Vintage Bridal Shower!

Since I’ll be in the UK when Yolly and Casey get married, I was pretty happy to find out that her bridal shower was the weekend before we left, and I would be able to fly up from Melbourne to join it.

The blushing bride

The blushing bride

I arrived on Friday evening, pretty late, and went to pick up my rental car. I’d booked a “Nissan Micra, or similar” to drive out to Fernvale and back on Sunday, I’m more used to small cars … when I found the parking spot they directed me to, I was shocked to find a pretty big Toyota sedan … that’s not a small! It was pretty comfortable and easy to drive, luckily, once they helped me figure out where the “hand” brake was …

On arrival at Yolly’s, she and Claudia were still up, so we (well, I) had a couple of glasses of wine and we admired each other’s outfits for the party, which was a Vintage Tea theme. Yolly’s mum had given her a beautiful tea set with roses, which was all laid out ready on the table, and Clauds was all set to get the food ready the next morning … it was going to be an early start, luckily I was an hour ahead!

Making posh sandwiches

Making posh sandwiches

Sandwich factory

Sandwich factory

Yum

Yum

I was sleeping in the girls’ room as usual, on the top bunk above Ivy. At 6 the next morning when Yolly and Clauds got up, I sat up and looked over to see two small, giggling blond girls in the other beds. I know I must look a bit of a fright in the morning, but surely not THAT funny … they seemed to think so though!

Ivy, by Mya

Ivy, by Mya

I want the camera!

I want the camera!

One of many bum shots

One of many bum shots

While we ate breakfast and started preparation for the food and decorations, the girls were full of energy – I gave my camera to Mya to see what came out, there were some very cute photos but also a lot of our bums – I guess that’s what you can see from that height, the poor thing!

Claudia and I made plates of sandwiches, with posh fillings and crusts delicately cut off. We had paper decorations for the garden, I hung them up along the deck, but not before trying them as earrings on the girls …

Mya with earrings

Mya with earrings

We got all dolled up in our dresses, Yolly’s was a gorgeous colour and she looked a bit like she was off the roller disco, Clauds also looked amazing in her yellow dress, and had a very cute hat to set it off. I loved the colours in mine, it was from a local vintage shop and made me feel really happy wearing it, I think the previous owner must have loved it too.

Claudia's outfit

Claudia’s outfit

People started arriving and Claudia made up some fruit punch, which tasted pretty yummy with champagne :) Everybody looked so good, and very different. As a special surprise, my aunt Michelle, who was in town for the wedding, also came along! I hadn’t seen her since Barry’s wedding over a year ago, and I hadn’t expected to see her on my upcoming visit home, so it was lovely that she was there too.

My dress

My dress

Yolly had a tiny blackboard and chalk for people to write messages on for her – Casey’s family obviously had a good sense of humour, they were writing things like “Run!” and “There’s still time …” :) Meanwhile, all the kids who were there were having a wonderfully messy time bouncing on the trampoline with water and fairy liquid …

After a suitable amount of champagne had been consumed, and the sun was making it pretty hot and sweaty outside, Claudia gathered us in the living room for games. For the first one, we scored points for items that we had in our purses. I thought our team of three weren’t doing too badly; we had 16 points thanks to phones, plasters and a drinking straw that Steph hurriedly stole from the table. I should have known better – in a room with a number of mums, they had bottomless bags full of everything they could possibly need, compared to Steph’s teeny vintage bag with only a lippy and cash card, we were stuffed. I think the winning team had around 50 points – ouch!

Friends of the bride

Friends of the bride

The second game involved reading a fairly well known passage from an old magazine for housewives about how to treat your husband. Cue a lot of groaning and “as if!” from the group – it was definitely from a bygone era, thank God! For the next game we completed a quick quiz, Steph got full marks which we found highly amusing. And then it was back to the vintage tea, posh sandwiches and bubbly …

Teaching Mya to write my name

Teaching Mya to write my name

Ivy came to sit on my lap for a cuddle while she ate chocolate biscuits, it was lovely, but I can’t believe how many biscuits she can fit in for such a small person. Mya showed me how she can write her name on the blackboard and I tried to teach her how to write mine – it’s pretty short, after all – after a few times writing it backwards, she got it! Very cool.

She got it!

She got it!

The party wound down and Yolly opened her gifts before a small group of us headed out to a local bar for some dinner. After the early start, I was ready for bed by 9:30 – Mya had asked if I’d sleep in their room again so I curled up on the top bunk and was out like a light …

The next morning Mya was up with her usual energy, but Ivy was a bit slower. Her hair was still tied up in yesterday’s bunches, and when I took the hairbands out it went into a crazy blond afro. She looked very cute but was too tired and grumpy to smile for photos, I could only get a bit of a pout, pretty good all the same.

