So much closer

I’m sitting in my parents’ house in Perth for what’s likely to be the last time – next time I’m here, they will probably be in the brand new house they’re building. Isn’t that exciting? They’re very excited. It’s my last night in town before I head back home tomorrow and so I thought it fitting that I do the usual year in review post before the new year breaks.

Let’s start with home – home, what a concept. I felt like I was home when I stepped through the door on Saturday to be greeted by a happy pup and a glowing Christmas tree. But I simultaneously miss home, my home, the little part of the world that’s wholly mine, the life I’ve carved for myself and the people I have carved it with. It’s complicated, this adulthood business.

Surely we can all agree that 2016 has been a pretty insane year in the wider “the world is on fire” sense. Everything’s gotten scarily nationalistic and as someone who has spent most of her life drifting from country to country, this kind of PATRIOTISM4EVA attitude generally just confuses the hell out of me and makes me horribly depressed. So yes, I’ve been sad and alarmed by things like Brexit and the US Election and even Australian politics being a bit shit. But it’s also made me realise what I really care about, what my values are. I used to think I didn’t really care about anything (side order of nihilism please!) but turns out that’s not true. Mostly I’m angry. And I’m not afraid to speak up about things any more because if this is the way the world’s going, we need to speak up. And we need to do things. Otherwise, how can you complain?

I feel very lucky to live in tiny old New Zealand. A beautiful country that lots of people forget exists, and where the biggest political issue was whether or not to change the flag. I mean, if that’s the biggest problem in a country, things aren’t that bad. (I’m being facetious, I know there are real issues, but comparatively speaking those issues aren’t that bad.) I’m thinking of getting NZ citizenship, as soon as I’m eligible, so I can have a say in things when needed. Having AU/NZ dual citizenship is possible the most pointless combo but both feel like home so…whatever. I love NZ and it’s been good to me, really, if you ignore the recent shaking. Oh dear lord, the shaking. Do not want.

Now let’s do the really superficial monthly recap thing! Woo!

January

After spending Christmas in Napier with the bf’s mum, things got off to a very chill start with a glorious summer in Wellington. We went to the Wellington Cup Day races where we were hosted but none of our horses won. Sigh. Another memorable moment was Dom visiting which gave me an excuse to visit the Weta Cave for the billionth time, and I also got to introduce him to rugby sevens at the always awesome Welly Sevens (people say the Sevens are dead and the media like writing about how terrible it all is, but they’re all wrong, it’s still heaps of fun).

February

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Love my little family

I don’t really know what I did in February other than work, hang out with mates and go to bootcamp at a ridiculous time in the morning…I did go to Perth towards the end of the month though, to spend time with the parentals and get lots of puppy cuddles. I realised that spending two weeks at the familial home was just a little bit too long.

March

March was bad for me, not gonna lie. I had a bit of a depressive slump and struggled to get out of it well into April. I don’t like being sad, but what can you do? It also meant the bf saw me at my absolute worst and somehow he still managed to stick around through the crying and the silences and general mental instability. My knee jerk reaction was to run screaming for the hills, and I really had to fight that flight reaction cause part of me thought I’d have to break up with him as an act of self-preservation. But I didn’t, thank fuck. Thanks for nothing, brain. Wasn’t all doom and gloom though – work wife and I went to the Wedding of the Year and I took the bf to see Sufjan Stevens perform  Carrie & Lowell in its entirety which was a hundred shades of amazing.

April

Still mostly depressed but improving. Still going to hideously early bootcamp sessions. New job was created at work which I applied for and somehow managed to get. Woo! Absolutely delighted to move teams because I was losing my mind in my previous team and wanted to do more analytics and less social media. Save me from the crazies on social media! So that was definitely a highlight. Another highlight was the big dog walk with lots of dogs which was exactly what it said on the tin and meant I got to pat dogs. Always a win.

