Haystacks of Romania

From 20-27 May, I was in Romania for work. Transylvania in fact. We all survived without a vampire attack – I didn’t even see a bat.

A highlight was the traditional haystacks in the rural areas. Such a sight! Big, small, solo, in pairs or rows … it really made me want to do a bicycle tour through the countryside capturing all the haystacks and scenery. But that would be almost a death wish – the roads were terrible, like a patchwork of attempted repairs. I will never complain about a rogue pothole again.

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The handbag challenge

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To be sure, to be sure …

We were in Dublin last weekend! Woo hoo! I love Ireland – I love the Irish humour, the accent, their general craic for life, the countryside, oh and their beer!

Packing (you know how I love to pack!) gave me the perfect opportunity to fulfill a personal challenge I’ve been itching to do for ages – travel with just my handbag as luggage. And I’m not talking about a giant sack of a bag, I’m talking about my everyday handbag – a small, short-handled nylon bag, which is perfect for me because it weighs nothing empty and has a cross shoulder strap.

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Ready for the train from Bern to Zurich, then the flight to Dublin, and then the bus to the B&B … See why I was keen to carry as little as possible?!

We were going to Dublin to watch my cousin referee the Six Nations rugby match between Ireland and Italy. The flight arrived at 21:30 Friday night, and we flew home at 16:15 Sunday afternoon, so the time was limited and no ballgowns were needed. We would spend most of Saturday at the match with family (over from Australia to cheer Angus on too), and Sunday walking around the city.

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The bag. Klein aber fein, as they say in German. It’s about 25cm long at the base, the zip is about 33cm long, the height is about 20cm and the width is about 16cm

On the plane over, I wore pretty much everything needed for the weekend, with an extra t-shirt, spare undies and socks and another silk scarf packed in the bag.

Merino wool garments make this so much easier I think. They breathe well and don’t smell much, and dry quickly if you need to wash them.

 

Overall, it was a raging success but I could have lived without many things!!

  1. The red plastic wallet with printouts of boarding passes, B&B booking etc – I need to get with the times and put everything on my phone. Save a tree! Save space!
  2. The iPod mini and earphones in the gold pouch – didn’t listen to any music
  3. The grey pouch with the iPhone camera lens – didn’t do any fancy photo tricks
  4. Gloves – wasn’t cold enough. The temperature in Dublin was supposed to be around 13 degrees Celsius both days, which turned out to be true, thankfully.
  5. Beanie – wasn’t cold enough (although I was happy to have it on the 20 minute walk to the car when we arrived in Bern at 21:30 Sunday night).
  6. Umbrella – it didn’t rain
  7. Second scarf – although it was nice to change up my outfit with this, it was an ‘unnecessary’ luxury! But it was so small it was hardly a bother.

On Saturday, I wore a black long-sleeve merino t-shirt under a black and white cardigan with jeans, black leather ankle boots and one of the scarves.

On Sunday, I wore what I wore over on the plane – the long-sleeve merino t-shirt underneath a black and white polka dot blouse with cardigan, jeans, boots, plus the other scarf. And when outdoors, always the coat!

Total things taken: –

Worn: bra, merino singlet, black merino long sleeve t-shirt, black and white spotted blouse, black and white cardigan, coat, undies, jeans, socks, boots, watch, two rings, necklace, ear rings, belt, silk scarf.

Packed: merino t-shirt (which I wore to bed – the B&B was freezing), spare undies, socks, second silk scarf, umbrella, gloves, beanie, red plastic wallet, passport, wallet, phone, electronics pouch, plastic bag with toiletries, handkerchief, makeup pouch (plus two hard boiled eggs, an apple and two sandwiches for us to start the journey!)

Leo also packed very light – a small 18 litre backpack. Wish we could always travel like this! I can’t wait to do it again. It’s a giggle of a challenge, and works well if the weather works in your favour. Although, saying that, all bases were pretty much covered. The beauty of denim on such a short trip came to the fore too – while carrying a tray of Guinness back to our seats some sloshed onto my jeans. I washed it with water and it was all fine. The only problem travelling with jeans on a longer holiday is they weigh a lot and take ages to dry! But for something like this, a long weekend or what have you, they’re the perfect option.

