Sunday, 30 June 2013

The Month That Disappeared....

It's the last day of June. The longest day here has passed and we are halfway through the year already. The last time I looked I was blogging ad infinitum about my Paris city break and looking forward to seeing Seattle-A for the first time in about 7 months.

What happened to the last 4 weeks?

Well it's been a busy month jam packed with travel near and far. As regular readers of this blog will know, I spent a week in the Emerald City with Seattle-A at the beginning of the month. I then returned to Gidday HQ for four days - during which time I squeezed in a hen day (yes a whole day) - before travelling to Sweden for our mid year Sales Conference. Back again for 2 nights before packing yet another bag and heading to Oxford for previously said hen's nuptials. Add to that some long hours at work last week and I literally dragged myself into this weekend, grateful for a little decompression time (and a well-earned mani-pedi).

At the same time, the busy-ness has been wonderful. It feels a bit like a whole lot of great things crammed themselves into the month as a reminder of all of the amazing people that give richness and colour to my life.

The wedding was a case in point: a French woman marrying her Russian paramour and surrounded by a veritable league of nations as the intimate reception of thirty played host to French, Russian, English, American, German, Turkish, Italian, Kyrgyzs (I had to look up what to call someone from Kyrgyzstan) and Australian (that would've been me) well-wishers. And working for the European division of a global company meant that the sales conference was attended by a cross-section of my extremely awesome colleagues from across the continent (and indeed the world by virtue of us having an American boss).

But maybe the biggest cultural exchange was in Seattle. 

Pre-trip it is safe to say that a mild sense of apprehension prevailed as to how my life-long, self-imposed baby-free zone would work when confronted with 9 week old twins. Seattle-A and I had discussed several contingency plans - including fleeing across the nearby border to Vancouver (me that is) - if it all got a bit much. But those two little dudes manage to melt Aunty Kym's heart in the space of just one week.

This is Rockin' R. Many a cosy chat was held with Aunty Kym during burping, cuddling and even sleeping...although he was a little perturbed as to why the bumps on my chest, so similar to Mummy's, didn't emerge at feeding time in the same way...

And this is DJ O, named for his penchant for playing tunes on the interactive baby bouncer. He's attached to Mummy in a very possessive and singular fashion so this was a short lull in his squirming wriggly-ness where he wasn't letting the whole world know how life was sucking in Aunty Kym's embrace...not so many close encounters but still adorable.

All the while I got to hang out with my gorgeous friend, absorbing as much us-time as I possibly could to sustain me until the next visit. We had a few excursions with the little dudes in tow with varying degrees of success (especially our last day lunch, which DJ O was having none of!) Thanks to Hubby, we also got a glorious Sunday afternoon together for coffee, manicures, pedicures, wine tasting and a rather pleasant lunch lolling about in the sunshine at the J. Bookwalter Tasting Studio before heading home to BBQ a whole Copper River salmon (Seattle-A is that kind of girl!)

There was even a touch of drama when G the wonder-dog gave spirited chase to a coyote who'd wandered by to check things out on my penultimate day.

It was such a wonderful week. There's is something so soothing about being with the people who know and love you best. And I never thought I would become so attached to my awesome little dudes so I hope it's not too long before I can manage another trip to see them all. Who knew that Aunty Kym would survive baby bootcamp (albeit sans nappy-changing) so well? And that my cuppa-making skills would be quite so in demand?

In any case, it was an emotional hug in the drop off lane at the airport on the Tuesday evening.

So that was June. Gone in the blink of an eye and yet leaving a montage of special memories impressed firmly upon my heart.

I wonder what July will bring?

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Inspired By...Literary Notes

Today I worked in London and Wednesdays in London mean one thing - Stylist magazine. And as I picked up today's issue, I noticed that it was dedicated to all things literary. Double yay!

So once ensconced on the tube, I delved in, eagerly gorging on snippets and opinions, greedily flicking through recommendations and wondering how many of the ones I hadn't read would be available to download onto Audrey (and when on earth I would get the time to read them).

I was just over halfway through the magazine when I had 'a moment'.

Part of this week's issue has been turned over to four authors invited to write short stories inspired by a summer scent. On the basis of Oscar de la Renta's Granada, Jeanette Winterson penned Days Like This, a tale of summer romance, of two hearts finding a brief respite from life in the implicit promise of balmy nights and days filled with salt, sand and sea. Quite a lovely thing to read on a sunny June morning.

I was nearing the end of the story when I read this:
...I know that happiness is in the small things that happen everyday and not in the big declarations. Don't say forever. Say now. Don't say I do. Say I am.
I stopped, looked up from the page and then looked down again, re-reading those words with a new intensity, determined to imprint them on my brain.

