Friday, July 31, 2015

New Glasses and Chased by a Swan

My new glasses arrived today and I was really excited to hear it. I went it and had them fitting and now own two brand new glasses that aren't scratched and fit really well. Even though it took me ages to decide on which frames I wanted I definitely think I've made the right choice, which is good since now I'm stuck with them.




They look quite black here but they are
very purple

It took some getting used to, but I've been wearing them alternately all day trying to get myself used to them and it's finally getting there. These are a higher prescription than my old ones and just the new frames were screwing with my head a little, but I think they'll be great in a day or two.

I ordered my contacts the other day and they were delivered this morning at about 7am, a few minutes before actually. So I wasn't actually awake and the doorbell woke me up and when I picked up the intercom no one answered so I ran down three flights of stairs in my pjs and no shoes and the guy was already pulling out of the parking lot. So now I don't have them. It really annoyed me but hopefully I'll get them soon.

This morning/afternoon I even went for a run with my new shoes. I ran about 5km, which isn't bad since I literally haven't run in years. I ran to Albert Park and then around the lake. Unfortunately a swan started stalking me and then proceeded to chase me. It was an incentive to run, that's for sure. It was fine though, it got bored pretty easily and went away, thank god. This is exactly why I don't like swans. It was a gorgeous day though and relatively warm so it was a great day for a run. I'll probably be quite sore tomorrow though.




It's been a good day and tomorrow I'm at the op shop so it's been a good week. Yesterday we went to see this movie at the movie theater called 13 Minutes. It's a German movie (so with subtitles) about Georg Elser who attempted to assassinate Hitler in 1939 but failed and missed him by 13 minutes. It was so well done and I really liked it. It's not in chronological order and starts with the bomb and then alternates between him being interrogated in 1939 and flashbacks of his life starting in 1932 then ends in 1945 when he was killed. It was fantastic and I'm glad we went.

I think that's all for now. We're hoping to do something/go somewhere on Wednesday and Thursday so I'll have an update if we do.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Melbourne Open House and More

I know it's been a while since I posted (again) but I've just been busy and kept putting off writing my post. To be honest I had a lot of photos I wanted to share and the thought of waiting for them all to upload to put them on this blog was a painful thought, so I just kept putting it off. But, here I am, and I will give you all the update. 

Last week was Open House Melbourne where a bunch of buildings that are normally closed off to the public are open for tours and stuff. If you remember I wrote about one we did in The Hague when I first wrote this blog. My first stop was a tour of Parliament House, which was totally awesome. I did have to wait about 45 minutes to get in, all the while standing in front of these two extremely irritating women who were talking absolute nonsense like how Dutch spells better than English. Excuse me, it can't, because it's a different language. Unfortunately they were in my tour too along with a bunch of irritatingly chatty Chinese. Despite all of that though it was really cool to see in the inside. 

The country's Parliament House is in Canberra, and I posted about that when we went, but this is Parliament House for Victoria and houses the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council. Like in Canberra, the chambers are colored green and red-- god knows why. Another interesting fact I learned was because the building was built during the Gold Rush they used an excessive amount of gold, which in today's terms is worth over $2 billion of 24 carat gold. Yes, there was a lot of gold decoration. For my UK readers, you'll also be interested to know that they modeled Parliament House after Leeds Town Hall. I don't have a photo of the outside but you can find one here

Legislative Council Chamber

A chair the queen can sit in if she visits


Library

Legislative Assembly chamber

Another part of the library

They also have these chandeliers that weigh 700kg, which again I thought was totally excessive. Thank god one of those haven't fallen down, it would create a crater in the floor.


Although the building was pretty over the top and a little garish it was really cool to see and I enjoyed the stuff the tour guide said. It was well worth the 45 minute wait.

After Parliament House I went to the Old Treasury Building, but unfortunately it wasn't terribly exciting. Most of the upper floors were just a museum about Melbourne's history and I perused it a bit, but it was really crowded so I went down to the basement instead. In the basement are these vaults that they used to keep gold in during the Gold Rush-- aptly named the Gold Vaults. After the Gold Rush they were just used for paperwork and boring things.

