It’s my birthday and someone put a man in my canoe.

I turned 33 years old today! That’s Big Girl Panties status by anyone’s standards. I have ADORED my thirties so far. My twenties were a confusing casserole of bad food, bad decisions, and terrible self-image. My thirties have been nothing but adventure, laughter, and self-discovery, interspersed with the odd chin hair. I’ve holidayed in seven countries, driven a race car, quit my job, shaved my head, eaten a Slim Jim, become vegan, and learnt how to apply liquid eyeliner without wanting to stab myself in the throat with the applicator. I’ve been so grown-up and balanced and in complete command of my world, so it’s hardly surprising that now is the time for a thing with a penis to waltz in and fuck it all up.

Enter Nic, stage right. There are a handful of beloved people in my life who were washed into my canoe precisely when I needed someone to help me steer. They left me with ideas, tools, and experiences that brought me to the place I am today, and continue to paddle beside me and give me a push whenever I need one. Nic, on the other hand, launched in like a deranged blonde torpedo, capsized the canoe, lost the oars, and suggested we take the train instead. He came in like a wrecking ball – at least, that’s how I originally saw it.

Fun experiment: go find yourself a cat. Preferably a cat that’s been single for eight years, living  a smug, self-satisfied life completely devoid of compromise or complications. Then prepare a lovely bath. A perfectly hot, steaming bath, with fragrant bubbles, aromatherapy oils, soy candles, and maybe some Enya on the stereo. Now toss the cat in the bath. An experience that should otherwise be enjoyable and rejuvenating is nothing but confused horror and bitey terror for a feline. For those bemused by my laboured metaphor, I am the cat and the bath is a healthy, mutually supportive relationship. Inga did not want to take a goddamn bath.

Luckily for both of us, Nic’s an astute fellow and knows how to defuse a woman who likens relationships to drowning cats and watercraft accidents. He’s also decidedly more than a thing with a penis, and to my endless astonishment, is currently doing the opposite of destroying everything I hold dear. He’s been an inspiring, calm addition to my world, and while my future is looking vastly different to anything I’d imagined a year ago, I’m much less likely to scratch and piss uncontrollably because of it. Like I said, I have this grown-up thing totally sorted now I’m 33.

This brings me back to my birthday. My birthdays are usually extended affairs, because I’m a narcissistic birthday fiend and require the world to revolve around me for much longer than a mere 24 hours. They always begin with GOF calling me gleefully at some unholy hour of the morning to remind me that I’m aging every bit as quickly as he is. Last night, Nic took me to see The Lion King musical, because I mentioned I’d never seen the movie. He also booked us into a gorgeous boutique hotel with an odd predilection for confectionery themed furniture, fed me breakfast, and refused to take me to work until lunch time. Tomorrow I’m going birthday trampolining (yes, that’s what it sounds like; yes, I swear I’m 33), followed by birthday brunch, followed by birthday drinking, and another hotel stay in Melbourne courtesy of one of my beloved canoeists and general troublemaker, Nikki. I’m a spoilt brat of a woman, and I wouldn’t change a damned thing. Happy Birthday to me!

Lolly cushion is not as delicious as it looks. Trust me.

Lolly cushion is not as delicious as it looks. Trust me.

Liquorice allsorts stool, because why the hell not?

Liquorice allsorts stool, because why the hell not?

This is what happens when you arrive at work late on your birthday.

This is what happens when you arrive at work late on your birthday.

How to shave a life.

(Ed note: Oh dear…it’s halfway through April and this is my first post for 2015. It’s been one hell of a year already, and I feel like it’s still winding up.)

So a bit over a year ago, I was looking at curly hair tutorials on the YouTube, and stumbled upon this blogger. She’d decided to shave off her gorgeous mane – partly because she’d ruined it with heat styling and home dye-jobs, but mostly because “I am not my hair.” I found the sentiment intriguing, and almost immediately something in my brain twitched, and I decided I wanted to do the same thing.

I’ve always been the girl with the bale of fuzzy brown curls. It’s such an integral part of my self-image and my daily routine. It’s my shtick. I get complimented on it, I’ve been bullied about it, I’ve despised it and I’ve adored it. It can make me look like a savage ethnic princess or something out of Jim Henson’s reject bin, depending on the lunar cycle and which way the wind is blowing. It’s me. DSC_1220 Except it’s not. As I’ve since found out.