But enough about the packing, here are a few shots from the weekend. It was Leo’s first trip to Ireland and I think he’s keen to go back, even though he’s not keen on Guinness! Ireland won convincingly and Angus did a great job on his first Six Nations call. It was so lovely to see so many family members too! Many tears were shed on goodbye.

 

Wishing you a wonderful day.

December 11-18: Another adventure and Season’s Greetings

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Sunrise 18 December 2015

The days of having hours to prepare and plan for holidays have gone, so I’m frantically trying to stuff too much into a suitcase for our holiday to Fuerteventura, in the Canary Islands, which starts … in a few hours! This trip we have the luxury (or hindrance, I’m still not sure) of having check-in luggage, so the temptation is to just pack it all.

I finished work yesterday in a mad rush, and now it’s all about getting the house and my suitcase ready. Leo had saved all his holidays for the end of this year, thinking we would be going to Australia for a month, but I went and did a crazy thing like getting a job :), and such a long break was no longer viable. But luckily my work said it was quiet over Christmas, so we could still take some time off, which is great as Leo needs it. Going to Australia for two weeks would be crazy and cost prohibitive (especially with the pending house move February 1) so we found a cheap package holiday to a place where the days will be warm. It’s been unseasonable warm here though too.

The plan is to read some books (unfortunately I won’t hit my target of 52 books in one year … by a long shot), do some day walks, eat some seafood and generally unwind. I’m looking forward to being surprised by the island, as I haven’t had much time to research what there is to see and do. We might try to do a few day trips to other islands. It will be too cold to swim, but the swimmers are in, just in case! Wishful thinking perhaps? ūüėČ

Ok, enough writing. Here are some photos from the past week.

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Another lovely clear day

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Icy cobweb outside our house

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The Christmas market in Bern

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A nice sunset on our way to pick up my cousin Anna from the train station

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Anna had been at COP21 in Paris and stayed with us for three nights. She’s such a good egg

I don’t know if I’ll write while we’re on holidays, but as a fan of never saying never, we’ll see what unfolds.

Here’s to a sensational festive season, however you choose to celebrate, and a healthy and happy 2016!

And of course, as always, wishing you a wonderful day.

September 2-20: Oops … sorry about that!

Iiiiiiiii’m baaaaaaack …

It’s been a mental few weeks, and to top it off I had a chest infection which made me cough like a coal miner and sweat like a piggie. But I’ve almost kicked it to the curb, and am ready to, finally, write about what’s been happening.

Once I’ve written it all out, it will feel quite boring, I’m sure! But the best piece of news is …

Drumroll …

As of October 1, I will officially be the Communications and Project Officer for PAGES, an organisation which disseminates scientific data/research/reports on past global (climate) change. This was the interview I had on September 1. I found out I got the job on September 7.

The office is in Bern city, a convenient walk then bus ride away. I’ve actually been working there quite a bit in the past few weeks, doing the handover. The previous employee had her last day on Thursday and will work externally from Norway until the end of the year. This means I won’t be thrown into the fire from the outset, which is wonderful – knowing she will be there to pass on all her knowledge over the next few months is such a relief. There are only five people working for PAGES, so everyone has a wealth of information stored in their heads. Here’s a link to the website if you fancy a read … http://www.pages-igbp.org/

I’ve also been writing the stories for my friend’s magazine, which was great except I was sick, then all of a sudden I didn’t have enough time. One story worked out really well, but I failed to get an interview for another story so had to change the concept a bit, and then – bless – my friend said I didn’t have to do the final story as it wasn’t coming together like I’d hoped and we agreed it wasn’t a story as such anymore.

Plus, I was working at the karate clothing website at the same time too. So it was a busy period. I hope the cough goes away soon; Leo has had an earful of it, and so have I. Juggling three jobs while hacking away was rather unpleasant. Going from minimal work to too much was also a challenge!

The other exciting news is … we’re off to Barcelona for six nights … tonight!! We won’t be going back to Australia at Christmas, because of the new job, so decided to have a quick one-week trip before I start officially. We’d thought about Iceland or the Jurassic (south) coast of England, but the weather didn’t look great, so we opted for sunshine and sangria instead. Really looking forward to eating loads of patatas bravas and maybe even having a swim in the ocean.

