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30.9.09

Sleepy JM

I've hit one of those times when I have so much to do with five tours running in October (starting the 5th) along with - crossing fingers - the launch of my ebook for authors who want to promote via guest posting.

I have two to-do lists: urgent and non-urgent. Thankfully the non-urgent one is longer than the urgent.

Because I'm tired and work-focused at the moment, I have a challenge for you...

My three year anniversary of arriving in Australia is coming up on October 11th. So what's the challenge? I don't know what to do!

I officially throw open the suggestion doors. Suggest anything you want. I make no promises, but I can't think of anything. Preferably something reasonably cheap, but don't let that stop you from something you think is truly fun or awesome.

So, readers...

What should I do for my three year Australia anniversary?

29.9.09

The Cricketers Bar – The Best Bathrooms in Melbourne

I know, I know; this has to be one of the strangest post titles I’ve come up with. But bear with me.

A sporty, cozy kind of bar on Spring street and across from Parliament Station, the Cricketers Bar sees a wide assortment of patrons. From politicians to stray tourists, plenty of people wander in for a drink and a chat to the friendly staff.

You’d never guess (except for some of the patrons in fancier attire) that you’re drinking at part of the Windsor Hotel.

With memorabilia of cricket from days gone past on the walls, there is plenty to look at and talk about. Not that socializing is ever on the decline. The place is small but comfortable, making for a great place to relax – especially on a hot day after work.

Now for the explanation of the title.

The Cricketers Bar, part of the Windsor Hotel, has the best bathrooms I’ve ever had the pleasure of relieving myself in. They’re not just big. They’re not just fancy. They’re awesome. Tiled floors, fancy lights, wooden doors… Think of a grotty pub bathroom and then try to imagine the complete opposite.

Don’t just take my word for it. Go and have a drink. When the time strikes, I’m sure you’ll be at least half as surprised as I was.

They’re impressive. Trust me.

28.9.09

Multicultural Melbourne

Melbourne is different than a lot of cities around the world – obviously it’s Australian - but also, it is unique even for Australia.

Melbourne is a city of variation, one where a visitor can find pockets of almost pure nationalities from around the world. In Carlton, just to the North-east of the city block, Italy rules and as one travels beyond the CBD (Central Business District) there are Asian areas, Greek, Turkish and many more. Something like 130 nationalities are represented here.

What this means is Melbourne could claim to be the culinary capital of the world with a serious chance of making it stick. With Thai, Indonesian, Malaysian, Chinese of several types, Korean, Japanese, Indian, Sri Lankhan, Tibetan, Nepalese, Lebanese, Turkish, Greek, Italian, Spanish, Moroccan – you get the idea – almost all of the 130+ peoples from around the world have a restaurant here.

So this creates a problem – when you decide to eat out, what do you choose? You could starve trying to make a decision. Often people simply choose a restaurant that provides a variety of choices – there are many such where you can get anything from a pizza to a pilau.

Mongolian is a treat that stands a little apart. The Kublai in Croydon is an example of a restaurant that not only provides the cuisine but brings the experience of Mongolian food to the diner. You choose your meat and vegetables, spoon a variety of sauces onto the bowl of thin-sliced food, and pass the bowl through a hatch into the ‘kitchen’ where, behind glass, the chef dumps it onto a large iron plate above a roaring fire.

After about 30 seconds of stirring around with extra large chopsticks, with a theatrical sweep of the sticks and dramatic whirl of the bowl around his head, the chef presents fresh, just-cooked food that delights the palate. (they provide sample recipes on the wall to ensure first-timers make a reasonable choice of flavours)

At $22 for a banquet, it is hard to stop going back for ‘just one more bowlful’ to try a different mix of sauces. The Kublai also provides an extensive selection of more usual Asian fare, good coffee and tea and margaritas both traditional and other flavours (by the bowlful if wanted) that are half price during the week.

Melbourne has often won the award for ‘Most Liveable City in the World’ and the sheer variety of, as well as the high quality of food and preparation of the various cuisines is a big factor in why the awards have been earned.

My First Green Smoothie



Yum, yum, eh? Read more about it at Naturally Curvy.

27.9.09

Fun Facts About Australia – Animals and Insects

One of the things Australia is best known for is its variety of strange, interesting and sometimes scary animals and insects.

