Mmmm cake.

Shortly after typhoon Haiyan hit the Phillippines in November last year, some of my colleagues organised a bake sale at work. At the last minute, Adel (one of my fellow team members and also a very good baker) was talking about the delicious sounding lime and coconut cupcakes she was planning to make, and asked me if I was going to do anything. I was about to chicken out, but I decided to join in and make a typical English feast: scones with jam and cream.

Ingredients, check. Wine, check.

Ingredients, check. Wine, check.

The evening before, I bought posh jam from Coles, went home, set out all of the ingredients (and a glass of vino, of course), and got stuck in with the rolling pin. They didn’t turn out too badly, and let’s face it, most things taste good with a scoop of jam and cream on top :) I always put the cream on first, although I do have friends who’ve insisted this is just wrong!

Customers

Customers

The next day, I took the cream upstairs to ask for a bowl, and instead the chef in our cafe swapped me my pot of cream for a full bowl, ready prepared – bonus! I laid out the scones alongside everybody else’s efforts, all of which looked delicious, then came downstairs a short while later to hand over my money for a good cause: charity and cake. I had to buy one of my own scones, along with Adel’s cupcakes topped with candied lime – it was a bit of a sugar overload, but so yum.

Scones for sale

Scones for sale

As Christmas got closer, I was also determined this year to make a “proper” Christmas cake – a rich fruit cake, topped with marzipan and delicious, naughty, sweet icing. I made the cake a few weeks early, and in the weeks coming up to Christmas, took it out of its foil wrapping to give it a sneaky drink of brandy.

Christmas cake!

Christmas cake!

The marzipan went on a couple of weeks before Christmas. It worked fine, although I only just had enough to cover the cake, and next year I think I’ll get more and do a thicker layer. Sadly I couldn’t find proper yellow marzipan – the white one still tastes the same, but the yellow one looks prettier! Next time I’ll also make sure to put sugary water or something on the cake to make it stick better, the icing falls off when I cut the cake now … although that’s not always such a bad thing, that is my favourite bit :)

Rolling out the marzipan

Rolling out the marzipan

Cake almost marzipanned

Cake almost marzipanned

Me!

Me!


In the last week before Christmas, I made the icing. I had wanted to find a non-edible decoration with the words “Merry Christmas” but I hadn’t found one, but I had bought some star and snowflake cutters and special papery (edible) snowflake confetti. My idea was to make a light blue cake to be like a sky, with snowflakes. I had blue ribbons and glitter to finish it off.

Partly decorated cake

Partly decorated cake

The snowflake cutters proved a bit difficult to use, and I only managed to get two usable snowflakes to put on the cake, so it ended up with more stars! I managed to cut out the letters for Merry Christmas, and pipe icing into little decorations around the edge. The initial icing layer was a bit too soft and runny, so although that made it fairly smooth, the decorations around the edge slipped a bit so the whole thing looked a bit drunk! Apt, maybe, given that I enjoyed a glass of wine while baking it … the ribbons mostly hid the errors, luckily.

Decorated Christmas cake

Decorated Christmas cake

The finished cake looked pretty awesome actually, far from perfect but one of my better efforts :) Next time I will definitely make the icing a bit thicker first, and follow Mum’s advice to let the first layer dry before decorating it! I also got a nice response from Baking Pleasures, the website that I ordered the snowflake cutters from, with some advice to try some different things next time. All in all, it was good fun making the cake and so far, it’s been even more fun eating it …

Spicing up the kitchen.

When I was younger, I used to do quite a bit of arts and crafts stuff, but over the last few years, I don’t seem to have found the time. Since we got to Melbourne and life seems to be, finally – dare I say it – settling down a little bit, little projects keep popping into my head.

One of the first ones was to do something creative with the bare wooden spice racks we bought from IKEA for our kitchen. Since space is so limited, and we had a great place for a couple of small spice shelves over the bench, it was the perfect way to create a bit more room, but we had failed miserably in finding anything in the shops that we both liked.

