Monday, March 30, 2015

Photos and Chinese

Yesterday I went out and practiced shooting in manual a bit more on my camera, and I figured out a few more cool features that I hadn't noticed before. I think I got some nice photos and it's certainly much more fun than shooting in auto.

I like to call these the three amigos

Yay for sailing

Who doesn't like a good flying seagull

I like its reflection

I'm pretty sure this starfish was dead, sorry starfish

I didn't do much today, I cleaned a bit and went to the store, but not much else. I work tomorrow and Thursday, and tomorrow Michael and I plan to meet up in the city again and get Chinese, which I'm really excited about because I love it. I always get the black pepper beef and he always gets the honey chicken, both come with fried rice. I'm definitely looking forward to it.

The internet has been painfully slow these past couple of days so hopefully it can speed up again because it's really starting to get pretty irritating. Here's to it being better tomorrow! (But who cares because I'll be getting Chinese.)

Saturday, March 28, 2015


As you know I got a camera for Christmas which I was looking forward to. I've always been interested in photography and as much as I'd love a fancy schmancy DSLR it seemed unwise to spend that much money on a camera that I literally didn't know the first thing about using. Apart from pointing and shooting. Since I got my camera I've just been using the auto mode (which selects the aperture, shutter speed and iso for you) and it's taken some pretty great photos, but I thought it was about time I learned how to use the actual settings on it.

About a week ago I joined this Facebook group aptly called Photography For Beginners and it is fantastic. The group has over 10,000 people so even if you want to ask the most specific question ever about a specific model of camera chances are someone has that camera and can answer it for you. You can post photos and people will give you constructive criticism on how to improve them, and even better people share videos and blogs about photography and how to learn and master the basics. This has been great for me, who knows literally nothing.

So today I decided to watch a few YouTube videos and read a few blog posts about aperture, shutter speed and iso and try to use my manual setting. There are some other settings like shutter-priority or aperture-priority where you have control over one or two settings but the camera takes care of the rest, but a suggestion from someone said it's better to just throw yourself in and that seemed like a good thing to try. I took my camera out today and tried the manual setting for the first time. My first few photos came out horrendous. Either completely white (too bright) or completely dark (way underexposed), but finally by the end I think I was getting the hang of it.

A bird shaking water off from a bird bath

A neighbor's flower

The sun was quite bright at the beach today-- it wasn't
as warm as it looks

St. Kilda Pier

I pretty much spent most of my time taking photos of completely random things (more often of nothing) just practicing getting the right exposure and everything in different lights like bright sunshine, shade, etc. I don't think they turned out too bad so it's definitely a good start. There are still quite a lot of things I'd like to master on my camera but getting out of the auto setting is definitely a good place to start so I'm quite pleased.

In other news, I ended up not buying a heater today since this week is going to actually be quite hot so I'm going to put it off a bit longer, but I think we will need one soon. Next Sunday we have daylight savings so I'll just have to remember about that and turn our only clock back.

I'm getting really excited for Krista to be here in 45 days and I'm incredibly excited to go see the koalas again. It'll be great to have my camera with me and take some fantastic photos of koalas. I think you'll find I might be making posters out of them and covering our walls in them. Will Michael let me do that? Probably not. Will I anyway? Good chance of it. (Sorry ahead of time.)

Friday, March 27, 2015

Good Buys

Today I volunteered at the op shop and it was a lot of fun, not quite as busy as Tropical Tuesday, but still quite busy. We got a new eftpos machine (that's what the card machines are called here) and so it's much fancier. The old one was extremely old and was slow and sometimes stopped working, so it's nice to be able to work a machine without fear of it breaking in the middle of a transaction and then not being sure if it just charged your customer $200 or not.

If you remember I got that voucher for Christmas and I still have credit on it (I've been making it last) so today I bought a couple of things. First I bought a mug, no I don't need it even remotely but it was blue and had a nice feel and it was 50 cents so I couldn't help myself.

The new mug

As you can see I couldn't contain my excitement and have already started using it. It's nothing super special but it's just nice and I'm pretty happy with it.

The second thing I bought was a wallet. Not for me, but for Michael. He doesn't like actual wallets because they're too big and don't fit in his pocket nicely so instead he's used metro card holders instead. However, the one he currently has been using is beginning to fall apart and split and so it was time to get a new one. While I was in the op shop today I saw this nice wallet that's really thin and simple so I thought it was a nice halfway point.

