Saturday, January 31, 2015

Perhaps I'm Becoming A Shopaholic

I've been saying for a couple of weeks now I really need to get some new sunglasses because I've had mine for a couple of years and the arm keeps falling off so I have to keep re-screwing it in place, one of the lenses keeps popping out, not to mention both are quite scratched. The op shop always has sunglasses, but I hadn't seen any I liked the look of yet, but the other day I lucked out while I was working and noticed some Marc Jacobs ones for really cheap that were a little worn but otherwise in great shape.

I quickly snatched them up and I'm pretty pleased with them. I now have some new sunglasses to take with me on our Asia trip in 19 days!

Pretty good shape if I say so myself

I make a point of buying all my stuff on the days I volunteer though because then I get 50% off everything, which is a pretty generous discount for a store that's already really cheap.

In other news, but still relating to shopping, we've switched our main bank account here in Australia from NAB to ING. We originally signed up with NAB because you could sign up for it before having an Australian address and could pick up the cards immediately upon arrival, however, we didn't really like it. It was a fine account but ING has some better things like 2% cash back on everything you use a contactless payment for, among other things.

Even better we found out that by signing up for this offer you get a $250 online voucher for this store if you create a new account with ING. We were going to switch to ING anyway so this was basically just free money, and we checked it out and you can use it in as many transactions online as you like and there aren't any strings attached to it. This was extremely exciting, so last night we bought a bunch of stuff online and we're expecting to get it in the mail on Tuesday. It also has free returns so if stuff doesn't fit it isn't even a problem to send it back, so I'm pretty excited.

I got a few articles of clothing, then a pair of sandals (hilariously called the Hannah, so it was basically fate) and a new pair of black flats since mine are in such bad shape since I was wearing them close to every day. I will keep you updated on what I end up keeping, accompanied by pictures!

I know by buying all of these things I'm only causing a problem for myself when we leave because we were already totally maxed out with space, but I can't help it. Hence perhaps becoming a shopaholic. At least between the op shop and this free money I'm acquiring stuff but at very little/no cost, that's a silver lining at least.

Tonight I've spent several hours looking at pictures of koalas and watching koala videos. My personal favorite is this one of a baby koala trying to eat a leaf. It sounds boring, it most definitely is not, I assure you. I even changed my desktop background to a picture of a koala, it's super cute. I think this is maybe becoming an obsession, but then again wasn't that bound to happen? I think so. No point in fighting it.

In the past two weeks I have read kind of a ridiculous number of books (since I'm a boring book nerd) and I've just finished a new one today that I absolutely loved. Kristin Hannah is one of my favorite authors, she wrote Firefly Lane and Winter Garden (two of my favorites), but I have to say I think this book is slowly creeping to the top of the list. It's called The Nightingale and follows the journeys of two sisters living in occupied France during WWII and it's sad, moving and fast-paced. I can't summarize it better than the book itself. "The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France--a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel of a lifetime."

I think that last bit is a bit dramatic, but I fully agree with the rest of it and I would certainly recommend it. I've also read two more Jodi Picoult books (I'm close to reading them all now I think), and I've just finished Second Glance (not my favorite) and Plain Truth-- both good but not my favorites of hers.

Now I just have to decide what's next!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Nonchalant Reports of Bush Fires

It's been a pretty uneventful past few days, we ended up doing nothing for Australia Day because unfortunately the weather was really unpleasant. Chilly and rainy. I don't feel like I missed out too much though, so it's alright.

While watching the news the other day they were talking about all sorts of random stuff, meanwhile this huge bush fire was raging in Wanneroo, Western Australia (near Perth). However, the only coverage of this fire were some banners under the screen saying where it was and the really comforting line of, "Residents are in danger and need to act immediately to survive." How does that not warrant more coverage?!

To me that sounds rather dire, but I guess to a country like Australia where fires like this happen all the time there's no need to report it, especially when it's so far away. I don't think I'll ever get used to the way they report fires here though, no matter how long I'm here.

Today I had a meeting with the World Literacy Foundation people and got my next project, now that this project is coming to an end. I'm glad to have it and I enjoy it, so I'm looking forward to starting this one as well.

