When we first moved here, we set a bit of a budget for our house furnishings. The idea is that we won’t be here long enough to invest in really nice stuff, so I set my sights high on a Craigslist/Gumtree steal (which worked for me last time, back home) in the form of a $100 couch.

Well, that ended up being kind of a disaster. As you may remember, the couch turned out to be pretty grody but we bought it anyway (ugh, just… ugh). Dumbest move ever.

After realizing that no matter how cheap we were trying to be, I couldn’t fathom sitting on that thing for the next three years, I googled and searched high and low for a decent but reasonable deal. Eventually  I found a couch/loveseat combo for $695 at a place called Le Cornu furniture. And the best part is that tax is already included in advertised prices down here. We kicked our old grody bodily-fluid-ridden couch to the curb guest room and were left with this:

And then, blissfully, this:

Sure, $700 for two couches won’t buy you the highest quality out there (as was evidenced by our poor friend fearing that she broke one of the arms due to some mysterious creaking noises!). But if they at least last for half of their 5-year structural warranty, we should be okay.

TL;DR: We bought new couches.

A lot has happened since I graced you all with my presence in blogland!

We celebrated our first anniversary by re-creating our favorite wedding photo:

(Yes, I am holding a flower that Stan picked for me.)

If this city has anything, it’s beautiful sunsets. So we thought we’d get an awesome one for our anniversary, but nope! Sandwiched between many days of gorgeous sunsets was our anniversary, foggy as can be.

Here is the viewpoint where we’d hoped to take in some gorgeous orange and gold sky!

We could only laugh.

I  wrote in our leather journal that also served as our guest book.

A friend joined us for the event:

Here I am getting ready for our shot. I wore jeans and tennis shoes for the hike up, then swapped my shoes (same yellow ones I got married in!) and ditched the jeans.

In other news, I’m more homesick than I had anticipated, but I’m settling in here more and more every day. Lately I’ve taken to asking myself, “Now why did we have to move so far away?” I could really use a weekend visit home, but those don’t happen when the round-trip journey eats up 42 hours.

I other other news, I got a job! You guys, unemployment was really really hard. It’s some of the most dejected I’d felt in my life. I started temping, which was really good. I think it made me more relaxed (read: less desperate) for my interviews for permanent jobs. So if you’re currently unemployed against your will, I would suggest signing up with a temp agency!

People seem generally pretty surprised that I managed to land a full-time, permanent job here. A lot of jobs are on a contract basis, which means in 6 or 12 months you get to look for a job all over again (yuck). The job is as a receptionist and marketing assistant at a small financial planning company. So far I really like the people I work with. Nailing the accent is proving to be pretty important, otherwise when I answer the phone all I hear is “G’day heewaahh yeeouui? This is <thickly drawled and impossibly quickly spoken name> ” No disrespect to the accent, it’s just a little hard to understand for a yank!

While I’m at it, here are a few differences I’ve observed between Oz and home:

  • They work fewer hours (my work week is 37.5 hours: 9-5 with a half-hour lunch) and they don’t generally go home and check work emails
  • They drink at work! My office apparently shuts down for “Beer o’clock” at 4:30 sharp on Fridays – for beers in the office
  • “Hours” are called “Trading hours”
  • “Ta” = “thank you”
  • Sprinkles on donuts are sometimes called “hundreds and thousands”
  • They don’t call it 1% and 2% milk. You have to read the label if you want to know how much fat is in there; they’ll name it anything from Skimmer (which is actually 1%) to Lite (which is actually 2%)
  • Stuff is in Kilojoules here, instead of calories. And at McDonald’s (Macca’s) all the KJ info is posted right on the menu
  • Yes, we Stan eats Vegemite

I can’t think of any more at the moment, but I’ll keep you posted.

You guys are so nice. You left me nice comments and sent me nice messages, and I appreciate it so much. I’m feeling better now, actually. Funny enough, the very next day I got my first temp assignment, and then today I got a call from a recruitment firm! Small victories, but the important thing is that things are finally moving forward. I have learned what true frustration tastes like, and I’d rather lick a tub full of baking soda. I’m starting to see a little sunshine behind the clouds, which makes patience so much more attainable.

