Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Update: And now with a few less tears.

Thank you for your kind comments friends. As far as stress has gone, this is certainly been the worst weekend I've experienced for awhile.

On Monday, I went to work and stifled tears no less than four times (basically, anytime anyone mentioned – You're moving to Hobart this week!). However, we've gotten kind of the best case scenario news.

We're going to move to Hobart as planned (minus the buying of the house aspect for now!), because of course the organisation Inspector Climate works for has actually no plans for how to lay off these people. They won't make any decisions to late March/April at the earliest, but maybe later!

At least we get to try it out – and then there is a big who knows.

I'm hoping that living new experiences and places will inspire me to share more here – that's what Decoybetty has always been: A place to share my feelings.

Thanks again for listening.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

That moment when all your dreams die.

Friday, 12 February 2016. That's the day that our newly purchased car, Inspector Climate, a carful of things we need to survive, and I are supposed to drive on to the Spirit of Tasmania to start our new adventure.

You'll notice a phrase there: supposed to.

Supposed to.

See on Thursday, 4 February 2016 a rather unpleasant announcement was made: a huge majority of the jobs (like let's say 110 out of 130) in Inspector Climate's field (in the organisation that his new job is in) are gone. The government has stopped funding them (who needs to research the impacts of climate change, right? it's only a giant global problem that will impact every single person, place and thing. Sack 'em all! If this logic was applied to other major problems "We know cancer kills millions of people, and that's a problem. So let's stop studying it and carry on shall we?").

The movers come on Tuesday. Our apartment has already been rented to someone else – and the thousands of dollars that we've spent on planning this move? Oh, that's gone too.

There is a slim to none chance that this organisation could say to Inspector Climate "Oh, we'll honour your contract" (honour's an interesting choice of word...isn't it?) – but the more people we talk to, the more and more it seems like this isn't going to happen.

Our dream is crumbling and I'm not handling it well (surprise!). There go the fruit trees and puppies and kittens. There goes the house with the big kitchen and wood floors. There goes purchasing a house – the house that would be the 'only home we ever purchase.'


It feels like some one has died – and they have. Future Decoybetty and Future Inspector Climate – as we knew them, as we imagined them, are dead. And I know, trust me I know, how dramatic that sounds. But we've been working towards this new adventure for years. Gone.

I've been walking around in a fog – I smile, I occasionally laugh – and the moment I'm alone again I sob and my heart breaks yet again.

Did you know that in an animal rescue there are 44 kittens that need adopting outside of Hobart? One of them was going to be ours.

While Inspector Climate stoically goes about his day – ticking things off our enormous to do list and trying to talk to me about our future, I am a puddle of emotional exhaustion and can barely think about getting through Monday.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Even lemon trees move on to more brighter futures

Our inter-state move is fast approaching and while many people seem to be feeling the stress of Christmas and the holiday season, it is the impending move that gets my heart a flutter with nerves and page long to-do lists.

Our house saga continues (and if just ONE of you says "the right one will come along and you'll wonder why you stressed about it in the first place" or "It will all work out just fine" then you clearly don't know me at all!). We went down a couple of weeks ago to look at a bunch more, and while we were there we took an internet dongle to test the mobile internet at the Mystery House (you know... just in case). And, it was fine. We sketchily skyped my parents from a rental car across the street from the house and it worked great. We opened multiple google docs. We called the real estate agent and were like 'is it still on the market' (because they NEVER UPDATE THE WEBSITE) and he was all 'uh, sorry it just went under offer.

Luckily I was sitting on the floor cuddling someone else's dog when Inspector Climate broke me the news, and took it fairly well.

The weekend after, we were getting ready to tick one more thing off our list, buying a car – when did we become such grown ups? And so in preparation, I started calling friends and asking if they'd like our fruit trees which currently sit in our car park. On Tuesday, we bought a car (tick!) (A VW Golf, if any one would like to know – the second we sat in it, I was like 'and his name is Henri' and Inspector Climate rolled his eyes: cars don't need names, and it's a German car not a French car. Ya'll, the car spoke to me and told me his name was Henri. Who am I to argue with that?).

On Wednesday, the Mystery House real estate called us and said that the offer that is on the house may fall through and if we can move quickly that we might be able to buy it. Immediately I got sick to my stomach, the butterflies rising all the way up chest and into my throat. A car AND a house in one week – praise moses. The owner loves us, we are the type of people she wanted to sell the house to, and the people with the offer currently, were not her people.

