Sorry for the delay folks, here’s an update on November.

At the start of November I got to tick off the final State / Territory and made it down to Adelaide for a couple of nights for a conference on driver-less cars. It was pretty interesting and I got a ride in a self-parking Volvo and drooled at the Tesla. I didn’t have much time to see Adelaide itself, but I did notice a lot of churches in a small space. Whilst I was there I got elected to the Sydney Rockies (climbing club) as Treasurer, and Matt is the new President, so that will be keeping us busy.

Having finally got our balcony back from the scaffolders we had a BBQ night, luckily avoiding the rain.

Dance for Kindness 2015

Dance for Kindness 2015

On the 8th I took part with my friend Kirsty in the Dance for Kindness 2015 flashmob down by the Opera House to kick off World Kindness Week. The dance was done by lots of groups all around the world and the whole experience actually turned out to be pretty fun rather than scary like I thought it was going to be!

On the Sunday we went to the annual Sculptures by the Sea festival down by Bondi beach. We went quite late in the day and it was a little bit cloudy, so it wasn’t as busy as it has been which is good. Here’s a selection of photos of my favorite ones.

Pretty seaweed sculpture

Pretty seaweed sculpture

Cork seaweed sculpture

Cork seaweed sculpture

Metal rock sculpture

Metal rock sculpture

Disturbing 'Barbie Wave'

Disturbing ‘Barbie Wave’

Big brother!

Big brother!

For a while we’ve been thinking about (= Matt has been hassling me about) getting a new car. We do a fair number of camping and climbing trips where we take a lot of stuff and it gets a bit tight in the car if we take any passengers. We also do a fair bit of driving on dirt roads, so it made sense to get something with a bigger boot, more ground clearance and a 4WD/AWD. We’re getting a Subaru Outback in Platinum Grey (a bit blue). It is quite a bit bigger than Jeffrey the car, so we’ll see how I get on driving it! It has some exciting features like adaptive cruise control which i’m interested in using. We’re going to name the new car Bruce and we’ll put up some pictures once he arrives.

We also got some culture in in the month, with Matilda the musical, and Spectre the James Bond film. Matilda was really good – I was surprised I liked it so much as i’m not normally too keen on things with kids in. They could sing and dance pretty well. The songs by Tim Minchin were good and the Miss Trunchball character was particularly entertaining.

We went for a geocaching adventure in Coopers Park in the eastern suburbs with Brandon and his little daughter Alex, and found a few caches. We found a possum living in a shelter which was pretty friendly. I fed him some cheese and then he ate some break right out of my hand!

Possum!

Possum!

Towards the end of the month we carried on the canyoning season with a very fun adventure down Lower Bowens Creek (N) Canyon. This is one we had done before, but we were going with some people new to canyoning, so thought we’d minimize the risk of getting lost! The canyon was really really good. I love how scenic they are – all the greenery and cool shapes where the water has carved out the rock.

Lower Bowens N Canyon

Lower Bowens N Canyon

We had originally through about doing some canyons with long swims where you need lilos. We didn’t need these in the end, but our friend were inspired enough to bring a giant inflatable dolphin to help with flotation. We named him Flipper and he also provided good value entertainment. Flipper even survived the long walk out of the canyon too and is now living happily ever after (I hope) back in Sydney!

Riding Flipper!

Riding Flipper!

There were three abseils, all of which were really fun. The first one was down into the cold water, and you could swim and hide in a cave behind a waterfall which was exciting. The second abseil had an optional ledge to stop on, where you could do a 4m jump into the water. I hate jumping into water so I just abseiled all the way down, but it was fun for everyone else! This is where the camera had a mishap last time, but this time it was fine so we got a lot of pictures. The third abseil was right down a waterfall, and started through a hole which was very exciting – unfortunately it was also quite chilly and wet, but definitely entertaining!

Log-walk in the canyon

Log-walk in the canyon

Frolicking with Flipper

Frolicking with Flipper

 

The next day we had a chilled day out with some other friends up at Collaroy on the Northern beaches. We started with coffee, went for a walk along the coast and then headed to the bar looking out on the water. We saw two whales which was really cool – a big one and a smaller one, presumably a baby. They were jumping pretty high out of the water for quite a long time.

For the last weekend in November we had epic 1m long pizzas for the climbing bums dinner, and Matt dragged me along to ‘Piratefest’, a gig with 3 different pirate metal bands. It was also Matt’s birthday, and by coincidence that day we got to pick up our new car, Bruce, earlier than expected. Bruce is a Subaru Outback AWD. He has a nice big boot for all our camping adventures and extra ground clearance for the dirt roads. He is pretty big so I’m getting used to driving him at the moment, but so far no crashes!

Bruce and balloons!

Bruce and balloons!

 

 

 

Climbing at Point Perp

Climbing at Point Perp

October this year started with a long weekend. I sorted a big holiday house down the coast in Currarong, near Jervis Bay, and a bunch of 10 of us spent the weekend down there. Matt and I headed down on Friday night, and he made me stop on the way at McDonalds for a create your own burger. I hate fast food and can’t’remember the last time I went to McDonalds, but Matt was pretty enthusiastic about it so I gave in and said i’d give it a go. The touchscreen where you make your burger was quite good. The burger accompaniments were quite tasty, but unfortunately it was the same soggy greasy too salty chips and thin grey burger that tastes like cardboard.

Over the long weekend we went climbing twice and Point Perp which is seacliffs. The climbing was good, and I did a record 7 routes over the two days. We even spotted a whale out at sea, a some big schools of fish jumping out the water. On the second day we saw some people doing some high-lining over the water which was fun to watch as well. We went to the beach both days as well, and it was so hot I even went for a proper swim in the sea. We had two epic giant BBQs, plus some bacon and egg BBQ breakfasts. Of course lots of games were played as well, including Liar Dice, many rounds of Werewolf One Night and the Australian version of Cards Against Humanity. 

Sheep Cake

Sheep Cake

The following weekend was the Rockies annual Sheep Roast and climbing weekend in the Wolgan Valley. The Wolgan comes with a ‘wombat guarantee’, and sure enough we spotted quite a few on the drive up. Everyone brings some food to share, so I decided to make a sheep themed cake for the event. He had marshmallows for fur and was chocolate on the inside. Pretty tasty if I say so myself!  Matt went climbing on the Saturday while I helped roast the sheep, which takes all day. We had fun and games with little almost three year old Jack, playing in the river and with his diggers and a frisbee. There were lots of roos at the campsite too which kept me entertained. I tried my hand at unicycling too, which is pretty hard! Of course in the evening we had a giant fire.

Wet in Tigersnake canyon

Wet in Tigersnake canyon

On the Sunday we went off for the first canyon of the season, Tigersnake. It was very cool with lots of tight squeezes and some good abseils –  although was fairly short so the fun was over quickly. The walk in was through the Gardens of Stone NP which had some pretty interesting weird rock formations. We picked this canyon because it was allegedly mainly dry, although it wasn’t! Andrew our tall friend abseiled into one pool up to the middle of his thighs, so I was fairly sure I was going to get my pants wet – not what I wanted to happen! I was fairly pleased when I managed to ab in and avoid getting my pants wet, but then when I was talking back to get off the rope, I tripped, fell over and got soaked up to my chest – fail! It was good fun though, and happily we didn’t get trapped by any aggressive tiger snakes.