On top of challenging my identity, I wanted to stop being so vain for a little. It’s easy to get caught up on beauty regimes, especially when you’re single, in your 30’s, and everyone is breathing down your neck about your love life. Pride in your appearance is important, obviously, but why become fixated on plucking, painting, pruning and other pointless pantomime, when your time and effort could be better spent elsewhere?

Ergo the hair had to go. I decided I might try and raise some money while I was at it, so I signed up for the Leukaemia Foundation’s World’s Greatest Shave. On the day, I drank some beer in my garage while a bunch of my closest friends hacked my hair into a mullet, a Mohawk, a rat’s tail, and finally a buzz cut.

Taken by my homegirl in Canberra who Skyped in for the occasion.

Taken by my homegirl in Canberra who Skyped in for the occasion.

The most horrifying photograph of me ever taken.

The most horrifying photograph of me ever taken. Rat’s tails are nobody’s friend.

I moustache you a question.

I moustache you a question.

Not Vin Diesel

Baldilocks

And the profound upshot?

Pros:

– Zero maintenance. If you’ve spent your whole life with short hair, you can’t begin to imagine the utterly spiritual, blissful quality of this experience. No shampoo! No gel! No aggressive de-tangling sessions punctuated by cuss words and hurling bathroom paraphernalia!  I don’t have to look at it, touch it, or even think about it. My scalp is now on par with my appendix in terms of relevance to my life.

– Ladies, you all know what havoc can be wreaked on your hairstyle just by pulling a t-shirt or dress on or off over your head. No more! An unfortunate consequence of this being it now takes me three times as long to get ready because of all the outfits I try on before I leave my house.

– Sheer attitude. Never underestimate the effect that faux fur, slight ethnicity, and a shaved head can have on your badass ranking. Shopping centre hawkers avoid eye contact with me, and I make small children cry.

– Driving with the top down. (By which I mean driving with the window down, because I don’t have a convertible. But I’m not going to let reality get in the way of a good list.)

– Headwear. I can wear beanies! And hats! And more beanies! And headscarves! And beanies!

– Somewhat obliquely, this little adventure landed me with a boyfriend. Yes, a real one, as opposed to a cardboard Josh Holloway head glued onto a broomstick. More on that later.

Cons:

– My head is too cold. Or too hot. Sometimes both simultaneously. I’m so confused all the time.

– I definitely feel less feminine. Obviously hair length has nothing to do with being womanly, but I haven’t figured out how to work a stubbled scalp into my flirtation routine.

– Grey hair. Lawd have mercy, I found my first grey hairs once all my wool was shorn away. Worse still, GOF was visiting at the time and was the only one there to witness this horrifying benchmark. You can imagine how sympathetic a 66-year-old farm boy would be to such matters. Knee-slapping, maniacal laughter is neither helpful nor appreciated.

– Curly regrowth. Four weeks later, my scalp is starting to look like the business end of a used Nair strip. Straight regrowth becomes an elegant pixie cut; curly regrowth becomes a 70s porn star straddling my head.

– The kicker: I’m possibly even more fixated on my appearances than before. I love my new hair style, and I’m slathering on eyeliner and coloured mascara almost every day to punctuate it. I’ve accomplished the exact opposite of my goal. I’m still vain as hell.

To summarise, I’m not sure what the takeaway lesson is on this whole experience. I guess a haircut is no big deal after all, and if you’re looking to challenge your self-perceptions you’re probably better off joining a monastery or embarking on an epic solitary journey or taking some mushrooms and going to Burning Man.

Things I should have blogged about this year but didn’t.

2015 is now lurking about 7 hours away, which seems like as good a time as any to write a panicky ‘holy-shit-I-hardly-blogged-at-all-this-year’ post.

So here is my unwritten 2014, in bullet point form, because I  should be shaving my legs and ironing my eyelashes if I’m going to snag myself a midnight kiss.

  • I took rally driving lessons with a proper rally driver man, and only flirted with him a little bit.
    photo 5 (4) photo 3 (2)
  • Went to a fashion show during Melbourne Fashion Week. Failed to gain fashion, and failed to take a photo that didn’t make the models look like they’re approaching warp speed.
    DSC_0469

 

  • I bought a new car. Yes, I know I bought a new one not that long ago, but that one broke, ok? Then the sales manager tried to have an affair with me and things got really weird reeeally quickly.

    1507138_10152930654796660_3610193035886250014_n

  • I put on a funny hat with some girlfriends and ended up on the front page of the Sunday paper.

    Sorry, no autographs.

    Sorry, no autographs.

