Life and stuff.

I haven’t had much to blog about in the last couple of weeks! No big trips or stand out events really … life is just going along nicely. So I thought I’d do a bit of a general update instead …

Last week was a bit crazy. The people who know me well will know that I like to have a plan, and I had my week neatly lined up: Tuesday I was starting my fit2date class, I had a haircut lined up for Thursday and heading to the Space bar afterwards with Andrea, then hoping to be diving over the weekend. At work, we were expecting to start on our next project.

Right from Monday morning everything went awry … the project was delayed, leaving us with barely anything to do but surf the interwebz, the fit2date class in Manly was cancelled and I had a choice of a refund or doing the Sydney CBD class on Thursday. My first reaction was to be cross and want a refund, but I was really looking forward to the class, so did decide to reschedule in the end.

Things at work didn’t really improve much, we switched to look at another project but that didn’t go anywhere either. I headed out to the Ruby on Rails user group on Tuesday, which can be an effort sometimes but is always worthwhile, especially now I know quite a few people there. I managed to avoid mid-week alcohol and made it to the ferry home before nine, but I got mistaken on the way out for the bar maid which didn’t help my ego …

Wednesday turned out better when I got an unexpected date :) so the week was looking up. Thursday, I arrived far too early for fit2date, and when I first joined the group there was a few minutes of wondering what on earth I was doing (kind of like that feeling you get when you turn up to a speed dating event). The night turned out pretty good though, I left after to get the ferry but realised pretty quickly I wasn’t going to make it, so went back to join the group in the pub. I was glad I did, they are all good fun and I ended up getting the ferry back with a girl called Amanda – we chatted all the way home, so I was hopeful that I’d found a new friend.

Friday night finally rolled around – I had intended to go out for a run, but it was cool and windy and I just couldn’t be a***d, in all honesty! So I poured a glass of wine instead :) I sat outside with my housemate Chelsea putting the world to rights for an hour or so, then slowly got ready to head out. I was dressed and doing my hair when Andrea rang, to say she’d locked herself out of her apartment having lost her key while she was out running. Her flatmate was away until the next day, so she needed a place to stay, something to wear, something to eat, well, everything basically. Nothing was too much of a problem, except that she couldn’t sleep on the sofa because it was full of dog hairs and she’s allergic … well, thank goodness I have a big bed, because I also have a tendency to fidget a lot in my sleep! Poor Andrea, when her phone alarm went off unexpectedly, I forgot she was there and as I leaned over she got an elbow in the mouth. Whoops!

Anyway, I was still determined to go out for drinks, and eventually … we made it! We met a guy called Ron in the Space, he seems to be a regular, and he invited us to go out on his boat! There are some interesting people in Manly (I’m not going though). Halfway through our second bottle of wine, we were tired and I’d had enough – for some reason we decided it’d be a good idea to try and leave with it. Turns out, that wasn’t so much of a good plan, at least that’s what the security guard and policeman outside told us! We were relieved they only took away the wine then sent us packing, they were probably laughing at us though as we scurried away. Bad girls.

Saturday, I headed out for a morning run just as it was warming up, I was pretty damn hot by the time I got back. I run 5k along the beach, not on the sand (that’s way too much like hard work) – it’s a really pretty run, just long enough to feel like I’ve done something but not so long I get fed up with it. In the afternoon, I was off to Andrea’s – she’d got back in to the flat by then – for a barbie and a bit of a party with some friends, while we watched the Australian Open of Surfing from her balcony. The view from there is incredible.

The party went on all day and into the evening, until eventually I’d had enough cider and headed home. I carefully gathered up my belongings, still managing to leave behind my camera and iPod … I’m so forgetful.

