Sunday, November 12, 2017


It is strange to think that other people are moving into winter now. I saw a picture of a cousin on a social media site, with snowflakes stuck to her hat. Our world doesn't look anything like that.

Sometimes I visit the other large university in the city. On days that I visit that university, I walk up the boulevard just to the west of our building to the large central train station.

When I head to my own university, I walk across the park just to the east of our building to a different station. Both stations are within walking distance, and both are very nice walks, through parks or past them, along tree lined streets.

If you ride the train from the first train station to the second, there is one station in between.

On Thursday, just to do something different, I decided to get off the train at the station in between, and walk home from there. My phone map suggested that I walk from the station to the stoplight, then cross into a park, walk through the park, over a pedestrian bridge over the river, and then through the Botanic gardens. Once through, walk a block, then cut through the edge of another park.

It was a 10 minute longer walk, but probably the loveliest walk of all.

I took some pictures. This one looks over the lawns and pond toward the city centre.

This is deep in the fern gully: one of my favourite places.

The lawn here sweeps down to the lily pond.

As you can see, we have finally broken out of winter. The trees all have their leaves again. The air is thick with the scent of flowers, and with pollen. (Tim and Jonathan are back on allergy medication.)

And I am so happy to have the sunshine again, at least for a few days.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Things I haven't been blogging

There is nothing like a dressing room -- fluorescent lights, full length mirrors -- to make you feel lumpy and old.

I've been looking for a new pair of jeans. They should be super comfortable, cover my butt at all times, and make me look young and skinny. I have jeans that are comfortable, and I have jeans that cover my butt at all times. But none of my jeans make me look young and skinny anymore. The skinny jeans just make me look lumpy. The young jeans make me look old.

I tried on several pairs. Somehow my stomach looked poochy and my hair looked flat and my eyes looked tired in all of them. Even though I kept trying them and trying them. And trying them.

I don't know. Maybe I'm asking too much of my jeans. Or maybe I can't ask them to make me look young and skinny while I'm in a department store dressing room. Maybe I need to just buy lots of jeans, and after I take them out of the dressing room they will make me look young and skinny again.

Because real life works like that, right?


I owe you pictures of our spring school holidays. I almost wrote "recent" school holidays, but the longer I don't post the pictures the less recent those school holidays become. But I'm behind on all sorts of things. Like my work projects. And email. I have a lot of unread email. Ignored and un-responded to email. Some of it I have marked with a star, to remind myself that it's important enough that I need to get back to it. Some of it I have marked as unread, so I will go back through it and read it again when I'm cleaning out unread messages, and I'll remember at that time that I need to do something about it. And some of it is both starred and unread.

But pretty much I'm behind on all of it. Sorry.

I'm behind on all sorts of things. I think I need a secretary to sit me down and tell me what to do each day so that I can actually do the things that need to be done and postpone the things that don't need to be done immediately -- but not to postpone too long. Right now, my email inbox is my cheap way of having a personal secretary. Along with my electronic calendar. Email and e-calendar. They send me reminders of important things that I mark with a star so I'll someday get around to doing them. I hope. If I ever get through my email. I don't like electronic secretaries. They're too impersonal. And I have to tell them which things are important. I think a personal secretary would do a better job. Who will hire a secretary for me?

Meanwhile, do you think a personal secretary would shop for jeans for me? They could definitely sort through the holiday pictures and post the ones in which I look young and skinny.


We are in the thick of spring. Last Saturday, Tim was unable to stop sneezing. Allergies. Jonathan laughed at him and told him just to hold the sneezes inside and Wow! His sneezes were Loud!

Sunday, Jonathan came down with the allergies. Red itchy eyes and hives. Tim was not extremely sympathetic.

With a little allergy medicine and a drastic change in the weather, they are now both allergy free. I'm not a fan of the weather change, though. We went from sunshine and blue skies to lots of cold rain. Lots and lots of cold rain.

But if it's raining
have no regrets
because it isn't raining only rain
it's raining violets.

That's a song I learned once. I think of it in the spring. I guess November showers bring December flowers, or something like that.

But what do December flowers bring? Pilgrims? Spring jokes just don't work in the Southern Hemisphere. They just don't work.


Anyway, I haven't been blogging any of that. Because somehow it all seems a little stupid and embarrassing. And because I should catch up on my email and photos before the blog. That's why you haven't heard any of it yet.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Oxford house

Our family lived in Oxford for a year when Jonathan was three years old. Jonathan doesn't have many memories of that time, but Tim and I do. More importantly, I still collaborate with the professor I worked with during that year. Since I would be traveling all the way to the UK, I arranged to stay an extra two weeks in Oxford to work on new projects with him. And because those two weeks overlapped with school holidays in Melbourne, I arranged to take the entire family again. I rented a little English row house for the two weeks. Two bedrooms, one bathroom, three people.

