Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013: review

It's late December, which means it's time for the obligatory look back on the year. 2013 was a busy but rewarding year for me. Let's skim through some of the highlights (and lowlights) before I see how I went with my resolutions and look forward to 2014, shall we?
Every day is Boxing Day for Nacho. 

In 2013, I made my own deodorant, figured out how to make mochi on the stove top, made jam, made sponges, and ate banana flowers (and also bananas, from our garden!). We got a second dog, but after a month of fun Tika decided Marley needed to find somewhere else to live, which made me and Andy really, really sad.

I travelled to Beijing, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and Macau in June for work. I went to Melbourne in July for work. I went to Canberra a week later for work. I went back to Melbourne in November for work. All in a year I said I would travel as little as possible for work! Andy and I also went to Hobart, for fun (post, post and post). I wrote a first-year sociology textbook - though not from scratch, and not by myself, it was still a lot of work. I published two journal articles, though most of the work for these was done in 2012. I coordinated 4 subjects and taught into another 3. I went on strike. I felt at times like I barely made it through the week, needed to spend many weekends doing work, and then the grind started again. I think I learned some work-related lessons about saying no to a few more things and protecting my personal life and my research space, but we'll see if I can enact them in 2014.
Gardening is a good foil to work. 

I ran, I cycled, I started practicing yoga (again, but more seriously this time). I did push-ups, enough for a woman at work to ask how I get protein, which she followed up with "You even have muscle tone!" I read 59 books (and still going). Some of them were really short and easy, like 10 of the Sookie Stackhouse novels. But some of them were between 500 and 1000 pages long, so I think it works out to be rather a lot - 18,482 pages.

Book Aside: My favourite fiction was easily Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth, a literary re-telling of the Rapunzel story. Like Rapunzel's braid, it weaves together the stories of three very different women in three historical time periods, and it was just lovely. Second fave was The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver, which I read right back in January. More historical fiction, this one spanning Mexico in the time of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera and Washington DC in the McCarthy era, in a way that gave me a much better idea of history than any of my actual history classes did. My favourite non-fiction was Real Dirt: How I beat my grid-life crisis by James Woodford. James is a friend of mine and this book is about his transition from a highly-strung, big city journalist to a rural, self-sufficient fella. There is a little bit of talk about killing animals, in the way that non-vegans always discuss self-sufficiency, but it's minor and I really loved the book anyways. 

So I guess it's no wonder I was exhausted by the end of November.
Here's a bowl of mulberries. We kept them in the freezer till
we had enough to make a cobbler. Then I forgot to
photograph the cobbler. 

2013 Resolutions - How'd I Go? 

I did one update on my resolutions in March, but the second and third quarters were rather busy for me and I didn't get round to talking about my progress.

1. Run 500k this year. I have run 515 kilometres, so: Nailed it. For the first few months I thought I would reach this goal somewhere around September, because I was going really well. I was regularly going 4 or 5k, 4 or 5 times a week. Then I got sick, and exhausted, and then I travelled, and then I started running again a bit more seriously, and then I got tired again. But I got there. And on Christmas Day I started a "From 5k to 10k" program, which Tika and I kicked off with a 7km run.
Tika usually touches noses with me to wake me up really, really early.

As a result we often see the sun come up.

Here are a few sunrises I snapped on particularly pretty mornings.

2. Cycle 1600k this year. I didn't quite make this one. I got to 1565, so close. I think the reason for this is that I started working from home one day a week, and I travelled more than I had planned, so I didn't end up cycling as much. But we did cycle just about every day to work, rarely driving, so that was a success anyways.

3. Do push-ups every week. There were 4 or 5 weeks throughout the year where I did 0 push-ups, but in most weeks I pushed-up on 3 mornings a week, and sometimes even 4 or 5 times. I did about 2700 push-ups across the year, so I'm going to call this one: Nailed it.

4. Clear out my inbox every day at work. I was going really well at this, but then I started slipping. I wanted to keep my inbox to less than 100 messages, with everything else being actioned and moved to folders or deleted. But then the slip turned into a slide, and now I have over 1000 messages to get through. So: Failed it. I think I'll do some serious deleting before I return to work, and I'll try this one again.