Hyde Park Barracks

Hyde Park Barracks

The following weekend we had some city adventures. On the Saturday we went for an explore around Hyde Park Barracks which was where a lot of convicts used to live, and was later used for different things. We had a pretty funny tour guide, and did the audio tour after. For $10 we spent about 3 hours there, so it was good value. After we went for some food at the night noodle markets in Hyde Park, include some mini burgers with noodles and rice on the outsides of them instead of buns.

Noddle burgers

Noddle burgers

On the Sunday we went on a tall ship cruise on the Harbor. We got a good deal via groupon, which included the cruise, plus a buffet lunch and an open bar. After a cloudy start it was a nice sunny afternoon and it was cool looking around the old ship.

The Tall Ship

The Tall Ship

in October I organised a Rockies social to the Reel Rock Film Festival. We had some nice Lebanese food first and then watched a series of climbing films, including about the Fitz Traverse in Patagonia. They also opened the outdoor swimming pool on the business park at work, so I’ve been going for some lunchtime swims and already have a pretty funny tan mark on my back.

Free hugs!

Free hugs!

My friend Kristy from Surrey ran a stall at Glebe Markets for promoting gratitude, so I went along and helped out giving out free hugs. I was fairly reluctant at first as I always run away from the free hig people, thinking they’re slightly scary. But, once i got into it it was really good. We gave out a lot of free hugs, and there were no weird creepy men – yay!

Cocktails at the Shangri-La

Cocktails at the Shangri-La

At the end of the month we had my friend from Southampton, Ellie, visit. We did our PhD’s together, and she was en route via Australia for a work trip to Fiji! Ellie has been to stay with us three times now, so she;s officially our most frequent visitor. We went for a cocktail in the Sangri-La hotel bar, 36 floors up, with some good views of the Harbour. After there we went on a ferry ride for some more cocktails and pizza on the Island Bar at Cocktaoo Island. The bar was nice right on the water, although also pretty windy.

Windy ferry ride to Cockatoo Island

Windy ferry ride to Cockatoo Island

The next day we went with Captain Andrew sailing around the Harbour. We went up river to the west, and then down towards the bridge and around Cockatoo Island. We moored up for a swim and picnic lunch by Berrys Bay, and made it all the way around without getting rained on (the forecast was a bit dodgy). I managed to slice open my foot swimming when I kicked some oysters, so had to do some first aid on myself. I’m hobbling around now but hopefully it’ll heal up soon.

Swimming in Berrys Bay

Swimming in Berrys Bay

Sailing on the Harbour - just after Ellie's hat blew away!

Sailing on the Harbour – just after Ellie’s hat blew away!

A bit late I know, but here’s some of the things we got up to in September:

It was our fourth wedding anniversary in September, and the traditional presents are flowers or fruit. We decided to buy each other some fruit trees, so now we have a dwarf orange tree and a dwarf lime tree on the balcony, complete with matching coloured pots.

Lime and Orange Tree

Lime and Orange Tree

 Some of our friends from Surrey Uni Climbing Club, Karen and Kirsty are currently both living in Sydney. We met up and tried out Govindas all you can eat vegetarian buffet which I’d heard a lot about, and had some gelato at Messina after. The dessert bar now only has pre-made options though, you can’t create your own any more which is a shame. At least it makes the choice about going there or going for traditional gelato easier though!

Silent Disco

Silent Disco

A couple of weeks later we met up again for the Chippendale light festival, and had much fun rocking out at my first ever Silent Disco. There were three different channels to choose from, so there was always something OK playing, and it was fun looking at all the people dancing differently to different tunes at the same time.

Echidna

Echidna

On our actual wedding anniversary we went with our friends Andrew and Susie on a long walk in the Grose Valley in the Blue Mountains, to Acacia Flats. It was a two day walk. Day one was about 10km of mainly downhill into the valley and we saw an echidna on the path. That night we camped by the river, and drank whiskey too quickly around a nice fire. It was nice and fairly quiet in the valley.

Acacia Flats, just before the uphill

Acacia Flats, just before the uphill

The next day the walk was 10km of mainly up, and around the rims of the escarpments. The views were fantastic.

Top of the hill!

Top of the hill!

I managed to carry my bag without my back hurting tooo much, although my knees didn’t like all the down. I got a trusty wizard stick to help me out, which survived until it snapped about 1km from the end of the walk. Unfortunately my big toes got bruised and went purple from all the downhill, and they’re still like it now 6 weeks later! They don’t hurt though and don’t seem to look like they’re going to fall off.

One of the lookouts

One of the lookouts

Also for our anniversary we went for a slightly belated meal at Sixpenny restaurant in Stanmore. Here they have a chefs hat system of rating restaurants. Our first year here we went to a no hat but awesome view restaurant; last year we went to a one hat restaurant (Oscillate Wildly), so this year we went for two hats. I want to go to a three next year, but Matt says we need to try more two’s. Three is the most you can get, so there’s not many and they are not cheap! At Sixpeny we had the full on eight course detestation menu and a very tasty bottle of Bordeaux. The wine was in an amazing decanter which looked like a teapot, and the service was excellent. The food was super tasty, and I thought I was going to explode by the end.

I’m the Social Secretary in the climbing club, and organised a Flying Trapeze session for a small group of us. It was super fun. The session started with a quick warm up, and learning how to do a ‘knee hang’ on a static trapeze.  This basically involved hanging upside down from the trapeze bar by your knees, and letting go with your arms. After mastering the right technique on the ground, it was time to climb the giant wobbly ladder and have a go whilst flying through the air. It was a lot of fun, and luckily the Rockies avoided embarrassment by being better at it than the 12 year old girls who were also at the session!

Flying trapeze

Flying trapeze

After nailing the swinging knee hang, and dropping onto the giant net, the next ‘trick’ was to turn the knee hang into a back flip! Each person got a few goes at this, with varying levels of success. Then it was time for the grand finale. The final trick was to do a swinging knee hang, and then get caught in the air by one of the trapeze instructors, who was swinging from another trapeze.  Everyone managed the grab successfully, which was a great way to finish off the session.  The lesson was excellent fun, and nobody had to use the stretcher board and neck brace we spotted in the corner of the room!

After the trapeze catch

After the trapeze catch

In other news for September we have been:

Watching: Stargate Universe

Playing: Our new game is Kahuna, where you have to capture more islands than your opponent. Simple but fun.

Reading: I’ve been going back to the classics with One Flew over the Cuckoos Nest, which I’ve never actually read before.

Consuming: Messina! We also had a trip to the Cow and Moon Gelato place in Enmore, which won the world gelato championships last year. It was pretty tasty, and they had some very yummy looking cakes on display too.

Buying: Fruit plants and pots for them which are surprisingly expensive!

Looking forward to: In October we have a long weekend and the annual Rockies sheep roast planned, as well as a visit from my Uni friend Ellie.

Me and my Wizard Stick

Me and my Wizard Stick

So now the blog is back, here’s a quick run down on the good stuff I got up to between the end of May and the end of August. That’s pretty much three months of things, so this is a bumper post!

Working in Winchester: At the end of May and start of June I went back to the UK for work for three weeks for a special project, based in Winchester. I was going back for a holiday anyway, so the trip timing right beforehand worked out quite well. I had weekends and evenings free, so managed to fit in some good socialising while I was over. Highlights included a whole lobster at Loch Fyne with Kim, Tom, Rhiannon and Phil from the canoe club on my birthday and dinner with Southampton Uni friends at Rick Steins fish restaurant. I also went for work at night time to some road works nio the A303 at Popham. I got to wear full high vis and a hard hat – glamorous!

