Sunday, June 28, 2015

Big Update

It's been a long time since I wrote a post and for that I apologize! I just kept meaning to and then putting it off and it was just a bit of a vicious cycle. Also, this is my hundredth post, which is pretty exciting. I thought I would do a special post for it, but I'm not sure what except to just say thanks to everyone who reads my blog and enjoys (i.e. tolerates) my longwinded tales of what we've been up to. Knowing people actually read it makes it much more fun to write-- so thanks! I'll just touch on the highlights or stories worth sharing.

Obviously my birthday was great, I went to work which was fine and then had dinner with a friend in the city and saw some nice random fireworks. I then went and had churros at this awesome place in the city with another friend and I'm totally going back because it was delicious but also really reasonably priced. With the churros you also got two pots of melted chocolate, yum!

Random fireworks for no reason

I was at the op shop yesterday and today, and last weekend, and it's been really nice to spend a lot of time there since I enjoy it so much. However, today we had quite a bit of drama. We had a leather wallet in one of our glass cases and some guy asked to look at it, amongst other things, and then just nodded and walked off. He had a strange attitude so I watched him as he walked away and then I saw him put the wallet in his pocket. I went and told the manager and she went and asked him and he denied it but eventually surrendered it and stormed out. That wasn't too fun, but at least we caught it. 

Then there was some more drama. Before I go into this story let me just say that we don't put things on hold, it's against our policy. So this volunteer yesterday put stuff on hold for this guy but then charged him $60 for the stuff, so he actually paid, which is a huge no no. So the guy comes in today an hour before closing asking for his stuff, which had since been put back out on the floor and sold. We immediately apologized and offered him a refund, but he refused and is now lodging a formal complaint. That wasn't too fun to deal with but I'm sure it'll be fine.  

On the bright side I bought three things at the op shop yesterday and today-- a book, a watch and these really cool vintage map postcards. The book is called Suite Francaise and is by Irene Nemirovsky, which is really been wanting to read. She wrote the book in 1940, but died in Auschwitz in 1942. It was meant to be a series of five books, but she had only finished two and her daughter found the book and had in published in 2004 and it's since become a movie. I'm really enjoying it so far. The watch I bought needs a new battery and a few links taken out. It can be worn, but I'd like it a little tighter.

New watch

Finally, I've started an actual travel blog. That's part of what's been eating up my time recently, but I've finally finished with the design bit and added some stories so I'll share it here. I figured rather than writing for other travel websites that won't pay me I would do it myself, and who knows, maybe it'll go somewhere. It's called Universal Jetsetters and I'm pretty excited-- we'll see how long it takes for me to get to 100 posts on that!

Thanks again for reading my blog and I'll try and be better about updating it now that I'm done obsessing over that other one.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Good Birthday

Yesterday was very good! I had a lovely time at the op shop, came home for a bit, and then I met Michael at work and we went to Taco Bill for dinner. I had enchiladas and a margarita, then we had some taquitos. It was all very tasty.

And Michael got me a 24 pack of my favorite beer and the store bought cake that I love so I was pretty happy :)

Beer and cake

It was a lot of fun even though it was weird having a winter birthday. Last night it got down to 38 degrees (3c), so that was a little strange. Overall it was a lot of fun and I'm going to try to get my beer to last... but we'll see how long that will be. Hint: Not very.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Almost My Birthday!

I love my birthday so I'm so excited that it's tomorrow. Michael's working so I'll be in the op shop during the day and then we're going to go out to dinner afterwards. We're going to Taco Bill, which is this sort of tacky restaurant, but we went when Krista was here and I was pretty happy with my enchiladas. Plus, I can get a margarita this way which will always be my drink of choice.

Taco Bill is always having some sort of special offer, so you pretty much never have to pay full price. Words cannot express the excitement. I know that's a little sad, but I just really love Mexican food and margaritas.

Nothing else particularly is new. It's been a pretty mild week temperature-wise which has been nice, and I was at work on Wednesday and that went well. I'm excited to be in the op shop again tomorrow, and hopefully I don't come home with a bunch of stuff. But then again I do have another $25 voucher and it is my birthday. It could be a gift from me to me. Except I just really don't want to lug more stuff with me after Australia.

