Landscaping: Before and After

Back in September, we commissioned a huge landscaping project at our house, taking a gamble on a guy we found on Gumtree. His sales pitch was admittedly not the greatest, but he won us over on two factors.

  1. His price was (in our opinion) very good – hard to beat, I expect (based on our experience of previous landscaping quotes we had done after our renovations).
  2. Secondly, he said, “I’m not the sort of guy that likes to have a job drag on; I like to get in and get out as quick as possible, to get the job off the books”.

Sounded perfect really – it was only September, and we estimated that there was two to three weeks of work to be done. So, even allowing for a delay or two here and there, it should easily be done by Christmas!

Oh, how wrong we were. I mean, things started off great! On the first day, his crew came in, ripped out a lot of the old trees, pruned back the ones at the back, and immediately the yard was looking cleaner! Sadly, that was the last we saw of him for that week – of course that wasn’t his fault; he kept trying his absolute best to make it over, but inevitably, things just kept on coming up to prevent him!

And that pretty much set the tone for the next eight months, as the job dragged out further and further. Yes, eight, long, months. Chrismas came and went, along with promises and reassurance that the job would be finished. Then, New Year’s. Then Australia Day. Easter. Gone, gone, gone. Every time we tried to set a deadline, there’d be more promises, more reassurance that everything would “definitely, definitely be done by then”. So, finally, at the end of May, after waiting almost three weeks for very last part of the job to be finished (laying six pavers), we paid off the balance of our account, and we were done. Huzzah!

On the upside – although it took so very long, we’re quite happy with the net result. Before and after shots below.

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Posted in life in australia

New job!

Back in September last year, I was quite excited to be taking up residence at my old workplace. It was different going back – I was working a slightly different role, there were some new faces, and the outsourcing team had been significantly expanded. But after only a few days, I knew that I had made the right decision – I was thoroughly enjoying going to work each day, and I was excited by the direction that the company was headed in – new clients, new projects, and new opportunities were all on the near horizon!

Sadly, the company’s direction changed significantly early this year. Whilst I respect that board members are entitled to make decisions that they believe are in the company’s best interests, I fundamentally disagreed with their choices. Obviously I had very little sway over the company’s direction, which really only left me with one option – to resign.

Luckily for me, a contract for a Senior Developer had become vacant at Ben’s workplace. Although it was a bit of a mental adjustment to go from full time employment to a contract, it sounded like an interesting project and interesting work – so I bit the bullet and applied. After what I thought was a very well run interview, I was offered the role, and I accepted the position.

I’ve now been there for about six weeks, and I’m really enjoying it. It’s in a very different business domain to what I’ve worked in in the past (environmental monitoring), and the technology stack is the hotness. So its a big win! And needless to say, there’s the added benefit of working alongside Ben again… we really should start a consulting firm one of these days!

Posted in work

Camping at Lake Broadwater

A few weeks ago (quite a few weeks now, actually), Rob and I joined Piet and Ben on their annual camping trip. “Annual” may be a little generous – this being only the second year the trip has been run – but trip number one was about the same time the previous year, so I guess they’re now two-for-two. Our destination was Lake Broadwater Conservation Park, about half an hour’s drive out of Dalby.

I picked up Rob mid-morning on Saturday, and we drove out to Toowoomba to meet up with Piet and Ben. We stopped for lunch at Phat Burgers, and suffice to say they were well named; I don’t think I’ve ever held a bigger burger in my life.

Phat Burgers

After another quick stop for supplies (firewood and beer), we headed to Lake Broadwater and setup camp. Being the camping enthusiasts that we are, we knocked up a perfect looking tent in absolutely no time flat!

Our perfectly setup tent

Ok sure, it may not look quite perfect, but I assure you it was more than adequate, and its healthy lean was courtesy of a broken support strut, and not at all due to our incompetence.

We had a great afternoon/evening enjoying our drinks by the fire, watching the sun go down and the stars coming up. I thoroughly enjoyed whiling away the hours with the lads, talking about pretty much anything and everything, including some very random games of “Would you rather…”.