The house I rented ended up being very lovely, with a lot of character. It was built in the 1890s for canal workers and their families; a canal runs parallel to the back gardens of the houses on the other side of the street. The houses have mostly been updated since the time they were built. For example, they now have indoor plumbing. However, I think our carpet may have been original to the 1890s.

Aside from the carpet, it was a lovely little house.

This is what it looked like on the outside: We're one of those many houses in a row behind the cars.

Inside the master bedroom looked like this:

There was a cute little garden out the back. It was well-maintained and very lovely with autumn flowers. The shoes on the table in the garden were decorative, I think. They were there when we arrived, and we didn't touch them. Maybe we could have used them to stomp around in the mud in the garden, but we didn't actually go into the garden much. 

The kitchen was a long galley, with the dining area at the end. These were both added on since the 1890s, at the back of the house.

Living room. We didn't use the wood burning stove. We did turn on the TV a couple of times, though.

Front room, where Tim made his office for a week and a bit.

Bathroom, also updated since the 1890s. There was a shower in addition to the tub in the opposite corner. Luckily for the three of us trying to get clean in the mornings.

Smaller bedroom, where Jonathan stayed. 

The location was great. We could walk 20 minutes along the canal to the train station, or 15 minutes down the road to my colleague's office. Fifteen minutes in another direction took us to shops for groceries, and a five minute walk put us on a main road with many bus lines.

It was a lovely place to stay.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Hot breakfast

On Friday morning, I woke up a little early and decided to cook a nice breakfast.

The cooking took longer than expected, however, and even with the early rising we were finishing just barely with enough time to clean teeth, put on shoes, and run out the door to catch the tram.

From the tram I waved goodbye to Jonathan, and walked to the train. I took the train out to the suburbs, then caught the shuttle to my university, as usual.

Just as I was stepping off the shuttle, a little panicky voice in my head said:

"Wait! Do you remember to turn off the stove this morning?"

I paused.

Did I remember to turn off the stove?

Well, I know I turned on the stove, because I cooked breakfast, and it was cooked, not cold. And so the stove was on.

Did I remember turning it off?

I remember turning the stove down to low to simmer while breakfast was cooking. I remember taking the food off the stove. I remember eating the food. I remember washing the dishes. I even remember putting away the ingredients when finished. I remember all of that.

No, I didn't remember flipping the switch to turn off the stove.

And then the little voice in my head said:


I paused there on the sidewalk, just off the shuttle, letting the students stream past on either side, like Moses parting the waters of the Red Sea, and I did a few calculations.

I could go home, to check that switch, to see if I turned it off. I could turn right around and get back on the shuttle to the train to the walk to the apartment, and I could run upstairs and check. I could be home within the hour. Would the house have burned down by then?

And then I took a deep breath, and sat that panicky voice down in my head, and told it that even though I don't remember explicitly turning off the stove, chances were 90% that I did. I reminded the voice that I had an important meeting on campus in 40 minutes. That I couldn't get home and back in  time. That I almost never moved a pot off the stove without turning it off. That even if I had forgotten to turn it off, there was nothing on the stove that could burn. That Italian cooks left their stoves on all day on low, albeit supervised. That surely I had turned the stove off, hadn't I? 90% surely. Or at least 85% surely. Maybe 80% surely. Surely?

And I took a shaky step forward.

And then another, and another.

And the panicky voice started to hyperventilate, screaming all the way, but I ignored it and walked to my office. And I started working. And I had a reasonable, albeit somewhat more stressful, day.

I hurried home right after my last meeting in the afternoon. Shuttle to train to walk to apartment. The apartment was still there, no smoke pouring from the windows. No firetrucks. Quiet. Calm.

"Mom, you're late. We need to go now!" said the teenager, just as I opened the door.

Bus to practice. One hour. Bus to home. And then, finally, 12 hours after finishing breakfast, I remembered to check the stove.

It was off.

Take that, little voice in my head, I said. It was off the whole time!

From now on, we're eating cold cereal for breakfast every morning.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

In the UK

I attended a conference at Warwick University in England near the end of September. England is nearly on the opposite side of the world from Melbourne. To get there, you fly 14 hours to somewhere in Asia, spend a few hours in an airport, then fly 9 more hours to England. It is a very very long trip, especially if you are in economy class.

