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Category Archives: Misc ‘n’ Stuff

Arriving in Iceland

Iceland (or what I’ve seen of it) is breathtakingly beautiful. The landscape is otherworldly: mostly even, with little vegetation and large volcanic masses jutting out of the earth at irregular intervals as whispers of snow dot the ground. (Take that, female character on the Mighty Ducks 2, whose best description of Iceland is “very green”).

Upon arrival I discovered how difficult it is to adapt to a no-decimal system of currency, especially when tired (I may have taken ten times the amount of cash out of the ATM than I had intended). I had also read that Iceland is expensive. It really is. Not particularly friendly to a couple of students on a tight budget staying for a week. The experience of being here is quite thrilling enough, but it’s difficult to keep running into people who insist you must go angler fishing, scuba diving, snow mobiling and eat at the fancy revolving restaurant or else you’ve wasted your time coming.

Reykjavik is beautiful with all the Christmas lights still up and advent candles in so many windows. The sun begins setting around 2:30pm and it is completely dark by 5:45, so the lights are fully appreciated.

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So far we’ve had a bit of a lazy time here, tending to  domestic tasks. We did the grocery shopping, attempting to find the simplest foods we can prepare for the most reasonable cost (not an easy task). We have also discovered there are exactly zero Laundromats in all of Reykjavik. Our small guestroom basin has now seen a fair bit of handwashing and is likely to see a fair bit more.

We did got for a walk this afternoon, but after all the shops had closed (turns out they all turn in early on new year’s eve), and we did find that the frozen city pond was home to a number of geese and ducks.

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Fireworks having been steadily increasing since about midday today and we are about to head up to the church (the high point of the city) to witness the majority of them being set of from after 10pm. Hopeful we will find a famous Icelandic New Year’s bonfire as well. There is also snow forecast for around midnight – we might be lucky!

Life in the world’s most northern capital  city is quite enjoyable so far. Happy New Year’s Eve all!

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2015 in Misc 'n' Stuff, travel

 

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Christmas Eve

We went into the township of Ermelo, which is reasonably typical as far as Dutch towns go. Its paved road down the centre of town becomes a walking only road after 11am (so we didn’t have to  dodge any bikes). We went into the bakery, and discovered that the Dutch makes things Christmas-y by adding Christmas elements to ordinary baked goods. So regular roombotter biscuits become Christmas biscuits when wrapped in cellophane and tied with red or green ribbon. It’s wonderfully pragmatic. We also went into a sweet shop and discovered you can buy sticks to chew on. As a treat. And they aren’t poisonous (clearly its very Australian of me to assume all plant and animal life is poisonous).

Nearby to where we are staying is a huge heather field that is beautiful for walking.

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Amongst the heather were ancient burial mounds there were over 4000 years old. Heather fields that aren’t maintained turn into forest, so these fields have been maintained for as long as the burial mounds have been around, which is roughly the age of the pyramids.

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Just beyond the heather is a forest and in the forest is a mansion. There are signs explaining about it, but they are all in Dutch. So it was a very pretty mansion.

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There was also a folly up the hill from the mansion.

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Ben knocked, but no one was home.

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In the evening we went to Thousand Hills Church for the Christmas Eve service, the Harris cousins (and the women they love) together.

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It was so much fun to be involved for a special service.

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The choir was outstanding, the message was simple and poignant and the atmosphere inside was toasty warm. We couldn’t have asked for a better Christmas Eve.

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2014 in Misc 'n' Stuff

 
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‘Tis the Season

It’s December, and therefore now an acceptable time for all the festivities surrounding Christmas to begin!

My tree is up, my Christmas cards are (mostly) distributed and the butter is softening to begin the gingerbread dough, and it’s only the first of the month.

Thankfully, most places I have been in the last month seem to have received the message that any Christmas song prior to December 1 is an abominable assault on my ears. But once it’s December, go crazy. Make sure by Boxing Day I need a good 11 month rest between Christmas tunes.

