Thursday, 25 December 2008

Random Christmas Day thought

What is the point of packaging a 32Mb memory card with a digital camera? 32 Mb?!?!?! Are you serious???

Even the 1Gb card I bought alongside my now-defunct 3 year old camera is well and truly on the small side. But 32Mb?!?! That would fit what, 5 shots on it! Why bother??

I'd much prefer it if they just didn't bother with this token effort, and cut the price of the camera by $5. Now I have this useless little 32Mb card. I feel wasteful simply throwing it away, but seriously, is 32Mb useful for any kind of device these days???

It’s like selling a computer with a 50Mb hard drive, 49Mb of which is required by the operating system. Or going back to the days when 4800 baud seemed like a mega-fast modem connection speed.

Or making a 50mL bottle of milk. Or a roll of toilet paper with only 10 sheets of paper. Or an exercise book with only 2 pages in it. Or alcohol-free wine, sugar-free chocolate, dairy-free ice-cream or a broken pencil......


P.S. Merry Christmas!

Monday, 22 December 2008

Shopping Hoi An

I started writing this as an e-mail to my parents, who are shortly popping across to Vietnam for Christmas. I don't profess to be an expert in anything Vietnamese, but I have twice experienced the delights of Hoi An, and have every intention of returning sometime in the not too distant future, so thought it would be nice to share some tips. Hopefully they will help my parents, your fine self, and my future self :)

Step 1: Plan of attack

Even if you're going to be staying there for more than a week, don't wait until you're there to decide what you want. With over 200 tailors and a myriad of brightly coloured shoe shops lining every street, to say the options are overwhelming is an understatement.

Yes most shops have catalogues that you can sit there and sort through, but do you really want to waste time doing that? And are you going to make the best decisions when being egged on by understandably eager shop assistants who will sometimes agree to anything to make a sale.

Instead, do your research. Browse the internet and save images of things you want. Take with you any existing clothes you have that you want to duplicate, or take pictures of you wearing them. Think about fabrics, colours, lining, pockets, every little detail before you get there. Channel your inner Project Runway. Arrive with a plan, all these pictures on a USB stick, and a big fat empty suitcase.

Step 2: On arrival

Whether you're going to dive in quickly and start your shopping immediately, or whether you can ease yourself into it at a more relaxed pace depends on how long you have there. The less time, the quicker your immersion has to be.

Either way, for things that you are 100% sure that you want, that you've thought about what fabric and trimmings you need and you don't want to compromise on quality, why muck around? For me that means going straight to Yaly Couture.

Yes they charge significantly more than any other tailor in Hoi An, but to me they are worth every penny. They are meticulous, professional and friendly. Their staff are lovely and attentive, patient and willing to help. They know about fabrics, and can give great advice about what will and won't work, without blindly agreeing with everything you say. They speak great English, minimising the chances of misunderstandings. They will happily prepare 1 garment for you, or 50. Same same. They don't negotiate on price, but after a while in SE Asia that can be a welcome change.

Summary of step 1: go to Yaly and sort out all the essentials on your list.

Step 2: Breathe

Sit down and enjoy the food and beverages at one of Hoi An's many lovely eateries. Bia Hoi + white rose = match made in heaven.

Do this as many times per day as you need shopping breaks (minimum 3 and that's an order).

Summary of step 2: eat and drink beer.

Step 3: More shopping

So you've got your basics underway. Now its time to wander around all the tailors in town and see what takes your fancy. Don't be pressured into buying the first time you see a cool and original design; chances are the shop around the corner will have something same same but slightly different.

Work out what you like first and then commit. Ask around for ballpark prices in similar styles before committing to any particular shop. The more you buy in one place, the more you can barter.

Be wary of how much time you have and make sure shops can commit to a deadline earlier than what you actually have. You don't want to waste your last night or miss your flight because you're chasing up an order that will "be delivered in 5 minutes". Don't pay anything more than a deposit until you get the item, and demand a refund on items that are either not what you ordered or are not going to be ready on time. Be firm.

Summary of step 3: look around for inspiration.

Step 4: And now for something completely different...

More shopping! This time, how about some shoes?

Again its really helpful if you've thought about this before leaving home. Do you need brown boots, purple flats and red heels? Or black boots, red flats and yellow heels? What height should the heels be? Should the toes be pointy or round? What decorative features do you want - bows, buckles, peeptoe?

Have some idea, but don't be afraid to be seduced by the colourful items and fancy styles on display. Again, taking images or existing copies of shoes you want duplicated is immensely helpful.