Anyway, on Friday Stan insisted that I take the day off, so I did (after I applied for a couple jobs). What did I do on my day off? I did what a lot of homesick Americans would probably do: I went to Ikea! I didn’t buy anything besides a double chocolate sundae. (It tasted like slushy sweetened condensed milk… not the best sundae of my life.) Whoever invented chain stores was a genius, because the emotional, familiar aspect gets even the most skeptical consumer. When I go to Ikea, I might as well be in Draper, Utah (as long as I don’t listen to the conversations around me). I might as well be home! Pretty lame day off, I know. So then I went to the beach.

The nice thing about Adelaide is that if the temperature dips below 50° F, people start hunkering down with their scarves and tea. So I had the beach completely to myself.

But eventually even I got rained out, but I went home feeling refreshed and pretty happy. Does anyone else love rainy days when they’re sad? A sunny day when you’re sad is so mocking. A rainy day makes you feel like a good friend is empathizing.

The next day we decided on a whim (after I made us some delicious French toast) to drive down to Victor Harbor. It started as a major whaling site in the late 1800′s and, like many other poorly-planned human endeavors, the people quickly ran themselves out of product (whales), and therefore out of business, in about a hundred years. Blubber and lots of other whale parts were used for common items that are all petroleum based these days.

Anyway, it’s a really beautiful spot. It was rainy on and off, but that just gave us some pretty skies and moody light to play around with.

There’s a little island called Granite Island, aptly named for its geology. It was used a lot as a whale sighting spot. A horse-drawn rail tram still carries people out there. (It must not run in the late autumn, though.)

Some pretty scenery.

No island is complete without a pile-o-rocks with some birds on top. Put a bird on it!

Here is another cute bird. Stan tried to figure out what it was, but to no avail.

There are some cool eroded rocks. This rock looks like a seal:

Stan would like me to add that as a geologist, he is particularly talented at taking photos of rocks. I mean, look at this beauty!

Don’t you want to go there?? The water looks so inviting, but then again the next piece of land is Antarctica.

The island also has Little Penguins, and they offer penguin tours at dusk. Otherwise, you can stroll around on a self-guided walk of the island. It took us a little over an hour, I’d say. Then just as the rain picked up again, it was time for us to walk back across the causeway.

It was around 3:00 and we still hadn’t eaten lunch, so we went to see what Victor Harbor had to offer. As you may expect in a small, off-the-beaten-road town, most restaurants have stopped serving lunch, but don’t serve dinner for another couple of hours. We found a semi-deserted deli and ordered some wraps (think quesadilla)  and an enormous “small” order of “chips”. American-sized portions, my butt! Here I am waiting for the greasy goodness in all my greasy rainy goodness.

After lunch we decided we needed a little more grease, so we went and had our first Australian donuts. They weren’t bad, but they were no Banburry Cross. (Oh, what I wouldn’t do for a couple [dozen] Banburry Cross donuts right now.) Then we hung out in the park.

Although Stan is not a biologist, he is talented at taking photos of living things such as trees in addition to rocks.

Then we went to the South Australian Whale Center. The people at the desk were very super friendly, and were excited that we were from the USA. (Although the guy was a little sad that he still had to put “Adelaide” on his tourism survey form, since that’s really where we live.)

Here is Stan standing next to a Southern Right Whale skull.

Although encountering any being that size would likely cause me to soil myself, there is no real reason to be alarmed. Their throats aren’t even big enough to swallow an orange. They have baleen, which are basically big comb-shaped keratin shields that filter out their true culinary delights, which are plankton, krill, and other tiny organisms.

Here is Stan again being very frightened that the shark behind him might be able to fit its pointy head through the cage:

Fun fact: The guy who invented the shark cage, Rodney Fox, was attacked in a big way some years earlier. The shark gripped his whole left side and arm, and the only reason he lived is because he had the presence of mind to poke the shark in the eye. Can you believe that? The lady at the museum animatedly told us more details, like how he surfaced and found himself surrounded by bloody water, only to look down to see the shark surging up for another go. See above re: soiling myself. 400 or so stitches later, good as new (if you dare, Google Image “Rodney Fox”).

The lady also talked about how her husband had been bit by a shark, but it was “just a little nip”. You know, one of those love bites that pierces your diving suit and your flesh.

Lastly, I just loved this guy. He is a Port Jackson shark; endemic to Australian waters.

