Happy Birthday to us

With both Kristy and my birthdays falling in October – as well as our anniversary – its always a busy month for celebrations! That said, once we had kids, celebrations seemed to be much lower key than what I remember them being when we were younger!

Kristy decided that she wanted to have a breakfast outing for her birthday, so we checked out Scout on Petrie Terrace. I’d have to say that it is the least child-friendly cafe that I’ve ever been to. Note that I don’t actually blame them for that – they’re free to be as child un/friendly as they want – but its more of a heads up that perhaps its not the greatest place if you need a highchair, or somewhere to park a stroller.

That said, their food and coffee were quite decent, and I’d happily dine there again (sans-kids). They definitely seem to attract a particular kind-of clientèle; of the six men that I saw in there, there was only one who wasn’t wearing a white fitted t-shirt and using an iPhone. And yes, it was me.

My birthday fell on a Saturday, and with a forecast for amazing weather, I figured we should spend the morning playing at the family-friendly Bulcock Beach. We grabbed a quick bite at Sandbar beforehand (excellent food, awful coffee) before joining The Fourbies, and cousin Koyalie down on the sand.

Playing on the sand

Leo

Gerrod, Oscar and Koyalie

Kristy and Leo

Gerrod and Chellsie

It was a beautiful morning, and I was surprised how warm the water was. It looks like its going to be long, hot summer! We tidied off the morning with fish and chips for lunch – also from Sandbar, and once again we were extremely impressed with the quality of their food!

So, all in all, I’d say our birthdays this year were fairly low-key, but its always wonderful to have an excuse for spending time with family and friends.

Posted in birthdays

Brisbane to Gold Coast ride

Somehow, Ben and I let Jason talk us into participating in this year’s Brisbane to Gold Coast ride. Ben had admittedly done it twice before, and Jason had the Ride to Conquor Cancer under his belt. But not me – I was a “long ride” newbie, and with my prior history of suffering migraines after intensive bouts of exercise, I was understandably a bit nervous about it all!

Thankfully, it seems that the surgery I had earlier this year is really paying off, and I’m finding that even during strenuous exercise, its much easier to breath through my nose. This also results in a much clearer head, so much so that since the surgery, I’m yet to suffer another migraine. I can’t emphasize enough how much of a difference this has made to life in general, and I’m supremely hopeful that the migraines are now gone for good (though I still pop a nurofen or two sometimes before exercise, just in case).

We were quite sensible about our preparation for the marathon ride, arranging a number of “training” rides before the event. The standard weekend route for me started from our home in Everton Hills, down to the beginning of the Kedron Brook Bike Path at Osbourne Road at Mitchelton, then all the way along it to Nudgee. From there, we’d hook a left through the Boondall Wetlands, eventually ending up Sandgate, where we’d stop for a mid-point coffee and banana bread at Cafe on the Park (the banana bread is exceptional, by the way). Once we turned around and made the return journey, it was about a 70 kilometre round trip, with a good mix of hills and flat sections to boot.

So, finally the big day arrived, with a very early start seeing us at the starting line before 6 AM. We had planned to ride the event with Jason’s team from the Ride to Conquor Cancer, but given that nearly every rider was wearing the same jersey, it was impossible to keep track of everyone.

B2GC Starting Line

Probably the part I was most looking forward to was the first 40 KM leg, as a large chunk of it was straight along the South East Busway. By far, this was the best part of the ride – very smooth roads, uninhabited by cars, the bulk of the riders still together, the wind generally behind us, and for the most part – downhill. It was thoroughly enjoyable, and I’d encourage anyone who can ride a bike to enter the event next year, even just to do the first leg.

I can’t help but feel as if the location for the first checkpoint was tactfully selected to be at the exact point where the road turns from wonderful to nasty. The second 40 KM leg was consequently very different – the roads were far less smooth, degrading at one point to a dirt/gravel road for a few kilometres out the back of Stapylton.

As if that wasn’t hard enough, after having ridden about 60 KM, we noticed the first set of riders on their way back from the coast. They had effectively travelled 140 KM in the time it had taken us to do only 60 KM! I watched them fly past in the opposite direction feeling a mixture of admiration and scorn.