Here are a few interesting facts about Australia’s wildlife:

*There are 1500 species of Australian spiders.
*There are over 6000 species of flies. (Waving flies away from your face is the “Australian wave”.)
*There are about 4000 species of ants.
*There are about 350 species of termite.
*Australia has some of the deadliest insects, reptiles and other animals in the world.
*There are more than 150 million sheep in Australia and about 20 million people. Even so, Australians still tease New Zealanders about all their sheep.
*Australia has the world’s largest cattle station (ranch).

Now should I tell you about the snakes that drop out of trees…?

Café Review: Café Moderno

When I first decided to review cafés, I decided without really thinking about it that I wouldn’t review cafés in large shopping centres. But, the more I thought about, the more I realized that even shopping centre cafés can have noticeably awesome staffs, do an excellent coffee and have other features that might keep me coming back.

Thus, here is my first review of a large shopping centre café: Café Moderno in Eastlands shopping centre.

Café Moderno

For a place located in a food court, Moderno has taken advantage of the small space they have to their best ability. From mirrors that make the tucked in dining space appear bigger to rather chic and modern furnishings otherwise, you can somewhat escape the crowds to sit and enjoy a coffee.

Moderno Coffees

The coffee is decent and well made, but it’s always good to specify exactly what you want in terms of strength if you want something other than the ‘decent standard’ you’d usually find almost anywhere in Melbourne and suburbs. If you aren’t quite in the mood for coffee, Moderno always has some sort of deal going. Hardly one to offer the same deal every day, they might have anything from all-day breakfast to a discounted new milkshake flavour.

The food is great, most items falling in the good price and good flavour range. There have been a few things that made me scratch my head in terms of pricing but certainly nothing to stop me from going there altogether. If you like pastas, pizzas, focaccias and the like, this is definitely a place to check out.

Always a big plus in my book, Moderno uses a loyalty card system (buy five to get one free) to keep customers choosing them over the multitude of other choices. The buy to free ratio isn’t the best I have seen, but it is better than a lot of other places in the same food court – if you can get a loyalty card at all.

My disappointment comes in the inconsistency of staff attitude. I have had some staff make me feel great and eager to come back while others make me wonder if being a shopping centre food court worker is one of the rings of hell. No one has been rude to me – a plus – but there are some prime examples of people who shouldn’t be in hospitality who are working there.

Overall, it’s a nice stop – one of my preferred for take away or stop in. I’m not keen on staying there much, but that’s more a matter of the masses of people than anything the café is doing.

I would like to note that the only reason I have rated this place as a newspaper is because it is in a noisy shopping centre food court. With a space more to itself, I would give it a higher rating.

***

Café Moderno
Shop G013
Eastland Shopping Centre Food Court
171 – 175 Maroondah Hwy
Ringwood 3134

25.9.09

Well, Huh

I'm gobsmacked.

I've been nominated for the Diving Caroline 'Love This Site' Awards.

I don't know who nominated me, but thank you! If you care to vote, that would be lovely.

I think this will take you right to it:



Otherwise, you can just click here.

24.9.09

Woman or Girl? (More Half-Pissed Musings)

Do you think of yourself as an adult or as a child?

The Bloke and I were at our local 'pub' last week - the Eat and Gamble - and were talking to a friend we have there. Hm. He needs a blog name. I'll call him John Mischief.

The Bloke and Mischief were talking about life, etc, and The Bloke asked, "Do you regard yourself as a boy or a man?"

Mischief replied, "A man."

The Bloke asked, "Do you know when you started thinking of yourself as a man?"

With a few seconds to think, Mischief laid it all out. He explained a bit and told about the event when he started thinking of himself as a man.

I sat there listening to the conversation - The Bloke shared when he started thinking of himself as a man instead of a boy - and I thought about the question. Did I think of myself as a girl or woman? What came naturally to my tongue when I answered the question?

When I think: 'A ____ has to do what a ____ has to do' about myself, I fill in those blanks with 'girl'.

In my life in Australia, I have made a lot of changes. I honestly don't know if I would truly know the person I used to be. I have grown in so many different ways, so much for the better. Yet, I don't naturally regard myself as a woman.

Why I still think of myself as a girl, I don't know. I would think that taking a massive flight across the world in what I still consider to be the defining moment of my life would be enough to transition into mental womanhood.

