Sunday, October 21, 2012

Baby's On Fire - and not in a good way

You probably all already know that we had a house fire last week.  We live in a Terraced house (which means they are all connected at the side walls), and the next door neighbor's house literally blew up.  David and I were at home and in the space of a minute, we heard the smoke alarm, thought "hmm?", and heard a huge explosion followed by huge plumes of black smoke.  We grabbed one thing each - David the laptops (ok 2), and I my portfolio artwork, and we were out the door standing in the street waiting for the fire brigade (that's what they call it here).  It seemed like forever, but I think they were actually there within about 3 minutes.
The neighbor's house was a total loss - burned and/or melted from top to bottom.  I watched our house fill with smoke and the firemen drag hoses into it.  I thought it was bad but I had no way to comprehend the actual state of things.  In the end, only the adjoining wall burned and the edges of the carpet, but the smoke and soot and stench covered and filled everything.
I was too traumatized to capture the action when there were about 6 fire trucks. This is at the end when they were cleaning up.  The door with the ladder is the neighbors, ours is to the left.
After mixed messages, arguments, and a lot of waiting and wondering, the rental agency and our insurance company finally came through with arrangements for us to have temporary housing and a cleaning crew to come in and clean every last thing from the walls and furniture to books and balls of yarn.  O.K., well, maybe not balls of yarn because I am not sure how the hell one can clean a ball of yarn.

Even the poor elm tree in the back got burned some.  Spring leaves should not be black.
The good news is we ended up being covered.  The bad news is that the whole situation/damage is much worse than we originally thought.  The carpeting is torn out, the walls are being repaired and repainted.  The roof even needs to be worked on.  We have to be out of the house for at least 3 weeks. We have had to move to three different places because things were booked up and we had to piece together availability.  We were at the Meriton, then we went to Fraser Suites.  David and I stayed there when we first came to Sydney to check out living situations so it was a little bit like a homecoming.  The places are nice and we have been able to go to pools, saunas, and workout rooms to help reduce our stress, but the moving around has taken time and carrying bags around the city (even with taxis) smacks of being homeless.

Overall, it has been an experience in living with disruption, uncertainty, and loss.  Having basic routines and basic necessities pulled out from under our feet has made us all a little shaky and quite exhausted.  Eating out three meals a day can be a bummer if you are not used to it.
Valerie has been a trooper, managing to get her studying for her final exams done even with the disruption.  David has been a master organizer and crisis manager.  I have been staying focused on getting my portfolio and application finished so I don't miss the deadline in one month.  Thankfully, my artwork was not damaged.  

A few bright spots outside of all that have been: swimming in the pool, eating delicious Korean Bibimbob, finding a Patagonia store, and getting valerie new, beautiful pjs from Topshop.

this speaks for itself

Nicole came to cheer us up. She offered to help clean but luckily that was not necessary.  Instead we went out for a drink and Miss Chu's Vietnamese.
I felt cheered up by the Patagonia store on Bathurst Street.  Surf gear in the lower level!

Retail therapy.  Organic cotton and Hemp a plus!

Our living room at the Fraser Suites. David working from "home"

Ironically, there was a World Firefighter Games event in the city this weekend.  Go Fire Fighters.  We love you!  This was the German team.

Spicy Korean food monday lunch
We went to Aaron and Nicole's yesterday for a little party.  They made Pimms cocktails, there was a street faire, and we heard pop music and women singing gorgeous opera (I think from Carmen?).  We met some really nice people and had a good time getting our minds off of the mess.

I don't know how we will feel when we get back in to the house.  It seems this is one more reason to realize that that rental is not really our home and maybe we will start looking for some place to really plant our feet and commit to.  Life and real estate is complicated one way or the other so we might as well choose our own flavor of uncertainty.  To use a really bad pun, this event has put a fire under our butts to investigate the housing options in and around this town.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Bikes and Bakeries - or - We're Alright

It's been another month and I've thought about writing but haven't gotten down to it.  I have a good excuse this time.  I have been very disciplined with my creative free time.  I am going to apply for a textile printing course/program at a technical college here, and I have been focused on putting together a portfolio application.  There are several designs required in addition to an essay and selections of past works, so I have been tackling all that.  I am pretty pleased with the way it is coming together so far.  I only hope it is enough because if I don't get in, I will be so gutted.  I really don't know what I will do to pick up the broken pieces of me and my dreams if this doesn't work out.  I am just assuming, for now, that it will.  Either way, I will post my designs at the beginning of December, after the application is in, so as not to jinx myself.

I also completed the Embroidery Guild course that I worked on last year.  I still have to turn in my final assignment, but I got my evaluations on two of the three units, and they were favorable.  I really am so glad that I did that course.  I highly recommend it to everyone.  It was fun and challenging and enlightening.  (Watch out knitting and crochet, embroidery is the next big trend.  I helped a stylish young woman at work last week who was picking thread colors for her cross-stitch of Dr. Who characters.)

Two Sydney things I did want to write about were bakeries and bicycles.

A few weeks ago we discovered two new bakeries to add to our treat network.  One is the famous and audacious Laduree from Paris!!  We went to the opening of their little macaron shop/ cafe which, unfortunately, is located in the Westfield Shopping Center in the city.  It was beautiful but the elegance and class was diminished by the surroundings.

The other place was more of a surprise as we stumbled upon it on our local beaten path.  We live on the edge of Surry Hills (recently ranked 26 in the top 50 most stylish neighborhoods in the world), and as one edges out of the stylish part, the streets get a little scrappy.  One could say they are sometimes rough around the edges.  Anyway, next to nail salons and pet supplies, there is a miraculous apparition called Kurtosh (there is supposed to be an umlaut over the u and quote-like marks over the o).  It is a Hungarian bakery that is equal parts charm and yum.  They sell sheet-cake slices by weight, ricotta pasteries, and a tubular yeasty pastery cooked on a rolling pin type thing.  The staff are super friendly, the coffee is good, the teapots are cute, and the decor is cosy and clean.  I am back at my Zumba trying to make up for the number of times I have been there.

I have been riding my bike a bit more as well.  Spring is here (yes it is) and the "Sydney Rides" bike festival is on again.  Music, crafts, bike info, and just fun showing off bikes was happening all up and down Bourke Street.  That is where we live so it was quite easy for us to roll up to it.   The mayor spoke about increasing bike lanes around the city, we heard a ukelele orchestra, and I got a free adjustment on my bike so my breaks don't squeak any more.  One song that the ukes played was "Alright"by this strange retro band called Supergrass, and it seemed like the perfect theme song for the day.  So listen to this version of it and enjoy the photos from this slice of Sydney.
Me at La Duree
they are known for their exotic flavors like violet-cassis
David at Kurtosh

it is usually more crowded than this

apricot cake

cool paper airplane public art at the bike fest

my friend Kit with her craft-bike portable craft activities!

The Leichardt International Ukestra warming up and hanging out