Birthday lobster

Birthday lobster

Rhiannons Hen Party: As I was back in the UK early for work, I got to start my holiday early and made it along to Rhaiannon’s hen party. It was great seeing everyone, especially as I didn’t think I would make it.  We did an aerial yoga session which was really fun! We got to do lots of crazy poses, with lots of hanging upside down and a fair bit of screeching and giggling! (OK that was mainly me!)

Aerial Yoga!

Aerial Yoga!

London: Matt arrived at this point for our actual UK holiday, and we went for a day trip up to the big smoke. We went around the Tower of London like tourists which i’d not done before, went on a Beefeater tour and saw the Crown Jewels. Later on we met my dad and Flick for a trip to the art gallery and a yummy crispy duck in Chinatown, before walking back to the station past Buckingham Palace.

Tower of London

Tower of London

Stourhead: We went for a walk around Stourhead gardens, which were beautiful. I don’t think I’ve been there before, which is surprising becasue its so close to where I grew up The views and landscaping were really nice.

Stourhead Gardens

Stourhead Gardens

Brighton: We went with the Shorts down to Brighton seaside. We played on old school amusements, went on the pier, the big wheel, the Voilks electric railway, went around the lanes, had fish and chips and I even got a cream tea! Happy days.

Amusements in Brighton

Amusements in Brighton

 

Southampton: We met my Uni friends for an epic and very tasty picnic at the park down in Southampton and then went for dinner in the evening. It was lovely catching up with everyone, and pretty scary seeing how all the children had got so much bigger!

Southampton Picnic

Southampton Picnic

Gruffalo: After a night in Bath with my nan, we went around Westonbirt arboretum, and met a Gruffalo hiding in the woods!

Me, dad and the Gruffalo!

Me, dad and the Gruffalo!

Royal Ascot: A bunch of 8 lovely ladies went along to Royal Ascot for ladies day. The weather was glorious. We had another epic picnic, along with plenty of fizzy wine. This is the only kind of alcohol you’re allowed to take in yourself – tragic! It was great fun getting all dressed up and hanging out in the sunshine. I even had a couple of wins, including a fairly good one and ended the day about £65 up! Woo.

Lovely ladies at Ascot

Lovely ladies at Ascot

Leith Hill Geocaching: Around Horsham we went for a geocaching adventure up Leith HIll, and helped Kate find her first one (I think). We also found bacon and maple syrup flavoured popcorn – nice!

Leith Hill Tower

Leith Hill Tower

Porter wedding: The key event in the 2015 visit was of course Phil and Rhainnons wedding. It was a really lovely day, and we were their witnesses. It was great to see them so happy and catch up with a lot of our friends who we hadn’t seen for a long time.

Phil & Rhiannon's Wedding

Phil & Rhiannon’s Wedding

Germany: I spent 5 nights in Germany, visiting my brother and Lucia, and meeting my new niece, Ella for the first time. She is super cute and very well behaved. I didn’t drop her and she wasn’t sick on me, so overall very successful! I took her a play mat which my friend Bex made which we had fun playing on. I found a sausage vending machine (yes!) and mistakenly ordered the normal (not small) size schnitzel one evening, which turned out to be TWO schnitzels!

Owen and I at German Garden Show

Owen and I at German Garden Show

Peak District long weekend: We had an amazing weekend in a giant cottage up in the Peak District. We arranged to get a bunch of people together from Horsham friends, climbers and canoe club. A lot of them didn’t know each other before, but it was a great weekend. We have a common love of board games, so played a LOT of those, as well as doing some geocaching walks with great scenery and having a massive BBQ – the British way, with charcoal. I managed to squeeze in an extra cream tea too.

Peak District Shennanigans

Peak District Shennanigans

Bristol: After the Peak District it was the end of our holiday, so Matt flew back to Australia. I stayed on and spent some time in Bristol with my mum in hospital, and got to stay with the Cornishes. John introduced me to the Navy game Uckers, which I promptly lost my first game of in spectacular style after a rookie error! I did later go on to beat him. We also went on an adventure to fund some Shaun the Sheeps which was exciting, and I bought a Union Jack Gromit souvenir.

Me and Ice Cream Shaun the Sheep

Me and Ice Cream Shaun the Sheep

Blue Mountains Snow: I got back to Australia  in late July, and it was cold! We went up to the Blue Mountains with some new friends to stay in a cottage for the weekend and go climbing. On the Thursday before we left it snowed up there, and there was still snow left when we got there on Friday which was pretty exciting! Unfortunately on Saturday there were a lot of road closures, which meant we couldn’t go climbing, so we went for a nice walk instead. Although chilly it was nice and sunny. In the evening we drank mulled wine, had a nice meal and unexpectedly played a game of Munchkin!

Snowman in July!

Snowman in July!

Fort Dennison: Matt took me on a surprise trip to Fort Dennison, for a tour and then lunch in their fancy restaurant. Fort Dennison is a small island in the middle of the Harbour, which you get to on the ferry. It was used for defense and sending convicts into isolation. We went on a tour around and up the tower, and the views back to the city were amazing.

Fort Dennison View

Fort Dennison View

Top Gear Festival: We had tickets to the Top Gear festival earlier in the year, but it got posponed after the Jeremy Clarkson issues. They re-badged it as ‘Clarkson Hammond and May Live’ and we went along. They did the ‘Cr-Ashes’, a series of car based games with the Top Gear guys against an Australian Team. England ended up losing quite badly, but it was good fun. The three wheeler football at the end was especially entertaining, as they kept flipping over.

Cr-ashes at the 'Top Gear' show

Cr-ashes at the ‘Top Gear’ show

UK again: The next weekend was the one my mum died, so I went back tot he UK unexpectedly to sort things out. It was a very sad and stressful time, but it was also nice to see family again. I went on a nice scoping trip with my brother to Glastonbury, somewhere my mum really liked and where we used to go quite a lot when I was little. It has a good hippy atmosphere and lots of nice shops and cafes. We walked up Glastonbury Tor which i’d not done before, and went back there to scatter mum’s ashes after the funeral. We took my niece Ella to meet my nan, her great-grandmother in Bath which was nice.

Owen, Martin and I at Glastonbury Tor

Owen, Martin and I at Glastonbury Tor

Once I got back at the end of August we went for a climbing trip in the mountains one day, and I even did a climb as well as reading two books! We also  went for pie at the famous Harrys Cafe de Wheels, before seeing the show Les Mis. We watched the move on DVD the week before as I’d not actually seen it. It was a good musical, although didn’t quite make it into my Top 4 (Wicked on Broadway, Lion King, Phantom of the Opera and Avenue Q).

Next time i’ll do a shorter post on September.

Pie Palace

Pie Palace

 

Glastonbury Tor - one of mums favorite places

Glastonbury Tor – one of my mum’s favorite places

I know, it’s been aaaaages since the last post. Well don’t worry, the blog is back.

Back when I was posting back in May, I was thinking about doing a few less posts. I like sharing with you what we’ve been up to here Down Under, and having something I can look back at myself, but it does take up a fair amount of time. So I’ve decided to try and roll everything into one update a month, starting again for September. Before that though here’s a news update.

There’s no easy way to say or write this, for those of you who don’t know, but on August 2nd my mum died suddenly and unexpectedly at age 65.

