Sunday, December 18, 2011

Happy Birthday to me

Every time I drop off the blog radar, I come back saying I've been busy.
Well this time I really have been busy. Super-dooper busy!
The end of my uni semester was crazy, with 60 gigantic assignments to mark, which pretty much took up every moment that wasn't filled with work and sleep (my poor little neglected family!).
But, I'm not going to waste your time with that, I've got lots of other exciting adventures to write about!

I'm going to start with Friday. Today's post is about my 38th birthday.

I think I may have mentioned previously that I have spent the last year telling people I'm turning 39 this year. It was only when I was talking about my 40th (and the grand celebration it will be - stay tuned for my 'save the date' cards people!), when I realised that I was actually a year younger than I'd been saying I was. I mean really, Who does that??

Nevermind, it was nice to realise that I was actually a year younger than I'd thought I was. 'Cause I don't like this aging thing. I liked being young and crazy and full of energy (though, I still do have some crazy tendencies - more about that in the next post!)

However I say this, it will sound like whinging, so I'll just whinge. It's tough having a birthday in December. For one, there's the inevitable 'here's your birthday and Christmas present combined' deal, or the suspiciously light-on pressie because everyone's blown their money on Christmas presents. My parents were always pretty good about it (perhaps because my dad's birthday is three days before mine), but it did come from other quarters.
Then there's the 'I can't make your party, I have a Christmas party to go to' thing (hence the 'save the date cards mentioned earlier'. December babies are always competing with Christmas. Mind you, I guess I'm luck I'm not a Christmas Day baby.

So it was with fairly low expectations that I approached my birthday. I'd originally planend to have some drinks at our place, but other events (again, see future posts) meant that I decided to cancel. But I was OK with having a nice quiet day.

It started out well. As usual, I was up well before anyone else. No breakfast in bed for me, but that's OK, because only I can make my eggs the way I like them!

Oliver got up and was his usual gorgeous, charming self. Then Anthony. They gave me a big present and I actually said 'my god, you didn't give me Lego, did you?'. But yes folks, it was Lego. I quite like the Medieval Lego, so Anthony had gotten that for me. I must admit, I was a little disappointed, as Anthony hasn't always been the best present buyer; one year he bought me Guitar Hero for Wii, and he quite often dashes off the night before to buy something.

Then they brought out the Pandora bag. Now, at least a year ago I hinted that I'd like a Pandora bracelet. So when I saw the bag I got excited. Inside was a box, and when I opened it I found this:

Ha ha.

Of course then Anthony showed me the real thing. A lovely silver bracelet. But even better, he had bought a charm with my birthstone, as well as having the boy's names engraved on two silver spacers.

So thoughtful and lovely. But then, that's been Anthony of late...

I then went to work, did a little bit, then had a lovely Christmas lunch with my wonderful colleagues.

There were lots of lovely Facebook messages, which made me feel a bit special, a visit from the family, then a quiet night: a few drinks, a yummy laksa and a snuggle with my boys, and I was happy.

Maybe there is hope for birthdays after all...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Happy Anniversary!

This is us in the photo booth at my friend's wedding in October.

On Saturday, Anthony and I 'celebrated' 17 years together.
When I say celebrated, Anthony spent the day working outside and I spent the day marking. Oliver sat neglected in his bedroom, alone and forlorn...(actually, he had a friend over and spent the day shooting things with Nerf guns). We did manage a movie on the couch in the evening though. And Anthony bought me a lovely bunch of flowers:
He picked these because they were purple. Sweetie.
Those of you that know Anthony will know that buying flowers isn't something he'd normally do. Not because he's stingy, he's just never been a romantic fellow. Until now. He can still surprise me.

And I guess that's one of the things that will keep us together. The fact that we can still surprise each other.

So many people take the easy way out in relationships. When things get tough, they get away as quick as they can. Things have been pretty tough for us. Not just the Sam thing - we've had other serious downs along with our ups.
But through it all we've stuck together. At first perhaps it was stubbornness. We jumped in so fast, so young (I've told you before about how we got together, bogan style), we would have been admitting weakness to let it fold, and honestly, who wants to hear the "I told you so"s?

In the early years, we had some rip-snorting fights. I remember once Anthony walked out on an argument and I was so angry I threw the closest thing at him. It just happened to be a wire cooling rack. It sailed straight through the (closed) window, leaving a drafty reminder of my temper for days.

We don't fight so much any more. We've learned to communicate better, and we've realised that you just can't change a person.

Mind you, they can change themselves, as the flowers demonstrate. We've both changed over 17 years, and I think it's made us better.

So, what's the secret to staying together? Don't give up. It's easy to think that there's something better out there, but from what I see in other people, there usually isn't. Talk, share, laugh, have your own space and let them have theirs, and do things together. Whether it's big fancy holidays or a night on the couch with a bowl of popcorn.

Sometimes I think it would be cool to be single - to go and explore the world, but then I remember I'm pretty happy where I am. With my best buddy.

Happy 17 years honey.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Spicky Specky Goodbye

I know, I should probably do a post on Kyle Sandilands, I'm so not hip!

Still, there are better things in life to waste my time (and typing fingers on).

 Like Spicks and Specks.

A while back, I blogged about my (almost) complete disinterest in television. In it, I mentioned that Spicks and Specks was one of the only shows that  actually bother watching.

Well sadly last night it came to an end. And despite the fact that I forgot to watch it more often than not, I'll miss it.

'Cause Spicks and Specks was a show I was comfortable with. It made me laugh, it gave me a chance to see a range of cool musical type people in funny situations...

 ...and it made me feel smart.

When I was younger, I could identify most songs within the first few bars. And as I grew older I got better at it. And I developed a fairly encyclopedic knowledge of music and musicians.
A totally useless skill I thought, until I realised that Alan Brough and Myf Warhurst got paid to do it every week. Bastards! I could have been so good on that show!

Because I'm not super intelligent, no matter how much I yearn to be so. Oh, I'm not dumb, but I've never been one of those intelligent, witty types that have a snappy answer for everything and seem to come up with the answer effortlessly.

When I'm watching Spicks and Specks I am smart. I can answer a lot of the questions. My family tell me how good I am at it. And it makes me feel good.

So it's not just the cool music, laughter and funky sets that I'll miss, it's also the world-beating feeling of awesomeness.

Thanks for the memories guys...(oh, and I'll see you next month at the Spicks and Speck-tacular!)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I'm booooooored!

That's what Oli's just informed me. 

Not at all reasonable of course, because of the following:
  • His friend, Spencer, has only just left after a sleepover.
  • He has 40 000 toys to keep him busy.
  • He has about 10 drawing books, heaps of paper, pens, paints and canvases.
  • The TV's on.
  • He's got my iPad.
  • He has a whole room full of Lego.
  • He has a Nerf gun in his hand that his dad was kind enough to modify for him this morning.
Yes yes, you say, but why aren't you doing something with him?

I know that me complaining about Oliver's boredom may lead you to believe that I'm a terrible mother that never does anything with my child, instead plying him with toys and friends to keep him busy. Well, that's true (in part), but I do like to think that I balance that with quality time. Sometimes.

The truth is, at the moment I'm supposed to be marking a bunch of uni assignments (can't you tell by the way I'm bent over the books?). Which is why I had organised the sleepover. So that I wouldn't get the 'can we play a board game/hide and seek/Nerf wars' requests all day.

But of course now Spencer is gone, and Oli's got to entertain himself. Hence the 'I'm bored' statement.
I'd be interested to know whether this is a new phenomenon, or if it's as timeless as the act of having children.

Certainly, I remember boredom as a young 'un, but hey, I didn't have iPads or the internet (god I'm old!).

