Aud vs. Australia: the Blue Mountains

You guys – after nearly 3 years, I got to see the Blue Mountains.

FINALLY!

There has always been something stopping me from getting there – mostly because I wanted to go with Joel the first time I went, and our schedules, the weather, money, and someone with a car just never lined up. But last weekend, the stars aligned. I bought some active wear (active wear!), we woke up before dawn, and set out with our friend Rob, his flatmate Eloise and her pal Oxanna to see Empress Falls in the Blue Mountains National Park.

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6:00AM. SO cold. SO sleepy. But the early bird beats the tour busses.
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We reached the trail around 8:30AM. It was a brisk 7*C. 

After a traffic free, two and half hour drive, we reached the mountains. It felt cold. It felt like actual winter cold, with real frost in the air. So that was exciting. It was less exciting that I was wearing super thin, stretchy active wear pants and that didn’t do a thing to keep me warm unless I was moving in them (clever girl, active wear).

We parked the car and set out to begin our 3.5 km trail. I was too excited to get to the first look out to take many pictures, but I did see some killer rocks, and a pair of underpants in a tree (nature!).

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rocks!

Eloise and Oxanna and I had never been to the mountains, so when we reached the first look out, there were collective OOooOooOOo’s and AAAaaaAAAhhHhHhhs. It was incredible. All the photos I’ve seen, all the movies they’ve been featured in, nothing does them justice. And seeing the bright white cockatoo’s flying against the green trees was beautiful. It’s like looking down at a masterpiece.

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OOoOoOooo
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AhhHHhHhHhhh
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AAAaaAaaHhhHhhh
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camera frenz
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I love how spindly the gum trees look against the greenery
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fence/schmence
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so majestic

We continued down, down the trail, down the trail steps, down the rickety wooden stairs, down the slick, narrow, metal stairs, and we finally got to a valley that looked straight out of Ferngully. Or even Jurrassic Park. All rock walls and hanging plants and waterfalls and boulders.

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staring up at the rock wall above us was almost dizzying

And there we got our first look at Empress Falls.

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don’t let those little stairs fool you – walking up them is no treat.

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It was absolutely beautiful down in the valley. We were down far enough for the sun to barely touch us, and we were surrounded by so many trees and water falls that it felt like walking in a rain forest. I felt like I couldn’t take enough videos or pictures, like I was trying to memorise the entire scene with my camera. It’s just beautiful. Also I kept waiting for a dinosaur to jump out at me.

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People ab-sail these falls. People die. People are ballsy for no reason.

 

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So Ferngully
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I imagine this would be a cool place to swim in summer. If I wasn’t terrified of everything living inside it. And if this place weren’t crawling with tourists in warm weather.

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It was so still and quiet. Since we made it there so early, there weren’t many people around besides us. All you could hear was the waterfall and the birds. No planes, no cars, no people, no phones buzzing. Everything smelled wet and Earthy. I felt the cold air settling in my lungs. It was phenomenal.

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poignant photos of pheet
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this is a playground that 9 year old Audrey would’ve died for
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RAPIDZ
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Jabba the Rock
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Joel taught me how to use my long exposure setting (i.e. the one good photo taken all day)
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An artist prepares. Also disobeys the perimeter markers. #rebel

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the tiniest spider in all Australia
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I love finding love locks

Joel and Rob spent a lot of time getting photos of the waterfall.

Like, A LOT of time.

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so there was a lot of time for reflection and chill

At one point I took out my book, sat on a rock and read a couple of chapters. Totes felt one with the world and nature — sitting outside in the almost sun, listening to the waterfall, breathing in the pure mountain air, wearing my active wear— and I was nearly overwhelmed by how lucky I was to experience all this splendour and solitude and how I should do this more often, when I realised my butt was frozen to the cold rock and I almost pulled a muscle when I extricated myself from it. And then I slipped on the moss when I got down and nearly fell in the water.

Maybe I’m not 100% ready for nature.

