Monday, April 17, 2017

Easter weekend

My holidays overlapped Jonathan's for four days. Three years ago, we took about four days and went to Tasmania. But this year we took the four days and, at least three days in, we've had a lovely weekend at home.

So what did we do?

Friday we walked to Federation Square. Jonathan and I watched an Argentinian couple perform acrobatics, as part of the international comedy festival. That was pretty awesome.
 Tim met a friend at an Aussie rules football game instead.

Saturday Tim and I walked our favorite loop around the Botanic Gardens, from the lily pond to the fern gully, once around the lake and back past the volcano. It is the season for bunya-bunya pine cones again. Danger!
The cones are massive and will kill you if they fall out of the tree on your head. So every few years when one of the pines has cones, they rope off the area around the tree.

There are a few pine trees in the park behind our house that have been roped off for a while with no explanation. We walked over to see if we could spot massive cones in their canopy.
But no luck. I don't think they're the same kind of tree.

On Sunday we went to church in the morning. I played Easter hymns for the congregation on the organ. Easter hymns are hard. But lovely. That's because there are only a few of them in our hymn book, and those that exist were mostly written by professional organists in previous centuries, beloved by congregations for more than 200 years by now. Because they are hard to play, I was worried that I would ruin the Easter experience for the overfull chapel. But it went ok. I think my mistakes were subtle enough that not many people noticed.

What else have we done with our free days? Long walks in the park. Chores: Shower scrubbed. Bathmats clean. Floor mopped. Dirt wiped from the windows. Bathroom cleaned. Five loads of laundry washed, folded, or hung to dry. A little work: Paper draft finished. Another paper resubmitted after revisions. Chapter outlined. Notice sent to colleagues on research. A few video games. Ok, a few hours of screen time resulting in my hands aching. I can't do that with my breaks anymore, apparently. Boooo.......

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Lyre bird

Jonathan has been on school holidays for a week now, and still has a week to go. My semester break starts just at the very end of his break, and we overlap for a long weekend, and then he is back in school while I'm free from teaching. Because we don't overlap, we haven't made any big holiday plans. But it's kind of nice to have unscheduled days -- at least Jonathan thinks its nice. He's been walking around the neighborhood, reading books, and playing video games. Life is good. 

The weather has been very nice lately, with many warm autumn days that feel more like late summer. But many trees are turning gold in the park, and we set the clocks back an hour last weekend, so the trees and the early dark remind us that summer is long gone. We know we're moving into winter. But we're still enjoying the warm.

Until today. The weather report predicted a major storm moving in this weekend. Saturday was still supposed to be lovely, but Sunday was predicted to be wet and cold. So we decided to take advantage of what might be a last warm Saturday for a while and head out to the Dandenong ranges.

When my parents were visiting, we wanted to walk with them from the Belgrave train station to Sherbooke falls in the Dandenongs. However, the train line was damaged in a rainstorm, and so we didn't make it out that far. We checked yesterday, however, and the trains were back up and running with no problems, not even construction, all the way to the end of the line. So off we went. To Sherbrooke falls!

Nearly every time we spend an hour or two going outside the city we are amazed again at what a nice place we live in. The fact that we can get to the Dandenong ranges national park on public transit and on foot is a really great thing.

It was our first time walking to the falls, but it was a pretty short walk. We had to walk along the side of a road for a little while before turning off into the park. From there, it was really only a short walk to the falls.
The temperature cooled off a lot once we stepped into the fern tree forest. And then we heard a scratching on the side of the path, and looked carefully, and it was a lyre bird! A male lyre bird, just scratching around in the dirt right there on the side of the path!

Our readers may remember back in January we spent a long time in Tarra Bulga national park hoping to see a lyre bird. We heard them. They are not quiet birds, and when they are making their calls they are very loud. But we didn't see any. They were hiding under and around the thick ferns.

Yesterday in the Dandenongs we saw the lyre bird just scratching in the dirt. But it was not calling. So no audio. Even so, seeing a live lyre bird made the trip all the more exciting.

 And then we walked back, down through more fern trees and eucalyptus trees.
And all my photos are of Jonathan because he was either running ahead or walking behind. No photos of me. But I was there too. I show up in some of the pictures on Jonathan's phone camera.

It started to rain just as the train was pulling out of the station on its way back to the city, and it has been gray or rainy since. Actually, it has been quite a nice weekend. I wish my holidays started this week too. But I have to wait another week.

I will end by linking to David Attenborough, who will show you what a lyre bird looks like and sounds like.

Happy autumn!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Shopping mall

Shopping. It has to be done. Things wear out. Children grow taller. As much as you want it to, stuff doesn't last. For example, take my lovely comfy black shoes that have walked all over the world with me. By February, I had walked the soles completely off of them, and I was treading around on the smooth sponge layer that makes them so comfy. After a slip in the mud, two big bruises, and then finally getting sick of that squish sound with every step, I decided it was time to replace them. And yet I still delayed the actual shopping trip for about four weeks.

