31. August 2013 · Write a comment · Categories: Reviews · Tags:
Big guns

Big guns

Back in July we went on a trip to the Australian National Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour.

With Matt working on things for the navy, I was a bit worried about being bored stiff while he spent hours looking at every last thing. Luckily, it was actually pretty interesting! I’ll apologise now for my totally incorrect use of naval terminology.

Although its a museum its really interactive, and you get to walk around several different boats and a submarine. Here were the highlights for me:

Going on the submarine (HMAS Onslow): It was pretty cramped down there, I definitely couldn’t work on one of them, even though I’m short enough to not bang my head too much!

Boarding the submarine

Boarding the submarine

Replica of Captain Cook’s HMB Endeavour: This was pretty interesting. Having thought the submarine was cramped, the bottom desk of Endeavour took it to a whole new level, where you literally had to crawl around on your hands and knees! I liked all the old school wood, and couldn’t resist a piratey ‘Yaaaaarrrrrr!’ when we boarded!

Elysium Antarctic Visual Epic: one of the special exhibits they had when we were there was a photography exhibition from National Geographic photographers visiting the Antarctic. This was very cool, particularly all the shots of penguins!

Verdict: Certainty worth a visit, even if you don’t think you’ll be interested!

Captian Elly!

Captian Elly!

 

Here’s a quick run down on our August. We have been….

Liking: Winter. Its winter here, but really, its chilly in the morning and evening, so you want a coat, and then still only sometimes jacket weather in the day time. I’m sure if we stay here long enough i’ll miss the properly cold weather of home, but right now i’m liking the mild winter thing. Its even warm enough for camping (I hope so anyway, as we have a trip planned!)

Disliking: Missing things. There have been some significant events back home this August (friends Hen Parties and weddings) which I would have really loved to have gone to. I’m hoping to get up to date with all the facebook photos soon – get uploading people!

Watching: Grimm and Worlds End. Our latest DVD boxset is Grimm. Its a supernatural detective series, based on the Grimm fairy tales. Perfectly watchable, although not in the same league as Game of Thrones. We also went to the cinema to watch Worlds End, the latest Simon Pegg and Nick Frost film. It was enjoyable light hearted comedy viewing, probably a tad too much on the silly side for me. It was funny seeing England on TV – you don’t realise how distinct things like country lanes and pubs and high streets are until they;’re all different!

Consuming: Raisin toast . This is such a good invention. Its fruit bread, all sliced up for toasting and its yummy. Like a cinnamon and raisin bagel, but as a loaf. This month I also gave in and opened the gigantic Marmite Ellie brought us from the UK and it is gooood. I’ve had to abandon the latest imposter brand – Aussie Mite – its just rubbish i’m afraid.

Buying: An Esky. Its basically a cool box, but its the brand to have over here., so another step on the road to integration Perfect for the stupidly hot weather apparently. We went for a 26l one, which is very small by most standards it seems. Locals have suggested we should have got an all signing all danging wheely model with its own drain plug, but they were at least three times the size. Stay tuned for updates on whether we’re going to need to upgrade. 

Esky

Esky

Working on: Our first full RoadsPlus bid. Work has been manic for me with the latest bid – our first proper one. I did 17.5 days work straight in a row, hence no original new photos sorted out yet! Its stepped down a gear temporarily now thank goodness!

Thinking about: Weddings. Our friends back in the UK have been doing a lot of marrying this month. Congratulations to all of you and sorry we weren’t there with you!

Visiting: Jervis Bay. We’ve just come back from a weekend down in Jervis Bay on the South Coast. Its got great scenery, wild kangaroos and a load of beaches, including Hyams beach which has the whitest sand in the world. Ooooh.

Looking forward to: Visiting the Hunter Valley. The Hunter Valley is the place to go from Sydney for a weekend filled with wine and cheese. We’re going on October, possibly to do a highly dangerous cycling tour around the wineries. :-s

What have you guys been up to?

Paul&Bex2

Today is a Big Day.

Our awesome friends Rebecca Paul and Paul Lismer (the ‘Pauls’) from the UK are getting married! We’re pretty sad we can’t be there to share their big day, so here’s a little tribute to them on their wedding day.

Here’s 5 reasons they are awesome friends…

1. They have excellent party hosting skills – with copious gin and cocktails – even though this is slightly hazardous for Paul who once almost cut his finger off slicing lemons, turned all white from blood loss and managed to get it on the ceiling!

