Thursday, November 29, 2012

Christmas Tree Time!

S has been away for work for the last few days so I have amused myself in the most appropriate way I could think of for this time of year - I put up and decorated our Christmas tree. 

It was good timing as we don't quite see eye to eye on the topic of Christmas decorations.  He thinks that as we will be away at Christmas there is no need for a tree but I don't see why that means I should get to enjoy several weeks of gazing at a beautiful tree - plus all the other ornaments around the house.  He also thinks that a good Christmas tree looks like a tinsel monster threw up all over it, while I don't usually have any tinsel on the tree.  However he does love it once it is all up, so I feel I used my time wisely.

Along with the heavily laden tree we have decorations all over our lounge room.  Christmas comes just once a year but I'm going to enjoy the prettiness for as long as I can!

I hope you enjoy these snippets of our Christmas tree - it is guaranteed to put a huge smile on my face every time I walk through the door.

Friday, November 23, 2012

I've been possessed

As I've written before I do not enjoy exercise.  I make myself do it by rewarding myself with yummy food, taking extra time for stretches, enjoying the scenery on a walk and fitting into beloved clothes.

But this morning as I was doing my Pilates situps a strange and very foreign thought wandered through my brain.  "I actually quite enjoy situps" I thought.  Which was immediately followed by a series of fast thoughts trying to analyse if I've been invaded by a situp loving alien or if my present state of extreme tiredness has tipped me over the edge into crazy land.

I don't know if it is the repetition, the great stretch I get through my back, the slow controlled breathing but I have to admit that it is true, I actually really like situps.  Never fear, I still loathe all other exercise and only do it so that I can eat the chocolate Mum put in my handbag for lunch.

Have you surprised yourself by liking something unexpected recently?

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Last night I remarked that I wished we celebrated Thanksgiving.  "Any excuse for roast turkey" quipped S. And while I am in total agreement that any excuse for a roast turkey is a good excuse, what I was actually talking about was sitting down as a family and reflecting on all the things in our lives that we have to be thankful for.

This year has been a pretty tough one for my family.  When caught up in all the stress of life, it can be easy to lose sight of those good things that we have to be thankful for.  But really I have so much good in my life, it is nice to reflect and give thanks.

Last year I wrote a post on Thanksgiving and in reading it back I realised the list I wrote then is just as relevant today, so here is my revisited list from last Thanksgiving. 


I'm thankful for the love in my life.  From my amazing family, my fabulous friends and my absolutely gorgeous boyfriend who fills my every day with laughter and kisses. 

I'm thankful for my health.  It is easy to take for granted but good health is of unquantifiable worth. 

I'm thankful for my education.  Education is everything in my book.  With education the world is your oyster, without it, the paths are closed.  I'm so grateful to my parents for ensuring I got it and the wonderful teachers who gave it to me. 

I'm thankful for my upbringing.  For growing up in a house where I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I was loved and safe.  Where I was taught everything from manners to critical thinking.  Where I was (and am) loved and supported in all my efforts.  Where I was taught to respect money but not revere it.  And where laughter was a part of every day. 

I'm thankful for being born in Australia.  I live in a country where I am free to express my views and elect my leaders.  I am not denied opportunities because of sex, marital status, age, religion or ethnicity.  I go about my everyday activities without fear for my safety.  I have enough to eat and a warm comfortable home.  I know that not everyone in Australia has access to all these things, but vastly more people here do than in other parts of the world.

I could go on and on because the reality is, present stresses aside, I am truly thankful for the life I get to lead.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Liebster Award