A bunch of gold on display in the vault

Although the rest of the building wasn't very exciting, I did think the vaults were really cool. It also had this circular room that had a panorama around it of the Melbourne skyline today, and under it a digital panorama of what the skyline would have looked like in the mid 1800s. It was obviously so different and mostly just farmland so it was really cool to compare and see where stuff was in place of things that I'm so familiar with. It was cool too to see that some buildings remained exactly where they were, they've just been rebuilt.

The last stop I made of the day was at Town Hall, which unfortunately was the least exciting of all. Most of the building was still blocked off to the public (totally defeats the purpose) so just this one hall was open for you to walk down and an organ recital upstairs (no thanks). There were a few things here though that caught me eye. The first was this awesome tea set that was purchased for use when Queen Elizabeth visited Melbourne Town Hall in 1954, although (as the plaque says) she declined "a hot beverage and asked for orange juice." I thought that was amusing. The tea set is certainly awesome and intricate though, I'd have agreed to a hot beverage just to use it.

Tea set

The other bit that was cool was that you could go out onto the balcony that overlooks the street with some nice views of St. Paul's Cathedral and Flinders Street Station. I do have some photos of this but they're still on my camera, and I've waited long enough to load all the photos I'm already putting on here, so maybe another time.

There was one other room I found interesting, but it didn't explain anywhere what it was used for. I assume it's still used for meetings and such, but it would have been convenient for them to say what.


This was the ceiling

There were a few things about this place that I didn't understand though. They had a lot of art on the walls, and some of it was interesting, but some of it made absolutely no sense. This one was apparently part of the Melbourne Art and Heritage Collection, although why I can't fathom.


This is Bob, and it's called, wait for it: "Man at Filing Cabinet." Why? There was a second one of geometric colored shapes called "Abstract Mary Poppins." I have no idea. It was puzzling.

Overall though I really enjoyed the open house and saw some cool stuff that I can check off my list before we go.

In other news, I bought some running shoes today. They were only $10 and I'm hoping by having them it'll motivate me to run or exercise a bit more. They're a little flimsy, but I also wasn't prepared to spend big bucks on something I'll probably use as frequently as a fax machine. But you never know, and I think they're cute so maybe that'll motivate me more too. Who knows. I'm already off to a great start (sarcasm) because I was going to take them for a spin earlier today but couldn't be bothered. Maybe tomorrow. We'll see.


I also downloaded a free trial of Lightroom, a photo editing software, and have been playing around with it. I don't intend to buy the subscription, but I thought it could be fun to play around with for a month.



Here are two photos I was playing around with today, I think they're pretty cool and certainly better than the originals. It's St. Mary's Church in Sydney and the original photos were pretty boring. I'm excited to keep playing around with it with other photos for my remaining 28 days.

I have also finally bought my new glasses and ordered my new contacts, both which should be arriving at the end of the week so I'm pretty excited. I'll post photos of my glasses when they arrive. Until then!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Burgers, Movie and Drinks

It's been a fun few days. The other day we ordered some stuff from this store we like online and I got a new necklace and clutch with an attachable chain. They were both super cheap and I love them both, plus they were great value. Michael got some new shoes so overall it was a successful online shop. I'd been eyeing this clutch before so I'm excited to finally have it.



This morning I decided to make mini breakfast quiches, similar to a quiche lorraine. It had bacon, cheese, onions, spinach and the egg mixture. They tasted really good and I was pleased with how they looked too, but unfortunately they stuck to the pan like crazy even though I greased it, which annoyed me a little. I would definitely make them again though because they were tasty, I'll just have to find another way to get them to not stick as much as this time.


