I’m not offended easily but if there’s one sure way to offend me, it’s to call me busy. “Oh I’d love to catch up, but I know you’re busy” “Mel, you are so busy – you do too much.” And today’s “Hi Mel, I know you are busy, but I have another busy thing for you to think about.” I don’t think calling someone busy is a common way to offend, but it strikes a chord with me because it involves a judgement. In one’s assumption that I am busy, or too busy, they are assuming I am not interested in them or that I don’t have time for them. More than that, I think I interpret them as questioning my priorities and my ability to balance them. The reality is I’m not busy and I’m definitely not too busy. Don’t get me wrong, there have been times when I have been stressed because I had a lot on my plate. I remember to a time about three years ago when I was studying full time, worked two part-time jobs (saving for exchange to America), lead Sunday school at church and helped out an afternoon kids program and lead a bible study group at university. I also managed to attend evening church, two bible studies and play netball one afternoon a week. Every day for five months I just moved from one thing to the next, familiarising myself with the quiet hours of the morning to complete essays. That was a time when I was too busy. Friends told me I dropped off the face of the earth. And I see now I did. But now, post-study and working full-time, I question Rowan Kemp‘s statements that “At uni, you have all the time in the world. You will never have as much time as you do now.” He said it many times during my four years at the University of Sydney, but I’m just not feeling it. I don’t have assignments to do when I get home, I’m no longer leading in energy intensive roles for the Sydney University Evangelical Union and I don’t move from one thing to the next. Days now are very routine. I wake at 6, leave at 7. Start work at 8.30. Take lunch at 1. Leave at 4.30. Arrive home and eat at 6. Go to sleep at 10. I limit myself to two, max three evenings out midweek and must must must be in bed by 10.30pm so I can function and be a good worker the following day. What is unaccounted for is two hours commuting and two or three hours each evening, a total of five hours per day midweek and then weekends. I’ve got more time now than I’ve ever had before! Today, I told someone today not to think of me as busy, but engaged, active and/or energetic. Unfortunately I did turn down the request for my assistance because I’ve just taken on a new project that will stop me from doing today’s request well. Working full-time means making decisions about how to spend your time, what and who you invest in.  I’m still working it out. But while I do, please don’t think I’m too busy. The nights where I sit at home drinking a glass of wine, reading a book or catching up on the latest episode of the latest tv series are no longer few and far between. I love people. I love to chat with people. I love to do things for people. I love to bake for people. I love to organise people. Please don’t think I’m too busy for you. Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
Working for a university, I am often out of my depth writing overviews, promoting events or captioning images because I have no idea what the research, event or photo is of.  Don’t even get me started when I’m on the phone or in person and have to say a particular research area or facility. (Try saying Microscopy, it’s not as easy as it seems!) Anyway, yesterday I was trying to source images for a brain and mind research facility at the university and amongst cute photos of kids sliding Iron Man in a PVC pipe in preparation of an MRI, I found Stuart Little. The once singing, dancing and flying mouse was here stuck in – something. With what it appears to be four cameras on him, Stuart looks starstruck. The longer I looked at it the more disturbed I became. Where was Stuart’s body. What was happening to him? I’ve never really been one for animals and I’m far from a PETA ambassador, but I’m still a little unsettled by this photo – although I accept, better little Stuart than a human. Take a look for yourself.   Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