Between those two items I only spent $3 at the store today and I still have $7 left on my voucher, so I think I did pretty well and I think they're both good buys. I'm not in the op shop again for a while because they're closed quite a few days for Easter and between the days they need help and the days I work there wasn't another time until April 11. I'm looking forward to going back though and it's probably for the best so I don't buy more stuff.

In my defense though, everything I've bought from the op shop I use regularly and really like, so at least I don't buy crap that I not only don't need but don't use. It could be worse.

I was in the office yesterday but my boss left really early so I was by myself for most of the day, which is fine, but I also got to turn the heat up as high as I liked so that was nice.

I have no plans for the weekend currently but if this weather continues at the cold rate it's at I'm going to have to go out and buy a heater this weekend. We shall see. I also bought some bananas the other day to make some banana bread and hopefully the bananas will be ripe enough for me to make it tomorrow, I'm very excited.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Tropical Tuesday

Yesterday was Tropical Tuesday at the op shop and it was extremely fun. The event was from 6p.m.-9p.m. and I was there by 5:30 for our briefing and to get assigned my station for the night. By 5:45 we had a huge line, or rather a mob, of people waiting to come inside. When 6 rolled around Michelle, the manager, shouted "battle stations everyone!" and opened the door and people just flew through that door like it was nobody's business. The whole night was a madhouse, just unbelievably busy.

We had sparkling wine, fruit punch (with or without rum), and beers and lucky for us staff we were allowed to have some to drink as well. I was working the perfume station and had some sparkling wine and had quite a lot of fun doing so.

The mob of people (and the back of my
perfume counter)

Alec pouring some sparkling wine at the
drinks counter

Everyone dressed up in "tropical" wear and I was no exception. Although I didn't have anything of my own to wear (and was dressed rather boringly having come from work) I borrowed some stuff to blend it.

A lei, a headband and a fake flower

I had a lot of fun working the perfume counter, although it was insanely hectic with people constantly barking at me to get this for them, get that and then deciding they didn't want it and just leaving it somewhere else, leaving me to go retrieve it and run back to serve more people. I was doing quite well by the end though, I ended up selling one woman 8 or so bottles of perfume-- I was pretty proud.

Everyone was having a fun time and we had lots of food as well, such as kebabs (which I tried and were delicious), sushi (which I tried and were delicious), pizza (which I didn't try but know was delicious), and finally chips and salsa (which I couldn't stop eating because someone put them on top of my counter). We had "tropical" kind of music playing quite loudly all night, such as Mambo No. 5 and Conga by Gloria Estefen. Every time Conga came on everyone broke out dancing. Here's a picture of Michelle and Lisa (another volunteer) dancing with maracas.


At one point everyone was dancing in the middle section but my picture came out so blurry I won't even bother uploading it. Some of the staff had a bit too much to drink themselves and I had a few people come over to me giving me hugs telling me "how sweet and awesome I am" and how much they love me. It was a really fun night and the best part is we made a ton of money. The store wasn't open for the day in preparation for the night and in three hours we made over $11,000, which I think is pretty great.

On another note, today I finally went to South Melbourne Market which is supposedly really cheap and awesome, however, I went and found it really wasn't all that cheap and yeah it was cool but I'm not about to pay $80/kg for some ham. Sorry but no thanks.

One aisle in the market

The market certainly has absolutely anything you'd ever need from clothes, to shoes, to jewelry, to fruit, to meat and even restaurants. But you certainly pay for the privilege. There went my dreams of really cheap fresh produce and everything, but oh well, now I know. Some of the bakeries smelled delicious, but when I looked a baguette was $5, how about no. It was kind of disappointing but at least now I know and have been and I can appreciate what my grocery store has to offer. To make the day even more annoying though I went to Aldi to get some pork shoulder that was really cheap this week but they were out. Not going well today.

However, on the bright side, Amaysim (our phone carrier) just switched to 4G so I put in a request to have my 3G changed and it's finally upgraded now so that was exciting. The 4G is incredibly fast and in addition we got a ton of extra credit. Why, I'm not exactly sure but I can't complain too much! So even though the day was a bust in terms of food it still turned out well.

