30. May 2013 · Write a comment · Categories: Reviews · Tags:
Gromit riding a hoover

Gromit riding a hoover

The Sydney Powerhouse Museum has a ‘unique and diverse collection that spans history, science, technology, design, industry, decorative arts, music, transport and space exploration’.

And, importantly, in May they also had a Wallace and Gromit exhibition on invention. It was $17, which included entry to the Powerhouse Museum which is normally $12 anyway. You walked in though the entrance to the house which was coo.They had some of the film sets which I really appreciated, and then lots of things about invention, intellectual property and patenting. There were games and gizmo’s to play with, and at the end you could make your own veg for the garden out of green playdough. I made a not very good Gromit head. Matt made a ship.

We went on a free guided tour of the museum, which is huge. They have collections on all sorts of things including technology (with robots), transport, space ships, chemistry, steam engines, ‘lace’, clothes, student design projects, engineering competition projects, upcycling, an olde country bush shop, musical instruments, a kids zone about ‘The Wiggles’ (never heard of them) and probably more things I have forgotten!

'Lace' weaving

‘Lace’ weaving

 

Overall verdict: 7/10. Wallace and Gromit were good. I would have loved to see more sets and things from the films. The shop wasnt selling the films (or any Wensleydale) – we would have almost certainly bought both so bit of a missed opportunity for them there. The Museum is well worth a visit – just allow a lot of time!

Gromit measuring his courgette

Gromit measuring his courgette

 

26. May 2013 · 10 comments · Categories: Reviews · Tags: ,
Some of our Board Game collection

Some of our Board Game collection

Me: ‘Matt and I like Board Games’

Other person: ‘Cool, like Monopoly?’

Me: ‘Nooooooooooooo!’

There are so many better Board Games than Monopoly! It goes on for hours usually, everyone apart from two people get knocked out who then go round and round forever getting gradually more fed up! I thought I’d do a quick post on some of our favourite games. In England we used to play them a fair amount with friends, which was usually a good fun evenings entertainment. Here we are making new friends, so will be trying to induct them into Board Games soon!

Classic Games:

Carcasonne: This is a popular classic. You build a country with towns, farms, chapels and roads and get points for putting people on these. Different things are worth different points. Most points wins.

Munchkin: I love this game. You are a warrior in a dungeon, fighting all sorts of crazy silly monsters, trying to get to  Level 10 first to win. You can help your friends in return for later favours, or totally gang up on them!

Ticket to Ride: You build train lines between places.Different pairs or destinations are worth different points and you get more points for longer lines.  A good transport planning game with a lot of strategy in it (more fun than a train game sounds). Most points at the end wins.

Tantrix: A game from New Zealand, nothing to do with sex! We bought this in Puzzling World in Wanaka where we went with the Mills’s. You join up hexagons with colours on to make lines and rings of your colour. Lines are 1 point per tile, circles are two. Most points wins. Simple concept, lots of strategy. Matt is much much better at this than me!

Last Night on Earth: Our good friends the Paul’s in England own this one. Some of you are zombies and others are heros. There are many different game scenarios to keep you entertained, where the heroes need to complete a task or survive the night alive. Zombies win by eating all their braaaaaaaaaaaaaaaains.

 

 

Munchkin and Munchkin Quest

Munchkin and Munchkin Quest

Recent Games

We have brought a few games here in Australia:

Munchkin Quest: Munchkin is for 3 or more people, and takes a bit of learning, so we have recently got Muchkin Quest, the Board Game version for 2-4 people. We’ve not played it yet, but it looks like it’ll be just as good if not better than the original.

Gloom: You have a family. You make them miserable and then they die. But its humorous, and you tell stories about it. You can upset your opponent by making their characters happy. The one with the lowest self worth score once all of one family are dead wins.

Domion: I can’t think how to explain this well, as it is quite complicated, but good. There are lots of different options of cards which you use and trade to get gold and buy things to get you victory points. Most points wins. This is really good for two people as there are so many options its different each time.

Pandemic: You are a medic team who need to save the world by wiping out four different viruses. This is really a cleaver game in terms of how viruses spread and you cure them and pretty addictive. You can play with a different number of ‘epidemic’ cards up to 6 to make it harder. So far Matt and I have saved the world with 4 epidemics, so will try 5 next.

What games do you love?