I spent at least $75 on eating out this week, including two days when I purchased breakfast, lunch AND dinner. It wasn’t my worst week, but it wasn’t my best week either. Working full time means having money, more money than I did for the five years I spent at university. Having money means I tap my grey and yellow debit card without a great deal of concern – I always know there’s money in there. But I’ve realised I’m becoming careless. Careless is dangerous. Careless is being lazy and buying breakfast and lunch at work. Careless is spending $75 on food. So today I was inspired. Cue an afternoon of cheesy movies and cooking up a storm of soup. Mainly for my record keeping, recipes below.   Creamy Pumpkin soup with a dash of cream (Adjusted in classic-Mel style from Taste.com.au‘s Creamy pumpkin soup) Dash of olive oil 1 small onion, roughly chopped 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped 600g peeled, chopped butternut pumpkin 1/2 sweet potato, chopped 2 carrots, roasted then chopped 1/2 leek, chopped 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg 3 cups (750ml) chicken stock dash of thickened cream 1. Saute onion and garlic. Add vegetables and nutmeg, then toss to coat. Meanwhile roughly chop some carrots, drizzle with oil and season. Roast until mostly done or you’re impatient. 2. Add stock and 2 cups (500ml) water, then bring to the boil. Add roasted carrots sometime. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 25 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Cool slightly. 3. Blend the bajeebers out of it until smooth. Stir in the dash of cream, then season.    Tomato and roasted capsicum soup (Mainly made up with the assistance of I’m a star tomato soup and Roasted capsicum soup. Dash of olive oil 1 small onion, diced 2 garlic gloves, diced 1 potato, peeled and chopped 2 cans of tomatoes ~500mL of chicken stock random assortment of Italian sounding herbs 1/2 red capsicum, big slices 1/2 cup of macaroni or another random small pasta Dash of balsamic vinegar Pinch of sugar 1. Saute garlic and onion. Add tomatoes, stock, potato and herbs. Simmer. 2. Drizzle capsicum with oil. Roast until skin is black-ish and peels off. 3. Remove skin (most of it anyway) and add to pot. Simmer until potato is soft. 4. Cook up some pasta. Drain. 5. Blend that baby. Add pasta. Season with sugar, salt and pepper.   Cauliflower soup without crispy panchetta (My Kitchen Rules recipe without panchetta because it had funky green growth). 1L (4 cups) chicken stock 1 small cauliflower, cut into florets 2 tbs butter 1 tbs olive oil 1 small onion, peeled, diced 1 small leek, sliced 1 garlic glove, peeled, diced Dash of thickened cream 1 tsp wholegrain mustard 1. Place stock and cauliflower in large saucepan. Boil. Reduce heat and simmer until soft. 2. Heat butter and oil in frypan. Saute leek, onion and garlic. Add to cauliflower saucepan. 3. Add dash or two of thickened cream. Blend like crazy. 4. Add mustard. Season.     Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
…but i’m currently out of the office. I will respond to your email when I return. Out of office emails are poorly formatted , incredibly boring and, truly, a double edge sword. 1. Their immediacy is annoying. Annoying because you sent the email because you need something and now you find out you’re going to have to wait longer for the recipient to respond. 2. But, their receipt is genuinely helpful – well, when a timeframe is given. Recently Mashable posted ‘The 9 best out-of-office emails to get you ready for vacation,’ causing me to reflect on this very boring but office staple. I try to be an fairly upbeat person in the office. I smile. I laugh. I listen. I tell stories. It’s makes the office a much friendlier environment. When I am on leave from the office, I try, in a roundabout way to be the same. I try to weave in a polite but amusing statement in my out-of-office response, in hope I evoke at least a smile on the people who email me (and get frustrated by my absence). Most recently, I returned from the snow to have someone say in the first 30mins, my auto-reply made them laugh and she actually passed it on to another few people in the office. That’s my aim: make the small and banal just a little bit more interesting. Here’s two recent replies: “Hi there, Thanks for your email. Unfortunately for you I’m in sunny Perth right now and will not be returning to Sydney until Wednesday 4 April. I will be sure to respond to your request then. If your email is urgent, please contact… Enjoy the rain, Melanie.”   “Hi there, Thanks for your email. I’m currently on leave carving up the slopes – the snow was too good to pass up. I will be back in the office on Monday 7 July. If your email is urgent, please contact… See you on the flip side, Melanie.”   