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.


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.


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.


Catchup.com – Awwwgust Spring

Happy September, everyone!

Well, August just crapped on by didn’t it? It feels like August was like, 2 weeks long.

Let’s see what we’ve been up to…

meal plannin'
meal plannin’

This month, Joel and I started making a big vat of chicken, veggies, and rice stirfry (and peanuts sometimes!) on Sunday night, and packing our lunches for the week. The first three days I was like “seriously? Chicken and rice again?” but now it’s not a big deal. And since we aren’t taking dinner left overs for lunch anymore, our dinners stretch further. Now we’re only making 2 or 3 additional meals, not 5 or 6. It’s cut down on our groceries bill, take out lunches almost never happened (I forgot my lunch once – whoops), and neither of us have had food poisoning (although we’ve started the “new rice after 3rd day” rule). We’ve switched up the stir fry sauces and used hokkien noodles instead of rice a couple times, but overall, it’s the best meal plan step we’ve made. And the cost for a week of lunches = $15.00; $13 if we make our own stir fry sauce. Not too shabby.

family photo shootin
family photo shootin

Joel took family photos for our Nye family friends, which meant a day of hanging at the studio with pals and adorable kiddos, and an evening of building legos with the other Henri in my life, and holding 3 month old Amelie. Holding a sweet sweet baby in our apartment while watching Star Wars and hanging with pals? My biological clock maybe went into overdrive by about a gajillion. Let’s not even talk about catching Joel giving Amelie a tiny kiss on the top of her head.

Henri, art directing
Henri, art directing
lego castle building
lego castle building

and seriously, high 5 to Craig who will only let his kids watch the un-retouched version of the trilogy. High 5.

caramel milk drinkin
caramel milk drinkin

Joel took a two week staycation holiday a the beginning of the month, and we might have had a couple days where we didn’t move from the couch. Which was fine by me. It was so good to have him home and happy for so long – even if it did make me incredibly jealous. haha. And if you haven’t had caramel milk, then you should. You don’t know what you’re missing*.

Calamity Caking
Calamity Caking

I woke up from a dream in which I made a cake from scratch. I was low on funds, and we’ve been trying hard not to eat sugary desserts every day, but I really wanted to make a cake. So I looked through my trusty Back in the Day Bakery cookbooks and picked out the Baby Party Cake with Buttercream frosting.  Joel gave me $20 and I ran off to the store to buy flour and butter because I knew I was running low. But it wasn’t until all the butter was measure out, the eggs separated, and flours and powders sifted that I realized I was short on sugar by a whole cup. D’OH. After an emergency google, I substituted with raw sugar.

Then I read that I needed to whip the egg whites into peaks, but I didn’t have a second mixing bowl, or a second mixer, and my beaters were coated with cake batter that looked like cookie dough. I was going to skip the step, but then I remembered that women in the 1800’s made cakes with a whisk and their arm muscles. So I whisked egg whites for 10 [excruciating] minutes and sure enough, peaks formed. And as I folded them into my cookie dough, it almost immediately turned into silky cake batter. hu-fucking-zah.

I've never touched an egg yolk that wasn't runny before. These yolks were squishballs and I could juggle with them. Free range grain fed eggs forever.
I’ve never touched an egg yolk that wasn’t runny before. These yolks were squishballs and I could basically juggle with them. Free range grain and hormone free forever.

Then, my brain deflated. First, I stared at a mixing bowl filled with powdered sugar and cubed butter and thought “this doesn’t seem right. If I mix this, I’ll get a powdered sugar bomb.” And I realized quickly that I forgot to beat the butter and milk first. Whoops. So I fished the butter out, emptied the powdered sugar, and poured in the milk. How much milk? About 3x the amount I needed. So, after using an entire bag of icing sugar and some corn starch, the icing was still runny. Hind sight tells me I should have added more butter and just doubled the recipe so it would have solidified, but I only just now thought of it. And I ended up with green icing.



I was really not looking forward to eating the cake. It smelled yum, but the process and the icing made me think it was going to be a dried out mess.

Ohhhhh, was I wrong. It was the best cake I’ve ever had. It was the big cake version of their Old Fashioned Cupcake, which was life changing. So, I dubbed this cake Calamity Cake. It took us a week to eat it (will power was strong), and if I could make another one today, I would. Except I’d make sure I have all the ingredients first.

Calamity Cake eating

taco partying
taco partying
Lettering by Joel
More lettering
Lettering by me
Gallery hangin - it's been at least 2 months, and the pictures haven't fallen yet. SCORE.
Gallery hangin – it’s been at least 2 months, and the pictures haven’t fallen yet. SCORE.

