An Electrifying Evening

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Hello, my name is Julie. I enjoy sitting on the driveway in the middle of the night, camera in hand, waiting for the perfect lightning strike while silently praying it doesn’t choose to strike me. I also have a tendency to get in the car at 11pm to go searching for the perfect location for taking photos of the aforementioned perfect lightning strike. (I may or may not entertain thoughts of becoming a professional storm chaser as I drive.) My biggest talent undoubtedly lies in being distracted almost every time there is a perfect lightning strike, which means the number of perfect lightning strikes I have managed to photograph is pretty much zero. Though I’m satisfied with the photo above.

Seriously though, I waited the whole of summer for a good storm, and there was nothing. First day of autumn, and BOOM! As I write this, a gentle rain is falling, and the air is full of that dry earth smell, which the ground always seems to emit after it’s been thirsty for a prolonged period of time. There’s still the occasional flash of lightning, and rolls of thunder are rumbling along steadily. This is my favourite type of weather in the world.

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This summer, I set myself a goal to walk 10,000 steps each day. Perth is blessed with clear blue skies, sunny weather, and fourteen hours of sunlight during the summer season. Even if it’s too hot during the day, the nights are generally balmy- in fact, this is my favourite time to exercise. All in all, it means there really is no excuse not to be active. And although there were several times when I had to go for an 11.30pm run to make sure I reached my target for the day, I can now officially say that I achieved my goal! In total, I walked 1,035,362 steps this summer. I was so happy to realise I’d broken the million mark.

I also achieved another exercise-related goal this summer, which was to run around my suburb- a distance of about 7km. It doesn’t sound like much, but given that I’m not a runner, it felt like a formidable challenge. After last year’s 1000km hike along the Bibbulmun Track and my trek to Everest Base Camp in Nepal, a new fitness challenge was just what I needed. I don’t know that those walks made much long-term impact on my overall fitness, but after a couple of months of building up my endurance, I managed to complete the run, in under the hour that I’d been aiming for. (Actually, I shouldn’t lie, it was more of a very slow jog.) This goal was actually more of a resolution for 2017, so to achieve it before the first month of the year was over was a bonus.

I’m proud of these efforts as I’ve never really been into fitness, aside from trying to fit in a few walks during the week. Even that started as a way of procrastinating from doing assignments, back in my uni days. As I’ve got older, though, I’ve become more conscious of wanting to look after my body. Given that I love my food, I know that regular exercise is in my best interest. Buying myself a Fitbit for my birthday last year also helped, as it made me more motivated to move. And while I’m not going to worry if I don’t make 10,000 steps each day in March, the first week of autumn is looking to be very summery indeed- perfect for some balmy evening walks.

The Month Ahead: March ’17

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March is almost here, and with no travel plans for the month, I’ll have plenty of time to spend on my ‘at home’ projects. It’s taken me a while to readjust back into ‘the daily routine’ after coming home from Sri Lanka, but I think I’ve finally regained my mojo just in time to make sure live up to the motto which I try to follow each day- be productive, creative and active. Here are some of my goals:

Read: The Toymaker by Liam Pieper, The High Places by Fiona McFarlane, House of Snow by Ranulph Fiennes, Kim by Rudyard Kipling

Write: Since I didn’t have a reliable WiFi connection at some of the places I stayed in Sri Lanka, I only managed to post about the first week of my holiday, where I toured in a group. March will be devoted to writing about my solo adventures and observations.

Exercise: I’m actually going to cut myself a bit of slack with this one! All summer, I’ve endeavoured to walk at least 10,000 steps per day. I will continue to aim for this as often as possible in March, as the weather is still bound to be warm and sunny, but I’m not going to feel pressured into going for an 11.30pm run if it’s looking like I won’t reach the target.

Cook: Ever since I got back from Sri Lanka, my sweet tooth has been out of control, so I’ll be hanging up my baking apron for the month. Instead, I want to focus on savoury meals, which is not my usual forte. I’m most keen to try my hand at a couple of vegetarian curries, as well as a few chicken dishes.