To that end, I am compiling my top 10 Christmas hits for 2014. While I tend to be a fan of the traditional carols in an ongoing sense, there are a number of non-carol Christmas songs that I am particularly looking forward to playing this year, so they will heavily feature in this top 10. So, without further ado:

Number 10: “Santa Claus is Thumbing to Town”, Relient K

I always hated “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”. A truly inane tune. And yet, Relient K added some punk-pop flavour and humourous imagery, and they’re onto a winning streak. This song has been trotted out at Christmas for at least the last 10 years of my life (if not longer). It signals that Christmas is upon us in the same way that dark clouds remind you to bring the washing in.

 

Number 9: “Deck the Halls”, Bunch of Believers

Ska music is probably the happiest genre on earth. Go ahead, listen and be cranky. I dare you. Everyone needs some happy ska music at Christmas time!

 

Number 8: “Carol of the Bells”, The Trans-Siberian Orchestra (Savatage)

Oft attributed to Metallica (incorrectly), the wailing guitars and full percussion section of this track lend some much needed edge to a holiday that is easily overrun with schmaltz when left unattended too long.

 

Number 7: “Sizzlin’ Summerland”, Scat

Apart from simply being an incredible Australian jazz band who deserve a shout out, Scat manage to accurately capture what Christmas has been like for my entire life. And because of the accuracy of their lyrics, it makes me HATE SUMMER CHRISTMASES EVEN MORE! If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, feast your ears and eyes on the depressing reality that is a summer Christmas. (Note: most Aussies love their summer Christmas. I’m looking forward to my first cold Christmas this year in the Northern Hemisphere and I surely hope it’s not my last. My opinion will not be popular with my fellow Australians.)

 

Number 6: “Nothing From Nothing”, Billy Preston

This song is from the soundtrack of Elf, a truly iconic Christmas film (I can’t quite say it’s the best, though). It has a bouncy Christmas-y feel, without being so recognisable you want to roll your eyes out of their sockets every time you hear it.

 

Number 5: “Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas”, John Williams

This little ditty comes from Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. This kid got it all for Christmas. Autonomy, credit card, no responsibility, no pesky relatives, snow, and the adventure of New York City. Sure he exhibits sociopathic levels of violence while systematically destroying his relatives renovations, but hey, it’s Christmas! This score captures all the emotion of the situation and infuses it with all the Christmas sound you could imagine. Like candy canes for your ears.

 

Number 4: “Christmas Lights”, Coldplay

There is something very lovely about a haunting Christmas song. It’s very Dickensian in the vein of A Christmas Carol. This song fits that bill.

 

Number 3: “Carol of the Bells/God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, The Piano Guys

I know “Carol of the Bells” made it in twice, but it is a truly beautiful song, and you would really struggle to overplay it. Besides, the Piano Guys blend these two traditional melodies into an intricate musical tapestry with skill that few others possess. It deserves to be noticed!

 

Number 2: “Go Tell It On a Mountain”, Needtobreathe

Needtobreathe deserve the highest of fives for turning such a nerdy old song into the catchiest carol around. I cannot applaude their feat enough and I am happy to play this one on repeat until the wrapping paper is tidied and we’re all taking our Christmas afternoon naps.

 

Number 1: Phoebe’s Christmas Song

Please tell Joey/Christmas will be snowy. I just can’t go past it. It’s my favourite right now. Don’t try to sing along.

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2014 in Misc 'n' Stuff

 

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The Big Trip

This is the trip travelers dream of booking: their round the world adventure.

And mine is booked.

And while ours only involves a couple of continents, we will get to see and do much more than we would in the average trip to a single destination, or taking just one tour.

Husband and I will be packing our bags and wishing our home ‘Bon Voyage’ a few days before Christmas. After flight changeovers in Bangkok and Dubai, we will be meeting family in the Netherlands to spend Christmas with them and have our first cold Christmas ever! (cross your fingers we get a white Christmas, even though it’s uncommon where we will be)

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After Christmas we will be making our way to Paris for a couple of days and to London for a couple of days after that. We won’t be in either location for very long, but long enough to see a few major sites (whetting our appetite for the next time we plan to visit!)

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After that short foray it is onward and northward to Reykjavik, Iceland, the world’s most northern capital city. We will arrive in time for the New Year’s celebrations (which are said to be outstanding), and we will spend a full week exploring the area, swimming in geothermal pools and being cold.

blog1Hopefully we will glimpse these beauties!