Rene lost his driver’s licence so has given me the keys to his car and taken back the keys to the T√∂ffli. I think I actually got the chest infection from riding the T√∂ffli in the early mornings to Maru Dojo, just after it turned cool very quickly. The car isn’t as easy to park as the bike, but it does mean I’m able to do a bit more with four wheels as opposed to two … and it’s dry and warm inside! Thank you, Rene.

So, time to get moving. I’ve packed my silver carry-on suitcase, which has one side empty, with enough for the week and more. See previous packing efforts here, here and here … I’ve taken the black and white heart dress; the black jacket; a (new) pink cardigan; the Japanese print skirt; a pair of mushroom coloured shorts; a pair of jeans; black belt; red, black and (new) pink t-shirts; two singlet tops; two scarves; a (new) denim blue thin poncho; bikini; minimal jewellery; black handbag; spotty green cap; umbrella; sandals; leather sneakers for walking; ballet flats; underwear and socks; mini iPad and iPhone. I’m excited to have these new clothes too!

Wishing you a wonderful week! I’ll write more when I’m back from Barcelona. Adios Amigos!

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My not impressed, sick face

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Flowers Leo bought me when we found out I got the job!

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Liliane’s blooming marvellous roses

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Me feeling happy about my flat tummy

Covered in dirt after doing the mowing

Covered in dirt after doing the mowing

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Lovely clear Sunday walk to the flower field

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Saw a cat in the dying sunflower field

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Leo taking photos in the flower field. We bought pink lilies and some asters

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Funny little pumpkins to buy, for autumnal decorating!

July 26-29: Sicily!

Haven’t had the internet until today! It’s been quite nice being internet-less but here’s an update of the trip so far …

Sunday: Flight was great, took photos of Mt Etna out the plane window, were met by Leo’s Dad and¬†Bossy at the airport, picked up our Fiat 500 and drove to their house in Passopisciaro, had a fabulous lunch in a nearby village, met Leo’s Aunty Elvira and had an early night.

Leo, Bossy and Tony with our hire car :)

Leo, Bossy and Tony with our hire car ūüôā

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Looking around the grounds at our lunch venue

Monday: Went to the beach at Fiumefreddo for the entire day, lazing under an umbrella on lounge chairs at a private lido (beach area) with Tony and Bossy. Had pizza in Linguaglossa village at Leo’s second cousin’s restaurant with members of Leo’s dad’s family.

Spent our first full day under an umbrella at the beach

Spent our first full day under an umbrella at the beach

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The original version of our Fiat!

Tuesday: Went to Mt Etna in the morning but didn’t go to the highest point – too expensive! Will do that next trip maybe. Cruisy afternoon driving around the region.

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Driving towards the southern viewing point

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Walking around a crater

Today: Left Tony and Bossy for Gole Alcantara, a natural ravine with a cold river, and then drove on to Taormina. Had a swim and a fantastic seafood dinner. Despite the stony beaches, it’s beautiful here!

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Cold water river

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The view from our hotel room in Taormina

Wishing you a wonderful day.

July 25: Meet me in St Louis

We’re in St Louis! Not the famous American version, but a small French town a few minutes north of Basel. Our overnight stop before the early flight to Catania tomorrow has thrown up some lovely surprises.

A free music festival! Love a good festival. We couldn’t be in Byron Bay for the current Splendour in the Grass festival, so this was a close second … except all the songs were in French. We think they must be quite popular¬†bands because there’s a good turnout in this small village – the town slogan is ‘village of the future’. A pretty sign near the train station said it was more than 16,600km to Sydney.

It was quite cool when we left Bern today, so I threw on my denim shirt as an extra layer and it turned out to be an inspired choice for tonight, as the town square created wind tunnels in the side streets. We stopped for a beer then watched a trio who were so French. I don’t know how to explain it other than ‘so French’.

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Our first holiday beer!