Clean: I want to begin Phase 2 of sorting through my teaching resources. I spent the first two months of summer going through all my files and managed to cull quite a bit. I suppose the bigger issue now is storage. It’s time to shift my things out of the lounge room, where they’ve been residing for the last 14 months. I’m thinking a new bookshelf will help to store some of the books, files, and resources that have made the final cut.

Create (Project 1): Snapshots of Sri Lanka. This will involve sorting through and editing the 2000+ photos I took on my travels. It’s going to be a big task!

Create (Project 2): String Art- The Cool Colours Companion Piece. The follow up to an art project I completed 20 years ago in primary school.

Watch: Homeland (Season 6), The Simpsons (Season 7 DVD), My Sri Lanka with Peter Kuruvita (SBS online)

Work: I’m looking forward to starting four weeks of relief teaching at the end of the month, as I’ll be in a class with some of the students I taught in Pre-Primary two years ago. It will be amazing to see them all grown up. I’m just hoping I haven’t forgotten how to teach, since it feels like an eternity since I was in a classroom. (Actually only three months ago, so I should be fine.) Plus, you know, it will be nice to earn some money, considering my bank account doesn’t seem to want to finance itself.

Eat Out: I’m sticking to a pretty strict budget this month, which means cutting back on dining out, even if the breakfastinperth Instagram page may try to tempt me otherwise. I am willing to make an exception for Slate Cafe, which I have been wanting to check out all summer, as well as Gusto, as they were closed the last time I visited to try their homemade crumpets, which are meant to be delicious.

Hang Out: I feel like I haven’t made much of an effort to explore my home city since getting back from Sri Lanka. However, I’m looking forward to attending The Rosé Event with some friends on the 18th of March. The event will be held along the Swan River, and the four of us are looking forward to sampling many wines- one of our favourite pastimes!

It looks like March is going to be a busy month!

My Furbaby

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Say hello to my little friend! His name is Oscar, and he’s actually not that little. This crazy dog has been part of my family for four years now, and whenever I look at that happy face, my heart brims with contentment. Oscar absolutely lights up my soul. Not surprisingly, he is who I most look forward to seeing again when I return home from my travels. Probably because the excited welcome I receive from him is unparalleled.

Oscar has always been full of energy (at least, when’s he not sleeping on the couch for half the day), and never do you feel that more than when you take him for a walk. In the past, it’s often felt like he’s the one taking me for a walk. During the last couple of weeks though, my mum has been doing some training with him, and when I took him for a walk tonight, it felt like I was walking a completely different dog. There was no pulling, and he trotted steadily next to me. Who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks! I was so proud of my pup.

As we walked silently under the stars, I reflected on how much I love exploring the world, and how lucky I am to be able to travel and go on adventures. And yet, at that moment in time, despite all the amazing places I’ve wandered around the world, there was no place I would rather be than my quiet neighbourhood, with my beautiful dog by my side.

Happy Birthday Dad!

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Today is my dad’s birthday. He is now 58 years old. It’s strange to think that in the photo above, Dad would be around the same age I am now. Sometimes, I’m almost in denial that time has marched on as quickly as it has. But Dad will openly admit he’s got more grey hairs, more wrinkles, and somewhat of a bigger belly than his 30 year old counterpart. Not to mention they just don’t make cars as classy as they used to!

Sometimes, I feel sad about what the intervening years held in store for Dad. The last thirteen years, in particular, have been tough for him, and it’s the loss of the carefree personality that defined the young man above that has been hardest to witness, rather than the inevitable physical effects of ageing.

In his young days, Dad was an adventurer in his own way. Classic cars were his mode of travel, and he frequently took to the open roads around Australia with his mates. Perhaps his horizons shrunk once he had a family, but he would always take us places when he wasn’t working, and to me, our Sunday drives were the height of excitement. The suburbs weren’t built up back then, and the world seemed like a bigger place.

These days, Dad doesn’t really like to go anywhere. He’s lost contact with friends. He doesn’t care much about his appearance and would never get dressed up now the way he did in the photo above. The hardships he’s endured have resulted in him losing interest in a lot of things, and sometimes I struggle with accepting that reality. At the end of the day, I just have to remind myself that it is what it is.