Actually, that reminds me, I totally forgot. We booked our flights the other day out of here and I'm so excited. Well, not excited to be leaving Australia, but for the flights and aircraft we have. We're leaving on Oct. 22 to fly to the US (onward flights to Europe will be booked later) and we'll be flying Qantas, who we love. We got an insanely cheap fare for a one way all the way to New York, only connecting in LA. It's even better because the plane from Melbourne-LA is the A380-- the double decker plane I've been dying to go on for ages.

Not my photo

We even have seats on the upper deck so it's going to be really awesome. It's cool as well because rather than connecting on a partner airline like normal, this specific itinerary has Qantas also flying from LA-New York. We can get pretty much any flight from New York down to DC at any time for a pretty cheap fare so it's worked out really well. I'm very pleased and although I'll be sad to leave Australia, it'll at least be made a little sweeter by that sweet plane. That was too corny wasn't it? Oh well.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Jurassic World and Cooking

As I mentioned in my last post we went to see Jurassic World last night and I loved it, and Michael liked it a lot too. I quite liked how there were quite a few really funny bits, not all just death and destruction. I think Jurassic Park will always be the better one, but I really enjoyed this one. The movie theater was really nice and was the first movie theater I've been to that was licensed. The next time we go I'm totally getting a pint or a glass of wine. 

Tonight for dinner I attempted a similar thing to what I saw on Pinterest. I know Pinterest recipes rarely every work for the average person but I thought it was so clever and funny, but then put my own twist on it. What I saw was meatballs with piped mashed potato on top to look like cupcakes, but we did it a little differently. We bought some sausages, cut them open, mashed them, put them in cupcake cups in a cupcake pan and cooked them in the oven. Meanwhile we were making the mashed potatoes, then piped it on and put it back in the oven to brown. 

It was a good idea in practice and they tasted nice but we ran into a few problems along the way. The first problem was because of all the grease coming off of the sausage meat they stuck pretty badly to the cupcake cups. The other problem was that the mashed potato was really thick and that kind of force made my nozzle pop out a few times while I was piping the mashed potato. I still thought it was fun but if we do it again I won't use cupcake cups and I'll just be extra careful when piping the mashed potato. 



We made some extra potato bits and that was fun-- that I would definitely do again because it was a fun way to spice up (not literally) mashed potatoes. 

Tomorrow I have work and Saturday we're going out for a birthday dinner so I'm excited. I think I want Mexican... yum. Or maybe Chinese. But let's be honest, it'll probably be Mexican. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Op Shop Surprises

Yesterday I was in the op shop and it was fun as usual, but what I totally wasn't expecting was a mini birthday party. Even though my birthday was still six days away they didn't know when I'd be in next. I was serving a customer when this birthday song came on the speakers and all of sudden everyone came out dancing and singing with a cake, candles, champagne and such. It was so shocking and fun and it was really nice that they did that for me. I had three slices of cake (it was really good, ok?) and they gave me some Spanish chocolate, a small bottle of sparkling wine, a $25 voucher and an adorable koala card.

So cute!

It was so unexpected and sweet of them and I had a great time. Probably dangerous to have another $25 voucher, but I'll try not to buy too much stuff and at the very least useful things. The mini party was in the last half hour we were open so that certainly went by really quickly. I'm in again next weekend and I'm looking forward to it-- now that I have more money! Just kidding.

Tonight Michael and I are going to see Jurassic World and I'm so excited, even if he's not. He's never seen the original Jurassic Park so I summed it up for him and that should do. This movie theater we're going to in the CBD has $8.50 Mondays, which is insanely cheap for a movie theater so we're taking advantage of it. I can't wait to see it and I plan to bring a relatively large purse to sneak in some water and goodies to have during the movie so I don't have to pay for them. I will let you all know what I think!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Sydney Part Two

Now that I'm feeling much more recharged I can now tell you all about Sydney. It was a lot of fun and I'm really glad we went. We had gorgeous weather the first day but then the next two were pretty cold and rainy, but what can you do. At least we got one nice day considering the season. So if you remember I said I was flying business over and that was great. For lunch I had pea and mint soup, a roll, a lemon meringue thingy and a beer. Also as we were landing I got some nice shots of the ocean. I was hoping we'd get some city views but no such luck. It was a quick flight, and a little delayed, but we had a nice time eating and drinking coffee in the lounge beforehand.