Playing with the flowers

Playing with the flowers

Eventually I bought five cheap, boring spice racks and experimented. I painted one red, but it was pretty awful, so I bought some varnish and pretty wrapping paper with poppies on it to try decoupage instead. It took a long time cutting the flowers, and a few tries to find a combination I liked, but eventually I did … then it took all week to cover them with the three coats of varnish …

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Varnishing all the pieces

Varnishing all the pieces

Getting there ...

Getting there …

I’m finally done, and I’m delighted, they look pretty cool (even if you can’t see most of the poppies, I KNOW they’re there!) – it’s nice to have things that are unique, and have a bit of personality. Oh, and I just love having all the spices right there on the bench, rather than digging through a box in the cupboard to find what I want.

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I have another project in mind to create some funky photo frames, fingers crossed it won’t take me another few years to get around to that …

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!

Last days

Wednesday: my last day at Atlassian.

Since the news of my departure became public, I’ve been really surprised at how many people have said that I’ll be missed, and commented on the impact I’ve made. I mean, of course, I know I’m awesome ;) but it’s come as a really pleasant surprise to hear from others that I will be missed. Maybe it’s part of a big guilt trip conspiracy?

My last day was a mix of feelings. I’m sad at leaving behind a place that I wouldn’t have chosen to move on from yet, but I’m excited – and a little anxious – about the future and the unknowns that await me there.

In this final Sprint, my team had decided to try not having stand ups, but there was one scheduled for my final day. I was a little suspicious – in fact, I had wondered if they would do something to my desk on my last day, like wrapping it in tin foil or something. I was relieved to arrive and everything was as it should be.

At 9:45 the team gathered, and I was trying to compose an update – why is it that in those few minutes of walking to the stand up, I always forget what I’ve been working on? Luckily this time, I didn’t need to, to my surprise, the team presented me with a gift: a beautiful Wedgewood teapot! I wasn’t really expecting anything (well, maybe some jelly beans!) and I was impressed that a team of guys could choose something that suited me so well and was really pretty. It was so well packed I didn’t want to take it out before it got to Melbourne so I haven’t tried it yet, but I can’t wait to find a shelf or somewhere to put it out in the new place.

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As the day went on, other people stopped by my desk to chat, and I made slow progress on my final work trying to complete an upgrade task. After lunch, a last packet of jelly beans from the lolly bar, and a final check in, I was done. My team lead presented me with a card (so many signatures, I was pretty blown away), I packed up my things, returned my swipe cards and signed out of HipChat: “BAAAAAIIIIIII!”

Leaving was strange, I don’t know what I expected. As I walked to the ferry, I hoped that the upgrade task I’d been working on would finally get through QA, and it was weird to think that there was nothing else I could, or would, do to make it happen now.

Thursday: my last day in Manly.

All week, I’d been saying that if I could go back, I’d have finished work last Friday and had a week off. Today, I was glad that I didn’t, because I really wouldn’t have known what to do with myself.

I spent the morning finishing off the packing, labelling the boxes and tidying up. There isn’t that much left to do, except to stand in front of the stack of boxes, sigh, and wonder where we’re going to put it all. I think that if I’d had a week off to do that, I’d have driven myself insane.

I headed to the beach at lunchtime, and wandered along the Steyne, paddling in the shallow water. It was a little too cold for me to go for a dip – there were loads of people in the water, but I’m just a big wuss when it comes to the cold, I’ll leave them to it. It was nice to just get my feet wet and sandy.

By the surf club, I got a cup of tea – no fridge in our apartment, so no tea for me there – and sat on the beach, drinking my tea and reading my kindle. It was lovely and sunny, warm, comfortable, except for the sand blowing across me.

I met Andrea for lunch in Jellyfish, salt and pepper squid with aioli, yum! And wine, double yum! I had promised myself that on my last day in Manly, I would buy a picture from Saltmotion, a lovely photo gallery that specialises in pictures of Manly beach and waves, so after lunch we headed over – I’d already picked out two that I wanted! The first was a beautiful underwater shot with blue tones that would look amazing in our bedroom, and the other one was a sunrise shot across to Shelly beach, that would remind me of Manly from the new apartment.