Sunday was surfing and gardening! I met Andrea and Lucy down on the beach, and later Jess and Phil joined us too. The waves weren’t too bad, we managed to paddle out quite a long way and rest on our surfboards. I tried to sit up on mine – which was pretty easy on the big foam boards we had for our lessons – but on my surfboard, it was like it was trying to buck me off! Andrea laughed at me, especially when I fell off it (three times). I’m useless at surfing!

Towards the end, I managed to get both of my feet on the board – I was still holding on with my hands, but still, this is a first! By then, the waves near the shore seemed to be a bit bigger, and Lucy and I were having trouble getting over them to get out. After being thrown back down on the shore four or five times, I gave up and crossly marched out with my board, promptly getting turned over again before I managed to get myself out.

There's a spider like this in my garden

In the afternoon, I headed up to my herb garden to pull out the weeds that just won’t stop growing. I found an enormous black and yellow spider – it’s just an orb spider, which isn’t dangerous, but it isn’t one that I particularly wanted crawling through my hair, so I tried to avoid his web as much as I could. With my plants fed and watered (the rocket is ready to eat now!) I moved to the lower part of the garden, and just managed to finish weeding the front and side path, before Matt and Chelsea got home. I planted out a few of my pepper and beetroot seedlings which are starting to look really good, but it was clearly getting ready to pelt down with rain, so I decided to stop and start on the wine instead …

I put the barbie on a bit later, Andrea was going to come over for dinner, and I was feeling nice and chilled after the weekend, just writing a facebook status to that extent, when I realised the barbie was smoking a bit. I opened it to discover that the charcoal beneath the gas burner was on fire … that’s not supposed to happen, dammit. It wasn’t too bad though, it went out pretty quickly once it was turned off, and when we did eventually cook our dinner it worked out fine.

Then it was Monday again … back to trying to figure out what we were doing at work. I managed to run again on Monday night, then it was Tuesday, now let’s see … oh yes, Valentine’s Day. I headed out to my boxing class at lunch, which was nearly empty! It was wet outside, and I slipped over in my flip-flops, think I tore something in my right quad as it was a bit painful walking to the class after that. It didn’t bother me too much though, except when I tried to run across the road coming back to work there was a sudden twinge.

Now Valentine’s Day is not my favourite day of the year as a long-term single girl! I had re-booked my haircut deliberately, so after a lunchtime boxing session that was nearly empty, and seeing piles of flowers at the mailroom at work, I headed to Ebony in Manly to get a trim. I don’t want layers, so really my hair looks much the same as it did, except to me!

New haircut, looks completely different, right?

Wednesday, and we moved up to the 22nd floor in our building. It’s a much better view and lots more natural light, which is nice! In the evening I went to SydJS – the JavaScript user group, where I ran in to quite a few people I’d met there before, so it was nice to catch up on what they’d been doing in the month in between. I was tempted to stand up for the Open Mic segment – I’d been preparing and practicing a lightning talk for Web Directions next week, but I decided I wasn’t quite ready, and wanted to save it for next week.

View from the 22nd floor

Thursday night was my second fit2date event. I was a bit worried that my leg would hurt when I was running, it was fine for the warm up jog but when we played a bit of a team soccer game I went to kick the ball and it hurt! I had to run a bit slower during the games, but luckily it didn’t interfere too much with the post-class beer drinking.

So now it’s finally Friday! The milk was off this morning, which was a great excuse to have a naughty ham-and-cheese croissant at the cafe downstairs instead, I thought I’d try and be healthy with a mango smoothie but that tasted way to good to not have naughty stuff in it too.

Tonight I have another date – getting dinner cooked for me too :) Maybe I’ll write more about that sometime.

So … that’s it for now. Life’s good, not very exciting maybe, but pretty good …

Camping in the Blue Mountains.

When I was working in Edinburgh and planning my trip to Oz, my colleague Rachel (not the same one who also moved to Sydney) recommended a few places to visit, among them the Blue Mountains. She told me about waking up in a tent above the clouds, which sounded amazing, so camping there was definitely in my Things To Do list.