  • Tried to adopt a new bunny, and unfortunately had to return the poor little bugger when my Bunny tried to eat him.

    DSC_0315DSC_0317

  • Sadly lost Bunny around the middle of the year. She managed to wander off on her own, and a few weeks later somebody found her and handed her into a local shelter. She was quite injured, and they put her to sleep before I could get there to say goodbye. Cried buckets. RIP you badass fuzzy lady.

    IMG_4131

Everything else you guys know already. Thanks for your company this year, all. Things are getting pretty quiet around WordPress, and I really do enjoy and appreciate the updates from those of you who are still around!

Bring on Two Oh One Five.

Much love, Inga XOX

 

 

Cultural exchange!

I must’ve been a very good girl this year, because LOOK WHAT SANTA BROUGHT ME!

DSC_0896

And by ‘Santa’ I mean Kim. I love getting samples of all the terribly taunting instructionables she posts on her blog all year! That’s prickly pear cactus jelly, heirloom salsa, and apple mint jelly. Also some canned cheese because apparently she’s trying to Americanise me, some choccies, a wee precious turtle charm, and what I can only assume are Californian Death Chillies (or Thai, whatever). There was also a box of Ferrero Rochers, but they met an untimely end in an office full of women with 3pm Monday blues.

Now the hard part – figuring out what to try first. The cactus jelly is a gorgeous colour (you can’t tell in this pic, but it’s a very pretty magenta), and I can tell just by looking that the salsa is going to be like crack. And if you don’t hear from me again, the Death Chillies got the better of me.

Thank you Santa-Kim, you’re a bloody top sheila eh! XOX

Inga’s Travelogue: Gapped it to the dairy in my jandals, bro.

I work in Melbourne for a company based in Auckland, New Zealand. I’ve visited the Auckland office twice before, but saw nothing other than the office, the airport and the motorway. As a reward for working our rumps off all year, the company owners treated their staff to a Christmas Dinner in the City of Sails. They paid for our return flights and Friday night accommodation, but of course we all elected to stay an extra night out of our own pockets, because Auckland is a four hour trans-Pacific flight from Melbourne and we’re not idiots.

Turned out we’re a tiny bit idiot, because The Rolling Stones were in town at the time and every single bed in Auckland was booked on Saturday night. So one girl stayed with her family, another colleague stayed with a random guy he found on the internet, and I gratefully crashed on the couch of one of my Kiwi workmates, while my boss disappeared to one of the islands with his wife.

Dodgy sleeping arrangements aside, it was one of the best weekends I’ve had all year. Auckland is built on a narrow neck of land with ocean views from every corner. If you can’t see the ocean, all you need to do is put down your Hawkes Bay pinot and take a stroll up one of the sixty-odd volcanoes to get a better view. The town planning is awful – a road map of Auckland looks like someone crammed a ball of ramen into an hour glass – but it’s not as if you’d ever be in a hurry there. If you think Aussies are laid back, you’ve never met a Kiwi. They’re essentially Aussies with a funny accent and the stick removed from their arses.

Our work dinner was in the revolving restaurant in the Sky Tower, which one of my workmates referred to as the ‘heroin needle’.  The floor of the restaurant revolved independently of a narrow carpeted strip next to the windows. I didn’t notice this until I was standing on it while chatting to some colleagues at the next table, and found myself crab-walking in place to prevent myself drifting towards the strangers at the next table.  Every five minutes or so the floor would pass a supporting pillar, and I’d have to perform an awkward clamber around it while simultaneously trying to dazzle my CEO’s wife with my poise and sparkling wit. This became increasingly difficult the more wine I drank.

Sleepless in Seattle.

Sleepless in Seattle.

The next day, one of my Aucklandian colleagues took me and one of the Melbourne sales reps on a drive through the Waitakere Ranges and out to Piha Beach, while we stared out at the passing scenery like this:

HOLY SHITBALLS Y'ALL

Seriously, Auckland is beautiful, and apparently it’s one of the least attractive places in NZ. Also there’s a little café in Titiranga that sells coffee in bowls. IN BOWLS. And yes, there is a town called Titiranga.

Later that evening and several Radlers later, I decided it was a brilliant idea to stay out with my Kiwi friends until 2am, when my flight left at 8.30am the next day. I fell out of the couch precisely six minutes before Randy the Overtly Canadian Corporate Taxi Driver arrived to collect me, then had a stern talking-to and my $15 BPA-free water bottle confiscated at the security screening because I’d forgotten to empty it. I also happily waltzed through the screening point with a hot chocolate, then dribbled melted marshmallow all over my chin when an insanely attractive border security guard told me I’d have to drink the whole thing before I went any further.  I said to him, “can I please leave before I get any more awkward?” and he laughed and wished me a safe trip while I stared at his muscles. In America I bet I would’ve been tasered.

