heartmindtummy

From Malaysia to Melbourne and now Michigan, sharing my experiences, tales and passions with anyone who will listen (or read)!

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D Date

2016 started with so much promise. The promise that our lives were going to change forever. And change forever it did.

Today, the 4th of August 2016, was meant to be my due date. Instead of celebrating new life, we grieved for the baby girl we never got to know. Instead, we closed on a new home today. As if the year hasn’t been eventful enough, we’re going to throw buying and moving into a new home into the mix. Because I just loooooooove packing and unpacking. (NOT!)

We are incredibly lucky to have great family and friends in Michigan and around the world, and so many of them came through for us when we needed it the most. Thank you; you know who you are. Thank you for the support, the company, the laughter, the hugs, the tears, the weetbix, lollies, magazines, meals, phone calls, text messages, tv shows, everything!

I thought long and hard about sharing this. I am not looking for condolences and sympathy. What ultimately spurred me to share is that I was once upon a time fairly ignorant of how high the chances are that a woman does not carry a pregnancy to term. I felt shame, like I had failed somehow in this very important task of being a woman and a wife (and wannabe mum). Since my own experience, I’ve learnt that it may be more common than we realise, but we don’t hear about it because really, who wants to go around sharing that traumatic experience with everyone? But if I can make one person feel comforted to know that she is not alone (as my friends have done for me), then I think I’ve made the right decision. It doesn’t mean that it sucks any less; believe you me, I would give anything to have my baby girl, and I’d hope that no one ever has to experience what we went through. But I want you, whoever ‘you’ may be, to know that I am here should you ever need someone to talk to, or a shoulder to cry on.

I know we are lucky in many ways. I’m trying to look to the future and what that might hold. Hopefully lots of great times and happy memories. But in the back of my mind, she’ll always be there. Always.

 

B. x

 

 

 

 

Grateful

This move has brought many changes to our lives (duh, picking up our lives and moving to the furthest point of the world possible) and granted, not all these changes are easy – leaving friends and family behind, established relationships, careers, selling the beautiful home we had only recently bought – but I shouldn’t complain. Yes, the move has had its challenges, but we are lucky in that we have essentially been given the opportunity to live in a different country, and it was essentially a lifeline. Without this opportunity, it is likely that we would have been down to one income with a large mortgage, and my husband would probably have had to retrain in a different field in order for us to stay in Melbourne. But here we are instead, with a great group of people that we like, who are going through a similar experience, and we are not as alone as some other families who move to a new country may be.

I say this because I recently came across an article that reminded me how lucky we are. Read it here.

Yes, we are lucky. We moved to Detroit, found a house that we liked within a week, and bought it. 5 days after moving in, Michigan had its heaviest ever rainfall in one day, causing flooding everywhere and chaos. Some photos from the Detroit Free Press can be seen here (whether they are in fact the ’10 most astounding photos’ of the floods, I’m not really convinced but it does give you a good idea of what happened). We arrived home to find a leak in our basement, water seeping out from one of the beams, and best of all, water coming into the main power box in our basement, via an insulation tube that was connected to something outside the house. Dangerous, much?! That discovery was really scary. As we carried our belongings (still in boxes) upstairs, I felt bummed, thinking, how could this happen? Has it happened before? If so, why didn’t the previous owners fix it? Why would they sell the house with such a dangerous situation for someone else to deal with?

IMG_20140815_104325The next day, driving around the neighbourhood, I realised that other people had it far worse than we did. Furniture, black garbage bags full of belongings, were being disposed of, damaged by the water in their basements. Here are some ways we were lucky that night:

My husband had to return our rental car that night. He left work at 5 pm as roads began to flood in certain areas. He managed to get return the rental car just on time, despite the traffic and making a couple of detours to get around badly flooded roads. Had he not had to do this errand, he may have stayed at work later and not been able to get home. We didn’t lose the rental car or our brand new car in the flood, as many people did 😦

Other basements actually flooded. In ours, I think the water wasn’t able to pool due to 2 drainage holes in the floor that had been left uncovered. Any water that came through made its way via the sloping floors towards these 2 drainage holes. The uneven floor had previously bothered my husband and he had planned to seal them up. I don’t think we will anymore…

Our belongings were still in the boxes they were shipped in, so all we needed to do was pick those boxes up and move them to higher ground, whereas if we had unpacked and had an ‘occupied’ basement, as most families do, we might not have been able to clear our belongings out quickly enough.

The water coming through the mains power board didn’t short circuit our house, a fact that I find REMARKABLE considering how much water was dripping out of that box!