Back home with the post-shopping glow, I sat out in the garden reading but it was so hard to relax. In the end I went back into town and found a new “Manly beach” keyring (my old one was rusty!) … and a half bottle of Jacob’s Creek Chardonnay, well that’ll keep me going in the garden for the rest of the afternoon …

By the time Silvio got home, it was too cold to sit outside, but the blogs were almost done – result :) we packed what we could of the things that were left, and headed out for a meaty dinner at Ribs and Rumps …

And that was it, my last day and night in Manly, for a few months anyway. I’ll be back for a visit before too long, providing Andrea will have me to stay! ;) I’m now sitting in the wharf bar on Friday afternoon, whiling away the last hour or so with a glass of white wine. Today has gone from sunny and warm to windy and cold, so I’m the only person braving the jetty bar for once, but it’s nice to watch the choppy sea across the wharf and hear the light rain spattering across the umbrellas.

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Our things are already well on their way, and it won’t be long now until I say farewell to Manly too. It’s been awesome, but now it’s time to find out what the next chapter holds. I can only hope it’s as good as the last one :)

Painting a Rainbow

After our first visit to the flat to start moving things in, it was a looooooong two week wait before we went back, this time to paint the walls, over two weekends. I couldn’t wait! Somewhere in the back of my brain, I knew it was going to be hard work, but I didn’t care, it would be so much fun!

This is fun

This is fun

The first weekend started with a late Friday night flight, it was gone 1am by the time we finally got to bed, and the prospect of jumping out of bed early to start painting had lost its appeal. In the end we got off to a slow start after shopping for breakfast and a delivery.

I like painting, I’m less keen on taping, but it’s a necessary evil. Eventually, we started on the bedroom. This will be our main bedroom, and the walls will be a lovely bright blue. The paint went on pretty easily, and was looking great, even after just one coat. But there was no resting, by mid-afternoon it was time to move on to turning the living room orange and red …

Taping

Taping

From white to blue!

From white to blue!

First coat done!

First coat done!

The orange paint was a bit of a disappointment, it was quite thin and quickly obvious that we’d need at least three coats – as if we didn’t already have enough to do. It was still pretty fun though – and drinking beer whilst rollering helped to make it even better … (I left the edges to Silvio!)

With a lot of hard work, we managed to paint a second coat in the bedroom as well as finishing the first coat of both the orange and red in the living room on Saturday. As we got up after a quick takeaway dinner (from Hooked again – I think I already am …) to finish painting the red wall, I was utterly exhausted – even more so than after the first weekend – at least we’d had time to eat out then! I was so glad to collapse into bed, I don’t even remember closing my eyes …

The first coat in the living room done

The first coat in the living room done

Suddenly, it was Sunday morning, and yet again there was no rest for the wicked. To have any chance of finishing the apartment the following weekend, we had to be up and working hard again early.

By the time we had to go on Sunday, we’d finished a second coat throughout the living room, and the walls were looking much more even. The red paint was starting to run low, I was crossing my fingers we’d have enough to finish it off when we returned.

With so many different colours, and a limited amount of paint brushes, we were washing the brushes several times during the day. I was highly amused when Silvio used his hairdryer to dry them off after :)

Drying the paintbrushes

Drying the paintbrushes

After a long trip back to Manly, I was really tired. It was my last full week at work, and by the end of it I was wishing I had decided to finish that Friday, and had a few days to relax in Manly the following week!

But no, it was back to the airport and on another late flight, Sky bus, taxi back to Prahran. As we walked in the front door to the apartment, I think both of us had the same reaction: “It’s very orange!” And it is – it’s pretty bright, but I love it. It knocks the spots off the old white walls, anyway!

On Saturday, I went off to do one of my favourite things – shopping! I had a list of places to go for various things we needed, while Silvio stayed home to attack the painting for the final room. Dennis would also be visiting to put up our new blinds and drapes.

After a stressful start when the car we booked had a flat battery, I was off – it was a beautiful sunny day and actually pretty pleasant driving along the highway. I forgot my iPhone cable and window mount, so navigating was a bit challenging, but I only got lost once, and that was because Google maps was WRONG!

Out and about in Melbourne

Out and about in Melbourne

I got home to find we had lovely ceiling-to-floor dark blue drapes in the bedroom, and finally a little privacy from the blinds in the living room. They looked great, especially in the bedroom, it made the place feel even more like home.

