04 January 2020

19 Things in the Year of the Pig : The One + Only Recap


One of the things I wanted to achieve in the Year of the Pig was to blog again. There was a rebirth, a reboot. 



But it's the start of a new year and that fever of naive optimism has infected me once again. I'm already working on a '20 things in the Year of the Rat' list but before I get to that I thought I'd update how I went on the last list. Which basically - and following the exact same pattern of previous years - is not so well...

1. Get back to blogging and writing more in general. I'll count this as a win if I end the year with twelve blog posts and one published article. F-. Okay, so I wrote TWO whole blog posts, both in the first two weeks of January, and then zip, nada, zilch. I did write a profile piece on the amazing Shani and her Breadtag Project for my favourite magazine UPPERCASE though so that's something.

2. Related, get back to taking photographs on a regular basis. I'd like to end the year with at least 52 Instagram posts. B-. I ended up with over 52 posts but almost all of them were from our trip to the Arctic so does it really count? Probably not. Related - do visit my Instagram if you like walruses!

3. Read more. Specifically read twenty books in 2019. A+. Smashed this one! Read 23 books from many and varied genres. Reading is definitely an entrenched habit now, hurrah! You can see all the books I read and my reviews on Good Reads (or on Facebook if you're my friend there).

4. Do 1SE more consistently. B. Did okay on this one, I guess. I ended up with a 6ish minute video that I'm pretty happy with and that the husband enjoyed. (FYI this is a really great app to get if you want an fun, easy creative project for the year!)

5. Learn the piano. E-. Okay, so I was going really well, and then I just...stopped. Occasionally I'll find five minutes and have a go, but not playing it consistently just means those five minutes I find are really frustrating. 

6. Get back to properly learning Italian. F. Niente.

7. Call and message people more. C+. Better but not best. 

8. Visit my Dad at least once. F. Nope, sorry Dad.

9. Visit my Mum. B. Yes, did this and had a blast. My sister came too! Drank gin; watched Fleabag; found out Mum had signed up for a dating app, once; walked the dog; laughed, a lot. Was wonderful.

10. KonMari every drawer in the house. And my office. C. My drawers look great, have tided the husband's clothes and the step-son's clothes, and the kitchen drawers are pretty solid but my office still looks like a total goddamn tip. It may have actually got worse to be honest.

11. Use my large collection of cookbooks more. B-. There's some I definitely use more, but there's a lot that are still gathering dust.

12. Related - expand my veg / mainly veg cooking repertoire. C. Um, sort of, maybe? I think I have but it really hasn't been intentional so who knows.

13. Eat less carbs. B-. Yes, I believe so. And feeling better for it. I've found a few people to follow on Instagram who have really great, super simple but healthy low carb (not no carb) meal ideas. I've always struggled with getting the balance between protein and carbs right but I feel like lately I'm nailing it (more on that in another post, maybe).

14. Eat less sugar. D-. Let's be honest, this should probably be an F.

15. Keep up my steps. A. Indeed. Most days I smash my 12,000 step target. I maybe miss one day a month and that's usually because I'm sick or just really run down.

16. Visit the gym at least once per week. Preferably twice, but once is the goal. F-. If you'd asked me in April I'd get a B+ but things kind of stopped, completely in the last six months.

17. Complete the City2Surf again. A+. Completed, with a bigger team, and raised a heap of money for RMHC!

18. Personally raise $2000 for our local Ronald McDonald House (Sydney). A+. See above, plus another fun run earlier in the year and a few additional donations.

19. Catch up on three years of photo books. F-. No, and it hurts my heart a little. Have started, but am so behind...

So there you have it, actually not all bad. I'll share my new list with you soon (I bet you can't wait). Will this be the year Good Things* actually does make a comeback? Should I start a betting pool?

ps. It does feel a little frivolous writing this while our country is on fire, but I actually needed the distraction, the time out from watching relentless videos of flames and animal carcasses. It is all so devastating and heartbreaking, and at times utterly infuriating, but at the same time there are so many people doing so many good good things. I'm trying to help out when and where I can, it helps me feel a little less hopeless. 

There are a hundreds of posts out there letting you know the best places to donate or volunteer, I won't add to them but if you do want any tips or links just let me know. 

Stay safe x

19 January 2019

19 Things in the Year of The Pig

Because it's worked so well in the past (it hasn't) I thought I'd kick this blog reboot off with a list of things I want to achieve in the Year of the Pig.

