Friday, 3 July 2015

Lost and Found

Things lost on the wedding holiday:

  1. Wedding dress (I may have walked off from my preshus suitcase containing the dress at Sydney Airport...)
  2. Tweezers.
  3. Contact lens case (mysteriously reappeared in suitcase).
  4. Contact lenses (sadly never made a reappearance).
  5. Pyjamas.
  6. Phone (left in a London taxi. Kindly returned by driver)
  7. Passport (Jan had taken control of it, given the above list).
  8. My name (generously replaced with Kollhof).

Things found on the wedding holiday:

  1. 1. A new husband.

So all in all, not a bad trip, really.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

It's the bridal countdown.....

 We're leaving together
But still it's farewell
And maybe we'll come back
To Aus, who can tell*?
After months of being engaged,
We're getting wed...
Will things ever be the same again?
It's the Bridal countdown
The Bridal countdown

We're heading for wedlock the old chain and ball,
We've packed all our outfits - dress, suit and all, yea
With so many things to remember and rings to be found
(To be found)
I'm sure I've forgotten my garter...
It's the Bridal countdown
The Bridal countdown
The Bridal countdown
(The Bridal countdown)
Ohh ho ohh
The Bridal countdown, oh ho
It's the Bridal countdown
The Bridal countdown
The Bridal countdown
(The Bridal countdown)
It's the Bridal countdown
We're leaving together
The Bridal countdown
Forgotten my garter...
It's the Bridal countdown
(The Bridal countdown)
Ohh, it's the Bridal countdown

*Singapore Airlines can tell us exactly when. Cos we totally booked return flights.

When in Rome... race pigs

Right, let's step away from the wedding preparations for a moment*.  It's time to talk Australia again. And things Australian.  Like country music.  "WHUT?!" I hear you ask, "surely you have mistaken your countries and you mean Amurika".  Well, no actually! As we discovered in January, Australia has a LOT of countryside** and there is a thriving country scene here. It's kinda the same as the American country music scene, although with more mentions of kangaroos and swag.

* It's only two weeks away. *Faints*
** Well ok, I think we might have known that before January 2015.

The country music scene here is epitomised by the yearly Tamworth Country Music Festival, which we were invited to - and who passes up that opportunity? Not we, says, uhm, we.

So off we went for a long weekend in the country. As Tamworth is a good seven hours in the car (you can fly, but where's the fun in that?!), we stopped halfway at a most beautiful cabin in the Barrington Tops National Park. It was, quite literally, in the middle of nowhere - down a dirt road into a beautiful valley and, best of all, no phone reception for miles!

Down the long dirt road to the cabin.
Our little cabin for the night.
Some of our fellow guests
We spent a pleasant afternoon tramping about in the bush, which got less pleasant when I realised I had a leech on my sock. Cue major histrionics and casting-off-the-cursed-sock by me and a rather puzzled look from Jan. It's not like it was on my actual skin or anything. We still had to get it off my sock with salt, though, as the little bugger wouldn't let go. I am such a wuss.

Next day, we travelled on up to Tamworth, to get down with the country music thang. Now, remember, although it is January, to us Southern Hemispherians that means HOT and, Tamworth being inland, that means 38 degrees or thereabouts. So it's always important to keep your head covered - but more important to be on trend:

Rockin' the cowboy hats...
We were lucky and it wasn't as hot as it's been in previous years, so we took to the streets on Saturday to see the local festivities:

Centre of Tamworth - not like the Tamworth I'm used to!
Hahahaha, oh the fun we had with this....
The 'man pulls truck down the street' event.... He knows it has an engine, right?!
For the Saturday, I had already looked in the guide and decided what traditional country event I wanted to experience next - PIG RACING! At a PUB! How much more country can you get?! All day drinking and gambling! My joy was increased ten-fold when we got to the pub and discovered that the pigs were actually piglets! Basically, they have a little track for the piglets to run around, with some obstacles along the way, and the winner is the first piglet to successfully locate a bowl of milk and tuck into it. Before each race, the piglet racers are auctioned off to the highest bidder, who gets to name the piglet and receives half the pot of money collected (the other half goes to charity). The bidding was high and they made about $20,000 after a morning's racing. 