The very lovely Kari from Bite Sized Thoughts has nominated me for a Liebster Award!  The name supposedly stems from the German word for Liebster, which is dearest but I like it because it is a great way to discover some wonderful new blogs. It has 5 parts:
  1. Write 11 random facts about yourself.
  2. Answer the 11 interview questions you’ve been given by the person who nominated you.
  3. Create 11 new questions.
  4. Nominate 11 bloggers and mention them in your post.
  5. Go and tell the person who nominated you, along with the people you’ve nominated about your post.
So lets start with random facts about me:
  1. Gin and Tonic is my favourite cocktail.  Some may consider it unfashionable, but I love it.
  2. I have very brittle nails.  I think this means I am not meant to do manual labour. I ripped one yesterday putting petrol in my car.  Clearly I'm meant to have minions to do these things for me.
  3. I painted all but two rooms in my house with 4 coats of paint in less than a week once.  True the only thing I did all week was paint but I did get it done.
  4. I feel an irrational sense of pride when things I plant grow.  If I serve you something I've grown - herbs or tomatoes usually - look out because I have become the gardening goddess and will tell you all about my gardening prowess. 
  5. I have an office with a window that opens which I consider to be the greatest luxury known to office workers.
  6. I was 9 (I think) before I learned to ride a bike and I'm still not very good at it.
  7. I look much more like my Dad but I apparently sound just like my Mum, particularly on the phone.
  8. I can be quite irrationally shy about things - see below where I'm too shy to pass this award on to anyone.
  9. I regularly forget how tall I am and am surprised when I see photographs.
  10. I listen to ABC talkback radio in the mornings.  In my defence they have really interesting guests and are nothing like normal talkback shock jocks.
  11. This year I've started wearing lipstick.  I've been doing it for months now and it is more and more becoming me, but I still occasionally get it on my teeth.
Kari asked a fantastic set of questions, she really got me thinking.  They are:
  1. If you had to limit yourself to 10 foods for one week, what would they be?
    I'm assuming you mean ingredients, not a whole meal?  In that case: zucchini, capsicum, chicken, pasta, pesto, tomato, cheese, museli, yogurt, pita bread.
  2. If you came into a large amount of money, would you keep working? If not, what would you do?
    Yes definitely, I'm an extrovert so I need to be around people and I find work an important thing to keep me motivated in life.  However if it was large enough that I didn't need to earn any more I would be extremely happy to volunteer my time to charity.
  3. What is one experience or event (big or small) that you would like to do in your lifetime?
    I've ticked off quite a few things on my list of life experiences, but I would still love to attend every day of the Melbourne spring racing carnival wearing a different outfit and matching hat.  Does someone want to invite me to some luxurious marque next year?  Being completely honest the experience is about the hats not the horses.
  4. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
    I wanted to be a forensic scientist for quite awhile.  Not sure where this came from as it was prior to all the CSI type shows.  Eventually I worked out that I totally suck at science and the rigid nature of it would bore me.  I need to exercise my creativity on a daily basis!
  5. If you had to move from your current town / city, where would be your first choice to move to?
    This one is really tricky because I love Canberra!  If I had to move in Australia I would love to move somewhere small, maybe Bateman's Bay on the coast.  If I had to move overseas then despite my terrible French I would probably choose a medium sized town in France.  That said, I know I would be back home in no time at all.
  6. What was your favourite year at school, and why?
    I think it would have been Grade 3.  I had my favourite teacher ever, Mrs Wright.  I started being a part of the Elizabethan dance group.  Rolf Harris visited my class after we won the scarecrow competition.  I turned 10 - double figures!  I had a best friend Linda and I think pretty much life was good.
  7. If you could meet anyone alive today, who would you meet?
    Another tricky question, there are so many great options.  I think after considering all the options I would meet Billy Connolly.  He is just so hilarious but also seems like a genuinely lovely person.
  8. If you were given a full day to yourself, no work and no commitments, how would you spend it?
    I can think of loads of boring things like the fact that I really need to paint the trim on the house, but if I had a whole day and plenty of spare cash a day at a day spa appeals greatly.  It has been a long year, a day of pampering would be fabulous.
  9. What is the best book you've read this year?
    I haven't done much reading this year, but I did read "Sarah's Key" by Tatiana de Rosnay.  It is fantastic but gut wrenching.  I also read "The Hunger Game" trilogy and haven't read something so compulsively for years.  It might not be great literature but it is a fantastic story.
  10. If you were given a plane ticket to anywhere in the world, where would it be to?
    Too many options!  But given that I didn't have to pay for it, I would pick an expensive destination - maybe Morocco.
  11. (Given my running shoe focus) - What was the last pair of shoes you bought?
    A pair of black patent heels.  Plain but practical.  I wore my last pair till the patent actually cracked and split.
Now comes the point where I am meant to nominate 11 blogs I love and ask them 11 questions.  The problem is that I love so many blogs and I feel a bit too shy to ask in case they don't want to write a blog post answering my crazy questions, so I am going to nominate all my readers as truly fabulous and ask you 11 questions.  Answer as many as you like in the comments below, or take the award with my blessing and answer all the questions on your own blog if you would like!
  1. If you are Australian have you ever told a foreigner a lie about Australia and what was it?  Or if you are not Australian have you ever been told a lie (or something you think may be a lie) and what was it?
  2. Where in the world is Carmen Sandiago?
  3. Show me the cutest baby animal picture to make me go squee.
  4. What is the daggiest song that you should not like but you really do?
  5. Do you have any pierced body parts and what are they?
  6. Do you have a special birthday meal and if so what is it?
  7. What were your favourite cartoons as a kid?
  8. Do you have a nickname and if so what is the story behind it?
  9. What was the first thing you learned to cook?
  10. Star Wars or Star Trek? (or both or neither) 
  11. Who on twitter or pinterest should I be following? (follow me at @LisaRobey or
So go forth and entertain me with your answers!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Laser Eye Surgery

