Shrimps on the Barbie.

For the first time since arriving in Australia, this year I wasn’t on holiday for Christmas! Spoiled or what?

Silvio and I started with a pretty awesome Christmas Eve dinner: roast chicken with sage and pistachio butter, Silvio’s Special Roasted Potatoes, and gravy made with quince paste, which was so yum. I did some of the preparation before heading out for a catch up over wine with Bridget, who was in town for a few days, leaving the rest of the cooking to Silvio (who did a perfect job).

Alex and Jen enjoying the Christmas meal

Alex and Jen enjoying the Christmas meal

On Christmas Day, we headed over to spend it with a bunch of friends including Jen, who had arrived from London in October. We were pretty early, with cake and salad, so by the time the other guests arrived (bringing MEAT!) we were already enjoying some Christmas “spirit”. Jen had a K-Mart frozen daiquiri mix turning slowly to icy slush in the freezer, I had my favourite Chardonnay in the fridge, Silvio was eyeing up the enormous ribeye steaks that Brady was pulling out of the bag, everybody was happy.

Cooking the steak

Cooking the steak

The barbie was fired up and the first thing to go on was the massive prawns! Or shrimps, as I believe they are called here. Such an Aussie cliché, shrimps on the barbie, that of course it had to go on to facebook.

Shrimps on the barbie!

Shrimps on the barbie!

While we feasted on the prawns/shrimps, the steak was next. Alex had put together a yummy summer salad with watermelon and pomegranate, mine was spinach with beetroot, feta and sweet potato, and that was also going down pretty well. While the steak cooked, Silvio hovered around the barbie with the meat thermometer, guarding the precious. It really was enormous, but finally it was cooked and Alex carved it up on the table before digging in to what was left on the bone.

Brady and Alex feast on the bones

Brady and Alex feast on the bones

Meanwhile, Kai had put ribs in the oven, but since they take so long to cook, Silvio was carefully leaving room for them when they were finally done.

The massive steak

The massive steak

We finished up with slices of my Christmas cake, finally I got to cut it up! The icing was delicious. Full of food, I was feeling rather sleepy, in fact I think we all were … the lovely warm weather was helping us along to nap time! Jen was first to succumb, heading off for forty winks while the rest of us played Dixit, a game involving picture cards and a scoring system so complex that they have to write the rules on the game board. I won, thanks to a lucky round with a crytic card that Silvio played.

Dixit

Dixit

Jen returned just as we got started on Guitar Hero, and just in time to pick up the microphone! It was really heating up in the house, so she plugged in the air conditioner.

Guitar hero!

Guitar hero!

Halfway through the track, I could smell a bit of a burny smell, but it didn’t seem too bad, so I kept concentrating on the notes, until – POP! The electricity tripped and the game was unexpectedly cut short. We all walked around sniffing and trying to locate the cause of the problem, eventually isolating it to the plug socket with the air conditioner plugged in to it. The plug itself was too hot to touch, but when I pulled it slowly out of the wall by the wire, the plastic oozed apart leaving a blackened hole and a small wisp of smoke. So that was the end of the air conditioning, but at least we got the guitar hero back on!

The burned out plug

The burned out plug

Eventually the food coma hit and I drifted off for a while as Die Hard played in the background. As the sun started to go down, we finally wished everybody a merry Christmas, what was left of it, and headed back home to enjoy the last of the evening.

Sleepy from food, wine and warm weather

Sleepy from food, wine and warm weather

Falls Creek.

It seemed like a long wait for the ThoughtWorks ski trip to Falls Creek (aka ThoughtCarver – although I don’t work for TW anymore, it will be part of my life for a long time yet it seems!). I had been counting down the days since getting back from Kuala Lumpur. After endless Skype calls, with unreliable internet and dubious sound quality resulting in a lot of our conversations being along the lines of “huh? what did you say? I can’t hear you!”, Silvio and I would finally be in the same place, and able to have a normal conversation :) Oh yeah, and I was pretty excited about my first time skiing in Australia too.

I have to admit though, Aussies don’t seem to have a very good opinion of their snow quality – I was led to expect soggy slush, short runs and bad conditions, and I was pleasantly surprised by the skiing in Falls Creek. But I’ll start as usual, at the beginning of the trip, with the journey …

I flew to Melbourne to meet Silvio, where we’d rented a car to drive across Victoria to Falls Creek. I was desperately impatient as the plane began the descent into Melbourne, it had been a long two months, and the taxiing from the runway to the gate seemed to take for-eeeevvvv-a … until finally, the moment of reunion at the gate! We grinned like daft idiots all the way through the airport, but I didn’t care, it was a nice feeling.

It was a pretty long drive from Melbourne, over five hours … and we still had to find snow chains, since it’s a legal requirement in Falls Creek. Thanks to Google and TomTom, we found Ray’s ski shop along the way, and then finally, FINALLY we arrived. It was bloody freezing, and raining! We parked the car in the last available spot in a cold, windy car park and luckily there were parking attendants to drive us back to our apartments, where the rest of the ThoughtCarvers we were sharing with were already cosy in front of a log fire with red wine … didn’t take us long to join in!

Thursday morning the mountain didn’t look particularly inviting. A heavy cloud hung over it, drizzling cold rain on the village streets … we almost gave it a miss, but eventually bundled up in ski gear and braved the low visibility and high winds for a few pretty good runs. My legs were a bit shaky on the first run down, but Silvio was off like a shot, and then on the second run he led the way into the soft, ungroomed snow. Like an idiot, I followed – well, couldn’t really see much else to aim for – but my legs were not quite ready for that! I was a bit all over the place on my skis that first day, but at least the snow wasn’t too slushy or icy, even if we couldn’t see where we were going. The runs were all very short and over too quickly, but the chairlifts were also short so not too cold (except for Scotts Chair, where the wind seemed to blow right through me) and there were no real queues. I pretty quickly discovered that most of the black runs were comparable to hard red runs in Europe, although there were a few with some decent steep slopes and moguls.