Leave me alone, it's not even 9am ...

Leave me alone, it’s not even 9am …

It was another flying visit, after breakfast time to head back again. I hadn’t seen Silvio in nearly a week, but at last his stint working away in Sydney was over, so to finish off a fab weekend, we were off out to celebrate :)

My new commute … by bike.

Travelling to work from Prahran to Footscray during my first week took me across Melbourne on two trains. It’s not a terrible journey, but the first train is pretty crowded, and I really wanted to have a go at cycling to work a couple of times a week instead.

Self portrait

Self portrait

The total distance is about 13k, which according to Google would take me around 50 minutes. Melbourne is really bike-friendly so most of the route is along dedicated off-road cycle paths, with just a short ride on the road up Chapel Street, where there is also a decent cycle lane.

Capital City Trail by the river

Capital City Trail by the river

I sold my rather rusty old bike before leaving Manly, it was never very good for cycling up hills anyway, so I went to a couple of local bike shops to find a new one. The first one I saw was very pretty, with a pearlised white frame, but the second one was a really good offer on a similar bike for half the price! Feeling a bit daft, I asked if they had anything I could use to mount my iPhone on the handlebars – I wanted to use the map directions like a sat nav to find my way to work! Turns out this isn’t such a crazy request, they had at least three different options, and so far I haven’t got lost either :)

Sat nav!

Sat nav holder!

I got kitted out with a rack with a bag and basket, lights, a strong lock, and most importantly padded pants – I felt like I was wearing a giant nappy, but my backside would thank me later …

On Sunday night, despite the weather not looking too amazing on Monday, I got all my gear together and on Monday morning I stubbornly jumped on the bike and headed up the road. The wind was crazy, and in my face, at times I felt like I was trying to cycle uphill even on the flat … but I made it in one piece to work, and it was actually great just being outside.

Approaching Richmond

Approaching Richmond

The Melbourne Wheel

The Melbourne Wheel

Along the Yarra River

Along the Yarra River

I took the bike home on the train, which wasn’t too bad, a bit awkward on the busier train out of the city, but it made the short distance home from the station even faster too. It wasn’t until the second week that the weather and daylight savings were on my side so I could bike home, and wow, that was even better than the ride in. The sun actually came out, and it sits behind me all the way, since I head West in the morning and East to come home. I get a great view of the city and all along the river!

Far end of Southbank

Far end of Southbank

From the top of Chapel Street, my cycle route takes me along the capital city trail by the Yarra river to Richmond, then past a bunch of rowing clubs to Southbank. Along the river it’s beautiful, grass verges with these small white wildflowers that look like snowdrops, bridges, and lots of rowing teams practicing, while their coaches bike slowly alongside them on the riverbank with megaphones.

Grassy verges

Grassy verges

As I pass the rowing clubs, I have to watch out for the rowers, often carrying their long boats out to the river – on cold days, it makes me shiver to see them in their swimsuits and rash vests, while I’m usually biking in long sleeves and gloves!

Rowers

Rowers

Southbank is a bit hazardous, especially on sunny evenings, because the cycle path is shared with pedestrians, who often don’t seem to realise that. Some people freeze when they hear the bell, and trying to weave a path through when it’s busy is not easy. I learned to be slow and careful on my second morning, when I skidded on wet pavement to avoid somebody coming off of the bridge.

Looking back along the Yarra river

Looking back along the Yarra river

The rest of the journey takes me past the Docklands on a dedicated bike path, where the views are pretty nice when the sun’s out. For the rest of the journey, I’m usually the only person biking out of the city, although I pass loads of people cycling in the opposite direction! On the way home, I’m also almost alone in heading towards the city while other people are coming home.

By the rowing clubs

By the rowing clubs

The last part is along Footscray road, past the Melbourne wheel and the back of the loading docks, lined up with huge metal shipping containers. At the end of my ride, I cross the Maribyrnong River, from where I can see the Lonely Planet office, and I’m usually pretty ready to park the bike and head up for a hot shower.

Maribyrnong River

Maribyrnong River

So far, I’ve had a few sunny days but got rained on twice and fought against the wind several times, but it still beats the crap out of the train! I took my camera along on one of the good days to take some photos, the morning clouded over a bit but the afternoon was pretty :)

Wildflowers

Wildflowers

First impressions, four weeks in.

