Saturday, 25 December 2010

Merry Christmas


A Christmas favourite of mine, sung by a favourite Australian


In the absence of family, I’m off to the beach with friends to celebrate and relax for a few days.  I'm still feeling the love though.

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Wishing you and your loved ones a very merry and safe Christmas

A virtual Christmas gift

One thing about living so far from my loved ones is that gift giving can get exceptionally expensive.  Thanks Royal Mail/Australia post.

Since I’ve been here, I really only send gifts to my niece and nephew.  My parents and brothers get token gifts, at best. 

Last year, after seeing so many things that I (a) couldn’t afford and (b) couldn’t post, I decided to send my step mum a different dream gift every day of advent.  Kind of like an advent calendar, I sent her a link to something I would have loved to been able to buy her for 24 days.  It was so much fun to collate and she loved receiving it.  I’ve just re read over the emails today, and here are some of the things I “sent” her.



Marble Button Zip Top | Mimco, 450 AUD
Coiled Garden Quilt - Anthropologie.com, 321 GBP
Simplicity Cake Plate with Dome : Target, 28 GBP
Three of Fortnum's most popular tea blends, each presented in a..., 25 GBP
Untitled Page, 104 AUD
VEUVE CLICQUOT with free Ice Jacket!
Hunter Original Wellington Boots Merlot - Garden XL
Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen - Penguin Books
Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë - Penguin Books
The Teddington Cheese Camembert Cheese Plates
Lindor Star Christmas ornament tin
Artificial Rose and Cherry Wreath - 33cm Diameter
LCS-THM (LCSTHM) : Accessories and headphones : Sony
DSC-W270 (DSCW270) : Overview : Digital cameras, photo frames and...
Sweet Stems - Chocmas tree
Leatherman® Juice Xe6 Thunder Purple Multi Tool @ Leatherman® Store
Weatherworn Ferris Wheel - Anthropologie.com
The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde - Penguin Books
A4 Sketchbook - Moleskine Notebooks from simplymoleskine.com


Sometimes, it really is the thought that counts.  Have you ever been a bit creative with gift giving?

(not everything was polyvore-able.  Other gifts included the Royal Doulton Christmas pretty lady, a week's holiday at a Peppers retreat, customised study furniture amongst other things).  This year, I just sent them a virtual Christmas hamper made up with lots of lovelies from the web

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Around the world in 80 scratchings

I alluded to a gift I got from Urban Outfitters on the weekend. It was one of many super presents I received for my birthday.  After seeing it over at From India--With Love a little while ago, I hadn’t been able to get it out of my mind.  Luckily, I stumbled across it in person when I was with someone who (mistakenly, but who am I to correct) thought they needed to get me more for my birthday.

So Sunday night, I spent my time scratching away.  Here’s my life travel story, sort of (many places I’ve been lucky enough to head to more than once, but I’ve only referenced my first trip to each in the timeline below):

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1981 – Born in Australia
1984 – First visit to see Grandparents in UK
1985 – Week in Singapore with family friends
2001 – Ireland for Christmas
2002 – Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Italy, France and Spain
2008 – USA and Canada
2009 – Hungary, Turkey, New Zealand, Norway, Iceland
2010 – Greece, Russia
2011 – Who knows? India, Morocco, Cuba, Argentina, Tanzania, Mongolia, Japan and more of Eastern Europe are all in my dreams!

This map highlights to me how much of the world is left to see, not that I didn’t know this already! 

I'm planning on hanging it in a glass frame so I can keep scratching away at it.  My housemates are also contemplating getting one and we can hang them down our hall way.  I'd think they'd look given that between them, they've seen a lot of Asia, South America, Pacific Islands and Africa.  If this eventuates, I'll be sure to share pics.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Carnaby Street Christmas Lights

Carnaby Street, famous in the sixties, puts on one of the best (or strangest or most innovative) Christmas lights display in London each year.

Unlike nearby Regent, Oxford and Bond Street, the displays changes dramatically from year to year. 
This year the theme looks like Santa Goes to Space.  Not overly Christmas but quite a spectacle to take in. 

Here are some pics I snapped (on auto, whilst not completely standing still so bear with me!). 
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Last year it was a hippy-pride-peace-love-joy-not-so-sure kind of theme:
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and in 2008 it was the adorable snowmen
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What are the Christmas lights like in your town?  Do you venture out to see them or is it pot luck if you do?

London town

Another lazy weekend in London.  Full of fun and promise but not much achieved.  Hey ho.