View across the valley

When I heard that another work friend Sarah was organising a trip, I jumped at the chance! The others on the trip were not really into camping, but Andrea decided to come along and was happy to camp with me, despite the mickey taking that started even before we arrived … I guess not everybody likes to sleep in a tent when you could have solid walls and an ensuite bathroom but I’m weird like that :)

We set off on Friday night in the little GoGet car that lives around the corner from me, packed to the gills with tent, blow-up beds, blankets, camping stove, and whatever else we could squeeze in. It was slow going getting out of Sydney, and the route we chose had loads of roadworks, so it was ten thirty at night by the time we arrived at Katoomba Falls. Having driven through bucketing rain and then fog, it was quite a relief that it was only spitting lightly when we had to set up, and we did a pretty damn good job in the dark. Finally, exhausted and hot (hammering tent pegs is sweaty work) we collapsed in the tent with two bottles of wine and talked about anything and everything, but mostly boys (as girls do). We forgot that the tent walls were so thin, until somebody from a neighbouring tent shouted at us to keep it down … whoops.

Our tent (the first go!)

The Campsite

All set up for breakfast

Although the night was chilly, by the morning the tent was warming up pretty well. The air in the mountains was beautiful, it seemed fresher than in the city or by the ocean. I think maybe it was just less humid, but it had a pleasant coolness without being cold.

The facilities at the campsite were pretty good, it was mostly taken up by cabins and camper vans, we were the only tent without a trailer. Andrea was tempted to go into town to find food, but I was determined to use my camping stove, so we cooked the eggs we’d brought and made tea and coffee … note to self, must bring salt and some kind of seasoning next time though. After breakfast, we decided to reposition our tent slightly to avoid the heavy drips from the tree above us – and I have to say, this time we did a pretty marvellous job of pegging it in properly, so that the fly was well and truly secured away from the inside of the tent to avoid drips inside. It looked great :)

Ta da!

We were expecting the others to leave the city early in the morning, so hung around the campsite chilling while we waited for them. Pam and Michael turned up around eleven and opened their cabin, it was small but kind of cute with bunk beds in one room and it’s own bathroom (luxury!).

Chilling at the campsite

Enjoying a beer

Enjoying the sun

Turns out Sarah, Shaun and Rachel had been detained in Sydney by a faulty alarm clock, so Pam and Andrea headed out on a “bee double ee double are you en”* and we settled in to wait for them. We eventually met them in town for pizza and beer, and debated whether and when to head to the Ukelele festival up the road …

… we never did make it though. By the time we’d eaten, picked up more beer and wine and snacks, and got comfy back in the cabin, it just didn’t happen. We ended up in a raucous game of Uno, followed by charades, followed by bed …

Don't let me see those cards!

Got a red or a seven?

Fun playing Uno

Sunday, we headed out to hike in the area around the Three Sisters after packing up the cars and eating a hearty breakfast in Katoomba. The views from Echo Point across the three jutting rocks were awesome – the vast valley between the cliffs, with hazy blue peaks in the distance. I took loads of photographs, but they don’t quite capture the beauty of the place.

The Three Sisters

Sarah, Rachel and Shaun were ahead of the rest of us and had headed down the giant staircase, which apparently has 900 stairs. We finally met them on the way back up, looking slightly broken … after 900 stairs, I’m not surprised. Andrea, Pam, Michael and I headed down but the steps were steep and I lost my head for heights (actually, I was just too much of a wuss to climb all the way back up) so I only made it to the first platform before heading back. Pam and Michael went on down the entire staircase though, while Andrea and I headed out on a short hike towards Leura Cascades.