If previous years are anything to go by I'll update my progress once around eight months in and then do a final recap post approximately nine months after the year has finished and everyone has moved on. These recap posts will mostly consist of me mocking my earlier self - so filled with naive enthusiasm and unwarranted optimism - as I detail all the ways I have failed to complete any of the things I thought I wanted to. However, I'm feeling like this year is going to be different (she says with a naive optimism...). It's going to be different because my list is going to be different; it's going to be realistic. Maybe. I hope.

Here goes:

1. Get back to blogging and writing more in general. I'll count this as a win if I end the year with twelve blog posts and one published article.

2. Related, get back to taking photographs on a regular basis. I'd like to end the year with at least 52 Instagram posts.

3. Read more. Specifically read twenty books in 2019. On reflection twenty seems pretty unlikely to be honest, but I'll give it my best shot. I've kicked off with an absolute pearler - the book of the moment, Boy Swallows Universe. I'm currently halfway through and am completely loving it and missing hours of sleep because of it. (ps. If you're on Good Reads please be my friend! And if you're not on Good Reads and you love reading you should definitely download the app - it's such a good way to keep track of your 'to read' list, as well as providing even more ideas on what to read next.)

4. Do 1SE more consistently. Note 'consistently' not 'everyday'. I know it's meant to be '1 Second Everyday' but this is meant to be a realistic list and I know based on previous years there is zero chance I'll remember to film one second every single day. But I'd like to remember most days.

5. Learn the piano. We have a beautiful piano in our house because the youngest step-son is a pretty accomplished musician. It seems a pity for it not be be used more, and whilst I'm not particularly musical I did play clarinet as a kid and I can sort of read music if I pay attention. I've downloaded the Simply Piano app and whilst it's early days I am completely hooked so far. I plan to keep the momentum going and practice at least four times a week.

6. Get back to properly learning Italian. I've picked up a bit from our travels and the husband talking to me (hence the learning of very useful phrases like Io non sono un polipo for when everyone is expecting you to carry everything, and Potrei mangier un cavil for when you're really really hungry) but I really don't know a lot. I've downloaded an app - +Babbel - and started off strong but then just neglected it. Time to get back to it.

7. Call and message people more. I've found as I get older it's super easy for me to become Ms Hermit and basically restrict my social interactions to my husband, sister, mum and two friends I've had since forever. Which - although mostly ace - isn't always enough. I need to make an effort, get over my phone phobia and initiate things more.

8. Visit my Dad at least once. My Dad lives in Lakes Entrance, about four hours drive outside of Melbourne. I know that's not that far but our trips to Melbourne are always just a few nights and they're packed with catch ups and meetings. It's hard to get away. But, my Dad isn't getting any younger (and neither am I, come to think of it), and I really want to go see him. Also there are some killer op shops to visit along the way, so win-win.

9. Likewise, my Mum has just moved to the Mornington Peninsula, about an hours drive from Melbourne. I know she'll come visit me in Sydney but I want to make sure I take the time to go visit her too. Also - op shops, wineries, hot springs, beaches, fancy restaurants. But mainly it's about visiting my Mum...

10. KonMari every drawer in the house. And my office. I've never read Marie Kondo's books but I've fallen hard for this tiny crazy lady whilst watching her Netflix show. I love her because contrary to popular backlash she is not a minimalist, she just wants us to really appreciate and take care of the things we have. And FYI 'sparking joy' isn't some shallow happiness-at-all-costs mantra, it's more about meaningfulness and emotion (I read somewhere that 'joy' would be better translated as something more like 'jolt'). Anyway, she's ace and I've folded most of my clothing because of her. But I still want to tackle the husband's drawers, and the step-son's. And if I can figure out a way to tidy up my home office, and keep it tidy, that would be amazing.

11. Use my large collection of cookbooks more. And maybe don't buy any more until I've really worked with the ones I've got. Maybe.

12. Related - expand my veg / mainly veg cooking repertoire. The husband has gone from a must eat steak every night kind of guy to a that tofu actually tastes good kind of guy, which is brilliant news for me because I'm naturally veg-leaning anyway. There's only so many times you can have omelette or stir fry for dinner so I'd like to up my veg / mainly veg game.

