Here we go:

Liking: The total convenience of the new barbecue. And meeting this friendly minion from Despicable Me outside my work!

minion

Disliking: The rubbish hoover getting progressively worse and finally dying. We have a new filter ordered, and in the mean time Matt has been very busy researching robotic hoovers. I have to say my lazy side is tempted.

Watching: Still Arrow pinched off a work friend and some films including Mad Max which we didn’t really get. I don;t think we’ve watched any TV in the last month at all apart from the news.

Consuming: Barbeques! I’m loving the corn on the cob and halloumi on the BBQ. We also visited the awesome Messina gelato (yum!) and the Kurtosh (Hungarian chimney cake) bakery around the corner. We’ve also managed a couple of bottles of the suspicious free wine form the Hunter Valley. It might mainly be used for cooking now.

mushroomicecream

Buying: A new NAS drive to store our computing on and a Nespresso coffee machine for Matt’s early birthday present. I’ll be hitting the iced lattes when it gets a bit hotter I think.

Working on: A bid for Sydney Light rail to help another team out. Made a change from the day job.

Thinking about: Organising and posting Christmas presents. I also have a three week Christmas shut down, not two, so i’m planning the third week road trip.

Visiting: We went for a weekend in the nations capital, Canberra. We hit some museums and saw the main sights including the giant Merino sheep in Goulbourn on the way down.

goulburnsheep

Looking forward to: The impending visit from Phil and Rhiannon at the end of the month and our trip down to Melbourne. This includes seeing the supposedly awesome ~King Kong musical which I’m pretty excited about.

What have you guys been up to over the pond where Winter is coming….?

murderannounced

Being a detective and general murder mystery fan, I snapped up the opportunity recently to see A Murder is Announced, a Miss Marple Play, at the Sydney Theater.

The show started at 8pm, so first off we went to the Hyde park Night Noddle Market which is on as part of Good Food Month. There were about 40-50 stalls selling a whole wide range of different Asian foods, and lots of lanterns and cool lights. We started with duck pancakes which are my favourite. Unfortunately I was disappointed by $5 for one piece of duck in a pancake which was roasted breast and not even crispy – boo! Things improved with 8 Dim Sum to share and a selection of mains – crispy squid, salt and pepper prawns and BBQ pork. We went for pudding too – mini pancakes with strawberries and chocolate sauce – not terribly Asian by very tasty. On a weekday it was full with hardly any seats, so I imagine it would be hectic on a weekend.

Then it was off to the theatre. After a quick beverage in the theatre bar and some excitement over the combined Dyson tap and hand-drier in the ladies, it was time for the show. We had second row seats AND nobody say in front of us, so the view was excellent!

The story is about a murder being announced in the personal section of the local village newspaper, and the events that follow (including more than one murder). The set and the acting was soooo British, including the location in the small village of Chipping Cleghorn.

I loved it, although Matt found the play had a few too many elderly female characters for his liking. There was overly floral furniture, Royal Daulton, wing backed chairs, china tea sets, a tea trolley and cucumber sandwiches! 🙂 There were a lot of plot twists, especially at the end – certainly hard to guess whodunnit.

Who or what is your favourite detective or show? (I’m torn between Poirot and Midsomer Murder. Probably own we are here the total Britishness of Midsomer swings it!)

My room (bottom right)

My room (bottom right)

I recently had a week off work, and Matt didn’t. I’d been working hard, so was keen to make the most of the time, but wanted to be a bit considerate and do something Matt wouldn’t be massively jealous of.

After some thinking I decided to go to Mangrove Ashram. An Ashram is a center of learning for Yoga. It is the largest one in the Southern Hemisphere, and just under 2 hours north of Sydney out in the bush. I booked in for 3 nights. I had a recommendation from a friend that it was good, so decided to be brave and get over my fears that it might be full of hippies! (Not that there is anything bad about hippies, I do have hippy tendencies…)

There is a daily program, with some variations each day. There is a fair bit of free time which I mainly spent reading an talking with other people. I also went on a bush walk up to the cliffs at the top of the Ashram which was good – nice and peaceful.  I arrived just before lunch on the first day and settled in. I soon got talking to people and met a lot of people to speak too on the second morning at the visitors meeting.