On Thursday, the house sold, and not to us. I don't really understand why (the real estate couldn't tell us specifics), but the other people were able to magically jump some hoops and fulfil whatever they needed to do. And I cried.

On Friday, my friend C stopped by and we repotted the Lemon Tree and I gave it to her – sitting up in her car with the top branches sticking out the top of the sun roof, catching the breeze – the Lemon Tree found a new home. The lemon tree is the first living thing (first thing really at all) that Inspector Climate and I got together. We didn't even live together at the time. While I couldn't be happier that it went to a good home with new loving lemon-tree parents, I was pretty sad to see it go. Good bye Lemon Tree.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Some cookbook recommendations + Life Listlessly stuffs

I'm sure I've mentioned this once or twice (or even 10 times), but my least favourite job is menu planning. Every week on Friday night (if I'm being good) or Saturday morning (and then we're in trouble), I sit down with Inspector Climate and try to figure out what we're going to eat  for the next week.

I really don't enjoy it. I get sick of food quickly, and so I don't like eating the same thing frequently, but I also go on jags where I really like something and it's all I want. It makes me cranky menu planning.

So, one of the ways that we try to combat the cranky is buying cookbooks and this year we have three that I've been using A LOT and highly recommend for yummy delicious food. It also means that I've cooked a lot of new recipes that I haven't marked off on my life list. So I thought I'd share some of my fave cook books with you and also my favourite recipes from those cookbooks (I rate cook books by how many recipes I want to make over and over again. A cook book with only two good recipes, not a winner in my mind). I won't actually write the recipes out, but just notice the sheer volume per book.

Let's dive in:

1. Thug Kitchen – First of all, if you haven't seen the video clip for Thug Kitchen go google that right now. I'll wait. ... Secondly, this cook book is not for you if you are offended by a bit of cussing. This is a vegan cook book (I'm not vegan),  but the recipes are delicious. These are my favourites:

1. Vietnamese rice noodle salad – what's not to love? A lovely light summer dinner.
2. Vegetable-noodle soup with ginger miso broth – this was a STAPLE this winter. We made it a lot and it was warming and cosy and best of all SUPER easy.
3. Warm the fuck up minestrone – Did I mention the swearing? The soup was tomato-y and full of hearty delicious veggies. Plus worked out great gluten free!
4. Tortilla soup – I had never considered blending up tortillas into a divine tomato based soup... but I dig it.
5. Wedding soup with white bean ball and kale – This was another winter staple. We made it a lot and the white bean balls are super fantastic and they kind of melt in the soup and somehow even get more delicious.
6. Roasted Sriracha cauliflower bites – Just yum. I could eat (and have) a whole head of cauliflower this way.
7. Vegetable pad thai with dry fried tofu – This was just yummy.
8. Roasted chickpea and broccoli burritos – Yes please.

Plenty – Yotam Ottolenghi's vegetarian cookbook. I was first introduced to Yotam from a cooking show that would play on SBS and so when I heard he had a vegetarian cook book out, I was pretty keen to get my hands on it.

1. Black Pepper Tofu – This recipes calls for 5 tablespoons of black pepper corns which terrified me, but it was AMAZING.
2. Multi-vegetable Paella – anything with grilled artichokes has my vote, amirite?
3. Very full tart – this is basically a quiche with sweet potato, zucchini, and tomatoes in it.
4. Brussels sprouts and tofu – two of my favourite things (although I try to only eat tofu every once and a while because I know it's not great for me and I know Jorge – the bastard – loves it).
5. Fried butter beans with feta and sumac – Oh, wise people does anyone know how to properly soak dried beans? Mine always don't turn out well. But this recipe is a good one.

After loving Plenty, when I saw there was a second book Plenty More I put it on my birthday wish list, and now I've been using it for a few months and I can officially say, it's just as good as Plenty. Yum

1. Rice salad with nuts and sour cherries – absolutely delicious
2. Quinoa porridge with grilled tomatoes – I've never been that into porridge, but thought I'd give this a try, it was good really filling and the grilled tomatoes were just AMAZING.
3. Squash with chile yogurt and cilantro sauce – yes please.
4. Crushed puy lentils with tahini and cumin – this is just...good and satisfying. I like to make it with yogurt flat bread as a main course. YUM.
5. Cauliflower cake – This is a savoury cake and it is crazy easy and crazy delicious. I like it with giant salad on the side.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Three things

1. A horse that we've had since I was six died at the end of October. He was 31. Gentle, kind, and with an excellent sense of humour. He could no longer eat hay or grass because his teeth were in such bad shape he couldn't chew it and it would fall out of his mouth in wet wads. He was my dad's horse and I can't imagine how hard this whole thing must be for my dad.