One thing that has remained constant throughout the years, though, is Dad’s nonchalance towards birthdays. He doesn’t like a fuss being made, never has, and is content to spend his special day like any other day. I feel much the same way about my own birthday, but at the same time, there’s no way I could let Dad’s birthday pass by without acknowledging the occasion in some small way.

We’re not big on presents in my family, but my brother and I went halves in buying Dad a new tablet. We actually bought him one for his birthday last year, but in recent weeks, the battery had started playing up. Dad’s the sort of person who would rather fix what he has than buy a new model, and he made some inquiries into a replacement battery, but it would’ve cost almost as much as the new tablet, so I think the upgrade was a good idea.

The main thing I wanted to do for Dad, though, was to cook him dinner. After returning from Sri Lanka enamoured of their delicious, flavourful food, I decided to make Dad a Sri Lankan inspired birthday feast. We both love spicy food, and I was spurred on by my success with a potato curry I’d already made the day after I arrived home. This time around, I planned to include a few side dishes, so as to emulate the generous banquets I’d been served on my travels.

The menu I had in mind was based on some of my favourite dishes I’d eaten while in Sri Lanka: fried rice, potato curry, dhal curry, fried eggplant, mango chutney, coconut roti, and pappadums. Fittingly, the final 20/20 cricket match between Australia and Sri Lanka was on TV, and I envisioned us sitting down and eating my spread of food while watching the match.

There are many reasons why I love my dad, but tonight it was because he waited four hours for his birthday dinner while I went through several meltdowns, as dish after dish failed to turn out the way I wanted. The mango chutney didn’t thicken. The eggplant took forever to fry. The consistency of the lentils was all wrong. The sauce for the potato curry looked insipid. And yet, not once did Dad complain he was hungry during all these crises. (Though he did eat the entire serve of dhal curry right out of the pot after I announced it was unsuitable for consumption.)

In the end, Mum prepared the fried rice, I couldn’t be bothered making the coconut roti , and I completely forgot about the pappadums. The mango chutney was a write-off, not because it was too runny, but because I’d added too much cornflour in an attempt to thicken it up, and it now resembled glue. All I had to show for my four hours of slaving away in the kitchen was some fried eggplant and a potato curry, the latter which had taken me half an hour to prepare the previous time I’d made it.

And so it was that my parents and I sat down with a plate of rice, potato, and eggplant to celebrate my dad’s birthday. We ate this grand feast while watching a David Attenborough documentary, since the cricket had finished long ago. Not for the first time, I contemplated that I had probably bitten off more than I could chew, but as Dad finished his plate and thanked me for his meal with genuine appreciation, I realised that perhaps dinner hadn’t been a total disaster. After all, it’s the thought that counts, right?

The Return of Summer

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Sunsets are one of my favourite things to photograph, and I am lucky to live in a city which is blessed with some spectacular ones. The 2015/16 season was full of rainbow skies and striking cloud formations.

At the end of November 2016, with only a few days to go until the official start of summer, there was an evening that blazed with a flaming orange sky. I got super excited, thinking this was a teaser for what was in store for the hot months ahead.

It wasn’t.

Two months went by, and there was nothing. Each night, the skies have been calm and clear. I don’t know whether it’s because we haven’t had as many days of sustained high temperatures as usual, but there simply haven’t been any dramatic endings to the day.

And then, finally, finally, this happened.

I have been waiting for an epic sunset like this all summer. I love the simple sunsets, don’t get me wrong. But there is something utterly thrilling about witnessing such a lively sky, full of vibrance and energy. It is as if a grand masterpiece is being painted before your eyes, simultaneously revealing the past, present and future of a moment in time.

These are the skies that tell a thousand stories and weave them into an epic saga about a fleeting empire of castles built in the air; an empire that is falling into ruins even as it is being built. These are the skies that sing bold proclamations to the heavens, rejoicing in life but all the while preparing for their voice to be extinguished. These are the skies that define majesty and magic, and spark the imagination with a light that reflects the secrets of some other world.

But most of all, these are the skies that remind all who view them just how small and inconsequential we are in their presence. And that is why I love them.