Snowy mountains

Thursday night, Silvio had one goal: MEAT! We went to the Falls Creek Country Club which was described on the website as the best place in town for a steak, it was pretty quiet but the steak was good. When we left it was snowing fairly heavily, the roads were white and we left trails of footprints back up the road … this was promising for the skiing conditions the following day!

Friday was definitely better – although there were still times when the clouds closed in, there were also moments of sunny, clear runs. The first two heats of the Age Corporate ski race were held, and many of the ThoughtWorkers were participating – I watched a few, most weren’t too competitive, but some definitely were (coughDuncan). Everybody had to do the course twice, it was fairly short though – I ended up taking Silvio and Alex-no-brakes-Ong’s jackets down the slope for them while they competed (better for speed, apparently, did I mention some people were competitive?), I must have looked a right sight in my own bulky ski gear, with two more jackets tied around me on top!

Sarah finishing in style

Friday night, we all headed out for drinks at Tom Dick and Harry’s. ThoughtWorks had sponsored some pretty cool jackets for all of us, which most people had worn for the drinks, so we were pretty easy to spot as a group. The drinks were put on for the racers, so there were lots of other corporate groups there too – Sarah managed to get talking to a guy from another company who happened to have a tiger suit (wtf?) – she later convinced him to trade it for her ThoughtWorks jacket. I haven’t yet seen proof that the deal went through, although he did wear it (and partly remove it) in the next bar.

Sarah had her eyes on this suit …

The drinks were flowing on Friday and we got steadily more rowdy as we progressed to The Man bar. Andy Tam was particularly good fun that night, until eventually somebody decided to make sure he got home :) We discovered the foosball table, which brought back memories of playing in Berlin with Alex … this time we played against each other, Silvio and I won by a narrow margin (I’m pretty rubbish). Some randoms decided to challenge the winners but I told Alex to take my place, they almost won as well :)

Saturday would be our final day of skiing since we had planned to leave around lunchtime on Sunday, and it was also the second day of the race, with two more heats down a smaller slalom. Silvio had decided to try a new technique that involved bashing down the poles as he skied past them, it was successful in terms of getting him a pretty good time, but less so in that after finishing the second race, he had some pretty nasty bruises on his arms.

Julie

As he finished, I was pretty excited, he had almost equalled Julie’s time which was bloody good, she’s done a lot of racing in the past and in fact she beat Duncan that day too, which she didn’t let him forget (I hear there are now two new email aliases at ThoughtWorks now … ibeatduncan and ilosttojulie!). After Silvio raced, he sat down in the snow complaining about his arms being in pain and trying to use the snow to ease the bruises, but I didn’t really clock on how bad it was until the ski patrol arrived (two of them!) They were incredibly efficient, and even offered to take him back down the slope on a stretcher – which I thought was kind of funny, although when one of them pulled up on a skidoo I did think it might have been exciting to get a ride on that :) Eventually they left us with an ice pack after filling in about seventeen forms, and I continued to tease him for the rest of the day for being such a drama queen.

Saturday night, it was back to The Man for food and more drinking … but we sneaked out before the dancing started (sorry, Sarah!) Sunday, I crammed my gear back into my suitcase – I swear, no matter how tidy I am at home, whenever I go away, my suitcase seems to just explode everything out the minute I arrive – and Silvio headed off to the cold, windy car park to get our car. He was gone for ages, and I was wondering how he could possibly have got lost walking up one road … until I saw him walking back, waving his phone at me and asking why I hadn’t answered his (five) calls … must remember to take that thing off of silent sometimes. It turned out that the car wouldn’t start: the battery was flat as a pancake. Nobody else had jump leads, not sure I’d know how to use them safely anyway, but there was roadside assistance man with a truck who headed up the hill to help us. He attached the cables, and the alarm promptly started to go off – but with power restored, once that was disarmed we could at least get the car going again. Apparently it happens quite often :( anyway, we were sorted and heading off to the airport, with a few stops in the city along the way to trade ski gear for work clothes.

Although it was an awesome trip (and expertly organised, thanks Julie and Andy!) and I was sorry to leave the snow behind, it was also pretty good going back … we flew together back to Sydney and spent a couple of days enjoying Manly before Silvio had to head back to Bangalore for his second and final semester as a trainer at ThoughtWorks University.

I think we might have enjoyed Manly even more if I hadn’t forgotten my keys on Monday morning, resulting in two pretty hungry and tired people slouching over the table in the Wharf Bar after work until my new housemate Matthias finally arrived home at 10pm to let us in :( We sat watching the rain sluice across the harbour and worried about the bags we’d left in the porch of the house, which luckily were still dry when we finally made it back!

Quackers made it to Falls Creek – of course!

So on Wednesday morning, not only did I say ciao to Silvio but my friend and housemate Viviana was also heading off on a two month trip to Europe, so I am now missing both of them. Ah well, not long to go now until my own big holiday – heading back to the UK to watch my little brother get married, which I can’t believe has come around already. I will be squeezing in a quick weekend in Singapore on the way though …

Moving Day!

In comparison to the events surrounding my move across Manly, the actual moving in day itself was very unstressful, if tiring. The drama started a few months ago, when Andrea’s flatmate announced that he was going to start looking for a new place. Having been coveting her beautiful view for months, I was really excited!

Having small, furry, rather noisy and sometimes smelly housemates was starting to wear on me, and it wasn’t long before my impatience got the better of me. When Rachel’s room unexpectedly became available, I decided to change my plans and move in to her place in Little Manly. It also comes with a beautiful view, not as amazing as Andrea’s, but from the bedroom itself which is rather nice.

The view from my room

However, Andrea was less than amused! Luckily for me she is also the forgiving kind though, and plus she eventually realised that she’d probably had a lucky escape.