In my zombie pondering post I mentioned that I have had laser surgery on my eyes and a commenter asked if I could write a post about it.  When I was considering the surgery I found it frustrating that for all the reasoned medical information I could get about the process the only things I could ever read from people who had the procedure was that the results were great.  There was nothing about what the actual process is like.  So just a few days after I had the surgery I sat down and wrote in detail about what it was like for me.   
So if you are looking for a first hand impression of what it is like to have laser surgery on your eyes, please read on.  For my usual lighthearted happiness, come back in a day or so.  This is going to be a little dry.  Also please bear in mind these are my experiences and I had the surgery about 9 years ago so things, including prices will have changed. 

First a bit about laser surgery. Laser surgery is used to treat short-sightedness, astigmatism and long-sightedness by reshaping the cornea. Unfortunately it can’t be used for age related eyesight problems as they are caused by the deterioration of the muscles around the eyes rather than a problem with the eye itself (actually I believe there is a procedure that can help some people, probably best to talk to your optometrist about that). While it has now been around for a long time, when I had it done health funds still regarded it as ‘experimental’ meaning that they didn’t cover it at all and I don't know if this has changed. As it cost around $2300 per eye this was a major factor to consider, however you can claim it on your tax and get something back. There are two types of laser surgery, Lasik which is what I had and another kind that I can’t remember what they call. With the second kind they just cut the top of your eye which leaves nerves exposed (very painful) and your vision can be bad for quite some time. With Lasik they cut a flap (described further) which covers the laser site so it is much less painful and you can see straight away, however, it is also slightly more risky. The clinic I went to specialise in Lasik, it is all they do and I believe very few places offer the first type of surgery these days.

Ever since I heard about laser surgery I have thought it sounded like a great thing but I knew that I had to wait till I was of an age where my skull had finished forming (basically your early 20s) because that can affect your eye sight. In the couple of years before I had the surgery I had heard heaps of great success stories but was reasonably happy with how my eyes were being managed. I used othokerotology (OK), a system where you wear rigid contact lenses at night that shape your eyes so that you can see during the day without need for lenses or glasses (basically what the laser surgery does but not permanent). I was one of the first people to use it in Canberra and in fact my optometrist had to talk to the developers in the USA to develop a system for me. I have always been lucky in that I have a great optometrist who is right up on all the latest techniques. OK was great for me for around 7 years, however wearing contacts at night eventually had a negative effect on my eyes. While the contacts are gas permeable, they do limit the oxygen access to your eyes which resulted in me getting eye infections and my eyes getting increasingly light sensitive. It is also very expensive with the contacts costing around $220 each.

I went and spoke to a laser clinic and was quite impressed so went to my optometrist to discover what would need to happen to wean me off OK. It took about 3 weeks and multiple pairs of soft contact lenses before my eyes were nearly at their natural state at which point I began wearing glasses. Also in speaking to my optometrist he told me that he had sent a difficult patient to the LaserSight clinic in Parramatta and perhaps it would be worth me going up to see what I thought of them.

I made an appointment and accompanied by my Mum, who was brilliant throughout the long process, I went up to Sydney. Unlike the previous clinic where the initial appointment was free, I had to pay $75 for a consultation but it was also 1.5 hours long and they did multiple eye tests, I watched a video of the actual procedure and spoke to both an opthomologist and the surgeon who would be doing my procedure. I really felt that they had assessed my eyes to ensure that I was a good candidate for the surgery. They told me many times all the things that could possibly go wrong and the likelihood of them happening, it was certainly a scary list, however I was pretty determined that this was what I wanted to do. In the end I felt really comfortable with them and was happy to go ahead. To ensure that my eyes were 100% their original shape the surgeon recommended I wait at least another month, however it was nearly 2 months before I could get an appointment.

