spread them across the whole month. But it's tricky!

For week three I'm taking frocktober to Melbourne - hurrah! And there just might be jazz hands (yay!) and wearing my hair down (blergh!) in a future selfie... 

Here's all the outfit details: 
8. Frock - Ark + Co via ModCloth / Bodysuit - H + M / Heels - Nine West / Lipstick - Rouge Coco Shine in Sari D'Eau / Smile - Courtesy of all you wonderfully generous people! 
9. Frock - Marks + Spencer / Belt - Namdaemun Market / Slingback heels - Vintage Bruno Magli from an Etsy store that seems to have shut down
10. Frock - Anna Thomas / Heels - Midas 
11. Denim Sack of Awesome (number three) - Gorman / Flats - Ecote via Urban Outfitters / Photo of Ferdi the Handsomest Hound in the World - My Heart 
12. Frock - Gorman (again!) / Belt - Zara (I think) / Heels - Midas (definitely)
13. Frock - Uniqlo / Sandals - ALDO 
14. Frock - Ruby by Leona Edmiston / Flats - Zara / Goose Bumps + Blue Lips - Sydney's crazy Spring weather

ps. If you want a better look at each outfit and/or each ridiculous facial expression you can find bigger pics on my Instagram (posting daily) and on my sponsorship page (posting almost daily).

14 October 2013

A Little Note About Life Right Now...

You may have noticed things have been a little quiet over here lately, quieter than usual. It's not because I don't have anything to blog about. There's fifteen draft posts sitting here waiting to be finished, asking to be written. 

I want to tell you about the things I've learnt from living overseas, and the things I'm loving about being back in Australia and the things I miss about Korea. And I want to tell you about the ups and downs of being a step mum. And I also really want to give you an update on The Big Project; to show you the progress and let you know how awesome our architect has been through the whole process. 

But, as much as I really want to do all that, it just hasn't been a priority for me right now. And I need to accept that - to acknowledge that that's the choice I'm making, rather than feel frustrated that I haven't hit publish on those draft posts. I'll get to them one day, it's just not today. 

Because today I'm focussed on spending time with the husband before he heads off on another long-ish overseas trip. On setting up the house for the step-sons so it feels like a comfortable place for them, and so that it's easy for them to transition from their Mum's house to ours and back again. I'm focussed on enjoying the sunshine, the unseasonable warmth, and on being active with tennis games and gym visits and trips to the beach. And - let's be honest - I'm also focussed on eating all the things in Sydney. 

I'm also focussed on less fun things like sorting out the gas and water and electricity and wifi and car insurance. And pointlessly fretting over our cash flow. Oh, and the ironing. The endless, mind numbing ironing. 

But it's actually pretty great, this keeping busy with good and mundane real world tasks. Because, to be honest, if I don't keep busy in the real world right now there's a high chance I'll fall into a bit of a hole...

Awhile ago I was chatting to someone who'd done the whole repatriation thing. She'd lived and worked in Europe for a few years. Had a great job, had a great life. And then she moved back home. And she was fine, until one day she found herself sobbing uncontrollably in the supermarket, thinking 'a few months ago I was spending my weekends in France and now I'm stuck in the suburbs of Brisbane figuring out which brand of butter to buy'. (I may be paraphrasing a little, but you get the gist). 

When I'm not busy I'm dislocated. I'm a bit lost (especially without my dogs). I don't know my routine yet, my direction. People keep asking me if I'm working, what I'm doing. And - long term - I'm not really sure how to answer that. So I'm going to keep soaking up the sunshine and hitting the gym and hanging out with the husband and step-sons. I'm going to keep focussing on what's happening in front of me, right now, for a little while longer. Bear with me.

