Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Little Things I love about Melbourne so far

There is always a crowd of sun-soakers on the lawn of the State Library of Victoria
We have only been in Melbourne for about two months, and we're only just starting to see a change of seasons and the festivals, cultural events, and all around cool things you hear so much about in Australia are starting to fire up. It's not been an easy move thanks to bank bureaucracy, immediately jumping into grad school without a breaking-in period, and now the very real struggle to find any form of employment. There are things Tyler and I could complain about, but I am struck every day by little things I really love that reassure me we are in the right place for this place in our lives. Here are a few examples.

1. The city smells like a campfire at night. My theory is because wood burning fireplaces are still allowed in this city, unlike most cities in the States. Now that the weather is warming up, I can see that this is a condition that only applies to Melbourne in the winter, but it made the cold nights feel nice and cozy when we are out and about.

2. There are people busking on the streets. I know this is not unusual and in many cities it's considered a nuisance, but we have been devoid of public entertainment for 5 years and the buskers remind me of the singing streets of Nashville.  Maybe one day I'll grumble about the guitarist taking up half the sidewalk, but for now I'm so happy to hear a music student banging on some paint buckets or free style beatboxing while simultaneously playing his flute as I walk to class.

3. The water tastes AMAZING! It isn't just safe to drink, it tastes great and I prefer to drink it over bottled water or anything else. No lie, I had a dream the other night of me turning down other water so I could fill up my bottle from the tap.

I'm a sick pup.

4. People actually wear helmets! Biking is a big thing here, and not just for exercise. It appears lots of people bike to work or class or where ever and I have yet to see someone not wearing a helmet. Now, I don't know if that is because there is a strict helmet law here and it is heavily enforced, or if it is simply because people value their brains and like to keep them inside their skulls, but either way I'm loving the public consciousness of safety. It is very refreshing after five years in the Middle East where seat belts were optional and small children hanging out the sunroofs of speeding SUVs were an every day sight.

5. There are no subway singers. Ok, so there's not technically a subway here, but there are no performers on the trains or trams or any form of public transportation here. Again, I don't know if there is a law against it and it is strictly enforced, or if the people of Melbourne hate being forced into a morning commute with randos with a tambourine so they don't tolerate it. My commute on public transit is almost silent, and you hear no complaints from me.

Alright, New Yorkers, don't get your panties in a bunch. I know that for some of the subway performers, that is the only money they will make and that you don't have to give them anything, but I have serious guilt when I'm on the same subway car as one of those performers (or even worse when it's a GROUP!) and I end up either militantly avoiding eye contact the whole ride or guiltily giving them an appropriately large handful of whatever coins are in my purse. I HATE IT!

I also understand how this contradicts item number 2 of "things I love about Melbourne," but the difference is that I can listen to buskers on the street without feeling guilty about it because the sidewalk is wide or I can hear them from all the way across the street. Plus the buskers here are actually pretty good.

On the right: The stairs to the men's public bathroom. On the left: The escalator to the train platforms. Do not mistake the stairs on the right for a substitute for the escalator on the left.
6. There are free, [relatively] clean public toilets all around the city. The Mister and I live about 20 minutes outside the city and about 30 minutes away from our respective campuses, so when we are gone we're generally gone for the day. On days that I am running errands, or when we're on the trek home after pub trivia, a potty break is usually needed and there are few things that get Tyler more fired up than having to pay to pee. We are so happy to be in a city that has plentiful public toilets that don't require you to pay a cover charge.

Of course, as a result of not having to pay, those public toilets are often pretty gross, but they still don't rank as grossest we have ever seen (and some of those WERE pay toilets!). Frankly, you can't be too picky when you need to go on the go.

So far there are few things that the Mister and I find an issue with in this city. Y'all should all come down for a visit and add to our list of things to love.

Vicariously yours,

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Melbourne hates jelly beans

When we first got here it was the middle of the Australian winter. My New England sister and her husband would laugh at how cold the coldest day is here because there is certainly no snow and I don't think we saw the temperatures go much lower than the upper 30s, but for desert dwellers like us, it was chilly. Apparently the public transit users of Melbourne need some reminders on how to stay safe in the cold cold winter because they had an ad campaign in the train stations here reminding people to be wary of wet surfaces and to not let their scarves get caught in the train doors.

For me, the funny part about the campaign is its morbidity. The tagline of the ads is "Dumb ways to die" and apparently the campaign has been around for a few years. The ads feature jelly bean-looking "people" who are meeting creative demises, and each one ends with a train-related death in some way. There's even a series of YouTube videos.