One warning though, while the variety and endless possibilities of shoes is intoxicating, beware of quality. Flats are your safest bet, but even then the type of soles will vary widely between cobblers. One set of heels I bought had fallen off by the time I even made it back home to Australia.

Again: bargain and be wary of deadlines. Be kind but firm if and when things start going pear-shaped.

Summary of step 4: shoes!

Step 5: Dress-up time

By the time day 2 rolls around you probably have a full day of appointments set up with various tailors around town. This is where the fun really begins.

You get to witness the creation of visions that up until now existed only in your head. Even better you didn't actually have to create it yourself. 'Cos that would mean needing to sew and stuff.

This is where you need to be objective and remember what you asked for. Make sure things are well sewn and fitting correctly. If not, speak up because now is your chance to get that changed. Inspect seams, pockets and hems carefully. Be specific about whether things need to be taken in or out, up or down.

Again, be careful of your time, and firm with deadlines.

Summary of step 5: try before you buy.

Step 6: Bits and pieces

Depending on where else you are traveling in Vietnam, don't limit yourself to clothes and shoes. Hoi An has an interesting market with an excellent range of jewellery.

You can also get all the usual touristy fare (more $ than Saigon though).

There's also shops selling beautiful scarves and pashminas. Or how about silk ties (that come packaged in the cutest little boxes). Or some artwork?

Another option is to go handbag shopping at a shoe shop. Like shoes, they can duplicate any handbag you take in.

Summary of step 6: yet more shopping.

Step 7: Getting it home

Unless you're on a flying visit through 'Nam and home again, you're not really going to want to cart around a zillion kilos worth of shopping are you?

If all your stuff fits into your bags (and your baggage allowance), then more power to you, but for the mortals amongst us, consider shipping your shopping home via the Hoi An postal service. Your hotel should call them up for you, and they come to you with boxes and packing tape. You barely need to leave your room.
It's an exciting and sometimes worrying few weeks at home waiting for your items to arrive. But when they do, it's like Christmas all over again rediscovering treasures you had forgotten about.

Hmm that's all I can think of for now. Wow I am really wishing I was in Hoi An right now after all that!! Time to start writing a shopping list for Mum & Dad methinks!

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Slowly Slowly

That's how I feel this month has gone. And yet, at the same time it's December 17 and what exactly have I been doing or achieving? Not much. For the last few weeks I've felt like I've simply been treading water. Where will we live? What are we doing for Christmas? How about New Years? Are we still going away?

Who knows!!! Certainly not me.

But now at least one those questions has been answered.

Just to backtrack, we applied for the townhouse I mentioned previously last Monday. Three days later I got a call from the agent saying he couldn't find A's application form. I assured him we handed in both forms after sitting there and filling them out at the same time. He said he'd look around his desk. 20 minutes later he called me back and said he couldn't find it.

I asked if he could email a replacement form that we could fill in and fax back to him. He took down my email address. Over an hour later, getting close to COB, I still hadn't received his email. So I called him up, only to be told he had found A's form attached to someone else's application. Thanks for letting me know buddy!!

Time marches on. By Friday we still hadn't heard anything and I was starting to get edgy. I called him up and he said the owner still hadn't decided which applicant to accept. Fair enough. He offered to call me back before the end of the day and let me know what the status was.

Of course I didn't hear from him until Saturday afternoon. This time news was not good. There was nothing wrong with our application, but they had accepted someone else.

I was upset! Neither A or I have ever been rejected from a rental application before. I guess the market is not what it was 4 years ago though! Still life goes on.

It really put us in a pickle though, because we were so happy with this place we had stopped looking at other options. This put us back by at least a week. Not optimal with Christmas and NYE looming ever closer.

Monday I was in a bit of a funk going through the available listings on domain. Tuesday I headed down to the gong again to view a house in the same area. $60 more per week, lovely outside, not so great inside, and a much longer walk to the station for A.

After viewing this house I went to visit my brother who lives nearby. I was sitting on his sofa, brandishing my geeky "real estate spreadsheet" and bitchy about the mess we were in when I got a call from A. We had got the place!! The people they selected had fallen through and were were 2nd on the list. YAYAYAYAYAY!!!

It's not set in stone yet; we have to go down tomorrow to leave a deposit and sign the paperwork. But still, we are in a much better position than we were 3 days ago.

So I still don't know how or when we are moving, what we are doing for Christmas or NYE, or whether we will get to go away. Oh and I've only bought one Christmas present thus far. Wanna swap lives for the next few weeks?

Monday, 8 December 2008

Please cross your fingers for us

If all goes to plan, in a few weeks time we could be living here.

Which is exactly 300m away from this.