Views

Lunch

Once we arrived we went straight to the hotel, which was awesome and had amazing views. Since it was such a beautiful day we walked around Circular Quay to the opera house, walked around a bit, then had a beer at the opera house bar and watched the sun set. It was gorgeous and still pretty warm.

Opera house

Opera house at sunset

Sun setting behind the bridge, under the left pillar of the
bridge was our hotel

Opera house up close

What the opera house tiles look like up close

CBD



We walked back around to the hotel but on the way stopped and picked up some wine. Unfortunately, we made a very bad decision and it was so gross we tipped it down the sink. But before we did that I took a nice photo of my wine glass and the city from our private balcony-- the wine I barely drank in the end.


The view was so spectacular from the balcony and since it was a nice night we sat there for a while drinking wine and listening to music.


For dinner we went and got Indian, which was delicious and incredibly filling. I basically had to be rolled back to the hotel.

Unfortunately, the next morning it was gray, rainy and not so nice. The weather said it was going to let up later in the afternoon, but it never did and rained pretty much the entire day. We tried to see if we could move our Sea Life Center behind the scenes tour to that day instead, but they claimed it was full and we couldn't. However, that worked out best because it turned out the dugong bit was closed that day-- the horror! Thankfully I did get to see my dugongs the next day and all was well. But since we didn't want to just walk around in the rain all day we walked to the National Maritime Museum, which wasn't amazing, but relatively interesting and, more importantly, dry.

When we came out of there it was still raining but not quite as hard, so we walked towards Hyde Park (it's not as great as the London one-- I'm not even sure you could call it a park) and saw the war memorial at the end of it. Although, on our way there we saw an Irish pub so we went in and I sat by a fire and had a Guinness while I warmed up and dried. It's a chain and we have one here in Melbourne, but it's actually pretty cheap and on a cold rainy day you can't really beat a fire and a beer.

My beer

The fire

Yucky day

Cathedral in the park

War memorial

More interesting war memorial

The main war memorial wasn't that great, ours here in Melbourne is far better, plus our museum underneath is probably five times the size as theirs. By that point we were pretty tired and worn out from being wet and cold so we headed back, but for dinner we went this restaurant/bar called The Soda Factory, which is American style, and that was really good. It was insanely busy, but eventually we managed to snag a table and then I proceeded to eat my weight in a hot dog. This was the mother of all hot dogs. It was a hot dog, wrapped in bacon, with avocado, salsa, and mayo on top. I was so full after but then I had five wings... yeah, I know, I was pigging out.

The door to the restaurant 

My hot dog

I still have dreams about that hot dog, not going to lie. Yum, I'd really love another one. Anyway, I'm getting side tracked. We went to a couple of bars after that, including my Irish bar again, and had some beers/ciders and then headed back to the hotel. It wasn't raining anymore at that point, but it rained again the next day.

The next day was my Sea Life Center day... I was finally going to see my dugongs. But since the tour wasn't until 2, we decided to go walk across the harbor bridge, which got some amazing views but quite literally terrified me since I don't like heights.


Walking across



I did enjoy it, even if I did shake like a leaf across most of it. I could barely bring myself to get close enough to the edge to take photos through the spaces in the fence, but I did it! We had some lunch and wandered a bit, then headed back to the hotel to check out and go to the Sea Life Center. We ended up having to walk there, it's not far, but Sydney public transportation isn't really that great. We have it much much better here in Melbourne. Not only is it cheaper, but we have trams that will take you basically anywhere you need to go at a frequency of about ten minutes. In Sydney they have a train that goes through the city, but only stops at a few places so it's not really that helpful. The only other form of transportation is buses but they're not even that frequent and they're kind of a pain, plus there weren't even any that went to the Sea Life Center. They do have ferries, which are pretty popular, but the frequency isn't that often (the one to the aquarium was every half hour). Overall, I'm pretty happy we live where we do.

On the walk there we saw this really cool alley with all of these bird cages hanging from it. We walked down and noticed there were bird sounds too. Turns out it was a memorial or something called Forgotten Songs and it features the calls of birds that used to live in the Sydney CBD before Europeans came and built it up. They now no longer live in the city, but apparently can still be found along the outskirts. It was pretty impressive and a nice idea-- it's not every day you see a memorial about birds.