A few days after moving to Melbourne, I started this blog post with the intention of writing about my first few days on the new job and in the new city. But then, you know, life happens, and suddenly I’ve been here nearly four weeks and I haven’t even finished writing my post yet … so now it’s going to be a bit more of a mix, of first impressions and how I feel after four weeks in.

With all the excitement of the move, I didn’t have much time to get nervous about starting a new job. I was due in around 9:30 on Monday, so we didn’t have to rush, in fact there was plenty of time to enjoy a cup of tea and some breakfast before heading out to the station.

My new office

My new office

One of the reasons I wanted to work for Lonely Planet was that the developers work a lot in pairs, in fact all of the workstations are set up for it and nobody has their own computer, which has the added bonus of not having to spend any time getting software and stuff sorted. I spent most of the first morning working with one of the other developers, trying to cram as much information into my brain as possible. It was overwhelming, as it usually is starting a new job, but things seemed to be making sense at least. I joined in for some meetings and even spoke a few times, which I was rather pleased about.

Travel books everywhere

Travel books everywhere

I met the CTO in the morning, and to my surprise he greeted me with a hug – I didn’t even have time to protest that I’m British!

Although the office isn’t really close to anywhere, the cafe onsite is really nice, so I went in for lunch on the first day. Since then, I’ve mostly brought my own lunch, but I’ve discovered that the chips (fries, not crisps) are really good, so quite often I balance a healthy salad with the less healthy option :) This week, there was also a free BBQ lunch with sausages and salad, which was pretty yum!

Outside lunch area

Outside lunch area

They even have a huge pot outside where they grow herbs and veggies that they use in the cafe. There’s one ripe strawberry in there right now, not sure who’s going to get that one.

Veggie patch

Veggie patch

The people on my team often eat together upstairs, which is pretty nice. I’ve finally broken the habit of eating lunch at my desk … my poor keyboard at Atlassian was getting quite disgusting. When the weather’s good, we sit outside, although it’s usually pretty windy. The views from the cafe are amazing: I can see right across the river to the city, and out as far in the other direction too – some days, I’ve seen rain coming across, heavy enough to blot out the city skyline.

View from the cafe

View from the cafe

On my first day, I got to have a look around the onsite gym. It’s small but pretty well equipped, with decent showers and room to keep toiletries. There’s a small soccer pitch outside on the roof, although soccer games are not allowed there though, because of the risk of balls – or people – going over the side. After a couple of pretty pleasant workout sessions there, I decided to cancel my Virgin gym membership – I can’t face stopping off in the city just for the gym, and it’s pretty cool being able to go whenever I want during the day, even mid-afternoon. I was really enjoying warming up and cooling down outside, until the door suddenly started getting locked :( so I tried one afternoon session down by the river, but felt a bit looked over by the offices opposite! Maybe next time I can find a better spot …

View across the river

View across the river

Walk to work

Walk to work

Walking back to the station at sunset

Walking back to the station at sunset

It’s been an interesting change, going from travelling from Manly to Sydney CBD, to travelling from Prahran to Footscray. Prahran has much more of a city feel, with plenty of people, shops and cafes, and a buzz in the air. Although Footscray is close to the city, it feels more like a distant suburb. As I get off the train, I walk down residential streets lined with trees, bursting with new green leaves, and grass with wildflowers. Unlike walking to work in Sydney, stuck impatiently behind a dawdler who doesn’t walk at my speed, and weaving through the crowds at the Wynyard exit, the streets are almost empty – certainly nobody to slow my pace!

The roads are mostly quiet – my short walk from the station takes me straight down to the river, then a half kilometre by the water, along old, disused train tracks. On the far side of the river, there is a busy wharf, with the constant noise of traffic and huge containers loading, arriving and leaving.

Inside the office, one of the first things I noticed on my first day was the noise of the seagulls. I thought that it was somebody’s ringtone, the noise was so close! Turns out the roof of the building is thin enough to hear the gulls as though they are right next to me – and when it rains, it patters on the roof as loudly as though I’m in a caravan. The noise from the wind is something else too – and Melbourne springtime gets pretty windy – there’s a legend that one corner of the roof once blew up in a very strong gust, but since I’ve been there, it’s been pretty secure. I love hearing the noises of nature, especially the rain, and with the birds it sometimes feels almost like working outside, it’s great.