 

 

Taronga Zo

Taronga Zoo

 

I love animals and I generally love zoos too (as long as they have nice big enclosures).

We went recently to Taronga Zoo in Sydney which is not only a zoo, but also a good adventure, because:

  1. You go there on a ferry out across the Harbour
  2. You get to ride in (or out) on a cable car and
  3. The views back across the city to the bridge and Opera House are cool

We spent a good 5 hours there going around, and I could easily have stayed for longer. They have a wide selection of animals including a lot of native ones including the obligatory koalas, kangeroos, wallabees, wombats, emus, Tasmanian Devils, spiders (ewww) and playtpus (not sure if that’s plural?!). Sadly the penguin area was being refurbished, so none of them 🙁 It wads a bit too busy at the start but got a bit quieter once we wandered about.

I loved all the animals with the exception of the spiders which are still haunting me periodically. *Shudder*.

Here are my top 5 animals:

5.  Ecidnas. It turns out, like platypus, ecidnas are ‘monotremes’ which means they are egg laying mammals. So like the platypus they are the only kinds of animals that have eggs and milk and can (theoretically) produce their own custard! (Thanks Paul Millis!)

Echidna

Echidna

4. Seals – we caught the seal show where they do dives, jumps, flipper stands, shake hands, ‘speak’ and eat a lot of fish as rewards. Seeing them splash about was good entertainment, and they seemed to enjoy it too.

Seal jumping

Seal jumping

3. Elephants. The elephants had a couple of babies which were super sweet. We watched the keepers giving one of the little ones a shower which was just adorable. They told it ‘front foot;’ and ‘back foot’ and ‘turn’ and it even did what it was told – mainly – with some food as an added incentive.

Elephant

2. Koalas – predictable, I’m sorry, but they are properly cute. Of the 6 koalas we saw, 2 were actually awake (and eating eucalyptus) which is a good record as they spend 20 of 24 hours a day asleep.

Koala

Koala

1. The wombat! I love this not-so little fellow and took a LOT of pictures of him. Unfortunately he was munching his supper on all three times we walked past and Matt got a bit bored waiting for him to do something else. I could have watched him for ages. I really wanted to give him a big cuddle, but I don’t think he would have appreciated it really!

Wombat

Wombat

Verdict: 9/10. Could have got a 10 with some penguins, and less other people!

What are your favourite animals?

 

19. May 2013 · Write a comment · Categories: Recently... · Tags:

Lately, in May, I have been mostly…….

Liking – Lots! Sorry, that’s cheating! Some recent highlights have been swimming on the artificial Brisbane South Bank beach at night with all the city and London eye equivalent all lit up, nice warm water and birds flying about; seeing a possum in a tree in the park and

Disliking –  Working too much: Its pretty busy at work at the moment. I don’t mind that as the projects all good, but I’m not fitting in much exercise which is making me feel a bit lethargic. Will try harder.

Hoyts film booth

Hoyts film booth

Watching –  Game of Thrones, Season 2: This is our only Blue Ray at the moment. I have read all the books (apart from the last one which irsn’t out yet), and am loving the TV show. I’m not sure what well do when its over as the Australian free TV isn’t very inspiring. We’ve also rented a couple of films from the booth by the train station. The choice is a bit limited but its quite handy to get films out and pop them back by 9pm the next day for $3.50.

Consuming – Yeast Extract: Our last visitor (Lizzie Short) was kind enough to bring us both Marmite and Yeast Extract. Last week we finished off the far inferior Vegemite so have cracked open the Yeast Extract. Its so much better! 🙂 Matt has also invented a DIY pizza with a giant Turkish bread base, so we have had a couple of those too. Chocolate orange Tim Tams are also going down well.

Buying – A watch and a dressing gown: My watch broke before we left England and I’ve been struggling with the time ever since. I quite like it generally, not worrying about exact times, but when you need to be somewhere at a specific time its a pain. After ages of searching I finally found one I like which doesnt look too silly on my skinny wrists. I also got a dresing down for evening lounging about as I miss mine from the UK and as I feel the cold its just about evening dressing gown season now. On the same shopping trip I gave in on some lovely Crabtree and Evelyn hand cream too – going in the shop was just like walking into England, it smelt so nice!