Two of the three mornings I managed to make it up for the 5.30am yoga class. I’m not a morning person so it was a big challenge for me, but it set me up really well for the day. You end up feeling very awake and refreshed. There was silence each night from 8.30/9pm when the evening activity finished until 7.30am after breakfast. I even managed that too!

One of the daily classes was Yoga Nidra which is Yoga for ultimate relaxation, and it is totally relaxing. So much so I had an embarrassing moment on the second day (after the 5.15am start). You do the class lying on the floor, covered with a blanked for warmth. I was listening, I was relaxing, it was going well. Then the teacher said ‘and now we’ll end with three Ohmmms together’. I thought, ‘Its a bit off doing Ohmms on the floor, but OK.’ We did them, I opened by eyes and then realized everyone else was sat up. I had fallen asleep! Oooops! I manged top stay awake the next day!

I did some volunteering slots in the kitchen to help out, and discussed some book readings at the morning meetings. We also watched a film called The Way about the Pilgrims Way in Spain/France which was good and another film all about Yoga.

The other bit I really enjoyed which surprised me a lot was the Kirtan and chanting. I’d never heard of Kirtan before – its basically singing hymns or mantras with a harmonium playing. Some of the teachers played and sang really really well. We did quite a few sessions of it and I really liked it. The first time I actually found it quite emotional and I don’t know why – allegedly because my heart was touched or opened according to the Yogis. Quite a few other people I spoke to said they were also reluctant initially but then really liked it.

The classes were all quite gentle and relaxing, nothing very strenuous. I did get some help to practice my head stands which was much appreciated. The food was very tasty – all vegetarian and mainly vegan too. One day we got chocolate cake for a birthday – yum! The whole place was just really relaxing. It did take me a little while to wind down after my hectic work and life, but after the first afternoon I was totally in the tempo of the place. The people were all really lovely and just the whole place had a really positive, caring amazing vibe. I came back feeling great!

I would definitely  go back, although with a limited amount of holiday and loads of places I want to explore then probably not for a while! It definitely made me want to do more yoga which I’m doing.

I was really pleased I tried something that I was initially a reluctant about. I had a really good time, ended up feeling great and learnt some more about myself – including finding out I like things which I hadn’t expected. Why don’t you try something new this month? You don’t know, you might like it!

Any questions or thoughts?

Lighthouse

Norah Bay Lighthouse

On our way back from the Hunter Valley we took a drive down the Central Coast on the way home.

We first stopped off at the Norah Bay lighthouse. We did the 1km-ish round trip walk along the nature trail tot he lighthouse and back along the beach. We finished off with an nice cream for our efforts!

From there we drove on another 10km or so to the Entrance, which is a spit and big lagoon (Tuggerah Lake). The view was cool and there were people kite surfing which looked good fun. There were also tons of pelicans – there are a lot of them around there. We were in time for the pelican feeding too which was good entertainment.

Next stop was Terrrigal Beach, a long beach with a lookout. By now I was a bit bored of beaches, so after a quick wander we headed on.

We drove back via the Bouddi National Park which has cool views back across to Lion Island, Barrenjoey, Palm Beach and Sydney beyond.

The scenic drive was not much of a detour an much better than the M1. (The M1 in Australia isn’t dissimilar to the M1 in the UK expect its hotter, hillier, less busy and has more trees by it!)

Pelican feeding

Pelican feeding

The wine haul

The wine haul

In late October Matt and I went for a weekend away in the Hunter Valley. We had it booked before his work trip came up, and thought we might as well go again and see some different wineries. You can read about our first trip here.

We headed up Friday night and got dinner in Cessnock on the way. We stayed just north of there in the YHA for a bargainacious $85 a night. It was in a good rural location although the showers were cold!

Adventurously, we had hired bikes for the Saturday to ride around the wineries! Given the last time I rode a bike resulted in a broken helmet and a lot of scrapes, I was a bit nervous, but decided to face my fear! We did well, and I reckon we cycled about 25km! It was mid 20’s in termprature, so pretty warm but not too hot with a nice breeze. The day went a bit like this:

10am: Drive to Cessnock for breakfast – bacon and egg rolls to set us up for the ride

11am: Get the bikes and helmets all sorted and set off up the road

12am: First winery – Calais Estates! I was well ready for a nice chilled white after the longest cycle i’ve done in a long time.

12.30pm: On to Waverley Winery. The only winery doing aged wines, although the lady was vague about what counts as aged. We enjoyed the 2006 Cab Sav.