SO. I am grateful. Back to our new house in general, the next time I think that our kitchen is too small, I will remind myself at least I HAVE a working kitchen and a roof over our heads. That that leaky mains didn’t spark and cause greater damage. That we found out about the leaks before embarking on a big project of refurbishing the basement. Imagine if we had done that and then having it flooded or rained out afterwards. And that this has given us the nudge that we needed to work on the basement sooner rather than later. 

More broadly, it was a timely reminder to look at the positives and not dwell on the negatives, which is sometimes easier to do.

Positives so far today: 4 people said hi or smiled as I walked past them this morning. 2 were kids with their backs to me as they were playing. I walked past them without a word but they looked up when they heard footsteps and called out ‘hi!’ as I walked past. What a friendly bunch. I think I’m going to like our new neighbourhood.

2nd positive: Found Bundaberg Ginger Beer in a store less than 10 minutes from home. Score!

Have a great weekend everyone! Hope YOU find lots of things to smile about. I’m looking forward to the Woodward Cruise tomorrow!

x

Simplicity 2255 done -finally!

So it’s finally done. Simplicity 2255, variation D. I chose this pattern because I used to have a store-bought top in a similar style that I loved. It was a navy blue seersucker fabric and with that image in mind, I chose a blue seersucker fabric for this project. Probably not the best choice because 1. Seersucker has a fair amount of stretch in it whereas this top required some precise cutting of the fabric to ensure it fit well and the front sections (plackets, if I must be technical) match up at the neckline, as well as at the hem; and 2. There’s a fair bit of pressing/ironing required, so you end up almost ironing out the feature that makes seersucker so unique in the first place.

Anyway, it took me far longer to complete an ‘easy to sew’ pattern than I anticipated, to the point where I was getting quite disillusioned about my sewing ‘skills’! It was taking me so long to sew the body (I am pedantic about some things so lines had to be as straight as I could get them), then I got to the neckline and my brain couldn’t process what I was supposed to do for the neck facing! After a week off over the 4th of July, I worked out what I was meant to do with that, but then when it came to sewing the buttonholes, well, that nifty sewing machine that I bought? Buttonholes should have been a breeze, right! Wrong! Everytime I had to sew the next buttonhole, the machine seemed to sew it in different directions, so I ended up unpicking and unpicking whenever it started in the direction I wasn’t expecting it to… did I mention I’m a bit of a perfectionist?! 🙂 In my mind, I had spent so long on and had put so much effort into making this top so far that there was no way I was going to have unevenly spaced buttons if I could help it. As it turned out, every buttonhole is a different distance to the next one haha. Oh well. It still looks pretty good, I think!

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I had orignally wanted to make variation A, but wanted to use this as a ‘practice’ run, thinking the capped sleeves would be easier than long sleeves. The fabric I’ve purchased for variation A however is slightly slippery and stretchy so I may get something that is easier to work with for that top. I might also attempt to make something else (I’m thinking maxi dress) before I make a second shirt. This experience has just been a little harrowing 😉

P.s. if anyone can tell me how to ensure my automatic buttonholes start in the same direction, that would be GREATLY appreciated!

Some rhythm (and blues)

So after 3 and a bit weeks, I think I’ve established some rhythm to my days and weeks. Well, as much rhythm and structure as someone without work and kids could have…

I got a new sewing machine a couple of weeks ago:

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In some ways, it’s fancier than the Janome I left behind in Oz (boo), but you can tell that in other ways the Janome is a different class of sewing machine. But I’m looking forward to doing lots with this baby anyway.

I made a top within the first 2 or 3 days. I’d been very busy for the last year or so, and hadn’t made many garments in that time, so I decided to start with a simple pattern to get me back into the groove. It’s pretty basic, and off a ‘learn to sew’ pattern, but was up my alley in terms of style and wearibility so I was quite happy to start there. So here’s the first top I made in Detroit:

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I’m now working on my next top. It’s taking much longer than anticipated, as I’m having difficulty deciohering what I’m supposed to do with the neck facing, but I love how it looks so far and really can’t wait to be able to wear it! Here is a ‘WIP’ shot:

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I’ve also been driving a little more, to get practice in and help me prepare for my driving test. There have been some hairy I moments (driving in a heavy downpour with poor visibility, among others), but otherwise it actually hasn’t been too hard or bad. That said, I try to keep relatively close to home and haven’t ventured onto highways in peak traffic yet.

It’s inevitable that a move of this sort would involve some ‘down’ moments, and I’ve had a couple of those. My husband has been working fairly long hours during the week, so it’s quite quiet in our apartment during the week. Currently the World Cup keeps me entertained for a bit, so will be interesting when that finishes up mid-July!!