May

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The theme for this rugby season was drizzle and cold

No longer depressed – yay! I started making more of an effort to take care of myself which included signing up to My Food Bag to take the stress out of meal planning (lord how I loathe thinking about food) and also getting a cleaner once a month. This made me feel painfully middle class but also meant I stopped feeling guilty about not cleaning and overall that was a big help. Also started using the awesome Go To skincare range which smell divine and is an all round delight. And also rugby was on again so nights at the stadium were on the cards.

June

Just work. So much work. Work, work, work…and a trip to Dunedin! Woo! It was my first visit and I thoroughly enjoyed the little Edinburgh vibe.

July

Things got off to a pretty shit start with my grandmother passing away. She’d been ill for a long time but I was still devastated. In the last six years, I’ve lost three amazing, kind, generous grandparents and it sucks. It just sucks. My grandmother passed away just before I was due to leave for my trip to Europe but the guilt of not going to the funeral was somewhat mitigated by the fact that I was engaged in a (still ongoing) battle with South African immigration which means I’m unable to actually go to the stupid country. Ugh. So I disappointment my family yet again and went to London via Vancouver instead. But with good reason since it was Wedding of the Year: UK Edition time! And what a beautiful wedding it was. Also had the pleasure of catching up with good friends on a day trip to Paris and just generally enjoyed hanging out with awesome people.

August

The Hurricanes won their first ever Super Rugby title and I was there! Getting frostbite, but hey whatever, history! The bf and I celebrated our first anniversary. It was adorable. We’re disgusting. We’re that couple who plays with each others’ hair in public and say stupid things. If it makes it better, we are ashamed of ourselves. I never thought I’d ever be that person, but here we are. This was also, of course, Olympics month which meant lots of working upstairs in our lunch room in front of the TV. I love how everyone starts caring about the most random sports. So much fun. I also worked a Test match which was stressful but very enlightening. So many moving parts to make that shiz work. So. Many.

September

I rediscovered my love of the library and read a lot of books. Also played a lot of board games. That’s literally it.

October

Work was stupidly busy which meant a lot of weekends at the office. But it was also fun with dive bar gigs by bf’s friend’s band, and a purely delightful Harry Potter themed cocktail night at one of my favourite bars. Bf got a new job so that was very exciting for him and a bit sad for me since I couldn’t just pop downstairs to see him whenever anymore. Also realised a friend of ours had never seen Lord of the Rings so took it upon ourselves to host her for a marathon. We only watched the first one. She needed a break. Not everyone can nerd like me haha. I also had to go to Sydney for a lightning quick work trip. It happily coincided with mum’s work trip so we got to hang out and have dinner and it was just all round awesome. Made it back to Welly in time for a superhero themed Halloween extravaganza. Loads of fun. Hangover the next day, not so much.

November

It started off just fine with fireworks and movies with my work wife and then we had an insane earthquake and everything went to shit. For one thing, I do not cope well with earthquakes, as it turns out. I was terrified. Anxiety levels were through the roof. And then we couldn’t get back into our building cause the one across the road was a threat. So it had to be demolished. At first the work wife and I just worked out of her husband’s office which has the benefit of ocean views and a dog, but then work sourced alternate digs for us and we got stuck working out of the cold concrete dungeon that is the stadium. Very kind of them to host us, but still fucking miserable. Everything was grey and fenced in and cold. I felt like I was walking to a POW camp every morning. Dramatic, me? Never. AND WE WERE THERE FOR FOUR WEEKS. FFS. At least November ended with my birthday so that’s always nice. I took the day off to treat myself and it was a solid life decision. 10/10. Would recommend. Also FYI, saw Fantastic Beast (twice) and loved it.