Judging by the fact that there is also a website where you can purchase the jelly beans in the various forms of decease, I think the campaign was relatively popular.

I find the whole thing to be really funny, and you have to admit that the song is catchy. There are lots of parody videos on YouTube as well. Just search "Dumb Ways to Die" for an endless time suck.

These are the videos that I watch over and over as I wait for the train to come at Melbourne Central station after classes. Since class doesn't usually let out till 8:30 or 9:00, the train services have slowed to once ever 30 minutes or so and I'm often standing at the station for a while, so I've gotten to know the jelly beans pretty well.

I'm a little over it with the jelly beans, and if the campaign has been on since 2012 as YouTube would have me believe, I can only imagine everyone else in Melbourne is kind of over them, too.

There are also the official, not-filmed-while-standing-on-the-platform versions of the videos on YouTube. Just thought I'd show y'all what I see all the time in the interest of vicariousity.

Vicariously yours,

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Hosier Lane

The graffiti in this town is prolific, and some of it is pretty cool.

Some of it is literally "Prolific."
I would have to say 90% of the graffiti I see is obviously the work of bored teens who either have something sharp and want to scar a plastic surface with whatever word comes to mind first...

"Botox" carved into a train wall.
...or have just purchased a mega Sharpie and learned a new typography to doodle...

...Or simply some kids that have gotten their hands on a can of spray paint.

This makes me think of the alternative version of the Barney song that we all thought was so funny in 3rd grade.

But there is one part of town that is pretty cool.

Hosier Lane.

It is a couple of alleys in one of the busiest parts of downtown where street artists can paint freely, and the result is awesome.

Sure there are lots of examples of street tagging or words that don't mean anything to anyone except for someone who is "in the know" with street lingo (I'm so hip), but the rest of the alley is really cool art.

I think the coolest part about Hosier Lane is that you could visit the street once a month and see something different every time. This is obviously a place that Melbournians seem to be proud of. While we were there the other day a couple was getting their wedding photos taken amongst the tourists and aerosol paint.

Vicariously yours,

Monday, September 14, 2015

Featured photo: Take a guess

Any guesses as to what you'll find when you walk through that ominous, dark doorway?

It's not what you expect.

What you probably expect is some creepy haunted tunnel or Batman's secret lair or something like that. You would be disappointed.

This is one entry to a parking lot. An underground parking lot. Apparently an historically significant parking lot, according to an engineering article I found online. The parking deck under the University of Melbourne's south lawn was completed in 1972, but the south lawn had been a part of the campus since the late 1800s. In the '70s, the school found itself lacking in parking, but didn't want to sacrifice green space, so they built a one-of-a-kind parking lot under ground. Well...raised but under dirt.

I'm not sure what the story is behind the ominious entrances. I don't know if they were originally part of the south lawn in some way or if they were built in the '70s to look period appropriate, but it made me chuckle when I walked through the dark doorway and found someones 4-door Holden instead of something more sinister.

Vicariously yours,

Sunday, September 13, 2015

This is the kind of nature I can handle, Australia

I'm not gonna lie, my fear of all the things in Australia that can kill us is real. I grew up with a father that loved to watch the National Geographic specials about exotic animals and many of those shows featured the "World's deadliest [fill in the blank]" and ALL OF THEM WERE FROM AUSTRALIA!

Ok, maybe not all of them, but the majority of all those lists has Australia's wildlife front and center. I can't handle spiders, and this photo has been shared with me way too many times since we've made the decision to move Down Under:

This is a snake crawling out of someone's bathroom vent in Queensland. NOPE. 


I am happy to report, though, that since moving to Melbourne the worst invasion of our apartment by nature that we have experienced is the random gnat every now and then.

The other night, however, we DID see a couple pieces of Australian nature that got me very excited.

This is what they look like in better light. I didn't take this photo. I got it here

There are parrots in this city! And they aren't someone's pet that has gotten out of its cage! On our second day here, Tyler and I saw COCKATOOS! Just flying around! Because they are FROM HERE! They're not exotic, they're like really big, cool looking Australian pigeons!

Ok, not that common, but Australians are not phased by them like we were. And I continue to be thrilled by parrots whenever I see these cute green Australian king parrots flying around and singing in the evenings.

THEN we saw an Australian possum!

Australians are probably rolling their eyes at how this crazy American is getting all worked up over an annoying possum, but THEY ARE SO MUCH CUTER THAN THE ONES WE HAVE IN AMERICA!