We’re in Traverse City for a couple of days with some friends and I’ll post about that when we return to D-town.

A week (and a half) into life in the D

We’ve been here a week and a half now. I haven’t written as often as I’d planned, partly because of a certain internet ‘issue’ but that’s ok. Let’s talk about the last week! Heads up, this is going to be a long post. So get comfy, and I hope I don’t offend anyone when I espouse my view as a spouse, if you know what I mean 😉

I have mainly been at home during the day, while my husband has been at work. Originally, we weren’t able to pick up the rental car provided by the company because neither of us qualified (in their opinion) prior to getting here. A driver service was provided, and we were told that we could use the driver as much as we needed to, but this was awkward for a number of reasons:

1. The driver was not literally at our disposal. He required 24 hours’ notice for any trips we wanted to take. This was hard when we sometimes didn’t know where would need to be next e.g. meeting with the real estate agent, a quick trip to the supermarket (don’t forget that you have to rebuild your pantry and household basics), and so forth.

2. The driver also had other work to tend to (fair enough, considering this sort of work is pretty ad hoc) so would go and do that in between driving us around. What was I supposed to say to that, sorry, I need you to take me shopping?

3. I’m not used to getting someone to do things for me! This caught me by surprise, considering I grew up in Malaysia, where both my parents worked and as children we had extra-curricular activities and tuition classes galore! Because of this, I had been taken to school etc by a driver since the time I was about 7, to the time I left home at 17. Ever since I got my driver’s license at the age of 17 however, I have loved the freedom of driving myself anywhere and anytime I felt like it. In Australia, I took public transport as much as I could too, and loved the convenience that could offer. Therefore, the concept of relying on a driver was a little strange and I imagine most of you would feel the same.

4. The ‘need’ to go out and go somewhere is relative – I may feel like I need to go somewhere, but would the driver and/or company paying for the driver service feel the same way? We don’t have kids, so I didn’t have a reason to go out to look for schools, shop for school uniforms, and the like. Everywhere I wanted to go was for myself and somehow that made me feel selfish.

BUT we now have our rental car, so we are independent once again!! 🙂 We got to see more of the areas around us while running errands this weekend. No more having to worry about how long someone’s been waiting for you in the car! (I should emphasise here that there was nithing wrong with assigned our driver. He was really nice, just that the whole arrangement felt strange).

I would love to get out and explore the cities during the week, but am unfamiliar with the areas etc so I can’t wait for everyone else to get here and explore with me! In that way, there is at least safety in numbers 🙂

With so much time spent at home, I have been watching a lot of TV! And doing some thinking. What have I learnt that could make the move across easier for someone else? Since most spouses will be in a similar situation to me (i.e. not being able to work straightaway), I’ve compiled some notes that I’m hoping you can use to help with your move to D-town.

1. What will remind you of home?

When we packed, we made sure to pack the necessities – the things we thought we needed for the next 3 months. Everything else could go into the shipping container. Or so we thought. My advice would be to make sure you have one or 2 things that provide you comfort. For example, I am planning to sew a bit to keep myself occupied – I still need to get a sewing machine – so I made sure to pack a couple of patterns and some fabric with me. Not a whole heap, but probably enough to make a couple of things. If you’re the sort of person who loves scented candles or oils, bring one that you love, because you don’t want to get here, move into a new apartment or house, be away from home, and have it smell so different to what you’re used to. It’s the little things. Sure, you’d probably be able to find some here, but it may take time to find it and may be further down in the list of priorities after finding accommodation, schools, furniture shopping, grocery shopping, setting up a bank account, getting your social security number, etc. And if you love vegemite and peanut butter, bring some of that too. And bring some for me please! 😉 I love peanut butter, but all the ones I’ve tasted here are really thick and sludgy. Urgh.  

2. Contacts are important

Needless to say, when you move to a new place, knowing who to call and when is important. But don’t forget those at home too!  

At home – make sure your friends know how to reach you and that they keep in contact, particularly in the first week or two, while you are finding your feet. This in itself may be hard, as Detroit is currently 14 hours behind Melbourne, so you’d only get to speak to them early in the morning or at night. The rest of the time you are awake, i.e. during the day when your partner is at work, your friends back home will be asleep. But if you have a viber or whatsapp account, make sure they know you are still contactable on those accounts.  

If you have been relying on a work phone and laptop/tablet or don’t have your own mobile phone, laptop/tablet, consider getting one, and a SIM card that works overseas. It doesn’t take long to do. The point of this is to make sure that when you get to the US, you have something to use in case of emergency, and you’re not under pressure to get to a store to buy a SIM card on the first day. And make sure your family and closest friends have your new contact details!  