I work tomorrow then I'm back in the op shop on Friday so this is turning out to be a relatively full week. I think the new recipes I found will be on hold just a little longer.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Flying a Plane

The past couple of days have been quite fun. Back in The Netherlands we downloaded this flight simulator game/app thing but found it really annoying to use because we only had the keyboard and it just didn't work well. However, yesterday we saw this electronic store was having a sale and they were selling a joystick for about $30, so we bought it. I am so excited because even though I'm absolutely crap at flying a plane it's still super fun.

You can pick what aircraft you fly, what airport you start at and you can even select an airport to fly to and it'll give you a flight plan to follow. While you fly it actually uses satellite images to provide an accurate representation of what you'd actually see, which is awesome. Yesterday I flew from the Cincinnati airport to Miami's airport (my university, not Florida), and even though I crash landed in a field and went through a fence a good 100 feet from the runway, it was still super fun to basically be flying over Oxford.

The joystick and the plane I was flying

I'm still not very good at it, but it's a lot of fun and I really like how you can actually see what the area would look like under you.

On another note, I made chili tonight and it was nice but apparently blew Michael's head off. He now thinks I'm insensitive to a certain type of spice because I thought the chili was fairly mild and he could barely eat it and had to put half a container of sour cream on to make it edible. Oops. I guess now I know for the future to tone it down (even if I think it's fine). It was nice though and I think I'd make it again, but, as I said, with less chili powder. I've been trying to branch out and try more recipes I've not made before and I've now got a list of things I want to try and make so stay tuned.

Tonight, Michael brought me some red velvet cupcakes and they were delicious. I've only had one so far but for grocery store cupcakes I think they're pretty great.

My cupcake

I work tomorrow and then tomorrow is the night I'm volunteering at the op shop for Tropical Tuesday, so it'll be a full day but hopefully a fun one. I think my new dinner recipes will be on hold until later this week.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Exciting Things to Come

It's been a pretty good week so far. Michael got a new job at another restaurant which he likes quite a lot more than the last one, plus it has far more sensible working hours which is just nicer for everyone. I'm still doing my grant writing which is going well and our hours line up nicely with one another which is good too. We both worked the other day and met up in the city for some delicious Chinese food which we love. Actually, I think the place is Japanese, but what they sell is basically a Chinese menu.

Nothing super exciting has happened this week, but I am so excited to say that my friend Krista from Miami is coming to visit Melbourne! I don't know what I'm more excited for, to see her or have another excuse to go to the koalas (just kidding, obviously it's her). She's just as obsessed with koalas as I am though so one day while she's here we're planning to fly to Adelaide to go to the wildlife park and hold some koalas and feed some wallabies so that'll be pretty great. She'll be here for a week and a half in May and I could not be more excited to see her. Only 52 more days! Not that I'm counting...

I haven't got much else to report, I've been feeling a bit under the weather so I haven't really been doing much of anything this past week. However, back in January when I downloaded the library borrowing app on my iPad I accidentally reserved Amy Poehler's autobiography (I thought I was borrowing it but I wasn't-- I was new to the app, it was an honest mistake) and since you can't return anything before it's due it's just been sitting there until it's available to read and then returns 2 weeks later. Tomorrow, finally, the books is available. It's only been three months, but I guess I'll finally be able to read it and get it off my homepage!

I just finished a book today called Monument to Murder by Mari Hannah and it was actually quite good. Some bits were a bit slow and some parts downright confusing, with me needing to go back and re-read certain parts to make sure I understood who was being killed or whatever, but it was good and definitely had a surprise ending. The author is a retired police officer so it gives some interesting depth to the story. I accidentally started reading this book without realizing it was book three in a series, but luckily you don't really need to read them in order so it didn't really matter, but maybe now I'll go back and read the others since I liked this one, even though backtracking in a series isn't really what you're supposed to do.

To end this post here's a cute gif of a koala chewing a leaf and winking at you like you're BFFs.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Qantas Flyover and Race Day

Well the other day was the race and we saw the Qantas plane, however, to my disappointment it wasn't the A380 I was hoping for, but rather the 747. It was still impressive though and it was a lot of fun to watch. It was incredibly low which made it awesome, because it's not every day a huge plane flies 1,000 feet over your head for 5 to 10 minutes. At one point it was circling through some buildings and I can only imagine what those people thought as a giant plane glided past their windows no more than 200 feet away.