A couple of weeks before the move, I had arranged for the internet to be connected at the new place … sadly, they also cut off the wireless at my old one! Cue a week or so of frustration – it’s amazing how I now feel totally lost without super fast internet at my fingertips wherever I go. Possibly something to do with also wanting to make Skype calls on a regular basis.

Over the next few days, Rachel was away so I stayed in what would be my new room, admiring the view from the bed, and counting down the days until I could move all of my stuff in! I made endless phone calls to the internet company, and unplugged and replugged in every single cable to my modem at least a hundred times until finally they sent a technician. On Friday morning, Vivi and I sat with our laptops and a 3G connection while he took apart the phone socket, discovered the phone line wasn’t connected properly, and promptly sorted it out. We stared and crossed our fingers as the modem light went from flashing red, to blue, and then back to red, until finally it stayed blue. We named our home network magicworks, because at that point in time I think we both believed it!

I went back to my own place for the last two nights, then finally the day arrived! We had a great girls night out on Saturday, with the result that I wasn’t feeling the best on Sunday morning, but I had a long day ahead and there was no time for hangovers. I left the house to get the car, only to return two minutes later having forgotten my glasses. This pretty much set the tone for the day …

First stop, IKEA

My first stop was IKEA: I needed a set of drawers for some extra storage space. I haven’t been to IKEA in ages – I haven’t really done much shopping in ages either, but I had to curb my shopaholic tendencies and stay focussed on just buying what I needed: drawers, and some storage boxes. I left with just $4 worth of impulse purchases, which must be a new record.

Next stop: Harvey Norman to pick up a tumble dryer. I found the shopping centre in Chatswood, found the right floor, went to get out of the car, and couldn’t find my key (GoGet have a really cool system, similar to Street Car in the UK, where I have a credit card sized “key” that locks and unlocks the car – the actual ignition key is secured inside the car). I searched my bag and pockets, but nothing. I was beginning to panic: I couldn’t even leave the car unlocked because it would automatically lock itself after a few minutes, so if I closed it then I wouldn’t be able to get back in. I didn’t understand how I could have dropped it at IKEA … eventually reason set in, and I found it down the far side of the passenger seat. Phew.

Shopping done!

Back on track … dryer collected and loaded into the car, and back to the new place to drop it off. I arrived, and nobody was there, they’d all gone out for breakfast … I managed to drag the heavy boxes out of the car and into the garden on my own, but it’s been a while since I wished that much for a strong man to help me!

Back to Pacific Parade, and the first car load took nearly an hour to load, but most of the big stuff was in. The drive across town took less than ten minutes, but included about twenty sets of traffic lights … luckily I wasn’t really in any hurry, it was still early afternoon. By the time the first lot of cases and stuff had been emptied, I could barely get in to my bedroom (not because I have THAT much stuff, but I didn’t do a great job of arranging it).

First load ready to go

Andrea was also moving stuff the same day, she’d hired a ute to pick up a fridge and some larger furniture from across town, having sourced it on Gumtree (her flatmate was moving out and taking all of his furniture, so she was about to have a pretty empty flat!) We decided to go together to the mall then to drop off her ute, so that she didn’t have to walk home. She was jetlagged, and exhausted … I suddenly realised that I was actually pretty tired already too, and I still had another car load to go, and furniture to build!

The car all stacked up for the final run

We made it to the mall, and finally the last car load was emptied. I dropped the car back in its spot near Pacific Parade, and collected my bike and my surfboard, which was too big to fit in the car so had to be moved on foot. I wheeled the bike over to Andrea’s, where my surfboard was going to stay in her garage at least until the summer! Finally I biked over to the new place. It was kind of strange to finish off the move on my bike :)

Viv was home by then, and together we got the new dryer into its new home and reconstructed my small shelves in the utility room, they looked pretty cool actually and Viv was delighted.

The new dryer

I managed to clear a way through the stuff into my room and stacked the cases against the windows. I was still determined to finish putting together my new drawers, even though both Silvio and Viv had told me to take it a bit easy, it had been a long day, but I was stubborn as ever …! Eventually, with the help of a couple of glasses of wine, they were done. And they looked good too!

I do follow instructions …

Getting there with the drawers

Moving fast!


By ten thirty, finally, I had managed to unpack enough clothes to last a couple of days, make up my bed, and bring enough order to the room to be satisfied. My eyes were almost closing …

It took a few more days to clear out the rest of the suitcases but I’m delighted with my new room! It’s light and quiet, and I can’t imagine a better place to wake up in :)

New home

The Waiting Game.

When I was skyping my cousin Julia recently, she mentioned that I hadn’t been doing very much on my blog recently. She wasn’t the first person, I think Mum had mentioned it too, a week or two ago.

I’ve been meaning to post for some time about my new job, but other than that, I haven’t felt like I had very much to say. Over the last six weeks, I’ve been trying to get my head around some significant changes in my life: a new job and a new relationship, both of which are fantastic, but bring their own stresses – like being six thousand miles apart from the person I most want to be with, most of the time.

And if that wasn’t ENOUGH excitement, in one more week I’ll move house. I always seem to try and do everything at once, but the last few months seem to have been one long waiting game :) Maybe this year I will finally learn patience. Andrea has also spent the last two months travelling for work, so my social life just hasn’t been the same!

Since getting back from Malaysia, it seems like most of my time when I’m not working has been spent either on Skype or exercising. After several months at Fight Gym, I switched to Virgin Active, an old friend from the UK – much as I liked the Fight Gym, I needed to do something different. VA manage to change it up with new stuff pretty regularly, so now I’m “enjoying” body attack, body pump and cardio routines on the powerplate – although the boxing classes are not as good as before.

Exercising at 7am on beautiful beaches like Dee Why is a great start to the weekend … but hard work!

