Holding a Brushtail in the Palm of Your Hand

One of my most amazing wildlife encounters in Australia happened last night, in the kitchen of my friend Tom’s parents’ house. Sebastian and I had gone for a weekend out to the Grampians, a mountain range northwest of Melbourne, to see Tom (who was one of my good friends when I lived in London in 2003, and who is presently visiting his folks).

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Theresa (in Pioneer seedcorn hat) with Little the Possum

We were all sitting around the table enjoying some home-made wine from one of their family friends, having a bit of a chat (the phrase ‘fair dinkum’ was used), when Tom’s mother walked over with a little bundle of fur. It was a brush-tailed possum baby named Little, who’d been discovered by Tom’s sister a few weeks ago after it had been orphaned.

Now, your North Americans might be thinking, “Possum? That ain’t no opossum!” And you’re right, because it’s not. This little guy is a marsupial possum, and is native to Australia. Possums are also found in New Zealand, where they were introduced, and have wreaked so much damage to the native flora that they’re considered a huge pest. If you see a possum on the road in New Zealand, many people will speed up. But here in Victoria, they’re actually a protected species.

I quickly fell in love with my little possum baby. How can you not? Look at his little pink nose, his huge fluffy ears, the myriad whiskers (twice as many as a cat), and its wee little raccoon-like hands! Little is fed a gourmand’s diet by Tom’s mother, consisting of all kinds of lettuces and fruits. He delicately ate a strawberry with his little hands, then spent some time licking the salt off of my skin and giving my fingers a few gentle nibbles. Adorable. And so fluffy!

Sebastian with the brush-tailed possum

Sebastian with the brush-tailed possum

The best part, though, was when the baby possum wrapped his furry little tail around my finger and nestled into my hands…and promptly fell asleep. While possums are nocturnal, the baby is growing so much he obviously needed a bit of a snooze.

Sleepy possum

Sleeping baby possum

Little baby possum

Little baby possum

I never imagined I’d have a baby possum fall asleep in my hands.
What a special gift.

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God Bless American Junk Food

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Is that Cards Against Humanity? You bet!

There are a few things I miss terribly about the U.S.: How everything is on sale, all the time. Nothing is geoblocked on the computer. And of course, the junk food.

I feel junk food is where we truly excel as a nation. The combination of high fructose corn syrup and fake cheese (sometimes in the same item) is beyond addictive.

That’s why I always request the same items, which are either not imported to Australia or are prohibitively expensive. (I’m looking at you, $7 box of cereal.)

My go-to junk foods, in no particular order, are:

  • Snyder’s pretzel chips
  • Starburst jellybeans
  • Triscuits
  • Grape Nuts
  • Heath bars

My friends have for so long been bringing me Snyder’s (if they’ve even visiting the States) or watched me stock up (when I’m visiting), that my friend Esther even gave me a couple of bags as a present when I was in Chicago. I supplemented it with the bags Sebastian brought me, which you can see above.

Being without my favorite junk food makes it all the more special. I try to spread out the gorging so it lasts as long as possible. But who am I kidding? Once the bag or box is open, I can’t stop.

Which is why it’s good I only get to eat it once a year…

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November 17, 2014 · 2:16 pm

Halloween 2014

Jetlag and Halloween don’t mix. Getting back Wednesday before the holiday on Friday didn’t give many options for costume-creating. Luckily, I scored a 1960s psychedelic print dress at a clothing swap a while back that I’d never worn.

I sorted through my costume closet for accessories, then whipped up a beehive hairdo and some period makeup (thanks to Pinterest plus taking my laptop into the bathroom to consult as I painted my face).

Alas, my jetlag kicked in before I got the chance to hit up any parties. I did, however, wear my ensemble to work — then met a good friend and gallivanted around Melbourne’s CBD for a couple of hours. The only problem? This being Melbourne — where not only do people not really celebrate Halloween, but also dress crazily any day of the year — I’m not sure most people realized I was dressed up!

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Filed under holidays

Taking Over The Internet, One Site at a Time

Honored. Thrilled. Tickled pink! That’s how I’ve felt this week when two of my favorite websites in Melbourne published profiles about me.

Girls Club

On Wednesday, I was featured on Girls Club. I met co-founder Fox Woods at a blogging event last year. This chance meeting turned into my writing an article about women’s networking groups (which was mentioned in the introduction, excerpted below). Over the past year, I’ve gone to several of the fabulous themed monthly meetups. Girls Club has yielded so many amazing opportunities, from being asked to give a talk at one of the months, to making friends with the other women, to being asked to be profiled for yet another website (which I will also blog about, never fear).

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Girls Club profile – photo by Lena Todorovski

Dear Theresa,

When I first met you, I could sense a kindred spirit… you were freelance writing for Time Out magazine and other organisations; curious about everything in the world around you; an explorer of places, people and events; wholeheartedly in support of girls & women being excellent to each other; and always trying new things and starting new things – like your Braidiance hair braiding classes, your WinWinWinters Facebook group that seeks out the best contests, giveaways and freebies, and The Plus Ones website, which highlights Melbourne’s best events!