Also not a photo I took. It was too dark to get a shot of the one we saw, so I stole this photo from here
Apparently they are just as annoying as the ones we have in America (even without the O at the beginning of their name), but they are WAY less rabid because there has never been a case of rabies in Australia ever. So they're just going to look at you all timidly like the one we saw the other night and NOT try to eat your face off or attack you!

I love Australian nature that doesn't want to eat me!

Vicariously yours,

Thursday, September 10, 2015

PSA: The Pancake Parlour is not the same as the Pancake Pantry

A couple weeks ago I was in the city getting the most thorough eye exam I've ever had in my life. To save a buck, I went to the University's eye center where ophthalmology students conduct the exams under the supervision for fully licensed doctors. I was warned that because the students would be working under supervision (meaning every part of the exam would have to be done twice), my appointment could last as long as 90 minutes. TWO AND A HALF HOURS LATER, my eyes are dilated and numbed (yes, numbed), and I am starving. BUT! My eyes are very well examined, I can assure you.

Anyway, the hubs happened to be in the city and I was in struggletown trying to walk around with dilated eyes and no sunglasses on this rare sunny Melbourne winter day, so he met me a few tram stops away from the eye center and we went to lunch. I didn't eat breakfast before my 10am appointment, so a pancake breakfast sounded great. There was a Pancake Parlour nearby, and it sounded like it had a similar menu to our Nashville favorite Pancake Pantry.


Sure, there are pancakes on the menu, but everything has ice cream on it!

I just wanted chocolate chip pancakes!

Banana and strawberry pancakes with vanilla ice cream on top. Chocolate chip pancakes with chocolate ice cream and chocolate hot fudge on top. Peaches and cream pancakes with peach slices, peach ice cream, and whipped cream. See, it's Pancake Parlour as in ice cream parlor! Pancakes served at an ice cream parlor. Oof.

So. much. sugar! I might have gotten diabetes from just this one meal. It was good, but it was not good on my empty stomach.

Next time, it'll be dessert, not breakfast.

Vicarously yours,

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Home Sweet Home

We might be in a bit of a honeymoon phase, but Tyler and I really love our apartment here in Melbourne. It is the smallest place we have ever lived, but the location is fantastic and the small size makes cleaning a breeze. There is a grocery store literally in our backyard...if we had a backyard. There are butcher shops and fresh fruit shops just a few doors down from our building, and the train station is a short 3 minute walk away. Now we just need to work on doing our favorite thing: Filling our home with friends and hosting visitors.

We made some progress on that mission today by hosting some new Australian friends for a Southern fried chicken lunch. Since we were having folks over for the first time, we spiffed the place up a bit and had a reason to put some final touches on settling in. We still have a few things to hang on a couple of the walls, but the place is presentable enough now to warrant some photos up on the ol' blog. These will have to tide y'all over until you come to visit.

The first impression: Before

This is the view we had when we first walked in the door on the day we got the keys. I put tape down on the carpet to map out the furniture we had picked out at ikea to make sure it would fit before we made any purchases. I guess you could say this is the living room, though it's technically the living room, dining room, and kitchen all in one. The master bedroom is the one on the left and the guest bathroom is the dark door on the right.

The first impression: After

We had to set up a kitchen island because, as you'll see, the kitchen is tiny and has no counter space. Tyler is modeling our ikea sofa nicely in the living room, and the extendable dining table already had one extra leaf placed in it in preparation for our lunch guests today.

The view from the living room: Before

This is the view of the living/dining/kitchen room from the opposite corner. Tyler is blocking the kitchen sink because it is directly next to the front door. The kitchen is tiny, but it has the most crucial appliance that was a non-negotiable part of our apartment in Australia: a dishwasher! The doors to the left of the front door are closets for our laundry, including a sink and some cabinets. Another thing we love about this apartment is all the storage!!

The view from the living room: After

We bought a fridge and microwave and have added a little splash of color with the pillows and throw blanket on the couch. You'll also recognize our ikea-chic signature style with the expedite shelves serving as the living room entertainment center. Some styles are so easy to assemble we just can't give them up.

The master bedroom view one: Before

This room is a lot smaller than either of our bedrooms in Kuwait, but I LOVE that this master has large sliding doors and a little balcony. It lets in so much light! There is a teeny little bathroom just past the door on the right.