I also flirted for a little while with outdoor fitness classes at 7am on a Saturday. For three weeks, I got up before 6 and rode my bike up to 10km to varied locations along the northern beaches, where trainer Penny Walsh shouted at a surprisingly large group of us to run up sand dunes and hills in between crunches, push ups and step ups – with REALLY big steps.

On the fourth week though, sitting in the Wharf Bar with Viv on a Friday night, the temptation of a second bottle of wine to share was too much … luckily I was off the hook when I discovered the class was cancelled anyway (it was, honestly!). That was over two weeks ago, after that I was attending a conference on a Saturday which ruled out the morning workout, and last weekend I just couldn’t face it. I was so tired and needed a nice, long lie in! In a funny way I do like the 7am class, the beaches are beautiful and empty and I feel amazing afterwards, but it’s really hard to get past the fact that the mornings start off so dark and freezing cold! Maybe I’ll try it again when it warms up a bit more :)

One thing I have kept up is running: from being able to just about manage the 5k from home to Shelly Beach and back, I’ve worked up to now running over 10k on a fairly regular basis. I’ve found a small group of guys at work who come running on Thursday lunchtimes, and they’re all faster than me, which has had a positive effect on my speed. Last week was the best yet: ~7.5k in 42 minutes, well over 10kmh which was my original target.

Lastly, I keep promising myself – and other people – that I will go climbing some time. There is a wall at the gym, and a group at work who go every week, but so far I’ve bottled out. This can’t last forever though: Silvio is a keen climber, but perhaps this is something to save for later in the year :)

All of this is paying off though: I still have a little way to go to my target weight but I’m closer than I have been for a long, long time. With the big wedding looming in just a few weeks, this is definitely a good thing!

As part of the new routine, I also tried (hard!) to cut back on alcohol – but there’s still been room for indulging!

I’ve spent many happy nights at the Wharf Bar putting the world to rights with Viv and Rach, including the night when Lucy, still jetlagged after just getting back from the UK, locked herself out putting the rubbish out … poor thing! I’ve also had some lovely chilled evenings cooking at Viv and Rachel’s, and discovered that I can actually rustle up some pretty good dishes, given time, wine, and good company. I can’t wait to try my skills out on Silvio when he gets back from India … luckily for him, I haven’t yet learned how to cook curry :) Anyway, hopefully there’s a future blog post coming up on that!

The next few weeks are looking promising: moving house this weekend, Andrea returns on Thursday, the end of (financial) year party at work, which is currently shrouded in mystery, and then my first ever Christmas party in July, just before I head off for a few days of skiing in Falls Creek. So hopefully I’ll have lots more inspiration to actually write some posts again!

Byron Bay Bluesfest!

A few days before we were due to jet off to Byron Bay for the Bluesfest, Andrea looked mournfully at me across the desk at work.

“I forgot to cancel the camper van I booked for Byron Bay,” she said. ” I think it might be too late now to get my money back.” She tried calling and sweet talking the rental company, but to no avail: there was a camper van out there somewhere that was determined to spend this weekend with us. Andrea wanted to try and rent it out to anybody who was looking for accommodation, I wasn’t so sure that was a great plan, but we decided we’d figure it out later and just make the most of it. We wouldn’t be able to collect it until Thursday, so we still had to take the tent for the first night anyway.

The next problem was mud. As in, there’s usually lots of it at BluesFest. Oh dear, does that mean we have to go shopping for new footwear? One advantage of being “on the beach” at work … time for online shopping … we found some wellies online and pretty soon they were on their way via express delivery. Woohoo! We’re all set!

Happy campers

Wednesday arrived and we had a pile of cases by our desks in the ThoughtWorks office. Everybody stopped by to ask where we were going (and why the hell do we always take so much STUFF?) The reaction was always the same when they found out we were headed to Byron Bay: “You’re going to have an awesome time!” It’s a pretty good way to start a trip – by the time we left, we were pretty excited! We took a taxi to the airport that afternoon – wearing the new wellies, very sexy we looked in those :) – and settled down in our usual spot in the bar for a pre-flight drink and a gossip. Except that somebody seemed to be finding her email more fun than wine and gossip … I was a little disappointed, but luckily she found her way out of that laptop pretty quickly and we were back on track!

As we boarded the plane, the stewardess glanced down at our feet. “You must be going to Bluesfest!” she said, “Make sure to check out Tijuana Cartel!” She seemed nice and kinda cool, so we decided to try and take her advice. We landed at the Gold Coast airport and found our bus, and some beer, which made the rest of the journey swing by quickly. The Byron Bay Tourist Village was nice, but dark … nothing like rocking up somewhere and staring at a pile of your suitcases on the grass in the dark when you really just want a nice cosy bed all ready for you. We are getting good at pitching tents so it was up pretty fast, although I got eaten alive by little bugs attracted to my headlamp and my apparently tasty blood.

Empty campsite before everybody arrived

Bluesfest graffiti

Rainbow Shop!


Tent up, beds inflated, suitcases tossed inside, now can we please go and hit the town? For food, obviously … and maybe more wine or beer :) Town was a twenty minute walk away, along a fairly dark, busy road with quite a few drunk sounding but generally friendly people coming the other way. It was still quite busy, and we found a place to eat then wandered down to the beach briefly before heading home. I was out like a light, but the noisy birds woke us both up pretty early the next morning.

The beach ...

The festival didn’t kick off until Thursday afternoon, and we had a camper van to collect. After breakfast – it turned out that the kiosk at the entrance to the tourist village made a yummy bacon brekkie roll – we walked into town again to get a bus to the airport. It was a glorious day, and the town is full of brightly coloured shops and hippy signs, which looked fantastic in the bright sunshine. There were no buses until mid-afternoon, so we headed out first for a bit of a shop – I wanted to wander through the Rainbow Shop, and then we found a few dress shops and spent time trying on a variety of clothes. We hit the Beach Hotel for lunch and met up with Korny, who was still a bit dazed having travelled very early that morning.

