You are currently browsing the monthly archive for August 2012.

We just bought a new camera (Sony HX20V), for a new, compact hiking and adventure version of the larger Sony we’ve owned and loved for the last few years.  The new camera is a pretty rad little handheld with 20x zoom and a ridiculous amount of options and features.

We spent Saturday afternoon walking around Melbourne with Kristin, Dami, Paolo and Annabelle and testing out the color filter features.

(yellow:  birds of paradise, Royal Botanical Gardens)

(blue:  random couple, Centre Place)

(red:  Centre Place alleyway)

(green:  Kristin & Damiano, Royal Botanical Gardens)

I made this jewelry one year ago, to wear in Kristin & Dami’s wedding.  Sifting through my jewelry-making related posts on the blog, I’m not sure how I could have neglected to post this last August, but neglect I did.

In any case, since the happy duo are now with me in the flesh, and since a simple and elegant self-design deserves a little self-promotion, here it is:

If I do say so myself, it’s quite a lovely piece.  And when I wear it, it reminds me of special people.  The centerpiece is a clip-on earring; one of a few pieces my Mom saved for me after my nana passed two years ago.

It took me awhile to find the perfect re-setting, but I think it was worth the wait.

Food is such a great coping mechanism.

Last weekend, I headed down to Brighton Beach for brunch and some hands-on cooking.  Laura and I bartered for an exchange of our respective talents – custom-made jewelry for her; lesson in pasta making for me.  Seeing as she just wanted a replica of a design I’d made for myself, I’d say I got the better end of this deal!

We spent a full afternoon forming, kneading, resting (with a glass of bubbly), rolling, cutting, filling and then devouring our fresh, hand-made pasta.

(Kelly, Grace and me churning out the linguini)

This weekend, I spent the better half of Saturday making soups.  See Damiano & Kristin arrive Tuesday morning hot from the summer days of Paris to the tail end of a dreary Melbourne winter.  So I thought I’d better have some comfort food on hand to help with the transition.

I made Steve’s favorite slow cooker potato soup, french onion soup, and a new one—this roasted tomato soup from one of my favorite food blogs.  Taste test says, delicious!  I added some fennel to the roasting process (tip: remove before blending) and ended up with an earthy and rustic soup that really gives you the sense some love has gone into it.  Thanks as always Mr. Rufus!

I’m planning to (defrost and) serve with tortellini, and there’s something about a rustic tomato soup (read: not from a Campbell’s can) that seems Italian to me.  So let’s just call it a double weekly whammy of Italian cooking!

To top it all off, I recently got a surprise “going away” gift from Kelly – a shiny new pasta rolling machine.  Now I can put my skillz to good use.

(but I think I’ll wait til next weekend; I’ve got three Italians staying with me this weekend.  Too much pressure!)

what I love about Melbourne weather:  the aftermath of an afternoon deluge…

(photo by kcma)

I’m starting a new series of posts, as a way to share my musical leanings:  what I’m listening to this week. I hope you will be reminded of some old favorites, find a few new and interesting tunes to check out and maybe share a little of what you’re listening to. 

I’ll aim to post every Monday, so here’s a back-dated one for this week.

20.08.2012

What I’m listening to this week:  Birdy, self-title album (2011).  Lots of piano, sweet and soulful female vocals and a sprinkling of unique covers.

Fav songs on the album:  1901; Shelter and Skinny Love.

As much as we are happy to be coming home (and trust me, we really are so happy for that moment), we have really loved living in Melbourne.  The friends we have made here are no small part of that.  In fact, they’re a huge part of it.  So it’s pretty depressing to think that we won’t see some of them again.

I’m reminded of a conversation I had when leaving D.C.  See in my law firm life in D.C., there were the three musketeers (me, Laura and Mark, who all summered and started at the law firm together) and the wise sage who (with some reluctance) took us under his wing and guided us through the hard weeks with plentiful martinis.  As one might gather, junior associate life at a “big law” firm is pretty much akin to torture. Our exit plans were a frequent topic of discussion; it was no secret that we all wanted out, it was just a matter of time. 