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A very tasty amber

A very funky food van

A very funky food van

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An arty snap of the action

The locals had a laugh watching me lick my ice cream straight off the cone, onto my handbag and then the ground – luckily not in my shoes! Leo was laughing too much to snap evidence. I trod back to the ice cream van and the man looked at me as if to say, “What’s happened? You were just here!” I theatre-sported the whole schemozzle and he wanted to replace it for free. I did my best French-accented, “Ohhhh no, no, no, no, no” and he happily took the cash.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

March 12: 4km run and a bathroom cupboard cleanup

The tried and tested 4km path through the forest was stomped on again by me today. This was only my fourth run/shuffle this year, which I’m finding hard to believe! The previous ones were January 10, February 13 and February 20. The weather and a sore foot have played some part in this, of course, but I really thought I would have done more by now.

Unfortunately, I can’t say I’m improving! Using the MapMyRun app on my phone, I can see I’ve done 31:15 (fell over), 26:15 (must have had a tailwind), 29:32 and today’s effort was 27:19. A bit all over the place really. And I do like to stop for the odd photo or two.

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There was an incredibly cold wind today, which made this blue-sky run not as much fun as it looks like it should be

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The sun lead me along the path

But, it’s done and it was good to be outside, even if the headwind was freezing and it felt like I was on the verge of getting an ice cream headache the entire way.

This morning, I was motivated to get out of bed early and tackle the bathroom cabinets. For some reason, I really felt the need to declutter. I’m sure there’s a scientific reason for this (or a mental one!). The thought of “the mess” in one of the cupboards was making me cringe. There isn’t really all that much stuff in there, but then again, there is … know what I mean?!

Old things went that hadn’t been used in ages. I held them and asked the Marie Kondo question, “Does it spark joy?” In some cases, it was more like, “Could that make me sick?” A red lipstick (how long should you keep them for before they go off?), green eye shadow (what was I thinking? Haven’t worn it once in three years), a makeup bag, an old mascara (which was a great size for travelling but it’s a few years old now and it says to keep for six months on the packaging), two makeup brushes and some penicillin tablets past their use-by date (for tonsillitis which flares up now and then). I thanked them all for their efforts and in the bin they went.

Then, to top off my OCDness, I made a list of every item of mine in the bathroom, everything, using the Evernote app, and sorted them into groups such as Creams – Face; Creams – Body; Nails, hands and feet; Cleansers; Perfumes; Oils; Face; Eyes; Lips; Sunscreens … you get the idea. There are now 16 different lists within the “Bathroom Supplies” notebook. I know, I know … I need a job.

At least I now know the names of everything I use for when they need replacing. If they get replaced. In an ideal world, I’d just use soap, moisturiser and a toothbrush, but I’m not quite that minimalistic (yet!). And I don’t think my sensitive skin would love me for it either. Most of the lists aren’t extensive. I have two perfumes, four oils, and five sunscreens all in various states of emptiness. But I do have seven lipsticks (mattes and glosses) and six lip balms … hmmm …

Some things were simplified. I love tiny ziplock plastic bags for travelling (about 7cm x 8cm) and had several made-up with cotton buds (must clean my ears to get the water out after washing my hair), headache tablets, penicillin tablets, toothpick things, the occasional band-aid or Compeed plaster (a must on all long walks), hayfever tablets … oh the list goes on.

Rather than the four or five I seemed to have in various states of use, I now have one, and only one, ready to go in my travel toiletry bag. Which is just a small waterproof makeup bag really. Lots of people swear by the ones you can hang, but for me they’re too bulky. The bag is now ready for any spur of the moment weekend trips, and will oggle me longingly with a desire for adventure every time I open the lower cupboard.

Does your skin go crazy in winter? I get a shocking case of winter itch which sometimes prevents me from getting to sleep. It seems to happen most, when my skin is warm but dry, while lying on the couch or in bed. Thankfully, a good chemist recommended a body cream at the start of the year and it’s hardly been an issue this year. I didn’t take it to Strasbourg and whadiyaknow, after three days I was covered in tiny, red, itchy bumps. It’s starting to go away now thanks to this …

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This stuff is the best winter-itch cream. Life saver!

What other wafflings can I bore you with from today? Umm … I watched another Miss Marple, I searched the internet for jobs (nothing!), I read, I ran, I ate … oh yes, and how I ate!! For some reason, I have a hunger today that can not be satiated. After the run, I immediately had a glass of water, four small round slices of a baguette with soft cheese, salmon and cucumber, then an apple, then a cup of tea, then a few spoons of yoghurt with protein powder and fresh raspberries, two small easter bunny chocolates (5cm high), then (yes … and then!) four rice cakes with honey drizzled over the top … and I still can’t wait for dinner!