I'll be in my 50s before I've lived as much life without Rocky as I have lived with him.

For the past couple of years, every time we would go back home and visit, I'd tear up when it came time to say good bye because I knew he might not make it through the winter.

As a kid, my dad would read me a book, and then when it was time for bed he'd rub my back and tell me story. Sometimes they were about when he was young, other times were stories he insisted that our animals told him. This is one of them. When I was about eight years old, my dad kept Rocky at a barn where I also took riding lessons. One day during my riding lesson, my dad took Rocky for a trail ride. Rocky loved to go on rides, out of all our horses he was most excited when his saddle came out and he was always keen to go. But during this lesson, I was thrown pretty badly, dirt coated the inside of my mouth and I had a concussion. My dad says at some moment on the ride, Rocky stopped wanting to go any further from the barn – unusual for him – and was really pushy about heading back. Like he knew something was wrong, like he knew I was hurt. He always felt like the sweet older four legged brother. And I'll miss him so. The barn yard certainly will never be the same.

Image: Rocky and I, September 2012 | Kyle Hepp.

2. Two weeks ago, Inspector Climate and I put in an offer on a house in Tasmania. And just this past week, we got a building inspection done on the house. It failed. And now, we are going to retract our offer completely. To explain what was wrong with it could take days, suffice to say, the list was long and the cost of fixing it would be enormous. And it is ... devastating. We were talking about where we'd put furniture and what fruit trees we'd add to the orchard. The kitchen was absolutely stunning and I already had plans to add a claw-footed tub. And I know that there will be another place out there, that this one clearly wasn't meant to be, etc. etc. But the idea of starting over again, finding new homes to love is daunting.

3. Today is Inspector Climate and my four year 'getting married' anniversary.  It seems almost insane that it has been four years. We are not doing anything to celebrate at the moment, I had plans to go a fancy restaurant when I thought we'd be home owners as well, but we don't really feel like celebrating at the moment. When we first started seeing each other I remember every month was a milestone. "Happy four month anniversary", "Happy seven month anniversary" – we'd say to each other. And now, we've been married for four years. FOUR YEARS.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

For some reason, I thought this would be more fun.

[Wow, so this post turned into a bit of an epic tale. Apologies. Enjoy with a biccy and cuppa]

So Inspector Climate and I took our first trip to Tassie a few weeks ago to look at houses to purchase.

Yes, to purchase. We're done with renting. I want to be able to drill holes in the wall and paint things and rip up carpeting and have animals. I'm ready to be done with renting. Of course, whether we find our home quickly enough that we don't have to start off when we renting is another question. One I'm not fond of entertaining.

Anyway, we went to Tasmania to look for homes.

Have you ever seen the TV show Escape to the Country? It's a British TV show where urban couples/families are ready to move to the country and a real estate agent shows them a few properties that fit their requirements and one property that is the 'mystery house' – to expand their minds.

Well, we have been treating our real estate adventure like a series of Escape to the Country Tasmania.

We picked seven (yes, SEVEN) houses to go visit while we down there for two days. And the first three were – well they needed a lot of renovations – like a lot. Not just re-doing the kitchen but re-doing all the bedrooms, bathroom.  One of the houses the only part we liked as is was the hallway. We were feeling... discouraged.

The fourth property we saw had been our favourite from the beginning. And we found it overwhelming and intimidating. It still needed renovations – but the outside, which is what we had initially loved, had more than 30 fruit trees. That took it from being a cute hobby farm to being an orchard that would require A LOT of attention. Like a A LOT. My mom has 15 fruit trees and it takes up most of her time during harvesting season. Let alone all the pruning, thinning, and the rest.

And then a real estate agent suggested a mystery house. A MYSTERY HOUSE. It wasn't on the website yet, but the owner agreed to let us see it early.