Once I announced that I was really going. No really, this time I really mean it and I'm leaving, the rest of the family remembered all the things that they needed at the Mall as well. So we made an event of it! Why just go shopping alone when you can bring the family and count it as family time?

First stop, shoes for Jonathan. No, those are ugly. I wouldn't wear those. No, not sure what I'm looking for but that isn't it. Ew. I'm not getting white ones.

In the end he settled on the green sneakers. With the steep price tag. But whatever. He'll wear them for at least six months, I predict. Unless they get lost somewhere in transit.

Next stop, shoes for me, somewhere upstairs in the large department store. In that store, my shoes have cute feminine names. There was a pair named "Jess" that was almost perfect, of course. Only unfortunately, not on sale and not in my size. But the pair named "Lass" was in my size, super comfortable, and on sale for less than half the price of Jonathan's shoes! Win! So now I have comfy black shoes again.

Third stop lunch. And apparently phone break.

Fourth stop: Hey let's go in the Storage Solutions store! Hey how about the arts and crafts store! Look! Phones!

Real stop: sewing and crafts store. I needed iron-on patches. Because in spite of those first few sentences at the top of this post about things wearing out, sometimes it's a lot easier just to patch them a few times rather than try to find a replacement in the correct size and style.....

Final stop: Outdoor goods store. I bought a rain jacket 10 years ago before moving to England, and it has been the greatest jacket ever but it is literally falling into little bits every time I shake it open. We are heading into the rainy season here again, and I need a rain jacket that will keep me dry during my hour of walking outside every day. The price tag on the jacket I really liked was ... Gulp. High. I talked myself into thinking about it and then coming back to buy it later. And then I talked myself into Good Grief. Just buy the jacket and save yourself a trip. Because if it lasts 10 years again, the price per year is tiny. The price per day is less than pennies.

Math. We use it.

All done! Let's go catch the bus home.

Until Jonathan stopped us. Wait. What about a haircut? I thought the point of me coming was so that I could get a haircut. I haven't got a haircut yet! So we swung by a place called "Cuts only." Jonathan looked through a book of haircuts and picked one out. And then the guy with the clippers starts in and ... woah! Tim and I look at each other. He really wants it that short?

And after watching curly lock after curly lock fall off of Jonathan's head, Tim stood up. I want to do that too.

So we got two haircuts. 

And then we went home.

Look how good they both look today.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Assorted chocolates

When I was flying home from Germany a month ago, I found myself in the Frankfurt airport with about eight euros in coins. Who wants to lug a big purse full of coins halfway across the earth? Not me -- not when coins can be exchanged for chocolate, and chocolate is available at the airport duty free shop. So I stopped in at the shop. I looked over all the chocolates on offer, in an attempt to maximize the amount of chocolate I could obtain for less than eight euros. In the end, I bought a bag of assorted flavours, not from Germany, or Switzerland, or other countries you think of when you think chocolate and you're hanging out in the Frankfurt airport. The chocolates in my bag were made in Serbia. At a pretty good price. And it was delicious -- enough.

This blog post has a few assorted topics, chosen to maximize value for money. Maybe the post was not made in the same part of the brain where the best, fanciest blog posts come from, but it was made not too far away. And it is delicious -- enough.

Topic 1. Shopping with the child. The child seems to be hardly a child anymore, as he is nearly as tall as I am. And yet, shopping with the child is still not as easy as shopping with a fully functional adult, even one shorter than I am. The child still insists on driving the cart. The cart has funky wheels, causing the child to turn his entire body each time he tries to go around a corner. Then once around the corner, the child is not content to wait while the mother (me) finds the item needed and puts it into the cart. The child instead runs up and down the aisle, narrowly avoiding other shoppers, until the mother says -- again -- that the child needs to stop. Does she have to take the cart away? Seriously, when does the child stop being so ... "helpful"?

Topic 2. The snugness of life. Three weeks have passed since classes started, and I'm feeling a little better. I'm finding some rhythm, some time to prepare for class and research and student meetings and breathing. All my tasks are fitting into the week, although honestly the week fits a little too snugly, like a shoe that's just a little too small. I should have bought the half-size bigger. But at least the rubbing has stopped a bit, and I'm not getting blisters on my heal.

Last Saturday was a turning point. I got up, ate breakfast, looked at the family and the calendar and the task list and realized that I wasn't needed urgently. So I went back to bed, and stayed there until past noon. And it was lovely, except for the mild headache I got, brought about by weird sleep patterns. This Saturday, Tim was away again, so I went shopping with the Child instead of sleeping. See above topic. I was more prepared for this Saturday after last Saturday, though. So all was well.