New Zealand is like a little reward for Australians who can overcome the traditional sibling rivalry between our nations, and refrain from bagging the All Blacks for at least a day. It’s usually cheaper to fly to NZ than to most places within Oz. Aussies can move to NZ and get welfare payments. We can breeze in and out of customs using the Smartgate – a magical portal that scans your passport and face and whisks you through border security in 30 seconds flat, while the poor plebs with passports from other hemispheres shuffle dejectedly into queue. The scenery is stunning, the ski fields are unrivaled, and the dollar is almost always in our favour. NZ gave us Crowded House, Lorde, Bic Runga, Flight of the Conchords, the Nek Minnit meme, this ad, Whittakers chocolate, and delicious wine.  They gave us Once Were Warriors, a movie that came out 20 years ago and there’s still not a single Antipodean woman who doesn’t judge a man by their reaction to the phrase “cook the man some eggs”. (It’s from a graphic domestic violence scene, if you’re curious). And finally, this is one of the Air New Zealand inflight safety videos:

How can you not love these people, bro?

Things I now know about New Zealand:

– “Wh” is pronounced “f” in the Māori language, giving them fabulous place names such as Whakapapa and Whakatane. And they have the gall to laugh at our Wagga Wagga, Woolloomoolo and Fannie Bay.

– Stoats were introduced to cull the introduced rabbit population, and now the stoats are a pest – despite being cute as hell.

– Auckland is built on a dormant volcanic field, and the city council actually has a volcanic contingency plan in place – which seems appropriate when there’s a chance your country’s most populous centre could be Pompeii’ed at any moment. A couple of years ago, some smartarse decided it would be funny to ferry a truckload of tyres to one of the offshore volcanic peaks and set them on fire as a “prank”.

– New Zealand is officially a bi-lingual nation. Kids learn some Maori in primary school, students may take exams entirely in Maori if they choose, and there’s a whole bushel of Maori words that seem to be a part of the local patois.

– Jandals, chilly-bin, twink , gapped it, tramping.

Zenning out on top of Lyon Rock at Piha Beach. The sand isn't dirty, it's black from lava fragments. Which is what happens when you build your town on a goddamn volcano.

Zenning out on top of Lyon Rock at Piha Beach. The sand isn’t dirty, it’s black from lava fragments. Which is what happens when you build your town on a goddamn volcano.

It was a really tough day.

It was a really tough day.

My workmates are stranger than I am.

My workmates are sometimes stranger than I am.

Native Kiwi rock poodles.

Native Kiwi rock poodles.

There used to be a dam at the top of  this waterfall that was used to flush logs downstream. Unfortunately the logs kept getting smashed into splinters, so they stopped.

There used to be a dam at the top of this waterfall that was used to flush logs downstream. Unfortunately the logs kept getting smashed into splinters, so they stopped doing that pretty swiftly.

This is the most half-arsed rope bridge I've ever seen.

This is the most half-arsed rope bridge I’ve ever seen. And I’ve been to Papua New Guinea.

Creek in the Waitakere Ranges.

Creek in the Waitakere Ranges.

More creeks.

More creek.

Washing feeties after a forest walk to prevent the spread of deadly Kiwi flesh-eating fungi. Or just regular fungi, I forget.

Washing feeties after a forest walk to prevent the spread of deadly Kiwi flesh-eating fungi. Or just regular fungi, I forget.

Overpopulation is a problem in Auckland. So are Australians.

Overpopulation is evidently a problem in Auckland. So are Australians.

Kia ora!

Drink Challenge #2: Game, set, matcha

My chief tormenter friend Emmy has stepped up to the plate yet again, with a nutritious matcha tea smoothie that will no doubt do wonderful things for my digestive system while simultaneously making me want to gag my digestive organs out.

Matcha, if you’re bewildered, is merely powdered green tea. When prepared in the traditional way, it looks exactly as if someone has eaten the contents of a lawn mower catcher, chugged a handle of vodka and regurgitated the contents into a cute earthenware bowl. It resembles the insides of a caterpillar and is half as tasty.

Matcha-Set

Be still my beating taste buds.