13. Eat less carbs. I adore carbs but I also realise I am of an age where if I eat them for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks I put on about a kilo a week. Yay. I'm struggling to tame the middle age spread as it is so this year I'd like to treat carbs with a bit more respect. Some very thin and healthy and restrained person I follow on Instagram is doing the one carb a day thing, which seems extreme. I'm thinking two a day might work for me.

14. Eat less sugar. Now, I don't think sugar is evil. I don't think any food is inherently good or bad or virtuous or sinful. However, I would like to have some control over the mid-morning chocolate habit that I've developed. (See also taming the middle aged spread.)

15. Keep up my steps. I have a Fitbit and I love it. (Side note - writing this I'm starting to think technology does actually rule my life...but that's a whole other discussion...). My favourite thing is when it tells me exactly to the minute exactly how little sleep I've had the previous night. But I digress...I've been meeting my step goal almost every day and I keep pushing it up (currently on 12,000). Hoping by the end of the year it's a little higher than that again.

16. Visit the gym at least once per week. Preferably twice, but once is the goal (I told you it was going to be a realistic list). I'm currently using the Sweat app and it's so good (yes, more technology...). Very challenging and with loads of variety.

17. Complete the City2Surf again. It's become a bit of an annual tradition (twice counts as an annual tradition right?).

18. Personally raise $2000 for our local Ronald McDonald House (Sydney).

19. Catch up on three years of photo books. I used to make one for the husband every year. I loved making them and we love looking through them, but I'm a a bit behind. I need to carve out those big chunks of time and just get them done.

And that's it folks - an ambitious but slightly more realistic list of things I want to achieve, personally, in the Year of the Pig. What's on your list this year?

The Reboot

Last week I was strolling the streets of Paddington in the sunshine, feeling a bit flat and thinking about how much I miss doing creative things. Things like terrible embroidery and taking photos just for the heck of it and writing - I really miss writing. I was having a bit of a whinge to myself about the fact I don't have time to do all that stuff anymore...when the other logical, optimistic part of my brain piped up: 'Um, actually these days you do have time! You just choose to spend that time watching clips from The Voice / Ellen / AGT on YouTube or stressing about things that may never happen or doing all the things that aren't really that necessary and probably won't be noticed if you just don't do them.' 

And it's true - we have a really great team at work now, the store is doing pretty well, so I do get days off and I do get snippets of time to myself. I just haven't been making writing and photo-taking and all that stuff a priority. But I want to change that, starting now!

Last time around I said I was just blogging for me, but that wasn't completely true. I was an ex-pat mostly non-working wife at the time and at the back of my head there was always a teensy little thought that I should make something commercial of it. These days I have a very full-time job. There is absolutely no thought of turning any of this into a 'business'. It is just an outlet, for me (Instagram stories can only quash the desire to write for so long...). If anyone out there reads a word or looks at a photo that's completely ace, but not at all necessary. 

So, what am I going to write about? 

Travel, as always. We have three big trips booked this year. Firstly we're heading to Chicago in May and scored a great deal on a round-the-world airfare (half the price of flying direct!) so we'll also spend a few days in Hong Kong and Vienna. Then we have another amazing family adventure booked in July - we've done Antartica, so now we're going in the other direction, to the Arctic. And then towards the end of the year we'll be heading back to Seoul for the first time since we lived there (mainly to replenish my ribbon stash, to be honest...). 

I'll definitely be posting about dachshunds, of course. And family, work, life. And just generally things I love - books, movies, clothes, recipes, people. My goal is to post once a month (I'm keeping it realistic!); we'll see...

Blogging is dead, long live blogging!

10 March 2017

Ptop Ptips for dealing with a Pterygium

First things first - a pterygium* is a growth on the eye. (*Warning: do not click on that link if you are in any way squeamish, especially about eye related things. Also FYI it's pronounced ter-ridge-eeum...) Science-y types are not completely certain what causes them, but they are associated with excessive exposure to sand, wind and sunlight. They are apparently pretty common in Australia, a country known for its abundant UV rays. 

I had no idea they existed, until I visited an optometrist a few years back and was told I had one in my right eye. The optometrist said to monitor it, and to consider getting it removed at some point - if they encroach on your pupil they can impact vision. Since then, my pterygium has been going from strength to strength so recently I had to have it removed. Yay. 