December

“December is for cynics, December is for critics.” I love Christmas and despite the reluctance of pretty much all my friends in Welly, I insist on acting like an idiot. So I was delighted when the work wife donated her old Christmas tree to me rather than the dump. There’s no real room for it in the flat but it made me ridiculously happy. My team had a Christmas party on a boat, which I hated thanks to my chronic sea sickness. Work had a Mexican themed Christmas party that was borderline inappropriate. I made very little effort and had a nice enough time without nursing a hangover, so I consider it a win. And we were also finally, finally, allowed back in our building. I never thought I’d experience such joy going back to the office but it was such a relief. I celebrated by baking cookies for everyone, and cupcakes for my workmates to take home. So domestic. Who even am I? I arrived in Perth late on Christmas Eve and I have been spending my time relaxing, reading in the sun and cuddling my pup. It’s been great and I know I’ll miss my fab little family when I leave. But tomorrow I head back to Wellington and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t look forward to getting back to my life, my bf and my friends. This cross-continental living is a drag.

Overall, I just feel lucky to have what I have. Enjoy what’s left of the holiday season and let’s hope 2017 is good to us all.

A wild Jen appears

Oh hey, I still have a blog. Who knew? I return to the land of wordpress pretty much a year after my last post which is indicative of the year I’ve had. Chaotic. Stressful. Overloaded. Intensely busy. Amazingly fulfilling. It’s been a rollercoaster basically.

I guess the biggest thing is that I’ve decided to withdraw from my PhD and focus on my work. Which is quite a 360 from where I was last year, or even 6 months ago when I was having a nervous breakdown, but changes are happening at work and I think my job is going to be at least marginally more manageable so…yeah. Let’s see where it takes me. At the end of the day, the company is pretty cool and even though I may not love my job 90% of the time, it could be worse. There is sadly just no way to complete a PhD and work full time though so I’ve had to choose. After all, I can always do a PhD later, right?

It’s been a very full year and things have taken a turn that I never really would have anticipated. I feel settled here and I think, fingers crossed, next year will be a lot less volatile. Here’s hoping anyway. I can’t even remembered all the crazy shiz that went down in 2015 so I’m just going to trawl through my photos and hope that’ll jog some memories!

January

A long visit home to Perth included a trip to Margaret River and burgers on the beach for my last night at home. I miss my dog more than anything! The month rapidly descended into madness though with commercial shoots. No rest for the wicked!

February

I’d like to say work got particularly busy in February but in retrospect, it might just be it’s normal pace. Slightly terrifying! Anyway, there was many a trip to Auckland, fun at a launch event, Wellington Sevens and many a late night in the office. Three cheers for the noodle place across the road! Liz also came to visit which was loads of fun as always and in our various wanderings around town I discovered my dream home (which was actually on the market in October – oh, the horror!)

March

Things got off to a great start with mum visiting me for a few days and summer putting in one final stellar appearance before the long dark of winter. I went to my only gig of the year, shock horror, at San Fran (Parquet Courts) and started a weekly pub quiz crew which some of us take way too seriously but is always a stupidly good time. And we often win, so that’s always a plus. I also became a proper Wellingtonian by becoming obsessed with cheese scones and flat whites. As you do.

April

Made a flying visit back to Perth to cuddle my puppy (valid motivation for most things), get my hair done and soak up as much warmth as humanly possible. Work was just going through the motions of covering rugby games every weekend so was looking for bright spots of entertainment like a Simpsons themed quiz night at a cafe near my flat. And then of course there was the big Anzac Day commemorations which I spent at the then-new Pukeahu War Memorial – complete with a moving light display.

May

Ah May. A month in which I despaired at how many meetings I had, and at how much uni work was building up. It’s also the month I helped my work wife stalk Prince Harry – and then we ended up sitting next to him at the rugby. I dragged the work wife out for cocktails and fell even more in love with this quirky little city.

June

Everything fell apart. I’m not even kidding. Full scale stress breakdown. There was just too much happening on all fronts and I had no support. I walked into HR and said that I had every intention of quitting when my manager got back from his 4 week holiday and I meant it. There were crisis talks. I was sat down in various rooms and asked to talk through my issues. And then I swore at a very problematic contractor and was given a disciplinary I thoroughly deserved. I also got the weekend off though which meant French toast at my fave cafe and walks along the beach. Times were tough. Morale was at an all time low. On the flip side, my aforementioned work wife finally let me hang out with her dogs. We went to see half a play. Our quiz team won first prize and made some dinosaurs out of play-doh. This is also the month I developed a crush on the guy at the cafe near work. June was a real turning point for me. I was so close to walking out on all of this. So close.