Since mum died I’ve found that a lot of people don’t know what to say. Either they feel awkward about talking about it, don’t want to make you upset or sometimes accidentally say things which aren’t helpful (which I forgive them for). Really it’s good for them to not really understand, as it means they haven’t lost someone really close to them themselves.

I’ve reflected on the fact that although death and dying are a massive part of culture in films, TV dramas, computer games, books and the like; as a society we don’t seem to know how to deal with it very well. In films etc people die so often that it’s taken for granted and even glamorised; but they don’t often look at how death impacts the people left behind. It happens to everyone, and yet talking or teaching people about it is seen as almost morbid. Sure we all know people die, but when it happens to someone really close to you, it really brings it home and makes you think about life and what it means.

Because of all that, I thought I’d try and break down some of the taboo, and write a bit about what happened and my thoughts here.

My mum was called Maggi. Family was important to her, and she devoted a lot of her life to being a good mum and housewife, bringing up my brother and I. Mum liked cooking, going for walks in the countryside, bird watching and the Grand Prix. She was passionate about what she believed in – probably being even more opinionated than me! Also, if you think I talk a lot, you should have met my mum! 😉 Even though our conversations were often quite one sided, I really miss talking to her and telling her what I’ve been up to – even if she often thought it was dangerous or silly!

Mum, Owen and I (1986)

In terms of what happened, I had been back in the UK for work for 3 weeks in May/June, another 3 weeks on holiday, then some more work and then spent some time with my mum in hospital in July. She had been ill with an aggressive type of cancer for a couple of years on and off, and had had another operation to try and help with her symptoms. She had complications and never made it back home. I had been back in Australia for about three weeks when she went downhill really quickly, and it was less than an hour between the hospital warning us she wasn’t in a good way and her dying. I know even if I had been in the UK I wouldn’t have made it to the hospital in time, but it doesn’t change the fact that I wish I was there, and that its hard knowing I was so far away.

So I went back over at the start of August, and spent about 2.5 weeks in the UK again with my brother and family, sorting out paperwork, funeral arrangements, probate stuff and sorting out her flat. Because we both live overseas, it was a really intense period of trying to get everything sorted whilst we were there. My work knew mum was ill, so they were really good about it which helped. Some companies we dealt with were really good and helpful, and others were useless!  I called a couple of airlines when I was pretty upset still to see if they did special open or discounted bereavement fares, explained my circumstances, and at the end of the call one of them actually told me to “have a nice day”!

It was a massive shock when mum died. Although she’d been ill I wasn’t prepared for it happening so suddenly. I’d spoken to the specialists in July to try and get a prognosis, and they’d told me they’d see her at a follow up appointment in 6 weeks and see from there. I don’t blame them for getting it wrong, and was probably over optimistic about her outlook, but it was still a huge shock. Of course its good that she isn’t in pain and suffering any more, but it’s still sad that she isn’t here.

Some of the euphemisms about death annoy me. I know saying ‘died’ is quite direct and people like to soften it, but its not always helpful, especially from medical professionals. I was quite surprised that the hospital never said to me that she had ‘died’. Passed away isn’t so bad, but ‘passed’ just makes it sound like she was doing a test. ‘Loss’ I understand, although whenever I get something saying ‘sorry for the loss of…’ it just makes me think that I didn’t literally loose her at the shopping center or something. And ‘late’ just sounds like she wasn’t on time.

Mum and I in Lyme Regis

Mum and I in Lyme Regis

I’m not a religious person at all. If I had to pick a belief system I’d go with Buddhism, but I don’t believe in reincarnation. I think being religious must help a lot when someone dies. For me, she is gone. She isn’t here any more. She hasn’t gone to heaven, or anywhere in particular, and that’s quite hard to get my head around. It’s made me think about about life, what it is, what it’s all for (42) and what I should be doing. I haven’t really got very far yet with any answers on that unfortunately. If I work it out i’ll be sure to let you all know!

It’s quite an adjustment when someone you were so close to has gone. I think people assume after a few weeks, or a couple of months you’ll be ‘OK’, but I think getting used to it actually takes quite a long time. As well as the day to say stuff with keeping in touch, I’ll miss her birthday. I won’t need to buy her Christmas presents, and she won’t be giving me any. If we eventually get around to having some kids, she’ll never meet them. You get the idea…I think about mum every day and I’m sure that I will for a long time. OK the pain and loss will get less, which is good, but she’ll still be gone.

For me, and I know for other people who’ve been through similar, I don’t generally get upset talking to people about it. For me, the harder thing is when I’m alone and thinking about stuff, or if I see or hear something that reminds me about my mum and that she isn’t here any more. I’m lucky to have lots of good, supportive friends both here and in the UK. It’s been really helpful having people to speak to, email or just hang out with. At the funeral we got to see a lot of people we’ve not seen for years too, which was nice – although a shame about the circumstances obviously. It was good hearing everyone’s different stories and memories of mum.

This post wasn’t meant to be particularly sad, or make you sad. I hope maybe it will help people. If you’ve been through something similar, maybe you’ll identify with some of the things (although it’s different for everyone). And if you’ve been lucky enough not to have someone close to you die, maybe you’ll know its OK to say something nice to someone else going through it next time, or you’ll be a bit more prepared for what it’s like when it does happen.

You’re more than welcome to send me an email if you like or leave a comment on the blog (that’d be better than a FB comment!) It won’t make me sad, and I won’t judge you!

Until next time…

Mum and I at my PhD graduation

Mum and I at my PhD graduation

Me surfing!!

So April is here. Matt’s out of hospital getting around on crutches. He’s had his cast off and has a fancy moon boot now which he can take on and off. We’re going back to the hospital at the end of he month to get an Xray of the screws and see how the healing is going.

Liking: We had Matt’s sister Lizzie and her boyfriend Ed come to stay which was good. Of course we got up to lots of fun things, including a trip up the coast to Port Stephens where we had a really fun surf lesson! I actually got to be able to stand up, although only in very small waves. I also had fun with a borrowed jet washer blasting the balcony clean!

Disliking: Matt can’t go very far on the crutches so I’m doing a lot of waiting on him and driving to the pub which is getting frustrating.

Watching: We powered through game Of Thrones Season 4 on DVD, which I LOVED. We’ve subscribed to Netflix free trail now so have been watching a new series called Daredevil and a few movies.

Playing: We had a bit of a games night with my friend Penny where we based through Munchkin Loot Letter, Contagion and Last Night on Earth. We celebrated International Table Top Day too up the coast, playing Citadels and Loot Letter with Ed and Lizzie.

Reading: I’m actually not reading a book at the moment and keep going to bed too tired to be bothered starting a new one!

Creme Egg Brownies

Creme Egg Brownies

Consuming: I made some creme egg brownies for Easter which were tastier than the looked! My friend Mel and I went on a day out around the posh suburb of Mosman and down to Balmoral beach where we had a yummy lunch and a pretty awesome mocha cake! We went with Lizzie and Ed to the Messina dessert bar and it turned out the Paddington Bear ice cream i ordered (with chocolate gelato, marmalade, French toast and buttery biscuit topping) came with a free Paddington Bear DVD! I created Matt a dessert with chocolate gelato, white chocolate sauce, popping candy, caramel popcorn and a hot pastry thing filled with more caramel.

My dessert bar creation for Matt

My dessert bar creation for Matt

Buying: I bought a Fitbit to track my steps. I’m only on day two but i’ll also be using it for the Global Corporate Challenge we have coming up at work where we’re all meant to get active and be more healthy. I need to make sure i’m active after all the yummy things I keep eating!