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More poignant photos of pheet (also, slippery moss)

Eventually the photographers packed up and we all continued down the trail the next waterfall, Sylvia Falls.

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great rock walls
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and more greenery
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and this gorgeous stack of waterfall

I could have stared at this waterfall all day. It was beautiful. We got there right as the afternoon sun was hitting the rocks perfectly — it was hazy and glittery and very much dreamy.

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dat sun
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my favourite

The sun was also casting amazing light on the trees above us. At this point the tip of my nose and my finger tips were insanely cold (yassss winter cold) and all I wanted to do was take a nap in that sun. But I liked the look of the highlighted gum trees and the dark shadows where the light didn’t touch. Yeah, I had Mufasa’s voice in my head the whole time.

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Love
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Love more

After spending some more time with Sylvia, the moment I had been dreading since we made plans to go to the mountains finally came. It was time… to hike back up to the car.

I’m woefully out of shape. Like, I have the cardiovascular endurance of a 700lb diabetic smoker who’s been bed-ridden for years. It’s baffling to the doctors I work with, who think I must be asthmatic to get excruciatingly, painfully winded with even moderate exertion, but really, I’m just horrifically unfit. Climbing stairs makes me winded, and the slightest incline makes my thighs hurt. And with every step I took going down on the initial journey, I knew that would be one more step going up on the return. So I said a little prayer to the active wear Gods and started followed the rest of my team up the first set of stairs.

I quickly realised Eloise was behind me. I let her pass in front of me, saying “I’m going to be really slow, you won’t want to get caught behind me.”

“Oh that’s ok, I’m really slow too!”

“Nope, you have no idea how slow I’ll be.”

And it was true. Just climbing the short bit of rock stairs between Sylvia Falls and Empress Falls left me gasping and pretending to video the guys ab-sailing so I could catch my breath. Joel hung back with me and pushed me up parts of the stairs, and stopped with me whenever I started seeing stars and needed to stop. I was trying to be positive, trying to feel the inspiration of my active wear and JUST PUSH THROUGH IT! NO PAIN NO GAIN! HUSTLE GETS MUSCLE! INSPIRATIONAL PHRASE but all that kept running through my head was Sam telling Frodo that they needed to save the elfish bread for the return trip home and Frodo looking at him and being all “yeah, we aren’t making it home.” I was quite certain I would die, even as people twice my age were bounding up the stairs and that asshole fitness jock passed us jogging — again.

It took me about 20, maybe 30 hours mins longer to make the walk back to the car. I couldn’t breathe deep enough. My heart was straining from beating so fast, my lungs felt like steel wool, my ribs all felt cracked, my throat and nose were killing me, my head was splitting, and my arms and legs were spaghetti. My face was beet red and I was ready to collapse. At one point I tasted blood (I swear!). It was actually pretty scary. My chest and throat hurts just thinking about it.

But, I survived. And we made our way to the Conservatory Hut to have breakfast. And milkshakes. Because after facing death in the face, you get a milkshake.

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Hello pal (did you come to signal my death? Contrary to popular belief, I survived)
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Milkshake frenz
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Breakfast of Champions. We all ordered simple breakfasts, but the waitress brought us all GIANT BREAKFAST PLATTER. I ate almost all of it, and killed that milkshake. #yolo

We picked up some take away coffees and made our way to the car. I was warm, happy, and snug in the backseat, but too full of caffeine and adrenaline to sleep. When we got home, though, I was instantly so tired I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I slept for 2.5 hours and woke up feeling like I got hit by a truck.

I’ve been sick all week as a result of my cold-weather-over-exertion and resulting sinus/chest infection, but shit. It was absolutely gorgeous and I would do all again next weekend.

Except this time, I’d hire a helicopter to save me from the hike back.

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Goodbye Mountains. Thank you for not killing me.

Verdict: +10, will mountain again. Must get in shape, or I will die.

Onwards to the next adventure!