Drinks by the fire

Piet had an awesome app for his phone which allowed you to point it anywhere in the sky, and it then told you what you could see (or at least, what you should have been able to see). It named satellites as they flew over our head, and showed us roughly where the different constellations were. As we were so far out of the city, the light pollution was minimal, which made it much easier to see the night sky. I wish I knew how to take photos of stars better, as I felt like I did a rubbish job of it. A tripod probably would have helped!

Night sky

I can’t say that we did a great job with our dinner. I know that a poor tradesman blames his tools and all that, but we really hadn’t built the fire to be a good one to cook on (because apparently that’s a thing), and our experience (or lack there of) really showed through. Regardless, we still managed to whip up some tasty (enough) hotdogs with bacon and onion, and we had enough tomato/BBQ sauce to hide our cooking sins. I recently read a tip that you should cook your meals before you go, and then use the fire to simply heat them up – a tip that I shall employ next time, me thinks.

We all got about as much sleep as we had anticipated that we would (i.e. not much), and we were consequently up shortly after sunrise. The upshot of this was that we got to watch the sun coming up over the lake, and we had a bit of a wander along the shore in the morning’s rays.


Rather than attempt cooking a second breakfast over the fire, we instead packed up and headed back to Toowoomba to make use of a gas BBQ at a park. Given that I had planned a fairly optimistic breakfast menu (Currimundi wraps), I’m confident this was the right decision!

More photos in the Camping at Lake Broadwater album on Google Photos.

It was an awesome, awesome weekend – one that I hope to repeat again!

Posted in life in australia

Melbourne Junket

We’re hosting two of our offshore developers from the Philippines at work at the moment, and given that they’re both well into their sports, the powers that be decided it would be prudent to take them down to Melbourne to show them a game of AFL at the MCG. Both of my bosses pulled out of the trip for various reasons, leaving their tickets wide open, so Andy and I snapped them up!

A 7 AM flight ex-Brisbane on Saturday morning meant a very early start (to the tune of 4:30 AM), but we made it to the airport in plenty of time. Good thing too; Andy had “somehow” forgotten that he had a 6 inch camping knife in his knapsack, and suffice to say he did not have any luck sneaking that one through security! Similarly, Carlo had somehow managed to wedge a drillbit into his wallet, and that too was disallowed; Giovanni and I could only watch on with some amusement as all the contents of both Andy and Carlo’s bags were tipped onto the table for closer analysis. Thankfully, security let them both off with a stern look, and we proceeded to the flight otherwise unencumbered.

An uneventful flight and a fast Uber pickup had us in Melbourne city with a few hours to spare before the game, so we walked to Fitzroy Gardens, toured Captain Cook’s house, and grabbed a bite to eat before making our way across to the MCG.

Calamari and chips

Fitzroy Gardens

That’s the first time I’ve been to the grounds and I was well impressed by the sheer size. At some point through the game, Andy asked me how many people I thought were there; I guessed the stadium was about half-full and hence it would be about 25,000. Well, I was right on one hand – it was about half-full, but that meant it was closer to 50,000 in attendance! For a round two game! I have to say Melbourne, you certainly know how to turn on the crowds.

Carlo and Giovanni at the MCG

Though our seats were rather hot (we were sitting directly in the sun), I thoroughly enjoyed watching the game (Richmond Tigers vs Western Bulldogs) – especially the final quarter which had much more intensity than the previous three. It also helped that in the final quarter, the Bulldogs (who won 85 – 66) were kicking towards our end, which meant much of the action was right in front of us.

Our flight back to Brisbane wasn’t until Sunday evening, which left us the remainder of Saturday and most of Sunday to fill for ourselves. We managed to cover quite a lot, including the view from the Eureka Tower, St Kilda markets, Acland Street, Little Creatures Brewery, Queen Victoria Markets, and a few rides on the tram. We also found ourselves walking a lot of kilometres, and by the time we got on the plane on Sunday night, my legs were well tired.

View from Eureka Tower

Looking across the Yarra

Unsurprisingly, we also ate and drank extremely well in Melbourne. Brother Jason was on hand to pass on a few great recommendations, and I thoroughly enjoyed coffee from Brother Baba Budan, and my bacon bap from Cumulus Inc. Oh, and the donuts from Walkers Donuts!