Topic 3. Church dinner. One of the many reasons life has fit too snugly is that I was in charge of a dinner for somewhere between 20 and 40 women and girls -- it's hard to estimate for a church event how many will really come. I was organizing the way I typically organize: we had a theme and an idea for food and activities, and a committee of people who were taking care of parts of it for me, and tasks I would have to do a few days before, a day before, the day of, etc. But the leader over me was super nervous that it would all fall apart. After many, many messages, her nervousness had transferred to me, and I was sure it would fall apart. Which made it difficult to do those tasks starting a few days before, a day before, the day of.... I would have rather crawled back into bed and stayed there until noon. But I didn't. And my committee came through. And the leader over me realized I was hopeless and pulled a few touches together on her own (thank you, leader). And the dinner happened and was really very lovely as far as dinners go, with around 35 people in attendance. And only two chickens and a box of rice left over.
Everyone kept thanking me for organising such a lovely event. If it had really been just me, though, it would have been a lot less lovely. Thank goodness for committees who care. And thank goodness that is over. Now I don't have to use those organisational skills for a couple more months.

Even though the title of this post is "assorted chocolates", really there were only three flavours in the bag I bought imported from Serbia. So I will end with those three topics. Enjoy.

Sunday, March 5, 2017


I've met a lot of Australians whose favourite season is autumn. Here in Victoria, the weather doesn't seem to be as variable in autumn. It settles down into the 20s centigrade, after a summer of flying way up into the 30s and 40s and then way down into the 10s. The days are slowly getting shorter: we wake up before dawn again. But the afternoons are full of long golden sunshine.

Autumn is here. My semester started last week. I'm teaching one class by obligation, five hours in front of students, and one class by choice, as I'm trying to get notes polished into a book for graduate students. That's three additional hours in front of students, and hopefully three to five hours writing. My calendar has turned a pretty solid orange: the colour of work obligations.

It's a little harder to begin the semester with Tim in California. I also had someone visiting for work last week who wanted to talk about research projects, along with the new teaching obligations, so there ended up not being enough time for everything. It was one of those weeks in which I repeatedly dropped balls at home and at work. But having a weekend helps. The visitor is gone. The bathrooms are clean. The last load of laundry is in the machine. There is food in the fridge and we are ready for another week.

I read an article recently about how much we celebrate busy-ness, and how we compete with family and friends to sound the most stressed out. And how it isn't healthy. So I've been trying to mentally put a little more positive spin on my busy-ness. Sure the calendar is solid orange, but I chose those orange things. No, I can't do everything. But the things I'm doing are things that are fun and cool and make me happy.


But yeah, it will be a little rough settling into the new semester.

Monday, February 27, 2017

When Tim is home

When Tim is home, and I move the garbage can out from under the sink into the kitchen, I can come back a little while later and it will be empty and clean.

When Tim is away and I move the garbage can out from under the sink into the kitchen, a few hours later the kitchen smells like garbage. Oh. I have to take that out.

When Tim is home, the junk mail automatically gets filtered and shredded.

When Tim is away, the mail builds up in the box.

When Tim is home, he meets Jonathan on Mondays on the other side of town with a big bag full of skates and a snack, just before lessons. And hauls another big bag away immediately after.

When Tim is away, Jonathan hauls two big bags up the hill to school, then onto the bus and train, and off to skating lessons on his own. I show up to help haul at the very end.

When Tim is home, everybody gets two kisses at bedtime and gives two.

When Tim is away, I only get one and I only give one.

When Tim is home, a hot dinner awaits my return on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.

When Tim is away, we pull out cold bread and leftovers those nights.

When Tim is home, the cupboards and the fridge magically fill up with food. We're never low on milk, and the fruit bowl has at least enough apples to make it through tomorrow night.

When Tim is away, we ration fruit. Don't eat the last apple or you don't get one for lunch tomorrow. I have to stop at Oakleigh on my way home on the train to pick up about twenty pounds of fruit. And then haul them up to our apartment in time to turn around and catch the end of the skating lesson. Tired.

When Tim is home, I go to bed on time.

When Tim is away ... it's late.

Sunday, February 26, 2017


I spent ten days in Germany in February at a workshop. The venue was near the city where old friends live, so I was able to stop by and spend a weekend with Jorg and Anja before the workshop.

The weather was beautiful in Melbourne just before I left.

And also beautiful, but very different in Germany.

The workshop was held at a re-purposed palace.

With the ruins of an old castle on the hill.

It was a lovely journey. I spent time with old friends in a beautiful setting, made new contacts for work and discovered new and interesting projects and ideas for research.

And to add a little balance, the trip required a 14 hour flight to Dubai, followed by a seven hour flight to Frankfurt, followed by three hours on the train and then a taxi. And that was just the transit time, not the check-in time and wait time and layover time. My winter wardrobe was not quite sufficient, especially the shoes, for the wet and the mud and the slippery. I spent most of the week tired, although I did ok with the jet lag. I didn't get home until 1:00am Sunday and then had to meet a colleague for work at 8:30am Monday.

But all the good and all the bad has passed. The photos from the trip are lovely.