In Detroit – don’t be afraid to reach out for assistance if you need it, or just need to talk to someone. Don’t forget that there are other spouses who are here as well, who are likely to want to get out and explore the new areas, and are also looking for company. There is a lot to be gained from other peoples’ knowledge and experiences. We’ll do our best to share what we know, but we don’t want to intrude too much on your space, so let us know if you need more help. I am compiling a list of contact numbers and email addresses that I will share with the group (with everyone’s consent, of course), so I’m hoping will help assist other spouses in this process.  

If you are planning on getting an American mobile number and are flying to LA from Melbourne, consider getting a SIM card from a stand located near Bar Pulpo by Mo Vida (once you past customs). T-Mobile, particularly, has an add-on to their plans that allows unlimited calls to Oz.  

Make sure you have (on your phone and/or in hard copy) contact numbers for people/services that you need or can rely on. I’d advise writing it down somewhere as well, because as good as technology is, batteries have a finite life, and in the unfortunate event that your mobile phone battery goes flat or worse still, your phone goes missing, those written numbers will come in handy.  

3. Change your contact details with the banks etc  

Our bank didn’t allow us to change our address or contact phone number to an overseas address and number via internet banking. We had to call to do this. If you know your new number and address before you leave Oz, it would help to change it before you leave. This serves a few purposes:
– makes it easier to receive verification SMSs. You don’t want the hassle of swapping SIM cards around, as Murphy’s law would of course dictate that the need to do this would arise at THE most inconvenient times.
– for the bank to contact you if they want to query an unusual/potentially fraudulent transaction on your account. As you will probably be relying on your Australian credit card when you first get here, your bank may wonder why you have a flurry of transactions on the other side of the world. If they can’t reach you, they may just block your credit card from further use until they are able to verify that it is indeed you who is using the card. It would only take a phone call to rectify, but it would be another thing to worry about in a foreign land.
 
4. Recipes

Food in the US is quite different to home – you may already have realised this on your look-see visit. If you like to cook, I would suggest bringing along some basic recipes that you have tried, and liked, with you when you come over. Don’t forget that you will need to rebuild your pantry, so if your recipes have fewer ingredients (or many ingredients in common), that may help. Spices are expensive in the supermarkets here, on average about $5 per bottle, so you may not want to have to buy them all at the same time.  

5. Make new friends

Whether this is within the Australian contingent coming over, or in the local community, this will probably help you feel settled more quickly. I love sport, and have found that every time I have moved to a new city – I’ve lived in 5 cities; this is my 4th since leaving home 14 years ago – finding a team or group to play with has been very helpful for making friends. Try meetup.com to locate a group with similar interests to you. They seem to have something for mothers, crafters, singles, sporty types, beer lovers, wine lovers, even wild food foragers! (If you play futsal, and want to start a team, let my husband and I know!). You could even choose to volunteer to really get stuck into a community. Whatever it is, have a look and you’re bound to find something for you. Or ‘ave a go at something new!  

So those are a few (quick!) tips that I hope will help you with the move. Once you get here, unpack as soon as you can. It’ll help you feel more settled and sure beats digging for stuff out of suitcases every day!

I really can’t wait for everyone to get here. x

We’re here!

The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind, with some relaxation and catch-up time built in, and we find ourselves finally here in Detroit.

The flight was comfortable, and relatively uneventful (good, when you are up in the air, I say!).

I will post about the move process in the coming days or weeks, but will leave you with some tidbits from our trip over:

1. The customs officer at LAX was the most friendly one we’ve come across in the U.S. He asked what we were here for, and on hearing of my husband’s work, proceeded to make conversation about the recent events in the news. He clearly found himself quite entertaining, but so did we. And a smile from a U.S. customs officer is so rate, let alone friendly banter!

2. I don’t usually keep a lookout for these things, but one of the flight attendents on the second flight had obviously had a lot of botox done. Either that, or she’s perfected the art of the ‘service smile’ – you know the one, where someone’s mouth smiles, but not the rest of their face 🙂

3. Some may think that Detroit is a hole that no one wants to come to, but if this is truly the case, how come the L.A.-Detroit flight was completely chockers?

4. Here are a couple of photos that I took one the LAX-Detroit flight. I need to find out what exactly they were! I’m guessing the one with snow is of the Rockies?

 

Flight Photo 1

 

Flight Photo 2

Moving day

The movers are here!