Bedroom curtain

Bedroom curtain

New blinds!

New blinds!

Temporary bed in the new room

Temporary bed in the new room

Silvio was almost done with the bedroom – amazing! I got started taping the living room for its final coating, and over the afternoon we managed to finish the orange paint and repaint the second bedroom with a final coat of light green. Our apartment is a rainbow of colour :)

Second bedroom all painted

Second bedroom all painted

On Sunday, with the natural morning light filling the apartment and highlighting the inconsistencies on the red wall, Silvio did a final coat, stretching the red paint to last across the whole wall, even with a bit left for final touch ups if we need them.

Morning light in the living room

Morning light in the living room

I sat outside on the balcony with a wooden table that we don’t have room for in the apartment, sanding it and then painting it with a special protective woodstain so that we can use it outside. I can’t wait to see it all finished (3 coats later, with 16 hours drying time, it’s going to be a while …!) – it’s nice to have things that you have to put a bit of effort into!

Working outside on the table

Working outside on the table

The second weekend was definitely a lot less exhausting than the first one, and it was a big relief to know that at least all the painting is done, now all that’s left is bringing the rest of the furniture from Sydney and finding somewhere to fit it all in – that, I am NOT looking forward to!

Moving to Melbourne, part 3: weekend visit

I slept like a kid at Christmas the night before we went to Melbourne to get the keys for the new flat, waking up at regular intervals only to be disappointed it still wasn’t yet time to get up. 5:30 still felt too early when it came, although watching the sun shine pink and gold over the city was nearly enough on its own to make the tiredness worthwhile. I braved a chilly wind on the front of the ferry to take dozens of photos.

Sydney opera house

Sydney opera house

From the quay to the train station to the airport, I was impatient to get to the lounge, where a yummy breakfast of pancakes was waiting! I was so disappointed to find that the machine seemed to be out of mix, until one of the staff pointed out that there was another one – yay, pancakes! I topped off my healthy breakfast with some raisin toast (what? It’s got fruit in it) but failed miserably to get the coffee machine to dispense any hot water for tea, so I had to wait until we were on the plane for that. 

Pancakes!

Pancakes!

In Melbourne, suitcases collected, we got on the Sky bus into the city before finding a taxi to the developer’s office to collect the keys to our new home. It was so exciting (despite being about ready to fall back to sleep again) – Silvio went in while I waited in the cab, it seemed to take forever, but finally he was back with an enormous white box and two giftwrapped packages, which was all very exciting. 

At the apartment block, we buzzed ourselves in to the rather posh looking, clean and sparkly lobby (wonder how long it will stay that shiny?) and squeezed ourselves and our cases into the lift (hope the furniture fits …) On our floor, at the end of the corridor, we found our door and looked at each other with huge grins: our new home! 

Having already seen the photos, it wasn’t a big surprise, but my first impression of the new flat was how lovely and light it was inside. The floors had been replaced since Silvio’s initial inspection when they’d fitted the wrong ones, so the living room and bedrooms were all finished with beautiful light wood. Everything in the kitchen was new and shiny and clean and the entire place was empty apart from our two small cases and the bag of gifts from Caydon (that wasn’t going to last long though!) I wandered through opening cupboards and wardrobes and inspecting everything, while Silvio sorted the keys and unwrapped the presents: two coffee cups and an engraved keyring. I immediately assumed ownership of one of the mugs, which got plenty of use that weekend for tea. 
We didn’t have much time to gaze around though, we had a van to collect, things to buy, storage to empty. At the van rental place, we were told to our dismay that the van was 2.2m high – our basement parking spot has a max height of 2.1, and our internet research had indicated this van would fit! I wasn’t looking forward to trying to find on-street parking in Prahran on a Friday night, that’s for sure. 

How do I get in to this thing?

How do I get in to this thing?