In their defence, my boys were always pretty good at entertaining themselves, and didn't seem o hate their own company as some kids do. But they have their moments.

What's your take on the 'I'm bored' scenario?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Death to Whipper Snippers!

Long Grass
Thanks Rickety for the photo.

Today, what should have been a half hour job turned into a epic battle between me and my new whipper snipper.

As you know, I do like to get out in the garden, but over the last couple of years, bits and pieces of my garden have gotten away from me. They are my 'weed gardens'.
I don't like that it's happened but I have a quarter acre block, too much to do, and not enough time to do it. Plus for the last couple of years I've been preoccupied.

But in our front yard (much of which is lovely with a big apple tree and berries galore), there are many of these weed gardens. One particularly bad patch is a bit near the road that has gone to grass.
And as it does, the grass grew. Quite tall actually.

It got to the point where I thought I'd better chop it down before it became a fire hazard/snake haven. So I got Anthony to go and buy a whipper snipper.
We went for electric this time, as our last petrol powered one met a grisly end. And it was noisy, and stinky and oily. I was happy with electric.

It's quite a nice little thing actually, but obviously not up to the massive task of thigh-high grass removal. I had barely managed 1 minute of snipping before it sucked the line into itself and stubbornly refused to work any more.

And there began our struggle. I patiently unscrewed the head, poked around for the line (which had somehow managed to tuck itself under other bits of line), rewound it and started again.

If you can imagine this process repeated 58 times, this was my afternoon.

Because I am stubborn (and extraordinarily patient, I think), I got the little weed garden chopped. It took a whole reel of line, but I did it. With a lovely accompaniment of words that I shall not repeat here.

It's sulking in the shed now. There are still more weed gardens that demand our attention, but they will have to wait. There's only so much a girl can take.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Checking in

Wow! It's been a busy couple of weeks!

The weekend just past was the first in quite a few that we haven't had some kind of social engagement.

Since we got back from Queensland, we've had Oliver's birthday, Anthony's birthday (and their respective celebrations, small as they were), then last weekend I went to the horribly tacky (but kinda interesting in a train wreck, social experiment way) Oktoberfest with my lovely brothers-in-law and their partners/friends (quite fun I guess).

I've also been doing my uni stuff. It was my last tute last Wednesday, just a big bunch of marking to do once the munchkins (can I call uni students munchkins?) hand their final HUGE assignment in. Let's just say between the 18th and end of November I'll be pretty much invisible!

And we've been gardening. It's spring, so the weeds are growing quickly (unfortunately we have a healthy share of them), but we have been balancing weeding with planting and preparing for a big crop of yummy vegies. Stay tuned for some delicious updates!

Oliver's started baseball on Saturdays, which of course knocks out most of the morning. But he's enjoying it, so that's what matters.
And I've been good too. Very diligently exercising, and watching carefully what I eat. I've lost 5 kilos so far, which is not as much as I'd expected, but a good start. More about that soon too.

But for now, it's time for me to go and snuggle up to my poor neglected Anthony.
Nighty night.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Office Space

Here are 10 things that I notice about working in an office (how many are familiar to you?)

1. The inability to change a toilet roll is not exclusive to the men in my household (and what's with putting the new roll on top of the empty one? Replace the roll, dammit!)

2. The dishwasher always needs emptying when you're the only one left in the office.

3. The personal touches. I love how for some people it's their kids, others their dog, sometimes it's a vacation snap or a funny little calendar. It's nice to bring a little of yourself to work.

4. Sound travels. All kinds of sounds. That's all I'm sayin'.

5. The phone will ring and ring and ring...until the moment you pick it up.

6. Some people appear to do nothing much except walk around all day.

7. The weather outside is always a bit of a surprise.

8. It would be very easy to get fat(ter) in an office. Morning teas, afternoon teas, lunches, farewells, celebrations, etc...

9. Air conditioning dries you out.

10. Each decision requires a meeting. Then another meeting to talk about that meeting. Then, more meetings, and finally, a meeting to discuss why you haven't progressed from the first meeting...

**I would like to categorically state that the content in this post is in no way a reflection of my current worksite (well, except a couple...), which is full of wonderful people. Rather, these observations have come from a combination of my building, visits to other workplaces and anecdotal statements from friends and family.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Anywhere but here

The grass is always greener on the other side, right?

I know this, but it doesn't stop me wanting to leave here, go somewhere. Anywhere. Anywhere but here.

When we were in holidays, it was always in my mind: I could move up here (Queensland), open a theme park maybe (Legoland of course- don't you reckon Australia needs a Legoland?).
Of course, the far north coast of NSW was even better. I fell in love (again) with the green rolling hills, little macadamia farms, views forever...if I had a million bucks, I'd move there now, somewhere between Mullumbimby and Bellingen.

Of course, I do this every time I travel. You've probably noticed. I'm pretty sure I mentioned it in my last post.

But what's worse is that I do it when I'm here too.
A couple of days ago, I came across an awesome job opportunity with Apple. A job that I'm actually qualified for and would love to do. Reading the job description, it actually seemed like on that I'd have a good chance of getting.
The problem? It's based in Melbourne.

Now I'd love to live and work in Melbourne, so it was very tempting to dash off an application. But of course once I talked to Oliver, I realized I couldn't do it. He was horrified at the prospect of moving, going a new school. Leaving our friends and family behind.

So shelved that idea. Because as much as I'd love it, at the moment I need to consider Oliver's best interests. Not because I'm some martyr that lives for her child (although I guess I do), but because he's had enough upheaval in his life. And, I must admit, I'd miss my family and friends too.
So I'll stay put. Moving may might stay a retirement dream.

But where does that leave me? How do I keep myself satisfied and happy?

I don't know why I have this urge for change. Perhaps it's my new, post-Sam attitude. Or maybe it's because I didn't do all those travel, party animal, career-advancing things in my 20s (I only regret that a little bit- I'm very happy to have had my time with Sam). Perhaps it's even my sagittariun 'wanderer' tendencies. Who knows?

But...I'm staying put for now. I've told Anthony that he's got until I'm 45 until I pack it all in and move somewhere. Perhaps that will be some land in the ACT region where I can grow my berries and enjoy the views, or maybe I'll go further. I not know yet. I hope I'll be able to stifle some of these urges until then...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Heebie-Jeebies

No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.

While we were on our holidays, like every good visitor to far north NSW/Queensland, we visited the theme parks. Movie World and Sea World were quite fun for all of us (with Sea World being our favourite), but Wet n' Wild proved to be most challenging.

As you may know, Wet n' Wild is a water park. Full of water slides. Big, long, fast, scary water slides.
And it just so happens that I'm terrified fairly nervous when it comes to those big, wet, winding beasts.
I don't know where it comes from, but I do know I've been scared of water slides my whole life. I guess you could call it a phobia.

Some of you may be wondering why I'd put myself through a whole day in this hell. Luckily there are other things to keep me interested. I love water, and there is a wave pool, a very cool kiddy water play area, and a cool 'river' where you just jump on an inner tube and float around and around. This is my idea of fun. And, I do like watching my family having fun on the slides too.

'Cause they do like them. Anthony loves water slides (though he will only go in the water if it's really, really hot outside); Sam loved them too (he had a fabulous time at our local - much lamer - water park with his school only a couple of days before he died); and Oliver is beginning what will probably be a lifelong love of them too (although, he does prefer the lower, smaller, slower ones at this point). Luckily for him there was a small slide at the caravan park we stayed in, and he had lots of fun on that.

This slide was also the origin of my downfall.
Because I went on it. Quite a number of times. And came to the conclusion that it was actually quite fun.