After lunch, Andrea and I headed to the beach. It was gorgeous – a long, long stretch of pale sand, shallow turquoise water for paddling in, crashing waves and a few surfers for eye candy. Andrea jumped in for a swim, I stuck with paddling and sunbathing, until it was time to head back for the bus to the airport and collect the camper van.

View out of camper van window

Turns out we got upgraded from a Backpacker van to a Britz van – this thing was MASSIVE! It took forever to sort all the paperwork out, but we got a bottle of wine and some free chairs which would be great for the festival! The lady processing our paperwork walked us through the facilities on the van and how everything worked, I started to feel a bit brain-fried quite quickly though – glad Andrea had done this before and knew her way around it a bit better! She got behind the wheel and was pretty cool driving it back to the campsite, especially considering the size of the thing, not sure I’d have been quite as comfortable driving it. The sun was dipping down to the hills on the way home, and I managed to take a few shots out of the window that turned out pretty well.

Back at the campsite, we got ready and headed out to the festival. Disappointingly, the shuttle bus wasn’t free but cost $4 (each person, each way!) – this weekend was turning out to be pretty expensive! But there was no way Andrea was driving – this was NOT going to be a dry night for either of us.

Neighbour Jason

Where's Wally? There ... there ... there ... and there.

Waffles. They're wicked.


The first act we both wanted to see was Eilen Jewell, who was playing on the Jambalaya stage (one of the smaller ones) at 7pm. We had a bit of time to wander through the grounds, explore the food offerings, and grab some drinks tickets and wine. It was pretty quiet, so when we made our way back to the stage there were only a couple of people between us and the stage – it was pretty awesome. She sounded amazing, although I was disappointed she didn’t sing the one song I knew well enough to sing along to (maybe somebody had warned her …) When she was finished, we ended up in the CD tent, where Andrea bought a CD and had all of the band members sign it. They all seemed pretty ordinary off of the stage, which was somehow surprising … the guitarist and drummers were pretty cute though :)

We watched a bit of My Morning Jacket, which was a bit more rocky and more up my street than blues or country. I was getting kind of tired and antsy after that, so when Andrea wanted to try and socialise a bit more I left her to it! Very bad of me … luckily we found each other again pretty quickly and ended up hanging out at the Apra stage and watching a reggae-style band called Kooii, who turned out to be pretty good and worth a bit of a dance to. We finished off the night with crepes in the food tent – mmmmm, nutella crepes. All in all, it wasn’t a bad start to the festival.

That night, Andrea had decided to sleep in the camper van, so I had the tent to myself. I was wise to the noisy birds this time, and slept in lovely and late with the aid of earplugs :) When we finally emerged from our “bedrooms” and got dressed, our neighbour Jason had also surfaced. We hadn’t seen him at all the previous day, which often happens camping but is kind of weird – you just see the tent but never the person. I was pretty sure it wasn’t empty though, I had seen the number of beer bottles rising over the last day or so (it turned out he was using them to mark his tent ropes, so that he didn’t trip over them).

Britz. No boundaries. Apparently.

We all got chatting, he took some photos of me and Andrea with our wellies and camper van, and then offered us a beer. There’s something wonderful about sitting outside in hot sunshine before midday with a cold beer and no worries!

Eventually, we all headed out together to get the bus up to the festival again, for what would be our longest day there! We started off at the Crossroads stage (one of the two largest) and watched Eugene “Hideaway” Bridges and then some of Steve Earle, while just across the fence we could hear G3 blasting out of the Mojo tent. We settled down with our chairs, got some beers, and enjoyed the show for a while. Eventually Jason decided to head off for some beers before we moved on, but he took for-EVER … we checked the two bars nearest to us and couldn’t find him, although they were pretty empty, we couldn’t wait forever so we headed off on our own. Turns out he had gone to get food, turned up where we’d been with three beers and food to find us gone. I felt kind of bad when he told us that later … I don’t think the beers went to waste though.

Beer tickets!

Watching some music

Something was funny ...


We watched some of G3, then saw Candi Staton, who was pretty good, and one of the few artists there that I actually knew :) After that we caught some of Seth Lakeman and Buddy Guy – who is 76 and still playing! – then planted our chairs in the wrong area to listen to Keb Mo for an hour. He had an amazingly smooth voice … Andrea was totally into the music and getting up to dance, but I was getting pretty tired. The last act we caught that night was Earth, Wind and Fire, who blasted on stage with Boogie Wonderland and got me up out of my seat for a few tracks.

Saturday was another gorgeous day, another lovely late morning, and another early beer. I could definitely get used to this kind of life! We had decided to take a trip out to hippy town Nimbin for something to do before the festival, so we piled into Jason’s car while Andrea tried to navigate from the back seat with Google maps. Nimbin was a quieter version of Byron but without a beach – we stopped in a pub for beers and I was amazed at how cheap they were! We wandered around a few shops before heading back, where we hung out at the campsite for a while, drinking beers, eating pizza and Tim Tams and generally enjoying chilling out.

Fancy a bit of hemping?

We got to the festival in time to catch Seasick Steve, but something was wrong with the sound system and we could barely hear him – we had just packed up our chairs and started to walk away when guess what? Yep, it’s back on – and dammit, we’ve lost our good spot! We stayed and listened to him for a bit before heading out, and lost Jason again when he wandered off in a different direction. Never mind, he seemed pretty capable of amusing himself! We watched Bettye LaVette for a while but she was kind of depressing … we found the stewardess’s favourite band Tijuana Cartel, who turned out to be pretty upbeat and dancy, so we bopped along to them for a while.

Some kind of reptile!