It was... beautiful. It was a small house, with a decent number of fruit trees (although the real estate agent didn't know which ones) – turns out: a huge lemon tree dripping with lemons, cherry and apple! – it had wood floors and a beautiful kitchen. The house was bright and light. It was what we hadn't known we wanted in the first place.

We had one more day in Tasmania, we were seeing some houses in Hobart (which isn't where we want to end up) and then we asked the real estate agent if the Mystery House owner would give us a tour of the gardens. And we fell more and more in love with the place. Inspector Climate left convinced this was it, and I just needed to agonise over the decision for a bit more.

It took me over an hour to convince myself (with Inspector Climate's help) that spending $75 on a bag that I actually really needed was an ok purchase – I don't spend money well.

Anyway, we left Tasmania and the next morning we decided to make an offer. Inspector Climate decided to do a bit more research and in this dug up that the house can't be connected to anything faster than dial up internet. I mean, it could get mobile internet but it would be horrendously expensive and slow for us and we'd never be able to work from home or skype easily. We were devastated.

I felt... grief. We lost something we never really had in the first place. It was devastating. And for weeks there was nothing else on the market we even liked. The Mystery House kept coming up on our searches of the area – looking all perfect and beautiful – and we just had to scroll on by.

We're going back down next weekend and finally there are few more promising properties to look at.

Next time on Escape to Tasmania tune in to see if Decoybetty and Inspector find their dream home.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Sometimes, you just have to will it into being.

A few months ago, I wrote that Inspector Climate had a job interview for a job in Tasmania.

He didn't get it.

He got a better job – in Tasmania – instead.

My boss has said I can transfer offices and so, we're moving to Tassie, bitches.

(Bitches was just for emphasis...)

In fact, as this (wildly boring) blog post gets published, we're flying down to Tasmania to look at houses... to buy. We're not messing around, ladies and gentlemen, I can almost feel the kitty and puppy cuddles, they're so close!

It's... a bit unreal. The houses that we're looking at have established fruit trees, and a little land, and room for a dog, and some of them even have space for me to teach yoga on the side (I KNOW, right?).

It feels so grown up to be talking about buying a house. But it also feels a bit overwhelming to be considering leaving the city I've called home for the majority of my 20s. How will I make new friends? Will I finally have to drive on the left side of the road... by myself? What if I never see some of my favourite Melburnians again (Kirsti! You'll come visit, right?). What if? What if? What if?

Look out, Tassie, we're coming soon.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Shall we vista?

In the last week of our trip back to the US, we did something that has been on my to do list (and life list) for a long time: road trip up/down the coast of California. So my parents and Inspector Climate and I flew into San Francisco and rented a car (a car is using the term loosely – it was a Yukon and the biggest thing in the entire world).

I have family in San Francisco and so we visited with them for two days and did a little sight seeing. One of the problems of being an expat is that when I go home, I really want to go home – to my parents farm to lie on the couch with dogs which means that Inspector Climate (or I) rarely gets to see somewhere new. Inspector Climate had never been to San Francisco, and my parents and I had never seen the Muir Woods and so off we went to frolic amongst the Red Woods.

And boy, did we frolic.

May I take this opportunity to give a travel tip: get there early or take a shuttle from San Francisco (no, just get there early). Because we arrived before 9am the park was free (not that I mind paying for National Parks, but you know), but more importantly, we had the place to ourselves. We took a walk and barely saw a single person for the first 1.5 hours and as we looped back around, the park was really starting to fill up.

Also keep an eye out for wildlife! We saw a deer just wondering about in the woods, and then saw two fawns drinking out of a creek.

I have a certain love – that my parents seem to have passed down to me – for big old trees. Trees that are thousands of years old and seen so much and experienced so much make me feel small and insignificant in all the best ways.

They remind me why I do what I do (nature conservation / climate change fighter). It's for the trees, ya'll.

What we soon called 'assuming the position':

After two blissful days in San Francisco, we repacked the Yukon and hit Rt 1. It was everything I thought it was going to be...and a little bit more. For all you Australians out there, driving down the California coast is like the Great Ocean Road, but on steroids.

It did get to the point where it was a bit like, 'Oh, another beautiful vista? I mean, I guess we'll stop...'

The trip not only fed my love of big trees, but also my love for cliffs (if one remembers my trip to Norfolk Island – one will also remember my love for cliffs...why am I talking like this?).

And also for incredible feats of engineering:

Right, like we get it? Enough with the beauty.

Oh, that's just a casual waterfall INTO THE OCEAN.

