29. June 2013 · 1 comment · Categories: Photography · Tags:

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Vivid is a light festival in Sydney which happens every year (see here). It is cool!

I went on several trips to go and take photos, and here are some of my favorites.

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They project a show onto the side of the Opera House which replays about every 20 mins. This year it included pinball, bond girls, animal prints, scary clowns and even fireworks.

Some of the other buildings around are lit up too, like Customs House – I didn’t have my tripod for this though.

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The Bridge is only lit up on the far side, so no pics of that unfortunately, just some more Opera House!

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There were all sorts of other smaller displays like flowers which light up more when you make noise and a ‘planet under construction’ made of traffic cones.

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It was well worth the trip although Sunday night was mentally busy so I’d certainly recommend trying to go in the week.

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25. June 2013 · Write a comment · Categories: Recently... · Tags:
Starky!

Starky!

Lately, in June, we have been:

Liking: Vivid festival, planning visitors and Starky. Vivid is a light festival where they project onto cool buildings and the Opera House. There’ll be a post coming up when I sort through the hundreds of pics! Some of our friends from Horsham (UK) are planning an epic holiday early next year, hopefully to Australia, which i’m pretty excited about! I am also living my new cuddly koala, Starky, which Matt got my for my birthday. He is sooooo cute, and named after both the legendary Stark family from Game of Thrones which we have been watchiong recently, and Tony Stark from Iron Man which we saw on my birthday.

Disliking: Pneumatic drills. The block next door to us is being demolished and it is damn noisy! They work weekdays 7.30am – 5pm so on the odd days we are home its a right annoyance. Grumble grumble.

Watching: Rome. After finishing Game of Thrones Season 2, we got this as the next series. Obviously it’s hard to be as good as GOT but its still pretty enjoyable and I’m learning some history too. We watched Iron Man 3 for my birthday too – I enjoyed the cheesy action-ness and Sir Ben Kingsley was great!

Consuming: Frogurt. For my birthday trip to the cinema we went for frogurt first from Yogurberry (other frogurt chains are available)! It seems to be a big thing here). It was yummy – you choose from 8 flavors on tap, add your own toppings and pay by weight. The massive tubs encourage you to get way too much, so we’ll remember that next time.

Buying: Cake tins and a car! For my birthday I made an epic 4 layer cake (see post here). I needed a way to transport it to work, and for other general cake storage, so invested in some cake tins. I got these total bargain tins for $12 from ‘Victoria’s Basement’ which is a place jam packed with discounted kitchen goodies. I eyed it up on the shelf, thought it was a bargain and then realised there was another tin inside too – whooop! When I got him my excitement further increased with the revelation of a third tin! Delightful.

Three cake tins for $12!

Three cake tins for $12!

We also bought a car! After much deliberation it cane down to a Honda Civic VTi-L or an i30 Elite. We ended up with the i30, as although its not as stylish you get many more bells and whistles for your money. We went with a new one as here the nearly new prices aren’t much different and you don’t get a warranty etc. I’ll do a more detailed post about the car (name TBC) soon.

Working on: Our second EOI and actual bids!  In May we put in a second Expression of Interest for some upcoming contracts. We also got the fantastic news we have been shortlisted for both the contracts we put in for, which is great! Now the really hard work starts to make sure we win!

Thinking about: Buying a car. This took up a fair bit of time, and is now sorted! I’ve also been thinking about plans for a ‘fake Christmas’ on 26th June which is the depths of winter here.

Visiting: Brisbane and Goat Island. Recently we went for a weekend in Brisbane and I went on a tour or Goat Island in the Harbor. I’ll do separate posts about these.

Looking forward to: Getting the car. It’ll be great to get out and about with the car – there are so many places to go! I’ve also been looking forward to my friend Ellie’s visit and

What have you guys been up to?