Catchup.com

Once upon a more productive time, I used to do a catch up blog every month. Ah, the days when life was simple, unencumbered by the wild throws of admiration and attention that sudden success and fame brings. Continue reading “Catchup.com”

Audrey vs. Australia: Chinese Garden of Friendship

As I mentioned in my last post – I’m doing Australia in a series of posts called Audrey vs. Australia. LOOK OUT! And my first stop was basically in my backyard – a 15 minute walk from our apartment took us to the gorgeous Chinese Garden of Friendship, right in Darling Harbour.

I’ve walked past the Garden more times than I count, but Saturday marked the first time I’ve been behind the walls. It’s $6 for adult admission, and it’s $6 of beauty, zen, and most importantly, big ass, majestic lizards. The garden is filled with peaceful rivers, lakes, waterfalls, and lagoons; is drowning in greenery; is glowing with flowers and lanterns; and dotted with intricately designed pavilions and secret pathways where you can have a sit or explore. It’s an interesting juxtaposition of traditional zen and bustling city, and I had a blast. Will definitely add “Chinese Garden of Zen” to my future dream house plans.

It was a bit cold, and too late into autumn to see the garden in bloom, but it was still absolutely lovely. I can only imagine how lush and beautiful it looks in spring and summer. Or when it’s raining. Ah man.

Let’s take a tour:

 

 

 

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The majestic Bin Chicken beckons you in
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The entrance to the garden – a fun bonsai farm.
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views through the pavilion
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I love red lanterns
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walk way of zen
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lagoon of zen
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Actual Photographer
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I am a rat. Zodia-graphically. The Garden had all the Chinese zodiac animals hidden around the place. I almost found them all.

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lily pads and sculptures and willow trees, oh my!
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waterfall!
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A stranger offered to take our photo. And she didn’t steal my camera. Friendship forever.
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Love Graffiti Bamboo Forest
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1 of 1 billion flower pics
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more zodiac sculptures
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2 of 1 billion flower pics
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SUN BERRIES
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I want this print on a dress.
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top of the falls, and the Rising Jade Pavilion
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I love this reflection
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It’s my faaavourite
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Fake Photographer
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raise the red lantern
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Rising Jade, for my mom – she had jade plants all around the house when I was growing up.
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3 of 1 billion flower pics
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my lily pads and sculptures and lagoon (featuring casino construction in the background)
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4 of 1 billion flower pics
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Twin Pavilion – named for it’s joined roof and benches
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There were SO MANY lizards. I took about 700 photos. In fact, this blog was almost called “Chinese Garden of LIZARDS”
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fantastic details inside the Twin Pavilion. I’m buying all the red lanterns this year.
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East views
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Willow trees = best trees
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baby falls

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I love a good stone stair case – and the Gardens did not disappoint. It’s basically the closest I’ll get to rock climbing.
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I also love this handsome face
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View of the aptly named Grand Pavilion
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More gorgeous details in the Grand Pavilion
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dat ceiling lantern
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Views to the west
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the red-pink flowers were the best
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Forest garden
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RABBIT
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LIZARD (seriously – I had to restrain myself from only posting lizard photos. Be thankful I stopped myself at 2.)
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no trolls were found
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babble babble
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more bamboo islands
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views to the west
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DUCK
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FEEEEESH – we got there right after feeding time, and it was literally a frenzy. These suckers were huuuuge.
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exit with zen
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good bye!

I had a pretty stressful Friday, which bled into Saturday morning, and I was surprised that wandering around the Garden all morning absolutely took my mind off of it. As we left, I felt happy, relaxed, and like I wanted to go right back in. I’m not one who is normally fixed by zen gardens, and I didn’t even realise it, but it actually worked. Triumph!

+10, would definitely venture again.