Weaving through buildings

The plane turning

There were also a ton of helicopters there, although those weren't there for show. Apparently that's a valid way to get to the Grand Prix-- who would've thought. They were taking off and landing right where we were so there were at least 5 in the sky at all times.

A helicopter coming in to land 

We also saw a fighter jet during part of its show for the Royal Australian Air Force, which was pretty cool. It was so insanely loud words cannot even explain, and it just shot around at incredible speed. I didn't get any pictures because it was far too fast. I did try, but the second I'd press the shutter button it was gone.

It was certainly a fun and eventful day, and even though we didn't go to the race itself I'd say all of that stuff is far better than watching some cars pass you every few minutes. We did watch the race on TV, and as we commented at the time it's a sport that's much better to watch on TV than it is is person, so I don't have many regrets.

On another note, I got a flyer in the mail the other day saying all Port Phillip City residents (that's us) were eligible for a free one year membership to ANAM, the Australian National Academy of Music. The membership is worth $65 and with it you get free access to concerts, shows and such so I signed up and got my card in the mail today. Certainly can't beat that it's free.

The front of the card

The back of the card

I'll have to keep my eye out for some interesting stuff going on there now that I can get in for free.

That's about all for now. Although I'm working part-time writing those grant proposals for the literacy foundation, I'm back at it again trying to find another part-time job so I will keep you updated.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Lorax

Nothing new really to report here. I went into work on Thursday and that went well, and I go in Tuesday and Thursday next week as well. 

This weekend is the Australian Grand Prix (Formula 1), which is taking place at Albert Park right by our apartment. This means we now hear zooming race cars for most of the day which is actually quite cool. We went and had a look the other day and just over the fence we saw a few zoom past and I enjoyed it. Although we won't go it's still fun to have it practically in our backyard. 

One of the events was they had a fighter jet flyover and it was about the loudest thing I've ever heard. I was in the apartment and it was so loud the windows rattled in their frames and things were practically shaking. I imagine it's a lot what being at war felt like-- except obviously far more terrifying. 

It's been fun though and tomorrow the Qanatas A380 (the double decker plane I call "the whale" which I love) is doing a flyover so I'm pretty excited. I know what I'll be doing tomorrow at 3:40. 

I'm reading quite a good book now called Vanished about an FBI agent who goes back to her hometown after the child abductor who snatched her childhood best friend 18 years ago is back. Updates to cr when I'm further along. 

Tonight we watched The Lorax, the movie based on the children's book by Dr. Seuss since it was on tv. I'd seen it but Michael hadn't and I forgot how much I loved it. It's so cute and amusing and has a great message about the environment so if you haven't seen it you should get on that. 

I think that's all for now, my life isn't terribly exciting at the moment. It's still nice to be back! 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Missing Watermelon Juice

Nothing new here to report as of yet. I go into work on Thursday (doing my grant writing for the Literacy Foundation) but until then I've not been doing much since we got back, just easing back into things. It's nice to be back and sleeping in my own bed and able to make my own food and be in my own space, you get the idea.

However, the one thing I'm really missing is watermelon juice. I drank a lot of watermelon juice while we were away, as I did in Bangkok as well. I love watermelon and watermelon juice is just amazing. Ok, maybe you think I'm a little weird, but I truly love it and I'm having a bit of withdrawal now that I don't have it around as much. I had it for breakfast, lunch and dinner and I'm not even joking.

It's great to be back and I had a good time but it's my watermelon juice I miss the most.

I mean look at it

The bit sticking up the back of that is a wedge of pineapple with a stick of bamboo leaves stapled together-- a little strange I agree, but looked interesting.

Since I got back I've finished two books, sad isn't it? I'm halfway through another one now. Michael things I'm binge-reading, which I guess I am, but I suppose there are worse things to binge on than books. I finished reading The Goldfinch while I was away (a long read!) and I enjoyed it, then moved onto one of those summer-y Nantucket books that everyone reads while on the beach, then read a book about a family in Poland during WWII (I like books from that era if you can't tell) and now I'm reading a book called The Silent Sister, which about a young woman whose father passes away and she discovers all sorts of things that practically turn her world upside down while she's back in her hometown. It's sort of like a crime/thriller sort of book, I'm really enjoying it.