Look out point

Hiking through the woods

Another great view

It was a lovely walk along the cliff, with loads of lookout points across the valley. Despite being warm and sunny, the recent rain had left loads of mud – my legs were filthy by the time we got to the end. The original plan was to hike to the cascades, then hike back through the woods, but when we were nearly there we cut out of the wood to grab some water and discovered a restaurant with views across the mountains and a yummy looking menu …

We didn’t have enough time on the parking ticket to stop, and they would only be serving food for another hour. We walked on for ten minutes or so to see Leura Cascades from up above, then decided to cut back along the road and hope to make it back to the restaurant in time to eat … we couldn’t believe how close it was along the road, how on earth had it taken us so long to walk all that way through the woods?! It didn’t look so far on the map … but we made it for the food! Yay! It was great, and we spoiled ourselves with dessert too … but then it was time to head home and return the car.

Lunch with a view!

We finished the weekend with a surf in giant waves on North Steyne beach. I had such a great time, so glad I got to see the Blue Mountains, although I still want to go back and stay longer, explore more. My weekends are filling up but I guess there’s always next summer :)

* beer run

How the garden grows.

Sunday was going to be a day for gardening. Andrea and I rented a car for a couple of hours in the morning to head to Bunnings and stock up with heavy stuff like earth, pots, and some big shears, then back home I was on a mission to do a bit more work in the garden. I also bought a few new tiny vegetable plants to try out: some rocket, broccoli and cauliflower, and some geraniums, petunias and marigolds to brighten up the lower part of the garden.

Back home, I started off hacking away some of the growth in the garden at the top. I’m fed up of going up there only to be attacked by spider webs! I’m pretty sure they are just orb spiders – which do bite, I think, but it’s rare and they’re not poisonous – but you never know. I wanted to at least clear back some of the bushy trees that the spiders were spinning their webs on, and hopefully make the garden look a bit tidier too.

The back of the garden looks a bit tidier now!

I cut away quite a lot (still more to do, one day in the future) and filled both the green bins with all the rubbish. I also wanted to tidy up the overgrown plants along the side of the house, so that we could actually walk up and down the path without being attacked by the plants there.

I did a bit more weeding at the top, there is still loads to do on the bottom half of the garden, but I’m saving that for a later date! The weeds are a lot thinner now but they still keep coming back – I don’t want to use weedkiller because Mau the cat lives in the back garden.

Flowers!

I potted the new flowers and put the pots at the back of the garden, they still look a bit small and lonely at the moment though. The new veggies went in three to a pot – probably a bit too many, but I wanted to see how they got on, if they’d actually survive and flourish first. The rocket should be ready in about three weeks – yum, can’t wait. I took a couple of my strongest beetroot seedlings and put them in pots on their own. Two days on, they seem to be perking up and enjoying their own space, but I’ve read that they often die at this stage so I’m not counting my beetroots yet.

Beetroot seedling sprouting its second set of leaves

I also planted two sunflower seeds – wonder if they’ll grow, and how tall? – and some pansies and zucchini (courgette).

A couple of the other plants are not doing so well: one of the tomatoes is wilting badly and looks very miserable. I think it’s not getting enough water, so have tried adding a saucer below the pot to stop so much water running out. It’s funny that the other one seems to be doing fine though – perhaps one just has more fruit, or the sun is hitting it harder, I don’t know.

I’ve also killed the coriander again! This time through over-watering – I put it in a pot without holes, using some stones at the bottom to help keep the roots dry, but I can see it’s just drowning. I tried to empty the water out this morning but accidentally emptied the plant out too … oops. One more try at bringing it back to life, then it’ll be off to plant heaven, and Harris Farms for a new one! The basil is growing wonderfully in a similar pot though, the mint is picking up in its new shadier home, and the chilli continues to flourish! It’s now big enough to need a larger pot, and I’m going to need to start using more chillis. I’ve found that although they’re tiny, they’re about as powerful as a larger chilli.

Chilli needs repotting

I’m impatient now for something else to start providing me something I can eat! More updates coming soon.

Out on the boat!