Because the clinic is in Sydney it meant at least one night’s stay (it turned out to be two). The clinic had an arrangement with the Carlton hotel (just a couple of blocks from the clinic) which meant that we could get a corporate rate and they also had a shuttle bus that would take me to and from the clinic. Mum and I chose to get adjoining rooms which turned out to be really good after the procedure when I slept in the dark for hours and Mum was able to do her own thing in the other room. I would recommend spending the previous night in Sydney as well as all that driving is quite stressful for the eyes and you definitely want them to be relaxed.

So on September 12 (yes I did have my eyes lasered on Friday the 13th) Mum and I headed up to Sydney. We had nearly arrived in Parramatta when my mobile rang. They asked if my procedure, which was scheduled for 8.30am the next morning, could be moved to 12.45pm. The reason was that there was a problem with the laser and that it was going to be fixed in the morning, not something that inspires a lot of confidence but I do think that it demonstrates how careful they are with their testing of the equipment. During the actual procedure there were also two technicians from the laser company supervising so I was happy with the level of attention being given to me.

Unfortunately this did leave me with a whole morning to contemplate what was going to happen to me. We went shopping as a distraction but I got increasingly nervous. Because the anaesthetic and sedation is very mild I was able to have lunch which I did before changing into a tracksuit and heading off to the clinic.

I arrived at the clinic and filled out a scary release form then was taken into the procedure room where under the laser they took photos of my eyes. I went back into the waiting area where I was given eye drops to dilate my pupils, antibiotic eye drops and anaesthetic eye drops. After letting those start to work I was also given valium and two painkillers. About an hour after having the photos taken, they dressed me in a gown and hair net, painted the area around my eye with betadine (which made the skin around my eyes feel very tight) and took me in.

I lay on a table with a roll under my knees to make me more comfortable, was told to relax and before I had a chance to think about it they had moved me under the laser and were beginning.

They begin by moving your eyelashes out of the way with an adhesive drape (a tip here for the girls, you aren’t able to wear makeup for a while after the procedure so I had my eyelashes tinted before hand). Once that is done a speculum is used to widen your eyelids apart. After they have widened them, they then insert anaesthetic eye drops which they make sure cover the whole eye by moving them with a squeegee type thing. At that point they widen the speculum more, it kind of feels like the side of your eye is going to split, not very pleasant. That done your cornea is marked so that the laser can be guided. You don’t really see any of this as you are focused on a red flashing light above you and also (obviously) you don’t have glasses on so everything is fuzzy anyway.

The next bit is the worst part of the procedure. A suction ring is placed on your eye and pushed on very firmly. They told me that it would be very uncomfortable, I found it quite painful. When it is on your vision kind of blacks out. It is more like you are looking though a black curtain because you can still sort of see shapes moving. At that point a flap is cut in the top layer of your cornea, you don’t feel a thing. When the flap has been cut they remove the section ring and you can see again although everything is very fuzzy.

They then lift the flap at which point everything is completely blurry. I compared all the blurry lights above me to how they tend to show alien spacecraft in the movies. You hear a few things going on in the background as they test the laser before they begin. You can’t feel the laser but you can smell it burning your eye. It kind of smells like a hair being singed. The laser takes about a minute after which they irrigate your eye to remove the dead cells then they lower the flap and continue to irrigate the eye for three minutes. I should say that although I know the timing, I had no conception of it during the procedure. That done they remove the speculum and the drape, you close your eye and they wipe it down and a minute or two later they begin again with the second eye.

During the procedure they talked me through everything they were doing. I coped really well with the first eye, focusing on my breathing and relaxing my shoulders like they told me, however during the second eye I began to have a panic attack. I started to shake and was not handling it well but a nurse held my hand and talked me through it. Afterwards I continued to shake and felt very emotional but they calmed me down very well. There were three of us done that day, all were girls about my age. The first girl handled it really well and just found it uncomfortable but the other girl who went after me also had a bit of a panic, I guess it just means that everyone reacts slightly differently.

When they were done I went into an exam room where a nurse put antibiotic drops in my eyes before taping clear plastic shields over my eyes. I should emphasise at this point that you really need to have someone with you after the procedure because immediately post the procedure, you just want to keep your eyes closed. At the clinic I went to, Mum was able to watch the whole procedure on a big monitor as well as through a window in the room next door.