AudPodge vs. Australia

The building I work in has a balcony with a view of the ANZAC Bridge, and yesterday I spent my lunch break up there. It was one of those days where the sun was perfect, the humidity was perfect, the temperature was perfect, the breeze was perfect, and the pollen count was awful (can’t win ’em all). Continue reading “AudPodge vs. Australia”

On Visas and Anniversaries

Yesterday, we got the big news we’ve been waiting for since… basically the moment in 2013 that we decided to live together.

I GOT MY VISA!

All the stress, all the worry, all the paperwork, all the days off from work to stand in line at various government agencies and all the thousands of dollars spent, and it all came through. And in possibly a year (not the 2 years I originally thought) I’ll be granted a Permanent Residency – and we’ll never have to worry about my visa status EVER. AGAIN. The fact that we don’t have to worry about it anymore has brought so much relief – but the idea that now we have more security, it makes planning for the future so much easier.

Like, it’s not insane to think about buying a car, now. And I can arrange for my books to be shipped here. And maybe we can get a pet. You know – the important things in life.

I thought that there would be a lot more pomp and circumstance when I found out – with all the effort that went into getting the visa, I was at least hoping for a kangaroo holding to deliver the visa in the form of a bronzed plaque and a hand full of balloons saying WELCOME!! Instead, it arrived in an innocuous email that I at first thought was asking me for more information. Ah well, however it happened, I’m glad that it did. We thought we were going to have to wait until July at least – if not December, before we found out. And that we found out Monday when our third anniversary was on Saturday – that’s just sweet timing.

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Also it gave us another excuse to celebrate with cake. And that’s basically why I do everything in life – for the possibility of cake.

So happy days – happy visa-ing, and happy anniversaring. Joel, there’s no one I could ever imagine doing this with… every day, you show me that I made the right decision. Thank you for always going above and beyond, for listening, for counselling, for making the best punch drunk chicken this side of the meridian, for always knowing. I love you more than I love sweatpants. Even if you do love Suspect Zero more than you love me.

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Sunrise Adventures

This morning, Joel and I woke up at 4:45 (what) to catch the sunrise at Bronte Beach. The forecast had been telling us all week that it would rain on Saturday morning, and I’ve kept my fingers crossed for so long that I basically have arthritis now. But, crippled granny hands are worth it, because the sunrise was be-a-u-ti-ful.

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There are few things I love more than seeing a sunrise or sunset over the water. Seeing that golden orb sizzle along the horizon fills me with… I’m not sure. It’s a combination of inspiration and awe. Add in the smell of sea salt, the sound of crashing waves, and the cold breeze coming off the water, and it makes me feel so fantastic.

The beaches in Australia are just next level. The water is clear and the most perfect shade of aqua-marine, and the sand is almost white, and most of them have these craggy cliffs that catch and pool water and it’s like walking on another world. And when the rose and gold tones of the sunrise reflect off the water – it’s un real. I like Bronte because there’s a little rock pool to the side that’s very calm, and it’s where whusses like me can get in and splash around and pretend to be cool. Ok ok, insert anecdotes about sharks and dangerous Australian sea creatures here and everything – but you can’t deny just how drop dead gorgeous it all is.

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Yesssss
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The colours – trust me, I’ve only slightly edited this photo.
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Prawns! In a tidal pool. There were also tiny fish and about 600 crabs. I think I took more photos of crabs than I did of the sunrise.
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While I was spazzing over crabs and prawns, Joel was Working Man
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ohhh clouds…
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Intrepid Explorer Man
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I tried to follow Joel down the rocks, but this crab army prevented my crossing. And maybe because my sneakers kept slipping against the rocks. I am the most graceful.
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beep beep, I am a ship.
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those waves…
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Corny and no fucks given. 
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lurrrrrrve

I’m so happy we dragged ourselves out of bed and made the trip happen. It was a beautiful way to wrap up a particularly less than stellar month.