Sorry for the blurry picture, but I didn’t want to flash him. Aren’t his markings incredible? Stan pointed out that they look just like water ripple shadows. Evolution at its finest.

It was a great day. Just what I needed. Thanks for reading!

The sun keeps trying to poke out, which feels like a lame metaphor for my life right now. (Yes, I totally just retreated to an angsty corner of my teenage bedroom.)

Job-hunting is the soul-sucking worst. It’s hard. I have been living the past five years under the delusion that a great boss (who took a chance on me and was even so generous as to “pick the hayseed out of my hair”), and great co-workers,  in a job that provided a lot of variety and stimulation, was just a normal part of my life that would always be there. I thought I had a lot to offer, and I thought I was pretty okay at conveying that in a non-cocky way. Sure, I realized the importance of a having a “network”, but hey, I’d broken through cold-turkey before, and I could do it again! Oh, three-months-ago-me, how naive you were.

I haven’t even joked about wanting to sit at home and eat bon-bons lately, because it’s no longer funny to me. Right now, if you gave me the choice between a room full of bon-bons and every Oprah episode ever, and a job (any job) where I got to leave the house and be a productive member of society and have a life; believe it or not, I would choose the job!

Stan tells me I should chill out, maybe take a break, and maybe my days need more structure. (What is it with guys always trying to fix everything? JK, love ya hun.) I should try that out. Meanwhile, I started volunteering, I registered with a temp agency, I’m continuing to fill out applications, exercising, cooking a lot, and generally keeping myself busy. That’s all fine and dandy, it’s just that every other waking moment of my life involves waiting. Ugh. Isn’t waiting the worst?

I even went to a social event that I heard about (gasp!) online! It was outside my comfort zone, but actually really fun. A lot of people made me feel better about my employment struggles, because a lot of them have had similar problems. It’s hard, but at least I’m not the only one.

So for now, I’ll try to concentrate on the encouraging words from the librarian who noticed I was printing off resumes. (Seriously, thank you, lady.) I’ll try not to concentrate on the not-quite-rude-but-not-anything-close-to-nice-and-slightly-annoyed responses from some people when I follow up on an applications.

I’ll try to be happy for my friend Candice’s upcoming wedding, instead of selfishly feeling sorry for myself that I can’t go. Skype is a wonderful thing, but after you close the computer and it’s just you and everyone else is so far away and together and happy… well, unleash the floodgates.

The hard parts are harder than I anticipated.

For some reason lately I’ve been kind of fascinated by DIY clocks. I think it’s because I couldn’t find a clock in a store that I liked, and I really wanted one because when you spend all day at home like I have been (I don’t want to talk about it), it’s easy for time to get away from you. So I made this one.

I started out looking around online, and I really liked this one, and these two, and this one. But when I saw a pack of those pre-dyed popsicle sticks for $2 in the craft store, I knew they were for me!

Here are the materials for this project:

  • Ikea Rusch clock
  • Dyed popsicle sticks
  • Cardboard craft box (optional)
  • Sticky tack for affixing to the wall

Step 1: Deconstruct the clock. All you need is the mechanism and hands. (Alternatively, you can buy a clock mechanism.)

Step 2: Poke a hole in the lid of a cardboard box (these happened to fit perfectly, but you could also just use a piece of cardstock or some other creative way to cover up the black plastic mechanism- or just not worry about it). Stick the doo-hickey through the hole (um…) and then replace the clock hands on the doo-hickey.

Step 3: Play around with different arrangements.

I settled on the yellow, blue, and green.

Step 4:Stick it all to the wall with sticky tack, using the original clock face as a guide.

Or, if you’re nerdy, use math.

Step 5: Enjoy knowing what time it is!

Admittedly, it’s a little “kiddy” or maybe even modern for me. It might go better in a kids’ room or a nursery. But it was so easy to make, and would be so easy to take down, that for now it will stay in our wannabe grown up apartment.

This post was written by Stan!

It was a pretty lazy couple of days this weekend. Aside from doing some errands and going for a run, we didn’t really plan any outings until mid afternoons. Saturday we loosely planned to drive up into the hills to watch the sunset, but the stores were closing soon and we didn’t know where to find a good vantage point. So we settled for a walk over to the 8 km2 of park lands that surround the CBD. The closest green space is Victoria Park, home of the yearly Clipsal motor race. But this time of year the bleachers are taken down and it’s just wide open with a few trees, running paths, and the tarmac.