They sent me back to the hotel and told me to sleep for 3 to 4 hours**. On the way back my eyes where quite painful, sort of hot and burning gritty feeling and I didn’t like opening them so we closed all the curtains, turned off the lights and I slept for around 4 hours (it is very easy to sleep because of the valium you have been given). When I woke up my eyes still felt gritty but not at all painful. Mum helped to wean me onto light until I was quite comfortable in full light. At that point it was about 7.30pm and I was hungry so still wearing my plastic shields Mum and I went to the hotel restaurant. We sat down and I began to read the menu without even thinking about it, it was Mum who pointed out that my vision was already so good I could read! I was still a bit dopey from the valium so we had a short dinner then went back to the hotel room and watched TV for a few hours. Before I went to bed I had to put in more eye drops (2 kinds of antibiotics which I put in 4 times a day for 5 days and 1 lot of anti inflammatory drops which I also put in 4 times a day but for the next 10 days) made sure my plastic shields were taped securely (I did that for the next few days) and to make sure I slept really well I took a sleeping pill that they gave me. They had also given me pain killers but I didn’t need to take any at all.

The next day I was able to take my shields off at which point I discovered how bloodshot my eyes were. This was caused by the pressure of the suction ring breaking small blood vessels and it took about 2 weeks to fade. Also my eyelids were slightly swollen from the pressure of the speculum.

Before breakfast we went back to the clinic where they checked my eyes. My vision was one line better than 20/20 and they were so happy with how my eyes were looking that I didn’t have to go to Sydney for another checkup, my regular optometrist looked after me for post op checkups. Even though I went to someone other than the clinic for my checkups, they still covered my fees as part of the cost, my optometrist just billed them. It took a couple of weeks for my eyes to settle down so that I could see the final outcome and during that time the quality of my vision did fluctuate slightly. Also at night, lights had a slight ‘halo’ effect so I avoided driving at night for a while but this did disappear when the cut in my cornea healed. I had to be very careful with my eyes for the first couple of weeks making sure that nothing, including me, touched them. I took things very cautiously because I figured a bit of conservatism then would certainly pay off in the long run.

Given that I had all my checkups, the clinic had a ‘clear-vision’ guarantee which meant that if I had any problems in the following 5 years and needed to have it done again, they would do it free of charge.

Overall it is certainly not a procedure I would be in a hurry to do again but the result was so brilliant it really weighed out the 20 minutes or so of discomfort and the odd bit of pain. Everyone I know who has had it done as said the same thing. As my neighbour who has had the procedure said, it divides your life into pre and post procedure because it is just so liberating not to have to worry about glasses, contacts etc. In fact one of the worst things about it is the eye drops you have to use because they taste awful (please no jokes about how I should have been putting them in my eyes not my mouth, I have heard them all) when they run down the back of your throat but as I would say that it is one of the worst bits, you can see that the whole procedure isn’t that bad. My sister has also had it done and has some slight dry eye issues as a result, but she is still very happy with being able to see.  The only other tip I could give if you wanted to have it done was do it in Winter when the light is not so bright and you don’t want to be doing things like swimming as you are limited about that and other outdoor type activities for quite some time.

If you are interested in having laser eye surgery,  I would suggest to start by speaking to your optometrist and to a couple of laser clinics because one of the most important things is that you are comfortable with the people who will be performing the surgery and you are really sure that it is what you want to do. If you have any questions about my experiences please leave me a comment, I would be only too happy to answer your questions. 

** Even if you live in Sydney I would recommend staying in a hotel close to the clinic like I did unless you live really close because straight after the operation you just want to lie down in a dark place and the next day you have to be in very early in the morning to have your eyes checked. One of the girls who had her eyes done on the same day had about a 40min drive home and she said it was agony.

Friday, November 16, 2012

What is it with zombies in business suits?

Even the Walking Dead promo features a zombie in a suit

I am notorious for walking past people I know in the street.  The number of times I've had someone say to me "Oh I saw you in the shops the other day but you didn't see me" is countless.  Before I had my eyes lazered I could blame eyesight, now I just have to admit that the reality is I'm off in my own little world. 

The question is what am I thinking about that is so interesting that I don't notice my friends?  Am I quietly solving the world's problems?  Inventing the next technological breakthrough?  Composing my bestselling novel?  The answer is no, I'm pondering such questions as why there are so many zombies in business suits in horror movies.  Surely when the dead start rising you have an excuse not to go into the office, or at least not to wear a tie.  Seriously it is a good question.