July

Of course you can’t have a meltdown without then having to deal with the meltdown. I started counselling – it helped a lot. I took a leave of absence from the PhD to try and get my head on straight. I started hanging out with cafe guy. I took lots of walks and cuddled other people’s dogs. We had a home Super Rugby final and it was nice to see the city buzzing. Work was still hectic and I was seeing more office sunrises than I’d have liked, but there was support. I started thinking that I might just be ok.

August

Everything started to shift towards Rugby World Cup in August as the international season rolled on. My work wife and I accidentally wore the same clothes for something like eight days in a row which cracked us up and weirded everyone else out. But come on, we’re adorable. We had a fancy high tea to talk about holiday plans and I spent a lot of time in places I don’t really have any business being…like stadium media rooms, suburban high schools and Parliament. Then the parentals came to visit for a week and I joined them for a trip to Auckland for the final Bledisloe Cup match which we thankfully won. I don’t know how we’d cope without the Bled in trophy case. It takes up so much room.

September

At work, there was nothing but Rugby World Cup. It was all consuming. It was all hours of the day. It was exhausting. We had an office kick off party where you were supposed to dress up as a country and the work wife decided Romania = vampires. It was fun. It was also the first work event I took the boyfriend to because yes, I now had one of those and yes, I was horribly, hopelessly in love. I might have lost my mind if I had nothing but work but there were date nights and dog walks and bootcamp at 6.30am which it really wasn’t warm or light enough for just yet. But c’est la vie.

October

More of the same as the war machine rolled on. The team was storming through the RWC though everyone was on our case about not being good enough. SIGH. We had so many staff activity events, it was ridiculous. One involved a trip to the Botanic Gardens to see the tulips in bloom…another involved representing a region of the country. Work friend and I panicked on the day about our shitty team effort and invested in some cow onesies – a very comfy investment as it worked out. I went to see a great play with another work friend, and the work wife and I continued to accidentally dress the same. Halloween was, unfortunately, a non-event as the RWC Final meant an ungodly 5am start the next day…

November

…and we only went and won the whole thing! All very exciting but also very stressful as we scrambled to welcome the team home and have the appropriate celebrations and what have you. It was an incredible experience but absolutely exhausting for a poor little introvert like me. But at least I have learned that I never want to be famous. No thanks! Football season had begun so I was dragged off to the stadium yet again. There was an impromptu trip to Sydney to hang out with mum and have dinner with my lovely Sydney friends – annoyingly didn’t take any photos, wtf self. It was so, so nice to see everyone again! Then it was off to Lake Taupo for my birthday. A much needed long weekend and a gorgeous part of the country. Cake courtesy of my work wife, of course.

December

And now it’s December and somehow it feels like both a long time coming and waaaaaay too soon. We had our work christmas party the first weekend. Circus themed. I went as a lion tamer, the light up hula hoop I acquired was the star of the show (good for clearing dance space that everyone wants to be in. Who knew?) And last Friday I was up in Auckland again for awards season. Pretty sure that wraps my work commitments for the year though and it can’t have come soon enough. Only a week left in the working year and lord knows I’m limping towards the finish line.

Bring on the holiday! Bring on summer!

Yellow submarine – Cooking Adventure #9

Way back near the end of March, we attempted the grilled mushroom sub with smoky pancetta, melted cheese and pears. My father is one of those people who thinks sandwiches don’t constitute a proper meal, so I was a bit reluctant to make this ginormous sub. We decided to make it for lunch so he couldn’t kick up too much of a fuss.