20 KM later, we were very pleased to reach the second checkpoint somewhere behind Dreamworld.

Checkpoint 2

We were pretty pumped to be close to the finish, and its a good thing because the final 20 KM was straight into a head-wind! But it was a pretty amazing feeling to come around the last few corners towards the finish. I couldn’t help but to fist-pump the air as I rode over the line!

Overall, it was a really, really fantastic experience, one that I was not only glad to be part of, but that I’ll happily sign up for again. In fact, we’ve got some big things planned for the 2015 ride! Stay tuned!

Posted in bicycle

Happy Birthday Oscar!

Three years out of four, we’ve somehow managed to be out of the house for Oscar’s birthday, and with the timing of our Sydney trip, this year was no exception. Next year, perhaps we’ll manage to stay in Brisbane and throw him a proper party!

Once again though, I hardly think he’d have any room to complain, and we all did our utmost to ensure that his birthday was celebrated adequately. He woke up to find balloons scattered around his room, and then it was straight into the present opening!

Oscar opening presents

Nana had given him $10 to spend on some lollies, so Loui took us to Cavendish House at Willoughby for Oscar to make his selections. Somehow he managed to stretch his purchases to $17 worth so I had to pay on card instead; and if that wasn’t enough, the lovely girl behind the counter gave him a bonus bag of lollies because it was his birthday! Talk about spoilt!

Oscar with his birthday lollies

No birthday would be complete without a good play at the park, so we walked up to one of Jay and Loui’s favourites, affectionately known as “The Tunnel Park”. It was fantastic; the tunnel got much use.

Tunnel park

We rounded the day off with some Pin the Tail on the Donkey, and after dinner we all enjoyed a slice of the rocket cake that Loui had sneakily arranged!

Oscar and his cake

Happy fourth birthday, little bear!

Posted in birthdays, oscar

A week in Sydney

The second of our week-long holidays was a jaunt down to Sydney to stay with long time friends Jason and Louise, who we met way back in 2005 in New York. Oh, how time has changed since then! Like us, they too now have two youngsters, so between the four of us, we had four kids under four!

Staying at a friend’s well established house is certainly a great way to vacation, and Jason and Louise were excellent hosts! They provided airport transfers, full service accommodation, cars and car-seats, and lots of delicious home-made meals. They even went out of their way to destroy their old espresso machine a few weeks before we came down, just so they could upsize before we arrived! Talk about thinking ahead!

Our week could best be summarised as “chilling out and enjoying our time with our friends”. We took a couple of trips into Sydney proper; Oscar was well impressed with the “trains with three levels!” which I have to admit are pretty awesome. Whilst in the mall one day, we took the opportunity to dine at Reuben and Moore in Westfield – easily the best Reuben that I’ve ever eaten. (Jason and Kristy both had the Reuben burger and equally claimed it to be one of their best burgers ever.) We also thoroughly enjoyed our caffeine hit from Gumption Coffee in The Strand arcade – a Durham recommendation, what more needs to be said?

About the only thing on our “must do” list was to visit the Blue Mountains, as I had never been there (or at least, not that I could remember). I figured they’d either be totally amazing, or totally over-rated. It turns out that they’re very much the former!

Three Sisters

We were lucky enough to have a perfectly clear day when we visited, and one of the guides at Scenic World told us that the visibility was about 100 kilometres. Impressive! Scenic World is also home to the steepest railway in the world, at a redonkey 52 degrees! Very much worth a visit.

Our week in Sydney seemed to end as soon as it started, and before we knew it, we were headed back to the airport for our flight home to Brisbane. But it was a fantastic break, and we can’t thank Jason and Louise (and Adam and Emma) enough for being such wonderful and generous hosts.

Some photos from our trip in the A Week in Sydney album on Google+.

Posted in holidays, life in australia

St Dympna’s School Fete

A few weeks (months?) ago, we paid a visit to the St Dympna’s school fete. Being my primary school (many years ago now!), it was rather nostalgic for me – especially since I’ve barely set foot on school grounds since graduating. And although the school has changed significantly, it didn’t take long before all the memories came flooding back.