5. Unsubscribe from email lists that I don't read regularly, and stop subscribing to new ones. Again, I was going really well at this and then I Failed it. Must keep trying!

6. Turn my PhD into a book and get it published. I have probably 90% of a manuscript, and a proposal which is ready to submit. This is less than I wanted to have done, but the textbook sort of bumped back the PhD book. On the bright side, my writing mentor really likes it, and so do I. And I sent my proposal to my textbook editor (who only publishes textbooks) and she thought it was good, and will get published. I am hoping to submit the proposal to some publishers in January and be ready to send this off by March.
When I work at home, Nacho likes to "help" me write...

7. Set up one of our spare rooms as a craft room. Nailed it. I'm not so good at keeping it clean when I'm busy, but the table has also been doubling as my desk when I work on my books. 
Futon, $20 from gumtree, tables and other furniture in the
room are "in storage" for a friend living overseas.

Hooks and thumbtacks keep my stuff organised.

8. Finish crocheting the blanket I started in early 2012. Nailed it. I finished this, and then Andy said it wasn't long enough, so I made another, 7 feet long and 5 feet wide, so we can both fit under it and it covers Andy's feet entirely.
Both blankets, folded in half. 

9. Sew curtains. Well, I did this for the bedroom, but haven't gotten to any of the other rooms yet. 2014!

10. Plant more flowers, bee-attracting ones, in amongst the veggies. We've done this pretty well, with sunflowers mostly but also marigolds. Need to try branching out with more flowers for flowers' sake.

11. Keep track of everything we spend for at least two months of the year. Nailed it. Though this is a good way to keep track of where our money goes, at the moment we are financially secure enough that I won't bother with this in 2014. 

12. Do more food-prep and meal-planning on the weekends. We did try out meal planning and it worked fairly well, but on the weekends where I was busy working, I was too tired to bother. Luckily Andy is a wonderful partner and a pretty good cook, because I would have eaten a lot of toast and peanut noodles if it wasn't for him! 
Here's a meal - maybe it was even meal-planned - I think I never
blogged about. It is pasta carbonara, with Vegg and bacon bits
and mushrooms. It was good. I should make it again and
post a recipe.

13. Help out with at least 3 vegan outreach stalls. Not quite nailed it. I did two - one at the Uni O-Week, and one for Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale. We did have multiple vegan picnics and get-togethers, though, so I guess this isn't a fail.

So, for 2014?

I'm not going to make 14 resolutions. I'm going to keep it a bit simpler this year:

  • In line with trying to up my running from 5k to 10k, I want to increase my overall kilometrage. Ideally, I'll do a few 7-10km runs 3x per week, so my goal: Run 750kms.
  • Improve my posture - I am having a private yoga lesson in January and I'll flag this as an area I want to work on.
  • Keep working on the things above - mainly email related - that I didn't quite nail. 
  • Spend less time doing things that make me unhappy, spend less time with people who make me unhappy. Surround myself with people I love, doing things that I love. 
  • Run the robot vacuum cleaner at least twice a week. We have lovely wood floors that look amazing when clean, but they are usually covered in dog and cat hair. We bought a robot earlier this year just for this purpose, so I may as well use it more often.
Hands down best purchase of 2013.

How was your year, and what are your plans for the next one? 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Tasman Peninsula

For the second day of our car hire in Hobart, we headed in the other direction (sort of), east and south to the Tasman Peninsula.
Photo from

Our first stop was a town called Copping, where we had a look at this strange art. We tried to go into the cafe / shop thingie that was attached to it, but they were closed.
A mermaid and her baby riding a marlin, and behind them is another mermaid on a stump, and perhaps the Loch Ness monster??

So instead we went to Dunalley for a hot beverage. It was a pretty brisk day, but we had a little wander to look at the Abel Tasman monument - commemorating the site where the Dutch explorer planted a flag in 1642. In fact, the 371st anniversary of this was the *day* before we were there, so we missed a public reading from Tasman's journal, but our coffee was good anyways.
The monument at Dunalley.

