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

Random photos

Some random photos from the last couple of weeks.

Oscar running the maze

One of Oscar’s new favourite games is to run around a maze that we draw in the grass with the hose.

Big throw

Oscar trying to throw a ping-pong (“pong-pong”) ball through the hoop

Leo

I took some photos of Leo with the camera resting inconspicuously on the kitchen bench. Sneaky!

Cowboy

Oscar’s kindy had a “cowboy” dress up day.

Leo on the couch

Leo loves playing with the cushions on our new outdoor couch. They have a very interesting texture!

Posted in life in australia, photos

The Pine Rivers Show

Always looking for new ways of entertaining the kids (or more specifically Oscar; Leo is entertained simply by smiling at him), Kristy suggested I take him along to the Pine Rivers Show to watch the fireworks. He’s been asking about them quite incessantly recently, but I cannot fathom why.

So, along we trudged last Friday night after dinner. The website suggested parking was best on Lawnton Pocket Road, and I was quite surprised how easily we found a park – in my head, I had thought the entire road would be jam packed. Maybe its because we arrived so late, but we got a spot right near the front so our walk to the gate wasn’t far at all.

Now for my only complaint about the show. We arrived at about 7:15 PM; the fireworks were scheduled for 8 PM, and I think the show closed at 9 PM. So, even though we were only going to be there for a couple of hours at most, the entry fee was still full price ($15). Merv at the gate (may not be his real name) insisted that I fill in my name and contact details on my ticket, and then put it into the barrel so I could be in the draw to win $1,000! This seemed like a good idea, so I asked, “Where’s the barrel to put my ticket in?”. “Oh, I dunno, somewhere inside” he replied. We didn’t find the barrel.

Once inside, we made straight for showbag ally. Oscar was keen on a Dora the Explorer bag, but at $26, that was not going to happen. Thankfully, his second choice was a $6 Freddo the Frog bag, which was comparatively good value, as it came with about 20 Freddos and a pen. So, with “Pick up a showbag” ticked off the list, we made a bee-line for the main arena where the fireworks were going to be on. We got there in time to see the pre-fireworks show – a freestyle motorbike stunt crew doing jumps and flips and what not. It was really entertaining, and at only 1/2 an hour long, it was short enough to hold Oscar’s (and my) attention for the whole time. Oscar is generally not a huge fan of anything noisy but he was surprisingly unfazed by the whole thing.

Motorbike stunts

Not so much for the fireworks, though. These were being released only 100 metres or so from where we were sitting, and since we were inside a closed-in grandstand, the noise really echoed when they burst. But, we were there to see the fireworks, so we sat through the whole show – and he was actually pretty delighted with them once he clamped his hands over his ears.

By far though, the highlight of Oscar’s night was the “catch a frog in the net” game that he played on our way out. He attacked those floating frogs so fast that he’d already caught two (of three) before I had my wallet back into my pocket. So, by the time I pulled phone out to snap a quick photo, he’d already caught his three frogs and the game was over.

After each frog was caught, the carny turned it over to announce how many points it was worth. “Ok, a four!” for the first one; “a six!” after the second, and “two points!” after the third. “Well done!” he said, “you scored exactly 10 points!”. (Huh? Really?) “You can choose anything off this rack as a prize!”. Sure, I could have questioned the accuracy of his maths, but when Oscar saw that a friendly looking, one metre (or so) long stuffed snake was an option, he was sold. The guy handed the snake to Oscar who immediately fell in love, and spoke to him like it was a long lost pet. “Hello, Freddie!”.

He was one happy little camper.

Posted in life in australia, oscar

Lessons learnt from stacking my bike

A couple of weeks back, I had a major stack on my bike while commuting to work. One moment I was riding along happily chatting with Ben, and the next moment, my face was scraping along the ground. Now I’ve had stacks before, but nothing like this – it was seriously like the bike was under me one second, and then all of a sudden it wasn’t.

Shortly after face-planting on the ground, I was considering my situation and trying to determine what had happened. As I was sitting down recovering, not five minutes later, another cyclist came along and stacked in the exact spot that I did! Sad for him too I suppose, but it made me feel as though perhaps it wasn’t entirely my fault, and that something outside of my control may have been afoot.

So far as I can discern, the main problem was a slippery bridge. The bridge in question begins and ends with a rather sharp corner, and I suspect what happened was that I turned my front wheel just a bit too early, while it was still on the bridge rather than on the safety of the path. It was only post-stack that we discovered how slippery the bridge actually was, which reaffirmed that turning my wheel (which has very little grip) would very likely have been my downfall.

Still, I like to consider myself a pretty happy-go-lucky type of guy, and as such, I’ve been looking to find a silver lining to all of this. So far I haven’t really come up with anything; however, I have identified three lessons that I’ve learnt from the experience.

  1. Old, dark wooden bridges may be hiding a layer of moss, which also means they may be slippery when wet. Like, ridiculously slippery, to the point where you’d probably be safer riding on ice.
  2. Knee injuries suck. My left knee was slightly battered, but it was my right knee took the brunt of the fall. It swelled up badly enough that I had a lot of pain just from walking. Nearly two weeks later and its still a bit sore (not to mention heavily scabbed).
  3. It takes me well over three days to grow a convincing hipster beard. Since I had grazed the side of my jaw / cheek, I wasn’t game to go near it with a razor; instead, I shaved my neck and tried to pull off the infamous hipster look. Sadly, my stubble is a bit patchy on the sides, so I don’t think I really was fooling anyone.

Thankfully I’m well on the road to recovery now, but I’m not yet up to riding again – maybe next week. But the beard has gone.

Posted in bicycle

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