Thinking about: Its only about six weeks till our trip back to the UK! This year has flown by!

Visiting: We spent a weekend up the coast in Port Stephens which was really good. We had an awesome Saturday of: BBQ bacon and egg rolls for breakfast; mini-golf which Matt won despite his broken ankle; Tim Tams and tea; a surf lesson; burgers and beer; some rock climbing; pizzas, wine, Eton mess and board games! There is even photographic evidence of me stood up on a surf board!

Missing: Mini Eggs. They have them here but they taste wrong. And as an aside so do the creme eggs, although I find them too sweet these days.

Looking forward to: In May we’re going to see our first AFL game which should be fun, and going to do lawn bowls for a collegue who’s going back to the UK with work as a leaving do.

 

 

Matts backslap plaster

Matts backslap plaster

March was going pretty well, and then Matt had a fall one evening when he was bouldering and broke his ankle! I started this post before that, so here’s some information on the other things we were doing before we started hanging out in the hospital!

Liking: We recently went to the fun fair and the water park. It was good fun screaming and giggling like a child on all the rides!

Disliking: Obviously all the broken ankle hospital faff tops the list here. But also the two week scaffolding is still on our balcony after 5 weeks. Grrrr. We helped out this year with the Rockies Climbing Club for Clean Up Australia Day and picked up a LOT of rubbish from a climbing area in the south of Sydney. The fact people dump so much rubbish annoys me. Apparently you have to pay here to take anything to the tip, so probably that doesn’t help the problem, but the Council do pick up junk from collection points outside people’s houses so there is really no excuse.

Watching: We saw Jupiter Rising at the cinema, which was OK. We’re also nearly finished on the final series of Breaking Bad. I’ve also been loving both the Comic Relied Bake Off (some of the celebs baking are atrocious) and The Casual Vacancy. I read the book of the Casual Vacancy a fair while ago. The series is so West Country sounding it makes me nostalgic.

Playing: Out latest game is Forbidden Desert, where you play explorers lost in a sand storm in the desert and have to find all the broken bits of your ship to escape without dying of thirst or getting buried in the storm. Its quite simple but good, and conveniently fits on a hospital table.

Reading: I’m on a free kindle book at the moment – not particularly noteworthy.

Consuming: A very yummy High Tea and the HydroMajestic hotel in the Blue Mountains and a pretty good (if I say so myself) lemon yoghurt poppyseed cake made by me! Matt’s been eating hospital which he scored about 2.5/10. Maybe my food will get extra good scores when he gets home!

Cake!

Cake!

Buying: Not a lot really. I bought a big 20 litre jerry can water container for remote camping trips, but we wont be needing it this weekend now I don’t think!

Thinking about: How accidents can mess up your plans and your health. And changes to our plans for the weekends coming up, most of which need two functioning ankles!

Visiting: We’ve done some more canyons including Fortress Canyon which has a truly awesome view of a 70m waterfall at the end, and Bowens Creek Upper South, which had an exciting cave section. I’ll do a whole post on canyoning soon.

Canyon2

Missing: We’ve been watching Top Gear on iPlayer, and on one episode they were playing Jeremy Vine on BBC Radio 2 in the background. I miss Jeremy so might have to catch up on his radio show online soon. I also randomly had a thought about Mr Kipling fondant fancies the other day which you can;t get here. In fact I haven’t seen any kind of fondant fancy and now I want one! I’ll put it on the list for our visit in June. More recently I’ve been missing having Matt at home!

Looking forward to: When Matt gets out of hospital and when his cast finally comes off!

 

Girls Night!

 

Liking: I had a girls night out with my friends Mel and Karen which was great fun. We ended up dancing till late and eating pizza at Frankie’s bar in the city which plays some cool tunes! We’ve also done a few canyons which I find amazing. I’ll write a separate post up on them.

Disliking: Builders have taken over our balcony! They are doing work on the face of the building, so have set up a swinging stage off scaffolding from our balcony. We’ve asked the landlord for a rent reduction becasue of the disruption, so fingers crossed for that!

Scaffolding on the balcony

Scaffolding on the balcony

Watching: We watched the first two Hobbit films on DVD again before seeing the third at the cinema. Now we’re working our way through the extended editions of LOTR as follow on. Each one is about 4 hours, so we’ve only got through the first one so far (in two sittings). I’ve also been getting into Silent Witness on the iPlayer.

Playing: Our latest new game is Smash Up! Its a card based deck building game where you can be Alien Dinosaurs, Zombie Pirates, Trickster Wizards or any other combination you fancy!

Reading: I’ve just read a book called The Letter by Kathryn Hughes. I paid £1 for it on a special Amazon deal. It was pretty well written compared to the free books I often read. Its about a woman in an abusive relationship who finds an old love letter in a coat at a charity shop, talking about a baby. She tracks down the people involved in the letter and the story of what happened to them all unravels in parallel with her own relationship issues.

Beetroot chocolate brownies

Beetroot chocolate brownie

Consuming: I’ve been having a healthy February, but wanted to make some cake for a girly get together, so I made ‘healthy’  (*relative to normal ones) beetroot brownies. It was quite red going in the oven, but came out nice and brown. You couldn’t taste the beetroot at all and the texture was really really moist – you need a fork to eat them! Although they were rick they were fairly light too. I shoved some Toffiee’s in the top – becasue why not?! I don’t know I’d make them again becasue its a bit of a weird thing to cook, but glad I gave it a try. The recipe is here, and I agree with the other reviewers they take longer to bake, even in our oven which zaps everything.

Seahorsey!

Seahorsey!

Buying: I bought myself a new handbag with some Christmas money. Look how seahorsey it is! 🙂

Thinking about: I’ve started my new job and its going well, so lots of new things to think about with that.

Visiting: Canyons! So far we have done Jugglers Canyon, Grand Canyon and Gobsmacker Canyon. We’ve had issues with the camera on each one (forgetting it and then breaking it), so not many pics I’m afraid.

Gobsmacker Canyon

Gobsmacker Canyon

Missing: Going out in Sydney made me miss the excellence of some of the good old Southampton night-spots, where the music is brilliant, the people are less overly self-obsessed and the vibe is totally cheesy!

Looking forward to: Coming up in March we’re going to the Melbourne Grand Prix. At the end of the month we’ve got a long weekend for Easter, so we’ll be making some plans for that too.

Ay caramba! from Messina dessert bar

Ay caramba! from Messina dessert bar

Liking: We had Jane, John and Hannah short to visit which was great. We had lots of adventures, and played lots of board games 🙂 We also went on a sailing trip with Andrew on the Harbour. It was a really good day out, with a bit of added drama when the rudder broke right off the boat on the way back! We floated for a while, and had to be towed back to the mooring by the marine rescue people!

Disliking: It’s pretty hot now. I still hate the feel of sun cream. Our place gets way more sun than our last one, so it gets pretty warm inside. We’ll be investing soon in a good fan for the bedroom to help us sleep at night. I got a basic one for free from the basement, but it has no timer so we have to have it on all night.

Watching: We saw the Imitation Game at the Moonlight outdoor cinema which was really good. The film was very engaging and Benedict Cumberbatch played Turing really well. We went for the Gold Grass bean bag seats this time, which were super comfy and watched the bats flying around, including getting involved in the film! We’re also going to watch some 20:20 cricket, which apparently is more entertaining and faster than normal cricket.