No dice. I still think as myself as a girl.

I'm not exactly sure why this is so frustrating to me, but it is. I've had dozens of people in my life over the years call me more mature than my age. I've had a couple tell me I have an old soul. So why does 'girl' come to mind and not 'woman'?

Do you think of yourself as a girl/boy or do you think of yourself as a man/woman? If the latter, what moment of your life brought you there? Was there a moment or event at all? Do you even recall?

23.9.09

The One Where I Confess My Secret Desire...

I've always wanted to be a beautiful singer. I can sing; I just don't do it well. It's always been a dream of mine to have the confidence to stand up in front of people and belt out something beautiful...

I want to sing this:



(Here You Come Again - Dolly Parton)

And this:



(I Won't Say I'm in Love - Hercules)

And this, even though it's a duet:



(Light My Candle - RENT)

And if my life was a musical? This would so happen:



(La Vie Boheme - RENT [my absolute favourite musical, by the way])

And now I throw it open to you...

Do you have any secret desires? Something you want to do but are afraid to?

Please don't tell me I'm the only one who has one... Dancing? Singing like me? Or maybe painting? Featuring your work - whatever it may be - in a gallery or at a fair?

What do you dream of?

22.9.09

Late Night Half-Pissed Musings

I love Australia. I think I've made that very clear here.

But I would just like to say, when it comes down to it, it's not where you are - it's who you're with.

Back in the States, I never imagined life could ever be this good. I will be forever grateful to The Bloke for his infinite understanding and caring as I blunder through life and Australia just trying to figure out what it all means.

And to everyone else - Down Under and Up Over - who has understood my journey, the mistakes I need to make so I can learn and the reasons I needed to leave where I grew up: you are all amazing to me.

Truly.

It's who you're with.

G'night.

20.9.09

Mild Concussion

This is a magpie.



This is a magpie diving on a human.



This is where I where I should have a picture of what happens to your head when a magpie divebombs you and you're not fortunate enough to be wearing a helmet.

X

(Sorry.)

I didn't take a picture because one, I didn't feel like it and two, it wasn't that bad. I turned my head enough to get a thud and scratch to my head rather than the temple gouging I think he was going for.

Anywho, after an interesting day losing a bit of my vocabulary, going in and out of nausea/dizziness and trying to bake when short term memory wasn't that great, I've been trying to take it easy this weekend. I still have my headache, but the rest has fixed itself.

Just a warning, though: when it's spring in Melbourne, be careful about young cocky magpies and don't wear black and white scarves. Okay?

17.9.09

Ask What You Will - Answered

When I first invited readers here to 'Ask What You Will', I didn't expect much of a response. Lo and behold, I have some wonderful - and some personal ;) - questions from you.

Today I'm going to answer those questions...

Jenera asked...

~Do you own any adult toys?

Yep! Not anything very exciting because toys tend to be expensive.

~If yes, what is your favorite?

I only have the one - a rabbit vibrator that hasn't worked for months. I haven't had the time nor the need to take it apart to see if I can get it to work again.

(The Bloke will always be my favourite sex toy. ;) )

~Which toy would you love to try?

There is actually this little butterfly strap on thing that has a wireless remote used to make the well-placed butterfly vibrate. I'd love to try that because The Bloke would have control over the remote.

~If you could have any dog, what breed would you choose? (without worrying about landlords, space, cost, etc)

I really think German Shepherd just because of the love, the intelligence, the cute factor, plus - to be honest - the number of German Shepherds The Bloke has trained. I'm in love with Staffys as well, but German Shepherds still top the list.

~Do you have a dream car?

I'd have to say a Hyundai Accent in the most recent year possible. I'm not a lot into cars for more than getting from a to be with little petrol consumption and good mechanical support/warranty from the company.

~How many kids do you want to have?

In the multiples lottery, I'm a lot more likely to have twins than the average woman. I've known this since a very young age, so I've never really thought about having fewer than two children. Three is pretty much what I've had in mind when I think about it.

~If you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be and why?

Australia. I haven't had the chance to visit Europe or South America, but I really can't imagine a place grabbing my heart and keeping it like Australia has. There is such a beautiful diversity of life and landscapes here that I can't imagine being happier - in regards to landscape, wildlife, exploration, way of life, etc - than I am here.