The rain often hammers on our roof at work

The rain often hammers on our roof at work

So those were my first impressions, mostly. Since that first week, Silvio’s spent most of his time working in Sydney, which is ironic, since it was his project in Melbourne that really pushed me to make the move here. Our weekends have been filled with trips to IKEA and Bunnings, picking up bits and pieces to finish off our home, and we’re almost there – if only I could convince him that we really do need more cushions …

Armed and dangerous

Armed and dangerous

We have made time for some fun though, especially some good food – there’s nothing quite like getting stuck in to a massive brunch after a Saturday morning trip to the gym. The food tastes even better after working up an appetite – and it’s guilt free!

Brunch at Yellowbird

Brunch at Yellowbird

I’m enjoying the new job – having suggested in a retrospective on my first day that we spend a week paying off tech debt (aka Engineering Week at Atlassian), I’ve been enjoying getting stuck in to some refactoring this week.

My second week in was spent on firefighting duties, during which time I released code to the production site, a pretty terrifying prospect so early on; this week I’m on call and praying that my phone doesn’t go off – I have definitely jumped in at the deep end!

Evening drinks on the balcony

Evening drinks on the balcony

The technology has been a refreshing change, and a refreshing challenge too – so far, I’ve found Ruby a lot of fun, and I’ve barely touched the CoffeeScript stuff! But that’s enough tech talk – I’ll try and find time to add something to the tech blog one of these days.

Last week, Andrea came to visit. After too much wine and plenty of gossiping and catching up when she arrived on Monday, she made an amazing barbecued barramundi on Tuesday night, which went down beautifully with, yes you’ve guessed it, WINE.

Out with Andrea

Out with Andrea

Later in the week, we headed out to discover the Mexican culinary delights of Prahran. Andrea is apparently known as a Mexican food snob, and despite not being impressed initially, she was won over when our food arrived at Fonda!

Crazy basil cocktail

Crazy basil cocktail

We headed out afterwards in search of a bar, but as we walked past San Churro, the chocolate smell was too tempting … we had to go in for some churros and chocolate dips. We had also persuaded Andy Tam – who was on his way home, having left Prahran earlier that evening – to come back out, and he showed up just as we were digging in, and ordered more churros, with an amazing caramel sauce. As Andrea says, I think living in Melbourne is a recipe for becoming fat and broke!

Churros!

Churros!

Saturday was for shopping! I finally got to meander down Chapel Street and poke around in some of the shops – I found a lovely vintage 50s dress in a fantastic vintage shop called “Shag”, perfect for Yolly’s vintage themed bridal shower next weekend.

Later that evening, we headed out for “salumi” (I still don’t really know what that is) at Ombra bar in the city. The food was incredible, in both the taste and the price … some of the best antipasti I’ve eaten, my mouth is watering just thinking about it! We finished off with sharing four deserts including a tiramisu cake, profiteroles, and a peach tart, before Andy insisted that we go next door to ?? for chocolate souffle.

It was very upmarket, so posh in fact that when you quietly mention you might need the bathroom, somebody materialises by your elbow to show you the way (yes, that actually happened). They brought our souffles in tiny individual pans with chocolate sauce, so delicate, and totally delicious, with glasses of dessert wine.
It was an amazing, amazing meal, one of many in this city I hope!

So that’s how my first few weeks here panned out. There is one other exciting thing that I’m saving for the next post, which has been my new commute – cycling to work!

Farewell Manly, Hello Prahran.

Friday.

I woke up at 6:30 this morning with the realisation that I’d forgotten to pack a drawer of cutlery. Why can’t my brain remind me of these things at a relevant time, for goodness sake? I stumbled sleepily into the kitchen and yanked the drawer open, that’ll remind me when I can be bothered to actually get up.

All packed and ready to go

All packed and ready to go

The final few things were cleared up and packed before Silvio went off to work. The removal company called me just before 9am to say they were around the corner, and I decided I had just enough time to pop over the road and find out if they sold tea in the shop. They did – oh joy! – and while I was waiting for mine to brew, the shop owner Michael chatted to me and greeted other customers by name, he was so nice that I felt kind of sad we hadn’t been in more often.

Removal van

Removal van

Out goes the sofa

Out goes the sofa

Our stuff barely took up a corner of the van

Our stuff barely took up a corner of the van

The movers turned up, three stocky guys in an enormous truck, who declined my half-hearted offer to help carry a box or two. I stayed out of the way but couldn’t resist taking a few photos. We’d been worried about whether all of our things would fit – we may have had a “few” more boxes and bags than we’d originally estimated … well, if our stuff took up more than a tenth of that truck space I’d be surprised.

