A Visit Back to Melbourne

18 Jul

Since we were going to Indonesia for Chi Kai and Quincy’s wedding it was convenient to add a trip back home instead of making a separate one in December. And now I know that off-season is the way to go – as fun as it is to spend Christmas with our families, for nearly twice the price it does seem like shockingly poor travel value.

We caught up with family and friends every day which was awesome. Klene and Ray even came down from Sydney so we could have a full cousin reunion. I always forget how much fun I have hanging out with them.

Cousins united! =D
received_10154265961935086 (1)Another important part to being in Melbourne was eating all the food we’d been craving (flake! Dainty Sichuan eggplant! Nhu Lan banh mi for me! Melbourne coffee for James! Rose Garden chicken ribs!)

Oh! Rose Garden now has outdoor seating! They still do brisk business even outside of traditional eating hours, which is always a great sign. My expectations were super high – we didn’t get a chance to go last time we visited, so that’s four years I’d gone without and I’d been freaking vibrating with excitement.

And oh, they were perfect. The crunchy/shattery batter, the moist chicken, the salty/spicy/little bit sweet combo, that amazing chicken (duck?) juice broth that they drench the rice with, and even the stingy broccoli florets (aka the polite fiction that I’m eating a balanced meal). After every bite I’d swoon with mouth-happiness but then be a little bit sad because I lack regular access to Rose Garden chicken ribs. And then I’d take another bite. It was a meal full of conflicting emotions.IMG_20160514_112046 (1)

James had some Seven Seeds coffee and was intensely disappointed. He said the coffee was really shit compared to what he remembered, so at least he was spared my rollercoaster of emotions. He said he had excellent coffee elsewhere though, so maybe the barrista was bad or that location has gone downhill. Next time we visit we’ll probably make a pitstop just to confirm.

We walked around our old area checking out what had and hadn’t changed. The CBD is fantastic and James and I agree we didn’t appreciate it nearly enough while we were here. It’s so dense and full of restaurants and shops; more so than anywhere in SF.

And in other news my mum is a beekeeper now!
IMG_20160508_135830 (1)Mum and dad have been harvesting lots of fruit and veggies from the garden and mum has been harassing Cat to give her some of her chickens. Mum has a coop ready and everything, but Cat is understandably attached to her chickens.

I’m trying to think of what else there is to report on from our trip. Shopping was pretty good because of the exchange rate. Lululemon is even cheaper than it is in the US, and James stocked up on his favourite Bonds undies.

We missed out on a couple of things that would have been nice – Vic Market donuts and boreks, Beatrix in North Melbourne, seeing Pat, etc. I imagine once we’ve come back a few more times we’ll have a set routine of people to see, food to eat and things to buy. But after a week and a half in Melbourne it was time to move on to the next part of our holiday … Indonesia!

 

A James Related Update

29 Jun

James has been promoted to Staff Software Engineer. =) It was made official at the start of this month and he’s pretty stoked (partially because he doesn’t have to deal with the promotion cycle for a couple of years).

We’re also heading off to NYC next month, so that’ll be another travel-related post to add to my backlog (Australia, Indonesia, Big Sur and Napa). Sorry for the laziness!

Jetlag!

4 Jun

Ugh, jetlag has really hit me hard this time round. I’ve spent all week getting up at totally random times and feeling totally useless. I haven’t sorted through my photos and videos yet (but I will!)

So in the meantime here is some stuff I bought recently that I love.

Lululemon All Tied Up Tank
c1b6db0eaea3f708c9bab4a0690d6c7dIt sold out on the same day so I’m really glad I impulse bought this while I was in Australia, even though I had to wait almost a month to get back and pick it up! I kind of regret not getting it in the grey as well.

I also bought that sports bra because it looks so cute with the top. =D

Gorman Basic Leather Tote

James hardly ever has opinions on things but he hates this bag – “it’s gaudy”. Unfortunately for him that’s the reason I love it.
gwfg120401f_gold
Gap Panama Hat
cn11024080I wore this hat almost every day Indonesia and it was perfect – kept the sun off my neck/face/shoulders and went with pretty much everything. Plus I crushed it in my bag a couple of times and it sprung back into shape.

Manolo Blahnik Peach Heels
s-l1600I’m slowly easing myself into them in anticipation of the next time I need to wear heels (probably the next Christmas party!) Even my guy friends admit these are super cute and they never notice shoes.

Dell Chromebook
Chromebook 13 NotebookThis was a birthday present to replace my old laptop. The keyboard is a dream, it has an incredibly long battery life, and I’m surprised at how much I can do just using web apps (though I would really like something that could properly edit GoPro videos).