More Keb Mo

Candi Staton


At some point we headed back to the Mojo tent and set up camp … I was feeling pretty festival’d out so was happy to sit and watch from the side while Andrea still wanted to get in the thick of the crowd and dance. It actually worked out pretty well … we watched Ziggy Marley, who was awesome, Brian Setzer’s Rockabilly Riot and John Fogerty for the rest of the evening, leaving only after he sang Heard It Through The Grapevine, as Andrea insisted …

Sunday was our last day … Jason was also leaving, he had a long drive back to Newcastle and headed out long before we finished clearing up. With the camper van full of our stuff, we headed out to the beach and parked up – I couldn’t be bothered to change into my swimsuit, but after paddling in the water I couldn’t resist getting in either, so ended up jumping in with my t-shirt on!

We headed into town to get some food, but didn’t get very far before the traffic was thick and slow, and we turned around to go back to the festival instead! We ate and listened to Yann Tiersen for a bit before leaving to go to Ballina Airport, which is one of the smallest I’ve ever been to.

It was all over … :( the one nice thing being that we still had Monday off before heading back to work! We made the most of that too … I had grand plans to go on a long walk around North Head, until I stopped by Andrea’s to help her put up the tent to air it. She invited me up for a wine … and, well, there’s something pretty wonderful about sitting outside on a balcony, looking across Manly beach, with cold wine and no worries …

Peace out

Margaret River

When I booked my tickets to Perth to join a group of ThoughtWorkers heading to Margaret River in early March, it seemed so far off … I couldn’t quite believe that it had come around so quickly! Sydney was so dark and rainy on Thursday morning that it looked like evening outside, so I was glad to be heading off to somewhere with a real summer!

Amongst the things I had forgotten to pack was my sunnies, so when we reached the airport I headed straight to the shops, where Andrea helped me pick out a crazy pair with a red flowery frame. They’re different at least! We had time for a quick snack, a couple of glasses of wine and a catch up on the latest gossip from the week :) The flight was delayed by half an hour, which wasn’t too bad considering the bad weather, most of the flights had been delayed far more. Considering it was a domestic flight, it was really long at over four hours – I made the most of the free seats next to me, lying down across all three with Lana del Rey blaring through my headphones.

Scott and Alex posing

We met the rest of the group at the airport: I already knew the infamous Andy Tam (who had done the organisation so far) and the equally infamous Alex Ong and Scott Robinson, but I hadn’t met the rest of my fellow travellers: Magda, Silvio, Anette and Kai. We collected three rental cars and divided up so that everybody had a place to sleep before we headed out to Margaret River the next day – my allocated spot was on Silvio’s couch, I guess that’s one way to get to know somebody!

Breakfast on Friday morning was at a local cafe in Perth, where Andy laid down the main rule of the trip: No Talking About Work. This would prove to be easier said than done, but it was definitely a good ambition! After that, we headed out on the long drive to Prevelly, where we would be camping just around the corner from the beach – remarkably, the entire group was underway by around 10:30. We stopped halfway there to visit Harvey River Bridge Estate to sample their cider, although we had to buy it first – not a problem, Scott had purchased two large cases. We drove around the corner for some lunch, and Scott bought a water pistol in the tourist shop, unleashing it on all of us in turn and laughing a crazy laugh, muwahahahaha … Alex tried and failed to steal the water pistol and met with a rather wet revenge …

Muwahahaha, I will shoot you with my water gun

Back in the car and time for a nap. A couple of hours later we arrived at the campsite, having decided to pitch the tents before visiting too many wineries. Tents pitched and a couple more ciders down, I was hot and sticky and ready for a dip in the ocean. Alex, Kai and Scott were headed into town with instructions to buy food for the barbecue later, while the rest of us wandered across the road to the beach. The sand was coarse and sinky, our feet making deep grooves as we meandered across looking for a good spot to spread our towels. The beach was deserted – it was really windy and steep but the sun was gorgeous. We went for a dip in the ocean, the sea floor fell away steeply and I could feel the current pulling us with the waves, so we didn’t go in too far.

Andrea and I headed for a walk up to the top of the hill, meeting Kai along the way as he headed down with his kite and surfboard. Alex and Scott sped past us in their car, screaming out of the window as they went … they parked at the top before heading back down the beach to meet up with the group. We watched Kai kite surf for a while, whooping as the kite pulled him several feet into the air. He made it look so easy … I only found out later that it took a week of solid practice to be able to stand up.

We watched the sun set across the ocean until it slid below the horizon, then wandered back to our campsite to set up a barbecue. The fire-starting responsibility was handed to Anette, whose Norwegian heritage apparently includes a talent for this. She told us how every house in Norway must have a fireplace where they can light an open fire, in case of an emergency power outage during the winter when people could freeze to death without one.

Building the barbecue ready for dinner

There was a giant woodpile and a steel drum barbecue to build the fire inside, so Anette set to work with dry leaves and wood shavings to get it going. It was almost pitch dark, with only flashlights and a candle to work by! The fire was incredibly smoky at first but didn’t take long to catch, and she proudly built it up with the logs as we looked on hungrily. She may have done too good of a job though, we realised, when Andy tried to figure out how to get the “lid” on the drum to cook the food on. Luckily he didn’t have too many hairs on his forearms to get singed off, I don’t think he has any left now though. That fire was raging! Andy and Anette put tin foil across the top with rocks to weigh it down, then drizzled olive oil on top in preparation for the steaks … well, you can guess what happened to that, yep, pretty quickly there was a soft roar as it lit up. The sausages went on to the barbecue and within a minute or so the outsides were already cooked. Andy managed to get them off and cut them in half to cook properly.

Ultimately, we did get some very tasty burgers and steaks, along with slightly charcoaled sausages. The fire was so hot that the foil eventually caught on fire too, as well as the oil from the burgers, but eventually it did calm down a bit. Lesson learned: for the following night, we planned to light the fire much earlier so that it would be less fierce when we were ready to cook. It goes down as one of the most entertaining barbecues I’ve been too, especially watching Andy dance around it with tongs trying to avoid the flames licking the edges of the barbecue lid and remove some of the cooked sausages.