Living out of suitcases

Living out of suitcases

Much needed bed

Much needed bed


In the meantime, we were off appliance shopping – yay! I love shopping, any kind of shopping, although Silvio would probably have been happier with a nap instead. Despite that, a few hours later, our new fridge – complete with a rack for wine bottles :) – was ordered for delivery on Saturday. It was late afternoon when we finally made it to Silvio’s storage unit, where we had to at least pick up the mattress, bedding and bed base to be able to sleep. We didn’t do such a great job of packing the van, I’m sure the rather sour faced lady in the office was secretly sniggering at our efforts as we tried to push the mattress in before remembering there was a side door, then tried several different ways to fit in the bed base before we finally got there. 

No more room in the van

No more room in the van

Back at the apartment, we looked at the height of the barrier in the parking lot against the van, and decided it was worth a try. Silvio inched it forward and luckily it fitted – carrying all that furniture to the lift would have just about finished me off. The building manager set up a lift dedicated to us, which was great – it just stayed where it was with the doors open until we had filled it and took it up to our floor, where it stayed until we emptied it and went back down for the next lot. I just hope we’ll be able to book the lift and do the same for the big move from Sydney …

The final trip of the day was back to the storage to fill the van with the rest of the stuff from storage. It all went in, just about, and we left it in the car park and headed out for dinner, feeling exhausted and grimy, but too hungry to wait any longer.

Hooked!

Hooked!

Dinner was awesome! After pancakes in the lounge that morning we’d survived the day mostly grazing on the go, but Silvio had been talking about “Hooked”, a fish and chip cafe just around the corner – I didn’t need asking twice. They brought us a salty, steaming carb fest, which I doused with malt vinegar – MALT VINEGAR! I don’t think I’ve had that before in Australia – and then we devoured it, with a glass of wine, before crawling home.

I couldn’t wait to try the shower, and it didn’t disappoint – lovely hot, pounding water. Just one minor problem though … it had a major leak, spouting a stream of water on to the ceiling! Hopefully that’ll be fixed before our next visit, but in the meantime we made do with a fix using a sponge and a hairband :)

There, I fixed it

There, I fixed it

Saturday morning, we had time for a lie in since the van was already filled – yay! But then the long job of emptying it via the lift – it was a lot harder than the previous night, since most of the stuff was in smaller boxes. By the end, I was running up and down the corridor between lift and apartment, desperate to get to the end of the pile.

Before we got too into the unpacking, we had a visit from Dennis, to look at some blinds and drapes. He spent quite a while explaining the different options, it was all kind of fun really, like shopping without leaving the house. The rest of the day we mostly spent unpacking and trying to sort through a mountain of stuff, deciding what to keep and what to get rid of, and then trying to figure out how to get rid of it – some things were too big for the (miniscule) garbage chute.

We had time to go out for lunch before the fridge arrived, where we got free drinks (yay) when the food was slow! It was good too, I’m going to be so spoilt when we move here.

Back in the apartment, I got the sample paint pots out :) It was so much fun – I slapped reds and oranges on the walls in the living room, blue in the main bedroom and a light green in the second one.

Painting a rainbow

Painting a rainbow

Later, we headed out to IKEA for yet more shopping, we didn’t end up buying much except a bin, which we definitely needed. When the fridge finally arrived, the poor delivery man had to wheel it all the way through the car park to the lift. As we were walking down the corridor, I joked, “it’s just a few stairs once you get inside …” He didn’t seem too amused though, I think he might have believed me.

Later that night, Silvio set up his keyboard and a retro bar stool, and sat practicing while I drank red wine and squinted at the paint colours, trying to imagine what the room will look like painted. The music was pretty relaxing so I hope he keeps it up :) I’m not sure where on earth the keyboard is going to fit though, maybe on the balcony …

Calm in the chaos

Calm in the chaos

View from the balcony

View from the balcony

Chilling with the keyboard

Chilling with the keyboard


On Sunday morning, we went early to a local paint shop to buy the paints and find another sample while we still had the van, then went to Tusk for brunch. I had a craving for eggs with hollandaise sauce, it was really good, although we couldn’t get a table in the place we’d really wanted to try – maybe next time.

For the rest of the afternoon, I tried to sand a table so that I could paint it with some outdoor protective stuff and use it outdoors, while Silvio played the keyboard again and we tried to tidy up before heading back to Sydney. We both wanted to stay! It already feels like a home. But it won’t be long now, that was last weekend and next weekend we’ll be going back to do proper painting – I can’t wait!