Cooperage and a crane used to build the Harbor Bridge

Cooperage and a crane used to build the Harbor Bridge

Recently we got a Public Holiday for the Queens Birthday – this makes me chuckle as it doesn’t exist in England! On the Saturday, my friend Toby and his girlfriend Kendall organised an excellent adventure around Sydney.

Like any Australian adventure we started off in a coffee shop! (Although being stereotypically English Toby and I had tea). We went on a tall ship through the Harbor up to Goat Island. Normally the tour is on a pretty regular boat, but the tall ship takes over in winter when the main boat has maintenance – I reckon the tall ship version is much better – I couldn’t resist a couple of pirate ‘yarrrrs’ too. On the boat was a ‘free’ (included) bar with all you can drink wine and champagne! On Goat Island we had a yummy buffet lunch with very tasty ham and prawns, plus more wine.

Convict Hut

Convict Hut

 

After that was a tour of the island. Goat Island is a mix of things really. Back in the mid 1800’s it housed convicts, so there are some old building from then including a cooperage where they made barrels, an armory for storing large amounts of gun powder and a replica wheeled porta-cabin which used to house 20 convicts for up to 18 hours a day. There were some old buildings and houses as well as a listed crane they used to build the Harbor Bridge (which they don’t know where else to store) and some more recent industrial style buildings. From the island you get a good view back to Sydney including the bridge, opera house and Darling Harbor. A couple and their three kids live on the island – we reckon it would be a pretty cool place to have a lot of adventures growing up, although less good once you want to start hanging out with your mates on the mainland and going to the pub.

We heard the story of one of the convicts called ‘Boney’. After getting about 1,500 lashes for bad behavior and not seeming to mind, he ended up chained, naked, to a rock in the island for two years! The name Goat Island is a bit of a mystery and on maps its shown as Cockatoo Island, which is actually now the name of another island in the Harbor. The thinking is that this was originally Cockatoo Island, but when all the convicts arrived all the gum trees got chopped down and the Cockatoos migrated to the next island which was then named after them. Long ago there were apparently three goats on the island who made it on the journey from Africa.

Boneys Rock

Boneys Rock

After the island tour we went on a longer tour around the harbor and then back. The trip was excellent and if you wanted to get seriously drink on the free bar that would have been totally doable too! I think we were pretty restrained really. After the boat ride we went to the Lord Nelson pub on the Rocks which has its own micro-brewery and went around the market until it was time for the Vivid light festival and an excellent dinner(separate posts coming soon).

Overall score: 8/10 – Thank you Toby and Kendall! I’d definitely recommend doing the tour on the tall ship.

Recently Matt went for a week’s crack climbing outside Brisbane, so we took the opportunity to spend a weekend in Brisbane.

From Sydney its about a 1.5 hour flight, or an 11 hour drive! We stayed in town as we didn’t have a car. There is lots to do around Brisbane (including the koala park) which we’ll pick up another time. Here are some of the highlights:

South Bank: The south bank is a nice landscaped area with a cool walkway covered in pink flowers and an artificial beach and pool. I’ve swum in it before at night with nobody else around, which was cool with all the city lights, and just quite surreal!

Wheel of Brisbane  On the South Bank is the Wheel of Brisbane – essentially a mini London Eye. We took a ride on that for $15 each. You get your own pod (as long as it isnt busy), audio commentary and do about 5 laps round. It was a good way to see the city.

Wheel of Brisbane

Wheel of Brisbane

Brunch and other food: A lot of our time in Brisbane was spent eating! We had some awesome brunches which I really enjoyed. There were loads of restaurants and cafes offering a wide variety of yummy things. We had ice cream too (of course), and other snacks including a nice Italian dinner with my friend Simon who moved from our London to Brisbane office last year.

Queensland Museum: We went around the free Queensland museum which had quite a good range of things including natural history, info about all the natural resources in Queensland, an Aboriginal section and a collection about collecting.