Hanlie asked...

How did you meet The Bloke and was it love at first sight?

I met The Bloke on an online writer's forum. You could say it was love at first chat. We danced around each other a little bit and ended up having our first chat on yahoo messenger last from about 9pm my time to about 7.30am my time. And even then, we only stopped talking because I had to go to class.

It was definitely love at first chat, though. He had me head over runners from that first conversation.

What makes you cry?

Ah, lovely. Haha. I'm actually a bit sensitive, so I cry over a few things. Human cruelty (what we do to each other and our children) can make me cry, thinking about things I went through when I was a child can make me cry (less often these days), when I want to make someone's life better but it's out of my hands I can get a bit teary-eyed...

Oh, if The Bloke gets even a little teary-eyed, I'm gone. I cannot handle that well at all.

Emma asked...

Are you developing an Australian accent yet?

A little bit. Fewer people seem to notice, but Australians are the accent experts of the world so they still notice. I am to the point where I'm learning about the finer things in regards to pronunciation. For instance, an American would say Mildura (a town) whereas Aussies pronounce is almost like Mildjura.

I think I would sound a little strange to people back in Wisconsin, but not true Aussie.

What about all these deadly Australian animals we hear about? Have you encountered any?

Most of the deadlies are in the bush, whereas I'm in a suburb. So no, I haven't encountered many. However, on my last trip out to western Victoria, we did come across this little fella...





He's an echidna. :) You don't want to get in this guy's way. In the picture he is wandering around the country pub we were at. One of his spikes came off, so to give you an idea...



These guys? Okay. I just want to keep away from the spiders and snakes...

Do you like to wear slippers?

Yep. Love 'em. I'm wearing a pair now.

April asked...

What are some Australian sayings that had you stumped the first time you heard them?

The rhyming slang is always interesting, but you pick it up fairly quickly.

"trouble and strife" = wife
"Have a Captain Cook" = have a look (this one took me a little while)

I'm sure there are a couple more I'm just not thinking of at the moment.

DaveP asked...

Can you see yourself living in Australia for the rest of your life? If so, what will you miss the most about the U.S.?

Oh, yes. I'm a permanent resident now and plan to become a citizen. I have no plans to live anywhere else.

I get asked what I miss most quite a lot, actually. I think, above and beyond all, autumn in Wisconsin. Autumn is still my favourite season since moving here, but there is something gloriously, wonderfully beautiful about autumn in Wisconsin when all the trees are turning such fabulous colours, the days are getting longer, the corn is growing yellow in the fields... Yum.

What other countries are you eager to visit?

Shall I name them all? I would love to go on a world trip because there are so many places I'd love to go. Japan, China, Singapore, India, Egypt, all around Europe, etc. The Bloke went on a world trip a few years before we met and I love all his stories from the places he visited.

What style of writing do you prefer: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, blogging, other?

When I'm doing the writing? Well, blogging is certainly the easiest, which means it has a definite draw. The instant publication quality of it is not only intriguing but gratifying in certain ways.

I think I will always prefer fiction above all because in the imagination, nothing is impossible. I know that sounds cheesy, but that is what it comes down to. You are the only limit to your imagination.

However, I must say that, after having about half a dozen people tell me I need to put my life story into a book, non-fiction has risen in its appeal to me. Not because people are intrigued by the things I've done but because there is an amazing release in writing down where you have been, no matter how much you may thing it's boring.



***

Phew! Thank you all for the wonderful questions that truly got me thinking. You're welcome to ask more if you like, but I rather think people know more than they wanted to know about me now...

;)

15.9.09

Ask What You Will

Well, Jenera did it so I think I should to it too...

I have always loved interviews and impromptu Q&As, so when Jenera offered to answer any questions people asked on her blog. There are plenty of things, I think, that people might want to know about me, about Australia, etc, so I thought I would open the doors.

So have at it, if you wish. Ask anything you would like to ask. :) I'll put another post up later in the week with my answers.

13.9.09

Café Review: University Café

In every big city, there is a place where you ‘have’ to go to get great food. For Melbourne, that place is Lygon street.