Today we went to another burger place in Melbourne called Bad Boys that's rated really highly as well. It was delicious, but I have to say I think I preferred Cafe 51. This one was a chicken burger with some cheese and spicy sauce, so it was really good, but not exceptional. Cafe 51 also has burgers the size of my face, so the value is much better, but in general I enjoy the absurdness of their burgers. So while Bad Boys had a great burger, I think if given the option I'd prefer to return to Cafe 51.


We also went to see Mr. Holmes this afternoon with Ian McKellan and Laura Linney. Although it wasn't your typical Sherlock Holmes movie I really liked it and thought it was well done. It was about Sherlock Holmes after he retires and in the early stages of dementia and he's trying to recall his last case-- I really enjoyed it. Plus the soundtrack was really nice.

Afterwards we went to this bar we like that was having 2 for 1 cocktails and had a margarita followed by a mojito. We had a lovely view overlooking the CBD, and although it was cold it was a nice night. That was then followed by watching Elmo play the bagpipes again. Elmo pops up all of the city playing his bagpipes and I finally decided this time to take a photo. Why he's dressed as Elmo I really can't tell you, but for the bagpipes he's pretty good.

Margarita

Mojito

Elmo

It's been a good few days and hopefully in the next couple of days I'll purchase my new eye glasses and can finally report on what I've chosen. I'm at the op shop on Sunday, but hopefully wont' buy anything else since I've already got a few new things. Until then.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Eye Appointment and Stew

The other day I had an eye exam and although I'm not totally out of contacts yet (which I bought back in the US about a year ago) I thought it would be best to get my Australian prescription now and I can also get a new pair of glasses, which I've had for years and years. Luckily my prescription is the same so at least my eyes aren't getting worse. The doctor recommended another kind of contacts though and gave me a free pair to try and it is shocking how much more comfortable they are than my other ones. I had no idea what I was missing! They don't even remotely dry out, they're super comfortable, and they fit a bit better I'd say. Overall I'm really pleased.

Now I'm just trying to figure out what glasses I want to buy. I've been debating and I still haven't decided yet, but hopefully I will soon and then I can have a new pair that won't have 5 years of scratches on them.

In other news I made a stew tonight, and although I hadn't made one before, I was really pleased with how it turned out. It had beef steak, leeks, potatoes, carrots, and parsnips in it and even though it took me three hours it was really tasty and the right consistency and my beef was nice and tender. I didn't take a photo since it didn't actually look overly appetizing, being a stew.

Nothing else new here but we had a really nice sunny day today, which was a nice change from the cold rain. Last night got below freezing, in case we forgot it was winter.

Maybe tomorrow I'll have a look at glasses again and try and make a decision.

I also finished the book I was reading, the Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult, and as with all of her books it was amazing. I finished it the other day and it had lots of twists and turns in it so I would definitely recommend it. I'm now reading a new book that's about WWII but takes an interesting perspective, by being from the perspectives of the nazis. It's certainly different. I'll let you know what I think when I'm done with it but at the moment I'm on the fence.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The World's Most Obscene Burger

Today Michael and I went to this burger place called Cafe Fifty One and it was so insanely good but my god the burgers they serve are obscenely unreal. We'll start with the one that I got. It's called the Meataxe and it comes with: a beef patty, a fried chicken patty, bacon, cheese, lettuce, chipotle mayo, BBQ sauce and it's all topped with onion rings. I struggled, but I conquered and I survived.

The massive burger on the paddle

Look at that beastly thing

I know you can barely see the beef patty on the bottom there, but it's there. I was impressed with myself for finishing though, because while it was delicious, just look at that thing. It's probably half my body weight.

Here I am starting out strong

I'm struggling a bit now

Done and barely alive-- on the plate is just
a piece of lettuce that fell out and some
broken pieces of bun 

The place is super reasonably priced, bordering on cheap, and they have so many crazy burgers. Here are some screenshots from their menu online of their other various burgers. It's intense, I'm telling you.



Even though we ate five hours ago, I still don't want any food. I think we'll definitely be going back there, but god knows what I'll try the next time. The place is really popular and rated really highly and it's no surprise. When we left the line was literally out of the door.