2. Bex makes awesome food, especially cake! Pretty much anyone who feeds me nice cake will be my friend for a long time.

3. They have awesome taste in Board Games. We shared many happy evenings pretending to be zombies eating braaaaaaaaaaaaains

4. They were good enough to move only 2 minutes walk from our house, producing uber convenient socialising opportunities on the correct side of the Horsham railway line and

5. They have a shed load of our things stored in their attic and only threatened to keep them all once! (Thank you guys!)

HAPPY WEDDING DAY Paul and Bex! xxx

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Kookaburra

Kookaburra

With our new car, we took another drive up to the Ku-Ring-Gai National Park, this time to Bobbin Head.

It was very wet in Sydney when we left, so we crossed our fingers it would ease off! We were pretty lucky with the weather, and managed to get away with a quick tea, coffee and Tim Tam stop, two short walks (with kangeroos) AND a two hour trip in a tinny boat without getting rained on!

Our Tinny Boat

Our Tinny Boat

We hired the tinny for two hours for $70 and took it up the river towards the coast, checking out the cool scenery of the National Park on the way, with gum trees going right down to the water. With the poor weather there weren’t a lot of other people about. We anchored to a buoy at an inlet near Cottage Point for a tasty ploughman’s picnic. We got back just as the cloud started greying and the wind picking up.

Captain Matt

Captain Matt

After the boat ride we took a walk around near the visitor centre and saw more kangeroos. Its going to be a long time before I stop thinking seeing them out and about in the countryside is just awesome!

 

Kangeroo!

Kangeroo!

Kangeroo

Today its six months since we arrived in Australia, which seems like a good time to reflect on how its going.

First off, its gone pretty quickly, and we’ve done a whole heap of stuff since we got here. Here’s a quick roundup of the dull and less dull bits:

  • Found a flat to rent, and moved house into it, using the bus and train. Kitted out the flat with mainly new furniture, appliances, crockery and all the other bits and pieces you need, took shipment of our kit from the UK and bought a car
  • Work wise, I prequalified on two bids and finished RoadsPlus’s first major bid (due tomorrow!). Matt got promoted.
  • Joined the climbing club, became ‘semi-rad smoogers’ and been on loads of climbing trips
  • Done a whole heap of touristy stuff around Sydney itself (Reptile Park, Taronga Zoo, Maritime Museum, Vivid fesitval, Tower Eye, Art Gallery, Aquarium…..)
  • Visited Brisbane, Wollongong, the Blue Mountains and Ku-Ring-Gai
  • Had visits from Lizzie Short and Ellie Biggs, as well as meeting up with Toby Jeffries who also moved here from the other side of the world

At the moment its winter. Apart from a really wet week back in June, its been pretty good really. I’ve put the heating on for maybe an hour about ten times, and that’s it. Sure, you need to wear a coat outside, but its never been below 8 degrees. It seems to hit 20 in the day time a fair amount still too. We’re getting to grips with the local shops and products, different road rules and funny words for things.

What to we miss about the UK? Our friends and family are definitely the main one there. There’s some big weddings and events going on at the moment which we’re missing – boo! Other than that, a whole host of small stuff – decent TV, the ubiquity of baked potatos, countryside, our garden and mud (Matt said that one).

What would we miss about Australia if we left now? Here’s the top 5:

  • Exploring new places: I really enjoy seeing new things and going to new places
  • The better weather: its really makes a big difference to your general mood and ability to do stuff when its warmer and less rainy. I might have a different view come summer!
  • Modern, open plan living: I think it would feel quite weird going back into our 1970’s house now
  • Food things: the variety of cuisine is awesome here, not only for eating out but in shops too. And as well as the decent food there is of course also Twisties,Tim Tams and raisin toast!
  • And to be materialistic for a moment – our shiny car. Its just way nicer than the ones we’ve ever had before and so much less hassle to look after.

We might move when our lease is up – try out somewhere different, escape the noise building work next door, downsize to one less room and upgrade to a decent view. Time will tell though, flat hunting is a right pain here!

I’m glad we came out on an adventure and we’ve got plenty more exploring to do. I’m looking forward to visiting Melbourne, Canberra (not very exciting, but we should go) and Darwin, hopefully in the next 6 months. After that, more things on the list are the Barrier Reef, Uluru, Tasmania, Fiji, Perth, Bali and of course the Short/Millis Southern Hemisphere reunion!

Soooooooo cute

Soooooooo cute

Ever since I found out about it, I’ve been wanting to visit Australian Reptile Park. It’s about an hours drive north from our place, up towards the central coast and not near any public transport, so I’ve had to patently wait until we got a car.

Now I love reptiles, and used to have them as a pet, so this was a pretty exciting adventure for me. On top of that, the name is slightly misleading – although its focussed around reptiles, probably more than 50% of the park is for Australian wildlife and birds. This means kangeroos, koalas and of course super-cute wombats!

