Icing penguin I made

Icing penguin I made

Here’s the August round up. Cake features heavily.

Liking: We’ve been on  some good walks recently, including a 10km-ish loop around Manly Reservoir with some pretty exciting geocaches. At the start of the month I went on a mini adventure up the Sunshine Coast which was good, whilst staying up in Brisbane for work over a weekend. I had a few days off work and tried nmy hand at sugarcraft – making cake decorations with icing. I really enjoyed doing that and seeing all the cute creations.

Disliking: I’ve been away a fair bit working in Brisbane, including 10 days in a row in a hotel in a fairly inconvenient place on the wrong side of town, with not much near by. On the plus side, it was warm up in Brissie and the office there is nicer than Sydney.

Watching: Being away I’ve continued with Greys Anatomy on the IPad and am now up to early Season 5. I’ve also just started the Great British Bake Off on iplayer, although our internet is having trouble streaming it which is frustrating.

Playing: Our latest game is Smallworld, which I first played in the UK with Bex and Paul. Its a really good game, with lots of variety and loads of expansions as well. Today we bought Net Runner which we need to read the massive rule book for.

Consuming: I’ve been eating out a fair bit in Brisbane, including at the English themed Pig and Whistle pub where I was pleased to have vinegar with my chips :-). We have just got back from a weekend at a friends place in the Blue Mountains where we had a Bake Off. We had dinner with roast lamb, pumpkin pie with home grown pumpkin (both entrants in the bake off) and an awesome pasta side followed by eight, yes, eight cakes! I enjoy making cake and of course eating cake, but even I’ll admit eight was too many!

My entry was a 4 layer sponge cake which I’d done before with vanilla, caramel, choc caramel and chocolate layers, with chocolate butter cream and decorated with an Australian animal theme. I enjoyed learning the new skill of sugarcraft and won the bake off – woo! 😀 My animals were slightly too big really, and I’m not sure what to do with them all now! They’re certainly too sweet to eat, as High found out by testing Walter the Wombat. RIP Walter. I’ll do a separate post about my cake.

The other cakes were: chocolate brioche (my favourite); peanut butter chocolate brownies (made by Matt); sticky date pudding; pear and ginger cake; lemon cupcakes; gingerbread and chocolate chip cookies.

Walker the icing wombat

Walker the icing wombat

Buying: Matt’s ordered a rain gauge to go with our weather meter, but it’s not here yet.

Thinking about: After the Bake Off, which involved bottling and drinking home brew; Matt’s thinking about setting up his own home brewing production line.

Visiting: On the Sunshine Coast I went to Noosa, Australia Zoo, the Glasshouse Mountains and the Big Pineapple. More about those in another post.

Missing: Sid! I went to Brissie for 10 days and when I got back, Sid the golden orb weaver spider – who lives on balcony number 2 – was gone! Some of his web and food supply is still there. Sid was a good pet. He needed no looking after, stayed within the confines of his web outside and slowly taught me not to be so petrified of spiders (except when he suddenly moved very fast which I never got used to). We don’t know if Sid went off to explore new plants, or got hurt in the bad weather. I’m hoping the first one. Who would have thought I’d feel sad not to see a spider! I’d post a picture of him, but I never got around to taking a good one.

Looking forward to: We’re heading on a three night tour around Kings Canyon and Uluru in September which I’m excited about. I’m hoping the tock is as big as I expect.

 

Our local lawn bowls green

Our local lawn bowls green

 

The BBC recently confirmed what we here in Australia already knew, lawn bowls (also known as barefoot bowls) is cool. They said so here.

We have a green very near to our house, with the Harbour Bridge in the background. Back on a wet and windy July afternoon we decided to be brave and head down for a game with our friends Ellie, Chris and Naomi visiting from the UK, and actual Australian Jen. We thought it was $12 each of 2 hours, which was already a bargain, but it was actually $12 for the whole lane, so $2 each. Absolute bargain!

I’ve done lawn bowls a couple of times with work. They were both in the summer, which is much better – especially with a nice cold refreshing drink. (Lawn bowls is actually all about the drinking!). It turned out my couple of games experience actually paid off, and if I do say so myself I actually did pretty well!