We then got to the Sea Life Center and got our tickets. The behind the scenes tour was really great and we were the only ones there, so you can't beat a private tour. The guy giving it was interesting and we learned a lot and saw some awesome stuff like three week old baby sharks. They're tiny. No pictures were allowed on the tour so I didn't get any of my tiny sharks, though I wanted to. We saw the kitchens, the rooms where they filter the tanks, the baby sharks they were raising, etc. It was fun to hear the different names for the animals, such as they named seven sharks after the seven dwarves, and apparently Grumpy was kind of horrible-- fitting! We got a free lanyard with an "access pass" on it and I also got a free dugong hat... I kind of loved it.

My dugong hat, I brought it home with me

The aquarium itself wasn't that great, it was pretty small and crowded, as those things are, but the dugongs were amazing and I was so so happy to finally see them. Their names are Pig and Wuru and they were both orphaned at a few weeks which is why they ended up in the Sea Life's care. Brace yourself for cuteness.

Smiling!

Smiling!


Those tusks!! (They're not teeth, they're tusks, which is partly
 why they're so closely related to the elephant)

Only when they're feeding do their noses/mouth turn funnel-like, but I didn't get any photos like that. I really enjoyed myself and I'm so glad it was open since I thought it might be closed like the day before. The "dugong island," as they call it, is one a floating thing in the water, and apparently one of the chains tethering it had snapped so they needed to repair it. Luckily for me they were quick and I got to see the dugongs.

By the time we were done we decided to head back to the hotel, grab our stuff and head to the airport. However, instead of walking back we took the ferry and I'm so glad we did because even though it was really cold we got some amazing views of the bridge and the opera house. The ferry goes under the bridge too, so I guess you could say we saw it from all sides!



It was a fantastic trip and I really enjoyed going, even if we did have some relatively yucky weather. The lounge at the airport on the way back was great because they had my favorite beer on tap and curry, so it was the perfect ending to a perfect day (dugongs!) and a great trip. Although we got home pretty late, I'm glad we were on the last flight out because it gave us a full day with time to veg in the lounge. Who knows, maybe we'll go back someday. But obviously to only see the dugongs.

Sydney Part One

I'm sure you all are dying to hear about our trip to Sydney and see my beautiful photos (I know I'm flattering myself, just let me) and I was going to do my post tonight but after so little sleep last night I think I'm going to have to postpone it until tomorrow.

We had a late flight so we didn't get home until quite late and then I had to get up early for work this morning, so I'm still a little bit of a zombie. But until then, here's a short preview.





I promise there will be a post up tomorrow!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Heading Off to Sydney

We leave for Sydney tomorrow and I could not be more excited. This is definitely a good place to add to my birthday trips.

The op shop yesterday was a lot of fun and I even managed not to buy anything. We actually were basically up to our eyeballs in donations, which is no bad thing, so we were kept very busy most of the day. We were getting so many book donations that we eventually had to turn people with books away because we simply didn't have the space for them.

Of course, as usual, while we're trying to sort through, sort, price and put out all these donations people are out there making a total mess of things. When I walked around to do a quick clean there were things draped over things, clothes on the floor, etc. The children's section and the library were the worst though. The children's section had pretty much everything in it on the floor in the middle and the library looked like a tornado had just come through. Thanks people. It was still fun though and it was great to be there with everyone again. I do love the people who work and volunteer there so every time I go in is a great time.

I didn't do much today, I was too excited to Sydney. I'll be sure to take lots of photos and document the trip, even if I can't go to 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

42 Wallaby Way, Sydney

Ok, so 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney doesn't actually exist (I know, it's so sad) but we will be in Sydney! As I mentioned before we've been wanting to go to Sydney, but since we were planning on using miles and free Hyatt nights I have from the Hyatt credit card it didn't need to be booked really far in advance. We'd been waiting since Michael had three clear days off of work and it was a good time to go and this week he does, so we thought we would go and keep up my birthday tradition of going somewhere for my birthday.

We looked at award flight availability and saw that there were flights available at all times. I called Hyatt and booked the hotel. We're staying for free at the Park Hyatt under the Sydney Harbor Bridge and across from the opera house-- you really can't get a better location. Here are a few photos of the hotel (taken from online).




We don't have an opera house view (obviously) but who knows, maybe they'll upgrade us. I'm pretty excited since it's rated one of the best hotels in the world.