I have also gotten mildly obsessed with frangipani since the hotel we stayed at in Bali on our last day had them all over the place and they smelled heavenly. The best candidate seems to be Ormonde Jayne’s Frangipani but I hesitate to buy a full bottle based solely on reviews.

I’m now sleeping 2-11am so I reckon by Monday I’ll be functional again. I’ll aim to get my blog post up by next week because next Saturday Nixi is coming to visit! Yaaay! =)

A Week on the Big Island

9 May

In March this year we went to Hawaii for James’ aunt’s wedding. We stayed on the East side of the Big Island which is the volcanic side versus the beachier West side.

We did drive to Kona our first day, which was 2.5 hours (each way!) to swim with dolphins and manta rays. Unfortunately I am a GoPro noob and it turns out the times I thought I had the video running I, um, didn’t. =(

We did get some dolphin footage, though not the pod of hundreds of dolphins that we were right in the middle of. Gah. Gah! But anyway here is a tiny fraction of the dolphins we saw.
Frame-09-05-2016-11-05-49Sometimes you could hear the dolphin echolocation before you actually saw them. You can hear it in the (unfortunately shitty – sorry!) video below of James swimming alongside them.

 

Whenever the dolphins felt annoyed they would just dive down (or speed up) so it was pretty cool they let James swim with them. (Dear Diary, today the dolphins accepted me as one of their own). James said that he was kicking frantically to keep up the whole time.

I was more bummed that I didn’t have any usable footage of the manta rays. We went at 8pm so our group was the only one out there and we had all the manta rays to ourselves. They were so big and so close and doing loop de loops right underneath us!! They swooped about 30cm away from our stomachs and I kept hearing James exclaim through his snorkel mask.

It was an incredibly memorable day – definitely two experiences to put on your bucket list! It was also a super long day (something like 4am-midnight!) and we didn’t even get to sleep in because the next day because we went on a hike to some active lava flows. After a long hike we emerged from a forest to see this: IMG_20160229_141641The ground was lava that had cooled and become hard but was still emitting lots of heat; the newer the crust was the hotter it was – and some of it was just a day old! James was wearing his hiking vibrams and if he stood still for too long on yesterday’s lava his feet would get uncomfortable. Later he had the bright idea to pour water over his feet to cool them off, and when the water hit the ground it sizzled, turned into steam, and burned him. =/

Even moving around was challenging because we were carrying long, awkward sticks, trying to move quickly across uneven terrain, and if we fell we’d land on a hot, brittle surface that would basically cut us like glass while it burned us.

At times we had to hop over lava (the floor is lava!): IMG_20160229_141617While dead trees burned on contact with the lava. IMG_20160229_133112You can see the lava wasn’t that molten stuff that sprays everywhere like in the movies. The black stuff was old and the light silver stuff was the active flow but even as it slowly oozed it was already hardening.

We poked the lava with sticks – really long sticks because it was crazy fucking hot (it’s hard to tell from the photo but that stick is almost twice my height). IMG_20160229_130023The outer layer would be like thick, viscous honey and the molten lava inside was more liquidy, and much hotter – every time I poked a hole I’d get a burst of intense heat. Even a fair distance from the active flow it was like standing next to an open oven and nobody could stand next to the lava for very long. I tried at one point and it felt like my ankles (which were exposed) caught on fire.

James had a pretty hard time because he really doesn’t like heat and had to keep his feet moving because of his shoes. One guy in old hiking boots had his sole detach from one of his shoes because the glue melted. Luckily this happens a lot so the guides had duct tape. After a couple of token lava pokes James retreated to a safe distance. I think this photo is of him telling me to hurry up. IMG_20160229_125931His loss though, because he missed out on making lava marshmallows. IMG_20160229_132325They were weird and crunchy.

The next day we went with James’ family to the Volcanoes National Park. The crater (the bit in the middle right with the steam) was cool but we missed the lava being 20 meters from the rim by one day. =( PANO_20160301_102837 We explored the museum and walked through some cave-like lava tubes. This is us in front of one of the steam vents. The steam was super humid (obviously) and smelled like Chinese food (less obviously).IMG_20160301_101743 And here we are again after the wedding a couple of days later, in the same pose and both still doing the same hang loose gesture. IMG_20160303_183656 The day after was our last full day and we’d planned an open door helicopter ride but it was cancelled because of the weather. Pro tip: never leave anything you really want to do for the last day. The manta ray people told us that 20% of their trips don’t see any manta rays, and those people get a free do-over, but a lot of the time they’ve left it for their last night and can’t go.