08 October 2013

Frocktober : Week One


Well, for someone who very rarely puts themselves in front of the camera this isn't confronting at all. Nope. Cough. But, it's all for a good cause - I'm wearing a different frock every day this month in support of the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation

There's currently no early detection test for ovarian cancer, which leads to a high mortality rate. The OCRF is working at developing awareness of the symptoms and causes of ovarian cancer. They're not government funded, so to do their good work they rely on people like you and I handing over our hard earned cash. So, if you have five bucks to spare, sponsor me

One week in and I'm slowly getting over my dread of the selfie. And - in even better news - we've raised $600! Wow! A big thanks to all of you who've donated, I really appreciate the support. And thank you too for all the lovely comments on Instagram and Twitter and Facebook. It's made posting the daily photo much less traumatic. 

Anyhoo, here's all the outfit details: 
1. Frock - Marks + Spencer / Belt - Zara / Heels - Midas 
2. Denim Sack of Awesome (summer weight) - Uniqlo / Flats - Ecote via Urban Outfitters (these are my absolute favourite flats. This is my third pair in 18 months, I wear them until they fall apart.)
3. Frock - Whistles via ASOS / Ankle boots - Novo 
4. Denim Sack of Awesome (winter weight) - Muji / Ankle boots - Novo 
5. Frock - Gap / Flats - Urban Outfitters / Ridiculous expression - All mine 
6. Frock - Mata Traders / Pretend high heels - Stylists own 
7. Frock - Gorman / Belt - Gorman / Ankle boots - Novo / Frown - From when I hadn't reached $500 yet. Frown no more!

30 September 2013

Frocktober!

Something's happening tomorrow. Something that combines science, frocks, preventing cancer and puns, so many glorious puns. That something is Frocktober. Frocktober is a month of frock celebrations, big and small, in aid of the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation. Ovarian cancer is one of the most common cancers affecting women. It's often called the 'silent killer' because the symptoms are vague; they are not detected by a pap smear. The OCRF supports national research focussed on developing awareness and an early detection test to increase the chances of survival. It receives no government funding. Basically, it's an organisation well worth supporting

In a fit of madness (inspired somewhat by this lovely lady) I've put my hand up. I pledge to wear a different frock every day for the month of October. You can sponsor me here. Every single dollar is appreciated - even $5 is a frocktastic donation for a frockin' good cause! (Did I mention PUNS?!!!). $5 is like half a coffee in Australia these days right? So give up one half a coffee during the month of October and give it to the OCRF instead and help prevent cancer and feel AWESOME. Yay!

Even after my recent wardrobe clear out, I have a lot of frocks so this should be a breeze, but I'm pretty sure by day five I'm going to be missing my jeans and shorts and yes - leggings as pants! Also, can you wear a dress to the gym? What are the rules there? Anyhoo, these photos are a little teaser of what frock-joy your eyes will be assaulted with throughout October. I'll be cracking out some vintage numbers and some never before worn, back of the closet gems. I am a bit sad that my most outrageous vintage frocks are currently on a boat heading from Seoul to Sydney, but I've still got some great ones to work with. And, if you're lucky, and if I can convince the husband to take me out for a fancy meal or two, and if I lose about three kilos or so, I might even bust out some of those M Missoni numbers. 

I'll be doing daily posts on Instagram, and weekly round ups here (both depending on how enthusiastic and/or competent my photography assistants are). So from tomorrow - it's goodbye comfortable, easy jeans and hello frock-tastic-ness! Frock on people! 


27 September 2013

Death by Doxie : We Miss Our Hounds

The evening before the dogs flew to Australia was a gorgeous one. The heat had finally gone out of the Seoul Summer, so it was warm but not unbearable, with just a hint of a breeze. Ferdi, Elfi and I spent a good hour or so sitting on the balcony, watching the sunset and sniffing the air. And I took a lot of photos. 

Now the dogs are in quarantine, apparently doing well. We miss them a lot. I miss them most when the husband is away (like he has been most of this month). I still kind of think I'm going to see their happy faces whenever I open the door to our serviced apartment. I still unconsciously save food scraps for them. I miss the comfort they give me, when I'm lying in bed alone. Those of you that have a dog in your family know what I'm talking about - there's a constant companionship you get from them, a warmth. And many times a day I'm noticing that absence.