Since then, you’ve written about Girls Club for the press, been a speaker at our 4 Short Talks event (speaking about “How to schedule awesomeness: go out every night, read dozens of books, and make it feel effortless!”), made friends everywhere you go, and generally been a fantastic human bean.

We’d love to hear your answers to our Girl Profile questions… and learn more about the world of Theresa.

Read the full profile, and check out the ongoing series. Many more stupendous ladies will be featured in the coming months, I’m sure.


Business Chic

Friday’s profile is on Cheryl Lin Rodstead’s fashion website, Business Chic – which I’ve been reading for years. I’d seen Cheryl at a few events without managing to say hello, so finally reached out to invite her to one of my hair braiding classes. Not only did she really enjoy herself, she asked if I would be photographed for her site. Um, yes, please. Lifelong goal to be photographed for a fashion blog: CHECK. (And just to show what a small city is: she previously partnered with Girls Club to take beautiful photos of some of its members.) Love the whole women-helping-women thing goin’ on!

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BusinessChic website

“Secret Lifers” are those people who work a job (or more!) but then pursue their passions at the very edges of their capabilities to live full and interesting lives. Some eventually make the switch to their passion like I have – trading in the IT audit gig for photography and personal styling – while others are completely content to keep their work and passions separate.

The thing I like about the secret lifers that I meet is that they are not defined solely by their “day job”, their relationships or even their interests – they are multi-faceted. They don’t make excuses like “I’m too old” or “I would if I had the time”; they just do it, they make the time. They worry less about “being perfect” and more about living the life they love. [...]

Theresa Winters is a Secret Lifer. I’ve followed her on Twitter for some years now and have marvelled at all of the things she does. She is American and yet contributes so much to her adopted home city of Melbourne; more than many Melburnites I know (me for one)! By day she works part-time in administration but she also contributes to some great publications, co-founds another AND finds time to run classes teaching braiding. Read on for more!

Love that description — sure makes me sound like a go-getter! Do take a look at the phenomenal pictures in my profile, which she managed to take on a sunny day in Carlton in about five minutes.


So, what did you think? And how about when I tell you I’m going to be profiled on two more websites in the coming months? It’s crazy!

Thank you SO much, Fox and Cheryl, for taking the time out of your own very busy lives to put these pieces together. You’re both phenomenal women, and I’m lucky to know you.

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Knitting and Crocheting Warm Fuzzies

The calendar says it’s officially spring in Australia, so I might not be getting much use this year out of my knitted and crocheted collection. All the more reason to show you what I have — and made — before it’s time to pack them away!

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My knitted and crocheted collection

Above, you can see my wonderful items. Clockwise from the top, we have:

The crocheted cowls I've created

The two crocheted cowls I’ve created

  1. the arm-knitted infinity scarf I made in July out of beautiful wool (see below).
  2. a crocheted cowl with buttons I made last year. It fits around my neck and looks a little like Claire from Outlander, which I like.
  3. knitted fingerless gloves, by my friend Sam, who is a fantastic knitter. She gave them to me for my 30th birthday, and I think of her every time I wear them. Love the color — not something I’d normally gravitate towards, but it looks fantastic with many of my winter coats.
  4. here’s a piece I commissioned from my cousin Jessica: a knitted hot water bottle cover. It goes over my German-made Fashy hot water bottle that my friend Rachel insisted I buy in New Zealand. (Jess, if you’re reading this: the ribbon came out and I’m using it as a bookmark, but I’ll put it back in when I finish the book, promise.)
  5. next up, we have a knitted scarf, also by my friend Sam. I’ve had this for years, and it finally made its way from the U.S. to Australia. Love the rainbow jewel tones — all of which I wear a lot.
  6. finally, there’s the pink/orange/yellow crocheted infinity scarf, made by yours truly. I crocheted it last year — it was the first time I’ve ever used more than one skein — but I couldn’t seem to keep the sides to go even. There was a moment when I showed it to my friend Angela. “My friend just loves the colors,” I said. “Yes,” responded Angela, “But does she like the shape?” Chuckle! So I never got around to wearing it last winter. But this year, infinity scarves/cowls became all the rage in Melbourne, and I turned it into one. I love wearing it with bright red lipstick and a white shirt, as you can see in the photo.

Arm-Knitting an Infinity Scarf

My (former) housemate Jen and I became obsessed with the idea of arm knitting after seeing a video about it in a Frankie magazine newsletter. “Takes 30 minutes!” the video trumpeted. So after a fortuitous happening upon of some gorgeous wool 50% off at a shop in Fitzroy, we thought we were in business. Taking it along to a crafternoon organised by my (current) housemate Jez, I attempted to watch the video on my phone. Nope. I don’t know how to knit, and the video went too fast.

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Casting on — our arms

Enter Leaona. A knitter (and sewer, and all kind of crafty things), she gamely came over to teach me how to arm knit. She even brought cupcakes to go along with my ginger shortbread.

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Help! I’m attached to my scarf!

The casting on was — just like regular knitting — the hardest part, but once it was firmly attached to my arms I really got the hang of it. The repetitiveness is quite soothing, and the huge thread made the very open weave look wonderful.