It’s very well known that I didn’t grow up at the beach or near the shore, and I don’t always keep my cool in the beach, but I love being at the beach. It’s very centering, very calming. I think being on the edge of the world makes my other problems feel very small. And being in the presence of such an incredible force helps me put things into perspective… just watching everything wash away with the waves is a good reminder that “this too shall pass.” Maybe it’s the visceral experience – sights, smells, textures, emotions – but the beach is one of the few places where I can go and my mind just clears. I could sit at the beach and do nothing for hours. And it feels good, man.

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Thanks for a good morning, universe.

xox

April Thus Far

So who is waiting to wrap a big fat DONE ribbon around April, quietly put it on the shelf and just pretend it didn’t happen? *raises hand*

I can’t remember a month where I’ve felt more – fragile – I guess is the best word. Hence the sporadic appearances here and everywhere else in the social spectrum. It’s been a tough few weeks. I’ve been on the receiving end of more pep talks than I have in years. But I’m happy to say that being more proactive and attentive to what I need has been helping immensely, so I’m just taking it day by day.

BUT – April hasn’t been all bad! For one thing, we watched so many episodes of My 600lb Life that I think I’m *thiiiiiis* close to cutting out all processed foods from my life. Joel has become Head Chef around here and we’ve never eaten better. I’ve been able to skype/Facetime/phone date with many of my nearest and dearest. And my most favourite person had a birthday. We celebrated with a doughnut cake, Game of Thrones, and a night with friends… and a resulting Friday night of pizza and sweatpants recovery.

Annnnd we just had an awesome three day weekend of good food, good movies (ok, and some terrible movies), and relax times (and let’s face it, obsessive cleaning and rearranging #stressed) in honour of ANZAC Day.

 

So here’s to the last few days of April – fingers crossed that it all starts to shape up.

xoxo

Biennale

Biennale! Bee-n-olly. Or, as I can only remember it – Beabolly, Banomamolly, or Bananamaalla. Or, big ass art fair spanning across Sydney that happens every two years.

It’s a huge to-do, with events happening at different venues all over the city. Since I successfully missed Sculpture by the Sea each year that I’ve been here, I was hoping I’d make it to at least one venue for Biennale. And yesterday, we met up with our friends Kat and Matt for a tour of Cockatoo Island (two birds/one stone, it’s also my goal to visit all the “animal” islands around Sydney – there’s also Goat Island and Shark Island, and I will visit them.)

Among other things, Cockatoo Island was a holding area for prisoners in the 1800’s, and then a pretty major shipbuilding and dockyard facility, until 2001 when it was closed down and most of it demolished. But now it’s a heritage site, and most of its buildings have been re-opened as museums of Sydney’s industrial history.

We left the house prepared for rain, as the weather report suggested. However, 10 minutes before we got on the ferry, the rain let out, and the brightest sun came out and stayed out. Needless to say, we are both sunburned now.

Mostly the installations left me kinda meh, and I found myself more interested in the buildings and the machinery that’s been left behind than the actual installations (sometimes I am 100% my father’s daughter). But we had a really good time being out and about, seeing some amazing drawings and mind blowing texture work, some really off the wall pretentious video installations, and listening to self-important people explain art to the people they were with. Here you go, enjoy a smattering of photos!

 

 

I’ll be off putting aloe on my sizzled forehead.

xox

Summmmmmer

We’ve been tip-toeing up to summer all through September, but every warm day we had was immediately followed by coats and boots or frozen rainy weather. Friday, though, brought the sunshine, and we’ve had 28-35*C days since. I’ve been reaching for flip flops and shorts, not boots and jeans. It’s still light outside at 7 PM. And at midnight, with the windows closed and the fan off, it still gets so warm that I sweat on my upper lip.

And with that, I’m calling it: summer is officially here. And I’m not dreading it like I did last year!

This optimism is mostly because I’m not having back to back summers this year. Or maybe I’m excited to not freeze every day when I’m at work (where the heater was functioning maybe 5 days out of the entire winter). Regardless of where this summer excitement is coming from, it’s a welcome change. Maybe I’ve just been glued to my couch for too long in grey, rainy weather (see: last post regarding funks), but I stepped outside in the warm sunshine on Friday morning and I just felt glad to be alive – warm weather AND a three day weekend? Heck yes.