It’s been ages since I’ve been diving. I was starting to feel like I was wasting the summer going out on the town and then sleeping half the weekend away, I had a new wetsuit hanging in my room that hadn’t even been christened yet, and the water was calling. I had tried a couple of times to get in touch with Prodive Manly, my local diving shop, for more work (aka diving for free) and on Friday I finally got lucky and grabbed a spot on the boat for Saturday morning.

I was a bit fed up on Friday but unable to put my finger on why. This was a feeling that had been hanging around for a week or so – my usual solution was to head out for a drink with my friends (and probably a late night), so after work I headed to the usual Friday pub. I was talking to Leo about diving and she reminded me that I really shouldn’t be drinking; I hadn’t intended to have a big night but it was in danger of heading that way … I switched to water (yes, really!) although I did stop by the Space Bar a bit later for a beer with Viv. Luckily it was almost empty so no temptation to stay too late.

There was one thing left to do when I got home that I wasn’t looking forward to … I hadn’t actually tried on my new wetsuit (6mm semi-dry) yet, and I needed to make sure it would fit and I didn’t need the next size up. I wanted it to be tight so it would be warmer – it was a struggle to get in to it but I made it, just … and I could still breathe … just. I hoped the zip was a strong one.

Saturday morning I was up bright and early, thankful that I only have to walk around the corner to get to the dive centre, rather than leaving before 6am for a two or three hour drive to the coast, as we used to do in the UK. The tanks were all loaded on the dive boat the previous night so all we had to do was throw a couple of bags on the back of the truck and we were all set. I am still getting to know the people at the shop and how things work, so often feel a bit lost when I go there. Unlike Divecrew most of the staff are full time – so I turn up in my Prodive t-shirt and get a few weird looks from the ones who haven’t met me yet. It doesn’t help that my t-shirt is tent-sized since they didn’t have any smaller ones! Perhaps that’s the reason for the weird looks :)

The boat wasn’t very full in the morning as we were heading for a deep dive to around 30m at Dee Why, which needed an Advanced Open Water qualification. Or maybe these people just don’t like getting up early … I can identify with that! We set off from Manly wharf and headed to Rose Bay to collect the rest of the group, and the sea was already a bit bumpy with swells.

Luxury - and empty - dive boat!

The dive site we went to was actually nearer to Curl Curl beach than Dee Why. The reef started at 22m and sloped downward – I hit about 27.8m maximum. Brad had warned us all to watch our no-deco times, but I had no sooner hit the bottom than my computer was telling me I had six minutes or so left – that didn’t seem right, I wasn’t that deep! I was using my new Suunto D6i, which I love because I can download my dive profile to my computer and it tracks my air consumption (yep I’m a geek) but I didn’t love it when it was cutting short my dive time by quite a lot! Luckily I had my old Oceanic with me as a spare, which I pulled out – it was still giving me another 16 minutes of no-deco time. Very weird – I should RTFM* for the Suunto really.

It was a lovely, easy dive – the water was around 19-20 degrees, and no drysuit to worry about – lovely! Even deep down, the swells of the ocean rocked us a little bit – we swam through some gulleys and there were loads of fish, I couldn’t tell you what though! Definitely need to work on identifying the fish around this area better. I was so happy to be under the water, I had forgotten how much I love to dive. The low feelings of the previous week were forgotten.

Back on the boat, though, the swells began to take their toll. I had trouble doing more than sitting and staring at the horizon or lying flat on the deck, it was definitely a big mistake to try logging my dives on my iPhone :( Fellow diver Luke was also looking a bit green. Mick offered me a seasickness tablet, which I decided to try just before the second dive – hopefully by the time I got back on the boat, I’d feel better. Skipper Tony called it an “experiment” … let’s just hope it doesn’t go wrong …

The second dive was on Manly Bommie (apparently Bommie is short for bombora, the Aboriginal word for outcrop or mountain of reef) – this was shallower, I hit around 18m. As we swam through a gully, the other divers in my group had stopped to look at something, so I swam slowly across to try and see what it was. I had seen Brad make the signal for cuttlefish, so I was quite excited, shining my torch towards the hole … wait, what’s that thing chasing my torch? Yep, it was a big cuttlefish playing with the light! He was in the mood to play (maybe he had lucked out trying to find a lady cuttlefish that day), fluttering around and chasing our torches and fingers for ages. He shimmered and changed colour for us, and didn’t seem too bothered by this motley crew of divers invading his space.