Tomorrow I'm at the op shop again so I'm looking forward to that. Hopefully the weather improves a bit tomorrow because this is not summer weather!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Preparing for Australia Day

I volunteered at the op shop again today and surprisingly didn't want to buy everything I saw, definitely an accomplishment. I did end up buying something, but only one thing! I bought a set of cutlery for a dollar, 4 forks, 4 spoons and 3 knives. I did search for the fourth knife but never did find it so I'm guessing the person who donated it must have lost it.

What they look like

It wasn't necessary, but for a dollar and the fact they were blue I couldn't pass it up. We got some interesting donations today including an Air Asia blanket, a giant air conditioning unit and a giant toy horse probably as big as me. The thing looked pretty worn out but the guy said as he dropped off it belong to his daughter... who is apparently now 27. No wonder the thing is old-looking. It went in the trash needless to say. 

The shop is closed on Monday for Australia Day, think of it as an Australian Fourth of July, and so they had me write up several signs basically saying do not leave your donations at our locked door on Monday. I'm looking forward to Australia Day to see what it's like. There's all kinds of stuff including a parade and other things, I'm not sure what/if I'll be doing anything but I'd like to see what it's all about. 

I know I won't be barbecuing, the stereotypical thing to do on Australia Day, but who knows, maybe I'll go to the beach, watch the parade, one of the other many activities, who knows. Although I doubt the I'll go to the beach since the high for Monday is only 70 degrees (21c), which is a lovely temperature, but not quite beach weather, even though these past few days have been pretty hot. But again, that's Melbourne for you. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Launceston, Tasmania

Launceston was a lot of fun and while the city itself wasn't that exciting Tasmania was pretty spectacular. I didn't realize how hilly the place was, but it really is, and as we were driving you just go up one huge hill/mountain and down the other side and then just do it again. Our first stop was to Cataract Gorge, which is this gorge about 15 minutes outside of the city and seemed to be one of the few things to actually do there. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that pictures really don't do this place justice and we ended up spending most of the day there.

First when we arrived, before even seeing the gorge, we started on this walk where we saw all kinds of wildlife which was super exciting. Of course there were no koalas because there aren't koalas on Tasmania but what we did see made up for it. We were walking along and heard some rustling in the bush so we look over and sure enough there's a little wallaby sitting there behind some grass staring at us. It didn't seem too bothered and just sat there for a few minutes staring at us, but as soon as I tried to get a bit closer it did hop off.

The wallaby behind the bush on the trail

After that we were walking further along and decided to head back since we didn't expect the walk to be that long so we didn't bring our water or sunscreen (I got a tad sunburned, but not too bad!). As we turned to head back these people pointed out to us an echidna sleeping under a rock. I never would have noticed it had they not pointed it out. Of course it was sleeping and had it's head stuck under the rock and never moved so I didn't get a great picture of it. Echidnas are much bigger than I thought they were, I thought they were closer to the size of a hedgehog, but they're definitely closer to the size of porcupine. Maybe not a porcupine, I've never seen a real porcupine, I imagine they're kind of large? Let's just say it's a little smaller than a koala but bigger than a hedgehog.

The echidna sleeping under the rock

This trail had all sorts of wildlife, that was only the beginning so we saw a ton of these little lizards, dragonflies, bugs and even a kookaburra. The kookaburra even sang for us and it was very exciting because I've never seen a wild kookaburra before.

The kookaburra

One of the many lizards (they were all like this one)

Not only was the wildlife exciting on this trail but the views we got were pretty amazing as well. It was definitely a good start to the day even though it was really hot (which we weren't really expecting since the forecast had it as a fairly mild, rainy day). It never did rain.

One of the views from this trail

We headed back to the car but on the way we saw another wallaby hopping around in the area where the little cafe was by the parking lot. He/she didn't seem too bothered by the people around (not that there were that many of us) and happily hopped over to us. It had a bit of a funny eye, looked a bit like cataracts for kangaroos but I'm not sure. Eventually it hopped off so we headed on to the car to get our water.