Despite First Day of Flip Flops sore feet (why is the first day just terrible), and killing myself trying to walk up a hill (frighteningly out of shape) it was a banner weekend. And I’m 100% sad to go back to work tomorrow.

I ran out of all my toiletries in September. New Toiletry Day = Best Day.
I ran out of all my toiletries in September. New Toiletry Day = Best Day.
so much cobbler yum.
so much cobbler yum.
Cheers!
Cheers!
I was told that "shrimp" or prawns, as they're called here, never go on the barbie. And these are called "skewers" not kebabs/kebobs. It was like everything I thought I knew was wrong.
I was told that “shrimp” or prawns, as they’re called here, never go on the barbie. And these are called “skewers” not kebabs/kebobs. It was like everything I thought I knew was wrong.
Joel's Nan always brings articles and clippings to show him. It's adorable.
Joel’s Nan always brings articles and clippings to show him. It’s adorable.
And she showed us this pic of her in the 80's holding a snake. FIERCE.
And she showed us this pic of her in the 80’s holding a snake, while wearing a gold turban. FIERCE.
Joel at the meat helm
Joel at the meat helm
MEAT FIRE! Joel showed me the continuous shooting function, and I got amazing shots of the grill catching fire (the meat was unharmed)
MEAT FIRE! Joel showed me the continuous shooting function, and I got amazing shots of the grill catching fire (the meat was unharmed)
and bubbles
and bubbles
and more bubbles
and more bubbles
all the bubbles
all the bubbles
lazy Sunday cookie baking
lazy Sunday cookie baking (and maybe the last day until March where it’s not too hot to turn on the oven)
I ate raw berries for the first time this weekend, and it didn't kill me. If I'm not careful, I might start eating better.
I ate raw berries for the first time this weekend, and they didn’t kill me. If I’m not careful, I might start eating better.
lazy Sunday obsessive drawer re-ordering and kitchen clean out.
lazy Sunday obsessive drawer re-ordering and kitchen clean out.
Labour Day Beach Day! We checked out Balmoral Beach, which is in the harbour, so no scary waves.   Just calm, clear water. This meant no panic attacks for Audrey. /victory
Labour Day Beach Day! We checked out Balmoral Beach, which is in the harbour, so no scary waves. Just calm, clear water. This meant no panic attacks for Audrey. /victory
The remains of an antique shark net. We swam on the side that doesn't have a net. Whhhoooops
The remains of an antique shark net. We swam on the side that doesn’t have a net. Whhhoooops
the water was perfect, if a little cold. We would have stayed all day if there was a way to not get fried in the sun.
the water was perfect, if a little cold. And there’s rocks and cliffs for exploring. It’s perfect, and one day I’ll be able to walk up the extra steep hill leading to the beach without having a heart attack.
First Neenish Tart. Must have more.
First Neenish Tart. Must have more.

Three day weekends never seem long enough. But at least we got a kick ass summer kick off.

Here’s to more time outside! Here’s to sweating profusely 24/7! Here’s to towels drying without a weird smell on them! Here’s to the return of Spider Watch! And more importantly, here’s to not having to blow dry my hair until April.

Hello, summer. I’ve been surprisingly excited for you to get here*.

*check back in one month, when I’ll be willing to sell a kidney for air conditioning.

“I punched a shark!”

No, not me.

But Mick Fanning did. And it’s on every news channel in Australia. Seriously. At work, my desk is under three flat screen TVs. And at lunch time yesterday, all three were showing footage of Fanning going from the airport to his first press event.

Must be a slow news week. 

Also, Australians are badass.

And #allsharklivesmatter

3df084d7c71a2e44633145f4f27dc4b3But, can Mick Fanning eat 36 oz of oatmeal and survive?