Moving on, we make our way to the Big Apple, New York City for a few days midtown, keeping an eye out for the rich and famous, sauntering down 5th Avenue, getting Hubs a New York deli sandwich and exploding into M&Ms world, or a giant toy shop. We then head to Pittsburgh to stay with friends, maybe see the Amish, and have a general change of pace from the city that never sleeps.  The next stop is San Francisco and all the sourdough you can eat. It’s only a few days, but the home of Full House, Mrs Doubtfire and the Golden Gate Bridge is a favourite destination of mine.

Leaving San Fran, we take THE DRIVE along the Pacific Coast to Los Angeles, to satisfy a long-held dream of my motoring enthusiast counterpart. And to see great big trees (really, they are impressive).

blog3It’s a change from snow…

We will spend almost a week in the City of Angels, some of that time visiting Mickey and friends, and the rest of the time, hopefully visiting some friends. It will be seven years since I left LA after working there for almost a year, so it will be fun to see what has changed and catch up with people I haven’t seen in that long.

Finally, we stop in Brisbane, to see my family and in particular, my rapidly growing nephew, whom I expect to be able to say my name by arrival.

And then we come home.

Our whole trip takes a little over five weeks, so the biggest of apologies to those I won’t be making it anywhere near (especially friends spread across the US). We couldn’t manage to take off any earlier, and we will be back only a matter of days before the academic year begins for us, so we couldn’t squeeze any more stops in.

If we’re coming somewhere near you, and you would like to see us, please get in touch with me. We would love to see all the friends we can!

The Big Trip(Not indicative of flight path, thank heavens!)

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2014 in Misc 'n' Stuff

 

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Getting older

Birthdays cause me to reflect. Today I thought I’d share my reflections.

A lot has happened in a year, but in the same time it seems as though surprisingly little has happened. For the most part I enjoy the way I spend my time, but as my thirties creep closer, the social pressure to have my life “on track” becomes harder to ignore. From what I can determine,  being “on track” involves building a career, saving for a house deposit and getting a bun in the oven before my fragile, aged ovaries dissolve into dust (I get the impression this is imminent). Unfortunately, at the tail end of my mid-twenties, I’m still a student in my originally intended field of study.

It’s hard to go to my casual job and tell the working mums, semi-retireds and shift-working men that I don’t know where my study is leading. Some of them have kids around my age and they bemoan the lack of direction their progeny exhibit.  Sometimes I feel guilty not having a career map. It doesn’t mean I’m directionless though. I have a very distinct pursuit: to love Jesus and be happy. It’s whimsical, romantic and unstable. And yet I’ve always been able to pay the bills. And so far I only regret not going into higher education a year sooner, but this is entirely retrospective and there are times I don’t regret it, so I think it only half counts.

I’m really inspired by grandparents. My Grandpa left school around the age of thirteen and yet somehow managed to achieve high responsibility work in engineering. He was such an intelligent man who never despised his often unfair circumstances and he truly made the very best of any opportunity. His wife, my Grandma, finished high school despite world wars and being female. She even went on to tertiary education at a medical school that had a single opening at the time she applied. She always applied her mind and often still does. She uses a computer most days, she tells me. She once asked a doctor to perform an operation on her wrist with only local anaesthetic so she could watch. These are the inspiring people who worked so hard to give me a future full of choice. I don’t want to squander that choice, nor take it for granted, I hope to relish it in gratitude. So I choose to buck against socially dictated “on-track-ness”, and remain pursuit hungry in the absence of career goals.