One thing that definitely has changed, however, was the scale of the fete. It was huge – way bigger than I remember it. As a kid, the best you could hope for in the entertainment department was a moderately sized fun slide; now, that’s about the tamest thing that they have on offer! (Which, of course, made it perfect for Oscar and I to ride down – three times, no less!)

Oscar playing the ducks game

Besides the slide, Oscar’s favourite part was most likely the “pick the ducks out of the water” game. Actually, it was just a huge con by Ray White to steal your personal details so they could try and sell your house – you had to fill out a form before you could play, there were one hundred ducks in the pond, and only one of them was a winner! Oscar didn’t care – he didn’t even want the prize (an el-cheapo bike) – he just wanted to pick up a bunch of floating rubber ducks using a robot grabbing arm! Who wouldn’t?

“Sideshow alley” was also a bit of a hit, and Nonni treated Oscar to a “mystery bag” (which contained something instantly forgettable), and a game of the laughing clowns – from which he won a duck whistle. The lady assured me that it was “actually not that loud”, but I think she was comparing it to the gigantic speaker blaring behind her.

Anyway – all in good fun, and it was a nice day out for us all!

Posted in life in australia

Stradbroke Island

The first of our week-long trips was to North Stradbroke Island (“Straddie”) at the beginning of the month. Mom and Dad joined us for the first four days, and then we stayed on for three more after they left.

I’m sure I’ve been to Straddie in the past, but I certainly don’t remember it – to the point where this may as well have been my first visit. Getting there was nice and simple – drive to Cleveland, then catch a barge (“car ferry!”) across the water.

Car ferry

Our accommodation was at Amity Point, which is about 20 minutes drive from where the barge arrived in Dunwich. We stayed at Island Sun, which was only a five-or-so minute walk from the beach. As is typical on Queensland beaches, we had a bit of trouble finding a spot where we wouldn’t be crammed up against other beach goers, but we eventually found a small patch we could call our own.

Oscar on the overcrowded beach

Yes, that was sarcasm. In fact, for the whole week we were there, we barely saw another soul on the beach. There were two old blokes swimming in the water one day, and a few times we saw other people meandering about at the points, but for the most part, we had the whole beach to ourselves.

The biggest advantage of this of course, is that anything that we built one day was pretty much untouched when we came back the next day – save for a little erosion from the wind, of course. Which meant our rather modest (and typical) hole that was built on day one eventually became a three-hole fort with connecting trenches and even a road! It was awesome! Here’s a little video I made following Oscar around for a lap.

One thing that we all thoroughly enjoyed was the North Gorge Walk. It really highlights how long and beautiful Main Beach is; I could have happily sat and watched the surfers for hours.

Main Beach

Sadly, the holiday wasn’t all fun and games; Leo broke out in a rash within the first couple of days, and it proceeded to get worse as our stay progressed. We weren’t terribly worried about it – it was a blanching rash after all, so our best guess was that it was something viral. A quick call to our friendly Dr Suz, followed by a couple of visits to the hospital (yes, there IS a hospital on Stradbroke Island) confirmed that yes, it was “likely viral”. Thankfully, all the spots did little to affect Leo’s mood, and he was his usual happy self most of time.

Overall, we quite enjoyed our Stradbroke getaway! It was nice to go somewhere where the pace of life is a little (read: a lot) slower than usual, and it was great to have such easy access to a practically untouched beach.

Some photos from our trip in the Stradbroke Island album on Google+ or on Facebook.

Posted in holidays, life in australia

The Summer of George

I finished up working at Equator IT last Friday. Its been a roller-coaster of a ride, and working in such a tiny company is definitely a long way removed from a big corporate gig. I learned a lot from the role, and I thoroughly enjoyed working with Ben again, but due to lots of different circumstances, it was time to move on.

So where to now, you might ask? Well, I’m going back to Dingu Blue, who are now based out of the Workpac offices in the Valley. Back when I left Dingu Blue, I had very mixed feelings about my departure; although I hadn’t been looking around for a new role, the opportunity that I was presented with seemed like a good fit, and the timing was just right (for lots of different reasons). Upon leaving, my boss pulled me aside and said, “Go and try that roll for a year, then come back and talk to me”. So, that’s what I did – and, with plenty of new web-development projects on the horizon, going back to Dingu seems once again like its good timing. Couple that with the fact its somewhere I’m that familiar with, plus somewhere that I thoroughly enjoyed working in the past, and suffice to say I’m quite looking forward to it.

