Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Jolly Jaunts in July: Part 2

After putting up with us all of last weekend, it seemed we hadn't outstayed our welcome, as this weekend we went to spend "Christmas in July" with Kym's family in Bendemeer. This is a small town in the countryside of New South Wales, off the New England Highway - a name which might give you some clue as to what the surrounding countryside is like.  Rolling hills, lots of lush vegetation - it really is beautiful.

As it's about a six hour drive from Sydney, we set out on the Friday afternoon, and drove up to a small town called Murrurundi (try saying that when you're sober, never mind about drunk! Suffice to say, the locals pronounce it Mur-run-die and leave it at that).  We were stopping with a work colleague I had met the week before who, upon learning that we were passing through her town on the way north, very kindly offered us a room for the night. Obviously, had she know us much better, she wouldn't have made such a silly offer, but by the time she realised, it was already much too late, bwahahahahaha....

We had a lovely evening, as it happened, arriving just in time for dinner (my stomach always ensures we arrive at this time, regardless of the actual digits on the clock) and had lovely home made pizzas, along with copious helpings of wine and interesting chat.  So interesting, the next time we looked at the clock, it was 1am and time for bed!

Next morning, we had a yummy home cooked brekkie and then went for a walk around the town, which was beautiful if you enjoy sunshine, crisp, fresh air and the whiff of log fires burning on the breeze, which, I REALLY DO. We stopped off for a cup of coffee and a cookie (well, you can't go on the road hungry, can you? Even if you're only driving for an hour...) said our goodbyes and then it was onwards to our final destination.

We arrived in the afternoon, and were greeted by the world's worst guard dog, who ran over barking and then lay down for loves and cuddles and in no way tried to protect his territory from the incoming masses. We spent a great afternoon in the sunshine with snacks and beers, and Jan got taught the country way - ie he was shown skinned rabbits (with their little fur paws and heads still on), taught how to crack a whip and other mysterious practices. I wasn't present for that, but got told he had only lost one ear and a bit of his nose during the whip cracking, so I think it went successfully. 

When the sun went down and it started getting chilly, we went inside to the log fire and an amazing three course Christmas dinner. We had yummy pumpkin soup, then lamb and chicken and vegies, followed by Christmas pudding. Some of us (JAN!) had two helpings of EVERYTHING and got called a suck-up for asking for extra cake to take home with us. It was a great evening and there were lots of laughs, and Jan even learnt some brand new words - like what "getting dacked" means (although thankfully it wasn't practical lesson). He even went full-on Aussie when his little feet got too cold and borrowed Kym's sisters Uggs:

This is against everything he stands for, as he thinks Uggs are Ugg-ly, so naturally I took pictures and uploaded them to the internet immediately.

On Sunday morning, we woke up to another sunny day and spent all morning with the kids playing on their trampoline in the yard. Jan taught them some tricks and basically they were all in love with him by the end and arguing over who got to hold his hand:

It's a tough life, being popular. Although I didn't do too badly myself - I am now the "new best friend" of the little 2-year-old, after a rather extensive bonding session of playing with her toy dolly and puppy and helping her feed them and put them to bed.

It was a fantastic weekend, full of getting to know some really great people and sharing lots of laughs. And also getting to see a bit of life outside Sydney, which I have to say, is looking rather attractive!

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Jolly jaunts in July: Part 1

Having spent most of our weekends in June at home, we decided to get out on the road again and do some more exploring. First up was a trip to Newcastle  No, we didn't sneak back for a cheeky weekend on the Tyne - there's a Newcastle two hours up the coast from Sydney and it's where our friend has just moved. So we took Matilda (the anthropomorphic automobile) off for her first long drive!

We drove to Newcastle on Friday evening and made it in time for a delicious dinner of tapas at a local restaurant. Unfortunately there are no pictures of this - well, look, it was a long drive and I was hungry, ok?! That's why my burgeoning career as a gourmet photographer has never taken off - the food is always gone by the time I remember my camera.

On Saturday we headed up to Nelson Bay, where they run whale watching tours. This is the height of the season for the humpback whales' migration to warmer waters to have their young. The captain of our boat was very confident we would see the whales, and we were all set with the binoculars our friend had lent us, so we were excited.

It was a nice trip out through small islands and into the main "corridor" the whales use to travel. 

The captain kept shouting "Thar she blows!" (I swear) as he was allegedly seeing lots of whales blowing water into the air as they reached the surface. Even with binoculars, the blighters were too quick for our unexperienced eyes and I started to worry we wouldn't see anything. 