I am
The small things that happen everyday

I closed the magazine, savouring the seconds of stillness that encircled me amid the crush of midweek commuters. A couple of stops later I trundled off the carriage, feeling a little lighter than I had when I boarded half an hour earlier.

Who knew that commuting could be so inspiring?

Friday, 21 June 2013

Women Of Note...

I read a snippet today that got me wondering.

Ruth Sunderland of the Daily Mail has suggested that the appearance of high profile women on bank notes here in Britain will bolster female interest in the engineering profession. 

Those that have received a guernsey in the proposed Womens' Engineering Society (WES) campaign include crusader of the skies Amy Johnson and doyen of the digital Ada Lovelace. Sunderland suggests that the appearance of women such as this right at our fingertips could help to inspire young women thinking of a career in the engineering industry, or even the banking sector.

If you head on over to the source of all this inspiration, you'll find out that WES is an organisation that supports women in technical professions. Formed by the women who took up engineering during WWI while the men were away, the WES will celebrate its 95th anniversary next year and in looking for ways to attract women into non-traditional roles, they will launch National Women in Engineering Day on 23rd June 2014, 100 years to the day after the start of WWI.

Further wiki-style investigation has led me to understand that, apart from Elizabeth II, the only other woman appearing on English bank notes has been Florence Nightingale who did the rounds on a tenner between 1975 and 1994.

Australian lolly fares better with the fairer sex featuring on 50% of bills. There's warbler and sweet inspiration Nellie Melba, two Mary's - Reibey, a businesswoman and Gilmore, a poet - and a couple of suffragettes (Edith Cowan and Catherine Helen Spence).

And then if you flip an Aussie fiver, you'll find one of the two women who have held the royal reins longer than any fella in British history. She's had an upgrade on the new polymer notes having only made her mark previously on paper of just one dollar denomination. The previous five dollar note featured champion of female immigrant welfare, humanitarian Caroline Chisholm.

Anyhow, I digress. It got me thinking who might appear on currency of the future. Would Angelina Jolie's humanitarian efforts garner her a spot on a greenback? What about Claire Balding, one of Britain's best sports reporters, beaming up at you from a British bill?  And then there's Julia Gillard, Australia's first female Prime Minister - how will she be honoured by her world of back-biting back benchers and odious Opposition?

Who do you think should get their bonce on your banknote?

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Seattle Sojourn...

Early in June on a hot sunny morn,
while Double-A and the little dudes (recently born)
had a date with the Doc
 map in my pocket and camera in hand,
eyes peeled for the quirky, the charming, the grand,
I ventured downtown to take stock.

And here's what I found.
I found a Goliath who raises his arm
And brings it back down in a smooth arc of calm...
...while lightning strikes right by the bay.

A pioneer totem amid leaves green and fair
Stands strong, proud and tall in a cool shady square...

...while all the signs invite sweet surrender.

On this corner's the site where the logs came to rest
And the wood turned to dust at the sawmill's behest...

...while nearby beans are ground underfoot.

I popped out the back and turned away from the Sound.
An alternative side of an icon I found...

...yet cross-town, underground
this buried old boozer's run dry...

...while this ceiling adds colour 35 stories high.

So with sightseeing done and the bus due anon
I wandered back up to the place I'd begun
My nose and cheeks pink from the warm Summer sun... first sojourn done.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Salutations From Seattle...

Salutations from Seattle peeps!

While we've been managing to get out and about each day during my Seattle sojourn, this has been somewhat limited to shorter outings that we can manage with the babies in tow, who by the way, have been rather busy melting Aunty Kym's heart. And needless to say blogging has taken a back seat while I soak up as much Seattle-A time as possible while I'm here. 

But as the boys had a hot date with the paediatrition last Thursday (and Mummy and Daddy had the whole deal covered more than adequately), I decided to make myself scarce and get into Seattle for a day of sightseeing and shopping.

Seattle is a relatively 'new' town having been founded in 1851. That's more than 70 years after the First Fleet sailed into Australia's Sydney Cove, so this is an unusual position for an Aussie, used to being the youngster in the global village, to be in. It is also reasonably compact and very walkable, the streets are wide and tree-lined and there are coffee shops absolutely everywhere where you can rejuvenate. And despite my general aversion to Starbucks, the coffee, service and free wi-fi were both excellent and eminently helpful.

All up I spent six hours and only covered the Downtown area. Arriving at Westlake on the express bus from Overlake Transit Centre (near Husband of Seattle-A's work and a bargain at only $2.50 for a single 20min trip), I picked a few choice morsels from the guide book and just wandered around in between (more on that in another post). 