Our gallery wall, which we first hung in like, May? Fell within two weeks. Now, to hang photos on our cement walls, we have to use adhesive backed hooks and sticky tack. First, the adhesive has to dry on the hook for 24 hours. Then, it takes a lot of measuring and planning and measuring and planning and then sticking the adhesive hooks and hoping they were in the spot you want them to be in. Then it takes at least 2 weeks for the hooks to cure to the wall before you can hang the frames. Then you have to sticky tack the corners of the frames for extra support. It’s a long process. I just wanted the frames up, and we were tired and just wanted it done, so we skipped the measure/plan/measure/plan step and just fixed the hooks wherever and decided to move the frames around until it looked good. So that’s my long winded explanation about why the frames aren’t evenly spaced and why we don’t have a print in that long brown frame yet. Normally the spacing would drive me crazy. But, a) it’s finally a gallery wall and b) it’s so much better than staring at a white wall.

book readin' (what a sweet surprise gift! I've been reading Shirley Jackson since I was 10. love, love, love her, and the SJ bond I share with my mom)
book readin’

I went to the post office to get what I thought would be the FBI background check for my visa, but I also got a surprise package from my mom. Mom introduced me to Shirley Jackson when I was 9 or 10, and I’ve been in love ever since. I have well worn and well read copies of Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons in my books at home. Most people don’t know that in addition to writing horror stories, she wrote hilarious accounts of her time raising four children and trying to be a house wife. So good.

  • visa finishing – FINALLY. After many theatrics and dollars spent, my finger prints have been submitted. My medical exam is done. NOW all I have to do is wait. Wait, and wait, and wait. And I’m very much looking forward to not having to spend any more money on it.
  • Work – someone here made a big decision about his career, and I couldn’t be more proud or excited for him.
  • It’s officially been a year since I moved from the States. Which means it’s been a year since I’ve driven a car, hugged my family, eaten McDonalds, or lived with air conditioning.

And the views weren’t too shabby


And now it’s September! It’s spring, I’m recovering from stomach flu, I’ve been in Sydney for a year now, and we’re on the track for a good month. Fingers crossed errryone!

*I’m a milk fan, which is great, because people here drink milk like it’s water. And so, there are heaps of flavours to choose from. Yuummmm

Saturday: The good and the bad.

Saturday! Hooray!

I woke up this morning at about 6 AM, first because the entire right side of my body had fallen into a deep coma sleep and woke up with an intense pins and needles feeling when Joel lightly brushed me in his sleep. My second thought, after OMG I’M ON FIRE, was AW RIGHT IT’S SATURDAY LETS WAKE UP AND DO STUFF!

Of course, by ‘do stuff’ I meant, get my finger prints made to send off to the FBI for my identity check. Because, HOORAY, I was notified on Wednesday that my visa application was received, and that I was granted a bridging (temporary) visa that allows me to work full time while they’re processing/approving my partner visa. And they outlined my next steps for me, which are:

1. Get fingerprinted and submit the prints for an FBI Identity and Background check
2. Get a medical exam, chest x-ray, and HIV test (which makes my anti-discrimination senses prick up, but what can you do.)
3. Submit both reports
4. Wait for final word on my visa

A condition of the bridging visa is that I can’t leave the country while my partner visa is processing, unless I apply and pay for a separate travel visa. But you have to be in the country when they make the decision on your visa. And it’s a slim chance that it’ll happen, but if an interview was needed and I wasn’t here, it would be bad news. So the whole thing makes me too nervous. Looks like I’ll be sitting tight for the next 12-15 months. Which is a bit of a bummer, since I was day dreaming about Joel and me visiting the States for Thanksgiving next year. Grr.

Anywho, I left the house early, armed with my completed FBI forms and my FD-258 print card. I got the bus on time, made it to the station without getting lost, and I was the first in line! woohoo, I’ll be out so quick and home by 10:30, I thought! And that’s when I realized I forgot my self addressed, stamped envelope. Because I’d read online that I’d need a SASE and I’d written it down a bunch of times but of course I didn’t remember to do it. So I walked to 3 convenience stores, a grocery store, and finally to the office supply store, before I found envelopes that were the right size. It was only 5 or 6 blocks, but 5 or 6 blocks is a lot when you’re trying to get something done quickly.

So I get back to the station an hour later, and it takes about 20 minutes to get my prints done because they are done electronically now, and the sensors couldn’t get a decent image of any of the fingers on my right hand. All I could think was Could I be a right handed bandit? Getting away with shit because they can’t lift prints off my right hand? And then I thought that I shouldn’t be thinking of my future as a crime villain when I’m standing in a police station being finger printed by a cop and standing under a CCTV. I will say though, besides my shifty right hand, the staff and officers at City Central Police Station were really helpful and quick, so if you need finger prints and you’re in Sydney, hit them up.

After my walk about morning, I decided I’d stop at this cool looking restaurant for brunch. But all the tables were full and the menu was a bit too expensive for me, when all I wanted was banana bread with ricotta cheese and honey (my new obsession). So I changed my mind on brunch. But, as I was walking back to the bus, I passed a cafe called My Sweet Memory, which boasted coffee and stationery. Both of which are.my.jam. I walked in and the bakery case was full of pies and rolls and scrolls and yum, and they had banana bread. I asked the lady behind the register if they had ricotta cheese, and if I could have it on banana bread. She said yes. I went to pay for my order which was $8.50, took out my wallet and remembered I’d spent the last of my petty cash on Tuesday. And of course, they had a minimum card charge of $10. Instead of just saying, “sorry, Thanks though,” and walking away, I panicked under pressure and ordered a chocolate muffin to split with Joel later. I just realised now that I should have ordered a Nutella scroll. Fuck.