Yesterday my boss was sick. Her out of office was something along the lines of: “Hi, i’m out of the office sick today however I will be responding to urgent emails. Thanks.” Professional but uninteresting. Here’s a smile worthy version: “Hi, I’m out of the office buying shares in Lemsip today. However, I will be responding the urgent emails. Thanks.” Try it out. Aim for professional, but smile-worthy. UPDATE 2 OCTOBER 2014 Thanks for your emails. Your email is important to me but remaining upbeat, energetic and smiling is more important so I’m currently enjoying a few days of unplugged annual leave. But please don’t fret, I’ll be back recharged and at your service on Thursday 2 October. If your email can’t wait until then, please contact… UPDATE 19 DECEMBER 2014: Here’s my Christmas/New Year 2014/15 out of office message: Deck the halls with boughs of holly, Fa la la la la, la la la la. ‘Tis the season to be jolly, Fa la la la la, la la la la. We’re now finished and the uni closed, Fa la la, la la la, la la la. A welcome break that is 100% unopposed. Fa la la, la la la, la la la. We won’t be open ‘til two zero one five. Fa la la, la la la, la la la. January five is the date we will back alive, Fa la la, la la la, la la la. But I’ll be hiking down a small hill called Kozi, Fa la la, la la la, la la la. I’ll return on Tuesday 6 Jan, you see. Fa la la, la la la, la la la. Your emails can hopefully wait ‘til then, Fa la la, la la la, la la la. Because really, truly there’s no real option, Fa la la, la la la, la la la. It’s been a great year for us in Marketing, Fa la la, la la la, la la la. I look forward to all that the new year will bring. Fa la la, la la la, la la la. Merry Christmas and a happy new year!   Update 4 March 2015: Aloha Thanks for your email. I’m out of the office at the moment. You can find me: a)   At a beach b)   On a boat c)   On a beach or boat with a mai tai in my hand d)   Or somewhere else entirely. Yes, unfortunately for you I’m in Hawai’i. I’ll be back on Thursday 5 March to attend to your every need. If your email can’t wait until then, please contact … Mahalo! Melanie Update 25 March 2015: I’m out of the office today lying horizontal in a dark room. It’s unlikely my aching head will be able to process your request. All medicinal drugs considered, I’ll hopefully be back tomorrow – Wednesday 25 March. If your email requires immediate attention, please contact … Melanie Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
Dearest Elizabeth, Happy birthday! Thank you for inviting me to celebrate your birthday. Unfortunately business here prevents me from joining with you physically, however please know I am celebrating in spirit here.  Late nights, slow mornings, socialising with friends, a quiet blanket and book and guilt-free afternoons binge watching TV series; I am incredibly joyful. Your generosity in granting a day to celebrate you is appreciated, however I must confess I don’t always remember your birthday. The pick-me-up of a long weekend on the horizon is exactly what I need to interrupt the humdrum of working life, however with four under our belts this year, the significance of each begins to wane. Particularly so with this one – your birthday. See Lizzie, we’ve celebrated Australia Day, Easter, ANZAC Day – all significant days in our history. But then you come up, I can never remember if it’s Labor Day or your birthday, only it’s the beginning of the ski season – although there’s never any snow, also the beginning of the epic mid-season sales and finally brings back memories of travelling around the state for Netball NSW State Championships. Your birthday is being exploited, and I’m certainly guilty. But see Lizzie, no one remembers you. When it was my birthday earlier this year I organised a small party. Before sending out invitations of the Facebook variety, I had conducted pre-checks with the important people to ensure I wouldn’t sit in a bar alone. Having one’s birthday forgotten is devastating, and this is exactly what we, Australians, are doing to you. We’ve moved it to a more convenient time for us, acknowledging the anniversary of your birth is actually 21 April, because June just works a little better for us, you know? Even more so, I’m celebrating other birthdays this weekend – a total of six people: Teagan, Bek, James, Roslyn, Kimjeng and Lisa. I’m celebrating with them because I value their friendship. I’m not celebrating with them out of obligation. In primary school I was invited to the birthday party of that weird boy, well me and every other kid in the class. See with no specificity in who you invite to celebrate with you, the whole affair becomes a little impersonal. And so Lizzie, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I overlook your birthday in selfish pursuit of a day away from the office. I’m sorry I neglect you from my thinking, forgetting the monarchial leader from a far away land symbolically overlooking our affairs and not being thankful. But in reality, we’ve had enough.  We are young and we truly want to be free. Yours sincerely in sovereignty – our sovereignty, Melanie   ps. I for one think June is a great time of year for Independence Day. #justsaying Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)