Then finally, after it seemed like she had been blowing "thar" for ever, we finally got a glimpse:

We were excited to watch the whales surfacing and soon got the knack of spotting the little bursts of water that indicated a whale coming up.  

We heard there were reports of whales breaching and jumping out of the water further on, so we went in search. At last we were rewarded with what all people going on a whale watch really want to see - the beautiful sight of the humpbacks leaping out of the water and what looks like, to human eyes, playing around and having fun:

Waving us hello
The picture is a bit grainy, but thar she blows!
The second picture was taken as the whale leapt out right next to another whale watching boat, but we still got a great view.  After this picture, I decided to put my camera away and just enjoy the show. Which was a good job, because I then got completely soaked by a wave!

While we were heading back to shore, we also managed to say hello to some of these chaps, having a leisurely sleep in the sunshine:

It's a sunbathing sea lion. 
We also saw some dolphins, but they were far too quick for my photography skills to capture! 

Back on dry land again, we decided to get a fish 'n' chip lunch to celebrate and sit on the harbour side in the sunshine. Here, we rapidly discovered where Alfred Hitchcock had got the idea for "The Birds" from - and it wasn't from Daphne Du Maurier. Old Alfie, too, must have chosen to have a nice fish 'n' chip meal by the coast once upon a time and experienced the same terrors we were subject to:

They swooped in from everywhere and put me right off my battered sausage. Jan had to keep shooing them away, as I went jumping and running around, shouting "They'll snatch it from my hands, get them away, satanic b****rds" every time one got too near.

After we had made a hasty retreat from the seagull horde, we met up with our friends again and had a nice afternoon cruising along the coastline:

On Sunday, we had a nice lie in and a relaxed brunch, then headed for a walk around a local park, replete with duck pond:

These moorhens were slightly less ominous than the seagulls, although they still made a beeline (or is it a birdline?!) for us expecting food... They were, like their seagull counterparts, left wanting.
And of course, other than feeding the ducks, there's only really one other thing you go to the park for:

After all the fun, it was time to head home. We had a fantastic weekend - but this is only the start of some more fun weekends to come. Stay tuned for our "Christmas in July" celebrations!

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Snuggling down for winter

Well, winter is finally setting in here and the days and nights are colder, so we have been putting the finishing touches to the flat to make it as cosy as possible. Also, I promised to update you on the one last thing I hadn't posted a picture of from the last post, so don't scroll down, because I've left that treat til last!

You scrolled didn't you? NAUGHTY.

Back to the flat, and firstly, we needed a small footrest so we could put our feet up while we watched the telly:

Ahem. Small it is not.
Seriously, I think we have a wood fetish problem.  But it's the best table ever! It has useful drawers that you can store stuff in! It took me half an hour of desperate, swear-laden searching for the TV remote the other day, before I realised what Jan had done with it...

Damn you, remote!
The next piece of furniture I like to call the "Age maker". Why? Because I feel SO OLD owning one. Dudes, I am now part-owner of a HALLWAY TABLE. I've put flowers on it. Dear god, what has life come to? Jan found it and it matches the bookcase perfectly (are you getting this? CO-ORDINATED FURNITURE PEOPLE - what in the sweet hell?!).  It actually looks really good and, as it's opposite the front door, I am greeted by pictures of my framily* as I come in.  Which is awesome.  And totally makes up for the outbreak of maturity that has afflicted us.

* My family and the people I consider to be family. Think it will catch on?! You've all been using it for years already, haven't you?! *Sigh*  

Finally, I would like to introduce you to Matilda. She is the "one thing" aforementioned. She is a thing of beauty and of grace. She is sleek, chic and super fantastique. She is a mean machine and she is our travelling queen. You've guessed, haven't you? Here she is:

Yes, I name my cars.

I am in love with her. LOVE.
The eagle-eyed amongst you might have noticed the thing we have been waiting a long time for:

Yeah we did!  And I don't care if it's cheesy!

I've been driving the car to work (my bike is now abandoned in the office basement, looking lonely and forlorn. It won't fit in the damn car boot so I can get it home) and I've already managed to make a total fool of myself trying to reverse park in front of colleagues and builders. It was my first time in a brand new, much bigger car! I couldn't even find reverse! They had to go around the corner of the street to hide their hysterics! Oh, the shame!

We also took her on the road this weekend too, which I shall tell you all about in the next post!