So when we got to Wet n' Wild, I naturally thought that I had been magically cured of my phobia. After all, I've successfully conquered my spider squeamishness and my up-high upsets (well, sort of - you probably won't catch me skydiving any time soon). This new 'can do, live for the moment' attitude I've manufactured over the past couple of years has certainly been a factor in these turnarounds, and I was all set to attribute my new water slide loving persona to it too.

How silly I was. I guess I should have seen it coming, but I was caught up in the excitement. People everywhere, warm sun (but freezing water!) and an excited family...
When we got to Wet n' Wild, we tried to take Oliver onto a fairly tame (I guess) slide first up. Pretty much a replica of the big yellow slides you get in the sideshow, except wet. We picked up our mats and were halfway up the stairs when Oliver baulked. We tried talking him into it, but he got upset, so we turned around and went back down.
Then we went for a walk and found the 'boat slide'; where everyone sits in the same rubber boat to go down. Once again, we got halfway up the stairs and Oli decided it wasn't for him (though he cleverly disguised it as needing to go to the toilet).

By this time, Anthony was a little frustrated, but declined to go off on his own, so we walked around a bit, floated down the river, went in the wave pool and had some lunch. Oli had a bit of a play in the kiddy park and then they finally decided they would go on a slide.

They chose what is probably the tamest and slowest slide at Wet n' Wild - a long, windy (but not too steep) slide set on a hill. I decided I would watch them go down.
Of course, Oliver loved it (Anthony found it a bit slow and lame), and it looked OK to me too; little kids and old ladies regularly popped off the end looking quite happy. So when Oliver decided to go on it again, I thought I would join him.

Well, I got all the way to the top of the hill, all the way to the front of the (30 minute wait) line.

Then I froze.

I saw the water gushing down, the steep(ish) drop at the beginning, and I couldn't do it. I even had a bit of a panic attack: quickened pulse, shallow breathing, nausea, even tears - though I managed to swallow them until I had successfully (yet sheepishly) made my way past the grannies and toddlers waiting to hurtle their way down.

I regret that I didn't just do it anyway, I really do. Because I didn't show Oliver that day that it's good to be scared but that you can have a go anyway. And deep down, I know I would have liked it too. But I didn't. Because I was scared.

Perhaps one day I'll be able to do it. But this time I didn't. Fear is a funny thing, isn't it?

What are you scared of?


Sorry if you see lots of weird stuff going on here, I'm just messing around with the look and feel. Let me know if there's anything you find especially crappy! (or awesome!)
Bear with me folks, won't you? (well, you have so far, so I'm inclined to think you'll put up with much more silliness!)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Travel Diet

You don't realize just how little there is in the way of healthy travel food options until you undertake a journey. The greasy spoon by the side of the freeway is not a happy place for carb-conscious dieters, that's for sure!

For me, holidays are always good activity-wise, as I (we) tend to do lots of walking and other fun stuff like bike riding, rowing boats and swimming.
But the food is a problem. In the past, when I've been on holidays I've used it as an excuse to eat a heap of 'relaxed' food- whether it's my aunt's amazing cooking when in Melbourne, lots of restaurant meals, extra cheese & bikkies or chips, or the ubiquitous lolly snakes for 'in the car'.

Well, because I've been doing quite well over the last couple of weeks (2 kilos down, but more importantly feeling healthy and in control), I wasn't going to let myself go crazy with the snacks.
And I did quite well on the way down, sticking to fruit and nuts and completely avoiding the chips and lollies.
The stops were a little harder, but I found it was ok if I thought about it- chicken salad wraps seem to be available in many places, and I could even get some yoghurt at McDonalds. Not the best options, but definitely better than what I would have had before.

It's nearly impossible for me to be completely carb free during these stops, but I'd been easing off on that a bit anyway. It's not so bad- Today at Coolangatta I had a lovely dish of chilli prawns with Fettucine and it filled me up for hours (and it was delicious!)

I think if you're organized, and willing to have the same thing more than once, you could do ok. Of course there will be moments when I will give in and go with the flow, but at the moment I'm confident I'll manage that. I'll let you know how I go.


After almost two full days of driving, we're firmly ensconced in our trailer compound in a Tweed Heads caravan park. It's quite lovely, despite it's proximity to the highway and it's position under the flightpath (you get used to the noise pretty quick).
It was quote a nice trip, despite the length, and it's nice here too.
They've predicted rain for almost the whole week, but I think it will be ok. As Oliver says, "I'm gonna get wet anyway!"
More soon.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

You are getting sleepy...

A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow.  ~Charlotte Brontë

Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night (or the morning) completely disorientated? I quite often wake up thinking 'where the hell am I?', and sometimes go as far as jumping out of bed to investigate. Like early this morning when I woke up wondering why all the furniture in my room had been rearranged.

Sleep and I are sometimes terribly at odds. There are times that I'll sleep soundly all night, but others where I'll wake up at 2 or 3 in the morning and have no chance of getting back to sleep.

Those times are good for getting reading done. Sometimes I'll read blogs and sometimes a novel. I quite like the iPhone/iPad for those moments, as you can read without turning the light on. Not good when you're totally hooked on a paper book (I'm on book three of the Game of Thrones series and loving it), but otherwise very handy.

I'm also a bit strange in that strange bit between awake and asleep. I'll quite often be sitting innocently on the couch with Anthony and he'll say 'what did you just say?'. Guaranteed it will be something weird about singing elephants or cross-dressing serial killers. Who knows what's going on in my subconscious?

I remember after Sam died sleep was next to impossible. We spent the nights of the first week together on the lounge, not sleeping, but even after that sleep was always broken (most of the time by checking on Oliver), but sometimes with the bad dreams and grief stuff that was inevitable I guess. And a lot of those disoriented moments included forgetting that Sam wasn't there.

Being the busy person I am, I often think how productive I'd be if we didn't have to sleep. But really, there's nothing like that feeling when it all goes right and you're snuggled up warm and comfy and sleep is the only thing you want...

Monday, September 19, 2011

Losing Mel

So, I'm a few days into my quest for a new me, and so far so good.
I'd like to share a couple of successful moments with you, and then do a little bit of goal-setting.

I've mentioned before that food is a bit of a weakness for me. I can't help it, I like food. Especially good food that tastes yummy. So whenever I've 'dieted' (god I hate that word) before, it's been food that's brought me undone. I'm good at getting into a fitness routine, but it's the food that gets me in the end.

The very last time I started in on this, it was chocolate (my arch nemesis!). No sooner had I resolved to change my wicked ways than boxes of it appeared around the office (fundraising for the Christmas party; so a good cause, but a terrible temptation all the same), and my lovely colleague/boss Lyn introduced me to Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Sigh.

Before that it was alcohol. I don't drink much really, and never during the week, but I do like the odd drink on the weekend. And sometimes when I have a couple of drinks, it's very easy to slip into the junk-food habits that seem to go hand in hand with it.

And there's also the general stuff - I have been hesitant to forgo the hot chips or the bowls of ice cream that my boys can enjoy without too much trouble (although Oliver is showing signs of the potential to pudge - better watch that).

So since I resolved to do better (and to spend a couple of weeks cutting ALL the bad stuff out), I've been proud of some wins (small things yes, but big to me):
  • When at a cooking party recently, I avoided the Burger Rings, a one-time favourite (I craved them terribly when pregnant with Samuel)
  • I have been able to completely ignore the ever-growing stash of junk food in the office, including the Chomp bar left on my desk this morning (Anthony gets that one - lucky boy
  • At the club for lunch on Sunday, I went to the bar for a beer, and came back with a soda water
  • I've been eating LOTS more vegies
I haven't done much exercise lately, as I've been sick, but I plan to get stuck into it again this week.