And to more light-hearted matters: no contemplation of mine would be complete without a list. Some favourite things I have discovered in the last year:
Film: My new favourite film “About Time”, with stellar performances from Domhnall Gleeson and Bill Nighy. A ‘Rom-Com’ devoted to a father-son relationship.  Possibly the birth of a new genre (that’s generous, I know)? “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” and “The Lego Movie” are runners up.
Book: Difficult to choose, most of my reading is study related, but I have begun “Surprised by Laughter”, Terry Lindvall and “How Movies Helped Save My Soul”, Gareth Higgins. Both winners.
Comedian: I love comedians, and my preferred flavour tends to be British, followed by Aussie but the last twelve months have opened my eyes to some amazing American talent. Hats off to Jim Gaffigan and John Mulaney who have been in the game some time, unbeknownst to me. Runner up is Mike Birbiglia, who may still have Google alerts, and may read my blog, and if you do Mr Birbiglia,  I find you delightful and witty and having not seen you live, I cannot remark on your pudgyness nor awkwardness. If you don’t understand, get his album or check him out on Pandora.
Experience: is it sad that I immediately thought of meeting Miranda Hart, ignoring that my nephew was born, I graduated from my Bachelor’s degree and was accepted into my Masters? Well, they’re all up there.
Useless time waster: crap taxidermy account on instagram. Prepare to be silenced between laughter and disturbed gasp.
Location visited: Going to Greece and Turkey gave me much fodder for this choice. The monasteries of Meteora and Athens in its entirety tie on this account.
Song: “If It’s Love” by Train.
Piece of trivia: The Model T Ford was originally not available in black, but in three other colours. I don’t remember those colours. Green was one.
Television program: “The Moaning of Life” starring Karl Pilkington. Hiat naivety puts me at ease about my intelligence and makea me laugh. Hard. Not a new show in the last 12 months, but the last season of “Community” ended strong.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2014 in Misc 'n' Stuff

 

Say Something

I am procrastinating.  I would like to think of it as “warming up”.  Plenty of work lies ahead of me this afternoon and evening as the semester is drawing to a close and the deadlines are approaching.  The ability to turn thought into coherent sentences is one that takes practice, and one that I am struggling to dive straight into today.  Hence my warm up blog.

The graduation ceremony where I received my degree was two weeks ago.  It was a fun day, one I almost didn’t attend, but I was glad that I did.  Confirmation of this good decision was when the Principal addressed us and said, “The first degree I ever obtained was a degree in economics.  I didn’t bother going to the graduation ceremony and that’s a decision I’ve always regretted.”  I was able to share the day with some friends I made during my degree and also a few people who are in my Masters’ course, which added to my experience.

After the ceremony, some of us went out to eat and we talked about our current and future study goals.  A couple of us mentioned the difficulty we were experiencing transitioning from Bachelors to Masters level work and the challenges associated with moving into novel research.  Speaking to my very cool husband last night about what I intend to achieve with my work, I began to realise the distinct difference between completing an assignment set for me and completing an assignment set by me.  It’s almost terrifying to me to realise that I’m not longer trying to accrue marks that in sum will result in a qualification.  I’m actually trying to say something to the world.  Something I believe the world needs to hear.  And all of a sudden, the meaning in my writing returns and the outlook fades from bleak to bright and I remember why I chose this academic road to begin with.  I do actually hope to make even a small portion of the world, a slightly better place.

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Posted by on May 17, 2014 in Misc 'n' Stuff

 

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The Land of Oz

I’m proud to be Australian, to call this land my home,
With sapphire seas surrounding bush,
Cobalt skies and cracking storms
That kiss our suburnt plains.

We lack distinctive culture, that foreign lands possess,
But in that lack, we find ourselves,
Declaring our culture the best.

Vegemite belongs on toast, no one argues that,
But fridge or pantry wages on, preference passed from father to son.
Thongs go on your feet,
Tomato sauce on a meat pie,
The cricket on the telly and a coldy by your side.

We shorten any name we deem to long to say,
And lengthen some with an ‘o’
Because we like it more that way.

Though we claim to be laid back
Our expressions are anything but.
You could be flat out like a lizard drinking,
And that bloke’s head is emptier than a pollie’s promise,
But we all deserve a fair go.

No one likes a bludger, but that is no excuse,
To treat other people badly, especially those who need refuge.
Our country is not war torn and we sure aren’t lacking space,
So we can be polite and helpful to those who are displaced.

Grab a slice pav, a lamington or two,
Finish off your lamb chop and swig down some home brew,
Gather by the backyard pool or lay down at the beach,
Cos a day off’s what an Aussie loves, if he’s downright true blue.

Here’s to our fair country and to all those living here,
The indigenous and everyone who’s landed after them.
We really are quite lucky to live in a place like this
Have a cracker celebration in a country that’s pure bliss.

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2014 in Misc 'n' Stuff

 

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