A late late late (like I missed it completely) lunch with friends on Saturday that turned into dinner and drinks and a play in the snow come 1am.  Must of been warmed up by the delish thai green curry I’d had.

A wonderfully random Sunday.  The cold and snow seemed to keep a lot of the crowd away for I wandered with a mate over 7.5km around London town and mostly it was pleasant.  Took in an art exhibition (Illumini’s Chryptmas), enjoyed some Yum Cha in China Town, had a shoulder massage, did some Christmas shopping, enjoyed an excellent coffee and checked out Carnaby Street’s Christmas lights.  A really good weekend.

A lot of my Christmas shopping was done at Urban Outfitters.  I love that place.  I remarked when leaving that if I couldn’t find something in there for someone, then why was I friends with that someone?  It’s not their clothes dig (although they’re ok too), but the books and lomo and random fun house stuff.  Perfect gift fodder.  I got a gift also but I’ll be back to share that later.

How was your weekend?  Your Christmas shopping done?
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Bloomsbury Sq, central London on Sunday

Monday, 20 December 2010

Reverb 10.13

13 – Action.
When it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step?
(Author: Scott Belsky)
Doing a budget.

I earn good money (and thankfully always have).  Maybe this is why I’ve never needed to budget before?  Well now I need to.  My travel goals for then next 24months are lofty.  So between them and paying of my credit card, I need to make a budget.

Oh, and I will need to stick to it/review it too! I know.

Reverb 10.12

12 – Body Integration.

This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn’t mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present?
(Author: Patrick Reynolds)



Walking the last 6 or 7 miles of the Yorkshire Three peaks walk (26 miles, 3 mountains) comes to mind.  Rather than struggling descending the scree as I usually would, my legs that were previously like dead weights were a bit airless and I just came down.  Didn’t need to think, I just coasted, thinking yeah, I’ve done this and my mind wandering to family members who had done it before me.  A fantastic feeling.

Reverb 10.11

11 – 11 Things.
What are 11 things your life doesn’t need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life?
(Author: Sam Davidson)


11 things my life doesn’t need:
1. Chocolate before bed (oh no, I like it but I sure as heck don’t NEED it!)
2. Negativity.  I understand reason, but I don’t need additional negativity
3. Alcohol every time I catch up with friends.  Lacking a coffee culture, London certainly has a drinking culture – when you meet friends, it’s invariably for a drink.
4. Late nights procrastinating.  I don’t mind staying up if I’m doing something but there is so much grey time between, say 10 and 12, where I don’t do anything!  I need to either use it or sleep!
5. Credit card bills.  As Dad might say, sort it out Susan.
6. Indecisiveness.   Some decisions are and should be tough.  Many more shouldn’t be.  (e.g..  no one really cares where you go for dinner, just pick a place.  If they did care, they’d have suggested somewhere!).
7. Stuff.  Buy things you love.  Don’t buy things you don’t love but figure you love enough.  You don’t have room for more clothes girl!!
8. Mascara.  Not for a while.  18 tubes is plenty.
9.  Cupcake wrappers.  Bake with those you have before you buy more!!!
10.  **still thinking**
11. **still thinking**

Reverb 10.10


10 – Wisdom.
What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?
(Author: Susannah Conway)

The wisest decision this year?  How to isolate it down to one?  I made a lot of unwise calls but really, just one wise one?  There isn’t a standout wise one.  Maybe just saying yes more often? For now, that is what I can think of.

Reverb 10.9



9 – Party
Prompt: Party. What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans.

(Author: Shauna Reid)

Dad's 60th
60ish year olds.  Dad's nearest and dearest
My brothers and I, holding up the fort for the youngsters
Music was a violinist and celloist who rocked some contemporary numbers in the corner
Food was three course of delish, topped with lemon tart for dessert
Wine was a plenty, as was the champagne, martinis and whatever took your fancy
Dress was black tie.  Me sporting a long dress.  My Dad and bro's in tuxedos (so cute!)
Shenanigans was a lot of love in the room, reminiscing, and photo bombing (my brothers and I kept things light, as always, much to our parents dismay!).  An awful lot of laughter that night.  And tears
Tears when Dad realised his oldest boy (Simon) and I had flown in for the occaision and walked in singing happy birthday. 

The night of 2010 for me.  The night.

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Me at the head of the table (or the but) with my younger bro behind me.