They were done in a little over an hour, all of our things safely wrapped in blankets and secured against the truck with ropes. I was relieved it was done, although much more worried about the delivery the following day, which would involve carting everything from the loading bay to the basement car park to a shared lift … shudder … don’t even want to think about it yet.

I went for a wander along the beach while I waited for the cleaners to show up. It was a bit worrying handing over our keys when they didn’t seem too sure who our real estate agent was to return them to, but hopefully that will all work out just fine.

I dawdled along the beach again, up to Ash’s Table, where I found I couldn’t resist their fish and chips lunch. Time was ticking slowly by, as I wandered back through the Corso to the Wharf Bar. The weather was turning, the sea was choppy and the wind was picking up; the clouds were threatening rain but I really wanted to sit outside in the jetty bar. I’ve had so many fun times there, joining the crowds on sunny afternoons and balmy evenings, but today it was empty apart from me, my wine and my laptop. I found a spot tucked under the umbrella and watched the sea dancing in the wind, and the minutes winding down to the ferry.

Wine at the Wharf Bar

Wine at the Wharf Bar

Perhaps I should have felt more sad to actually be leaving Manly. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was feeling – mostly, just impatient to get the next few stressful hours of travelling and shifting boxes out of the way. I was pretty unsettled – it was the second furthest I’ve moved (after leaving for Australia) and by far the most difficult logistically, but exciting, and sad, all at once.

The ferry pulled away and I watched the wharf recede and disappear as we turned the corner. At Circular Quay, Silvio arrived from work, and we headed out to get our plane. I was delighted to get an earlier flight, but with the heavy winds and crappy weather, all the planes were delayed, so we ended up leaving right about when we should have. At nearly 11pm, finally … we were home.

Saturday.

My phone jerked me out of a much needed sleep shortly after 8am. I tried not to sound like I’d just woken up as I answered it to the movers, who were not far away. We had just about enough time to jump out of bed and make a cup of tea, but not quite enough to drink it, before the van was pulling up outside.

Boxes starting to arrive

Boxes starting to arrive

Sofa in the new house

Sofa in the new house

The bedroom was crammed full

The bedroom was crammed full

They had four guys and a stack of trolleys, and before we’d really even woken up properly, half of our furniture and boxes was already upstairs in the new flat. They were done in just over an hour, paperwork signed, over and out.

We went back to the apartment a bit shell shocked, wondering how our boxes had managed to somehow multiply overnight on the van, or at least that’s how it seemed … the spare bedroom was absolutely full, we couldn’t even get into it, and the living room was complete chaos.

The living room was pretty full

The living room was pretty full

Something somewhere had leaked, there were a few damp looking marks on the boxes and I could smell something like vinegar, so I started with the stinkiest box and discovered a leaky bottle of balsamic. Luckily we’d used a LOT of newspaper so there wasn’t much damage, although it did reek for a while.

Eventually, we burrowed a path through the boxes big enough to rearrange the bedroom furniture, then we cleared a few more until we could put the TV back up. I made seemingly endless trips with bags of rubbish, and we stuffed things anywhere they would fit until the boxes were all empty, and straight away advertised on Gumtree, please, somebody, come and take them away! And on Sunday morning, somebody did :)

Somebody please take them away!

Somebody please take them away!

I dug Quackers out of his box, the poor thing had been packed fairly early on, and I don’t think he had a very comfortable position :( His head isn’t quite straight anymore, which gives him a permanent rather quizzical look. He’s now safe and comfy again, back in his old spot on the shelf.

Quackers in the new home

Quackers in the new home

In the afternoon, we were starving – we’d barely had time to eat anything for breakfast before carting boxes around. Luckily there’s a pizza shop right downstairs … I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a pizza quite so quickly, or enjoyed it quite as much, except possibly that one time in Byron Bay :)

Dinner. I was too hungry to take the photo before.

Dinner. I was too hungry to take the photo before.

On Sunday morning, we took a trip over to Prahran Market. It isn’t as big or as cheap as the Queen Victoria Market, but they had some nice food stalls, and we picked up some steaks to get the barbecue going again with – yum!

I didn’t want to spend all day on Sunday unpacking, I had a new job to prepare myself for on Monday morning, but it felt pretty good to get things organised. By the end of the day, everything was unpacked – the wardrobes are full, and we still need more storage, and definitely some extra shelves for the gazillions of photos, but that will get resolved over the next few weeks. The walls look wonderful, especially with the sofa, and with softer lighting the living room is really cosy and comfortable. Home sweet home!