By 10PM, I hit the wall: with the three hour time difference it was time to head to bed! I woke again at 1am when the group in the cabin next to us were having noisy discussions outside, and my bed seemed to be starting to deflate … too tired to do much about it, I drifted in and out of sleep for a while until they finally wound down. It was incredibly warm, I almost didn’t need my sleeping bag at all. In the morning, the time difference was a benefit again, getting up around 7:30am felt like a lovely long lie in :)

Yummy breakfast

Even yummier breakfast

Farmer's Market

There was a farmer’s market on in town on Saturday morning, so most of the group decided to head over and find some breakfast. We almost missed the turning but thanks to Magda’s eagle eyes we found it. It was a fairly small market with some tasty looking veggies and a slightly bizarre guitar player massacring Coldplay and various other tunes, I had a very unhealthy breakfast including two sticky pastries, followed by a freshly squeezed juice to feel slightly less guilty. We met up with some other ThoughtWorkers who were in the region, and bought some veggies and food for a big barbie in the evening.

Andrea wants to be in our photo

Andy, Andrea and I headed out from the market to find out about a bush tucker canoe tour that we wanted to take on Sunday, and after that we planned to hit our first winery. Andrea opted to go for a surf lesson instead; I was feeling far too lazy! We started out at the Voyager Winery, where a lady called Claire introduced us to three white and three red wines. I liked all of them, and quite a few people decided to buy a bottle or two. We stayed for lunch, Andrea joined us after a while, then we headed off to go to another winery. We took a few photos in the beautiful rose garden out the back of the winery in the glorious hot sunshine.

Rose

Claire telling us about the lovely wines we were trying

Andrea and I in the rose garden

The wines at the next place were not quite as nice, it was darker and busier and by the time we’d finished tasting them all I was about ready to head home for a nap. Some of the others stayed for desert, some went out to the beach, but our tent was lovely and cool and I didn’t want to go anywhere! When I emerged around five, Anette and Magda were already on the case getting the fire lit and potatoes wrapped in foil ready to cook in the coals. The idea was to let the fire burn down slightly more tonight before cooking the meat :)

The wine was soon on the go and then the Captain was out as well, the potatoes and corn were in the charcoal and chaos reigned again. There were probably around twenty of us in all, trying to see by the light from the fire and our flashlights, dishing out food and losing our drinks … there was plenty of banter, and LOADS of food.

The time difference made itself felt before it got too late, and once again I was in bed fairly early. It was a clear night so slightly cooler, and incredibly windy – as I snuggled into my sleeping bag the wind howled around the tent. I could barely feel it inside, although there’s always that nagging worry about whether it will actually blow away … (it didn’t though). Sunday was bright and sunny again (I love Western Australian weather!) and we were up and excited about our canoe trip. Silvio joined Andy, Andrea and I to head up to the river mouth and meet our guide George, who handed us life jackets and oars, and led us down to the canoes. I was very amused that Silvio’s jacket had River Queen written on the back … Andy took on the job of steering our canoe, while the River Queen set the pace up at the front and George warned us that “relationships are made and broken on this trip”.

Happy rowers ... before the hard work began

We hadn’t gone very far down the river before Andrea complained that rowing was hard on her arms … well, she had done a pretty tiring couple of hours surfing the day before! The surroundings were beautiful though. George directed us into a small lagoon, where we beached the canoes and wandered through a small forest, and he described how the Aborigines would make their home in the forest for a part of the year, moving on when the river rose and claimed the land that we were standing on. The trees that grew there flourished even when the water was a few feet deep. Much of the land had been ravaged by the fire last November, a planned bush fire that had grown out of control. We climbed along the trees that hung over the river and joked about pushing each other in …

River Queen Silvio

Fellow canoeists

The mouth of the Margaret River

Back in the canoes, I decided to see how Quackers would enjoy a bit of a swim and put him gently in the water … the next minute he was being violently attacked by lots of small fish just below the surface. Poor thing! We got him back eventually though, and he didn’t seem too much the worse for wear – still smiling – I don’t think those fish had teeth.

Quackers gets attacked!

A little further along the river, George told us the story of the Bussels, who had built a beautiful house on the bank in the 1800s. The house is still there, along with one built more recently by the current owners, but sadly both had been burned in the fire last year. Although they are insured, it remains to be seen whether the walls of the old house suffered such bad structural damage that they would need to be knocked down and rebuilt.

We set off again and rowed further along the river, until it was time to turn around and go back the way we’d come. We stopped off for a refreshing dip in the murky water – Andy unexpectedly slipped over on a slimy rock, we tried not to laugh but it was hard … the water was lovely and fresh, but very brown, and I didn’t dare touch the bottom in case I sunk into the slimy mud.

Back towards the river mouth, we eventually stopped off for our promised bush tucker lunch. George laid a tablecloth over a crate and set out little wooden containers with many different types of unfamiliar foods as we all watched hungrily. He began with some crushed herbs: lemon myrtle, and a coffee substitute that apparently tastes worse than the cheapest available instant coffee, but for the early settlers with no option to grab a Starbucks, it was the only choice available.

Mmmmm, spicy

Trying out the various aboriginal foods

George explaining the different bush tucker foods

We had a small red fruit (I’ve forgotten the name) with a nut inside that resembled a tiny, hard brain; a tiny peppercorn with a fierce bite; a small tangy citrus flavoured fruit; and a nut that tasted like a combination of coconut or almond and paper. Lastly, George brought out some crocodile meat! It looked like ham and tasted a bit like a cross between ham and chicken – I went back for seconds, it was really good. With the tasting done, we could tuck in to our main course – emu, kangaroo and wild turkey, marinated and served with a choice of pestos and chutneys and sundried tomato bread. It was delicious.