Sunrise from the ferry

Sunrise from the ferry

Moving on to Melbourne Part 2: Too. Much. Stuff.

Renting a room or an apartment in Australia is pretty different from the UK. For one thing, hardly anywhere is furnished, not even with a fridge or a washing machine.

So it wasn’t really surprising that two single people, both with hobbies that require a fair bit of equipment (like scuba diving, camping, and climbing), and one of those with a small addiction to shopping, accumulate rather a lot of … stuff.

A couple of weeks ago, Silvio got to see the new apartment for the first time. He texted me afterwards, “There are some good things, and some not so good”. My heart sank: I had a feeling that the “not so good” was going to be something to do with space … and I was right. We already knew we would need to sell a few of our things, either because we already had two of the same, or because we wanted to replace them with new, but it was time to take a long hard look at EVERYTHING and think hard about what would have to go.

Luckily, neither of us are too sentimental (well OK, I can be, a bit) – moving to Australia knocks most of that out of you, since the cost of bringing things across is so astronomically expensive that you just can’t ship every last little thing. It was time to get closely acquainted with Gumtree.

Gumtree is a funny place. Some things sold within hours with no quibbling over the price, some people have successfully bargained me down, while for other things I held my ground. Some adverts have been sitting on the site for two weeks without a single enquiry! It’s impossible to predict what will shift easily, and what won’t.

I advertised a couple of cheaper items for a fiver each, with no luck, yet after marking one as free it was gone within an hour. Some people text to arrange a time to visit, then never reply, some arrange a time and don’t show up. I’m not sure which is worse!

One thing I was really struggling to get rid of was my stacks of flower pots, even for free. On Saturday morning, on my friend Becc’s good advice, I put them all outside with a sign saying “Free – Help Yourself”. Somebody obviously did, because they were gone in less than two hours!

I’ve tried to find friends who will benefit from some of my things, and given bags of clothes away to charity shops, and it’s not always easy – especially when things are in good condition.

I’m trying to focus on the good feelings: that somebody else is enjoying it, that I feel “lighter” with less stuff, and that I would rather live every day in a tidy, less crammed apartment than keep all the things for the one time in a blue moon that we might want it :)

We’re still not done. The last few things remain for sale on Gumtree, and the spare bedroom is getting more and more stacked up with boxes containing those things that we ARE taking with us (note to self: got to tell the movers that we may have underestimated how many boxes …)

“Where are we going to put this?” Silvio asks twenty times a day as we’re packing. “I don’t know how this is all going to fit …” I don’t know either! I suspect Gumtree is going to be my friend for a little while yet …

Moving on … to Melbourne! Part 1: Job Search

Two years ago, with no idea that I would come along and turn his life upside down, a slightly grumpy Italian man – who vaguely resembles Aragorn – looked at a plan for an apartment in Prahran, Victoria, and decided it looked like a good place to live one day. Yesterday, that deal was finally sealed.

And that’s why, in just over six weeks’ time, and after nearly two years living by Sydney’s northern beaches, I’ll be packing up my life again and heading off on a new adventure.

I’ve had a long time to get used to the idea of moving to Melbourne, and a few visits to get an idea of what life will soon be like. Fewer beaches, better bars and restaurants. Less sunshine, less humidity. Queen Victoria Market, a new job, and a home of our own, well, Silvio’s own but close enough.

A year ago, I was pretty fresh out of the process of applying for a new job with Atlassian and a new visa. The entire process took around two months from start to finish, and I had no desire to go through it again. Moving to Melbourne, I declared, was definitely a long term plan, to happen when I didn’t have to go through the visa changeover again. This was no problem: the completion date for the building was moving back and there was no rush.

Over time, the memories faded and the promise of a new home became more real. On weekends in Melbourne, we visited the site, where the shell of the building was slowly breathing life into the artist’s sketches I’d seen. As the completion date became more concrete, we began to talk more about the possibilities of moving, and gradually our plans moved further forward, until we were considering how soon we could move after returning from our trip home in November.