1pm: First Creek winery. I really enjoyed a lot of the wines here, and our pourer was very friendly and helpful.

2pm: Lunch at the Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop. We had the large cheese pizza and chips to share. It was  totally epic amount of cheese. We didn’t even have space for a nice palette cleaning ice cream after.

Cheese overload

Cheese overload

2.30pm: Tamberlaine winery. These guys make organic wine and some ‘biodynamic’ wine too. I was keen to go as we had some of their wine at a restaurant and really enjoyed it, but none of the ones we tasted really hit the mark. Heading off from there we cycled past a dead kangaroo which was pretty upsetting.

3pm: Olive, jam, chutney, oil and balsamic tasting at the Hunter Olive Centre. We bought some caramelised balsamic – yummy!

4pm: Final winery – Hungerford Hill. The winery is shaped like a barrel. They had some good drops worth a trip back for too.

Proof of me with a bike

Proof of me with a bike

After a shower and rest back at the YHA we walked 450m for dinner at Potters Brewery just up the road. We were stuffed by then really so didn’t managed much more food and drink before tottering off to bed tired, full and happy!

We didn’t buy any wines on the Saturday, but made some notes (yes – In am that organised) and went back with the car and picked them up on the Sunday – after another nice breakfast of course (Eggs Benedict and smoked salmon for me and with Bacon for Matt.)

At Waverleyx we inquired about the free case. Turns out they had some 1999 Chardonnay and 2001 Shriaz that were getting near the end of their lives. They reckoned most were fine, there might just be the odd bad one as long as we drank them soon. So we took the plunge and spent $100 on fancy aged Cabernet Sauvignon for Christmas and took the 12 free bottles! We also went back to my favorite winery from the first trip – Pepper Tree – to buy their liqueur wine I didn’t buy last time. Turns out it sold out, but I got the summer substitute version which was also pretty yummy!

We went on a house long wine tour at Tyrells for $5 too. It was jam packed full of information and very interesting. The guide was good and the winery has loads of history, still being family owned in the 5th generation. At the wine makers reunion dinner of 17 guys they drank 84 bottles!

We ended up with 20 bottles, slightly more than planned but with the free case they came in at an average of just over $10, so can’t complain! For the wine buffs, we got:

  • 2 x 2010 Organic Pianco Puro from First Creek ( a mix of Verdelho, Chardonnay and Semillion)
  • 1 x 2011 Late Harvest Shiraz from First Creek
  • 2 x 2013 Hunter Valley Early BIrd Semillion from Hungerford Hill
  • NV Muscat from Pepper Tree in fancy bottle
  • 2 x 2005 Cab Sav from Waverley Wines
  • 6 x lottery 1999 Chardonnay from Waverley Wines and
  • 6 x lottery 2001 Shiraz from Waverley Wines

All in all a top weekend! 🙂

Vines

Vines

Wolgan valley

Wolgan valley

Back in October we went with the Sydney Rockies Climbing Club to the annual(ish) Sheep Roast and climbing trip in the Wolgan Valley.

On Friday night we  headed up from Sydney. The Wolgan is about 3.5-4 hours from Sydney to the north west. You go through the Blue Mountains, then on some more. Eventually you go 35km up a dead end, half gravel road which is pretty adventure like. It used to be all gravel , so we considered ourselves lucky. I was given a Wombat Guarantee for the weekend and I wasn’t disappointed. On the way up we saw 3 from the car, and then I saw another one on the first night during a trip to the loo in the dark. Sadly it was too dark for a photo.Also, they do look slightly less cute and a bit more evil in the dark! We also spotted a lot of wallabies.

The campsite was in a sort of bowl, surrounded by cliffs on most of its side, and a stream along one side which I took a couple of dips in to escape the heat. arriving in the dark and then waking up to the view on Saturday morning was cool.

Saturday we went for some climbing at the Coke Ovens. It used to be a Coke mining and production area, big around the 1950s, but its shut down since. On the walk in you go past the old coke ovens. One two pitch climb and a single pitch one. It was super hot, so we learnt a valuable lesson about making sure we take a lot of water.

Saturday morning the experts prepared the sheep on a full on spit over a fire. The spit also had a whole rump and chicken on it. Some diligent club members stayed behind all day to gradually turn and cook it. When we came back it smelt awesome! The lamb was great and the beef was even better – sooooo tender. On Sunday I stayed around the campsite relaxing and reading my book, while Matt went off on a harder climbing adventure with Paul G.