Sea turtle at the Queensland Museum

Sea turtle at the Queensland Museum

Ferry trips: We brought Go Cards to travel around Brisbane public transport, but it turned out we didn’t really need them at all. From near where we stayed there was a free ferry which takes you up and down the river to basically wherever you want to go. They had an open top deck too so you got a good view of the river attractions cruising up and down at a nice leisurely pace, including the Story Bridge.

Clock tower: I got a last minute ticket for a trip up the Brisbane clock tower. You go up in one of the country’s oldest lifts, get to see inside the clock face and get cool views from the top. Its in an ‘old’ 1800ish town hall building which reminded me of England.

Kangaroo Point: Matt would be upset if I didn’t mention this. Kangaroo Point are a load of cliffs on the bank of the river where you can go climbing. If we get the opportunity to go back to Brisbane we’ll have a go at some of the routes. It is floodlit at night too, so you can climb any time.

Kangaroo Point

Kangaroo Point

Star Trek: A bit random I know. The cinema in Sydney is about $20, more for 3D. By Sunday night we had slightly run out of things to do, and walked past the cinema by our hotel. A 3D films was only $11, so we went to see Start Trek. I enjoyed the film, as well as the popcorn and maltesers! The maltesers here taste funny, but I reckon I can get used to it.

Overall verdict: 6.5/10. Good place to spend a weekend, but for longer than that you’re best off having a car to get out and about to some places beyond the city center. We could have gone to some other free museums too (including modern art) but that’s not really our scene.

15. June 2013 · 4 comments · Categories: Photography · Tags:
Opera House at night

Opera House at night

Recently I went down to the Harbor at night with my tripod to take some night pics. Its a pretty cool place to hang out at the best of times, with some truly iconic views, and I find it particularly cool at night. Luckily with daylight saving its dark about 5.30-6 here now, so there’s no need to stay up later for good shots.

Coming soon is the Vivid light festival where they light up the Opera House with all kinds of projections, so I’ll go back for another go during that. Also on the list is some night pics of Luna Park with the scary clown entrance and lit up rides which also look very cool at night. You can see the gate and big wheel under the bridge in the shot below.

Harbor Bridge and Luna Park

Harbor Bridge and Luna Park

Rather than the London bus on the road light trails, you can do the same with the Opera House and ferries. I’ll go back and try this one again on a longer exposure for better water blurring.

Opera House with ferry

Opera House with ferry

The Opera Bar is a good place to hang out with a drink or two on a summer evening looking over the water to the Bridge and Opera House itself. After looking at the pics on my computer I definitely need to work on the focusing of my night shots with live view (or just revert to dots or even manual focusing maybe – any tips appreciated!)

The Opera Bar

The Opera Bar

My night time adventure reminded me of a good trip to London I did with Phil and Charles back in Jan 2012. It was a lot warmer here! Here’s a picture of another iconic bridge from that trip.

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

Barrenjoey

Barrenjoey

Recently on a sunny Saturday we got a car from the car club and went up to the Ku-ring-gai National Park.

Its about a 40 minute drive from our place, up towards the north. You pay an $11 parking fee for the park, which can be used in any one that day. You can get an annual pass for $65 for all the NSW parks which is a total bargain and we’ll do once we have our own car.

We had lunch at the marina with all the posh yachts and went for a couple of walks to West Head and the highest point in the park. From West Head the views over Lion Island and over to Barrenjoyey and the other side of the Palm Beak spit were really cool. We walked down to the beach, and then back up 589 steps to where we started (yes, I counted!)

Lion Island

Lion Island

From the highest point you can actually see across all the park back to the tall tower blocks in Sydney CBD (look *really* closely below). Sadly we didn’t see any kangeroos, bandicoots or wombats, but there was a weird bird like a turkey! The park was surprisingly quiet for a weekend and we’ll certainly go back once we have our own wheels.