Now what Emmy doesn’t know is that in my late teens, I spent a year in the ancient Japanese capital of Kyoto, and therefore consider myself an absolute matcha master. I went into this challenge feeling confident.

Konnichiwa, bitches.

Unfortunately, confidence was not high on my list of attributes at 17.

That is, until I tried to source ethical ingredients that complied with our (arbitrary, undefined and frequently changing) Drink Challenge rules. When Emmy first crowed “Haaa, this bitch is never going to find matcha in that culturally stunted backwater of a nation!*”, I smiled to myself because we have a chain of tea stores called T2, which stocks more tea and tea paraphernalia than you can poke a Scotch Finger at. T2 started as a single store in the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick, and its unrivalled inventory of flavoured teas and gaudy tea-themed curios guaranteed a proliferation of T2s across the country, including our easternmost island, New Zealand. T2 is a big deal in Australia at the moment, and you’ll find one in virtually every shopping centre…so I wasn’t entirely flabbergasted to discover the Aussie start-up had been bought out last year by Unilever. Yep, the same delightful folks who are chewing through thousands of hectares of Malaysian and Indonesian rainforest in the name of palm oil (fun fact: they also used to be the largest purchaser of whale oil) now own most of our favourite tea brands (they also own Lipton and Bushells).

With T2 now firmly indexed in my novelesque boycott  list, I turned to the local tea shops, and  stumbled across Tea Leaves in Sassafras. Through them, I found out we have tea plantations right here in Victoria. The Japanese beverage company Ito-En has a processing factory up in Wangaratta, and exports Aussie tea leaves to Japan. About 10 years ago when they were running out of prime tea-growing real estate in Nippon, they cast their eyes to our temperate pastures and found a handful of sheep farmers who were happy to turn their hands at a livelihood that didn’t require fencing, dipping, and crutching.

All of this means I was able to find me some fresh, locally grown green tea in a little store just up the road. Now who’re you calling backwater, Emmy? Hmm?**

All Australian ingredients, astonishingly.

All Australian ingredients, astonishingly.

The catch was they only had matcha mixed with sencha – so what you’re looking at is a bag of half powder, half dried leaves.

I steeped the tea in boiled water for a couple of minutes, threw everything into a bottle, shook it like a polaroid picture, et voilà:

Needs more vodka.

Mmm, insipid.

It was disappointingly un-green, despite the random tea leaves floating in it. But it tasted surprisingly pleasant, even with the oleaginous mass of chia seeds settled in the bottom of the glass. Fun fact: Australia is the biggest producer of chia seeds. Let me know if you ever need chia, and I will hook you up.

Verdict: Matcha is not as disgusting as I remember from 1999. Also I’m glad I learnt early in life that a yukata does nothing for my figure.

*Possibly paraphrased slightly.
**Ok fine, she never said this at all.

**********************************************************************************

Things I learnt during my tea-quest

Anyone who’s followed Emmy’s blog for any period of time would know she’s a big ol’ groupie for intercropping. For the non-agricultural amongst us, it simply means planting a mixture of crops together, rather than sowing great, sweeping windrows of corn or wheat. Sure, a nicely manicured plantation is gorgeous to behold (ever seen a canola field in full bloom?), but it bears absolutely no resemblance to a natural eco-system and subsequently refuses to act like one, thereby creating problems like soil erosion, nutrient depletion and pest proliferation. Of course the accepted ‘solutions’ to these issues result in a whole new batch of environmental complications, and so the cycle continues.

Intercropping doesn’t appear to have taken off in the commercial farming sector just yet, at least not in Australia. Tea especially is a bit of a sticky wicket in this department, because tea consumers would probably not be thrilled to detect overtones of date palm leaf in their English Breakfast. It’s easier to avoid contamination when you can hire workers for $2 a day to hand-pick tea tips, but here in Australia, worker exploitation is generally frowned upon, so our tea picking is done mechanically. Mechanical harvesters are yet unable to tell the difference between a tender new tea shoot and a koala-piss soaked eucalypt leaf. Not unlike our current Prime Minister.

On the other hand, intercropping is a fabulous way for newbie tea farmers to make some cash during the two or three years it takes for tea bushes to produce anything resembling yield – when the fledgling plantations are nothing more than a capital-sapping ornamental garden. One field experiment found that a multitude of vegies can be grown in between bushes without compromising the happiness of the baby tea plants – in fact, it actually boosted yield down the track.

Of course, I’m more than happy to take my new-found knowledge on the road to educate the new generation of strapping, sun-bronzed farm lads…