300m from front door @ Oceana pde

*madly thinking positive thoughts towards the property application gods*

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Shoes all sorted

It was over a month ago that I proudly announced I'd bought all the do-dads to get my shoe storage organised. It took me less than an hour to sort it all out, but for the last month I've been busy procrastinating finishing off a project that's been hanging over my head for so long it isn't funny. Finally I think it's sorted so I'm allowing myself to procrastinate play here again!

So hows it all looking now? Pretty bloody good if I do say so myself.

Here is the left side of my wardrobe - before and after (click on each image for a bigger version).

My shoe mess Shoe storage - after

A significant improvement, no? And the right side of my wardrobe - equally as impressive I think!

My shoe mess Shoe storage - after

Amazingly, in the nearly 4 weeks that I've had this set up, this is still what the floor of my wardrobe looks like! I've found it easy to access shoes when needed, and it's so easy to come home from the gym and just chuck my sneakers in one of those boxes - no excuse for leaving them lying around on the floor anymore!

I got a few other goodies while I was at ikea. Firstly, some storage boxes for the shelf above my wardrobe. That's where I store spare bed linen, towels, photos, sleeping bags, travel bags and other bits & pieces. Here's what it looked like before (sans the towels because they were in the wash).

Above the wardrobe - before

It doesn't look nearly as bad without the towels (I have a lot!) but you get the point that its a shambles, right? This is what it looks like now, after the purchase of some ikea skubb drawers.

Above the wardrobe - after

How much do I love the colour!!!!

And while I was there, I picked up a few other things I couldn't resist: a new frying pan, chopping boards and serviettes.

Ikea frypan Ikea chopping boards Ikea serviettes

And some supplies for my next "project".

Ikea corkboard Ikea fabric

Stay tuned!!

Friday, 3 October 2008


I’m starting this entry having bought the raw materials, but not even having unwrapped them.

So what did I end up deciding on for my shoe storage? To be honest, I hadn’t decided for sure till I was metres away from the checkout.

My dear Mum was kind enough to offer to trek out to ikea and DFO with me on Tuesday. After dosing up on coffee, we had a quick squiz at Howards Storage World before braving ikea. I wanted to see and price the options at HSW before scoping out ikea.

Minutes before I left home I measured the space underneath my wardrobe. I’m glad I did, because a lot of the beautiful solutions at HSW and ikea (including the tjusig shoe rack I’d had my eye on) wouldn’t fit into either of the two halves of my wardrobe.

Before the shopping commenced, I’d vaguely decided on getting:
  • a shoe rack (a la tjusig) for one side of the wardrobe, where I’d put my nicer shoes that I didn’t want to get crushed.
  • Several boxes for the other side, where I could dump sandals, sneakers and less delicate items. I was hoping the komplement ones would do the trick.

The first snag was the wardrobe measurements. The tjusig rack wouldn’t fit in either side by at least10cm lengthways. HSW had some great expandable shoe racks, but they were a little pricier. Since we’re moving in a few months, and I obviously have no idea what storage will be like at our new place, I decided to get a solution for now that would be as cheap as possible (but hopefully not too nasty).

Here’s what I came up with.

Firstly, the baboard shoe rack. At $9.95 its much cheaper
than tsujib. Plus it has the added advantage of fitting into my wardrobe. Both racks have the disadvantage of not providing dust protection, but I figure this is a cheap way of working out whether that will be a long term problem or not.

For the other side of the wardrobe, I settled on these komplement boxes.

The komplement shoe boxes I’d originally eyed were big enough to hold maybe up to 4 pairs of sandals, but I needed a lot more room than that. These komplement boxes are much bigger. 3 of them fit neatly inside inside my wardrobe (and quite handily they came in a pack of 3). Nice and cheap too. Of course the biggest drawback is no lid, but again, a good way to temporarily see how this solution works out.

Ikea had a lot of boxes on offer, at varying prices. Other options I considered were these, these and these. I grabbed all of them off the shelf, and pretty much did a meenie-mini-moe to pick them out. And went for the cheapest of course :)

That’s the theory anyway. I haven’t unwrapped or assembled any of this yet.

Perhaps this afternoon. I need a cup of tea.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

back to the fridge

I’m back home now, and back into the fridge!

Last night I felled 2 birds with 1 stone: Thai red curry paste and coconut milk.

What to do with these two was pretty obvious. Combined with a few other ingredients, a tasty red curry was made. Tofu and sweet potato for me, and chicken for A. For both of us, a healthy serving of asparagus, sugar snap peas, mushrooms, coriander and spring onions.