Ku-ring-gai National Park

Ku-ring-gai National Park

09. June 2013 · 2 comments · Categories: Cooking · Tags:
Epic 4 layer birthday cake

Epic 4 layer birthday cake

I work in a newish team at work. With my birthday recently I confirmed that the ‘tradition’ will be to bring in cakes on your own birthday, like we did in the UK. (I have a vague suspicion this might change next time it’s someone else’s birthday!) Having recently produced a pretty sub-standard chocolate honeycomb tart for a work do (everything that could go wrong, did go wrong), I figured I needed to make something good.

Chocolate is always a popular choice, and eating it in cake form helps me get over my Dairy Milk withdrawal symptoms. So after a quick internet search I found this epic recipe from BBC Good Food. Its a four layer cake with vanilla, caramel, caramel chocolate and chocolate. I remember someone made one at my work in the UK once and it was seriously impressive then.

The cake pre-icing

The cake pre-icing

I’ll not repeat the recipe here. It turned out very well and I didn’t change a thing. The cakes rose evenly to there was no need to chop any off to make them stack up. I did two lots of two as I only had two of the same cake tin, so make sure you allow a fair bit of time for making it in two batches.

My other tip is that the cake was very high. The 4 layers stacked up without any icing or filling didn’t fit in my cake tin. Make sure you have a giant one if you need to transport it anywhere  I ended up cutting it in half and tipping it on its side, which luckily held up OK.

I got 10/10 from work – woo. It was seriously good, pretty indulgent. The final cake weights a good couple of kg’s so will easily make at least 16 slices I reckon.

Yum yum yum! 🙂

Ready to eat!

Ready to eat!

 

View from Balls Head

View from Balls Head

Ten minutes on the train towards the city, and then a ten / fifteen minute walk is Balls Head Reserve. Its a piece of bushland in the city, right on the North Shore of the Harbor  You can walk about on a couple of trails, with lots of rocks and plants. In a few places the path goes down by the water, where you get some really cool views across the Harbor to the city and the Harbor Bridge.

At the entrance is a cool giant wide tunnel where they use to load coal into trains. There are still all the chutes in the roof and you can walk through the gloom and damp into the park.

There are picnic spots (one by a cave which looked very cool), aboriginal drawings and a giant tunnel you can walk through which used to be a train line. There was a spider with a giant web too, which I didn’t appreciate – Matt took its picture and I went and waited a safe distance away where I couldn’t see it!

Verdict: 7/10. A nice spot of countryside in the city, near our flat, with excellent views. I expect we will go back before too long.

02. June 2013 · 1 comment · Categories: Reviews · Tags: ,
Stripey fish

Stripey fish

Now we’re living in Australia there are lots of new holiday options! One of the top places on the list is the Great Barrier Reef. Doing some diving there would be particularly cool, so we’re thinking of doing a weekend course down in Sydney so we’re ready when we get there.

Now I don’t really get on with either swimming in the sea, or being under water so I’m not convinced about diving. But the excitement of cool fish might outweigh that. I didn’t want to pay $150 or so for a diving course and hate it, so we bought a couple of snorkels to test that out first. We went down to Clovelley Beach back in April. Its near Bondi with a fairly big man made inlet, so you’re protected from the waves.

I didn’t like getting in, that was probably the worst bit, apart from general drinkingk of salt water! Right at the beginning we saw a giant Blue Grouper which was really cool. It was at least a meter long, and really very blue even in the sea. Becasue it was the first thing we didn’t get a picture of it unfortunately, but then didn’t see anything else that big!

Lots of fish

Lots of fish

The snorkelling went OK, without incident apart from Matt breaking a flipper strap. There were lots and lots of cool fish to see, and I didn’t really swallow too much water. I was surprised quite how much wildlife there was around right next to all the people swimming about. We need to go on another snorkelling adventure to try again before the diving course I think. After several practices in the swimming pool (yes!! only when nobody else was there though) I didn’t go fully underwater with my snorkel so that’s the next stage.

Byeee!

Byeee!

Overall verdict: 6/10. We saw cool stuff, but it was still a bit scary! I’ll go again though. Next time we’re going to try the underwater nature trail round the corner and hopefully see more cool things.