The sky had been patchy all day, but the clouds kindly parted for us to take some pictures. Note: these are not post-processed. Who has time for that anyways.

This is the hairpin corner of the racetrack

This tree is enormous, the photo doesn’t really do it justice

Rain’s a comin’

Amanda took this beauty. We literally ran across the park to get the right cloud/tree composition.

The last bit of light

Our Sunday plans for a morning run quickly became an afternoon walk (people don’t use the word “hike” down here). We knew of a place called Waterfall Gully that was in the Adelaide Hills, but didn’t really know what to expect. The main road was very akin to Pine Crest, up Emigration Canyon for you SLCers, with a mix of million dollar homes and hippie ranch houses. Our walk up the Chambers Gully Track began with pavement but after a hundred meters or so became dirt, and then we came to the rather narrow entrance to Cleland National Park:

Foxes are bad. Seriously bad.


Did I mention that it does not seem like autumn?

Before too long, we spotted a sleepy koala in a tree, and then another, and then another. We didn’t bring the zoom lens, so this is all the koala detail you’ll get for now.

So sleepy

We spent the next half hour or so dawdling along, taking pictures and eying the trees while we enjoyed the sun shine.

After walking for a few kms, we realized that we hadn’t seen any waterfalls. The stream beds held only a trickle and definitely not enough to support a torrential waterfall. We reminded ourselves that there is no snowpack to support streams year round (I’ll save you the hydrological explanations) so only after a storm do many small waterfalls appear along the track.

Many side trails to wander about.

When we turned around to head for the car park, we hadn’t really made it to a destination, but the walk had been quite lovely and we had seen at least nine koalas. Plus it was getting dark and cold and we had a ways to go. A rather fit and friendly man in his sixties or so caught up with us. We watched a koala together as it balanced on the skinniest branch, fifty feet above the ground, and pawed for the farthest (and probably best) eucalyptus leaves. Then we ended up walking down together; saw another 20 or so koalas and talked about living in Australia (he’d been here for 15 years) and the many trails to see in Waterfall Gully. So in the weekends to come, we will probably be headed back for seemingly endless km’s of trail running and walking.

One more koala:

Time to get up.

I’ve been digging the secondhand shopping here in Oz. A few tricks of the trade I’ve learned: The thift stores aren’t that cheap, Gumtree (Craigslist) is just as good as it is back home, and Ikea is still a good standby if you can’t find anything else.

Here are some chairs I found and fixed up from the local Salvos (Salvation Army):

They were 20 bucks each, which I didn’t think was too bad. I figured I could give ’em a coat of paint and they’d be as good as new. Upon further  inspection (as always) I realized they were going to be more work than I thought.

I love natural wood, and at first I thought I would refinish them. But the veneer was chipped and generally in bad shape and it would have taken hours of patience to patch them with new veneer pieces. Since they’re not antiques or anything, I decided to introduce them to my friend, spray paint.

First, I squished some wood glue in between the peeling veneer and the chair and clamped it:

Then I went back and, using wood patch, filled in the nicks and dings as well as I could:

Sneak peak to this same angle all patched and painted:

Then I gave them an allover sand so my primer would stick better.

They each took a whole can of $16 Zinsser stain-blocking primer, at which point I realized this “cheap little makeover” might not be as cheap as I thought.

After a couple coats of paint, I realized my patch job still left something to be desired in some places, so I went ahead and patched over the paint. It turned out fine, but next time I’ll know that if I’m dealing with super old dried-out veneer that looks like it was painstakingly peeled off by a bored kid in time out, I need to patch it better. They ended up requiring three cans of Circus Yellow Dulux spray paint at $11 each. So the total for these chairs was over $100. This fact is a bit painful considering you can easily find chairs for $50 apiece, but these are unique and they’re mine so I love them.

Here they are again, my sunny little beauties!

For now, I kind of like the brown leather cushions, so they’ll stay. Now what is this scene missing… oh yeah, a table! It’s hard to find a teensy table that’s small enough for a 2-person breakfast nook, so the search continues, as do our meals at the coffee table.

There ya have it! My first project down under.