And the highlights? Well the weather was absolutely glorious but I have a feeling that was more good luck than good planning and quite frankly there's not much anyone can do about that. But for spectacular views no matter the weather, take the express lift up to the Chinese Room on the 35th floor of the Smith Tower just around the corner from Pioneer Square.

The 36-42nd floors are occupied by a penthouse (yes, just one penthouse) but the 360 degree observation deck around the 35th floor is fantastic. Let me show you what I mean.

Here's a shot of the 'other' observation deck, the Space Needle. According to my Frommer's guide, you get to pay about $17.50 for the privilege of being rotated (versus walking around the 35th floor of the Smith Tower for $7.50).

The Mountain is out! Mt Rainier looms through the clouds, an apparently unusual occurrence so I was thrilled to get this 'on film'.  

A glorious view over Elliott Bay to the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound.

After you've had your fill of amazing views, it's just a couple of blocks down the hill to Pioneer Square and into Doc Maynard's to take the 90 minute Underground Tour of Seattle ($17.50 per person). Filled with historic sound bites, this unique tour takes you beneath the streets of Downtown Seattle to explore this outpost of the Pacific Northwest's seamy past. And me being, well me, I bought the book that forms the basis for the tour, Sons of the Profits by Bill Speidel. Absolutely fascinating stuff.

School buses lined up in Pioneer Square.
Doc Maynard's: your underground tour starts here!
Heading underground... see the city from another perspective.

And a visit to Seattle wouldn't be complete without a wander through Pike Place Market.

There's plenty of fish to buy (among other things)...
 ...but don't forget to give a nod to the original Starbucks. These happy buskers were playing a few tunes when I wandered by.

Speaking of nods, being back in the States reminds me just how wonderful it is to be served. From the locals in the street to the staff in the stores and restaurants, people cannot do enough to help and want to make sure you have an amazing time in their city. Something that the rest of the world could take a few notes on.

And finally it was time for a spot of shopping at Macy's who were having a sale - God Bless America I say!

And after finding some great bargains and nothing less than exceptional service, I only had a short block to walk to take my tired feet and satisfied smile back to the bus for the ride 'home'.

ps...You may have noticed that I didn't race around to try and squeeze everything in (as I am usually wont to do). Well I figure this might just be the first of many visits - presuming Team-M will have me - so I thought I'd leave some stuff for next time!

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Atlantic Crossing...

I am travelling again. And again it's personal but this time it combines old friends and new places.

Yesterday I arrived in the city of sleeplessness, Starbucks and sitcoms - Seattle. It's a city I have never visited and while I've had nothing particularly against it, it's never been high on my list of places to visit. Until September last year when Team-M moved across the Atlantic and A-down-the-hill became Seattle-A.

Recovering from jetlag a little today I've just mooched around, getting started on the 'Aunty Kym induction' into the world of their two-month-old twins (those of you who know me well can stop laughing now), getting acquainted with Gunnar the super-dog, and getting to know this whole new world. It's been quite surreal. It's a whole different world for Seattle-A and Team-M here but our ability to just hang out still remains despite the months apart and the added attentions of the newer, younger members of the supersized Team-M.

I've only been here 24 hours and already I'm stunned by the beauty of the scenery. As the plane flew over Seattle yesterday, Mount Rainier loomed crisp and clear against the blue sky and on the drive from the airport, I caught glimpses of lakes sparkling like dark blue crystal in the sunlight and travelled roads fringed by trees of deep deep green. The view around the new pad (which is surrounded by woodland) is equally sublime.

So in the spirit of easing my jetlagged self into the next week here, this afternoon we took a little excursion to Cottage Lake.

It was stunning.

No doubt there will be much more to discover and enjoy during my visit here so I'm looking forward to immersing myself in it all and sharing the choicest titbits with you along the way. So stay tuned...

Saturday, 1 June 2013

First Desire...Now The One

It's been almost three years since we first met.

Before I knew it our daily dalliance had given way to deep devotion, a devotion that has captured everything from my morning musings through to the most fervent ramblings of my heart. Commuting gems have been shared, plans have been made and connections forged and re-forged across London's transport network and indeed, the world.

But today something has changed. There has been a shift. A letting go.

As happens so often in life, I was faced with relinquishing one thing in return for another.

So with heavy heart I approached, hoping I could still keep a part of the wonderfulness whilst opening myself up to something more. I pushed open the door, waited for my moment and uttered the words I had avoided saying for so long...

'I need to upgrade my phone.'

A mere 40 minutes later, the job was done and my Desire had been replaced... the One...

...and I'm in love all over again.