So when I decided my “out” was moving to our firm’s Melbourne office, I was frankly surprised my fellow musketeers took the news so hard.  After all, we all talked about leaving one day, right?  But as the wise old man pointed out, I was doing the leaving first.  I was leaving them behind.

It honestly hadn’t occurred to me to think of it in that way.

Recently, I’ve been in the uncomfortable position of being both the deserter and the deserted.  My dear friend and companion in the Melbourne office has decided to cut her losses and run.  Literally.  Out of law firm life, out of Australia, back to a life that resembles what so many think of as normal — where things like family, friends and sanity take priority. 

Which honestly, has shook me. After all, it was supposed to be her farewelling me in November.  And now in a few short weeks, I’ll be the one left behind.

And a few short months (weeks really) after that, we’ll be leaving. Leaving great friends we’ve made in Melbourne behind.

(it all sounds a little apocolyptic, I know)

So in between moments of feeling like a deserter (again), I’m just trying to savor the moments with friends.  Lunch, movies, coffees, dinner parties in Richmond, pubs, cheap eats in Chinatown, after dinner drinks on Tuesday, Wednesday…is it Thursday yet???

This is probably the real culprit for my lack of blogging in the past few months; I’ve been spending too much time having fun in the real world.  (see drinking English cider like it’s going out of style). 

Which really, when you think about it, is a pretty good reason.

I’m on a mission: sample all types of cider known to man.  Or at least, available for sale in Melbourne.

I love cider. Like seriously, love.  Not the sweet stuff (pear, berry need not apply).  Those ciders just seem to be an expensive substitute for boxed rose wine.  But the bone dry, lightly sparkling, earthy apple stuff–delish!

We’ve been drinking cider like its going out of style (or, more accurately, out of circulation when we find ourselves back in the U.S.A. with nothing but Woodchuck)

The best part is that, in Melbourne, there are so many varieties to sample.   I still manage to find bottles I’ve never had before at little, off-the-beaten track cellar doors and beer shops.  So, just for funseys, here’s my top 5 cider list:

For drinkability: Pipsqueak, Healesville (Victoria)–$15 for a sixer (goes down like water; if water was bubbly and had 5% alcohol content)

For that special occasion:  Henney’s, England–$12 per 500 ml (A bit on the expensive side, but the ultimate in dry English cider and worth it for a special occasion)

At pubs: Bulmers, UK–$8-10 a pint at the pub (its on tap.  For years, my distaste for beer has kept me from partaking in the cheap “on-tap” selections of the finest bars.  Plus have you seen the wine lists at pubs?  Might be the only places in Australia that actually serve Yellow Tail)

For something different:   Old Rosie, England–$6 per 500ml  (really, any brand of “scrumpy” or “cloudy” cider will do)

Whenever I can find it:  Old Mout, NZ–$13 for a four-for (just all around goodness coming from this brand, but can be hard to find.  Also love their boysenberry cider ($10 for a 750ml) that has just the right amount of subtle sweetnes.  Oh how us (former) bo(i)sens are suckers for boysenberries!)

Death happens. I don’t mean it cavalierly, but inevitably. 

But somehow, even though you know it is inevitable, even if you’ve known it was coming for years, somehow, that doesn’t lessen the pain.  You would think, honestly, that it would.  After all, you’ve had time to prepare for it, come to terms with it, ask why; maybe even receive an answer in your own time.

And sometimes, death is welcome.  There are many people who suffer in old age.  So there’s the almost ironic feeling of relief when someone has been delivered peacefully after a long struggle.  But even that relief doesn’t displace the ache in the heart of those left behind.