So, do you have a theory on the business suited zombies?  Or am I alone in my very strange ponderings?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


I've written before that exercise for exercise's sake is never going to be something that excites me.  Other than dance, pretty much any other kind of exercise is a chore.  But I love to eat, and I love my clothes, and without exercise in the mix, those two things are not compatible.

So each weekday morning I rise early and do 30 - 60 minutes of zumba or pilates or walking to keep the weight at bay.  The alarm is never greeted with joy.  No matter how early I went to bed, 6.30am rolls around too soon.  I struggle out of bed, driven on only be the knowledge that as a result of the exercise, I will be able to eat dessert tonight.

But then, in the early morning stillness I put on some soft music and I stretch and warm up.  I move my limbs in a long practiced routine which takes my body from sleep to wake.  Knots from the previous day's many desk hours are freed.  Limbs extended, I move, almost without thought, slowly waking, till I feel limber.

I subscribe to the policy that a half arsed workout is better than a no workout at all, so not all mornings have the same intensity of exercise.  But even when my heart is really not in it I still find myself doing my full range of stretches.  If I do miss a stretch session I really notice the difference during the day.  I feel somehow cramped within my body.

So while I may not enjoy the whole getting up early and exercising activity, I have found a place of peace within it and I'm better, in mind and body, for it.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


On one of our very first dates S took me antiquing.  It was a crazily hot day, the kind where it feels like you are going to be sunburnt the instant you step out from the shade.  We cruised from store to store, dashing from the car to the shelter of dark, dusty havens for all things old and collectable.  I think I started to fall in love with him that day, in the shadows of furniture stacked high and rows of musty old books.

Wandering around antique stores remains a favourite activity of ours.  If we spot a shop filled with weird and wonderful knick knacks or perfectly preserved furniture there is no stopping us.  All round Europe we found ourselves in such places, wishing for unlimited finances and a giant house to fill with the delights we had uncovered.  I don't know what it is that I love so much about old things.  Maybe it is the history they come with.  Maybe it is the classic design.  I suspect it is admiration for their survival and respect for the past owners who must have cared and loved for each piece.

In my experience antique shops can be divided into two categories.  The first is the grand emporium.  In this store each piece has been lovingly restored.  Surfaces gleam with polish, items are beautifully displayed.  Everything is beautiful and oh so very expensive.  They are often located in trendy suburbs.  I do love wandering around these places, admiring and imagining but somehow I can never quite envision myself buying anything there.  Everything is a little too perfect, like the hard work in seeking out a unique piece has already been done.  Almost like it is cheating, not antiquing properly.

My favourite antique stores are the other category - the mad hoarders stores.  These stores are packed with things and hidden in industrial estates or back lanes.  Narrow trails cut through dusty stacks.  Each shelf is filled to capacity.  Nothing is displayed well, it is a treasure hunt where you need to pick through everything to find the hidden gems.  This is what I like, the thrill of the chase.  You never know what you might find, a cut crystal bowl, an art deco statuette, a funny little hat.  I go with no expectations and nearly never buy anything, but when I do find something special, oh the joy!  And luckily I'm blessed to have a partner who enjoys it just as much as I do.  How special is that?

Do you like antiques or do you prefer things new?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Melbourne Cup in the office

I work in a small office.  Add in that people regularly travel for conferences or client meetings and others have the opportunity to work from home, it becomes a very small office.  As a result there isn't the opportunity to do the usual Melbourne Cup office activities.  For a hilarious insight into what the Melbourne Cup in a non Victorian city looks like, read this post.

I am also usually the only girl in the office, so there is no-one else interested in getting dressed up for a random day at work.  Essentially Melbourne Cup day is just like any other normal day - except for me.  You see I'm not going to let the office's lack of enthusiasm for a horse race get me down because Melbourne Cup day offers me a rare opportunity to wear something unusual on my head and that is not something to be taken lightly.

On the first Tuesday in November every year I put on a pretty dress and slide a feathery, ribbony confection in my hair.  I don't care that I look a bit out of place.  Well not really but when I saw another woman in the building with a similar of type headwear I did feel a little relieved.  I happen to own several such items and it would be a pity not to wear them when the timing allowed.

So here I am.  On the day of the race which stops the nation (other than my office) I am working away but looking very fetching with my magenta fascinator and flowery dress. Every time I catch sight of myself it makes me smile, yes I look somewhat ridiculous, but what is life without a little ridiculousness every now and then.