The wallaby with a funny eye

Once we went back to the car and got our water we headed back out we decided to walk up this other trail to a lookout, and although it wasn't far man it was steep and rocky. It was a serious struggle for my little legs. Not to mention with these little lizards everywhere every time I put my foot down something would scurry around it and it just left me rather unnerved. At one point while heading back down I didn't see one and just as my foot was coming down I noticed it and just shouted oh my god because it took me by such surprise. The rock formations on this trail were pretty impressive, along with the rocky trail itself.

The rock formation on the trail, it was split down
the middle

The rocky trail, this was the tame part

The view of the gorge from the lookout

We finally headed back down and went to the gorge, proving again to be even more impressive than we were expecting. On either side of the gorge there's a river and the rocks surrounding it make it pretty dramatic and pictures don't do its vastness justice.

The gorge

View of the river

River on the other side of the gorge

Dramatic rocks in the gorge

The whole area was amazing, but I have to say that suspension bridge freaked me out. I have a slight (ok, more than slight) fear of heights and bridges are more or less ok for me but a bridge that actually sways, sorry, not what I signed up for. Just us walking on it the bridge didn't move but as soon as other people stepped on it it started swaying and I totally freaked out. I still got the photos I wanted, but I wasn't happy about being on it. Even though the views were great I didn't want to stay on it that long. Overall though the place was really enjoyable and pleasant.

After that we had some lunch and then drove the 35 minutes to Low Head which is the very top tip of Tasmania on the coast. The drive was definitely worth it because the views of the ocean were pretty spectacular. The beaches there were very rocky, not somewhere you'd want to swim, but the views were great and the water was so blue and so incredibly clear.

Rocky coast

Ocean and hills

Happy with our day, and the fact our flight was leaving in an hour and a half, we headed back inland to the airport. The day was great and was a really nice change of scenery from Melbourne, plus it was nice that the weather ended up being nice despite the forecast saying otherwise. It drizzled a bit on our way back to the airport, but that was nothing compared to what the forecast had said that morning. Once back at the airport I couldn't help taking a photo because even though it's a really small airport (bigger than Mildura, but nothing compared to normal airports) the scenery is pretty amazing. When we landed there were clouds low over the hills and it looked pretty dramatic.

Hills by the runway

We arrived back in Melbourne and went to the Virgin lounge to have some free food, beer and ciders while watching the sunset over the runway. It was a perfect end to a lovely day.

The sun setting over the runway

It was a great trip and I'm really glad we got to go and I hope at some point we'll be able to make it to Hobart too, but we'll see. I'm getting really excited now for our Asia trip, which we leave for in 26 days, not that I'm counting. Although I didn't see any koalas on this trip, I'll take the wildlife we did see!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Taking a Short Trip

I'm very excited because tomorrow we're going to Tasmania for the day! We'll be going to Launceston (which is only about 300 miles from us) and I'm really looking forward to it. I've been wanting to go to Tasmania for years, not because it's super exciting or anything, but because it always sounded so exotic. We're even flying Virgin which means we'll get our lounge access-- i.e. free food and alcohol before departure and upon arrival back in Melbourne. Yay for free breakfast and dinner!

We didn't do much today, I actually slept in past 9am for the first time in I don't even know how long (I must have been tired) and then we enjoyed a lazy day. I just finished reading a crime novel, Irene by Pierre Lamaitre, and upon finishing it discovered it's part of a trilogy... but I want to know! It was really good, although a bit violent, and has probably one of the biggest plot twists I have ever read. If you're into crime novels you should check it out, but I will warn you there were parts that were pretty horrendous to read, so don't if you're squeamish.

It's actually a French book that was translated into English, but strangely today I read they translated the second book before the first. Logical. Luckily I read the first one first, even though I didn't know it was a trilogy when I started.

The library has an app called Borrow Box and you can download books from their database and read them on your devices, which I thought was a really cool idea, and it is, but then I discovered the number of books they have on the app is quite limited. The first book of my trilogy was on there but not the second or third so I'll have to go track those down in person. However for someone like me who usually goes to the library just looking for any book and nothing in particular it's not a bad option, despite the limited selection.