My new hand cream, dressing gown and watch

My new hand cream, dressing gown and watch

Working on – our second bid: Our first team bid went in at the end of April, whoop! We hear at the end of May if we made the short-list for the next stage. We are working on the second bid now, due 17th May so pretty busy times.

Thinking about – holidays: I was thinking about these last time, and I still am! We have a weekend in Brisbane planned (Australia Zoo or the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary) and now need to line up a longer summer trip too. I have also been trying to gloss over the fact it is my birthday coming up.

Looking forward to – our next visitor! My friend from Uni Ellie is coming to stay for a fortnight in late June which will be good. She’s been to Sydney before so can do some different tourist things we haven’t done yet like the Bridge Climb and Palm Beach.

What are you guys looking forward to? Who is going to visit us after Ellie?

16. May 2013 · 2 comments · Categories: Cooking · Tags:
Something with this much chocolate and butter can only taste good!

Something with this much chocolate and butter can only taste good!

I like chocolate brownies. Matt wanted some the other day, so here is a recipe!

Ingredients: 

  • 400g white toblerone (or white chocolate)
  • 350g plain chocolate
  • 250g butter
  • 250g sugar
  • 3 tbsp black coffee
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 75g self raising flour

Method:

  1. Melt chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pan of hot water
  2. Roughly chop the toblerone (if you use a big one, 3-4 bits per large triangle seems to be a good size)
  3. Whisk eggs and sugar. Add the coffee and vanilla.
  4. Add melted chocolate and butter. Mix.
  5. Stri in the flour. Add the toblerone.
  6. Pour into a greased and lined backing tray
  7. Bake at 180 degrees. I didn’t write down how long for, but mine took about 35 mins! 16

Yum yum yum.

P.S. I forgot to take a brownie pic before eating them, oops!

Background 

Before coming to Australia my job was as a Transport Planner, so I know all about cars and public transport and all that malarkey.

In England Matt and I both drove to work, generally not in the same direction, so we were a two car household. We drove to the shops, around town, went away for the weekends in the car, made a load of trips to Homebase, and so on and so on.

Now, in Sydney, we are carless. We live 3 mins from the station and both get the train into work, so for the main that’s all fine. But sometimes you need a car – we’ve been buying lots of big items and there are loads of places to go around Sydney which are quite hard to get to without a car.

Cars here depreciate much less than in the UK, so getting a second hand one is a pretty pricey business. We are saving up with a view to getting a car, but it will be a few months yet before we have enough cash. In the mean time sometimes you need a car, and hiring one is expensive and a bit of a pain as its a long walk!

Nadine the i30

Nadine the i30

Go Get Car Club – How it Works 

So, we have joined the Go Get Car Club. I know about these from work, and was quite interested in how it would work out. We will see how it goes and maybe just stay in the club rather than buy a car and blow the cash on a giant holiday!

We pay $9 a month on the Go Occasional Plan and then either $71 a day with all miles or $8.55 an hour and $0.40 per km. You can pay more a month for cheaper rates when you have a car, or pay nothing and pay more each time. We might go up a level if we use it a lot but thought it was better to work up than overspend at the beginning.

There are about 7 different cars in walking distance of our place. You book them online (or can do it on the phone too) and extend your booking if you take too long at Ikea, say. All the cars have names too. You get a swipe card which you swipe on the windscreen and the keys are inside. You check for damage and make sure its in the book already or give them a quick call. And off you go! There is a fuel card for fuel if it is under 1/4 full at the end of your trip.

Pros and Cons 

Pros: 

  • No massive cost to buy a car
  • No ongoing costs for insurance, tax and servicing and
  • No hassle sorting out any of the above

Cons:

  • Its not as convenient as just hopping in your own car
  • You use a car less becasue you think about paying for it each time (whether this is actually a con is debatable!)

I think its ideal for us at the moment as moving gave us an opportunity to change our transport arrangements and try another way. Whether we carry on or not will remain to be seen! We definitely make fewer trips than we would if we owner our own car, as the temptation to just get in it and pop out somewhere is gone, because you have to pay each time you do that. But I know people totally miscalculate the true costs of owning and running a car, so maybe it just makes you understand it better. I feel a spreadsheet coming on….

Why not see if there  is one near you?

09. May 2013 · Write a comment · Categories: Reviews · Tags: ,
Pirates of the Caribbean at the Sydney Opera House

Pirates of the Caribbean at the Sydney Opera House

Two of the biggest Sydney icons must be the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. We have walked over the bridge and go over it on the train most days on the way to and from work. Having been here a couple of months we needed to check out the Opera House properly.