Of course, there are so many cafés to choose from that, if you’re not familiar with the area, you pretty much just go into one and hope for the best. That was pretty much what I did when I picked out University Café.

university cafe

The first thing you are likely to notice about University café is the number of places available to sit. You can watch the world go by or enjoy the beautiful weather in the on street seating, choose from one of two sections on the ground floor indoors that are split by a staircase that leads up to the restaurant if you want to come back later for dinner.

There is the typical Italian fare available on the menu – everything from foccacias to pasta. There is also an absolutely delicious looking assortment of cakes and pies, all available for you to drool over at the display case inside the café.

One thing I couldn’t help but notice is that for a ‘university’ café, there are quite a few meals that would be above a student’s budget. That isn’t to say there aren’t affordable options on the menu, but expect to pay for your pasta.

university cafe coffee

The coffee is as excellent as you would expect it to be, with all the strength and none of the burnt flavour. However, if you like your macchiatos strong (two shots), you’re going to have to ask for the extra shot. I lingered over my coffee of choice – flat white – and quite enjoyed the smoothness of it and none of the unpleasant bitter taste you occasionally get with flat whites.

For the reader rating, I have given University Café a newspaper because of the feel and the business of the place, but it’s more than obvious this café is a very popular place to meet up and have a chat. There is almost always a wide assortment of people sitting down or getting takeaway, but the place never seems to get too noisy, which is a definite plus.

I can easily see this as a wonderful place to sit and watch the world go by for a while as you enjoy a nice cup of coffee (and perhaps a bit of reading as well).

***

University Café
257 Lygon Street
Carlton 3053

Phone: 9347 2142
Fax: 9347 0705
Email: bookings@unicafe.com.au

12.9.09

Sharing is Caring - Tickle Tickle

For the final day of this meme, I'm supposed to share 'whatever tickles my fancy'. Weeeeell, I'm a big fan of fun (but useless outside of trivia games) facts. So here we go:

On my quest to learn more about Australia, I decided to take some time and narrow down the fact finding to my beloved Melbourne. True to form for any Australian capital city, Melbourne didn’t disappoint in the realm of interesting, strange and funny facts.

Here are just a few to get you started:

*Pronounced “Mel-burn” not “Mel-Born”.
*Melbourne is the capital of Victoria.
*Melbourne has the second largest Greek population, after Athens.
*The Dim Sim, beloved snack of Australians, was invented in 1945 in Melbourne.
*During the Gold Rush of the 1850s, Melbourne was the richest city in the world.
*The expression “call girl” for a prostitute originated in Melbourne.
*The opening of the lion enclosure of the Melbourne Zoo in 1967 was the first “walk through” zoo enclosure of its type in the world.
*The world’s first frozen embryo baby was born in Melbourne on March 28, 1984 and was named Zoe Leyland.

Original meme here.

11.9.09

Sharing is Caring - A Quote

Of course, yet again, I have more than one quote to share. I assure you that both have had a big impact on my life.

Looking at something and seeing it are two completely different things.
- The Ideal Husband

You will never 'find' time for anything. If you want time you must make it.
- Charles Buxton (1823 - 1871)

Confused? Original meme directions here.

10.9.09

Sharing is Caring - A YouTube Clip

Confused? Original meme directions here.

This is another one of those share things that took me a while to think about. In the end, I decided on a clip that reveals my sometimes... weird sense of humor. This is the very first Foamy clip I ever watched. I heard some professors at uni laughing over it and hunted around the internet until I found it (with the few things I overheard as clues).

Enjoy.

9.9.09

Sharing is Caring - Websites

Come on. You didn't think I would share just one, did you?

Okay, I'll keep it to two - a webcomic and an online (addictive) game.

Girls With Slingshots
Desktop Tower Defense



Check out the meme directions here.

8.9.09

Sharing is Caring - A Book



The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein has always been one of my favourites. When I read it as a child, it taught me what unconditional love is and the meaning in giving without expectation of receiving.

Even at that early age, I resolved to always live my life with that mentality. I haven't always succeeded, but I do try to be mindful, aware and giving whenever I can.

I gave my brother and his wife a copy of this for a wedding present. I think it's the best present I've ever given.


(Check out this post for the meme.)

7.9.09

Sharing is Caring - A Picture

Confused? Check out this post.



I debated quite a bit over what photo I would share. I considered one of me, at least partially, but I decided against it. As I was flipping through, I saw this lovely sunset over the mountains, and I figure you don't get more me (besides a picture of physical me) than that kind of picture.