Reverb 10.8


8 – Beautifully Different.
Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful.
(Author: Karen Walrond)

This is a tough but so important prompt.  And I'm a little stuck on how to answer it.

Years ago, when out with the girls from school, one of them pointed out how different we all are and have become, yet how awesome we all are together.  And she affectionately called me the twinset of the group (which I liked!).  She's right though - we are all really different, but I guess the shared history of school combined with all being brought up in the same neighbourhood with similar values etc binds us strong.

When I then told my colleagues that my mates thought I was a twinset, they were shocked.  You see, I was one of the shyer, more conservative girls in my friendship group, but out there compared to my colleagues at the time.

And now, after a few years away from all?  I'm just me.  And I don't know what makes me so, but I like who I am and it seems my ever growing friendship circle do to.  I'm a contrast at times - I like spontaneity and fun things but crave quiet time at home.  I'll give anything a go once.  And I think I'm a pretty good listener and loyal.  But who knows what it is?  I'm just happy with my lot.

*feel free to chime in with your own answers - I'm really keen to hear what you have to say!

Reverb 10.7


7 – Community.
Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011?
(Author: Cali Harris)


Blogging (and tweeting) has been a big part, but I feel I need to participate a lot more than I do to really get the most from it.  Maybe that's where it will come from in 2011?  I can build, right?

Where I've really done it this year is work I think.  I started a new job on 4 January this year and most (yeah, not all) of my colleagues are great.  Aside from the after work drinks, there have been holidays, weekends away, housewarmings, birthdays etc.  I think it's easy to make friends at work that you will chat to at after work drinks but I love that some of the friendships I've built have extended into our own time - like weekends etc.  I might add though, that after some staff churn (common in banking industry), my mates are not in my direct report group but wider colleagues from the same floor.  And I think that works well.

Pic below is of colleagues I went on the 3 Peaks challenge with in July (which involved several weekends away before hand and several social catchups after).

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Reverb 10.6

December 6 – Make.

What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?
(Author: Gretchen Rubin)


My bed.  and my morning coffee.  And gingerbread biscuits.  Two parts of my (weekday) morning ritual are to make my bed and to make a coffee.  Small things that make my life my life.  I love a good cup of coffee whilst getting ready and am happy to pay a premium for the beans I like.  And I like a well made bed when I get home from work (makes it easier to lye on to watch tele/blog/read and just makes my room tidier).  So they’re the two most recent things I made.

I also made gingerbread biscuits on the weekend.  I'm still searching for the elusive perfect recipe because this one wasn't it, for me.  Maybe I rolled them too thin?  I love the taste and wham bam of the ginger, but I like them a little softer/chewier than these.

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Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Ten on a Tuesday - 58

Chelsea's questions again this week. 

1. What is your favorite kind of cheese?

Mmm...cheese...lots of them, all of them.  Probably brie or pepper and chive goats cheese.  This doesn't diminish my love for a good crumbly vintage chedder, smoked cheeses, pretty much all cheses except blue (but I'm getting there with them).

2. Do you prefer fudge with or without nuts?
Without, but really, I'll take it either way.

3. How do you feel about cats?
They're hard work but I do love them.  We always had them as kids and I love that the parents have them.  I'm not sure I'd want my own though. Not now.

4. Meg Ryan or Julia Roberts?
What's Meg done recently?  I think Julia, but only marginally.

5. Do you wear a watch?
When I remember to, yep.  So about once a week.  One needs a new battery and the other a new band so that makes things a little harder.

6. What are a few of your favorite songs from the 90's?
I loved Presidents of the United States of America - probably Lump the most
Powderfinger's Passenger just sneaks in
No Doubt's Don't Speak
Smashing Pumpkins - Tonight Tonight
Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit
Oasis's Wonderwall
Offspring - really anything of their Smash album but if I had to pick, probably Self Esteem.

I'm sure there's loads more I loved but that's what comes to mind right now.


7. Do you like scented candles?
Yes, especially the "passion" fragrance from Dusk.  It's patchouli and ylang ylang but not too strong.  I don't like some of the overpowering synthetic ones. 

8. What do you like on your hamburger?
Cheese, egg, beetroot, pineapple.  Yep, an Aussie (vegie) burger basically.  I can't stand them dry so there needs to be condiments too.

9. How often do you cut your fingernails?
About once a week or so.  I tend to paint them clear of a Sunday evening if I'm home so if need be, I'll file them then as well. 
10. Do you sleep in socks?
Sometimes.  Not really a rhyme or reason as to when. 