No pictures, because we gobbled it down too fast. Tonight we’re having leftovers, so maybe I can pause before chowing down to take a few pictures.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Shoe dilemmas

Having just recently returned from the OC to Sydney for the final time, I have a few storage-related dilemmas on my hands.

To cut a long story short, I have too much junk, and not enough places to put it.

Now this has clearly been a long-standing issue for me, but what makes this higher priority than ever is that in a few short months, A and I will have to pack up not only all my crap, but all of both-of-ours crap and move it down to the gong.

Another confession: I am a complete sloth when it comes to unpacking. It's now been 3 days since I've returned to Sydney. The car got unpacked on day 2. Day 3 finds most of the bags that I lugged inside scattered over the lounge and bedroom floors.

But that's not what's really bugging me. Instead, I've suddenly developed an uncanny ability of being able to ignore the majority of the filth right under my nose. Instead I've focused on my shoe organisation, or lack thereof, as my main source of despair.

Case in point: the floors of my wardrobe, where I "store" my shoes.

My shoe mess

My shoe mess

Now before you say "that's not tooooooo bad" (whilst secretely thinking it is), I have a further confession to make. That tangle of shoes doesn't include the 15 or so pairs that I took with me to the OC. Yes, there are more shoes to add to this awful mess!

So before I go ahead and throw those shoes on top of this pile of ungainly debris, I'd really like to do something about it.

Over the past few months I've spent a few bit of time procrastinating scouring the internet for the ideal shoe storage solution. Unfortunately perfection is hard to find.

This is pretty much as close as I could get.

Mariah Carey's shoe closet, courtesy of,,20053995_20045143_20066678,00.html

Unfortunately I don't have the luxury of owning my own wardrobe, let alone apartment; making this kind of customisation quite impractical.

I've been quite intrigued by all those clear plastic shoe boxes that seem to have sprung up everywhere. But how do you decide which ones to choose? Which are best? With handles? With a drawer? The cheapest? Clear or opaque plastic?

Image from

Given that I own a ridiculous number of shoes I can imagine forking out hundreds of dollars on flimsy plastic boxes only to get screwed. I'd either fill my wardrobe up completely with no room for clothes, or have them all break on me. Or not fit some of my shoes (I have big feet). Or I'd want more but suddenly the type I ended up choosing weren't being made anymore so I'd be stuck with unmatchy plastic boxes.

The possibilities for disaster are endless.

I like the look of racks like these Tjusig ones from ikea, but don't like the fact that they don't protect shoes from dust and don't really hold that many pairs. Yes you can stack two on top of each other, but can you store them two deep? Plus at $59 each, buying enough of these for all my shoes would be prohibitively expensive (for me anyway).

I'm hoping an in-person trip to ikea over the next few days will seal the deal for me. Man cannot wait endlessly for perfection, so I'm just going to settle for the best (and cheapest) I can get right now.

I'm thinking that for now, a compromise may be one of those Tjusig shoe racks, and a set of komplement shoe boxes.

They're cheap and come in a pack of 4. They'll protect shoes from dust, and you can still see what's inside.

The plan is that the shoes I wear most often will go on the rack, and everything else will fit semi-neatly into these boxes.

What do you think, is this a reasonable solution, or am I dreaming?

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Why I'm happy

It's not quite time to crack open the champers, because I still have a practical exam tomorrow; but as of an hour ago I've now finished my last ever written exam of med school. Woohoo!

Assuming I pass that is!!! And it's in Dubbo too - what a trek hey?

Other things that are making me happy right now is the weather. Specifically that it no longer looks like this:

More snow!

Instead we are inundated with sunshine and blue skies. The beautiful cherry blossom trees lining the streets are, well, blossoming. Even our front yard has sprouted up a few surprises or two:

It's nice to have something pretty to look at whilst chained to the desk studying.

I know they aren't the most exotic flowers, but I have loved them ever since I was little. They used to sprout up in my parents' front yard every spring.

But it's not all sunshine and roses. I still have one final presentation to do next week, as well as changes to make for my honours project.

But regardless, the end is now well and truly in sight!

Sunday, 3 August 2008

The Doggies

Last Wednesday at trivia I had my first ever TAB bet on the dogs. First race I lost $1, but I put 50c on the second race and won my $1.50 back.

Winning on dogs

Please let this not become yet another addiction!!!

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Back and bad

So I’ve been back in Sydney for a week and barely done anything exercise-wise. I haven’t broken a sweat more than once. Granted I have had a bad cold and am currently battling a sore and cricked up neck, but sitting on my ass isn’t going to get me anywhere good.