I liked my job though and I didn’t really want to think about finding a new one. For a long time I nurtured the hope that I could stay with Atlassian and work remotely. I tried to ignore the warning signs of restlessness when I worked from home – I still wanted to believe I could do it every day, even when I accosted Silvio as he walked through the door in the evening, desperate for company after just one day alone.

In May, Silvio was posted to Melbourne for two months, and with the completion date looming at the end of July, this somehow triggered everything to fast forward. We started to consider moving before the trip home, perhaps in September, and I began to consider whether changing job would be an option after all. I still had no idea if working remotely would be a possibility, and much as I wanted to believe it was, I was starting to admit to myself that it wouldn’t be ideal, either for me or for my team.

For the first weekend of June, I travelled to Melbourne to spend the long weekend in Sydney, then work from Melbourne for a couple of days so that we didn’t have to spend quite so much time apart.

On Saturday, we headed over to Prahran to visit the show apartment – the building was virtually done, although the inside of it was very much still in progress. I was thrilled to see the huge, “rain” shower heads in the bathroom! It’s the little things :)

On Tuesday, I sat working at the kitchen table in Silvio’s corporate apartment, with a view out of the twenty-fifth floor window across the city, feeling lonely and restless. By Wednesday afternoon, I couldn’t sit still, probably partly because of the gallons of tea I’d consumed, but I felt like I was going crazy. I watched HipChat waiting for conversation, tried desperately to find the zone, but failed. At some point during those two days, the “remote” in working remotely struck home. I need to be around people. Sadly, but not without some excitement … I thought, it’s time to start the job hunt.

I was lucky, in many ways: I’ve spent time at some very good companies, I have good contacts, and it seems that there’s a shortage of developers in Melbourne, so there are a bunch of great companies who were willing to train me in something new. What started out as feeling around for opportunities very quickly turned into several serious job applications – all working with Ruby on Rails.

The start of the process was intense: for nearly three weeks I spent my evenings crafting solutions to code tests, sitting up until midnight fretting over why my Cucumber tests wouldn’t pass, or trying to learn how to use the Ruby option parser. The hard work was worth it when I was invited for interviews – yay!

I had expected the whole process to take far longer than it did in the end. I had an early offer, which significantly reduced my stress levels. I was determined to all of the applications through to the bitter end though, despite being tempted many times to just accept it. I’m glad now that I didn’t – I met so many people that I feel like I’m almost part of the Melbourne Ruby scene already :)

Attending interviews was an experience: I found myself leaving each time thinking, “that place is my new favourite”. By the end of the process, I had to force myself to take the time to let everything settle before making a final decision – and I found that my heart was pulling me towards a place with a passion for travel and a reception area full of books of possibility: Lonely Planet.

So that was the job sorted … well, except for those awkward details like signing documents and sorting the visa (again). Oh, and the sad conversations with my current colleagues at Atlassian – that wasn’t so much fun either. On the plus side, at least I was there for the (once again, amazing) End of Financial Year party!

greenhopper

Time to celebrate? Well, maybe – but actually, the rest of the stress was only just starting …

Moving Day!

In comparison to the events surrounding my move across Manly, the actual moving in day itself was very unstressful, if tiring. The drama started a few months ago, when Andrea’s flatmate announced that he was going to start looking for a new place. Having been coveting her beautiful view for months, I was really excited!

Having small, furry, rather noisy and sometimes smelly housemates was starting to wear on me, and it wasn’t long before my impatience got the better of me. When Rachel’s room unexpectedly became available, I decided to change my plans and move in to her place in Little Manly. It also comes with a beautiful view, not as amazing as Andrea’s, but from the bedroom itself which is rather nice.

The view from my room

However, Andrea was less than amused! Luckily for me she is also the forgiving kind though, and plus she eventually realised that she’d probably had a lucky escape.

A couple of weeks before the move, I had arranged for the internet to be connected at the new place … sadly, they also cut off the wireless at my old one! Cue a week or so of frustration – it’s amazing how I now feel totally lost without super fast internet at my fingertips wherever I go. Possibly something to do with also wanting to make Skype calls on a regular basis.