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Reverb 10.4

December 4 – Wonder.
How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?
(Author: Jeffrey Davis)


Sure, why not?

It is my take on most things.  My default thought seems to be “yep, I can do that” rather than “Whoa, I can’t do that”. 

I think this has been my line of thinking for a while now, but it’s really only in 2010 that I’ve put these words to it (after a mate pointed out that I often answer with them).  It’s the reason I’ve got to do some really fun things for which there wasn’t really any purpose, but left me with a real sense of wonder?

The feeing of jumping off boats/cliffs into the water (knowing it was deep)?
Paddling in a frigid Loch Ness?
Swimming in a partially frozen lake in Russia?
Driving mates from Wales to England to Scotland to climb three mountains in 24 hours?
Fly home for a week to surprise Dad for his birthday?
Walking 26 miles over night for charity?
Walking 26 miles over 3 mountains with friends "for fun"?
Sure, why not?

It’s the small things too – spontaneous plans with friends, often the best.

Sure, why not?

cliff dive
(We knew the water here was deep enough to jump into. 
Sure, why not doesn’t mean not considering dangers!)

10.3

3 – Moment.



Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).



(Author: Ali Edwards)





Atop Mount Snowdown*, Snowdonia National Park, Wales

A mentally gruelling 10 days lead up
A physically gruelling climb (we went up Pyg Pass which is constant ascent, and down Miners which is rapid descent)
I was unfit.  I was lacking a bit of  confidence but knew that I was going to reach the top.  It was non-negotiable.  Others had suggested we turn around part way so we'd make our dinner reservations (most of the group had gone up in the morning as well).
I remember laughing after finally solving a 45 minute game of eye spy with DB.  We both knew it would pass the time.  I don't think either of us knew just how much time (but he'd got someone's nickname wrong which was a little...problematic...)
A few false summits
Then the top.
Relief.
Silent, so eerily silent.  Others speaking but I wasn't really listening.
Blue - the sky, the lakes we could see all around, even our clothes
Still.  It had been windy a fair way of the final ascent but it everything was still, for me, at the top.
Relief.  and Sadness.  For that was the same day as my beautiful cousin's funeral.  In Australia.
Love.

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*It's only 1,085m/3,560 ft high so not that much on a world scale.  Round walk time was just over 3 hours. 

Ten on a Tuesday - 57

Chelsea is once again graciously hosting 10 on a Tuesday over at Roots and Rings

1. What do you order at Starbucks?
Gingerbread Latte in winter, iced Americano in Summer.

2. Where is your favourite place to eat breakfast?
The Breakfast Club (Hoxton).  The other Breakfast Club locations are tasty too, but the Hoxton Branch just has a vibe more to my liking.

3. Are you on Twitter? Why or why not?
Yes.  Because it seems a good place for incoherent thoughts.  And those my friends, I can specialise in.  That, and I liked the play on words of my handle @SimonsSistaSays (I was on twitter before I was blogging, I just wasn't very active).

4. What is your favourite Christmas movie?
Love Actually.  Which I just bought another copy off last week (£3 at HMV at the moment if you are in the UK)

5. Are you a good gift giver?
Not really.  I think I often have pretty good ideas but am too disorganised etc so often late or don’t execute said good ideas well.

6. Do you like your handwriting? Bonus points for posting a picture.
Sometimes.  My writing style changes with what pen I’m using.  It’s not terrible but it’s not font worthy either (unlike my Dad’s – I love his writing).

7. Is your signature legible? Bonus points for posting a picture.
Yes, but funnily enough, I just don’t feel like sharing my signature with the world wide web.

8. Have you ever been to New York during Christmas season?
Nope.  Would love to one day but so far I’ve only been in Summer.

9. Are there any items that you are completely brand loyal?
Dusk – for wax melts.  That would be about all I think.

10. Who is your favourite public speaker?
Tough one.  To tough for me this Tuesday.  I do love listening to youtube clips of an old Aussie PM though, Paul Keating.  He is pretty entertaining.  For a politician.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Instagram - a mini review

I’ve been playing around with various free apps since I got my iPhone.  Sure, there are some I pay for (hello Hipstamatic) but I’m always trying out new-to-me free ones.  One of the ones I’ve recently been playing with is Instagram.

It’s a photo app that lets you apply vintage and toy finishes to your photos and easily share them.  Like Hipstamatic, you get various finishes, all reminiscent of old school pics.  Unlike Hipstamatic, they’re applied after the fact. 