After that we walked along Southbank and had some nice views of the city before walking up to Melbourne Central (a train station/shopping center) and Emporium (another shopping center). On our way we also saw a little skating rink, which was a nice reminder that it's winter-- even if it's not Christmas. It wasn't fantastic but I'm sure it looked much better by night.

Walking along Southbank

The ice rink

In Emporium

We came home and I'm exhausted and full, even though we didn't do all that much. At least we did a fair amount of walking to help me work off those hundreds, thousands even, of calories I consumed in one meal. I can't wait to go back to that burger place though and try the others. It was a great find and now Michael and I think we should do a burger tour in our last few months in Melbourne. Although I find it a great idea, I think if we do that I'm going to come back weighing 20 pounds heavier. And I think that's being modest.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Movie and a New Dress

Last night we watched the Wolf of Wall Street, which I actually really enjoyed. However, I had no idea it was so long-- 3 hours is a long time for just a movie, so it did feel like it dragged on for a while. Overall though I enjoyed it and thought it was really well done and Leo of course was great.

I've bought a few things recently at the op shop, including some new nail polish and a dress. I absolutely love the dress and when I first tried it on I thought it was going to be too big but it's actually perfect.


It's made of sweater material, which is about the only way I could justify buying a dress in the middle of winter. With some tights I think it'll be a nice outfit to go out in even in this chilly weather. It was only $2.50 too, so I really couldn't beat that.

I also got some eyeliner for 50 cents since I'm running low, although I'm not sure if I'll like it. I figured for 50 cents I might as well give it a try, but it's black (they didn't have any brown) and with my pale skin and light hair I usually avoid that, but we'll see. I'll try it a day when I'm not intending to go out. We get a lot of donations from other stores of stuff that's been unopened, and this eyeliner is one of those things in addition to the nail polish I bought.

The day was pretty relaxed and I had a nice time. Then after Michael was on his break for work and the op shop is just up the street so I came down and sat with him and Claudia, the nice Italian girl who works there too, for about 20 minutes before coming home.

I'm currently reading a fantastic book and I can barely put it down-- it was difficult dragging myself away from it this morning when I was going to the op shop. It's by Jodi Picoult, an author who I love and I think I've read almost every single one of her books now-- probably almost two dozen. This one is called the Tenth Circle and it's had so many twists and turns I can't wait to see how it'll end. When I finish I'll let you all know. Until then.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Brunch and a Movie

I went to the op shop the other day and had a nice time, but unfortunately I then had a stomach bug for a couple of days which was unpleasant. Luckily though I was better today for my grand brunch date with my friend Emma. 

We went to the Pancake Parlour where I had a delicious brunch of pancakes and maple syrup (which I have missed oh so much), bacon and eggs. And lots and lots of butter. I'll probably die tomorrow. 

Look at that deliciousness 

It was totally worth it though. After that we went to see Magic Mike XXL. Now, I wasn't overly enthusiastic about seeing, but Emma wanted to and I'd seen the first one so I figured why not. Some bits were kind of boring (because let's be honest, it's only fun when their clothes aren't involved) but the end was hilarious and over the top and ridiculous, so at least it had a strong ending. Overall, I'm glad we went, and since it's Monday tickets are pretty much half price, so for that, why not. 

I can't say I'd see it again, but it was amusing. It's raining again tonight, as it has been the past couple of days (nonstop), but it's winter so that's to be expected. It's pretty much cold and rainy for the whole week. I think I'll make some tea and watch something tonight, it's a good night to be cuddle up on the sofa with a blanket and a warm drink. 

I'm next in the op shop on Wednesday, since they desperately needed volunteers that day, so here's to hoping it's rather uneventful. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

New Table and Chicken Dinner

The other day we saw whole chickens were on offer at the grocery store so we decided to get one and do a nice roast chicken dinner. Unfortunately, the chicken didn't ring up at it's discounted price, but when I emailed the store they said they'd give me a full refund and a free chicken-- so that worked out well! We had our chicken dinner with honey roasted carrots and parsnips, peas and mashed potatoes with gravy. It was delicious and felt a bit like Thanksgiving, only without turkey. 