In the interim however, I’m having some downtime – to the tune of five glorious weeks. I had a little over two weeks annual leave saved up from my job, and I still haven’t taken my government sponsored two weeks of paternity leave. And with the year that we’ve had, we are well overdue for some downtime, so we’re cashing in! We have a few week-long trips planned, but plenty of “stay-cation” time as well – finally a chance to try and catch up on those ever growing “to-do” lists.

So – let the Summer of George begin!

Posted in work

Wandering Cooks Phenomnomnom

Kristy had the bright idea the other night that we should try out some culture and eat at Wandering Cooks. Actually, I’m not sure if it’s called that or “Food Truck Phenomnomnom”, or “Nom at Night”, and my research isn’t providing me with any answers. So, I’m going to call it “Wandering Cooks Phenomnomnom”, and move right along.

Basically, the concept (so far as I could tell) was that a bunch of different food trucks all pulled up to the same place to tout their wares. Each one offered only a few selections along a theme; there was a BBQ style truck, a hot wings truck, pizza, beer, coffee, etc – something for everyone. Obviously there was no going past the ribs for me, and for $14 I got 5 good sized pork ribs with plenty of meat on them, some impeccably prepared onion rings, and a fairly decent serving of coleslaw. Kristy went with a pulled pork sandwich for $10, and we were both delighted with our selections. So was Leo.

Leo going for Kristy's roll

Of course, Oscar had his eye on only one thing – a Cronut, which is a cross between a croissant and a donut. They came in a number of flavours, but Oscar (wisely, I think) went with the Tim Tam flavour. It was delicious. And, huge.

Oscar with his Cronut

So huge in fact, it looked comically large in Oscar’s childish hands. But that didn’t stop him from giving it a good attempt.

Oscar eating his Cronut

Kristy and I could only watch on proudly as he threw himself at it – which, of course, only made us want one for ourselves. So yes, we bought another one, and yes, we ate it that night. Don’t judge us; at least we split it!

Posted in food, life in australia

Underwater World

Prior to today, I had never been to Underwater World. I remember seeing the ads for the underwater tunnel as a kid and thinking it looked amazing, but as I grew older and more cynical, I thought, “Surely it’s way more lame than it looks on TV?”. Oh my, how wrong I was – it’s awesome!

The Underwater Tunnel

They have massive sting rays and sharks swimming around in there, often right over your head. We saw quite a few of them just lazing on top of the glass. Speaking of the glass, I was also worried that it would be really filthy or only semi-translucent after years of use, but again, I couldn’t have been more wrong – it was extremely clear and obviously well maintained. Its quite long too – probably 150 metres or so – and each section contains a different variety of sea life.

Oscar and I in the underwater tunnel

You can even pay a bit (read “a lot”) extra and go for a dive in there, with all of the sharks and sting rays and gigantic fish.

Of course, there’s more to Underwater World than just the giant tunnel (but for me that was the main appeal). We also got our timing right to see the seal show, which was thoroughly entertaining. Those seals are clever things!

Seal show

As exciting as the whole thing was though, I think Oscar’s favourite exhibit was the vest last thing that we saw.

Oscarnauts!

No explanation necessary.

Posted in life in australia

Pine Rivers Model Train show

Oscar, Dad and I hit the Strathpine Community Centre today to see the Pine Rivers Model Train show. One booth had nothing but model boats, and I was tempted to inform the lads that perhaps they had taken a wrong turn somewhere and landed at the wrong show; but they seemed happy, so I let it slide.

Most exhibitors seemed to hit the nail on the head though, and consequently there were a lot of model trains to see. There’s something quite captivating about watching the little engines roll around on the track, I’ll admit; but by far, the best booth at the exhibit was the one where you actually got to control the trains. Ohhhh, yeah.

Model trains

Suffice to say, this was also Oscar’s favourite booth, and once we were there, it was pretty difficult to convince him to move on. We even went back for a second turn after we’d seen everything else! Totally worth the $13 admission.

Posted in life in australia

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