Playing: We’ve played a lot of games with the Shorts. Ticket to Ride was a popular one, and we also went through Smallworld, Agricola, Loot Letter, Munchkin and Monopoly Draw.

Reading: On holiday in New Zealand I read Gone Girl. I’ve not seen the film yet but the book was very good. There were big plot developments in most of the chapters which kept you guessing and interested right the way through. I really enjoyed it although was a bit let down at the end.

Consuming: We’ve eaten a lot of yummy stuff recently, including: dinner at the O Bar with some great views, cheese in the Hunter Valley, cheese picnics at the outdoor cinema and new years, pavlova Jane made, macaroons Hannah made, burgers from the new place The Burger Project, dessert from the Messina Desert Bar (see above) and dumplings from Din Tai Fung.

Buying: After stealing the idea from some friends, we’ve invested in some very light, very compact camping chairs and tables. They’ll be really good for camping without taking up too much space and if we go to outdoor stuff over the summer.

Thinking about: My new job. I wasn’t really enjoying my last role, so I’ve got a new job starting late January. Fingers crossed it works out well! 🙂

Visiting: After New Zealand, over the Christmas break we took our visitors to Watsons Bay in Sydney, the Hunter Valley and the Blue Mountains. More about that soon.

Missing: The Shorts now they’ve gone! Marmite supplies are restricted now though, so we won’t be missing that too much for a while.

Looking forward to: We’ve just booked a trip down to Melbourne in March to watch the Grand Prix which should be fun.

 

Christmas Koala

Christmas Koala

Liking: Getting festive. We didn’t have a Christmas tree last year which was a bit of a shame, so this year we invested in a fake one. It makes me a bit sad to not have a real one, but when we’re out our flat gets to 30 degrees inside in the day time, so it just wouldn’t survive if we went away and left it for a week! I’ve got some pretty cool decorations for it, including some Australian themed ones and the robin all the way from England that my friend Bex made.

Disliking: We’ve been having some pretty tropical weather recently. Hot and humid in the days and then big storms at night with a lot of thunder and lightining. They make you pretty wet which isn’t good. I’m not generally scared of thunder, but here is so loud I just keep thinking buildings are collapsing or the world is ending!

Christmas Wombat

Christmas Wombat

Watching: I went with friends to see the new Hunger Games film at the cinema which was good. At home I’ve been watching the Apprentice on iPlayer. I was so frustrated watching the episode about the paper skeleton – that should totally have been allowed.

Playing: We bought a lot of games back in November, so we’ve been playing them some more, particularly Contagion. We took some of the more portable ones on holiday with us to New Zealand too.

Reading (new!): I read some pretty average free books on my Kindle recently. I’ve started A Christmas Carol for the festive season. I’m pretty sure I’ve not read it before and am enjoying it, although it keeps making me think of the Blackadder version!

Every tree needs a penguin!

Every tree needs a penguin!

Consuming: I had my first mince pie of the festive season early on in December.

Buying: Our underwater camera died within 30 minutes of being at the Great Barrier Reef – boo! We invested in another waterpoof, tough camera to take on our adventures. After some research we went for the Olympus Tough, TG3. Its doing well so far!

Thinking about: My career. Stay tuned for more on that.

Snowy owl

Snowy owl

Visiting: We spent the week around Christmas over in New Zealand visiting various places in the North Island, including Waitomo Caves, Lake Taupo and Hobbiton. I had to write this up before we went, so expect more posts about that soon!

Missing: Our friends who went home and Christmas with family.

Looking forward to: We have got flights booked now to visit the UK in June, including going to the wedding of our friends Phil and Rhiannon, so we’re very much looking forward to that trip.

Baby wombat in a stocking!

Baby wombat in a stocking!

Hot-Tub

Our Horsham visitors

Liking: Its almost warm enough for the sea now in Sydney, and we had a good snorkelling trip to Gordons Bay recently to practice for the reef. From the middle of November we had 5 Horsham friends over to visit us, which was really excellent! 🙂 More posts about that coming soon.

Disliking: Work is slooow at the moment, which is making me bored. I’ve had some days off though, so that helped. Back in October I realised with 2 days to go it was the tax return deadline, so didn’t enjoy that very much either! They seem to owe me a fair refund though, so if the estimate is good that’ll be a nice Christmas bonus.

Watching: I had a sick day with a cold and watched Maleficent. After our reef trip we had to re-watch Finding Nemo.

Playing: Our latest game pre-holiday was called Rampage. Its simple, OK for kids to play and is basically dragons going around a city destroying it and eating Meeples (people). I’m not very good at it! Apparently its not officially called Rampage any more because of a law suit, and is actually called Meeple something instead now. When our UK visitors came we accidentally bought 3 new games and played a lot of them on holiday. Loot Letter is very portable, quick and simple – its a Munchkin version of Love Letter. We also got Contagion which is good – its like Pandemic but you play the disease and try and infect the world!

Reading (new!): The latest book I read was The First 15 Lives of Harry August. Its about a man who is reborn over and over again, in the same place and time and remembers everything. There’s a few people like it, including a baddie who tries to do bad things. It was an interesting idea, but a bit confusing and the ending was a bit of a let down.

Consuming: I had 10 days without consuming bread, cheese or biscuits. It was hard, and sort of pointless. We tried batch 1 and batch 2 of the home brew, and they both got pretty good ratings.

Buying: I got my new phone finally and am enjoying the Appleness of it.

Thinking about: Our Christmas trip to NZ and the Shorts coming to visit for New Year. December’s going to be pretty busy!

Turtle on the Great Barrier Reef

Turtle on the Great Barrier Reef

Visiting: Loads! We’ve done a lot in Sydney with visitors, including the Blue Mountains, O Bar, another Escape Room and hanging out in the hot tub! Not only that, we’ve also been on holiday up to Cairns, the Barrier Reef and Port Douglas too.

Missing: Our friends who went back home. Having visitors is excellent – until they go!

Looking forward to: November was a pretty awesome month.In December for the compulsory Christmas shut down we are off for a week in New Zealand (North Island) and then have the Shorts visiting for a week, so definitely a lot more to look forward to before 2014 is over.

WolganCamp

Liking: Finishing by Brisbane bid so I can spend some time in Sydney for a while – woo! Also, it was the Wolgan Sheep Roast weekend which was excellent again and included a wombat 🙂

Disliking: Evenings alone in my Brisbane hotel room. I don’t mind some me time at all, but it got a bit dull by the end.

Watching: We went to see Bill Bailey Limboland tour live in Sydney, and even saw him out the front before hand. It was good, although I have to say not as funny as last time I saw time live. I also finished the British Bake Off on iPlayer and am now watching the Apprentice on that.

Playing:  Our latest game is a small card game called Citadels. We picked it for something small to take on trips with us. After beating Matt the first time, he got much more tactical and slightly evil and beat me by miles the second time. Its a medieval themed city building game, with a lot of tactics and seems pretty good so far. It comes automatically with a couple of expansion cards too to mix it up a bit.

Consuming: I’ve spent a lot of time in Brisbane, so mainly food from the hotel and restaurants near the hotel.

Buying: For our third anniversary present (leather themed) I got some nice chocolate brown Ugg boots. Not the right time of year here, but come winter they will keep my feet lovely and toastie warm.

Thinking about: Upcoming trips – we’re going to have a busy November.

Visiting: We went to the Wolgan valley again for the annual Sheep Roast with the Rockies climbing club which was good fun again. There were a lot of roos and wallabies this time, although only one alive wombat. It was a super cute one though.