I had an awesome time! 🙂  Most of the day was a highlight, but here were some of the particularly awesome bits:

Patting a wombat: He was sooooooooooo cute. They are well up there with penguins in the favourite animal stakes now. so far at zoo’s I’ve only seen them asleep or with their heads buried in food bowls, so getting to squeal over how cute they were up close, AND give one a stroke was brilliant. I also managed to accost a kangeroo for a cuddle, and pat a koala too – hopefully he didn’t give me chlamydia – most of them have it you know! :-S

Reptile show: The reptile show was cool, with the worlds largest kind of gecko, a tegu, baby croc and python that nearly strangled the keeper. There were lots of other shows on throughout the day with talks from the main keeper who was a bit of a comic character! One had a rattlesnake which impressed me – the rattle was much louder than I’d have thought. (Luckily you don’t get them in Australia though).

Rattle snaaaaaaaaaaaake

Rattle snaaaaaaaaaaaake

Elvis the crocodile: Elvis is another 5 meter long ‘big boss croc’ from up in Darwin. We didn’t get to find out much about his life story like we got a Wild Life Sydney, but we did get to see him being fed chickens off a stick, which was good to watch – the bang as he snapped his jaws shut was pretty impressive, along with his jumping skills.

Elvis the Big Boss Croc

Elvis the Big Boss Croc

Tasmanian Devils: Again, we’d only seen these guys asleep before. The ones here were really active which was good to see, and we found out some more about the conservation work going on. The Tassie Devils are in danger becasue of a disease, so the Reptile park is helping support a program to breed them in captivity to ultimately make sure they don’t go extinct. I gave some money and got a badge!

Tasmanian Devil

Tasmanian Devil

Galapagos tortoise: The giant galapagos tortoise went on a walk around the park and got to have his lunch while lots of people patted him! His shell was cool, huge and nice and warm! 

Tortoise lunchtime

Tortoise lunchtime

Verdict:  This gets no less than an awesome 9.8 /10! I just had to deduct a bit becasue I can live without the spider exhibit, and they failed to provide me with a decent cup of tea! (See, I’m still British at heart!)

Yummy brownies - not many left by the time I remembered to take a photo!

Yummy brownies – not many left by the time I remembered to take a photo!

Everyone loves a chocolate brownie right? Here’s my recipe, totally stolen from Jane Short. They are excellent!

Ingredients:

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

1. Melt chocolate and butter over a pan of hot water. Last time I made these I also added some rum (we bought it, its not very nice to drink, seemed like a good way to get rid of some. They turned out to be the best ones I’ve done so I might try that again next time.)

2. Roughly chop the toblerone. I find 4 bits per large triangle works well.

3. Whisk eggs and sugar  together. Add in the coffee and vanilla.

4. Add melted chocolate mix to the eggs and mix.

5. Stir in flour and then add in toblerone.

6. Pour into a greased and lined tray

7. Bake at 180 degrees. – unhelpfully i didnt write down how long – I check after 30 mins and go from there

Yummy! 🙂

Waffles and hug mug

Waffles and hug mug

Here in Sydney, there are quite a few chocolate cafe’s. These are places which serve hot drinks and cakes, mainly chocolate based with some standard caffinated drinks to broaden their appeal.

Recently I’ve tried out two kinds, a Max Brenner and a Lindt cafe.

At Max Brenner I had the dark hot chocolate drink and waffles with dark chocolate sauce. Ellie had milk hot chocolate and chocolate crepes with banana.

We took Matt to the Lindt cafe too and enjoyed milk and dark hot chocolates again, profiteroles and chocolate and pear cake.

So which was better?

The Max Brenner hot chocolate was lovely, but so rich I couldn’t finish it (even though a lot of it went on my waffle as it was nice and thick). At the Lindt cafe you get hot milk and hot chocolate sauce which you mix together yourself. This tasted awesome, although I would have preferred it slightly hotter. The Lindt cafe had a better selection of high quality cakes (compared to mainly waffles, muffins, cookies, crepes and chocolate pizza at Max Brenner), although the price tag reflected the extra effort involved in creating them. Both had a shop with a selection of things to take away, including some Lindt ball flavours I’d not seen before like raspberry, milk and white chocolate together and mint. The Max Brenner rounded ‘hug mug’ was nice to drink out of, and a bit different. Both places smelt gorgeous.

All things considered, Lindt edges it for me.

Next up is a San Churro (Spanish themed, with churros) and a Guylian cafe.  Maybe not for a while though or I’ll end up super fat! I think Ill make a proper decision on which one is best once I’ve tried them all!