This is a ciabbata based sub with a simple, refreshing salad. I was a bit weirded out by putting pears on a sandwich but whatever, I figured Jamie knows what he’s doing. And he does because it’s actually delicious. We have some amazing (and gigantic) pears on offer here in WA and this recipe really showcased them. I’m not generally a fan of walnuts (in the salad) or mushrooms (in the sandwich) either, but I had no problems with either in this combo. Overall, it was a very successful meal AND we got it done in 15 minutes. Didn’t think we’d ever actually manage that!

It got 4.3 Grumpy Dads out of 5 – yes, the father has decided to start working in decimal points because we’re giving him such variety to choose from. Apparently.

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We live in cities you’ll never see on screen

Not very pretty but we sure know how to run free.

There is a change in the wind. Good, bad, who knows.

I have so much work to do. So. Much. So of course I’m procrastinating. I remain, as ever, my own worst enemy. The aim for today is to finish off a freelance project and crack on with an essay that was due two weeks ago. AND then, this weekend, I have to read two books…but hoping for 3. While also going to physio, and my riding lessons, and taking the dog for a walk, and going for a run, and cleaning the house, and cooking, and watching Masterchef. Waaaah.

Parental unit bought a new dog bed yesterday for little miss princess…it’s less a bed and more a chaise lounge. And because winter has arrived without remorse and I had her groomed last week, we’ve also acquired a little jacket (for rainy walks) and jumper for her. Actually ridiculous. When did we become these people???

She is super cute though.

In other news, don’t know how people on the west coast stand the way they’re completely ignored – everything is geared towards the east coast, everything. All the references on tv, ads, whatever, everything is made for a Sydney or Melbourne audience. It’s infuriating. I’ve only lived here for 5 months and it drives me insane…so not sure how no one’s rebelled yet. I suppose people are generally less inclined to world domination than I am.

Music: Team – Lorde

Mayhem

I don’t want this blog to just turn into the odd random post about the food I made weeks ago. The end of April was marred with drama (I fell over and took most of the skin off my right arm and my dog got stung by a bee, promptly going into anaphylactic shock) and it was a crazy ol May, so I’ve been slacking (and I will probably continue to do so for as long as I have panic attacks about the impending disaster that is my PhD) but just to prove I’m not dead, here’s what I’ve been doing –

Redecorated with new bookshelves for my room – an always dreaded visit to Ikea delivered lovely dark wood bookcases and now I’ve got loads more space to acquire books I don’t have time to read. Yay? I also kinda started redesigning my wardrobe but then got lost in the apathy and deep depression that comes from trying to make sense of measurements, and so…stopped. But! Aiming to sort it out this weekend cause we’ve got two spare racks sitting on the deck, pissing everyone off and inviting spiders to make their forever homes in them.

Because of all that, mum and I found a load of stuff we no longer wanted and decided to get up stupidly early on the first Sunday of the month and go to a car boot sale. Absolute crazy mayhem. I nearly punched a lady for honking at me before we’d even started selling, so that set the tone. We did really well though and I felt quite pleased that we’d bothered to do it…after all, it was stuff I was just going to chuck out. It’s not quite as profitable as selling junk on ebay, but it is approximately 1000 times less hassle – seriously, if postage works out more than I quoted a buyer one more time, I’m going to cry.

But that’s boring. Much more excitingly, Em came to visit and I played the role of extremely bad tour guide with no idea where anything is and a shit GPS. But we had loads of fun all the same. There was much eating and drinking across the Swan Valley, CBD and Fremantle. We also re-enacted the Amazing Race by nearly missing the last ferry to Rottnest Island and so having to run like maniacs down the dock. It was a day for ferry adventures, the last ferry back to the mainland broke down so we were stuck there for two hours post departure time, waiting for a rescue. It did mean we got to see the sunset though which day visitors don’t normally get to see. After a day cycling along the deceptively hilly island though, we were ready to park ourselves on the couch with pizza, wine and the Eurovision finale.

It was a really lovely weekend and I wish she was here all the time so we could do stupid things together like we used to!