Now, most eye surgery - especially laser surgery - is apparently a breeze, a Summer's stroll in the park, a warm evening watching the sunset on a deserted beach. But removing pterygiums? Apparently that's a bitch. Every, single person you encounter along the fun path to pterygium removal surgery will, with a grimace, tell you how painful the recovery is. They'll tell you that you'll feel like you've got grit in your eye for a month; that there's a darn good reason *they* still have their own pterygiums intact; that you should take a week off work (ha!). 

I had my surgery last Tuesday, and whilst it's not the most fun, it's definitely not the worst either. In case you're facing your own eye growth removal, here's a few more thoughts: 

1) Waiting for the thing is most definitely worse than the thing. Just the thought of having someone touch my eye, heck no! And then surgery and anaesthetic, most definitely heck no! (I'm very lucky that I've had pretty limited dealings with hospitals and medical procedures. I always wonder about the people who have to deal with this s**t day in, day out. How tough and strong and just getting-it-done they must be.) 

In the days leading up to the surgery I tried not to think about it, but when I did it'd set off a mild panic. But then it happened and it was okay. Surreal, but okay. Everyone was lovely and clearly knew what they were doing. The anaesthesiologist knocked me out efficiently and effectively - it was the best five minute nap of my life - and then while I was under numbed my right eyeball and half my face. During the operation you're awake but you can't really see what's going on; one eye is covered by a blue sheet, the other one has been knocked out so whilst you can kind of see shapes and light and dark you're not getting a visual of the scalpel, needle or thread. Thank goodness. 

2) Give yourself a day doing nothing afterwards. Anaesthetic really knocks you about, even a little of it. And your eye will be all puffy and swollen and exhausting to open. I basically spent the day after lying in bed, with my eyes closed, which is not something I ever normally do. But it was necessary. Also I can highly recommend a loyal dachshund if you're looking for a daytime snoozing pal. 

3) Have a pain killer ready for about twelve hours post-op when the local anaesthetic really wears off. And make it a strong one.

4) Get your hands on one of those gel ice packs, so good for the swelling and pain in the first few days. Highly recommended.

5) Buy a big bottle of saline solution (you know the stuff people use to clean contact lenses?). Then when your eye is gummed up with gunk you can squirt some on a tissue, clean it all off and feel vaguely human again.

6) If you're like me you'll draft yourself an overly ambitious to do list of all the things you'll get done while you're not at work. Awesome. Just don't have reading your way through your book pile or binge watching Netflix on there. Not until day three anyway. You just had eye surgery, remember? 

7) Get someone to send you flowers, even if that's you. My Mum sent me some little flowers, so sweet! 

8) Tell the world and get as much sympathy as you can. I'm not sick very often, at all, so I kind of had to milk it. Plus someone took a scalpel to my eye, I deserve a little sympathy! (I should clarify - I want sympathy from afar. If you're sharing a house with me then get the feck away with your sympathy and  questions and just leave me alone as much as possible, are we clear?) 

9) It's not nearly as bad as everyone kept telling me it was going to be. It's only early days but I've hardly touched the painkillers. My eye looks a little red and gooey and gross, and it is fairly irritating, but I'm not writhing around in pain. Maybe all those people telling me to expect the worst was a good thing, because the reality can't be nearly as bad as the expectation? A bit like watching Finding Dory?

Long story short - I'd definitely prefer not to be managing three different types of eye drops or wearing sunglasses to dinner so as not to shock my fellow diners right now. So, protect your eyes people! Whether your biking, hiking or skiing, wear sunglasses, wear goggles! Whatever you do look after those eye balls, and then hopefully you'll never have to learn to how to spell pterygium...

Looking nervous pre-surgery.
(Note giant arrow so anaesthesiologist sticks
giant needle into the correct eye.)

Looking relieved post surgery.

14 October 2016

15 Things in The Year of The Sheep : A Very Very Belated Final Update

Remember way back, when I still blogged semi-regularily and the shape of life looked a little different? Remember when I used to write myself a list of things I wanted to do for the year, and then basically never actually do them, but I'd still update you all on my progress anyway? Here's the thing, I never wrote my final update for 15 things in the Year of the Sheep, and it's keeping me awake at nights. So, ten months late, here's an update on how I went in 2015...