So here are my short term goals:
  • To get back into my typical exercise routine:
    • Monday - Sh'Bam
    • Tuesday - 45 minute morning walk
    • Wednesday - 45 minute morning walk
    • Thursday  - Sh'Bam
    • Friday - sometimes a walk
    • Saturday - Sh'Bam
    • Sunday - something with Oli (bike ride, walk or whatever)
  • To lose 5 kilos by this time next month
  • To stick with the 'no sugar or starchy carbs' thing at least until I go away with the boys in early October
If I do all this, I am going to buy myself a treat. I'm not sure what yet...

Hangin' with the smarties

I gave my first (and hopefully not my last) university lecture today.

It was part of the course I've been tutoring in for the last few weeks, and because some of the content was about the kinds of things I do in my job, they asked me to do it.

It was pretty cool! I had practised it this morning, and thought I sounded pretty lame, so by the time I got to the lecture theatre, I was pretty nervous. I got there early too: having made lots of arrangements to get there early in case parking was tricky (it's always really hard to find a park when I go there on Wednesday afternoons), I managed an easy park right outside the lecture theatre with 20 minutes to spare. Mind you, if I hadn't allowed the time, I would probably have been late, so that's cool (I'll tell you some time about the frustrations I have with lateness!)

But I needn't have worried. I spoke pretty well - apart from some terrible times with some of the more tongue-twisty of words - and even got a couple of laughs, which I think is pretty good from a room full of 20 somethings with laptops on their laps or phones on their hands!

I haven't listened to the recording yet, because it might pop my bubble (what if I'm kidding myself and I was actually awful??), but I will keep it for posterity.

So much fun! I could really see myself doing that regularly. Hopefully there's a bit more of it in my future!

Friday, September 16, 2011

It's all gotta go!

I am going to lose half my body weight.
It's true! I am!

It might take me a long time, but I'm gonna do it! And...I'm taking a big risk telling you, dear readers.

Ach! Did I really just admit it? Why did I do that?
Number one because it's a big thing for me to admit to. Yes, I am horribly overweight (OK, obese), and I need to do something about it. It's a pretty big step for me to say it loud though. After all, who wants to admit they've failed at something? Especially me?

Number two because telling people makes me accountable. Now that might be a good thing, for accountability's sake (well, duh!), but it's also a big risk, especially if I stuff it up. Which is possible, because I'm a bit of a self-sabotager (more about that later).

But why now?
Well, you'd have to be pretty dumb to think that it's OK to be overweight. I mean, the evidence is pretty clear that it's not a good place to be.
I've certainly got by on not losing weight. I've always been pretty active, and have always had good blood/pressure/cholesterol. Good genes maybe? Or just luck?
But...I mentioned in my last post that my doctor told me that I'm on the verge of diabetes. That's nothing new to me really - my grandmother developed type two diabetes when she was older, so it's in the blood, and I'd long suspected that my habits might catch up to me sooner or later. In fact, part of me had anticipated that my blood tests would show I already had it.
But I was lucky. I didn't. And if that's not a wake-up call, I don't know what is.

I don't want to die early. I don't want to be incapacitated. I don't want to live the second half of my life counting the pills I have to take each morning. I want to be awesome, and successful and travel and create! I can't do that as easily if (a) I'm diabetic, and (b) I'm HUGE.

But haven't you done this before?
Yes, yes I have. Quite a few times actually (in fact, I've documented most of the whole silly story already). And no, I don't know if this time I'll do it better. But I'm damn well gonna try.

Ok, so what are you going to do?
Well, as I've said previously, I've tried a few different things. I've never gone down the Weight Watchers/Jenny Craig road, nor the surgery/extreme measures road (though god knows I've contemplated it!), but I've definitely done near-starvation and over-exercising.
The most success I've had (a good 40 kilos worth) was through good eating and regular exercise. I hope I can be that good again.

Because that's what I've decided to do again. I did consider a lap band (some people close to me have done it, with much success), but can't stand the thought of the things I'd have to give up - or the cost. I also looked into Atkins and Cohens (etc), but all seemed just too prescriptive for me. I just tend to rebel (even if mentally) if people tell me what I can (and can't) do, and once I go back to 'normal', that's the end of me!

I am making a few compromises to get me started. I am going to cut out starchy carbs for a while. You know, the potatoes, lollies, cakes and white bread etc, with a slight leaning to Atkins principles, but with a healthy measure of low GI too. Just to get me started. Because I need to see some results quickly.
Once I lose about 10 kilos, I'm going to go back to refining my diet for a long term lifestyle change.
It's going to be based on low GI principles, because I think my blood sugar has something to do with all this. But it's going to be something I can sustain. I still want to be able to eat the occasional Toblerone Cheesecake, or Goodberry's or delicious double brie, but I need to learn to do that in moderation.

I think it will be OK. My tastes and habits have changed a fair bit over the years. I actually like vegetables a whole lot more now, and I'm already in a pretty good exercise habit. It's just making some permanent changes to portion size and sugar consumption.

So I may well vent my frustrations along the way, and I'll definitely keep you up to date with how I'm going. But please, do hold me accountable. Ask me now and then how it's going. Oh don't worry, I'll tell you!

Thursday, September 15, 2011


I know, it's very cheeky of me to think that anyone would still be around after completely neglecting my ever-faithful readers for the last month, but I thought I'd better pop my head in.

In my defence, I've been exceptionally busy since I last spoke with you, not to mention horribly ill for the last couple of days (it's so nice to be able to sit up for any length of time!)
Mind you, I'm not completely better yet. I got hit with a very rapid onset cold on Monday night, and have been in bed since. In fact, I'm writing this while all snuggled up. I think I've got a little bit of a chest infection to be honest, so if I'm not better tomorrow, it's back to the doc. I don't want to get pneumonia (again).

So, my last post was on the 29th of August. I've had many adventures since then: There's been a strike, which is always interesting, if nothing else. There's been lots of work-related hi-jinx with some new, and very interesting and fun, colleagues - did you know it's been a whole year since I started my new job? And I still love it!
I've also started my other casual job doing some tutoring at the Uni. That's been a lot of fun too, though at times frustrating (I'm a little pedantic about spelling and these are university students - I'll say no more...), and scary (do I really know enough to teach at a university level?). I'm even giving a lecture next week, which is even more scary! Still, I'm glad to be doing it. It's a nice kind of teaching.

We had Father's Day, which was a pretty quiet affair, with my Dad away and me not 100% (what is it with me lately?), but the boys did some nice kite flying:

We have also been busy creating a 'Lego Room'. We have an old trailer/caravan thing that's been sitting out in the backyard full of junk, so we cleaned it out (chucking most of the junk out thank goodness!), and moved all the Lego from Oliver's room.

Last week, James and I went to see The Living End at the local uni bar. We probably wouldn't have gone if not for the whole Sam thing. As you know, The Living End was Sam's favourite band, and I had said that I would go the next time they were here. If Sam was alive, he definitely would have been there with me (it was over 18s, but we would have worked something out!), but it was good having James there, as he gets it. So once again, it was a good night tinged with sadness. It was a pretty good night, they always play well and they played enough of their old music to get most of the crowd involved.

I also spent last Saturday night being extremely wicked at the Hen's Night of a good friend: drinks, dancing, strippers, you know - the usual. You know, despite the horror of finding myself at Mooseheads (check out the photo!), it was actually fun, and a bit of an ego boost, as many boys came up and tried it on with me, and not just the ugly desperate ones!
It was a great night in which I (of course) had a bit too much to drink, which was a bit silly as the next day Oliver and I were due to take part in the annual Canberra Times Family Walk. 