On Saturday I have to pick the dogs up from quarantine, which is exciting. But then I have to drive for an hour or so to drop them at the boarding kennel where they're going to spend the next six weeks. Which will break my heart a little. I am not looking forward to it! But I am looking forward to sharing more of the balcony photo shoot with you (there are some especially cute ones of Ferdi still to come!). And I know the next few weeks will fly by, and mid-November will be here before we know it...

24 September 2013

ProBlogger : Five Things I Learnt

In my last post I mentioned that I'd just returned from the Problogger Training Event. It was two days of fabulous sessions on all kinds of things - from the nitty gritty of Google Analytics to ways to engage your community and tips on becoming a freelance writer. I also met some really ace people in the flesh for the first time (*waves hello to Cheryl, Jess and Elle*) and got to spend more time with some other bloggy friends (Hello Dannielle!). So much food for thought! Now that the dust has settled a little, here are some of the key things I picked up... 

1. ProBlogger isn't all about making money from your blog. 
Sometimes it is, but sometimes it's not. During the opening session, Trey Ratcliff told a story about Star Trek's Leonard Nimoy - about how his real passion is Shakespeare, but he made his money by acting in a sci fi TV show. The money making bit is related to the passion bit, but it's not where he generated his income. Later, I attended a very informative session on freelance writing with Valerie Khoo and Kelly Exeter. One of the things they talked about was writing copy for corporate newsletters and company websites. They talked about writing that feeds your soul and writing that pays the bills.

This sort of stuff is music to the ears of bloggers like me who feel a little uneasy about sponsored posts (and, let's be honest, who don't quite have the blogging dedication required to build an appropriate audience to garner sponsorships). Yes, ProBlogger is about making a profession out of a hobby, but there are so many forms that this can take. 

Across a range of speakers it became clear that blog monetisation isn't just about sponsored posts and advertising. It's about partnerships and collaborations. It's about ebooks and opportunities; finding those areas on the outskirts of your passion, the things you love that overlap with the things people need.

2. You don't have to be the expert. 
This was a theme that came up again and again. One of the things Darren Rowse talked about in his opening keynote was that you need to deal with the fact that you'll never know it all. Put aside time to learn, figure out how to build your knowledge, but realise that there will always be more to know. 

This was something I definitely needed to hear. I always put off doing things because 'I don't know how'. I don't call myself a blogger or a writer or a photographer because I feel like an impostor when I do, because there's so much I don't know yet. But maybe it's time to acknowledge the skills that I have, to be be proactive about the things I want to learn, and to just start doing stuff

Somewhat related was another common theme - these days bloggers and brands alike are focussed on 'engagement', on 'making the reader the hero'. This means that you don't need to be the expert, you and the reader can learn together. Want to blog about veganism but you're not a nutritionist? That's okay - admit the gaps in your knowledge and take your community on a journey with you

3. I don't want to change the world. 
In that room of 450 or so bloggers dreaming big, I'm pretty sure I was in the minority on this one. But it's true, I don't. What I do want is to be good at what I do. I want to be proud of the things I write and the photos I take. I want to learn a lot more about the technical stuff, and build on the skills I have. And I want to be a nice person. 

Sounds kind of lame, right? But it's true. I want to be a great wife, a great step-mum; to enjoy time with my mum and sister and nephews and family. I want to create good things; to contribute to my little community, my little corner of the earth. But I don't want to change the world. 

4. I still suck at small talk. But that's okay. 
Thanks to my previous experience as a trainer and facilitator in the corporate world, and that whole moving overseas thing, I am much better at chit chat than I ever used to be. But there are still times when I am incredibly awkward or just say really dumb stuff. I'm pretty sure this lady now thinks I am a total freak / airhead, which kind of sucks because she's a blogger I admire. But that's okay, we all mess up sometimes. And next time it will be better. 