Over the next few days, Rachel was away so I stayed in what would be my new room, admiring the view from the bed, and counting down the days until I could move all of my stuff in! I made endless phone calls to the internet company, and unplugged and replugged in every single cable to my modem at least a hundred times until finally they sent a technician. On Friday morning, Vivi and I sat with our laptops and a 3G connection while he took apart the phone socket, discovered the phone line wasn’t connected properly, and promptly sorted it out. We stared and crossed our fingers as the modem light went from flashing red, to blue, and then back to red, until finally it stayed blue. We named our home network magicworks, because at that point in time I think we both believed it!

I went back to my own place for the last two nights, then finally the day arrived! We had a great girls night out on Saturday, with the result that I wasn’t feeling the best on Sunday morning, but I had a long day ahead and there was no time for hangovers. I left the house to get the car, only to return two minutes later having forgotten my glasses. This pretty much set the tone for the day …

First stop, IKEA

My first stop was IKEA: I needed a set of drawers for some extra storage space. I haven’t been to IKEA in ages – I haven’t really done much shopping in ages either, but I had to curb my shopaholic tendencies and stay focussed on just buying what I needed: drawers, and some storage boxes. I left with just $4 worth of impulse purchases, which must be a new record.

Next stop: Harvey Norman to pick up a tumble dryer. I found the shopping centre in Chatswood, found the right floor, went to get out of the car, and couldn’t find my key (GoGet have a really cool system, similar to Street Car in the UK, where I have a credit card sized “key” that locks and unlocks the car – the actual ignition key is secured inside the car). I searched my bag and pockets, but nothing. I was beginning to panic: I couldn’t even leave the car unlocked because it would automatically lock itself after a few minutes, so if I closed it then I wouldn’t be able to get back in. I didn’t understand how I could have dropped it at IKEA … eventually reason set in, and I found it down the far side of the passenger seat. Phew.

Shopping done!

Back on track … dryer collected and loaded into the car, and back to the new place to drop it off. I arrived, and nobody was there, they’d all gone out for breakfast … I managed to drag the heavy boxes out of the car and into the garden on my own, but it’s been a while since I wished that much for a strong man to help me!

Back to Pacific Parade, and the first car load took nearly an hour to load, but most of the big stuff was in. The drive across town took less than ten minutes, but included about twenty sets of traffic lights … luckily I wasn’t really in any hurry, it was still early afternoon. By the time the first lot of cases and stuff had been emptied, I could barely get in to my bedroom (not because I have THAT much stuff, but I didn’t do a great job of arranging it).

First load ready to go

Andrea was also moving stuff the same day, she’d hired a ute to pick up a fridge and some larger furniture from across town, having sourced it on Gumtree (her flatmate was moving out and taking all of his furniture, so she was about to have a pretty empty flat!) We decided to go together to the mall then to drop off her ute, so that she didn’t have to walk home. She was jetlagged, and exhausted … I suddenly realised that I was actually pretty tired already too, and I still had another car load to go, and furniture to build!

The car all stacked up for the final run

We made it to the mall, and finally the last car load was emptied. I dropped the car back in its spot near Pacific Parade, and collected my bike and my surfboard, which was too big to fit in the car so had to be moved on foot. I wheeled the bike over to Andrea’s, where my surfboard was going to stay in her garage at least until the summer! Finally I biked over to the new place. It was kind of strange to finish off the move on my bike :)

Viv was home by then, and together we got the new dryer into its new home and reconstructed my small shelves in the utility room, they looked pretty cool actually and Viv was delighted.

The new dryer

I managed to clear a way through the stuff into my room and stacked the cases against the windows. I was still determined to finish putting together my new drawers, even though both Silvio and Viv had told me to take it a bit easy, it had been a long day, but I was stubborn as ever …! Eventually, with the help of a couple of glasses of wine, they were done. And they looked good too!

I do follow instructions …

Getting there with the drawers

Moving fast!


By ten thirty, finally, I had managed to unpack enough clothes to last a couple of days, make up my bed, and bring enough order to the room to be satisfied. My eyes were almost closing …

It took a few more days to clear out the rest of the suitcases but I’m delighted with my new room! It’s light and quiet, and I can’t imagine a better place to wake up in :)

New home