The other day we were also in Ikea and saw these two tables that we absolutely loved. Our favorite was this leaf-shaped side table with a line down the middle and the grain going in opposite ways, kind of like a real leaf. The other one was just a round table of the same style, but we thought about getting it to replace the Lack we have as our coffee table. We decided to think on it, and then decided to go back today and get it. It's much more spacious and I now have the black Lack table as my bedside table, which is super nice to have. 

Before

After with new table

Close up

Then I moved the Lack to the bedroom and now can charge my phone on my side and have somewhere other than the floor to keep my stuff-- yay!

Woo table now!

We also bought at Ikea those nice cork coasters you see in the photos above, in addition to one of those nice 4-piece bathroom sets with a soap dispenser, soap dish, toothbrush cup and a container. Since our bathroom doesn't have enough space for all of those things we're using the container on the new coffee table, the soap dispenser in the kitchen and the other two in the bathroom. 

Two pieces in the bathroom

I'm really pleased with everything we got today, especially at the price we got them all. I'm especially excited for a bedside table. Plus we'll be eating chicken for free for a week, so I really can't complain. 

I'm at the op shop tomorrow afternoon so I'm looking forward to that. Hopefully it'll be relatively uneventful, but with all these new things I'm unlikely to want to buy additional stuff there, so that's a good thing. 

I'm now going to go enjoy my new spacious coffee table and then go to sleep and charge my phone and have my water conveniently next to me instead of the floor. It's a good day. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Chinese and Ikea

Today we had a bit of a lazy morning and then went into the city to one of our favorite Chinese places for a late lunch/early dinner. It was delicious, and very filling, and then we went over to Ikea. They were having a birthday sale for turning 40 in Australia, but unfortunately it ended the other day. I did get a nice tea light holder and a pack of blue tea lights that smell of coconuts/the ocean.

Tea lights pack of 30

Glass holder

Lit

I really like it and all together they were about $4, so not bad considering how many tea lights I got out of it.

After that we went and got some cinnamon buns from the downstairs of Ikea, because I love them, and then went next door to First Choice Liquor where they have my favorite wine. This brand, called Hidden Gem, is my favorite and it's $3, but in the past I've only ever bought chardonnay. They have pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc as well so tonight I got a box of 6 with 4 chardonnay and one each of the pinot and sav blanc. So far I've tried the pinot and I really like it, so that's a good sign!

Tonight we're watching V For Vendetta on TV since Michael's never seen and I like it. I've only seen it once but I liked it a lot and it'll be good to watch again.

Today was a fun and successful day, who knows what we'll do tomorrow. Ikea again? Probably not, though I wouldn't complain.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Fourth of July!

So the Fourth of July is only just starting in the US, but it's nearing the end here, and it was certainly the strangest one I've had thus far. Today was very cold and rainy, and hailed at one point. So not exactly the hot and patriotic Fourth I was used to, but that's alright.

I was at the op shop today and they got me a Fourth of July cake, which I thought was really thoughtful and nice.

Nothing too exciting happened today, except a Chinese man stole a plate and a toddler tried to play with some relatively expensive jewelry. This little boy, probably less than two, wandered into our staff area and started opening our glass counter and reaching for some expensive jewelry and breakable things, so I ran over telling him he couldn't touch and trying to be as nice as possible and he started crying. The mother was nowhere to be found while I stood there with a sobbing toddler. Eventually she showed up-- she was in the dressing room, and took him away. Good job neglecting your toddler.

After the op shop I went to the store and came home and had dinner, so not super exciting. I did get a nice bottle of chardonnay for $2.99 though, so not bad at all.