The racetrack- Racers, start your piglets....
Run, piggies, run! 'Black Daniels' is in the lead here I believe...
To the victor, the slop...
We also saw sheep shearing and yabby racing (this is a HIGHLY random sport where weird lobstery things are placed within a chalk circle and the first to scuttle to the middle wins. It's a kiddies' sport, cos why should being young exclude you from gambling on animals?). There would be photos of each, only at some point I got bitten by an unknown insect in a rather embarrassing place that left me walking weirdly and waiting to see if I would pass out/die. Stupid Australian country.

After that, it was time to chill out, and we went back to our friend's house for a dip in their pool:

Still with the hats on...
Rocking the beard/hat combo...
I realise after all this, I haven't actually mentioned any actual MUSIC from the Country Music Festival! Suffice to say, we did see some! Performers play on the town streets for most of the day and night, busker-style or on small stages set up too. There are also bigger acts at the local pubs and concert venues, although we didn't really go to those, we just wandered around and stopped where we enjoyed the music. We spent a long time sitting on the street listening to one band - to whom we paid actual dollars so they would sing Man of Constant Sorrow, which technically isn't even a 'proper' country song, given that it came from a film. But they happily obliged - and the night after, we heard them singing it again, so I think we did them a favour!

And that was pretty much our country weekend - we caught up with several friends, heard one of them sing, ate lots, walked lots, saw lots and listened to lots of music!

And the most important thing we learned? ALWAYS enjoy your country music responsibly:

Friday, 29 May 2015

Tumbleweed and efficiency...

I'm going to be honest with you. This is a bit of a cop-out post - it's been deathly quiet around here, because in an attack of the fainting goats, I've been running around, then freezing and falling over any time I/Jan/anyone else says the word 'wedding'.  And so, commensurate with my usual efficiency level, nothing much has got done.

I was actually rather hoping wedding planning would provide a mine of blog-worthy catastrophes and mishaps, but apparently, if I had wanted that, I shouldn't have married a German. Because the whole thing is proceeding in a timely and orderly manner. Vorsprung durch Leistungsfรคhigkeit, so to speak.

We've basically outsourced the wedding to Jan's parents, who have done a mind-blowingly marvelous job of just calmly sorting out quite a complicated day of events and surprises (which Jan's dad has apparently ruined, by including all the surprises in the Official Spreadsheet of What's Happening on the Big Day. But, hey, he was just trying to be EFFICIENT, people). So from our end that has really limited my ability to bugger things up.

People have asked us how we feel about having our wedding so far away and not being so involved in the planning. And it's a really mixed reaction. I am partly wistful and a bit sad that we haven't been looking at venues, trying menus and cakes*, nipping out with my bridesmaids for dress shopping and the like, talking to florists, and bands and generally actually organising. But, given my chronic fear of using the phone, and my complete inability to send anything other than overly polite emails, it's probably all for the best. Plus, hey! I trust Jan's parents 100% and now I don't have to be stressed about any of that stuff! And I won't accidentally order 100 - JAN HELP!!!  And, guess what, now we get to have a fantastic day with lots of surprises*!
* Ok, let's be honest - it's all about the cakes and food. And me not eating said cakes and food. Screw the rest of it.
* As long as we don't read the spreadsheet...