I've always been a sunset person, not a sunrise person. I've also always been drawn to mountains for some unexplainable reason.

This is one beautiful peace of the world in western Victoria, Australia.

Borrowed Memes - Day One

I'm borrowing this meme from CelticAngel.

Sharing is Caring:
for one week, recommend / share
Day 1: a song
Day 2: a picture
Day 3: a book/ebook/fanfic
Day 4: a site
Day 5: a youtube clip
Day 6: a quote
Day 7: whatever tickles your fancy

Okay. So day one!

I'm only supposed to recommend one, I reckon, but why recommend one when you can build a playlist?

Enjoy.


6.9.09

Café Review: The Famous Blue Raincoat

When I started thinking about which café review I wanted to put up as my first official review, I knew I wanted to review a place that I consider absolutely lovely. It didn’t have to have all top marks, but I wanted a place that left a real impression on me. I also wanted to start off the reviews with a place that served as an example of the true classic Melbourne cafés you can still tucked away.

That’s why I picked The Famous Blue Raincoat.

famous blue raincoat cafe

The Famous Blue Raincoat restaurant/bar/café is the kind of place that has its own personality from the moment you step in the door. The personality and warmth of the room stands out but doesn’t overwhelm in the least. I fell in love the moment I saw the hardwood floors (have I mentioned I love hardwood floors?) and the natural ceiling lighting, but The Famous Blue Raincoat had even more to offer.

fbr coffees

From the art on the walls to the strange and unique salt and pepper shakers – everything from bowling pins to pineapples, though we got the rooster and chook – on the tables, this little café is refreshingly itself. Instead of trying to cater to certain crowds, it simply is and does what it does best. There is a distinct, funky feel to the place from the moment you walk in.

Even in the limited space, they have done amazing things. From the live band stage in the corner to the couch lounge area in the middle of the room around the fire place, you don’t feel cramped at all. In fact, you feel quite homey.

fbr central lounge

If you don’t feel like sitting at the tables or at the couches in front of the fireplace, there is – of course – a couch and more tables available in the back courtyard…

fbr back archway

fbr back courtyard

The pictures don’t do the back courtyard justice, really (especially given they were taken with a phone). It is a beautiful, peaceful space complete with a lot of greenery and wind chimes.

Of course, by the time we got there, our stomachs were complaining loudly for lunch, so we took the opportunity to try the food.

Delicious! Not only is the food absolutely delicious, it’s also mostly healthier fare than you would usually get and plenty of homemade options as well. The portion sizes are appropriate as well, which is something you don’t see often enough.

I highly recommend the lamb wrap, which is wrapped in delicious roti bread instead of a plain white flour tortilla.

blue raincoat lamb wrap

Not only can you have a great meal with drinks, you can also do a bit of shopping – even for cacti! Meet Booger and Chloe (yes, I’ve named them):

booger

chloe

In the back courtyard, there is a large table with a wide arrangement of succulents on sale. I was so entranced by the back area and the fact that you could buy plants (for super low prices!), I just had to get two. I was going to get a Famous Blue Raincoat bag as well, but I did have more cafés to visit that day…

There is always plenty on offer, selling their own merchandise as well as supporting local artists.

If you are a jazz fan, this is the place to chill out on the weekend. They have live jazz every Sunday from 3 – 6, and you can tell they take their music seriously when you check out the excellent sound system they have installed. Of course, their sense of humour is worked in even there with a two inch disco ball hanging above the performance area.

This is a café for every crowd, welcoming young teens to families starting out to older couples. I can’t see anyone feeling out of place there. The coffee is decent rather than spectacular, but there are plenty of other reasons to keep you coming back.

I highly recommend it.

***

http://www.famousblueraincoat.com.au
25b Vernon Street
South Kingsville

(03) 9391 8520

(Melway Ref – 41:G12)

2.9.09

Kangaroos!

video


The Bloke and I passed through Halls Gap in the Grampians last weekend, and we saw lots of friendly kangaroos! These two fellas were hanging out behind a couple of restaurants in the middle of a garden-type area in front of a motel.

And no, we're not zoomed in. We took the video with The Bloke's phone, so we ended up getting that close!

Hehe.