I went to the bathroom, since it was now close to 11:30 I’d had to pee for the last two hours, but someone was in there having a really unfortunate bowel issue. And she didn’t leave the entire time I was there. There wasn’t much stationery and what was there wasn’t interesting (besides a photo album that had a funny Japanese to English translation quote on it), which was really disappointing. I got my coffee, and it tasted like I made a bad choice. The banana bread didn’t come with ricotta, because they don’t have ricotta. It tasted good, but it was nothing to write home about. And they were playing some tragically bad 90’s R+B and easy listening over the loud speakers. And I still had to pee. Overall, a pretty lame brunch experience.

photo (2)

Before I got on the bus, a very sad homeless man asked me for change, so I gave him the .60 or so cents I had. I felt good about that, but a little shitty that I couldn’t give him more, because I really, really, want to believe that he’d use it to buy a sandwich, and not meth.

I got home, about to burst, and put the clothes out to dry in the sun.

10 mins later, brought them back in because it was getting cloudy and blustery like it was about to rain.

10 mins after that, I put the clothes back out because it was sunny again.

20 minutes after that, it looked cloudy. I gave it some time, and they clouds cleared again and it was blazingly sunny.

5 minutes after that, I looked up and it was a bit grey.

2 mins after that, it was raining all over my clothes. DANG IT.

At the same time that I saw it was raining, I was on the phone with my US bank, trying to figure out why my credit card with a $0 balance and an expiration year of 2017 was declining a small purchase. Turns out the bank sent me a new credit card which would be active on July 1, and I didn’t get any notice of this new card beyond an email sent to me in April. I didn’t even receive the new credit card. The rep told me it was more than likely an address mix up (different address for primary and credit card accounts, long story) on their part, but there was nothing they could do to extend my “expired” card. Normally, it wouldn’t be a huge deal, except I put that credit card information down on my FBI forms as payment. 

I jumped off the phone with the bank since there wasn’t anything they could do and ran to bring the clothes in before they got soaked. And as I brought the clothes dryer in for the 800th time that day, it fell apart. Hello, last straw. So I had a minor moment of anger hysteria where I cried a bit and texted Joel and Leah an angry rant because I’m on a relatively tight time frame with the Identity check and just too many little things had gone wrong today.

Sometimes you just need to kick rocks for a bit. And swear at them. But, I got myself together, fixed the drying rack, sat by the heater and figured out 2 back up plans for the finger prints.

I feel better now, but I also feel like I could kill a bottle of red wine tonight.

Lessons Learned this Saturday:
1. ALWAYS check and double check your check list
2. Don’t order pastries under pressure.
3. DONT bring the clothes in until it starts to rain
4. Buy an electric dryer when move into your new place
5. ALWAYS read the emails your bank sends, even when they look like the blanket announcement emails that don’t involve you
6. STOP rushing. You mess up when you rush.

Alright, now I’m off to make bolognese. I hope I don’t cut my fingers off in the process.


Visa: the lodging



After 10 months of form filling, document acquiring, sorting, filing, collecting, copying, certifying, advising, nagging, collecting, copying, certifying, proofing, and double proofing, about $7,700 spent in applications and various administrative tasks, and various anxiety attacks and stern discussions, we finally finished my visa for partnership migration, and today I sent it to the Dept. of Immigration to be lodged.

I was excited and terrified to drop the application off at the post office today (registered, signature confirmation, express post – basically one step away from having a secret service member deliver it). My heart was racing and my hands were shaking as I wrote the address on the giant envelope. We’ve both been waiting so long for this day, and it seems unreal that it happened. And it’s going to be even weirder to sit in my study and not see the massive binder full of us staring back at me, and even weirder to not have “well, we need to save for the visa” trailing every monetary thought in my mind. If Joel hadn’t put in for half of it (THANK YOU), it would have been the second most expensive thing, after my car, that I’ve ever bought. Even then, it still stung the ol’ savings account. As Joel said, “Loving you is very expensive.” *

So now we play two waiting games. 1) Waiting for the confirmation letter from the Department of Immigration with all my bridging visa details, and 2) the 12-15 months it will take to process the encyclopaedia of Joel-Audrey (so many pages). And before anyone asks, no, it would not have been easier for us to “just get married.” We would have had to fill out the same huge amounts of paperwork and evidence, on top of the added pressure of getting married before either of us are ready just for the sake of a visa. Even I’m not that impulsive. Yeah, it would have saved us a few grand in application costs, but we probably would have spent that money on a wedding (and by that I mean flying my family over to our Australian JOP ceremony and McDonald’s reception).

It’s all done. I’m relieved, I’m scared, and I’m ever hopeful all at the same time. Actually, I think I’m so anxious, I’m ready to have a stroke. I love the life that Joel and I have created here. And I’m crossing every crossable appendage I have that we get to continue it.

*he has no idea.