Overall an excellent weekend. We’ll be sheep roasting again next year!

Fire cooked meat

Fire cooked meat

 

09. November 2013 · Write a comment · Categories: Reviews · Tags:
Navy ships

Navy ships

After the Saturday fireworks of the Sydney Naval 100 year Fleet Review, on the Bank Holiday Monday we had tickets to look around all the boats. For $3 each (plus a comparatively huge $8 postage) it was a bargain. You can read about the first day and fireworks, here. 

We started off at Garden Island, which is where Matt works. We did a historic tour of the Island – it was good to have a nosey about and the chapel had some pretty cool stained glass. We went on three boats there:

  • HMAS Darwin (Australian)
  • NNS Thunder (Nigerian)
  • Mayalsian ship

The NZ ship was doing missile demos as we waited, spinning them around.

Missile

Missile

 

There was a free ferry back to the Opera House, so we hopped on that and went to the second site at Bangaroo. In there were the Aussie, American and British ships. Unfortunately just after we arrived the HMS Daring (the British ship) closed to visitors. We went on HMAS Paramatta (Australian).

I liked seeing the control rooms and noseying about the ships. Matt was obviously very much more interested given that (a) he works on that sort of thing and (b) he is a boy and they like ships, especially big ones with big guns!

 fleetreview
Lunch time

Lunch time

Featherdale Wildlife Park is about 45 mins from our place over in the West of Sydney. Its not as big as Taronga zoo, but I was at a loose end one day so thought it was worth a trip as I love animals.

The Wildlife Park was quite interactive. There were mainly Australian animals, plus a few birds from further afield. I spent about 3 hours there and got to pat and have my photo taken with a koala – awwwww!

Me and the koala

Me and the koala

I also got to pat a wallabee, a dingo and a lot of kangaroos. They had super cite koalas with little babies too. You stamp your animal passport as you go around with all the ones you have seen. I know I am over 30, but I did this anyway!

It is smaller than Taronga, but well worth a visit if you like animals like I do.

Better than one wombat? Two wombats!

Better than one wombat? Two wombats!

 

Snaaaaake

Snaaaaake

Wine in progress

Wine in progress

In late September we went on a weekend day trip organised through Matt’s work social club to the Hunter Valley. The Hunter is about 2 hours north of Sydney and is a large wine producing region. It’s also a big foodie destination with lots of cheese, chutneys, jams and other yummy food stuffs.

After meeting at McDonalds with our mandatory silly hats for the bus, we piled into the minibus and off we went. The Hunter is most known for Shiraz, Chardonnay, Semillion and Verdhelo. I am not a Chardonnay fan unless its unoaked, so set about sampling the other regions well known wines and some others too! The places we went were:

  • Ballabourneen – tasty balsamics and a parrot to entertain us
  • Pepper Tree – this was a lovely winery in really nice countryside with beautiful flowers. It turned out to be my favorite of the day, along with their liqueur muscat in a round bottomed bottle so you couldn’t knock it over! I ended up kicking myself for not buying one.

peppertree

  • Tempus Two – one of the big wineries in a big complex with all sorts of food.
  • We had lunch next door at Tuk Tuk burgers to soak up some of the wine.
  • Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Co – tasted some yummy cheeses but didn’t buy any as they wouldn’t do well in the heat on the bus. Had some yummy ice creams.
  • McGuigan wines over the road and the associated Hunter Valley Cheese Co for more cheeeeese. They had nice desert wine too.
  • Hunter Valley Chocolate Co – we didn’t buy chocolate becasue of the heat but this place had chocolates shaped like penguins! Awesome. Matt picked up some uber sour sweets from the British Lolly Shop and promptly have them to his colleagues – not a great career move!
  • Off licence with a beer wall! They had a great beer selection and Matt picked up a couple of British favorites.
  • Lindemans. Nice and friendly and they even gave us a discount on some ‘Tawny’ as they were closing. Apparently they;re not allowed to call it Port any more as its not from Portugal, but it tastes just as good as Port!

It was a good day out with friendly company. Not very healthy, but very very tasty! We already had another trip to the Hunter booked for the two of us when this came up, so read about that – including cycling between wineries – in an upcoming post!

UK section of the beer wall

UK section of the beer wall