The last part of the tour before we headed back was into a cave. Outside of the cave, the rock radiated heat like a huge cooker, but inside it was damp and cool. Water was dripping slowly from small stalactites on the roof. I wasn’t too keen on the cave – it was large enough to stand in, but I chose not to go through to the next cave, where people had to crawl in. Nobody opted to go through the tunnel of fun after George told it us would mean a bit of belly crawling … I was glad to get back outside into the sunshine.

Inside the cave

Quackers in the cave

George and the stalagtites

The sun was scorching as we headed back to the campsite, and none of us felt like doing more than chilling outside the cabin. Magda, who had gone off for a sky dive, returned around 3:30, so we decided to take in one last winery – Andy wanted to go to Stella Bella. It was definitely worth the trip – they had some lovely wines, an empty bar, and a lady who was very friendly and knowledgeable. We enjoyed several different wines and left with a good few bottles in the back of the car …

While most of the group headed down to the beach, Andrea and I decided we wanted to eat with at least a little bit of light, so we attempted to start a fire (all on our own, without Anette!). Just as we got it going, I nearly put the whole thing out by smothering it with a big block of wood, but it fought its way back and soon we had a lovely hot fire all ready to cook on! Andrea took charge of the food, so by the time the others showed up it was almost ready. It turned into another chilled evening with wine by the barbie, slightly less chaotic but just as much fun :) Scott, Silvio and Magda decided to leave that night after all, since they wanted to get back for work instead of taking a day off, leaving Andy all alone in his cabin.

Trying to set up the barbie for dinner

The rest of us got up early on Monday to pack up the tents and drive back to Perth. It was a bit cloudy, which made it slightly easier to leave … that wasn’t going to last though. Andrea and I carefully rolled the tent up and squashed it into its bag before she realised she’d left her phone in the inside pocket, so we had to undo it and do it all over again. Finally we were off – we made ourselves comfortable in the car with Andy’s pillows and stopped off for coffee and smoothies before heading down the highway … our lovely little holiday was all too soon over except for the long trip home and unpacking …!

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

Australia Day

I’m always glad of a free day off work, but I have to say it was very strange having a Thursday off for Australia Day. Wednedsay night felt like a Friday, except not really, because there was another work day before the real weekend …

After heading out on the town on Wednesday night with Andrea, Viv and Rachel for a few drinks, it was over to Fabio’s for celebratory lunch and wine. In our group, we had: four Brazilians, an American, two English and one Welsh – not an Aussie among us, didn’t stop us celebrating on their behalf though :)

We had a delicious chilli cooked by Enif, with tortillas and tacos – we all ate far too much, it was sooooo good, and coupled with a glass or two of wine, I was fairly sleepy by around five pm!

Andrea and I went to the beach a bit later but I couldn’t be bothered to surf, I can’t stay on my board at the best of times, let alone when I’m tired and tipsy. She’s getting really good though, standing up and everything, leaving me way behind at the bottom of the class …

I finished the day with a very light dinner and an early(ish) night … only one more day to the real weekend!

Happy Australia Day :)

Hello… hello? Anybody there?

View from the train station on the way to work

Yes, I’ve been a bit quiet over the last couple of weeks. Sorry about that … since starting a real project, work’s been taking up a lot of my time and energy. It’s going great so far and I’m really enjoying the project, but as usual when that happens, I’ve been working slightly longer and by the time I get home at night I don’t have much inclination to get the laptop out, or much to write about!

On top of that I’ve been shattered all week last week – finally realised why this weekend, when I’ve come down with a sniffly cold :(

With Viv and Rachel at the opera bar, with the Harbour Bridge in the background

In case I’ve not lost you already with that fascinating start … over the last couple of weeks, I’ve also had a couple of Christmas parties – starting with a pre-party Party last Friday night, at the Opera bar with Viv, the night before our ThoughtWorks party on Saturday. Friday evening was beautiful, with great weather and amazing views across the harbour but also incredibly busy – so we headed off after a drink, to get some food and meet the boys (Fabio and Jules) at another bar.

On Saturday I was out diving in the afternoon (more about that later) so I was very fashionably late to the ThoughtWorks party, most people were already having a good time when I got there. Our MD was even wearing a white halo.

I missed most of the food but managed to salvage a bit before they took the plates away, and we even got brownies to take home! Rachel and I had a couple each, and I think we gave away one bag to the man at the ferry gate on the way home … Definitely a fun night, and nice to meet some of my colleagues’ wives, it’s a great way to get to know people better :)

On Thursday this week, I was thinking all the way home about going for a run. So much so, that by the time I got there I was really not feeling up for it – I was so tired and already a bit sniffy. I walked in the door to find Chelsea putting together some delish looking salads, the back doors thrown open to a fairly warm evening, and the table outside decorated for Christmas. A couple of her friends had already arrived for dinner, and she immediately told me not to even think about cooking, there was far too much food … have a glass of wine and pretend to be a guest! Well, I don’t need telling twice :) That was the end of all thoughts about a run. When the last guests left at midnight, I crashed in to bed tired, tipsy and happy.

By mid afternoon Friday I realised that the reason I still felt headachy and fuzzy wasn’t just Thursday’s over-indulgence, I was actually ill. Dammit – I was supposed to be out diving on the boat over the weekend, and I’d been looking forward to it all week! I spent Friday night curled up on the sofa with comfort food (fish and chips, yum!) but it wasn’t enough and on Saturday morning I had to admit I just couldn’t dive.

It’s been a weekend of mostly rest, crappy tv, and also a little gardening … more about that later too! I’m still pretty stuffed up but hoping to feel better for my birthday tomorrow. After that I’m off to see my lovely cousins Yolly and Clauds in Brisbane – and so excited about meeting the rest of their family, including Yolly’s little children. I better get well by then!