Missing: Its got properly hot here now. I know I shouldn’t complain, but I am missing being a comfortable temperature rather than too hot, especially at night.

Looking forward to: In November we have 5 visitors coming over from Horsham in the UK. I’m very excited and looking forward to some time with them here in Sydney (including two days off work from having worked a Public Holiday, woo) and then a week up on the Reef. 😀

Uluru

Here’s a run down on September.

Liking: After three weeks of pretty wet weather, it’s finally starting to warm up and spring is on the way. 🙂 We did a long coastal walk which was good, starting and ending with a scenic half hour ferry ride.

Disliking: Jellyfish on the beach – a lot of them. Not sure what they were exactly but we decided not to go for a dip!

Watching: I’ve been getting through more Greys Anatomy on the ipad when I’m away in Brissie and we caught the latest Xmen film on the plane to Alice Springs. We watched Transcendence with Johnny Depp on DVD which was pretty good too.

Playing:  Our latest game has been Netrunner. It’s pretty geeky and has a very big rule book. It takes a few goes to get the hang of it, but it’s actually pretty good once you get past the geeky computer references. It’s for two players, basically a defender and an attacker (a hacker). Once I got to be the attacker I enjoyed it much more! There are lots of different combinations with it, so we still have many more to try.

Consuming: I’ve done a couple of very yummy bakes recently including ginger and lime cheesecake bars and some lemon curd fairy cakes. Ummm,cake!

Also it was our third wedding anniversary this month (how time flies) so we went to another fancy restaurant, this time humorously called Oscillate Wildly. It has one chefs hat and looked pretty funny in the calendar. They only do an 8 course degustation menu and don’t tell you in advance what you’re getting so it’s a surprise. My two favourite things were 1) the 100% wagyu beef steak with shitake mushrooms, sesame dressing and a crispy leaf – soooo good and 2) gin and tonic compressed into a big slice of sugar cane, served in a glass of ice. You basically munched but didn’t actually eat the sugar cane and it tasted of very very yummy gin and tonic.

Buying: The rain guage Matt ordered came, about the time it stopped raining much. Apart from that I’m thinking about getting a new phone as mine is dying and with a new contract I can get some international minutes chucked in too.

Thinking about: Nothing in particular! Right now after a relaxing day of baking, eating cake, chatting and sitting in the hot tub I’m thinking about (but battling the urge for) a nap.

Visiting: We went on a three night break to the red centre including Alice Springs, Kings Canyon, Kata Tjuta and Uluru which was really good. More about those in upcoming posts.

Missing:  After three 5am starts for our tour I’m missing sleep! Looking forward to a big Sunday lie in this weekend.

Looking forward to: We have tickets to see Bill Bailey on on tour in Sydney in October, which I’m pretty excited about.

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.

 

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. 

 

My Agricola farm

My Agricola farm

Liking: Living in the new flat. There are lots of birds, its very green around, and apart from the trains its pretty peaceful. I’m also enjoying being able to walk to work, which takes about 25 mins. I see a lot of birds, including parrots, kookaburras and even a couple of bush turkeys!

Disliking: I was ill with a horrible virus and off work for a few days. It really knocked me out and I slept for 16 hours one day!

Watching: While I was ill I watched a lot of Wire in the Blood on my iPad. I really like that show. now we have the internet back finally I’m back on the iPlayer, and we’ve started Coast Australia seeing all the places we need to go and visit!

Playing: We bought a new game called Agricola – all creatures big and small. We already have Agricola which is a farming game where you collect animals, grow crops, feed your family, improve your farmhouse all to get points. This version is for two players, and mainly all abut the animals. That was my favourite part of Agricola anyway, so I like the new simple version.

Consuming: I have found a new exciting kind of biscuit through work. Its called a Monte Carlo, and is like a jammy dodger only much better becasue instead of shortcake the biscuits are oaty like a hob nob. And inside as well as chewy jam they have a creamy filling. Tasty! The new oven is much more powerful than the last one. The last one needed you to cook things for at least double the recommended time for them to be anywhere near done. This one, even with it adjusted for the fan its about half. So since moving in we’ve had a few meals on the slightly well done side! We’ve tried out the café down the road which does a yummy brunch.

Buying: In the old place we had two outdoor chairs and a small table. Now we have a giant table on the big balcony, so we bought six more chairs and cushions to go with it. We also bought all the chemicals for the spa so have been learning some chemistry about that, and got an almost free rubber duck thermometer!

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 we come back to the UK for a visit.

Visiting: In early June we had a Bank Holiday for the Queens’ Birthday – huzzah! We got invited away with our friend Paul and a bunch of his friends, who hired a big house down the south coast near Nowra. In the area there is good sea cliff climbing and awesome beaches. We had a great weekend including cream tea, a visit to kangaroo valley, climbing (of course), BBQ, roast dinner, walk on the beach and a game of sardines in the big house.

Missing: My old job – sad I know. My new job is fine, but I really liked my old one. We also missed some good friends weddings this month which we would have loved to be at. All the bets Mr and Mrs Frame! 🙂

Looking forward to: At the end of June we’re going to the Dubbo Western Plains zoo, way out west. You hire bikes and cycle around as its a big safari park, so I’m looking forward to seeing all the animals. We also have Ellie from the UK visiting for ten days, so we’ve got some exciting plans lined up for that too.

Rosie and me

Rosie and me

May has been pretty busy with some big stuff – starting a new job and moving house. Here’s a run down.

Liking: Its good to have a purpose and some work to do again.

Disliking: The expense of moving has added up more than I thought too and I’m hoping we get most of our old deposit back. Also spending too much time on the phone to utility companies.

Watching and playing: We’re on Breaking Bad Series 3 now. We also subscribed so we can get iPlayer and with the Chromecast we can put it on the telly, so we’ve been watching some Top Gear, Have I Got News for You and the Australia documentary too. Board Game wise we have the Alvin and Dexter expansion for Ticket to Ride which is pretty tactical and also pretty silly. 

Consuming: Everything in the freezer! We need to defrost it to move, so recently we’ve had a lot of frozen things to eat.

Buying: Flights – we are booked up for a week on the Barrier Reef in November, with friends from the UK, including 2 nights out on a boat which I’m super excited about.

Thinking about:  I’m a bit worried we won’t fit all our things well in the new place, as it has one less bedroom and the other two are both smaller. We’ll see! I’ve been busy organising moving the utilities, sorting a van, boxes and all that moving stuff.

Visiting: We went for a day trip climbing in the mountains. After we hit the pub for some dinner before driving back, and I met Rosie, the 1 year old rescue wombat.She was being looked after there until she was big enough to go to the sanctuary. I got to pat her a lot and then got to hold her for a nice long time too which was amazing! I still have a big grin about it.

Missing: I’m definitely missing having a lie in like I did when I was unemployed. The first two weeks of work weren’t too bad, but it really hit me in the third one.

Looking forward to: Getting into the new place. It has a walk in wardrobe, and a hot tub which I’m pretty excited about sitting in! There;s a nice big outside balcony so we’ll be having a house warming and entertaining out there. In June there’s a long weekend which we’re going away for down the coast to Nowra, and later in the month we’re heading to the Western Plains zoo at Dubbo, on the edge of the outback.