Productivity in Uncertainty

I hate the feeling of being in limbo, and for the third time in 3 years, I face uncertainty in employment once again.

To keep my mind off this, and to help me relax, we went away for a 4 day weekend (took the Monday off, and Tuesday was Melbourne Cup day so a public holiday in metro Melbourne).

Spent the Sat night camping with friends in the Grampians, and then late on Sunday, after a couple of walks, headed to the parents-in-law’s place for a couple of nights. There, I started on a couple of sewing projects that I have been putting together in my mind for a couple of weeks. I say ‘putting together’ because I don’t have much experience in sewing to begin with, but looked at various blogs and patterns and constructed designs in my head. Risky, but for some inexplicable reason, I was confident.

Ta-da!

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The top photos are of a baby change mat/nappy wallet that I made for a friend who is due in a month. Sophisticated on the outside, in her words, it gives nothing away to the fact that it has Thomas the Tank Engine on the inside! Had I had a bit more time, I probably would have added one or two other features to the bag, but I was happy enough (and too excited to not give it to her straightaway). Hey, I taught myself (with the help of a certain search engine) to make a buttonhole, so who am I to be dissatisfied? 🙂

The bag at the bottom is a lunch bag. I had initially planned to make a shopping/grocery bag, but in my wisdom, decided to combine features of 2 bags I found online (see what I mean by ‘inexplicably confident’?) and once I had cut the fabric, realised that the finished product was going to be too small for that purpose. So it will now be the bag that I carry my lunch in. I love it. I learnt to make a square/flat bottom on this one. And a loop handle. Yay!

I only learnt to sew sometime in the last year or so, so I’m pretty happy with these and feeling really adventurous. The next thing I’d like to make is a dress. I may start with a top. We’ll see!

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Lamb & Quinoa Salad, Baked Eggs, and Panko Chicken Schnitzel Sandwich

Husband and I met the recipient of the nappy wallet for lunch today and luckily, she liked the gift. And for a while, she couldn’t really tell that it was homemade. I could have pointed out all the things that I knew were not quite right about it, but I was able to stop myself! Lunch was at Miss Jackson in St Kilda, and the staff were lovely. The food and coffee were pretty good too!

We got home (was NOT looking forward to having to catch up on the housework) and soon it was time to think about dinner. Husband had picked up some Tuscan Kale / Cavolo Nero from the market, so dinner was based on this scrumptious recipe: http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/20672/pasta+carbonara+with+tuscan+cabbage

Back to work tomorrow. It feels like Sunday today, so hopefully this will feel like a very short week!

Little things

The weekend is only half over but I will look back on it as one that reminded me that kind gestures, no matter how small, can make someone’s day.

Last night, I attended a surprise birthday party that a friend’s wife had spent the last week organising for him. We snuck into their home while they were put at dinner, and he was truly touuched and surprised to see about 20 people there when he got home. Ahh, warm and fuzzy.

The second reminder resulted from an impulse online purchase that I made for a gift for my manager’s sister, whom I have never met, but through my manager, I know she has had quite a difficult pregnancy and I felt for her. The item is really for the daughter she is expecting, a very small gift in the scheme of things. But, I love shopping as much for others as I do for myself, and it was an instant decision to purchase this particular item. As such, I was very surprised by the reaction I got when I first gave it to my manager at work yesterday, and again when she gave it to her sister today.

It was a valuable lesson that a gesture, no matter how small, means a lot to the recipient. It doesn’t have to be a big or expensive gift. And if your actions are genuine, you somehow feel equally touched that they appreciated what you did. I guess kindness really does make the world go round.

Selamat Hari Raya!

The tenants of the house I mentioned in my last post moved out during the week and we were able to get a much better look at the place yesterday. Unfortunately, we decided that it would be too complicated to fix up, so it’s back to hunting.

One thing I enjoy about our Saturdays spent house hunting is the opportunity to try out new cafes in our potential new neighbourhood. Yesterday, we had coffee at Luca Haus (coffee was good, pastries were OK but for some reason were served to us unheated) and lunch at West 48 (below).

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Yummy…

Today is Hari Raya Aidilfitri (or Eid as it is more widely known as in Australia) so to commemorate the occasion, I tried to make a Malaysian meal, which I rarely attempt. I usually prefer to eat out if I want something authentic, as I have no doubt that it would be far nicer than anything I make myself.

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The photo’s a little dark, but it’s essentially nasi tumpang, beef serunding, ikan bilis sambal, and bok choy (for some greens). Served with fried onion and hard boiled egg on the side, it made a great meal (even though it wasn’t 100% accurate!).

Happy Eid to all Muslims out there!