Although there were no fireworks or patriotic American spirit with cheesy country songs and Bruce Springsteen singing Born in the USA, pompous guys wearing USA flag wife beaters or girls with USA flag bows in their hair it was still a good day. And at least next year I won't have to wear a scarf and a blue puffy coat.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Christmas in July

You guys might remember how Christmas was pretty weird here with it being really hot and all, but yesterday we got to celebrate Christmas in the traditional way-- cold, carols, snow and more. Ok, so the snow wasn't "real" but does it really matter? 

There's this place in Ballarat, a regional town an hour and a half outside of Melbourne, with a place called Sovereign Hill. Sovereign Hill is a bit like a Williamsburg but instead for the gold rush era. Ballarat was a big gold mining town during the gold rush and Sovereign Hill aims to bring that back to life. Every year during July (ok, technically it was June, it starts on the 27th, but whatever) they have a Christmas in July event where the whole town is decked out in Christmas decorations, there's caroling, fake snow, Christmas trees, mulled wine and more. We actually saw an add for this in a Qantas magazine and we finally decided we wanted to go and as cheesy as it might be it was super fun. 

Ballarat/surrounding area

The town

The town again

We went down into the gold mine which was pretty cool, although dark, and then we saw a gold smelting demonstration from the smelting, pouring, shaping and cooling. That was pretty awesome and it was real gold worth $150,000. The guy who did was really funny and informative and it's not every day you get to see someone smelting real gold. We saw wheel making, candle making, bowling alleys and lots of cool stuff the town would have had back in the 1800s. 

The coolest part about this place though was that everything is actually in real, working order and it sort of acts as a real functioning town. All of the steam powered engines still work and are run just as they would have back in the day and even the wheel maker doesn't just do demonstrations, he actually builds the wheels and carriages for the town's carriages. This really made it feel quite authentic and not like it was trying too hard, since it sort of felt like we were just observing their every day life rather than walking through some sort of outdoor museum. 

Main Street was decked out in holiday decorations and four times during the day has fake snow. It was kind of cheesy, but kind of awesome. 

Fake snow on Main Street

They also had the red coats come marching down main street and then go to the balcony of the pub/Victorian Theatre and shoot muskets and drum, which was also pretty cool. 

The Red Coats

We did take a carriage ride but it wasn't really that great. It was a little slow, very short and they crammed as many people as they possible could into it. Plus we just went around the same area we already walked and it was covered so you couldn't see much anyway. We stopped and had some beer and pumpkin soup in one of the tavern-like places called the New York Bakery. It was some of the best pumpkin soup I've ever had and it was nice to be inside somewhere warm too. 

We also got to search for gold in one of the gold mining rivers/creeks, although I didn't find any. We had more fun just watching the other people doing it and came to the conclusion there were two types: the ones there just having fun and the ones taking it insanely seriously. We saw this one man meticulously picking through everything as though he was going to find a fortunate. No such luck. 

Mining for gold

There were also houses that you could walk around that showed you what life would have been like then that also were decorated for Christmas. 

Me sitting by a Christmas tree in one of
the houses

We went into many shops and I think one of my favorites was the one with all the funny old-style hats, which of course we just had to try on. 


We wandered a bit more around the town and I bought myself the world's most gigantic candle. It's rose scented and I love it, even if it is almost two feet tall. By the time we finished wandering the best part of the day was almost there-- the light show. The light show is awesome and has fake snow, while playing music and lighting up the buildings on main street with different themes and designs. Since we had a bit of time we listened to some caroling and I had some mulled wine and then it began. 

Yay Christmas in July!

Me with my mulled wine

It was really cool and I have to say extremely well done. The lights on all of the buildings change throughout the show and they're all different from one another, which the exception of a few times when they all have the same pattern such as snowflakes. 


Christmas tree and other lights



The money raining down


The whole day was a lot of fun and very informative and Christmassy. We spent about 7 or 8 hours there in total and I have to say we weren't really bored during any part of the day, plus we had some pretty good weather which was also nice. If it weren't so expensive to get in I think I would totally go back. 

So although we didn't get a cold and traditional-feeling Christmas back in December, we did get one in July, with fake snow, red coats, and gold so at least there's that.