However, we went to book our flights and noticed all of a sudden all of the flight availability was pretty much gone. We were pretty frustrated to say the least, then noticed we'd been looking at February instead of June. Since the days match up to the days we didn't notice. It's not ideal but we were able to fix it though. I used miles and will be flying in business and Michael booked an economy ticket in cash (only about $100). We won't be able to sit together, but it's a short flight and I'll be in business so I don't think I'll miss him too much!

The flight is a little later than we'd have liked, at 11 a.m., but it's not too bad and we'll be there almost three whole days so a couple of hours doesn't make a huge difference. Luckily there was economy availability on the late flight back so we didn't have any problems with that. We'll be flying out Tuesday at 11 a.m. and flying back late on Thursday. I'm pretty excited! And with such an awesome hotel I can't wait.

We earn points with a program called Flybuys at our grocery store and other various places like K-Mart and Target. Through various offers we've racked up quite a lot of points and you can use these points to redeem for fun things. We've decided to use some of our points for a behind the scenes tour and admission to the Sea Life center in Sydney (valued at around $60 per person). I'm so excited because the Sydney Sea Life center is one of the only places in the world where you can see a dugong. They have two and it's the only place in Australia and they're two of five dugongs on display in the world. I love them and I'm so excited to be able to see one.

Look how cute they are! 

The dugong is actually most closely related to the elephant and they only look like that when they're feeding, but I think they're awesome and I can't wait to see one. And it's essentially free. During the behind the scenes tour you get to see where they prepare the food for the animals and see some feedings, hear facts about everything, and, according to the website, feed stingrays. I think it's a great use of our points!

Needless to say I'm really excited to go to Sydney, stay in a really nice hotel and see a dugong.

In other news, today I created a KLM plane and I love it. I saw a while ago on the KLM blog they posted a document that you could print out and follow along with a video that showed you how to fold it into the plane. I hadn't done it yet because our printer claimed it was low on ink and there was more pressing stuff we had to use it for. However, tonight I finally did and I love it.



I think it looks pretty good. They had three kinds and this was supposedly the hardest to fold and towards the end it got a little more complicated, but I'm pretty pleased with it! I have every intention of taking it with me to Sydney and taking a photo with it in front of the opera house and Instagramming it and tagging them. Maybe they'll re-post it. They commented on one of my photos once. It was the best day of my life. You can ask Michael, I excitedly texted him, "KLM commented on my photo!!!!!" Maybe it was even in caps. So that's something that's definitely coming with me!

I think this week will be exciting and I can't wait. I'll be sure to post before we leave though and after with all of my photos. Tomorrow in the op shop and am planning to meet a friend for coffee or lunch on Monday, then Tuesday off to Sydney!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

No Windows

They've been doing construction on our building by replacing all the doors and windows in the common areas on all three floors across both sides of the building. I was getting ready for work the other day when I heard all sorts of hammering drilling out in the hall so I figured that's what they were doing. However, I wasn't expecting to leave and not find a window at all.

No window

Luckily I was gone all of the working day so I didn't have to hear constant drilling and hammering all day, which would have driven me crazy. By the time I got back though they had the new window in and everything was gone.

New window

They do look a lot better (and cleaner) than the last ones and they have been doing it relatively quickly so I can't complain too much. However, they've also been replacing the front doors (there are four in total) and at the moment they've replaced the key to get in and no one has one yet so it's just open. We're not really sure what's going on and how we'll get this new key since no one told us. Luckily I don't have anywhere I have to be tomorrow if we don't have one by then. Maybe they'll put one in our mailbox-- but if not hopefully they'll tell us how to get a new one.

Nothing new really here. I had work yesterday which is going well and today it rained pretty much all day despite a gorgeously clear morning. Oh Melbourne.

Tonight I did watch a really good movie called Mona Lisa Smile. It stars Julia Roberts and has tons of big names like Julia Stiles, Kirsten Dunst, Ginnifer Goodwin and tons of others. It takes place in the 50s and is about a teacher at Wellesley College in Massachusetts and how she teachers her students there's more to an education than finding a husband and "teaches them to see the world through new eyes." Yes, that's a line from the movie. I really enjoyed it and would definitely watch it again. Julia Roberts was great in it, as always.

I'm in the op shop on Sunday, but nothing until planned until then. Here's to hoping there's not a ton more rain.