A tiny house.

This is the area where really fierce bushfires decimated the countryside just about a year ago. It was good to see heaps of green shoots on the trees. It made them look kind of furry.

At Eaglehawk Neck, we looked out at the lookout.

We walked down to the Tessellated Pavement, a natural geological somethingorother.
Probably more interesting at low tide.

The views over Pirate Bay were pretty stunning.

Then we headed in to Pirate Bay where we explored the area around the Blowhole.

This was the blowiest it got.

This part was more interesting.

Then we went to the Coal Mines Historical Site, a former convict site, where prisoners were put to use digging coal. This is the free version of Port Arthur. The bit we saw was quite interesting with lots of informative signs, but it was raining sporadically and quite wet and chilly, so we didn't spend as much time here as we should have.
The cells for convicts to sleep in weren't even big enough for Andy to lay straight.

Then we continued around the peninsula, stopping at Port Arthur but not going in ($70 for the two of us, and we were there mid-afternoon so decided to skip it all together!). We took a little detour towards Marion Bay, because we wanted to see some good solid Open Ocean, rather than the bays and inlets we'd seen so far.
Some marshy stuff around Marion Bay.
If you look really closely, off in the far distance, you can maybe see NZ...?

From here, it was open ocean all the way to NZ, which is pretty open. 

On our way back, we stopped in Sorrell at the u-pick fruit farm, thinking there would be pre-picked fruit for sale. But there wasn't, and I didn't want to pay someone to let me pick their strawberries. So we bought some strawberry liqueur instead, and then headed back to our apartment.

The next morning we returned our hire car, had some cake at Frankie's Empire, and then made our way to the airport. Sleet in Hobart saw us off, and we were greeted in Melbourne with thunderstorms that shut the airport down and nearly resulted in us missing our connection. But we made it back to Townsville in the end, not even much later than usual. As good as it was to get away, it was wonderful to be home!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Wrapping

I'll pause my Tasmania recaps, because hey, it's Christmas. It sort of snuck up on us this year. Without going into too much detail, I had a rather busy year this year. It was full of workworkwork, to which I said yes too often and found myself often overwhelmed. And it was a bargaining year - so the union activities added to my things to do, but the whole process also made me feel a bit less generous towards my employer. When you see how little regard management holds staff in, it makes it hard to love what you do, ya know? So I got to the end of November utterly exhausted, and though I've been on holidays since then, I still feel like I'm in recovery mode.

Long story short, the weekend before Christmas I realised I had no plans for a meal or anything. Our Asian grocery store has stopped getting in gluten flour, because their supplier has stopped supplying. So our tradition of a seitan log was out of the question.

Eventually I got it together, though Andy said he would have been happy with just a regular dinner, and our Christmas involved an appropriately festive series of meals, a few little gifts, and some lazy chores (okay, that last part isn't that festive but it's how we roll).

Andy has spent most of the week turning rubbish timber from our neighbour's renovations into a BBQ table. 
We ended up having the Festive Chickpea Tart from Let them eat Vegan!, which we both really liked. It wasn't as firm as Dreena's picture, which probably means I need to process the filling a bit more, but I was nervous about overdoing it.

Along with the tart, we had rosemary, okra and mushroom stuffing (I tried to bake them as stuffing balls but they sort of fell apart), and a simple salad.

With rosemary dressing - 2 Tbsp of fresh rosemary, 1 tsp of dijon mustard, 1 Tbsp of dark tahini, 1 tsp of balsamic vinegar, 2 tsp of pomegranate molasses, and about 1/2 cup of olive oil. Also salt and pepper. Shake it all up in a jar, and then pour it onto salad, stuffing, and chickpea tart. Yum.

On Sunday, Kari posted a raw vegan mango cheesecake recipe to her blog, and my dessert indecision was over. This became our holiday dessert:

Served with extra fresh mango, and at another time with a fruit salad of pineapple, starfruit, kiwifruit and mango, it is pretty much as perfect as you can get for a tropical christmas.