Today a boat caught on fire in the marina by our house, but despite reading articles and watching the news I still don't know how it happened. All stories pretty much say, "The boat caught fire, the fire was put out. Everyone was fine." Which is great to hear, but I still want to know why! I should have just gone down there and figured it out myself.

I'm looking forward to Tasmania tomorrow and I'll be sure to take pictures!

Monday, January 19, 2015

A Successful Day

Today I learned something. Op shopping is an addiction. I was volunteering again today and I've realized that, especially when I have a voucher, I'm like a magpie in that store basically wanting everything I see. This is a problem I only have with op shops though, not normal shopping, and it's just because you can find these great items for such small amounts but of course by the time you total up everything you'd want to buy those little amounts suddenly become one big amount.

However, today, I did come away with three wonderful things using my voucher that I'm very pleased with. I got this awesome blue clock, which even had a working battery in it, this awesome blue wallet (which actually perfectly matches the clock but obviously I won't ever be traveling with the wallet and the clock so it's kind of irrelevant), and that watch I saw the other day. I know I shouldn't have bought it because there's no guarantee it'll work, but I couldn't help it, I was just so drawn to it.

The picture doesn't really do it justice

This wallet is so incredible soft

With tons of space inside

Matching clock

At the moment I have no way to hang the clock because we're out of hooks so I'll have to buy some more, but I took down something just so I could see what it looked like on the wall and I have to say I'm pretty pleased.

Up on the wall

I haven't decided where the best place to put it will be, but since it's time I probably take down my Christmas decorations I guess it can go there.

Apart from my three newly acquired items volunteering was great again. The op shop has been getting so many donations recently that for a couple of days we stopped accepting them just so we could get on top of everything and get rid of some stuff before putting out more things. Today we were accepting donations again, but they were marking things down considerably less than usual just to try and get people to buy more stuff.

It's nice that the community provides so many things, but it's really annoying when people use it as just a glorified dumpster. Some stuff we get just gets chucked straight into the trash and today someone dropped off a backpack, which was in great condition, but when I opened it it had all sorts of disgusting slippers in horrendous shape with other things that we immediately threw away. I guess it's a small price to pay to have a wonderfully full store.

You'd be surprised the things people leave in books though. Sorting through the books has become one of my favorite things because I've found things like a receipt from Borders in New York from 2006 and countless boarding passes, strangely all on Virgin Australia. I found a boarding pass on Virgin to Cairns on Saturday then two today going to Launceston in Tasmania and Sydney. I guess people use them as bookmarks and then forget about them? As for the Borders receipt, the book looked new so maybe they bought it and then totally forgot about it-- I'm guilty of it too.

I had a bit of a snafu with dinner tonight. I got all excited because I went to Aldi the other day and bought many jars of curry sauce (I was stocking up) so I was going to make some tonight. So everything was started and then I went to open my jar of sauce... wouldn't budge. I then tried to run it under hot water but it still wouldn't move so then I tried prying it open with a knife which was a bad idea and didn't work. Finally I had no choice. I stabbed it. It was quite barbaric I won't lie, but I had no other choice, except to not eat, and that was not a valid option.

My decimated jar

I'm not proud of it, but it worked so I guess that's all that matters and I got my curry in the end so I was pleased, despite the struggle getting there.

I now have leftovers of curry so won't have to deal with anymore sauces for quite some time and I'm next in the op shop on Thursday... what goodies will this magpie find next.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Op Shopping

I've had a pretty exciting few days with the op shop. I went in yesterday for shopping purposes and also to speak with them to set up a few more shifts for this week and I ended up getting a cookie tin for the really expensive price of $0.20 so I was pretty pleased with that. There was this Kate Spade bag I was considering buying, but it did have some stains on it that I wasn't sure I'd be able to get out, so I decided against it.

However, today I went in to volunteer and, as usual, had a wonderful time, but also spotted many things I kind of wanted. Then I really lucked out because they gave me a $25 voucher to the op shop as a late Christmas present, making my day. I spotted these oven mitts (the kind that are attached) that were blue, brand new, and only a dollar so I couldn't help myself and used my voucher to get those.