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Finished infinity scarves! (with 4th of July decorations in the background)

An hour later, we both had finished infinity scarves. I’ve worn mine out several times and get compliments galore. The best part is, if I decide I want to change things up, I can just take it apart and knit or crochet it into something else.

All of my handmade designs — either made by myself or from friends or family — make me feel not just warm on the outside, but warm on the inside, too. (Awwwwww.) If you’re a knitter or crocheter, make sure to give an item to someone this Christmas — there’s nothing like wrapping yourself up in a scarf or mittens made by a friend. And if you’ve ever wanted to give it a go, I highly recommend teaching yourself, or inviting a friend over to show you how. They might even bring cupcakes!

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Filed under Australia, DIY

Things I Love in August 2014

source: Pinterest

source: Pinterest

In no particular order:

  • Outlander, the television show*
  • Outlander, the book
  • sea shanties
  • the idea of learning how to play the spoons
  • specialised cutlery (three-tined forks for cake; serrated grapefruit spoons)
  • making candleholders out of glass jars
  • family trees
  • mulled wine, mulled cider, hot toddies

This is what’s exciting to me at this moment in time. What has you all hot’n’bothered?

*I lied…this first one IS in order

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Filed under Australia

Friendship Bark

‘See you out in the world sometime.’ That’s what they say when they leave Australia.

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An Englishman, a Mexican, two Kiwis, two Americans, an Aussie, a Malaysian, an Israeli, and a German walk into a bar and…

It goes in waves. Within a month’s time, I’ll have said goodbye to six friends. They’re off around the globe – either back to their home countries, or off to try out a different one for a while. Then off once more – back here, to somewhere else, to their homeland. Some are boomerangs: they come back to Australia for visits, or perhaps decades from now to retire. Who’s to say where we will all go, when we will see each other again, or where.

Friend Replacement Policy

I’ve been almost four years here in Australia. It happens, and happens again: friends come, they go, they mingle into my friend group, they leave after a while. Months or years – either way, they’re off on adventures. I’ve done it myself a fair few times: first London, Chicago, later, Wellington. Some friends of mine, the ones who stay put, make threatening remarks about people leaving. ‘I have a friend replacement policy,’ said one Wellington denizen. ‘When you leave you have to find me a new friend to take your place.’ Others take a more dour view: ‘Let me know exactly when you’re leaving so I can start to distance myself,’ a pal says. After all, there’s only so many times you can say farewell before you wonder: why be friends with these people at all, if they’re just going to leave you behind?

Generation Travel

Maybe I’m doing it to myself. After all, since I left the U.S. I’ve made a majority of friends through a travel website (CouchSurfing). Before that, you can trace a few Chicago buddies to an expat networking group (EuroCircle), or friends-of-friends from a university student organisation (International Illini). But it’s not just those on one-year working holiday visas. When I first moved to Melbourne, a closeknit friend group dissolved when everyone left, returning to France or the U.S. – even one of the Australians went off to Hong Kong. I was close to another Australian when I first arrived. She’s gone, too – back in Western Australia the last few years. Look at my high school friend group: I can count on one hand the friends still in Illinois; even less in their hometowns. Minnesota, California, Virginia, Colorado by way of Arizona. Is it our generation more mobile? Is it the American tendency to move counties or states? Everyone else’s to move countries? Perhaps it’s that we’re in our twenties and thirties, taking advantage of the time to be in many places.

Don’t Stop Believing…

I can never bring myself to stop making friends with someone just because I know they’re going to leave. For one thing, who knows if anyone will stay? The Australians leave Melbourne just as often. And eventually, I see everyone again: The American who moved to France (whom I met in New Zealand), well, we’ll be at the same friend’s wedding in Washington, DC. The Swede I met in Chicago? We saw each other when I was visiting Wellington and he was on his honeymoon. A Swiss guy I overlapped with in Illinois for a few months has become one of most frequent travel companions (we’re up to seven countries now). The Australians who left – to Perth and to Hong Kong – we always catch up when they’re in town. I spent the first six months of the year hanging out with an American I’d met in Wellington 3.5 years ago; we reconnected in Melbourne and became fast friends.

Moar Friends

The benefit of having a wide range of acquaintances (and, surprise, being an colossal extrovert) means I never lack for friends. The American friend I just mentioned went home last month; shortly after I made a new Brazilian friend I see just as much. The Swede left Chicago? Fine – I made a new pal out of a Québécois guy. When friends leave, it opens you up to new ones. If my American and Australian girlfriends had stayed in Melbourne, would I have befriended my wonderful Israeli and Mexican ones — or would I not have had the chance? And as I said, you’ll see all your friends again someday. We met travelling, or one or the other of us went off to travel. Travellers are travellers.

Friendship Bark

But still: the bark has been cut. It might heal, but there’s a scar underneath. Never again will the friend group be intact; never again will you live in the same city simultaneously. Your friend group adjusts, shifts to fill the gap almost immediately. But every now and then, you’ll be struck. Where’s M.? Where’s R.? Where’s B. or O. or C. or D.? Or any of the J.s?

They’re gone.

Just as you are to the friends you left before, and the friends you’ll leave in future.

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Filed under Australia, friends