It was a long, exhausting weekend, but I really enjoyed our little junket to Melbourne!

All photos from the trip available in the Melbourne Junket album on Google+.

Posted in travel, work

Five days at the Gold Coast

Mom and Dad’s unit at Grande Florida had quite a bit of vacancy in March, so we felt it was our duty as good family members to go down and keep it company last week. We really lucked out (in the US definition of the phrase) with the weather; the forecast said it was going to be cloudy every day with a sprinkling of rain, but mostly we enjoyed blue skies and warm sunny days. Which, of course, meant plenty of time spent in the pool!

Oscar on the Daddy Bus

The unit (and us, of course!) also enjoyed some visits from friends and family, starting with Mom and Dad on Friday. They were kind enough to sponsor a night off for Kristy and I, so we got to enjoy a dinner at a restaurant, sans-kids! We checked out Bắc to Nam and were impressed not only by their food, but their prices. Premium Australian beers at only $4 each!

Jason and Susan visited on Saturday, as did Al and Suz and their cohort of kids. We trundled down to the beach with Jason and Susan to do some building in the sand; Jason and I also hit the surf with Jason’s GoPro and hand fin. I was well impressed by the quality of the images!

Jason catching a wave

Kristy had found a list claiming to have the Top 10 places for coffee on the Gold Coast, so naturally we made it our mission to visit as many of them as possible. Borough Barista came out on top as our favourite, and we paid them at least three visits in our five days down there. We also loved Commune, but unfortunately we only checked it out on our way back to Brisbane. Next time we’re at the coast we’ll be sure to eat there; the prices were great and the food looked spectacular!

Speaking of food, we ate extremely well. Dee – from my work – told us that we had to try the Fish Tacos from California Tacos, and we were not disappointed! Their chicken California burrito was also excellent, but oh my was it filling! And of course, no trip to the Gold Coast would be complete without ribs from Hard Rock – and we enjoyed taking the G:Link tram to get in and our of Surfers Paradise. How very handy that it accepts payment via gocard!

We were predictably disappointed when Sunday rolled around and it was time to go home, but we overall very pleased with how our mini-vacation had gone. Poor Leo didn’t love sleeping in the portacot, and it was only on our last night there that he managed to sleep right through. Clearly a sign that we should have stayed longer!

Farewell, Summer!

A few more photos online in the Five days at the Gold Coast album on Google+, or on Facebook if you prefer.


Posted in holidays, life in australia

The pursuit of sleep (part 2)

After finding out I suffer from severe obstructive sleep apnoea, the first step towards treatment was to go back for a second sleep study, during which I’d be rigged up to a CPAP machine. Whilst I wasn’t looking forward to a second round of sleeping whilst covered in sensors, I figured it couldn’t be any worse than the first time!

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Posted in healthy living

The pursuit of sleep

I’ve never been a great sleeper. To be fair, this probably wasn’t the case when I was a child, and even as an adult, I’ve never had any trouble falling asleep – it’s just when I wake up in the morning, I don’t feel refreshed, seemingly no matter how much sleep I’ve had. What’s more, just getting out of bed is a struggle some days. When Oscar heard this, he suggested that “maybe we should get bunk beds for our room, so that Mummy can sleep in the top bunk, and Daddy can sleep in the bottom bunk, which would make it easier to get out of bed!”. A novel suggestion sure, but I’m not sure it would solve my dilemma.

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Posted in healthy living

Happy 1st Birthday Leo!

Last Friday, our littlest man hit the ripe old age of one!

Leo on his birthday

As is tradition now, we started the day with presents in bed. Even with all the practice he got at Christmas time, Leo hasn’t quite got the hang of unwrapping presents yet, but lucky for him, Oscar was all too willing to help show him the way.

Oscar helping Leo open presents

Of course, Oscar was also quite willing to demonstrate how best to play with all of Leo’s new toys!

We had a party for Leo on Saturday, with just under 20 of his extended family descending on our back deck for afternoon tea. This also meant there were more presents to unwrap – so many that even Mummy had to get in on the action.