Eventually the game was over and we swam off, at the other end of the gully there was an octopus! His body was about the size of my hand, and the tentacles were draped over the rock. As Brad tapped and scratched the rock near him, he stretched out a tentacle or two cautiously to say hello :)

Some of the guys on the boat - Luke, Mick and Brad

And that was the easy part of the day done. For the afternoon, the boat was going to be chock full with mostly Open Water divers exploring the Sydney waters. Thankfully, the seasickness pill did it’s job wonderfully! We picked up most of the group from Rose Bay before heading back to Manly, and I jumped down the trapdoor into the equipment store to help get everybody kitted up. The experiment had been a success – no more seasickness! Yay! It was damn hot though, especially since I was refusing to remove my wetsuit on the grounds that getting it back on would be even more of a pain.

As expected with around 25 people on the boat trying to organise their kit, including another instructor Will and his advanced open water students, it was slightly chaotic – but that’s all part of the fun! Sadly as we journeyed back out from Manly Wharf to the ocean for the third dive of the day (well, first for our new people), which was back on Manly Bommie, the swells were affecting some of the other passengers, and we had to try and get them in to and under the water as quickly as we could.

The visibility had lessened a bit since the morning, but Mick’s group of divers found the cuttlefish again. I was tailing Brad’s group of Open Water divers, who managed to all stick together and even got a few good photos. At one point Mick grabbed my fin and tried to signal to me to take his group, but I thought he had mistaken me for one of them, so wasn’t very helpful … Whoops. Sorry, Mick :)

By the end of that dive, I was amazed I wasn’t more tired – I guess when you don’t have to factor in a long journey, long walks with heavy kit or a ride on a rib it makes things easier (oh yes, this is luxury diving!) – or maybe I just got my energy from the party pies! Yep, I might not have been able to manage more than half a sausage roll in the morning when I was seasick, but I certainly made up for it in the afternoon, I put away at least three of those bad boys – plus I’d already eaten half of Brad’s lunch! Unfortunately with the boat swaying, there were quite a few left over. They’re not so good cold though.

The final dive at Flagstaff was pretty but uneventful, and the visibility had dropped a little further. We swam along the rocks, saw shoals of fish and nudibranchs – I was on the lookout for a wobbegong shark, but didn’t find one :( Apparently there are loads around, but I’ve only seen one so far.

Dives all finished, and the equipment had to be rinsed and stowed, which was surprisingly well organised. Then it was back to Rose Bay and finally to Manly, where we swapped the empty tanks for full ones and wheeled them up the wharf. As we loaded the first lot of tanks on to the truck, a wedding party came walking down towards the sailing club to take photos! Oh noes! I do not want to be caught in the corner of somebody’s photo after a day out diving, with my hair stringy and looking all gross. Luckily I don’t think they wanted that either … although as we headed back to fill the trolley with the remaining tanks, they were definitely snapping away.

Back to the dive centre, all hands on deck to empty the tanks off of the truck, then off home … Chelsea was outside in the back garden when I got there with wine, ahhhh, just what I needed :) Now to shower off the salt and fish poo, and muster up some energy for a night out with the girls …

Sadly I didn’t take my camera on any of the dives this weekend, so no underwater shots – I just wanted to enjoy the diving without being distracted. Some of the other divers did have some pretty hefty and serious looking equipment though, so with any luck I might be able to borrow some shots!

* Read the &*@^! manual.