5. No matter who you meet (or don't meet) at the event, your network will grow.
At the last minute I drew up a list of people I wanted to connect with. I tracked most of them down (although I missed Lisa Tilse which I'm quite sad about because her blog is a thing of beauty). But here's the thing - in the week or so since ProBlogger I've got a ton of new active Twitter followers and a handful of new Facebook friends. They are people that I noticed using the #pbevent tag (and they noticed me), or who I saw interacting with some of my favourite tweeters (and vice versa). So don't fret too much if you don't make all the connections you wanted to at the event (it's a pretty hectic few days) - you'll find your network will continue to grow afterwards anyway. 

So, that's what I learnt at ProBlogger. Well, to be honest it's just the tip of the iceberg. I'll be back in the next week or so with another post about some of my favourite speakers and a bit more about what they actually said. So, stay tuned! 

Oh! And a bonus thing I learnt - 6. I do not like the Gold Coast. It is all the bad things about Australia crammed along an (admittedly gorgeous) coastline. I really, really do not like it. But more on that at a later date...

16 September 2013

Collecting Colours : Navy + Red


I've just returned from a couple of days at the Gold Coast at the amazing ProBlogger Training Event. I'm simultaneously exhausted and abuzz, and grateful for the chance to hang out with all the lovely bloggers and listen to all the intelligent, inspirational speakers. It really helped clarify a lot of things; what I want to do and where I want to take this blog. I'll share some of the golden nuggets I learnt over the next few weeks, but before I get ahead of myself and race in to the new, let's finish off the things we've started shall we? (Did I mention that most of my key learnings were around focus?...Shiny things! Squirrel!...What was I talking about? Oh yes, Collecting Colours.) 

I'm about a month behind at the moment but that's okay. Because life. August was supposed to be all about navy and red. And even though it's not really August anymore let's all just pretend for a moment, okay? (Side note - how great would it be if it was still August? Because it'd mean the year wasn't rushing past at quite the breakneck speed that it seems to be.). 

Navy and blue is another nautical pairing. It's kind of the more masculine version of blue and white. I don't mind this pair, but I don't love it. (I do like these photos though - they are chockfull of quintessentially Korean sights, which makes me happy!) I find blue and red a bit heavy, a bit staid, a bit old fashioned. Especially when it's used for interior design. And I don't have any of it in my wardrobe (but I don't mind it in my husband's wardrobe). How about you? Are you a fan of navy and red?

* * * * * * *

Every month through 2013 I'll be 'collecting colours', and you can join in too! Just create something, anything based on the colour pair for each month. Link up below, Instagram, Tweet and/or add your photo to the Flickr group here. You can go here to get all the information you need.  


09 September 2013

True Story : I Love Election Day

The weekend made me realise I freaking love election day. I mean, I really, really love it (and not just because of the sausage sizzles). I realise I may have just lost half my audience right there, and I also realise the other half that's still with me is rolling their eyes and thinking 'ughhh...I though we'd finally stopped talking about the damn election.' But I'm writing this anyway. You can relax a little - this isn't about the results (if you want to know my feelings on those have a look at my Twitter). No, it's about the day and the process. Actually, it's kind of about politics as a whole. 

Let's back up a bit. I grew up in a very politically aware household. My folks were involved; passionate about issues. There were posters and badges and marches, and late night arguments fuelled by cheap red wine. (Clarification - the adults were drinking the wine and arguing, I was dozing in the background.)

I remember the build up to state and federal elections, the excitement on the day. I remember handing out how to vote cards at our local polling station. That's me down there, barefoot, aged about 6 or 7, and rocking some 80s fashion (I wish I still had that tee!). I remember election nights, done Don's Party style. The gathering of friends, the commiserating and ranting when 'your side' lost. The relief when they won. Politics was kind of our football. I was pretty young, so all of this was a bit in the background, but I remember it. And I think it helped to give me a lifelong interest in politics, and a lifelong love of election day. 

I love the whole ritual of election day. Strolling past the how to vote people and ignoring them all (because I've done my own research, thanks). I love the lining up (no, really!), finding my name, carefully filling out the papers (I voted below the line this year), and, best of all, putting my precious vote in the ballot box. I've always lived in a very safe not-the-person-I'd-vote-for electorate, so you could argue my vote is pointless, meaningless. But...it makes no difference to how I feel about it. I think Leunig summed it up best. (Also, speaking of putting your vote in the ballot box, did you see this? Lovely, yes?). 