Do you have any Melbourne Cup day traditions?  If you are not from Australia what do you think about our obsession with a horse race?

Monday, November 5, 2012


Almost at the top of my list of things to do/have when I'm rich is to always have fresh flowers in the house.  Mum adores fresh flowers and she passed that love on to me, so whenever I can I have flowers in the house.

Being on a budget, this means other than those very lovely days when someone buys me flowers, flowers in the house come from the garden.  It can be hard when the garden is bare in the middle of winter to walk past the fresh flowers in the supermarket, but in a glorious spring like this one, those shopping centre displays have nothing on the bounty I have access to.

My roses have been hinting at the blooms to come for weeks, but now the buds have burst forth and I have so many roses I was able to fill two vases and create this gorgeous display on our dining room table.  The soft scent of rose drifts through the house and they fill my heart with joy every time I see them.

If the day comes when I can afford to buy flowers whenever I feel like it, I think those I've grown myself will still be my favourites.

What is on your "rich list".  A house cleaner and dinner out once a week is also on mine.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Community after disaster

The news has been full of images of Hurricane Sandy.  Like many people, I've been glued to the news, the twitter feeds, the live blogs.  There is something about this real time reporting of events by ordinary people that just captures me.  When reading the live blog on the Thought Catalog I came across this description of what it felt like to be walking through an area that had been damaged by the storm:

"Walking through Alphabet City, feel mostly emotional and sad. Think most people do, storm tourists included. Mood is weirdly subdued and excited at the same time, and makes me feel emotional for humanity in a way that feels good but also sad. Not sure how else to describe it."  (link)

I absolutely know what the author is feeling because I've felt it, in the aftermath of the Canberra bushfires.  After the adrenaline surge of a terrifying event that you have survived, realising the damage and how much must be done to fix it, feeling scared and elated at the same time.  It is a strange state, but one that for me gave way to an amazing gratitude for the community I live in and its ability to care for its members and heal over time.

On January 18 2003 Canberra was hit by a firestorm.  For us, instead of the wind driving rain, it drove fire in giant balls or just in the form of smouldering leaves dropping from the sky.  Over 500 homes were destroyed, 4 people died, many others were injured.  The city and the bush around were left scared and nearly 10 years on if you know where the scars are still visible.

There are so many things I remember about that day.  The vision of hell that was the scene when I was driving home, with the hill my family lives on silhouetted by fire.  The thick smoke causing a darkness so intense it was like you could hold the dark in your hands.  The moment when the darkness switched to bright orange and we knew the fire was coming.  Watching the mountain across the valley burn in a matter of minutes.  People ask if it was scary, we were too busy to be scared.  During the firestorm we reacted on instinct, worked hard and fast.  It was later, after the fire front had passed and we sat in the quiet listening to the radio that the significance began to sink in.  Our neighbourhood had banded together and no houses in our street burned but we were also lucky that we were not in the area hit by fireballs.

I ventured out the day after the fire to see if the newspaper had been printed.  There was no power, the hills around the city were black and smouldering and the air was still hazy with smoke.  By the sides of the road were numerous damaged cars from crashes that occurred due to the thick smoke and lack of power for traffic lights.  The atmosphere was quiet, I imagine like that of people emerging from the ruins of a bombed city after a battle.  But by the end of the week the atmosphere had changed.  There was an amazing sense of a community drawing together to support each other, to heal and an energised momentum to get things done.

If you haven't been through such an event it is hard to even imagine the way a community can work like that.  Canberra is often accused of being soulless, aloof.  But within what seemed like moments homes were found for those that needed them, some in unlikely places like a school's groundskeepers cottage, or the staff accommodation at Government House (home of the governor general).  Shops donated clothes, I remember Cue gave any woman who came in who had lost everything two whole outfits for free.  And every workplace, government department, sporting group etc held fundraisers.

Sometimes it does take the worst in life to bring out the best.  I know that my community felt closer and warmer after the firestorm.  I felt close to everyone in the city, that we shared a connection only those who have been through a traumatic event together can feel.  My feelings on this city will forever be affected by those weeks in 2003 when people from everywhere worked to help those who needed us.  This isn't a city to me, it is a community.

A massive disaster is not something I would wish on any community, but the feeling of belonging, being in the arms of a community of strangers who care, that made the heartache all worthwhile.