Unwrapping presents

And although he was given many lovely things, the present that lit up his face the most was easily his stylish new sunglasses!

Leo and his sunglasses

It was a wonderful afternoon – though, like his brother before him, Leo burst into tears at the end of “Happy Birthday” – I suspect that neither of them was a fan of the noise!

Happy Birthday little Leo, we love you to bits!

A few more photos online in the Leo’s 1st Birthday album on Google+, or on Facebook if you prefer.

Posted in birthdays

The Inaugural Croquet match

Way back when team Barbeque Chicken was a whole, in the glory days of our Putney apartment, Shelley and Julian introduced us to the wonders of croquet. When they first told us that “croquet is awesome”, followed closely by, “no seriously, it’s awesome!” – suffice to say, their comments were met with some level of scepticism. One might even say that we questioned whether moving in together was the right move or not. However, we had to give them the benefit of the doubt – mainly because it was too late to get our bond back.

Well, how quickly we were converted! It really is awesome! To be fair, I’m not entirely sure that we’ve ever played by the proper rules of croquet, but certainly the fashion in which we played – complete with “the hole of death” (where you lose a turn for falling in) and rebound shots – made for a very entertaining afternoon indeed.

Fast forward many years to Christmas 2014, when Mom and Dad bring over a rather large, rectangular present with our names on it. Oscar excitedly opened it and spontaneously lost interest upon discovering that he didn’t know what it was; I, however, was delighted. A croquet set! I immediately texted Julian and Shelley and instructed them to cancel all of their pending plans for 2015; it was time for a tournament!

We set a date, I mowed the lawn pitch, Oscar and Julian set up a course, and IT WAS ON, BABY!

Julian playing croquet

As it turns out, I don’t think Sir Walter bred his lawn with croquet in mind – it’s rather thick, and learning how much pressure is required to whack the ball any distance took a fair bit of trial and error. Also, the ground was still a touch wet, which made the pitch even slower. Combine that with the fact that Oscar and Julian had set rather a challenging course – up the hill, around a couple of corners, then back down past the trampoline – and it turned out to be quite a tough slog! Literally!


But, all in good fun, of course! Julian managed to snatch victory by a single stroke, which makes him the current Croquet Champion of the Universe! Needless to say, we are thoroughly looking forward to our next match, and an opportunity to claim the crown for ourselves!


And, of course, if anyone else is interested in having a round, give us a shout… I’ll even mow the lawn a little shorter next time.

Posted in life in australia

Happy New Year!

As seems to have become the tradition, The Fourbies last night hosted a lovely little New Year’s eve shin-dig at their house. And, for the second year running, we once again made it through dinner without having to call the Fire Brigade, so I guess that counts as a successful party! Both of our kids were crashing by about 8 PM though so we had to call it a night early – though truth be told, Kristy and I were both pretty spent ourselves!

To start off the New Year on a fun note, Jason thought that we should head to Ceder Creek to build a dam. It was certainly hot enough to go somewhere surrounded by water, and I was not going to object to the idea of manual labour for the kids!

Oscar and Jason building a dam

Given Oscar’s enthusiasm for creek play on previous occasions, he unsurprisingly loved it. Every rock that he picked up had to be inspected by both Jason and myself; “Daddy, look at this one that I found!”.

Look at this one!

He certainly seemed to have a knack for finding those rocks too, especially given how few rocks there were around (yes, that’s sarcasm).

Creek play must run in the blood, as Jason and I were certainly having a great time as well – even Leo was getting into it!

Leo playing in the creek

He definitely caught on to the idea quickly enough, leaning over one side to pick up a rock, carefully inspecting it, then dropping it on to the other side. He’ll be a dam builder in no time!

By the end, we had certainly built quite a respectable dam, as well as some feeder rapids to flow into it!

Thomas Dam

We finally packed up to leave after about three hours of dam building, and immediately Oscar asked, “Can we come back and build dams again?”. Yes, I think we can!

A few photos from the day in the Dam building at Ceder Creek album on Google+.

Posted in life in australia

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