Plus, I can shut my eyes and imagine it all. We've been on lots of holidays to the area, and I can see all the beautiful lakes and woodland, taste the amazing coffee and cakes we'll be having (as well as Jan's mom's cooking which is worth the trip all on its own), and know all the generosity we will experience from everyone who will be there.  And really, at the end of the day, that's what it's about. We are dying to see our family and friends, and catch up and have fun, see what everyone has been up to since we've been gone, and marvel at everyone's children and how much they've grown, or meet them for the very first time. Because we've been in Aus for 18 MONTHS now. EIGHT-EEN! And in two weeks we will be on a plane home again. And I CANNOT WAIT.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Advice for Brides on the Big Day

No, not the wedding day, silly!  The auspicious day where you pick up your wedding dress from the shop and it officially becomes yours.

So, here is how to do it:
1) Get up nice and early, have a shower, get ready to leave.
2) Leave in plenty of time, get there early, maybe treat yourself to a coffee while you wait.
3) Arrive at shop fully relaxed and ready to be fussed and cooed over, as is your bridal right.

And here is how I did it:
1) Get up nice and early, faff around the house, watch box sets until you suddenly realise you have 15 minutes to shower, dress and leave.
2) Rush around the house in a pre-shower panic, after breaking your only hairband, and finally tie your hair up with a pair of swimming goggles so you can shower without turning your hair into a ridiculous afro.
3) Leave the house 10 minutes late, with a 30 minute car drive ahead of you.
4) Rely on the sat nav on April Fool's Day, even though it has CLEARLY DECIDED TO SEND YOU ANYWHERE BUT THE RIGHT DIRECTION.
5) Ring the bridal shop ten minutes after you were due to arrive to tell them your sat nav says you will still be another half an hour, whilst stifling down the sobs.
6) Arrive at the shop 7 minutes later, because YOUR SAT NAV IS A F*@%ING LIAR.
7) Park the car and realise you've forgotten your damn shoes you need to try the dress on with.

Yup. Although after having burst through the door in a sweaty mess, the lovely ladies at Kylie J Bridal were very sympathetic and wonderful and fussed and cooed and were very excited for me when the dress fit and looked beautiful, and so all was not lost.

So, sshhhhhh.... no-one tell Jan what's hiding in the closet.....

Those may or may not be my recovery macaroons in the shot there.... Come on, a gal needs something after all of that!

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The Forging of the Rings

Cast your mind back, if you will, to that "design and technology" class you did at school, where you had to do metal work, but really all anyone ever wanted to do was play with the flamethrower at the back of the classroom that the teacher wouldn't let you near.  Now imagine the epic Lord of the Rings, as the One Ring To Rule Them All is pulled triumphant from the forging fires of Mount Doom by Sauron. Now combine those two images - and you have exactly what we did last Wednesday. Yes, indeed, we forged our own wedding rings, with fire and ineptitude*....

* actually Jan was pretty nifty with the tools. Me however....

We'd already had a consultation with the wonderful folks at Larsen Jewellery to decide on our rings. It was meant to last an hour, but, come on, this is us we're talking about! We were still there two hours later - Jan couldn't decide what metal he wanted OR which ring finger to use* and I couldn't decide on sparkly versus plain. Eventually the long-suffering staff said we could decide on the day, just please get out already.

* German tradition favours the right hand, as opposed to the left.

So last Wednesday, we arrived keen and ready to go - and still completely undecided on what we were going to opt for. Which didn't immediately matter as all we had to work with was this:

Note the giant hunk of platinum for Jan's ring, versus the, ahem, slightly more modest amount of white gold for my ring. Jan had decided he wanted an unusually wide ring*,  which even had the jeweller slightly worried, as she'd never made one that big before and warned us we would have to be careful as we rolled out the metal, as platinum is not so easy to manipulate as some other metals. But like the optimistic fools we are, we weren't going to let making a stupidly large ring out of difficult-to-work-with material stop us - we like a good challenge! So off we went!

*ooh er missus. Sorry, couldn't help it.

First, you put the metal bars through some bloody great rollers...

Ok, ok, Jan's hamming it up here - it's not really that difficult! Although his platinum did take a lot of squishing. After a few goes through the rollers the metal becomes hard and difficult to work with, so you have to anneal it, which basically means heating it up to release the pressure and make it more pliant again:

Then it's back to the roller for another round - then rinse and repeat until you have the width and length you require*:
* Hahahahaha. Sorry.