1. Read more. Specifically, read at least fourteen books in twelve months. B-. I ended up reading twelve books, which is pretty good I think. (By-the-by I am killing it in the book reading stakes this year. Not blogging, not being on line so much, opens up all this time which one can fill with reading. It's pretty great actually.)

Here's what I read in 2015 after my last update:
- Joyful by Robert Hillman which I actually really loved. It took awhile but it hooked me in, eventually. A slightly mad, beautiful tale of love and death.
- Hot Little Hands by Abigail Ulman. A collection of short stories noted for the fact all the protagonists are female. At the time I was a bit ho hum about it, it was a good solid read but not life changing. However, two of the characters have stayed with me, for some time, so I think perhaps it had more power than I gave it credit for at the time.
- We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. Go read this. Now. Seriously, do it. It's bloody brilliant.
- We're All Going to Die by Joel Meares. A collection of essays, about life and stuff. A nice read with occasional moments of brilliance. One to carry in your bag and dip in to during those stolen moments when you're waiting in the doctors office or stuck on a train.
- The Embassy of Cambodia by Zadie Smith. A tiny little book I kinda just threw in to make up the numbers. Pleasant enough but really, I can't even remember what it's actually about...
- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. One for the 80s geeks. Packed full of fun nerdy references. A bit tiresome and cliched at first but I thoroughly enjoyed the action packed end...looking forward to seeing what they Spielberg does with the movie.

2. Read more blogs. Randomly quantified with the goal of posting three thoughtful comments a week. F for Fail. Life did a complete flip around late last year. I went from a keeping-the-home-fires-burning wife of a constantly travelling executive to a retail/hospitality business owner and manager working six or seven days a week.* So, not a lot of time or motivation for blog reading.

(*In case you didn't know, we bought a McDonald's store! For more on my history with the golden arches have a look at this post.)

3. Blog more. Specifically, blog at least six times per month. F. Ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Aha. Ha.

4. Write more. About everything. Specifically, write a My... post every month in 2015. F. See above, especially points 2 and 3.

5. Related, pitch at least five stories to magazines. F. I'm not just going to write 'see above' for all of these, but...see above...

The really awesome thing is that despite having a million other things asking for my attention I've somehow been able to keep writing and submitting articles; a few pieces for Extra Curricular, and something in UPPERCASE every issue since that first piece on lace making. I am so grateful to UPPERCASE editor Janine Vangool for giving me the chance to interview and photograph so many amazing people. My latest piece, which will be in issue 31, is about artist Amy Joy Watson, her work his heavenly - colours and stitching and playing with mediums and scale, all the things I adore. If you don't subscribe to Janine's amazing mag you definitely should.

6. Finish my 365 project on Instagram. B-. I finished it! Very, very late (there's a theme here right?) but I finished it! You can see the full collection here

7. Hit fifty sales in my Etsy shop, Jorpins VintageC+. I'm on fifty sales right now, not sure when I passed that milestone but I'm pretty sure it wasn't in 2015, hence the C grade. The store is looking pretty empty at the moment. I do have loads of gorgeous retro wares to photograph and list, but it won't happen just yet. Maybe 2017 will be the year?

8. Finish three walking events. C. I finished up with two events - the 22km Jabulani Challenge and the 9km Bridge Run. The Bridge Run was part of the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival and I loved it so much that I immediately signed up for the 2016 half marathon, which I completed in September (BOOM!). I am now contemplating the full marathon for 2017...

9. Walk 1500 kilometres by the end of December. F. Nope.

10. Sort my health out. B+. Never made it to the physio but I'm doing okay in the health department I reckon.

11. Cook at least one new meal for the family each month. C. Sort of. Maybe. Well, probably not.

12. Related, attend two cooking classes. F. Nope, not one.

13. Watch twelve movies. And blog about them. F. Watch? Yes. Blog about them? Ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Aha. Ha.

14. Organise my office, and keep it organised. B-. Husband would probably rate me an F- on this one but I think my office is pretty neat and if he wants to grade me he can start his own freaking blog.

15. Do more road trips! F. Nope.

So, there you have it. A very, very belated look over my 2015. I've said this before but I do love looking back over the goals I set for myself, remembering that optimism and hope, that naive belief that change isn't the only certainty and things will pan out a certain way. Ah bless my early 2015 self...

ps. I think I may have missed the boat for 2016 but I might try and get back on the horse for 2017. 17 Things in the Year of The Rooster, I like it!