The master bedroom view one: After

Since the room isn't all that big, we knew we would have to be economical with our furniture. We decided to get the Brimnes bed from ikea, the same one we had in our guest bedroom in Kuwait. This bed is so awesome because there is soo much storage in it! The headboard has bookshelves and there are four big drawers under the bed. We don't have room for a dresser, so we're using the drawers under the bed as our chest of drawers and the closet (behind the wall on the left) has a great organization system where we can store clothes. The Mister's go in the closet in the guest bedroom. tee hee

We went for a grey and turquoise theme in here since we couldn't paint the walls. We also were at a bit of a loss of what to do with the canvases from our wedding, so where better than over our bed? The photos under the canvas are of us from our high school graduation, our wedding day (yes, again), last summer's family photo session, and some graffiti we found in Rome. I know it'll sound conceited, but this is my favorite photo display in our apartment.

The master bedroom view two: Before

This was the view of the master bedroom standing in the bathroom doorway.  The bathroom is too small to be able to get a shot of it. Sorry. It has a toilet, a sink, and a shower. Pretty run of the mill. Use your imagination.

One thing that is almost as hard to imagine as it is to accurately photograph is the teeny tiny sink in the bathroom! So small that we can't even put a toothbrush holder next to the faucet, and I always soak my legs and the floor when I'm washing my face at night because my face doesn't even fit within the area of the basin!

The master bedroom view two: After

Tah dah!

The guest bedroom view one: Before

It's funny how small this room looks before we put furniture in! This is the view of the room across from the door. This was a tricky one to furnish because we needed a double size bed for guests as well as a desk for both of us to use to write our papers.

The guest bedroom view one: After

Ikea saves the day again! That twin size guest bed actually has a trundle that pulls out and makes it a double size AND it has two big storage drawers underneath! Perfect! We have dubbed this room "the travel room" because it has all the artwork we purchased on our various trips over the years.

The guest bedroom view two: Before

Here is, obviously, the view of the room from the door.

The guest bedroom view two: After

This is our teeny little office, y'all! This room further earns the title of "travel room" because it has our scratch-off map, Australia freshly revealed. Next to the map are photos of us in some of the locations we've visited in the world. It's another one of my favorite corners in the apartment.

The kitchen: Before

That's right, there is approximately one square foot of counter space in that tiny kitchen! This kitchen layout was really common in the new-construction apartments that we looked at. I guess builders are designing apartments this way to make the space seem bigger. I guess it sort of long as you don't like cooking.

The kitchen: After

It looks like people actually live here! I thought that we would have a love/hate relationship with this whole open concept layout. Would it be possible to hear the TV if someone was cooking in the kitchen? How loud would the dishwasher be?

Turns out, we love this open concept! The dishwasher is super quiet, so quite that I actually have to put my ear up to it sometimes to see if it has finished running. The hood fan is loud when we are cooking, but it doesn't prevent someone in the living room from hearing the TV; it just prevents the cook from hearing any conversation. Plus, having the kitchen constantly in our line of sight means we keep it cleaner. Friends from Kuwait will attest to our tendency to just close the kitchen door and ignore Monday night dinner dishes for...ahem...a day...or more.

My favorite nooks:

 We call this the "home wall." We had a gallery like this one in our dining room in Kuwait and I think it is going to be a tradition in all of our homes from here on out. I've always been a fan of the over-stimulating galleries of photos in an eclectic collection of mis-matched frames. Ok, so all these frames match pretty well, but only because I refuse to spend more than $2-3 on a frame that is only going to be in our apartment for two years. Thanks, ikea!

We call it the home wall because it has images of all the people and places that make us feel at home. Family members both blood and chosen are featured on both walls and this wall has a Hatch Show Print poster (tres Nashville), a vintage "Greetings from Nashville" postcard poster, and a print of the WSM radio tower that is at the exit we take off the interstate when we re driving home.

The other wall has another Hatch print and a poster I bought off etsy when we were living in Saudi Arabia. Lots of frames are still empty because I'm waiting on prints from this summer's family photo session as well as a few more snapshots to be delivered. I was really tired of having massive blank walls, so I put all the frames up as place holders for when the images come in. 

This is a photo we found on our trip to Egypt last Christmas and I just LOVE it! It is from a collection of photos taken by two men named Lehnert and Landrock that traveled around Egypt and North Africa in the 1920s. I just love how the man is looking at the woman. And she is smoking! We never saw Arab women smoking cigarettes in all our years in the Middle East, and the man seems to be just as mesmerized as I was by this.

I love our kitchen island, I love our iron deer head key holder, and of course I love the Sunflowers print that has hung in every place I have lived since leaving home for college. It's touches like these that make every place we live in the world feel like home.

Vicariously yours,