Then of course there was the Bali trip organised for mum’s birthday. This was an absolute delight and I can’t even tell you what a great time I had. I was so relaxed when we got back, I felt like a whole new person. It was very much needed and rejuvenating, as cliche as that sounds. It felt way too short, I had at least another two lazing by the pool days in me, but it’s only a three hour flight away and stupidly cheap, so hey! Positives!

I imagine many more trips to Bali in my future.

Most out of character for me, I joined the girls from my office to take part in the HBF Run for a Reason around the CBD. We had to get up waaaaaaay too early, stand around for waaaaaay too long and then queue for busses back to the starting point once we had actually finished. Let’s just say there was a lot more waiting around than actual running…especially when we decided to go for breakfast afterwards and chose the world’s worst cafe that took over an hour to serve us already prepared toasted sandwiches and coffee. The hospitality industry, you’re doing it wrong.

Last Friday, I accompanied two girls from work on a evening of learning and drinking…the best combo. The Western Australian Museum has a very cool Dinosaur Discovery exhibit on featuring really well-designed life-size animatronic dinos. Cool, right? But it gets better because they’ve got a cretaceous pop up bar set up in the space for a month, meaning you can drink amazing swamp vodka mojitos and look at all the cool stuff without loads of people (ie kids) around. It was actually really fun, and we rounded the night off with more cocktails. Always with the cocktails.

Other than that, I’ve just been attempting to catch up with uni reading and make sense of the quagmire that is my thesis proposal. And of course I’ve been taking the usual evening walks around my hood and taking a stupid amount of photos of my dog. As you do.

I expect this trend will continue this month. Sigh.

Music: Bring it on – The Gaslight Anthem

Paris when it sizzles – Cooking Adventure #5

The cooking trend came to a staggering halt when mum had to go to Sydney on a two week work trip. I went along during the first week, and dad absconded for most of the second. Bothering with recipes just seemed like too much effort and, to be honest, it’s something mum and I really enjoy doing together. It’s just not fun without her!

So it was almost four weeks before we returned to our experimenting with sizzling beef steak, hoi sin prawn and noodle bowls. Unfortunately this was also our least successful attempt. I do not do seafood and neither does mum. While I will have the odd battered fish or calamari, mum will not touch it with a ten foot pole. We’re just not keen. On the other hand, dad is a fan and that’s why we decided to make this – just with less prawns than the recipe required.

Now personally I had no problems with this dish. The flavours were great and I just love the hoi sin noodles. Sooo good. Both parentals aren’t keen on coriander though and thought it was way too overpowering – I didn’t even notice. So, next time, we’ll halve the amount and see if it’s better received! We also went over time again (around 30min) so dad found the steak too cold by the time it was served. And he thought it was underdone, but I think he was just being whiny.

It was really flavoursome though and, although disappointing compared to previous attempts, not a complete wash out. It received a sad 2 Grumpy Dads out of 5.

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Salsa baby – Cooking Adventure #4

My dad works shifts so I wanted to know if I could expand our new cooking fad to include lunches. I thumbed through 15 minute meals for things that looked lunch appropriate to start with and settled on falafel wraps with grilled veg and salsa. This was quite a progressive choice as it’s meat-free and vegetarianism makes my dad want to cry.

First up, I’ll admit I struggled with this one. It spiraled out to around 45 minutes of cooking, mostly because the falafel was proving problematic. I was obviously being way too slow shaping them, so it got a bit out of control! But! Got there eventually.

It was a perfect summer’s day though so the meal was perfect. The charred veggies were delicious, and we opted to serve it with beetroot rather than the recommended red cabbage. So tasty! Dad got over his initial shock of being presented with a veggie meal, so that was good. I think he was mostly just pleased with the cottage cheese marbled with sweet chili.

I’d like to try this again to see if I can actually make it in a decent time frame. It got 3.5 Grumpy Dads out of 5.

Sadly I don’t seem to have a photo of this one so here’s an apologetic dog instead.

Light of my life.

Light of my life.