You can do  tours of the Opera House for about $35, but for the full on experience we wanted to see a show. Having done the new British class test recently, we’re not ‘elite’. Mainly becasue we don’t have a massive wodge of money I guess, but also becasue we don’t do things like opera, ballet and art galleries! So we were quite pleased when we looked on the website and found out the Sydney Symphony Orchestra was doing Pirates of the Caribbean – one of our favourite films!

After some deliberation over the $100 price tag, we decided it would be worth it, so off we went one Friday night. Inside the Opera House is quite concretey. If you walk to the back you get good views over the harbour and of the bridge all lit up at night.

We were about 8 rows from the front. The orchestra were on a stage at the front, with a screen behind them. The film was projected with the speaking and the orchestra and choir did the music. It was pretty cool to see them playing along, and see all the different sections get involved for the different bits of music. The atmosphere was good, and Johnny Depp on a big screen is always nice, but I would have preferred the music a bit louder.

Verdict: 7/10  Worth a visit. The action sequences were a bit hard to follow and watch the orchestra at the same time and Matt prefers the 5.1 surround sound speaker system! (You cant each culture!) I’d go back and see something else.

06. May 2013 · 2 comments · Categories: Reviews · Tags: ,

One recent Saturday, we ended up free from late afternoon, so decided to head over to Sydney Aquarium.

The aquarium is in Darling Harbour, by Madame Tussaudes and the small zoo. We had free entry with our Merlin annual passes (=bargain) and it was open until 8pm so we had plenty of time to look around.

The aquarium was pretty quiet, apart from a very large group of tourists, which were quite hard to avoid sadly!

Sydney-Aquarium1

My favourite thing was the Duck Billed Platypus. I’ve not seen one before and it looked pretty cute and weird. Did you know…(and I didn’t learn this at the aquarium, it is an obscure fact I know anyway) that the platypus is the only animal (I think, and may be wrong) which could make its own custard, because it produces both milk and eggs? Weird hey? I don’t imagine it would be very nice, and I don’t know how it would stir it with its little flippers, but there you go! The playtpus was a lot smaller than I thought, and we only saw it for a very short time before it hid away – I will be back another time to try and get a picture.

After that the sea horses were pretty cool, especially the Weedy Seahorse which looks like seaweed.They have them in the Harbour and round and about, so hopefully we will see one when we go snorkelling one day.

Being Australia, there were a lot of sharks in the underwater observatory bit, plus some dugongs, rays, cool looking fish, anenomes, crabs, lobsters, eels and a whole host of other aquatic stuff.

Overall verdict: 6.5/10. The place wasn’t massive, and with no penguins or sea turtles its only going to get a 7 at most. More platypus viewing would probably take it up to a 7.5. I need a better lens to get decent photos there too!

Fishy

Fishy

03. May 2013 · Write a comment · Categories: Reviews · Tags:

After our trip to the mountains we had a day to spare, but wanted to keep it cheap, so we used our bargainacious Merlin passes and went along to the Sydney Tower Eye. It was Easter time so they had a chocolate model of it which you could win if you guesses its’ weight – sadly we didn’t see a giant gold rabbit up there though.

Sydney Tower in Chocolate

Sydney Tower in Chocolate

At 309m its the tallest building in Sydney, and opened in 1981. Its above Westfield shopping centre, near the middle of town. There is more information about it here.

Firstly on the trip you go to a ‘4D’ cinema and watch a film about Sydney, here the floor wobbles about, you wear 3D glasses and get sprayed with water. After that its up the lift to the observation deck. The views around the city area really good. Partly I think becasue Sydney is a pretty nice city to look at, with Darling Harbour, views out to the end of the harbour, beaches, bridges, some interesting buildings and so on.

View past Garden Island to the Harbour Mouth

View past Garden Island to the Harbour Mouth

It was good to go once we had been in Sydney for a while, so we could pick out a fair few landmarks, including our offices. Matt’s office on Garden Island is the second headland in the picture above, with a view out past Manly to the mouth of the Harbour.

For some extra money you can go and walk about outside too.

Verdict – 7/10. Worth a trip as part of a combo deal, but not brilliant value just on its own