I think you can guess whose is whose.... Suffice to say, Jan's took about FOREVER to get to this stage and mine took about five minutes. Well, ok, maybe more than that, but still. We had to roll Jan's ring sideways as well as lengthways, use both a vice and a hammer to straighten it out and repeatedly anneal it to get the right dimensions. Basically, I'm calling Jan high maintenance here.

From this, mine was then cut in half, as there was more than enough metal for my tiny finger. Then it was time to get it into shape:

This is one of numerous photos where the look on my face is in a kind of, "Oh god, why are they letting me be responsible for this, I'm totally buggering up an expensive piece of metal here - and I have to wear it for the rest of my days, oh god, oh god, smile for the camera" expression. Naturally Jan got his ring into a lovely shape*, whilst mine had to be take away to the vice to be straightened out.

* Honestly, I am really fighting not to have this turn into an innuendo-laden mess, but... it's.. just... so...difficult...

After this, it was time to saw off any extraneous metal:

Then you finally have an actual ring! Well, a piece of metal in the shape of a ring anyway. The next big task is to solder the two ends together to join them. For this, you need highly specialised equipment:

Nothing to say about that. Moving on.

This is me soldering my ring. I got 'normal' glasses because my ring, being gold, didn't glow so brightly as Jan's when heated, so it wouldn't burn the retinas out of my head.

After a mere FOUR HOURS of work, you finally end up with this...

..coupled with a rather large sense of achievement. I made dis - all by my own self! And yes, now you can really see why Jan's took so damn long. IT'S HUGE! In fact it's so huge mine fits snugly inside his!

Now you have the basic shape, it's time to fancypants it up a bit. We start with the filing:

 Basically, it's sandpaper on an electronic stick.

Mine took forever to file, as I was basically terrified of letting the sandpaper touch the ring in case I inadvertently filed the whole thing apart*. Jan's took forever because... well... you know.

* This is IMPOSSIBLE. But still, it's me we're talking about here.

Next, if your nerves haven't been tested enough with all the responsibility of rolling, melting, bending and filing your ring, it's time for the real white-knuckle activity - the stamping. Although this time, my fear wasn't for damaging the ring. Rather it was for damaging the fingers of the poor, poor lady holding the stamp:

LOOK AT THE CONCENTRATION, PEOPLE! "Please God, let me hit the stamp, the stamp, please, let it be the stamp...."  My ring now proudly bears two stamps (one identifying the type of metal and one the stamp of the jeweller) and no-one broke anybody's anythings. Success!

Finally, it's time to bling the ring:

Putting the polish on was one of the most enjoyable parts for me - partly because this piece of drab-looking metal you have been working on all day slowly metamorphoses into a beautiful, shiny piece of precious metal before your eyes, but mainly because it was the one machine I could damn well operate.

And finally, after all the rolling, annealing, hammering, filing, soldering and polishing, you go from this:

To this:

Real shiny wedding rings that look like actual rings even though you made them yourself!

We were super pleased with the results and more than a little bit proud. Wedding rings are obviously of highly sentimental value anyway, but to make your own just feels that little extra bit special. And we had such a lovely, skilled and patient person helping us with each step, and lots of interest from everyone else in the workshop as to how we were going, that it made it for a really enjoyable and interesting day. Jan has decided to opt for the traditional German style of wearing the ring on his right finger, and I have opted to have a bit of bling on mine. So there you are! Wedding rings in 20,000 easy to follow steps!

And just to finish everything off on a high, the jewellers give you a bottle of champagne to celebrate. Which clearly, being people who just love to overstay our welcome, we drank until after the workshop shut!

Dear God, just get these people out of here already!

Many, many thanks to Larsen Jewellery for giving us such a special day. We truly enjoyed all of the experience and would highly recommend it.