Other than that there's nothing new. Hope you enjoyed the photos from the trip! If you need the link again, you can just click here.

Friday, March 6, 2015

We're Back!

Well we flew in from Bali yesterday morning and it's crazy to think that the trip is already over. I know I wasn't very good at continuing to blog while I was gone, but there were a few reasons for that.

First off, let me say Jakarta was not fantastic. The reason I partially fell off the radar was because both Michael and I got sick. What from we're not exactly sure, but we felt like crap and we think it was just because our systems weren't totally happy with just the environment we were in. As you probably know, Jakarta is crowded, polluted and dirty, so that probably didn't help. As a result, we left Jakarta throughly hating it. I thought it was alright at first but then we started to feel a bit sick and all of the traffic and pollution and harassment from taxi drivers just got to the point where I was ready to get out of there.

Indonesia as a whole was not a great place. I'm glad we went, but I really don't think I want to go back. Sure there were parts of it that were pretty and nice, but it's just not a place that is up my alley. You truly get harassed by every taxi person, honking shouting "taxi taxi??" There were times I wanted to shriek "I DO NOT WANT A GODDAMN TAXI!!" Instead I just opted for shouting no at them very loudly, not that that stopped them. It's just not nice being in a place where you can't walk 3 feet without being harassed, that's not particularly my idea of fun. Indonesia is quite dirty and a bit rundown, and while I can't speak for the country as a whole, I was in supposedly the main parts, and I wasn't all that impressed. By the time we left to come home (as I wrote before we flew from Singapore to Bali, stayed the night and flew out to Melbourne the next day) I was so so ready to leave. One more day there and I was just like, "nope, I'm done."

However, on a happier note, I really enjoyed both Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Unfortunately, because we were sick when we left Jakarta (going to KL) we spent all of the next day in KL just around the hotel because neither of us were up to doing anything seeing as we still felt a bit crappy. It wasn't a bad day, the area we stayed in was nice enough and the hotel had a nice rooftop pool and we just lounged about, then the next day we did all of our sightseeing in the city. I took quite a few really nice photos in all of these cities, but rather than posting them all in this blog, I created a public Photostream of all of my photos which you can view here.

KL was nice and clean, it was interesting and we had a pleasant time there, it was just unfortunate we were quite sick for part of our time there. We did hit a bit of a snafu while leaving though. The plan was to take the train at 2:30 p.m. from KL to Singapore (arriving around 9 p.m.), but to buy them online you had to make an account and all sorts of hoopla, so we figured we would just buy them at the station. So we arrive at the station a good two hours before the train and what happens? Well it's sold out. We didn't plan for this so we were kind of like, "well.... crap." We spent a good couple of hours sitting around the station not entirely sure what to do, but eventually we decided to take the night train, rather than spending another night in a hotel to take the train the next day, and just spend our afternoon in a bar.

At this point it was about 4 p.m. or so and the train didn't leave until 11, so we went to a nearby hotel, went up to their rooftop pool/bar area and spent far more than we should have, however the time went by quickly and we had a lovely view of the Patronas Twin Towers and the KL Tower. The sleeper train was rather uncomfortable, so by the time we arrived at our hotel in Singapore early that morning we promptly went back to bed.

Like in KL we spent our first day not doing much because we were too tired and not feeling great from the train, but ended up going into Singapore later that night then did most of our sightseeing the next day.

Singapore was a really nice city and (due to all of its strict laws and such) is very clean and nice. At least it's effective. However, navigating this city was far more difficult than we thought it would be. Most of the ways to get around take you through shopping malls and once those closed we had no idea how to get anywhere. It's quite walkable for the most part, but sometimes you just have to take a ridiculously roundabout way to go really not that far at all. However, I enjoyed the city and that and KL were definitely my favorite places of the trip (not hard after Jakarta frankly).

Nothing all that eventful happened after that and so we went back to Bali, complained about Indonesia a bit, and then came home. The flight was pleasant enough but I didn't sleep much but after a nap and a cup of coffee once we got home I was fine.

It's nice to be back and it's nice to be able to make my own food and have more than just one room to live in. Plus it's nice to not be living out of a bag. The trip was fun and I'm glad we did it, but in the future I think we'll be sticking to shorter trips because two weeks is a long time.

Now that I'm back I will be back to writing more frequently and it'll be much nicer to do so on my laptop rather than the app.