And then you have election night itself, featuring the astounding Antony Green, of course. If you're a people watcher like me, then election night coverage delivers the best people watching you could ever hope for. Think about it - these candidates have poured their heart and soul into something they believe in, and now the public has passed judgement. And then - after sleepless nights, a frantic day, and probably a red wine or two too many (we're looking at you Malcolm Turnbull) - they're expected to go on live TV and not cock it all up. It's like a really real, really big, reality TV show. No scripts or 'personalities', just jubilation and brave fronts; flushed faces, fumbles, photobombs; passion and dissapointment. These are people at their most vulnerable, most proud, most heartbroken, perplexed, honest. 

And when it all starts going sour that's when the fun really begins. That's when people start pointing fingers, apportioning blame. It's not election night without a losing candidate having a rant about how their own party screwed it all up. 

And I know that some of you out there are thinking - but I hate politics! Well, firstly, thanks for reading this far, that was unexpected. And secondly, you don't hate politics, I promise. You just don't like certain politicians. 

I'm not going to tell you you should like politics because it's good for you, because it impacts you. No, you should like politics because it's life, amplified. It's Shakespeare and Game of Thrones and America's Next Top Model and that niggle with your mother in law. It also can be, should be, about belief and vision and thoughtful analysis. About good things, noble things, smart things. About making the world a slightly better place. Politics says - I have faith, I believe in this place; I believe it can be better than it is. You may not agree with the how, but surely you'd agree with the why. And how can you not get excited about that?

06 September 2013

Death by Doxie : A Dog's Journey

One of the things about the move I was dreading the most was shipping the dogs off. I imagined handing them over to a stranger, seeing their distress, Elfi screaming, me crying. But as it turned out it wasn't so bad. 

I paid a specialist to look after all the paperwork and transportation (Sohee from Chung Wha Animal Hospital in Itaewon) and she was professional and caring and lovely. She organised all the tests required, sorted out the freight costs and booked them into quarantine (she even made sure they were in a pen together). On the day of their flight she picked them up early, leaving them on their leads rather than in their crates, to reduce their stress a bit. She even bought along her own (very well trained) dog which meant Ferdi and Elfi were so focussed on meeting another dog they barely noticed us saying goodbye. So, whilst I still shed a tear or two, it wasn't nearly as traumatic as I thought it would be.

It was a bit expensive (actually, the whole Australian quarantine process is expensive!) but having a third party handle everything was worth every penny - both for peace of mind and for taking some of the emotional heat out of the situation. 

A few other things that helped - a week or so before their flight I got their crates ready and clean and set them up in the lounge room, just so they could get used to them. I also put a toy and some old clothes in there (that's my old pyjama pants you can see next to Ferdi, featuring a dachshund print of course!). And when I gave them treats I'd throw them into the crate. Elfi would run in, grab the treat and run straight back out again, nervous critter that she is. But Ferdi quite likes to have his own little house, so he hung out in his crate a bit. Though he looked sad, as always. 

Anyway, the dogs are now safely in quarantine. I've been told from numerous sources that the level of care there is phenomenal, so that's reassuring. We'll see them soon enough, but in the meantime we do miss them quite a lot...

04 September 2013

The First Few Days : Random Thoughts on Moving 'Home'

After a frustrating last day in Seoul (it's a long story), we touched down in Sydney early Sunday morning. Not for a fleeting visit, for good. (Maybe.) We are home. 

Here are some things I've been thinking : 

- The first few days after a big move suck because you remember all the things you need right now (like health care details and internet banking passwords and so much more) that are currently in a box on a boat and won't be seen for a few months yet...I keep waking up at 3am in a mild panic thinking things like 'Oh no! My business cards are still in my filing cabinet (which is now on a boat) and ProBlogger is next week! Ughhh!'. (Thank goodness for moo.com's rush orders!).