We had our main Christmas meal on Christmas eve, as we always do. When I woke up on actual Christmas, I took Tika for a 7km run (the longest I've ever run in one go, and also enough to bring my annual total from 496 to 503, thus making it to my 2013 running goal). When we got home, Andy was just starting to make breakfast, and it was raining a little bit.

Baked Latkes, from Betty Goes Vegan, became BBQ Latkes. We've been looking for a good hashbrown/latke recipe for many years, but they never seem to work for us. This time, though, we found a winner. Andy sprinkled bacon bits on top at the end of cooking. They were crunchy outside, soft inside, and very delicious.

And with them we had herby mushrooms in a Vegg gravy.
Mushrooms with thyme, parsley and garlic chives.

I spent the morning drinking iced christmassy tea - rosella, cranberry and vanilla, refreshing and a little bit festive. Andy played with the compost while I did laundry.
I got this fancy iced-tea maker when a friend moved overseas, but I cannot for the life of me pour a glass of tea without dribbling heaps. 

And then moved on to this vegan coconut nog (with a splash or five of rum). And salt and vinegar chips for lunch, because tradition.
Some gifties - tea (and a teapot, not in the photo) from Andy's parents, some dried edible seaweed from Andy's co-worker, a seaweed book from Andy's boss, and a tropical gardening book from me. Also coconut nog. 

For dinner, we had more chickpea tart, which Andy reckons is the best savoury tart I've ever made. And grilled pineapple, and garlic bread (and more cheesecake).

And now it's Boxing Day, and we will eat the last of our cheesecake and watch Doctor Who. I hope you've all had as enjoyable a few days as we have!
Andy refused to put on a shirt, Tika refused to sit or stand up, and Nacho refused to come near us.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Huon Trail

Map from

After a few days in sleepy Hobart, Andy and I were ready to head out and see what the surrounding countryside had to offer. For our first day of driving, we headed south and west, aiming to make it as far south in Australia as you can go in a little hire car.

As it was a Tuesday, some things were closed, like the Apple Museum and the Enchanted Woods wood working gallery. But we still managed to see some very cool things, and saw a bit of the country that is so very different to North Queensland.

In Franklin, we hopped out of the car to have a look at the Huon River and the boats there.

We stopped in Port Huon at "The Cafe" (the ONLY cafe) for some hot chips. They were crinkle cuts, which Andy loves but I don't.

The highlight of the Huon Valley, for us, was the little town of Geeveston. It had a free local museum about forestry and wood and big trees.
Geeveston boasted wood carvings of noteworthy locals, and I guess this is one of them? 

Andy and a slice of a 2000 year old tree.
And it had a little walking circuit that included a local artists/designers gallery and a platypus viewing station. We didn't see any platypuses (platypi?), but Andy got some good ideas for wood working things he'd like to try himself.
Also on the walking circuit was the "Big Log", which is as you can see a log from a very big tree.

At Dover we stopped for a quick squiz at some apple orchards.

And then we made it down to Ida Bay. This isn't a town so much as the location of a tourist railway ride. We got there a bit late and didn't go on the train, but did make it to the furtherest south bit of paved road in the whole of Australia.

Then we ducked back in to South Port, which had some lovely white beaches, where we ate our lunch. At the Geeveston IGA we bought some pumpkin-chickpea dip, and the Geeveston Bakery provided us with the bread (probably the southernmost bakery in Australia, too, and I'm not sure why they didn't brag heaps about that!).

We drove past the southernmost pub in Australia, but neither of us wanted a beer and Andy didn't even want to stop to let me snap a photo.

Then we headed back towards Hobart, taking a little detour down the other side of the D'Entrecasteaux Channel. Here is Middleton, which had a monument to the French guy, Bruni D'Entrecasteaux, who explored the area in the 1790s.

At this point it was getting cold, and though daylight savings meant it stayed light till about 9.30pm, we were both getting tired, so we headed back in to Hobart, landing at our apartment at about 7. If you ever find yourself in Hobart, I would really recommend the Huon Valley - so much pretty scenery!