I was in economy class. My university won't pay for better seats.

But I knew the flight would be painful, so to maximise benefit to pain, I stayed three weeks.

They were three lovely weeks, early in autumn. It was nice to get a hint of autumn as we transition into spring in Australia.

Those weeks, weather in Melbourne and England was pretty much the same. There was some rain, some clouds, some sunshine. Temperatures hovered around the same maximums and the same minimums. Because the visit straddled the equinox, even the amount of daylight was about the same.

But even though the weather and the daylight were similar, I could tell I was not in Australia, because first, the accents were all different.

Second, the landscape was much greener and English-ier. Look at all those English-looking trees in the photo below. That does not look Australian.

And third, there were English ruins dating back to the 1600s or earlier. Kenilworth Castle is such a ruin. I visited Kenilworth on my first weekend, less than two days after that very long plane flight.

According to the tourist info provided, the castle was left in ruins after the English Civil War, to limit the amount of property of the monarchy. Now that the queen doesn't own the castle, you can walk all over it. Provided you pay your entrance fee. And so I did.

The gardens were lovely. They kept parakeets.

And here is a picture of me looking somewhat perplexed. Or perhaps that is my jet-lag face. In any case, I can offer it as proof that I was in England.

More pictures coming later.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

In a year

I had a birthday recently. A colleague asked what I had learned in the last year. Here are a few things.

1. I learned where to buy doughnuts in Portland, Oregon.
2. I learned where to get a haircut in Melbourne, Australia.
3. I learned where to see the longest wool sheared at one time from a single sheep. In Canberra. The poor sheep.
4. I learned where to find kangaroos in the wild in Creswick, Australia. Just walk around the back of the old forestry campus at dusk.
5. I learned that cockatoos live in huge groups on their own. Really huge, really loud groups.
6. I learned what it is like to have an aura with a migraine. I did not like it. I hope I never have one ever again.
7. I learned how to take public transit to the beach. There are lots of options, but I'd probably recommend the Frankston line.
8. I learned that "gaol" is pronounced "jail".
9. I learned that the oldest running roller coaster in the world is actually pretty fun, although built for short people. It has a hand brake in the middle of the car, and a staff member has to ride it and operate the brake all day long.
10. I learned that January is not a good month for penguins.
11. I learned how to pronounce "Yarra". But still not sure about "Tarra-Bulga".
12. I learned that going to Adelaide and returning the same day is not a good idea.
13. But going to Sydney and returning a couple of days later can be fun.
14. Same for Brisbane.
15. I learned that the Dubai airport is not as scary as it sounds. But it is awfully far away.
16. I learned that when I stop writing blog posts for a while, it becomes much more difficult to write later. I will try to write more regularly in the next year.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Our updates

In North America, all my friends' kids are going back to school. My kid never left school. Our seasons are upside down. Remember? Here, spring is almost upon us. You may ask how I can tell. The way I can tell is that I look at the photos on my phone. They look spring-like, even though they are stamped with dates from late August. That's how I remember our seasons are upside down.

We had a visitor to our kitchen window yesterday morning: a tawny frogmouth. These birds are mostly nocturnal, so it is very hard to spot them. This one was right right outside the window, though, looking around with its big yellow eyes and trying to decide if this window spot was actually safe or not.

In the end it decided that it should probably go back and hang out in the trees in the park. But at least it posed for a photo first.  Pretty, pretty bird.

In other news, we have a new addition to the household. Last weekend Jonathan and I took a long walk along the river that ended up with a tram ride out to Bunnings (just like Home Depot). Jonathan reminded me while we were walking that I had promised to buy him a houseplant, and I responded with, why not go get one now? Which would have been a better idea had I thought about the logistics of taking home a pot, a plant, and a bag of dirt on public transit. But we made it.

And since then, Jonathan has been watching all sorts of gardening videos on YouTube. He has plans to plant vegetables and grow a terrarium and create a water feature, and most recently to raise bonzai trees for fun and profit. Except I won't buy him more plant stuff -- not until we can ensure the new houseplant survives through the next school holidays. Because we don't need multiple dead plants at the end of the holidays.

I know, you say, I should be taking advantage of this new gardening Jonathan and put him to work. Honestly, friends, I tried. Every spring for eight years while we lived in the house with the mega-garden I tried to get him excited about growing stuff. He had his own corner of the yard to dig in. He could grow fruit, vegetables, anything! And he never really cared. And now that he begins to show some enthusiasm we live in an apartment with no yard work.