It was two years ago when my grandfather told me cavalierly (and it seems, inevitably) that he thought he had Alzheimer’s.  We were having lunch at a burger joint in Seattle, and I was set to embark on a grand adventure in a far away place (Australia).  (He himself had lived a life full of adventures in far away places, like Okinawa and Anchorage.) 

As it turns out, he was right.  He was, after all, a physician. So I fear for him, in the beginning, there must have been so much pain at the inevitability. 

I hope there was also, in the end, relief.   And peace.

(Elliott Boisen; March 14, 1925 to August 6, 2012)

Sometime mid-July, our impending departure from Melbourne became real.  We’ve known it was coming (for 2 years now); it was bound to happen. 

The catalyst?  I listed my piano for sale.

The listing made the move real for me.  It was the first tangible step in a series of step that will culminate in us packing up our lives, shipping off our pets, and finding ourselves, once again, starting over.

I bought the piano shortly after arriving in Melbourne, and it’s been a great friend through my time in Melbourne.  Those cold Saturday mornings in the dead of dreary winter, those hot Saturday afternoons in the summer with only a scant breeze, those fleeting minutes when I’ve missed the 8:59am tram and manage to fit in just one more song before I catch then next one…

I had honestly forgotten how important music was in my life. How some days (maybe all days?) there’s really nothing I’d rather be doing.

Having trained in classical piano as a child, my second life in music has been an inspiration to try something new – music for the sake of music.  No lessons, no performances, no parental overlord reminding me to practice (helpful as that was, really it was!).  I’ve come to terms with the fact I will never be able to play those Chopin nocturnes again like I used to at 17 (unless I quit my job and magically find 2+ hours per day to practice).   

But I’ve found new enjoyment in less technical and more soulful playing.  In my first life as a pianist, I played strictly by reading or memorizing sheet music; I have never had an ear for playing as they say.  Slowly but surely, I’ve  re-learned the basics of chords and scales and how to  improvise. I play when I want to play, and most days, there just aren’t enough minutes in the day. 

So it is with great pride that I hammered out my very first “arrangement” a few weeks ago: a version of “Stay with Me”, a 1960s ballad originally performed by Lorraine Ellison.  After buying the sheet music, I realized it was in the wrong key for what I wanted to (and could) sing.  So I painstakingly, over the course of an entire Saturday, I readjusted the chords and handwrote the melody on blank sheet music.  It was a song I longed to sing, and felt I had to master. 

It is a ballad dedicated to my 1901 G. Schwechten.

And just as I perfect my pièce de résistance, just as I’ve grown comfortable in the simple key changes that seemed so daunting to hammer out by ear, just as I learn to slip away from carefully dotted notes and go wherever my fingers and vocal chords want to take me, just as I grasp one last time at the ivories… I find they’re slipping away.  

So if you find yourself walking the streets in Richmond, you’ll probably hear the refrain… Stay with me, baby.  Please stay, with me baby… 

at least, for a few more weeks…

I’ve been absent again.  Sorry about that. (I feel like I’ve spent more time apologizing for not posting than posting in the last few months.) 

July was actually my lowest month of posting ever, which is pretty bad since I think three of those posts were just pictures of jewelry I had made and posted back to back.  And now, somehow, its mid-August. 

There are so many factors that can cause a lapse in posting.  Top of the list is usually work (all nighters tend to cramp my creativity, and fingers). 

But while I’ve definitely been busy at work, I don’t think its fair to say that’s the real culprit here.  Honestly, its been a tough couple of weeks personally and professionally and I just haven’t felt like sharing. 

Slowly but surely, I promise I will fill you in on what I’ve been up to: grasping at ivories; remembering a great man; savoring moments with friends; feeling like a deserter; gulping down dry English cider like its going out of style;  planning trips to New Zealand, Thailand, Vietnam, Paris, Switzerland, London and Ireland; learning to cook like an Italian; and thinking about the future.

(thanks E, for reminding me people still check in on me even when I’ve been checked out.)