You get less control in that you can’t chose your perfect combination of film, lens and flash but you can play around with the finish to get the look you like.

Here are the different finishes you can play with:
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So whilst I think my allegiances may still be with Hipstamatic, Instagram is pretty damn good for free!

I've also downloaded a few other free photo apps that I'm playing with and will let you know what I think.  What iPhone photo apps do you use, if any?

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Friday Followings…

This Friday, I thought I should let you know some stuff.  It's a mixed bag of stuff but that's not unusual!    Some things like:

I’m guest posting over at Angela’s place (Craving Cupcakes) today as she and Stephen move. Their move hit a few early hiccups but seems back on track now – but be sure to pop over and see what I have to say about home and say hello!  And, if you are coming over from Angela's - welcome!!

I was sick a few weeks back with a cold that I can’t quite shake (but ohh so close).  I wasn’t very productive whilst sick, not like Colour Me Katie did.  She travelled the world with Google maps and street view and saw some really cool stuff.  She inspired me to do a little travelling.  I found a Clydesdale called Chrissie on a farm in Victoria.  (Yep, one of my folk’s horses on their farm). 
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(It’s not the clearest of pictures as they’re at the end of a dirt road in Mount Middleofnowhere, Australia but I love it all the same.  Not every ones pets made it on to Google maps!)

I'm lusting after a rose belt from Heart of Light .  Rachel makes these belts and sells them in her Etsy store. I’m so tempted to buy one for a mate’s birthday, just as soon as I decide between the pink and red.  To seem them in action, head to her Etsy Shop.

And in last but not least…have yourselves a wonderful weekend.  What are your plans? (I’d tell you mine…but they’re a little bit up in the air)

Friday, 3 December 2010

Reverb 10.2 - Writing


Prompt - What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?
Tough one.  I would say work or sleep because they’re what seem to take up the most time.  Eliminating them would be, shall I say, problematic?  Not ideal.

Aside from those two biggies, it is a mixture or socialising (yes I could eliminate it, no I won’t eliminate it) and procrastinating (yes I could eliminate it, yes I should eliminate it but no, I probably won’t eliminate it).

Reverb 10.5

5 – Let Go.
What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?
(Author: Alice Bradley)
Timbo along with his Dad, my uncle Dave
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(taken 8 April 2010)           (taken 14 December 2009)

Because life can be a bitch and they were taken from us so I've had to let go.

But from letting go, I've been more concious in a lot of my decision making.  Life can be short.  Even for the best of people (of which I'm not), even for the healthiest of people (for which I'm really not), even for the most entertaining of people (which I'm no where near).  So live it.  Let go of needless baseless concerns. Live your life.  Don't wait for a life.  


Pskov Playtime

So more than a month ago, I went to Russia for little over a week.  You know this because I've told you this.  I took over 900 photos.  You know this because I also told you this.  It's not that I have writers block per se, but there's so much about this trip that I want to share with you, I've just been struggling in knowing where to start. 

That said, I've decided to start in the middle.  In between Moscow and St Petersburg, we had a night in Pskov (and a night on a sleeper train getting there).  It's not a big place and not a lot to see, but still quite beautiful and quite like I expected from non-big-city Russia.  It felt a lot poorer than the big two, probably because it is.

We didn't just stay in Pskov, we also neared the Estonian border to take in the Pskov-Caves Monastery (real name Monastery of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos) and a family's banya near by.

A random fact about the full day in Pskov - I got served tomato and cucumber salad four times that day!  Four times!!  Once for breakfast.  Once for lunch  Twice for dinner (entree and main).  Not sure if I've mentioned it here but I'm not really a fan of fresh tomato or cucumber.

Here's some pics from this part of the trip...

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Platform 3 for us - with our destination plastered along the side of the train.

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An early morning arrival, a stop for some breakfast and off to visit Pskov's Kremlin




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And off to the Monastery. Churches and religious buildings in Russia were full of colour and bedazzling, unlike most of the rest of the architecture.


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Banyas are the Russian version of a sauna. They're not as dry as a sauna, nor as moist as a steam room but they are amazing.  You thrash each other with birch branches and they have that nice woody smell.  We broke up our banya time with dips into this lake.  I loved the contrast here - for as hot as the banya got, this was probably the coldest water I've ever swum in!!






Whilst not as glamourous or with as much to see as the big cities, I was really glad for this brief stay in country Russia.  The banya was certainly the highlight.  The tomato and cucumber salad was the lowlight.