Luckily, I was spared any sign of a hangover and we had a pleasant (if very cold) 5km walk around the lake. It's the second year we've done it (my friend Deb went too with her daughter Lucy), and it's lots of fun for a good cause (The Heart Foundation).

Phew! It's no wonder I've had no time for blogging! I will try to get back in here regularly, but it doesn't look like slowing down. We're going on a holiday soon (robbers beware, our house will be inhabited), plus it's not only social season (have you noticed that the social engagements seem to pile up when the weather starts to warm up?), but it's birthday season around our place. This month we've got Anthony's mum's 60th (it was on Tuesday but we're having lunch on Sunday); then in October we've got Oliver and Anthony(40!), as well as Anthony's brother Tim; then in November we've got Anthony's brothers Phil and Christopher and foster sister Ange; and finally in December there's James, my Dad and me! Lots of cake. Not so good for me who is now on a no-cake diet!

Actually, that's the other thing. My doctor told me the other day that I'm 'this close' to diabetes. So I'm going to lose some weight. No, I really am! It may well take up the bulk of my future posts.

So until the next one, much love to you.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Time for an overhaul

What's that? I hear you say...Isn't that what she's been doing for the last 18 months?
Well, yes and no. I have been doing a little 'life' overhauling: changing my job, my motivators and my attitude (but sadly not my waistline). Overall, it's been great, and I'm happy about the direction my life is taking (except for the obvious big hole that I now have in my life).

But no, when I say it's time for an overhaul, I'm talking about my blog.
Let's face it, the original reason for starting this blog has kinda run its course. That's not to say I am now magically cured of the grief that I have carried all this time, it's just that the things that I used to post about it here are no longer quite so dominating.

My mum suggested that I close the chapter of the 'grieving mother' part of my blog, and begin a new one. I've got almost enough in there for a little book, and there may come a time that I turn it all into one. But she's right. It's a good idea I think.

I've asked you (my dear, loyal, and lately neglected readers) before just what I should be plonking in here, and you have kindly furnished me with suggestions.

Many of which I hope to take up. Some of the more 'writery' figures in the world say that we should 'write what we know'. For me, that's both easy and incredibly difficult. Easy, because there's lots of stuff that I like, but difficult because there's so much bloody stuff that I like! TRicky to narrow it down...

So, you'll probably notice some changes over the coming months. Perhaps some regular posts, like my movie reviews, some of my everlasting battle with my bulge (oh yeah, it's coming!), not so much about work (though I do have another blog based around that stuff - I do get it to it very occasionally), lots about Oliver and his adventures, and maybe even some music and photography (I'm sure spring will bring out my inner photographer again - at least I hope so!). And of course there will always be that odd moment when it all becomes too much, or something sparks a wonderful memory of my beautiful boy.

I thank you, fine people, for the time you have shared with me. Some of it's been...well, shitty, but I've always appreciated that there were people there that were there with me, that shared it with me. It's hard to explain but having you here with me has been a big part of my healing.
I know some of you are probably here because of the grief stuff, and I'll understand if you don't love the new stuff, but I hope you'll check in occasionally.

Stay tuned for come changes...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Mellie at the Movies

I've seen a couple of movies in the last week. So I thought I'd pile my reviews up for you...

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

I must admit that on going in to this movie, my expectations were fairly low. The last 'apes' movie was in part responsible for this, much as I love the eternal sookiness of Mr. Wahlberg. Even the fact that the wonderful Tim Burton directed it didn't make it as wonderful as they would have hoped.
Anyway, I was a little apprehensive, but interested to see it after hearing a couple of good reviews.
Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised. I thought it was a pretty good movie.

The basic premise is that Will (James Franco) adopts an chimpanzee (Caesar) orphaned during lab testing. The chimp is ultra-intelligent but eventually makes a mistake that leads to interaction with other apes. It's the precursor to the Charlton Heston film, so we all know what's going to happen, but it's still an interesting ride.

The acting was probably one of the only areas of the film that brought my rating down, as well as some of the side-story (the romance wasn't especially sparkly).  James Franco was OK, if not a little subdued. Brian Cox was his usual gruff self, with Tom Felton (a little overstretched on the American accent I thought) and Jamie Harris (good in a small role) playing his offsiders. John Lithgow, as his father with Alzheimer's was solid, as always.  

The CGI is first-class, with Andy Serkis providing some amazing work as the basis of Caesar's intelligent chimp. You can tell it's CGI, but you don't really care, because it's done so well. The scenes with the animals are well put together, and the climactic action scene is clever and well-shot.

There were a couple of little plot holes, but overall I found it an engaging story that found a way to tell a story (that we all know the ending of) without making it too unbelievable or unsympathetic for anyone involved. I don't want to give any more away than that, but I thought the end moments were quite well handled.

I'd give this one 4 out of 5.


This one is new to DVD, and we'd been keen to see it for a while (we couldn't take Oli to see it at the movies as it's MA, but he totally handled the swearing and mild drug references that were obviously the main reason for rating it this way).

Paul is about two British nerds who are travelling the 'alien trail' in the U.S, when they meet Paul, an alien on the run.

I do love this kind of humour. I loved Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead, which were also co-written by Simon Pegg. There's just something about British humour that gets me. It's the uptight-ness I think (if you haven't seen Death at a Funeral - the British version - please do!).

Anyway, the performances are good comedy: from Seth Rogan's gorgeous portrayal of Paul, to the absolute geekiness of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, to the idiotic fanatacism of Kristen Wiig's religious girl and Jason Bateman's always reliable straight man. He's actually even a little evil. The only let down was Sigourney Weaver. Her portrayal is flat and boring and doesn't add much to the comedy.

The effects that created Paul are clever, but that's not what the movie's about. It's a fun story with lots of laugh-out-loud moments. A good one for a relaxing Saturday night.

4 out of 5.

Monday, August 15, 2011


When I was young, I thought it would be nice to get married. The romance, the ring, the big shindig and the tropical honeymoon...
I guess like (almost) any young girl, it seemed so romantic and wonderful. Movies with men sweeping pretty young things off their feet didn't do anything to hurt my semi-fantasies either.
As time went on and I started seeing a bit more of the world (and the ways that people could truly hurt each other if they wanted to), the sheen started to wear off a bit. My parents were always good marriage role models (they've been married 40 years), but there were plenty of people around me that marriage didn't agree with.

When I got myself knocked up and decided that I'd stick with Anthony for a while, he pretty much vetoed marriage right from the start. I don't know what it was, perhaps growing up in a single parent family, but he just didn't want to do it. Perhaps at the time he didn't want to commit to anything, but he's also pretty introverted, and would feel fairly uncomfortable when involved in any public display of affection.

At first I was worried about it - I'd always thought it would be nice for my dad to walk me down the aisle, but after a while I forgot about it. We spent some money buying a house instead (which was a pretty good move - just the unimproved land value is worth three times what we paid for it!)

We've been together nearly 17 years (I know, I know, I've heard it before: 'you get more time for murder'). In that time, I've seen more than one marriage fail. There are people that I know who are on their second. Or third.

So now, when I see all the fuss that gets made about marriage, I wonder why we (the societal we) do make such a fuss about it? Many people don't enter into marriage with the conviction that it will be lifelong. And then you have the people who want to get married but that aren't permitted by our laws to do it.

Oh, weddings are nice I guess, if you've got the money and lots of friends. I'm even going to one this year which will no doubt be lovely. I'm all for it if that's what people want to do. In fact, for many people the best part of a marriage is possibly the wedding!