- There is a massive gap in the market for corporate approved, pet friendly accommodation. Right now our dogs are in quarantine so they couldn't be with us anyway, but they'll be out in under a month and they'll have to go to a boarding kennel until The Big Project is finished. The company my husband works for is covering most of our temporary accommodation, which is really very awesome, but it does mean we have to stay with an approved provider. And not a single one of those are pet friendly. 

- Spring has only just started and already half of Sydney seems to have misplaced their wardrobe. (File this one under 'reverse culture shock'.) 

- It's rather helpful to be speaking the same language as the waiters and shop assistants and service people, but I really, really don't like being able to understand what all the people around me in cafes and restaurants and trains are saying. 

- Just because you speak the same language doesn't mean things will suddenly be easy to sort out. Paperwork and red tape and ridiculous rules are universal. This is easy to forget. 

- Related - during all the mad packing and organising in Seoul I kept thinking 'once I get to Sydney I'll be able to relax, for a few days at least'. Um, no. Not at all. It has been a ridiculously busy few days. Everything still needs to be done, and new things are constantly cropping up. Hoping the weekend brings a bit of breathing space...

- People aren't so friendly when you're all the same. In Seoul, whenever one of our young neighbours got in the lift with us they'd smile, giggle nervously, wave, say 'hi', ask where we were from. We stood out in Seoul, and people were drawn to that. I think there's also something about the community minded collectivist culture that you find across Asia, something that makes daily connections and polite hellos the norm. Also, in the expat world you kind of revert back to primary school friendship making techniques (basically 'hi, you look nice and we're in the same general vicinity, wanna play?'). You kind of forget that the real world isn't like that; that people tend to freak out when you randomly smile at them. 

- Sydney doesn't know the meaning of cold (and I'm okay with that). 

- Australian produce - dear lord I love you. I've basically spent every spare moment of the last few days wandering the supermarket aisles hugging fresh herbs and shedding tears over the perfect corn cob. And don't get me started on the dairy cabinet (ricotta! feta! cottage cheese!). 

- Everyone welcomes you home, but to be honest it doesn't feel like home, yet. 

The best description I can come up with for the past few days? Surreal. And exciting. 

*************

ps. Thank you all so much for the Sydney advice in response to my last post! So much helpful info!

28 August 2013

Sydney, here we come! (Help me, please!)

With the moves we've made over the past few years, the stuff I've found the most dislocating hasn't been the change in housing or climate or language. You'd think it would've been all that big stuff, but it's actually all the little day-to-day things. It's figuring out how to pay your electricity bill; what your postal address is (this can be trickier than it sounds!); and where to buy fresh flowers without the need for a second mortgage. It's finding a doctor, a hairdresser and, perhaps most importantly, a waxer you can trust. (Seoul failed me completely on that last one. Hong Kong however delivered in spades.) 

Right now, it's only three more sleeps until we make the big move (!), and whilst I know a bit about where to shop and where to eat in Sydney, there's a lot of day-to-day stuff I don't know. So Sydnesiders - I need your help! Please, please share your Sydney knowledge with me! Got a favourite place for a cuppa, pizza or yum cha? A trusted GP? Know the best (or best value) mani/pedi in town? Tell me, please! We'll be living in the inner east, but I'm happy to travel, especially if there's food involved...

Here's some of the things I'm after: 

- A hairdresser that knows a thing or two about hair dye. Especially one that does not worry about trying to make blonde look natural. I'm not a natural blonde. I don't want to pretend I'm a natural blonde. I want cold, near-white, clearly fake tresses. From my experience there are far too many hairdressers in the world obsessed with hair looking natural. I do not want you, natural guy. 

- A good (flat-ish) bike path or three. Actually, back up a step - a good place to buy a bike. I want one of those retro looking ones in a cute colour like turquoise that you could probably buy for under three dollars in China. And I want a basket on the front big enough for two dachshunds. The basket will need to have restraining devices. And sedatives. 

- A good dog park or three. Oh! And a dog beach or three! 