New oven mitts

I saw this gorgeous gold (obviously not real) square watch that I totally fell in love with and it was only $5, but then I realized it was missing the glass screen and I wasn't actually sure if it would work. I almost bought it anyway as a fashion statement but then I figured that was silly so I left it behind. Many other things caught my eye but I thought I might as well wait and use my $25 for something I really want or need.

Volunteering went well though and I was pretty excited because I was allowed to put a whole display together. It had to be quite full because we were running out of places to put stuff, but I think it turned out pretty well considering I've never done that before.

It did look better in person when you could see the
jewelry in all its glory

The past couple of days have been weird for people interpreting my accent. First someone told me I had a slight Irish accent, strangely not the first time I've had someone say that to me, and then I had someone tell me I sounded like I was from New Zealand because of the way I say my sixes. It was quite bizarre because I'm pretty sure I don't sound like I'm from either of those places. Canada I get, but past that I can't really understand it.

At this rate I'm going to come back sounding like Aussie, you hear that mate?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Not What It Seems

It's been a week since I last posted, but I've been so exhausted I just haven't had the time. It turns out my new job wasn't as peachy as it originally sounded. The whole place was pretty unprofessional, it was crazy long hours with no breaks and only commission only (which wasn't even legal) so needless to say I quit. After a few days of it I couldn't take it anymore, it was so much walking everything hurt, and I was tired of getting up at 6 and getting home at 7:30. It was basically glorified door knocking rather than scheduled presentations like they led us to believe and that is something I have absolutely no respect for so I left, however, I don't doubt I'll find something else.

However, my project with the World Literacy Foundation is wrapping up now and the guy has a few other projects in mind for me so I'll have something, and I like them! 

In happier news, we finally have a bed so so long air mattress! We got it super cheap and it's in fantastic shape and is literally one of the most comfy beds I have ever been on. It reminds me of a hotel bed and it even has a pillow top. That was exactly what I wanted to come home to after those few horrible days at my job. 

I'm really happy with it except now I fall asleep in about 2 seconds after my head hitting the pillow! 

We've now finally booked a trip we've been planning to Asia and I am so excited. We'll be gone for 2 weeks and we'll be flying to Bali, then to Jakarta, then from there Kuala Lumpur, then the train from there to Singapore, then flying back to Bali to come back to Melbourne. I've always wanted to go to Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur so I'm extremely excited and I think it's going to be a really great trip. I'll also be able to take my camera out for some real photos other than just in Melbourne which should be fun too. 

Overall things are going really well despite the little flop with the job, but it happens and I'm just glad I figured this all out in a few days rather than wasting more of my time with it. Not to mention, I got a lovely postcard from the Stacester all the way from Paris so that totally made my week. 

Tonight while Michael is at work I am having myself a bit of a Whitney Houston jam (who doesn't love I Wanna Dance With Somebody answer me that!). 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Good News

I know it's been a while since I posted, but frankly with the heat I've not wanted my laptop anywhere near me or on my lap because it's just been far too hot. When I was in the op shop last week I was just so glad to be somewhere with air conditioning, not to mention I enjoy it, so it was really just a win win.

I'm also very excited because I finally have a proper job! I'll be working with a company called Devotion Marketing doing fundraising in offices and businesses for various nonprofits such as the Breast Cancer Foundation, WWF, Unicef, the Australian Paralympic Committee, the Australian Red Cross and more. Basically my job will be to go into offices and give presentations about my assigned charity to get donors for that charity.

I start training on Monday morning and hopefully will be able to start working within a few days. I think it should be pretty fun and all of the people who work there seem really nice and enthusiastic so I'm pretty excited. It's not really like anything I've done before so I'll have to see if I'm any good at it but only time will tell.

Of course this doesn't mean I'm done with my op shop, I'll still do the odd day on the weekend I think-- I love them too much not to.

We've been having some pretty ridiculous storms here the past couple of days. Brutal heat and storms, not the nicest combination. Our forecast for this next week is rain every day so that's not going to be too fun, but at least it'll keep the temperatures down. I would love to have some winter right now but the grass is always greener on the other side isn't it?