I guess what I'm trying to say is that as an institution, marriage is changing. There are some who would have us believe that it still means the same as it did 500 years ago, but I beg to differ.
So why can't we change it? Make it a bit more fun. If it's not going to be permanent, then perhaps we could shake it up a bit, make it more exciting. And allow anyone to do it. If that's what they want.

What do you think? Did you get married? Was it worth it?

And while I'm on the subject, did you hear about the folks in the U.S who  started a petition calling for Sesame Street's Bert and Ernie to get married?
Is it just me, or is this just silly?
They're so totally not gay. If they were, I'd be all for the marriage (the best wedding I've ever been to was a lesbian/pagan handfast thingy), but they're not gay. But gee people are making a fuss about it!

I think Armistead Maupin summed it up quite well actually:
"The folks who fret that a wedding between Bert and Ernie would "sexualize" a kids' show were remarkably silent about a frog porking a pig."

What do you think about it all?

Monday, August 8, 2011


Just wanted to let you know I'm still here. Just a little blocked at the moment.
Stick with it folks, I'll be back...

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Mellie at the Movies

This afternoon, we saw Captain America: The First Avenger.

I've really liked the other 'Avenger' movies, my favourite being Thor, I think. I know that on the whole, super hero movies are pure movie popcorn, but I can't help falling for them every time!
I liked the X-Men movies and Spiderman (the first 70 times I watched it - Oli was a touch obsessed), it always gave me that emotional tweak (especially number 2 for some reason), and as I kid I had a super crush on Christopher Reeve.
There have been some bad ones. I didn't get into Fantastic Four as much as I thought I would, and the Green Hornet had some boring bits, but on the whole, super hero movies are cool. I like being able to switch off my brain for a while.

Captain America was probably not my favourite, but still enjoyable. The first half especially was very good, with the setup and development of the story. Stanley Tucci played his German doctor as a sweet and interesting character, and Tommy Lee Jones was great as the gruff (when isn't he?) but likeable Colonel. Even Chris Evans, who was just annoying in Fantastic Four was good. He played the weedy Steve Rogers very believably (with some amazing CGI!) and was entertaining as the propaganda-spouting Captain. Even Hugo Weaving, who's in danger of being typecast as the creepy bad guy, was good. He certainly did the German accent convincingly.

The period style was well put together, with beautifully created New York streets, and some great war-room and society scenes. The effects were good, and thankfully not too much of the action went on in darkness.

There was a lot of unbelievable stuff in there, especially the 1940s 'technology', but hey, it's a superhero movie, so I'm prepared to suspend judgement on that one. The love interest angle was a little predictable and there were a couple of scenes that weren't explained well or played out to their potential.

Still, it was an enjoyable movie, which left me keen for the Avengers movie, due out next year.

I'd give it 3.5 out of 5.

Oh, and it had the Wilhelm Scream too, something that's captured my attention lately. It's a recorded sound effect that's a bit of an in-joke in the movie industry. It's been used in lots of different movies, from Star Wars to Indiana Jones to Toy Story (see below). Ever since I found out about it, I notice it in everything. I've even got the app on my phone (all it does is the scream!). Now that I've told you about it, you'll notice it everywhere too!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Missing my boy

I guess the pain of losing a child never goes away, but the pain does tend to ebb and flow, and perhaps dim over time.
There are days when they're in the back of your mind, but so many things keep you busy that you don't have time to reflect on the 'loss' part. They're just a beautiful face in your mind.
Then there are other days when there are reminders everywhere. Little things that trigger memories, the sadness or the sense of loss. I've had a few of them lately.

And they're different too. When Oliver and I were in Melbourne, the things that we did triggered a lot of happy memories of Sam: Oliver getting the hiccups in the car reminded me of how Sam used to laugh until he got the hiccuos (poor kid, after a while, he curbed his laughter to avoid it!); or our trip to the aquarium reminded me of the time we went to the Sydney Aquarium when Sam was about 4. He walked out over the tank that was underfoot and completely freaked out when he realised he was standing over a fish tank. Funny stuff.

Most of it is brought on by things that happen to his friends or peers. Lots of them are doing things that really make me feel Sam's loss. It's the things that I know he'll never get to do. Some of his friends are getting into (and out of) serious relationships, many of them are getting their Learner's permits and getting accepted into colleges. And his best friend is turning 16 this week. For some reason, 16 is significant to me, I'd have liked to see Samuel at 16.

Don't worry, I'm not miserable, just having some of those moments where I feel it. Life still goes on, and we do all the normal happy things, but there's always that in the background. There are still times when people say stupid things when I feel like screaming at them about how good they actually have it, but I guess they're not as frequent either.

When it comes down to it, I just miss him so much.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Farewell to an old friend

On Friday night, our dog Merlin passed away.

He was nearly 17 (in human years), so he'd had a pretty good run. Still, it was a sad occasion, made bearable (and manageable) by some wonderful people.

The first of many...
I was 7 months pregnant with Samuel when we got Merlin. Anthony and I had been living together for a couple of months in our rented place, and we decided we'd like a dog.
We went out to the RSPCA on Boxing Day 1995, as we knew there would probably be some dogs out there. As soon as we saw Merlin, we knew he was the one. He was called Schooner then, but despite being told that dogs didn't take to name changes, he soon became Merlin (he got that name mainly because we were into wizards and dragons at the time. I guess we still are).

Merlin settled in well. Despite the fact that he was a large dog (he was a Labrador-retriever cross), he always thought that he was just 'a head' (as Anthony used to say) and could never understand why he couldn't fit on anyone's lap, or why only part of him made it inside.

He was very good with Samuel - very gentle and calm; taking all the ear and tail pulling that Samuel could dish out. Not once did he give us any reason to doubt his loyalty of Samuel's safety.

Merlin and Cheese
Not long after we moved in to our house here (March 1998), we got Cheese (Samuel named her - it was his favourite word at the time!). She has been Merlin's constant companion ever since (and just between you and me, she's a little sad at the moment).

Merlin and Cheese were not really inside dogs. They came in occasionally, but because they were usually filthy (I think I've mentioned before, our yard has a fairly large percentage of dirt/mud), they were mostly 'outside' dogs. But that was OK, because they had their own lounge suite. They tended to push the limits, but rarely stepped over them...

The Dangerous Dog
In about 2000, we were entertaining some friends. Their young son, who was 'entertaining' Merlin, got a scratch on his face when Merlin got a bit too excited. It was a bad scratch (with blood etc), and they decided to put in a complaint against him.

The Dog Control people confiscated him, and at first they were going to have him put down, but after having him at the pound (jail) for a while, they decided he wasn't really dangerous (just between you and me, they thought he was a bit of a pussycat. They knew straight away that he wasn't actually dangerous, but had to follow some kind of procedure), but that because of the incident, would have to be labeled 'dangerous' (the first Dangerous Dog in Canberra actually). We had to make some changes to protect the 'public' So we built higher fences and put a sign on our gate and then he came home.

Of course he wasn't dangerous. We had many other people (including kids) visit that didn't get 'attacked' by him, and kept a wide range of pets, such as chickens, rabbits, geese, ducks, rats, a cat and parrots, all of which were decidedly unharrassed by Merlin.
Actually, our house has always been a bit funny that way, our pets have always gotten along well, despite their natural predator/prey tendencies!

Merlin was technically Samuel's dog, and Samuel was usually the one who fed him, walked him and played with him, but Merlin's loyalty was firmly with Anthony. He followed him everywhere and did exactly as he was told by Anthony.

Getting Old
In the last couple of years, Merlin had slowly lost many of his faculties: his hearing went a while ago, then his sight, and finally all his muscle tone. He was so skinny you could put your hands together around his middle (this was despite his ENORMOUS appetite!)