No. Don't suggest potted plants. He has to keep the one plant alive until the end of the school holidays before I let him try another.

I guess that's it for news. I do love living here.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Some photos

A few weeks ago I was reminded that I never posted pictures of our apartment in spite of having lived here nearly 1.5 years, and in spite of having promised pictures soon after we moved in. I guess we have moved in. So without further ado, here is the much anticipated house tour.

The living room. The door leads onto the porch at the front of the building.

And the dining area:
Kitchen, looking toward the window and back door overlooking the park:
Kitchen looking away from the window:
Jonathan's room, views one and two:

My room, views one and two:

Bathroom one, with the glass wall:
Bathroom two. Ok, just the washer and dryer. It's too hard to take a picture of a little bathroom and have it look reasonable.

And one last picture, of the office.

We used to dry all the laundry in the bathroom, but then it had to be moved around for showers, etc. Somehow it found a better home in the office.

And there you go. That's it. Definitely worth waiting for.

While I'm posting pictures, here are a few more quick photos from my phone.

It is nearly spring, and the golden wattle trees are in bloom. They smell wonderful.

And a view of the Docklands. Jonathan's skating lessons are held in a warehouse-shaped building that you can't see from the photo, but is off to the right behind those tall buildings. Every Monday evening I walk this way to pick him up. And nearly every Monday evening I pause to look over the harbor, and often take a picture. It's very pretty.

See, here is another one from an earlier week.

And another one, from a week even earlier.

I'm glad the view is nice, because shuttling to and from lessons gets tedious.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

I shower in the dark. And other winter tales.

Sometimes I shower in the dark.

With only one month remaining of winter, it is staying lighter here longer. But still the sun isn't up until after 7:30, and it sets by 6pm. So it's dark when I want to shower in the morning, and dark when I want to shower in the evening.

The master bathroom has an entire wall of windows.

It's beautiful during daylight hours when the room is full of natural light.

It's kind of creepy after dark when you are standing naked by that wall of windows and the light is pouring in the opposite direction. Ok sure the glass is wavy so people on the other side can't see any fine details. And yes, there is a tree whose branches cover the wall on the other side unless you are right under the window. But still. If you are on the sidewalk just below, and the lights are on in the bathroom, and there is a naked person standing there by that window taking a shower, then you will get to see some skin.

Tim and I have argued about the amount of skin visible in the dark from the other side of the wall of windows. Tim thinks there will be none. I think there will be at least a full body blob of pink nude. No I am not going to settle the argument by going outside to check out the view while Tim is showering. Ew.

So I shower in the dark.

There is enough light coming in from the outside to find the shampoo, if not to distinguish it from the conditioner (hint: the conditioner is on the right). And you have to close your eyes anyway when the soap is running into them. So since I'm already showering partially blind, why not just shower in the dark?

Sometimes I shower in the dark.

There is no heat in the bathroom.

We have one gas heater in the living room, and space heaters for the bedrooms for the nights when it is particularly cold. But there is no heater in the bathroom.

If you turn the water temperature up in the shower, you can stand there in the dark enjoying warmth pouring over you. But then you eventually have to turn the water off and get out of the shower and there is no heat and you are all wet and it is Cold!

In a perfect world, I would only shower in the winter on Sundays. On Sundays, I can sleep until the sun is up, then shower in a bathroom lit by natural light, heated by natural sun. No showering in the cold and the dark like I do the rest of the week.

But alas. The world is not perfect. The hair needs washing more than just on Sunday. The body needs cleaning. Hygiene is important. One learns this lesson quickly when one takes public transit.

But oh the bathroom is cold.

Friday, July 28, 2017


A family member pointed out the fact that I haven't written in a while.

It is true. I haven't written in a while. But I have good reasons for not writing.

First, we were going on holiday, and I was getting ready to go on holiday by doing things like ... not writing.

Then we were on holiday and I was not writing because I was on holiday.

And then we were back, and I was not writing because I was just back from holiday and I was in a post-holiday slump.

And then I decided that I liked being in a post-holiday slump and I'd extend it for a while.

Anyway, now that family members are asking what has happened, I guess I'd better start writing again.

We had a lovely holiday. Tim's parents and sister joined us on an island halfway between our house and theirs. In Hawaii. The weather was perfect. The activities were perfect. The people were perfect.

And I came home with a tan line. So perfect.