Friday, January 2, 2015

Hot Hot Days

Today was a pretty uneventful day, but it was hot hot hot. I was so hot tonight I took a cold shower just so I could more comfortably sit on the sofa. It was a high of 104 and tomorrow is going to be a high of 106 and I am really absolutely not looking forward to that.

I baked a cake earlier, a recipe I've never tried before, with some chocolate and a bit of coffee. I wasn't sure how it would turn out but it's actually really tasty and I definitely think I'd make it again. However, I believe I'd halve the recipe the second time around because it uses a large quantity of ingredients and it kind of grew to be too tall and then fell on itself.

The finished cake, you can see in the middle
where it kind of fell over

I'm excited to be spending tomorrow and Sunday at the op shop since it's been a couple of weeks since I've been there, and at least I'll have the air conditioning on the hottest day since we've been here. It'll be nice to catch up with the women who work there and it'll be nice to have something to do.

I need to start looking for more cake recipes now to branch out!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!

Well it's 2015 already! I feel like this past year just flew by, but then again doesn't it always feel that way? It was really strange this year being in another year 16 hours before everyone else, it's times like that when the time difference really hits me. I went to watch the city fireworks from St. Kilda Pier which is about a 10 minute walk from the apartment. I had a fantastic view, but the fireworks weren't overly spectacular. They were cool but I thought they might be a bit more exciting although I'm not the only person that thought that because as I was leaving I overheard quite a few people saying they've been better in previous years. Bad luck I guess.

I tried to take photos with my new camera but I was struggling to get the settings just right and not having a tripod made them come out quite blurry, however, after taking about 80 I got a few good ones!

Overall it was a good new year and we'll see what 2015 holds!

As I said in an earlier post, we rented a car the other day and went koala scouting and went to the Cranbourne branch of the Melbourne Royal Botanic Gardens. We went to the gardens first and the weather just absolutely could not make up its mind. One second it was pouring rain, so hard I could barely see out of the windshield, and literally three minutes later it was clear blue sky. Then it alternated between hot and cold which made it impossible to dress for the day. That's Melbourne for you.

Luckily, when we got to the gardens it had stopped pouring and it spitted a bit but was nothing too bad. It was a really cool place and we enjoyed it a lot-- it was much bigger than I thought it would be though. There were tons of signs as we were walking around saying there was a snake sighting in the area that day and to be careful which freaked me out because I hate snakes and I really didn't want to see one, but despite all the signs we made it through the gardens without seeing one so I was pretty pleased about that.

Red dirt garden 

Pond in the gardens

We didn't stay at the gardens too long so once we were done we hopped in the car and drove to the place I read about the koala walk. By the time we got there it was clear blue sky and was getting pretty hot so I changed out of my jeans and into my shorts (thankfully, although I did get a bit burned because I forgot sunscreen-- oops). The walk was pretty pleasant, but we didn't see any koalas at all which made me sad, nor did we see any kangaroos or wallabies as they claimed we would. All we saw were two emus, which I suppose is better than nothing but I was really hoping for a koala or a wallaby. We were saying though that there was barely any wildlife on the walk, we barely even saw birds, but at least it was nice and the weather decided to take a turn for the better so it wasn't a bad day.

The path of the walk

Parts of the path were on these raised

On our drive home we took the coastal road and I am so glad we did because it was absolutely gorgeous. We were driving along, up a bit of a hill, and once you reach the peak all of a sudden you're completely surrounded by the ocean just everywhere you look, then when you're driving down the road it looks like you're about to drive straight into it before going along the coast. It's no Great Ocean Road but it was pretty spectacular. I pulled over to take a picture but it certainly didn't do the view justice.

We wrapped up the day with some Chinese take out and watching planes land at the airport while the sun was setting. It was an uneventful day but was still fun and I know eventually I'll see another wild koala, I might just need to go a bit further outside of the city for that.

The edge of the airport where we were watching
the planes

A plane taking off into the sunset

I'm starting to think I'm going to need to go back to Adelaide to my wildlife park to see another koala, although I've never seen a wild emu so I guess that counts for something!