Here are the basic rules: Divide into even teams. I guess about 8-10 people can play in one lane. Someone bowls the jack down the green and you put the mat down so you all stand in the same place. Each person has two bowls each. Person 1 from team A bowls, then Person 1 from team B. Then they each have another go and it swaps to the next pair of people. The bowls are weighted and have a big dot and small dot on one side. They curve towards the small dot, so you have to keep this in mind when bowling. For scoring, the team with the bowl closest to the jack gets a point. Then they get another point for all the other bowls they have closest to the jack before the other team has a close one. So you might get one point, or if 6 of your bowls were closer than the oppositions then you’d get 6 points. You measure with footsteps if you’re not sure.

 

Good bowling technique

Good bowling technique

 

We split into two teams. With only one Aussie, England vs Australia wasn’t really fair, so we started with people wearing shows (me, Chris and Naomi) against people wearing flip flops (Ellie, Jen and Matt). Our team won a pretty convincing victory as first to 11 points – woo! Normally you play to 21, but we decided to swap teams after 11. After getting a bit stuck again on how to divide us up, we went for people whose name ends with “eee” (Elly, Ellie and Naomi) against the others. It was closer this time, but still my team won – woo! As well as just bowling close to the jack other tactics including hitting the jack nearer to your bowls, or trying to hit the other teams balls further away. This helps keep it interesting!

I reckon its a good fun way to spend an afternoon in the sun drinking with visitors. Has anyone played in the UK?

 

 

Foxy

Foxy

When we went to Dubbo we also dropped in at the Cultural Centre. This is a free place, with an art gallery and a small museum. It also has a good cafe, where we accidentally stuffed ourselves with a late lunch big enough for 3 or 4 people!

The museum had lots of old things from the area, including some crazily narrows shoes and a replica of an old school classroom. The wooden desks with ink wells and space for books inside reminded me of the desks where I went to primary school, and they even had old books in them!

Back to school

Back to school

The art was particularly good. They had a few different exhibits, including some ‘designs’ for silly futuristic things like a flying polar bear farm (?!?!?!) and an exhibit from a competition on making art out of everyday rubbish. The pictures of my favourites are here. They’re a lizard made from a tyre, a fox made from chicken wire and old curtains and a penguin made from an old gas bottle. He looks pretty mean with a cigarette in his mouth.

Tyre lizard

Tyre lizard

 

Penguin from a gas bottle

Penguin from a gas bottle

 

 

 

So being Brits, we obviously talk about the weather a lot – and talking to people back home they often ask about it too. We even have a gadget for measuring the weather , called a Netatmo. We thought that we’d combine these two things and make a weather page on our website.

Probably the biggest difference that you notice when moving from the UK to Australia is that the weather is noticeably warmer and more predictable. Matt has a saying over here that goes:

“In the UK you can expect the weather to be bad, and if it is good you’re lucky. Whereas in Australia, you can expect the weather to be good, and if it is bad you’re unlucky”

The weather page is new and ready to go. Check it out, by clicking here, or on the ‘weather’ tab above.

You’ll be able to see live outdoor weather from our weather station on the balcony. Currently it only measures temperature, pressure and humidity (and temperatures are in the shade). Soon we are getting a rain gauge too so expect an update then!

Lorikeets at Port Stephens

Lorikeets at Port Stephens

Last year we went up to the Port Stephens area and stayed over one night in a place called Tea Gardens. I wrote about it here. It was quite wet last time, so we agreed to go back another time and go sand boarding down the biggest (moving?) dunes in the Southern Hemisphere.

We went back in July, with my friend Ellie who was visiting from the UK. Handily she’s been to Sydney a couple of times before, so we could do some slightly different things to the usual visitor stuff.

We headed up Friday night, and stayed two nights in the YHA Samurai Bungalows which came recommended. It was good value and in a nice setting surrounding by tropical looking bush. Allegedly there are koalas around the site and a diamond python, but we only managed to spot the dog and a few kookaburras. We had a cabin room and used the camp kitchen to cook up some bacon and eggs on the barbie for breakfast, Aussie style.

We spent a fair bit of time trying to spot koalas around the area, sadly unsuccessfully. We also did a lot of activities including visiting an avocado farm, a winery (with sampling and purchases), sand boarding, putt putt (mini golf), lunch at the lighthouse with lorikeets and a yummy dinner where Ellie and I shared a dessert tasking plate with 4 mini desserts each –  yummy! 🙂 Matt even got in a spot of climbing.