Just writing about it is making me hungry. I’m off to warm up two of these little beauties, which we had fresh last night with a salad. They were delicious.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

Birthday weekend in Strasbourg

Strasbourg, the capital of the Elsass region on the border of France and Germany, is a wonderful old city and I feel very lucky to have been taken here for the continuation of my birthday celebrations. Compact and photogenic, she knows how to charm you in just a few days. Neither of us had been here before and we hope to go back again soon.

The drive from Bern took about 2.5 hours. We arrived at lunch time on Friday and left Sunday morning, stopping at Chateau du Haut-Königsbourg in Orschwiller, France, on the way home (where we had cake for lunch. How decadent. This birthday weekend has been all about the sweet stuff!).

It would have been wonderful to speak some French (Leo does and he did a great job) but overall we managed well with German and English. We ate and drank too much and also overdid it on the walking – my feet and legs are still a bit sore from all the cobblestones.

Highlights include the incredible cathedral, the crowing of the rooster at the astronomical clock display, the boat cruise and a new toy – we bought an olloclip attachment for my phone so I can take wide, fish eye and macro photos now. Very exciting!

So enough from me, I’ll hand over to the photos to tell the story.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

February 24: Boogie on down!

Today, I painted the ceiling, did the grandfather clock, tried to pon di river and for the first time in my life, twerked. And I couldn’t stop smiling.

Keaira LaShae is an American singer with one helluva happy-go-lucky, smiley, infectious personality, who does fitness dancing on the side. She can do those moves! I cannot. But her 20 minute reggae dancehall workout has got to be close to the most fun you can have attempting an exercise video. She makes hair flinging look graceful and loves what she does.

Reggae wasn’t part of my life until 1999, when I travelled to the Caribbean with friends to watch Australia play the West Indies in four cricket Test matches. While walking through Bob Marley’s home (now a museum) in Jamaica, I realised I didn’t own any reggae music, let alone one of his albums. After two months on the islands, I loved it as much as any local and now count Could You Be Loved in my top 10. ‘Mainstream’ reggae, I know, but reggae none-the-less.

The track playing on this video was good to move to, but I laughed pretty much the entire time thinking about what I must look like – no rhythm, no hair flinging, no hip jiggling skills, no style … but it was 100% fun. Keaira must rip up the dance floor on a regular basis.

I totally recommend this to put yourself out of your comfort zone for a while, and so you can appreciate the skills of talented dancers. You learn the moves separately at the start and then perform them together as a routine, twice. It’s hard to remember what comes next if you don’t know the names of the moves, but hey, it’s really enjoyable. Despite my best efforts, and Keaira’s encouragement, I didn’t sweat as much as she did – probably because I wasn’t exercising in a cropped denim jacket!

Trying reggae dancing is another thing that’s taken me by surprise in the past few days. I don’t know what’s going on with me lately. Yesterday, I made a healthy nut slice – that’s three days of baking in a row!

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This is yum and healthy!

This recipe has been on my ‘to do’ list for ages. (I used rice malt syrup instead of honey.) And now that I think about it, I do know where this cooking bug has come from …

In the past few weeks I’ve been getting organised, using the KonMari Method. First up was clothes, then books, and I’ve started with papers. By following Marie Kondo’s suggestion to put everything of the same type in the same place, I’ve finally gone through my phone and collected all the screen grabs of various recipes and stored them on the Evernote App.

I’ve been taking screen grabs of recipes for homemade beauty products, natural cleaning products and interesting healthy food for years … and done nothing with them. I keep too many photos on my phone and could never find a recipe when I wanted it. But now they’re all stored as ‘notebooks’ on Evernote and I’ve been using the ‘Recipes – Food’ one regularly. Yahoo! Everything in its place!

Going through the phone and finally putting all those photos in one spot where I can access them easily has resulted in this extraordinary bakefest. A cake, a loaf of bread and yesterday’s nut slice. Plus, Pastora’s coming over tomorrow to show me how to make a Spanish soup! Hold the phone!

Have you been doing anything out of the ordinary or out of your comfort zone lately? I’d love to hear about it if you’ve got the time!

Wishing you a wonderful day.