After Sam died, Merlin definitely felt it, and was very low for a couple of months. We actually thought we might lose him quite early on. But he seemed to sense that it wasn't the right time; that it would be too much for Anthony to take, so he held on. Almost every night, while we sat eating dinner, he would stand at the back door and bark. At nothing in particular. I said that he was showing signs of dementia, but Anthony always said it was because Sam was there. That he was saying hello.

Time to Go
Just after we'd gotten back from Melbourne, Anthony felt that it was finally time for him to go. Merlin had gotten very listless, he wasn't eating or doing much at all. Anthony called our sister-in-law Rachel, who is a vet, who came over to have a look, and to help him on his way.
We were very glad that she could do this for us, and that Merlin could go peacefully, at home, surrounded by people that loved him.
All of Anthony's brothers came over, and his mum even drove all the way back from Sydney (she'd only just got there) to be with Merlin. She had a special relationship with him, as he lived with her for the 18 months that we lived in the granny flat at my parent's place.

So while we were all there with him, Rachel gave him the needle, and he let go. It didn't take much. He was definitely ready. I won't mention the prank he played on us all - let's just say the house stunk for a was a very Merlin-like prank!

And how are we?
The worst part about having pets is when they die, usually because they go long before anyone else on the family. It's a hard lesson to learn, but an important one. Harder for Oliver, because he's experienced too much death in his short lifetime. He mentioned this (that many people/pets that he knows have died) a couple of times, and I really felt for him, poor kid. Still, I'm glad he was there with Merlin in his final moments, and that he understands that Merlin lived a full and happy life, and was put to sleep because it was the best for him. Let's just hope that's it for a while though.

Oh, and a final note - Cheese is now firmly entrenched as an 'inside dog'. We were conscious of  her close relationship with Merlin, and worried about her pining for him, so we invited her inside. Lorraine (Anthony's mum) came over yesterday and gave her a bath, and she has definitely taken to her role. She doesn't need to be asked twice to come in, and has a permanent place on a blanket in front of the heater. Ah well, she's old (she's nearly 14 now), and she's nice to have around.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Some things I noticed on my travels:

The highway is killing small towns.
I must say, I am very happy that many of the towns along the Hume Highway are bypassed (do you know at the moment you can drive all the way from the NSW/Victoria border to Melbourne without passing through a single town?). It turned the 10 hour/two day trip of my youth to a fairly manageable 6 (ish) hour drive. But in the couple of towns I turned off into (or passed through - there are still three towns in NSW that haven't been bypassed yet), there is a common theme: a slightly shabby look to the shopfronts, as well as quite a few closed ones. Tarcutta was looking the worst by a long way -  lots of boarded-up shops and barely a parked car to be seen. I remember stopping there a few times as a kid, and I definitely remember it as more vibrant. Holbrook is quieter than I remember, but the little craft/antique shops still seemed to be getting a few customers. I wonder how both towns will fare as they are bypassed. I wonder how Albury/Wodonga is going? Although they are probably big enough to sustain themselves.

Many people are completely oblivious to everything around them.
One thing I've been trying to do, especially in crowded streets/shopping centres, is to get Oliver to be more aware of his surroundings. He often walks out in front of people or gets in the way of people with prams etc. He's certainly not the only one! There were so many times when I had to stop walking to avoid fully grown adults that stepped straight out in front of me. And then there are those that walk straight into your photo, or viewpoint (the Tutankhamen Exhibition and the Skydeck being prime examples.

Melbourne drivers are much easier to work with.
In Melbourne, there is heaps of traffic. And the roads are, in places, pretty crappy. And in the city they share the roads with trams. All of which makes the drivers assertive and sometimes impatient, but on the whole, very considerate. Apart from the very quick 'beep' if you stay at the green light too long, I've always found Melbourne drivers most likely to merge well, let you into their lane, and obey the speed limits, even in road works! In contrast, the last 40 minutes of my trip yesterday was almost harrowing, with traffic flowing at least 20km above the speed limit, and aggressive tailgaters all the way through the roadworks (I can't wait for the GDE to finally be finished!). Canberra drivers are spectacularly awful!

You never break down in a convenient place
As I was driving with a cold, my head was a little woolly. After about 2 hours, I was getting very drowsy, and decided to stop for a little nap. Silly me though, I left the lights on, and when I went to start the car again the battery was flat. So there we were stuck at the Lake Mokoan rest stop. Nothing but a toilet and a picnic table. Luckily, the lovely RACV guy got there in about an hour, and we were on our way, but you'd think I could break down in Glen Rowan or somewhere slightly interesting, or with a cafe at least!
It's happened before too. A couple of years ago, we broke down when coming back from Merimbula. Halfway up Brown Mountain. And then there was the time that Anthony and I broke down about 30 minutes out of Cooma. And the time I lost a trailer tire halfway between Cooma and Canberra. I must have the worst breakdown timing ever!

The world isn't easy - but we can't help everyone.
One thing that Oliver noticed and commented on frequently were the homeless people in Melbourne. There were lots of them - mainly older men, begging for change. It was a good opportunity for a talk about the reasons this can happen, and how we can't help all of them (although I try and do my bit, with a donation to Mission Australia each month- they do good things for young homeless people). There was a time when I probably would have put change in each hat that I passed, but I'm a little more cynical these days. I'd be happier taking them to a shop and buying them a sandwich than giving them money for 'food'. It;s amazing how many people step over them though, like they're invisible.

Great architecture and artwork really does make a city better
There's been a lot of controversy here in Canberra about public artworks. But after spending a few days in Melbourne, I firmly believe that the more there is, the better. Melbourne is a beautiful city (I think), and part of that is because of the way it looks. There are some amazing old buildings that have retained their heritage value, but there are also lots of amazing quirky, interesting looking buildings:

 and lots of cool sculpture and street art.

It really does make the place look interesting. There were so many people (including me) taking photos of artworks and buildings, surely it's good for tourism too. We need a few of them in Canberra...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Mellie at the Movies

As soon as the movie started, I regretted not having watched part 1 recently. It must be at least a year since I saw it, and I had forgotten some plot points.

I should say from the beginning that I am not a huge fan of the Harry Potter series. I didn't like the first 4 movies much at all, nor the books now that I come to think of it.
But they did get better as they went along. Books 5-7 were better, and the movies were slightly more watchable.

This last HP movie was definitely the one I liked best.  Of course it does have some advantages over the last one - setting up a story is never as exciting as the climax, after all.

The young actors have also improved with age. Emma Watson (Hermione) is not nearly as annoying as a teenager, and Daniel Radcliffe (Harry) seems much more at ease. I liked how Neville Longbottom's character had grown into something a bit more substantial, and Matthew Lewis carried it quite well.

The action scenes were very good, if not a little dark (why does all the good action happen at night?), with some excellent special effects creating a fairly exciting battle. I also loved the Gringott's Bank scenes (I won't spoil for you but there are some fantastic effects and creatures...). There was enough death and destruction to keep everyone happy, with the more gruesome scenes artfully managed, but not to their detriment I think.
This movie also made me feel something. Unlike Transformers, I had cause to get involved in the story, and I must admit to shedding a tear at certain key points. Very surprising given my previous ambivalence to the story, but in my defense I am a bit flu-ey!

There was never enough for me to call it a classic - Maggie Smith was a little detached (although I enjoyed her scenes) and Alan Rickman, one of my all-time favourites, was almost too understated. He did have some good opportunities to show more of his character though.There were some important scenes that were glossed over, and a couple that either weren't necessary, or were too long.

Nevertheless, it was a good finish to the series, and a nice way to spend the afternoon.