 

UnionFlag

 

So I pretty much spent April in the UK on holiday, visiting friends and family. So here’s a quick run down on that:

Liking: Top of the list of course is seeing all my family and friends in the UK who I have missed a lot. Also having access to all the things I’ve been missing, like Marmite, familiar clothes shops, fields and seeing generally old stuff. Also I found out a couple of weeks in to my trip that we had our new visa granted, so we can stay on working in Australia without getting deported and I can start my new job – this was a very big relief!

Disliking:  It was pretty damp the first few days of my visit and quite a few other days too. I’ve noticed a few differences like not having anywhere to fill up water bottles, kids smoking down lane ways and the high cost of trains (which only have the one level). Also the flight was very tedious and on the way back I ran out of films I actually wanted to watch.

Watching: I’ve watched some BBC news and Series 1 of Wire in the Blood which I got downloaded on my ipad. I’ve also started Dexter in the iPad and finished Season 1 just after I got back. On the plane out I watched American Hustle, the Book Thief, the Secret life of Walter Mitty (poor) and half of Series 4 of Downton Abbey plus some Big Bang Theory. On the way back they didn’t have the rest of Downton Abbey which was pretty dissapointing. Instead I watched 12 Years a Slave (the best of the bunch), Frozen, 47 Ronin, Savin Mr Banks and Last Vegas. 

Consuming: . So many things! Marmite, cream teas, welsh cakes, chips with vinegar on, fish and chips from the chippy, melting middle fish cakes, pub grub, dairy milk, mini eggs, dark chocolate hob nobs, full Englaish breakfast, roast dinner (both on the same day) the list goes on…

Buying: Clothes! One of the main issues I have in Sydney is a lack of affordable decent work clothes which suit me. I’ve been stocking up on my trip and got a couple of pairs of Clarks work shoes too.

Thinking about:  Where is home? (Deep stuff). I keep referring to going back to Sydney as flying home, but then also feel like the UK is my real home at the same time.

Visiting: I’ve been touring the south of the UK visiting a lot of people and places. In all I’ve stayed in 8 different places (one twice).

Missing: Matt – I didn’t see him for most of April!

Looking forward to: Staying in Australia longer and getting stuck into a new job (although my lazy side would quite like to carry on slacking!). In the UK I also did some planning with our friends coming to visit in November, and we’re taking a trip with them to the Great Barrier Reef which I’m excited about already!  

 

Bradleys Head

Bradleys Head

You know how this works by now….

Liking: The weather has cooled down slightly, so is now mainly high 20’s rather than low 30’s which I’m preferring.  Also chocolate hot cross buns are in the shop again – I need to get around to having some.

Disliking: Although its cooler, we have been having a lot of storms recently, especially in the evening. now its good they are heavy and get finished quickly, but nobody likes getting soaked! Also, we love mini-eggs. We had some here and they don’t taste the same which was pretty upsetting. Then again we thought that about maltesers to start with and I’ve gotten used to them, so maybe there is some hope!

Watching: We recently bought the BluRay of Game of Thrones Season 3 which I’m loving. I also bought Downton Series 3 by mistake, thinking it was the latest one and then realsied I should have bought Series 4 – oops! Back in late Feb we went to see a play our friend Tim was in called Estranged, which was a black romantic comedy.

Consuming: We had savoury pancakes on pancake day, which were a slight disaster! I changed the recipe and we then had some excellent sweet ones a couple of days later. I went for a trio with nutella and raspberry, raspberries with raspberry sauce and the classic lemon and sugar. The nutella one was the best – yum.

Buying: We finally “invested” in a robotic hoover called a Roomba. After a slow start it is doing a pretty good job. We got a cheap dust buster too for behind doors etc. We have been buying a board game a month. This time it is Castle Panic, following on from Last Night on Earth in February. Castle Panic is pretty simple so good for with visitors, and mainly co-operative, with a small element of competition too. We’ve played once so far and won.

Thinking about: Recently I’ve been thinking about my career, including what I want in the medium term, as well as how to balance work properly with all the other things I want to do like fitness, friends and family, cooking nice food, adventuring, charity stuff and philosophical type things. I’ve reached no conclusion apart from its very hard to do everything!

Visiting: We went up the central coast to Port Stephens for a weekend which was very scenic, although also pretty damp. We also did a kayak tour of the Middle Harbour, went to the Australian Museum on a wet Sunday and took a walk around Bradley Head, which is out near Taronga zoo. The walk is only about an hour, but has some excellent views over the Harbour to the city and has a war memorial.We did some scrambling around the coast too which was a bit of an adventure, and I got slightly hit by a wave! Luckily it was a hot day, so 5 minutes later I was dry again. There is a beach to sit on, a boulder for Matt to climb, grass for a picnic and a place selling ice creams (although this shut at 3, so we should have gone a bit earlier). At the end of the month we went on an evening walking tour around Sydney’s oldest area, the Rocks.

Missing: I’ve got a trip to the UK planned for April, so I’ve been more looking forward to things I get to do, see and eat when I’m there, rather than missing anything in particular. I’ve got another post coming up on my UK to do list very soon.

Looking forward to: As above really. There are loads of things I’m looking forward to, including of course seeing friends and family as well as green green grass, chips with vinegar, roast dinners, country pubs and board games! 

 

 

Epic Cheesecake

Epic Cheesecake

Wow, February 2014 is over already. We’ve been here over a year now, so here’s the latest…

Liking: Having a cheese and wine night with our friends at our flat, to mark being here a year. Before hand we went and played two courses of mini-golf which was good fun.

Disliking: It has been pretty hot and humid some days too. 33 degrees cooked me, and we’re sleeping with just a sheet. Its starting to cool off again now though which is good, so soon I will have survived my first summer.

Watching: Breaking Bad. We started this back in January, got through Season 1 in a little over a week and are well underway with Season 2 now. We alsoi watched the Hobbit 2 at the outdoor cinema – more about that in another post.

Consuming: Late January was Australia Day and we had an epic Sheep Roast with friends in the Blue Mountains, where between us we ate a whole 25kg sheep called Reginald! We ate a LOT of cheese at our cheese and wine night, as well as an exciting tropical jelly-topped cheesecake I made (yummy!) I also had some particularly good venison with a Port and Blackberry just in New Zealand.

Buying: The hoover is playing up again, so we’re thinking about a new one. We both got wetsuits for canyoning recently and a camping table which will make camping better.

Working on: Work has been totally crazy in February. There’s budget issues, restructuring and all sorts flying about which has led to a lot of uncertainty for our team, but we’ve all pulled together really well (as usual) and its getting back to making sense now.

Thinking about: We have friends coming to visit in November which i’m really looking forward to, and we’ll be joining them up on the Barrier Reef. We’ve also been thinking about moving house and started looking for new places with a bit less space in exchange for a decent view.

Visiting: I’ve been to the North Island of New Zealand with work, stopping over in Auckland and Rotorua (which smells of eggs). I had a nice swim in a thermally heated pool but no time for much actual tourism. Matt went to Perth with work and hit the Little Creatures brewery. He’s one Aussie state up on me now, but I have been to the ACT twice and Queensland more times (I know this doesn’t really count). twice with work. War is Over

Missing (new feature!): Recently I have been missing vinegar. When you go out and have chips, you never get it unless you’re at a proper chip shop. Also someone in the UK mentioned roast dinners, which I also quite fancy now! And I also had a slightly nostalgic moment thinking about seeing red London buses (but not having to go on them!)

Looking forward to: We’re going to be planning a trip to Uluru soon which will be good.

Sheep roast

Sheep roast