The one thing that wasn't perfect was the jellyfish that stung me. It was otherwise a lovely beach. And then I encountered just a little thread of tentacle across the front of my foot, that the wave then swept back to brush just slightly across the back of my calves. It totally would have been fine except those jellyfish stingers are filled with neurotoxin. The pain ran up my leg and numbed the whole thing to everything except pain. Pain. PAIN! Yikes!

And within 24 hours it was gone.

Until today.

I am having jellyfish ghost pains shoot through my lymph node in my leg.

Stupid jellyfish.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Things we've been doing

My mother asked me on the phone what we have been doing recently, and I had to think for a while. I guess while a person is in the middle of doing stuff it can be hard to see what is being done, and why others might care. In fact, probably few people do care really about what we've been doing, but for the three people who occasionally read this blog, I can at least offer some words to distract you from the endless boredom of trying to scroll to the bottom of your Facebook feed. (I keep trying to find the bottom of mine, but I can't. The bottom is too far away.)

For me, I am in the middle of exam weeks. Exams take three weeks at my university. After classes end, there is a week of nothing: No classes, no exams. And then there are three weeks of exams, two exams per day. And for the academic staff like me, there is grading. Except it isn't called grading here. It's called marking. The other universities where I have worked required the instructors to grade their own classes. Here, first year classes can be assigned to postgraduate students (called "graduate students" elsewhere). But second and third year classes, especially large ones, are carved up into bits and marked by continuing staff only.

This semester, I was assigned three units to mark: one large second year course, my own small third year course, and one new unit for masters students. I spent a large part of Tuesday and Wednesday finishing the second year course and starting on the masters course.

Then Thursday I woke up with the stomach flu, and spent the day moving between the cold bathroom floor, crouched over the toilet, and my bed, aching under the blankets.

Friday I was able to cut out the crouching over the toilet part, and just stay in bed. But now I am way behind on the marking. Monday, Tuesday will be solid marking. Great.

All things considered, marking is preferable to the stomach flu.

Jonathan has been growing. For him, growing has pretty much become a full time thing. He is as tall as Tim, maybe taller. He has grown about half an inch in the last month. And maybe four inches in the last six months. He probably has stretch marks from growing so fast. If you watch him for an hour or so, you can almost see his height creeping up and up and up.

All that growing has not unbalanced him too much, I guess. He is mastering double jumps in figure skating.
And spins.

A week ago Saturday, he baked something for a cake sale to fund a youth camp at the end of the year. He made a chocolate sponge roll with chocolate cream filling. Although he sold off the cake, he had to cut off the end to make it look pretty. He ate one end, and he gave one to me. And it was so good. Just the right mix of sweet and bitter chocolate. Perfect texture. So good. He hasn't made more yet.

He also won a new tee shirt from a mathematics competition. And a calendar with a new math challenge for every day of the year. In French. And he made it to the semifinals of a French computer programming competition. He makes his parents proud. Except since it is in French, we can't really follow......

And Tim. What about Tim? Well, Tim works from home. I was home, too, all day Thursday and Friday, and therefore I had the perfect opportunity to see Tim at work all day. As far as I can tell, he stays in his office all day. Although he could have been in the living room and I wouldn't really have known. He was definitely not puking with me on the bathroom floor. Nor was he huddled under the blankets in bed.

All things considered, his work is probably better than the stomach flu.

So that's what we have been up to: marking, puking, sleeping, growing, baking, working. Now please excuse me while I go look for the bottom of my Facebook feed.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Sydney in lights

I was invited to speak in a seminar in Sydney. After the misery of the one day visit to Adelaide, I decided to plan the Sydney visit more carefully. I found flights that would get me there the night before, allow me to rest and be ready for the visit, and then fly home at a reasonable hour the following day. It was a much nicer trip.

And Vivid Sydney is on now, which is an event where they light up the city. I took a train to the Sydney Harbour two nights in a row to see the lights. It was surprisingly fun. I was sorry not to have any friends along to share it with. So now I'm sharing it with you.

The roof of the Sydney opera house was lit up. 

As was the city behind.

There was a walk through the Botanic Gardens, with lots of light exhibits set up by artists. The pictures didn't work out so well there, but there were lots of lighted trees.

Trees on fire.

Fairies in the trees.

Yeah, phone camera is not so great. But I offer a panorama.

The second night I walked the other direction, towards the bridge through the part of the city called the Rocks. I took a lot of bridge pictures.

And more opera house pictures, although the opera house ended up looking a lot farther away on the screen than in real life.

There were a lot of people out and about and also taking pictures, eating food. It was fun. And kind of bizarre.

I'm glad you came along with me.