I'd give it 3.5 out of 5.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Do I have to come home?

This is what I see when I look out m hotel window.
It's not the traditional 'Melbourne City View', but it's still a nice one. There's the markets, a tram that wanders by every 20 minutes or so, the big container cranes, and in the distance, the big pillars of the Bolte Bridge.

I like Melbourne. Very much. If I had to live in another city it would be this one. When I asked Oliver if he'd live here, he said 'yeah! there's so much more to do here!'. Then he mentioned that he'd miss the family. Bless him. Damn families, stopping us from doin' stuff! ;p

We've had a pretty great time. For the first four days, we stayed pretty close to Eric and Karen's place (where we were staying). We visited my Grandpa a few times - he went to hospital for a night while we were here, so we went and visited him there too, we went swimming with my aunt and cousin (Oliver loved the wave pool), and I even managed to fit in almost a whole day of relaxing on the couch.

Which is probably why my body decided to let me get sick!
I haven't been sick in quite a while, but on Monday, I woke up with the definite signs of a cold. See, I just shouldn't have relaxed! Because today, I've got to drive home, and I'm feeling less than wonderful. It's going to be a loooooong trip...

Nevertheless, we've packed a lot in to our three days in the city.
On Sunday when we arrived, we went to the Queen Victoria Markets, where Oliver drained my wallet and I picked up some yummy olives and things (which ended up as my dinner!). Then we went down to Federation Square to the 'Art of the Brick' exhibition, which was pretty amazing:
This thing was HUGE! And made completely out of Lego!

We wandered through the town, ending up at the midtown Myer store's toy section (surprised??), which is pretty cool, with lots of Lego models, and too much Lego for sale!

And that was only Sunday! On Monday we went to the Melbourne Aquarium, which was cool (if not a little overpriced, I thought), the highlight of which was the gorgeous penguins (sorry, don't have a photo yet). Then, in a slightly cheeky move, we went at had some lovely fish and chips down on the Docklands. There is a great new shopping precinct there, but by this time, Oli was footsore, so we headed back up for a rest, briefly showing our faces down at Melbourne Central (about 350m away from here) for dinner.

Yesterday, we went to the fabulous Melbourne Museum (again, no photos yet!). It is a very well put together museum with some fascinating exhibits, like the taxidermied (not a word, I know) Phar Lap and the wonderful indoor 'forest', where I was very excited to get up close and personal with a satin bower bird and his blue bits (such a bird nerd!). 
We also saw (after nearly 30 minutes of queuing) the Tutankhamen exhibition, which was fascinating, but probably over priced and over hyped for what it was. I was hoping for Tut's mask or at least his sarcophagus, but it was interesting to see some of the treasures he was buried with.

Wednesday's adventures didn't end there. We then walked down to Eureka Tower (one end of town to another). We'd been there before but Oli was keen to go again, and I wanted to see it all by night. It was very spectacular, despite the low cloud that came in every few minutes, at one stage completely obscuring our view!
Oliver was exhausted by this time, so we jumped on a tram which took us almost to the door, and tucked in for an early night. 

This morning, I've promised Oliver a buffet breakfast in the hotel's restaurant, then we begin the long trek home. I have a feeling it will take me a little longer than the trip here, but that's OK. It's been nice.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Road Trip!

Oli and I are heading off on a road trip tomorrow.
Early in the morning, we're going to jump in the car and start the long drive to Melbourne.
We'll sing at the top of our voices, drive with the top down and whistle at girls as we cruise past....

Or something similar. I'll let you know how it all turns out!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Mellie at the Movies

I love movies. I've talked about them before and, as you know, spent a quarter of my life (so far) working in a cinema.

As I have been thinking about what to write in my blog, I have toyed with the idea of a movie 'review' every now and then. I don't want to do it all the time, as there are plenty of people who do that already, and probably better. Such as my lovely brother-in-law, who runs the Facebook page I Love Movies (check it out, won't you? As a favour to me??)

I always fancied myself as a bit of a movie 'expert'. More because of the sheer volume of movies that I've watched than any particular talent, but isn't bluff and bluster half the work of being a movie reviewer? So bear with me, dear readers, as I share my opinions, wanted or not. Perhaps you can also share yours with me?

I'm going to start my first 'review' with Transformers 3:

As I wasn't a huge fan of the first two Transformers movies, I wasn't expecting much from the third instalment. 

The premise was good; that the 1969 moon landing was a front for an alien salvage operation (not a spoiler guys, I promise!), but the potential for a great story got lost somewhere in the ruckus.

Don't get me wrong, I do like a good Michael Bay movie. There's nothing like The Rock, Armageddon or the Bad Boys movies for some good ol' empty headed action.
And the action scenes are good I guess. They are well choreographed and shot beautifully (the city-in-carnage scenes were quite spectacular) but like the rest of the movie, they were empty. There was nothing in the movie for me to invest my emotions into. I didn't really care if the whole lot of 'em got blown out into space.

There were a couple of funny moments. John Malkovich was the best I have seen him in a long time (I've gone right off him since his horrible portrayal of a Russian mobster in Rounders, and his even-worse Frenchman in Johnny English). He was funny and not too over the top. What a shame there wasn't more of him. Ken Jeong made me cringe with the antics of his paranoid office worker, and Kevin Dunn and Julie white were funny (as always) as Sam's very 'interesting' parents.

Sadly, Frances McDormand (who I love, normally), John Turturro (another favourite) and Patrick Dempsey all seemed to be phoning it in, and Rosie Huntington-Whitely (as Carly) was...well...just awful. Though in her defence, she probably wasn't hired for her acting talents (once you see her in the white dress you'll understand).

I know it's probably a Michael Bay signature, but I cringed at the sight of the tattered American flag flying high, and the shot of Carly walking in slow-mo as chaos reigned behind her. ACH! 

And before you shout 'but the kids will love it!', well I know of one 7 year old who didn't. Oliver's comment was 'how come the last movies are never as good as the first ones?'

Normally, I'd go and see an action movie for some pure escapism. Where I could leave my brain behind and have a good laugh, worry about the fate of the character/world/universe, and come out a little pumped on adrenalin. While I did laugh, this was probably only due to intentional humour once. 

Unless you're a transformers fan, or love looking at swollen-lipped supermodels draped over luxury cars, I'd give it a miss. 

I'd give it 1 out of 5. What did you think?

The hard times

There's a picture on our lounge room wall. A big group shot of about 20 people. It was taken at Easter about 5 years ago. Two people in that photo are now dead. Another has turned their back on the group that once welcomed them. Another story for another day, perhaps.

One of those people is Sam. The other is a friend of my mother-in-law, who passed away before her time due to a freak accident. She was only 59.
We went to her funeral yesterday. It was nice I guess, as much as a funeral can be. A fitting tribute to a lovely lady.

I was very proud of Oliver, who made the decision to go along to the funeral despite his feelings about death. He handled himself very well and seemed to take it all in his stride, which is good I guess.

When things were good for us, I used to look at magazines like 'That's Life' and 'Take 5' and wonder how individuals, or families could be surrounded by so much tragedy. I thanked my (whoevers) that those horrible things weren't happening to me.

Because they do seem to happen in clusters, don't they? Not that I'm saying that my life is completely tragic or anything like that, but it does seem that bad things happen in groups, rather than on their own.

Or perhaps it's my perception? I know I shouldn't overlook all the good things that have happened in the last 18 months, but it does seem that our family's had its share of crappiness.

Well, they say that when you're at the bottom the only way is up, and I have to believe that because I'm that optimistic person. There are still issues looming that have many people worried. But I'm hoping we'll all get through those...