- A good GP. Even better would be a good GP that specialises in women's health. 

- A dentist that doesn't make me feel like crying as soon as I walk in. Or who at least shows some sympathy when I do sob uncontrollably as soon as I sit in the dentist's chair (true story!).

- A yoga teacher who has the right balance of compassion and working you until you cry. A yoga teacher who mixes things up and adapts routines to the changing seasons and the moods of the group. 

- A good gym. One with machines that work, decent air conditioning, clean locker rooms and a non-judgemental vibe. 

- A running path that's mainly flat (I'm not ready for hills yet, and there's a lot of hills in Sydney!).

- A pedicure where the polish lasts for a solid three weeks. And where they don't make me feel like a goose for not knowing anything about all those lady type things (gel nails? what? and how do I get one of these kind of manicures? I am clueless...). 

- Somewhere to get a massage that strikes the right balance between clean, comfortable surrounds and price. A place that doesn't make you feel like a 'happy ending' is part of the standard services, but that also doesn't make you break out in a sweat when you see the bill.

- Some kind of club or group or something. To do with photography or craft or books. Preferably involving nice people, baked goods and cups of tea (or possibly glasses of wine). That would be ace. 

- The best yum cha in Sydney. We will travel for good dumplings. 

- And maybe a real life friend or two, to have the occasional stroll / dog walk / coffee /  gelato with. 


- And...anything else you think I should know about the sparkly gem that is Sydney!

26 August 2013

One Last Korean Road Trip

As much as I loved living in Hong Kong (and you know I really, really loved living in Hong Kong), it did have it's limitations. Hong Kong's compactness is part of it's charm - it is a ridiculously convenient place to live - but it also means road trips aren't really on the holiday agenda. One of the joys of moving to South Korea was the road trip possibilities it opened up. Looking back I think all of our most fun times, our hilarious-in-hindsight disaster stories, come from the roads of Korea.

(If you're an expat in Seoul and you're maybe a bit nervous about tackling a road trip I say - go for it! The road system in Korea is amazing. Most of it's shiny and new, with tunnels and highways and smooth tarmac, and the scenery is always intriguing and often breathtaking. And yes, sometimes the signage is a little haphazard, but if you've got an atlas and a GPS (or Google Maps on your phone) you'll be fine. Besides, getting lost is part of the fun right?)

Anyway...last week it was the youngest step-son's thirteenth birthday, and he was in Seoul. One of the sad things about living overseas is all the birthdays you miss, so we wanted to make this one a bit special. We went to Everland, and did the special safari thing again (I wrote about the first one we did here) - basically 15 minutes in a heavily grilled 4WD with a guide and a bucket of raw chicken to feed to the animals. There were no giraffes this time, but there were lions and bear cubs - not a bad trade really. And the animal areas seem to have been enlarged and upgraded a little, so you can focus more on how awesome the experience is and fret a little less about animal welfare. 

Driving around feeding man-eaters while the guide reminds you every few minutes not to poke your fingers through the grill is one of those crazy things that perfectly straddles the line between dangerous and okay. You'd never be allowed to do this in Australia. Equally, there's probably a bunch of countries where you wouldn't want to do it even if you were allowed, for fear of actual injury. But in South Korea? No worries! 

After feeding the lions and tigers and bears, we beat a hasty retreat to our own air conditioned vehicle (it is so hot in Seoul right now...) and headed over to Vivaldi Park for a night. Vivaldi Park is a ski resort, but like most ski resorts in Korea it has all kinds of extra things to attract visitors throughout the year. It's set amongst lush green hills and has one of the best water parks in the country.

We happened to be there right at peak summer holiday time, so we headed to the water park early. But apparently not early enough - by 9.30 in the morning there was already a three hour wait for most rides! Yikes. So, no rides for us but we did have a paddle in the crazy wave pool with a few hundred Koreans. Coming from the relatively empty Australia I'm always amazed and fascinated by the sheer mass of humanity we've so often stumbled upon in Asia. It was kind of the perfect final road trip really.