So today, a 7km walk (in 2 parts). Not amazing, but it’s something. I could have just got public transport instead.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

No more words

One minute I was rushing around gulping the last mouthfuls of coffee, washing breakfast dishes, packing my bag and brushing my teeth in my haste to leave the house and be slightly less late than I’d otherwise be sans rushing.

Then I noticed my mobile. Call from parents house. My Mum often calls at inopportune times, and in my early morning stress-out, I have no time to answer. I’ll call her back later today.

Next time I glance at the phone I notice 3 calls from my Mum’s work number.

Weird. Why am I getting called from both places? As by then I’m literally about to walk out the door, I wait until I’m downstairs to listen to the first message (no mobile reception in the lift or lobby).

As soon as I hear my dad’s voice I know there’s something wrong; messages from him on my mobile are rarer than days when I’m on time in the mornings. I call him back with trepidation, my mind racing. He called me, so he’s ok. My Mum’s at work, so she must be ok. I got emails last night from both of my brothers, so unless something dramatic happened overnight, they’re ok.

In hindsight I should have been worried about my Babushka, that she’d fallen again or something. But the words stumbled out of my Dad’s mouth so quickly I didn’t have time to go through any other options.

My cousin. He’s dead. He drowned at the beach yesterday. He was away on holidays up on the north coast.

Suddenly I think back to yesterday afternoon. Sitting home procrastinating and reading the smh.

I read a story about my own cousin’s death without realising it.

My Dad tells me what little more he knows, but it isn’t much. We talk a bit, both crying, then say goodbye and I love you. I then call my Mum and do much the same. By this stage I’m halfway to the GPs office that I’m currently sitting in with.

Really, in situations like these, what can you say? Nothing you say or do is going to bring anyone back, provide solace or make anyone feel good. Sometimes there are no reasons, and questioning why and going through alternative scenarios only leads to torture and mind fuck. What if he had gone to a different beach, at a different time? What happened in those last minutes and what could and couldn’t have been prevented?

Sometimes, a lot of the time, there simply are no answers. No clue. Nothing fixable. That’s hard to deal with.

I know I was numb for most of the day. A few patients I saw I wanted to scream at – those complaining about a sore knee or other ailments. I wanted to scream “You’re alive! Don’t take it for granted because it can be taken away in minutes, when you least expect it! Don’t sit there and ask me for sympathy about Centrelink cutting your pension off and asking you to attempt to look for work. Looking for work is not going to kill you!” And so on.

But I didn’t scream. I made it home. And then I looked at his facebook profile. And then I google’d the story again.

And then I broke down.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Postcard from Vietnam

Well what can I say? I've now been in Vietnam for pretty much exactly 7 weeks. And what a 7 weeks its been! One of those times where it feels like just yesterday that I was back home in Sydney packing my bags, and yet at the same time my first arrival into Saigon feels like a lifetime ago.

The first 4 weeks were spent sweating it out in the heat, humidity and traffic of Saigon, with a few weekend escapes, Christmas and NYE thrown in for good measure. Oh, and a month of work in the delivery ward of a major maternity hospital!!

Then we spent a week travelling north to Hanoi, where we had a rude shock weatherwise. We went from 30 degree days in Hoi An to the 10 degree winter chill of Hanoi in an hour. Hanoi is currently experiencing its coldest winter in 20 years, with daily temps 10 degrees below average. Schools have shut down, animals have been dying and we have been freezing our toes off!! We had our last day at the surgical hospital here a few days ago, where we've seen a lot of neurosurgery - the majority resulting from motorbike accidents, a sobering thought when you look at the traffic on the roads here.

I've been diligently taking hundreds of photos, but am sadly falling behind on uploading them to flickr - I'm still up to Christmas eve!!!

But here's a few from the first few weeks here...

Saigon traffic

Crazy Saigon traffic. Note the lack of helmets. A new law making them compulsory came into force the first Saturday we were here. Every traffic photo taken after this one is a sea of helmet wearers.

Dinner with Vi, Ngoc and Vo

Some of the amazing food we've eaten. Friends in Saigon treated us to an amazing steamboat feast one night!!!

Rice paddy

Some beautiful countryside to be seen once you escape the city edges!


Crazy enough to hold a snake. The brave before pic, and the scared after one as soon as it was wriggling around too much. Eeeek!!!


Tu Du hospital

Proof that we did actually make it to hospital!!

Beach on Phu Quoc island

Lazing on the beach on Christmas eve. That seems like a lifetime ago, especially in this cold!!!

Boat trip

A bit of patriotism, appropriate for the upcoming lunar new year. Chuc mung nam moi!!!!