And once we had driven past the beauty and the cliffs we came to elephant seals. They used their fins to cover their bodies with sand. It was adorable.

But besides the absolute beauty that was the coast, I have to say it was the quality time with my parents that I most enjoyed. My parents last did the drive down the California coast in 1970 and as we drove along they were reminded of adventures that they had gone on. And I don't know if it because I just turned 30 (did I mentioned that I turned 30? Gulp) or if it is my parents approaching 70, but they're suddenly much more open with me about their past and there struggles as adults.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Spotting a Decoybetty in her natural habitat

This last trip back the US was four weeks of being with family, which hasn't happened since 2009! I got to spend two weeks in New Hampshire on my parents farm, a week in Cape Cod with my brothers, and a week in California (post to come soon!)

If I had my way, I probably would never leave my parents farm when I went back to the US to visit.  Sitting with two dogs on a couch? My idea of heaven.

My mom's garden was going into serious overdrive while we were there. I made a giant thing of fridge pickles and there were bags and bags of cucumbers that we also picked and made plates and plates of cucumber salad.

Inspector Climate was champion plum picker. With the help of a dog, of course!

We also picked pears, apples, zucchinis, pumpkins, and tomatoes. And green beans. And corn. And, and, and!

Pears are interesting because they ripen from the core outwards, you're supposed to pick them when they're not ripe and let them ripen off the tree.

One of my parents' dogs takes his job of protecting the farm very seriously. And most nights could be found sitting outside the kitchen door surveying his land. The other dog would be running down to the orchard for post-dinner snack and go pick himself an apple or plum off the ground and bring it back up to the house eat it. Hilarious.

Just a few apples. In fact, we took 30 pounds of apples and turned into apple butter and apple sauce (recipes 37 and 38 on my life list to cook 100 new things! Expect more of these coming soon). My mom and I (and Inspector Climate helped too with the peeling, coring, and slicing and dicing) spent hours in the kitchen preserving the abundance of produce.

I felt like I spent most of my time in New Hampshire with sticky hands from peeling so much fruit.

Just some of the bounty. We also made plum jam, which holy moly was good!

The green of New Hampshire seriously rejuvenates my soul – cheese alert! – but it is one of those things that I'm completely not aware of missing, needing, or craving until we start to drive north from Boston. And then, suddenly, the mountains come into view, and the green leaves on the miles of woods, and despite the jet lag and the exhaustion I feel a burst of energy.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

When coming home isn't the same as going home.

This morning at 7:40 am, I arrived back in Melbourne after a four week visit with my family in the US. To say that I did some crying on the flight, and in the airport, and very nearly when going through customs is an understatement.

So yes, I'm jetlagged, I'm tired, I go back to work tomorrow, and although Monday didn't exist for me, it appears that while Inspector Climate and I flew over the pacific ocean Australia got a new Prime Minister! Big day, ya'll.

I have so many exciting adventures to share of our trip and also coming the upcoming weeks and months – Big News (I'm not pregnant) – in fact. But at the moment, I'm feeling... sad.

You'd think that after doing something for nearly a decade that one would become better at it – but every goodbye at the airport feels more permanent, more acute, and more painful then the ones before.

I don't handle jet lag well, and for the first time I think I'm putting the pieces together on why that is: I'm not just dealing with jet lag, but a cocktail of grief and exhaustion (most definitely on the rocks – I'm sorry for that, I couldn't help myself). And just maybe it is the grief that I'm the slowest at getting over. It isn't surprising that the symptoms of grief are similar to those of jet lag: tired well before any normal adult should be going to bed, lethargy, waking up in the middle of the night and being unable to sleep.

When I'm living my life here in Australia, I feel so – and I'm sorry for using this word, but it's true – blessed that I am able to do it. That I live in a place that for whatever reason inspires me to be the best version of myself (most days). That I have a job I love, and am married to truly saintly human being – who I never would have met if I had not been here. I can't really imagine not living here.

But when I go home, and I am surrounded by truly green things I feel so refreshed, rejuvenated, and whole.

I'm not sure if other expats feel this way as well, but homesickness is the hardest to bear the two weeks prior, during, and the two weeks post going back home.

I'll leave you with a picture of me fighting (and losing) jet lag once I'd gotten to the US – but it was much more bearable because I had my parents cat to keep me company in the wee hours of the morning.