Putt putt with swinging obstacles

Putt putt with swinging obstacles

Sand boarding is a pretty mental activity, like sledging, but with sand dunes! In Port Stephens, near Anna Bay are some of the biggest moving sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere. We paid $20 each and went for a very bumpy fun ride in a bus across the dunes. We got dropped off at the big dunes where we could ride the sandboards down the dunes as much as we liked. There was a small slope to practice and a bigger one. Walking up the dines was quite a bit of effort, so we did about 7 or 8 rides each before our legs gave up. About 50% of the time we ended up with a not entirely smooth landing, getting covered in sand. It was good fun, but the sand got everywhere! I still have it in my bag and coat pockets 3 weeks later! You have to sit on the boards, no standing is allowed for safety reasons and I can see why – staying on it sitting down is hard enough! We escaped with only be getting one minor injury – a scrape and bruise on my leg where Ellie crashed and I hit her from behind.

Sandboard2PS

Ready to sand board

Sand boarding!

Sand boarding!

I’d recommend giving sand boarding a go if you get a chance – just know you’ll get sand everywhere!

Sand boarding bus

Sand boarding bus

Macaroon-tastic!

Macaroon-tastic!

July as been pretty action packed. We had a flat warming for our new place, welcomed our friends Chris and Naomi who have been backpacking down the east coast, and had my Uni PhD friend Dr Ellie for about 10 days. We’ve had lots of adventures, all alongside being away in Brisbane with work quite a bit for a bid. We’re about to have a ‘Christmas in July’ night too for the coldest day. Its currently wet but still about 18 degrees. Here’s a summary.

Liking: Having friends over and socialising. Having people to stay is a great excuse to do fun stuff, especially if they’ve been to Sydney before so you can do new things. Recently I’ve had a lot of sociable cakes and cocktails 🙂

Disliking: Being away with work. Brisbane is getting kinda boring now. Next week I’m in a different hotel location though so that’ll mix things up a bit.

Watching: I’ve stocked up on Greys Anatomy on my IPad and am getting through that while I’m away at a fair old pace. I’ve just finished Season 2.

Playing: We bought our latest game on a wet Saturday afternoon in Dubbo, when we’d been rained off from the zoo. Its called Red November, and involved a series of gnomes trying to save a sinking submarine. It took us a few goes to get our heads around all the rules, but once you do that its quite good. With friends over we’ve had a few games of Cards Against Humanity too which is great fun!

Consuming: I’ve been up in Brisbane with work so had a lot of meals out. I introduced a colleague to Morton Bay Bugs which are yummy and also had some very nice tapas (the Wagyu beef sticky buns were great). Back in Sydney, Ellie and I tried out the Adriano Zumbo cake shop and had cocktails 47 floors up in the O Bar overlooking the city. The Breakfast Martini was my favourite – it had marmelade in it (not bacon and eggs). We also checked out a cool bar called the Soda Factory with my other friend Mel which was very hip, with a cool live band and food in a basket! (But better than the Bacton Gas Terminal Caravan Park kind, Jane!) For Christmas in July I’m making some mince pies (they smell great) and instead of turkey a ‘Beer Can Chicken’.

Hot Tub selfie

Hot Tub selfie

Buying: Not a lot. We bought some chemicals for the hot tub. And some new rucksacks as our old one died.

Thinking about: Holidays. We’re doing some planning about holidays at the moment, to see about buying leave for next year. We only get 20 days basic, and have to use 6 at Christmas for the shut downs, which doesn’t leave a lot, especially if you factor in a trip to the UK.

Visiting: We’ve been on a trip to Port Stephens and taken a trip around the harbour in a sea plane. More about those in future posts though.

Missing: Sounds weird, but curtains. When its a bit cold inside they somehow make it seem warmer, but we only have blinds.

Looking forward to: I’m spending a weekend in Brisbane for work in August, so going to take a trip to Australia zoo. Also coming up in August we have a trip to the new ‘Escape Room’ in Sydney. Its sort of like a hour long mystery game on the Crystal Maze. that you play in pairs. Details here.