Instead we did a bunch of snorkeling with James’ family where we saw some turtles fighting underwater (OMG it is like seeing a fight in slow motion. A turtle bites and smacks sooooo slowly that the only thing that can’t avoid it is, I guess, another turtle).

Frame-10-05-2016-08-41-51This turtle was unrelated to the fight but he swam right up to the GoPro camera!

Then in the late afternoon/early evening we headed to Mauna Kea with James’ parents. Like Haleakala it was cold on top (apparently they get snow in the winter!) so we made sure to rug up.

It was super overcast and looking really dire on the drive up. It was still cloudy at sunset and I was worried we wouldn’t be able to see any stars. Everyone kept looking up at the sky worriedly. At least we got one more piggyback in. IMG_20160304_181528Mauna Kea was chosen as the location for a bunch of observatories because it is hardly ever overcast. Luckily that night was not an exception, and as the sun set the sky slowly but surely cleared.IMG_20160304_182520And we saw sooo many stars! The stargazing volunteers brought out a bunch of telescopes that people could look through and they gave a talk about the different constellations that were visible. The highlight for me was seeing a shooting star through a telescope and being able to see two of the moons of Jupiter.

It was a gorgeous way to spend our last night. The Big Island wasn’t on our must-do travel list and we mainly went to see James’ family, and I’m really glad we did! We got to do some really amazing stuff – swim with hundreds of dolphins! Look down the throat of a manta ray! Poke lava with a stick! – and it was all super amazing. =)

Accidentally Cycling (Part of) Mount Tam

11 Apr

Yesterday James and I went out cycling with our friends. The weather forecast was promising rain but it just ended up being overcast the whole day which was perfect!

There was a flurry of messages that morning discussing whether to change the route or cancel because of the weather. Brian said the cold was worse than the rain and Will said the cold was fine and he was just going to wear a t-shirt and shorts. Brian told me that he messaged Stephan privately and told him not to listen to Will because he was crazy.

Which was true because Will ended up having to buy a jacket on the way to our meeting spot. (When Stephan saw Will’s augmented outfit he smirked and said “nice jacket” haha)

Incidentally Will bought the jacket at Sports Basement, which is where James tried on this cunning helmet:

The original intent was to cycle to Stinson beach via Muir Woods and the Panoramic Highway but due to my shoddy navigation we ended up climbing Mount Tam instead.

James and Stephan shot way ahead of us. I was a little bit faster than Will on the climb but in all fairness he was pretty shaken because he’d crashed his bike at the start of our ride. Brian also looked like he was having a pretty hard time because he has a super heavy bike so sometimes he’d have to get off and walk.

Part of the way up I double checked the route directions and it turned out we were way off-course. Like we shouldn’t have done any of the uphill segments. We waited for Brian to catch up and I was like “Brian you are going to hate me …”

At that point we had to make a decision whether to keep going up to see where the road  went or whether to backtrack and get on the route we’d originally intended. Stephan wanted to keep going because he thought it would be “pathetic” if we only did part of it. James wanted to go back down and do the original route. Eventually we decided to keep going because we thought we were almost there, and James finally agreed.

So we turned the corner, saw how much mountain there was remaining, and as he started cycling James wailed “I don’t want to go anymore! I changed my mind!”

He and Stephan still got there way before the rest of us and sent us smug photos while they waited.
The road got progressively worse and worse and we eventually realised that all the cyclists we saw were on mountain bikes. We asked some bikers for directions and they showed us a fire road we could take to get down the other side.

James: This photo isn’t at the top but the important thing is that it looks like it is.
This is where we actually ended up stopping. You can see there is a fair bit more to go but the it was all gravel and rocks by then.
IMG_20160410_121831

James, Stephan and Brian all really enjoyed the descent but the rocks made Will and I really nervous.

The views were so beautiful! Stephan said (and I agree) that the fog really makes it feel more mountainy. By the time we got back onto Panoramic Highway there were a lot more cyclists and we were all more than ready to start heading back.

We had lunch at Napa Burger, which seems to be our thing now. At the start of the day Will always says that he’s sick of Napa Burger but by the time we get to Sausalito he decides that Napa Burger actually sounds pretty good.

The hill heading out of Sausalito felt so brutal, and by the time we got back to Russian Hill we had to walk all the hills. James wheeled both of our bikes and he was still walking faster than me. =(

I looked it up afterwards and there is a route for road cyclists to go up Mount Tam so maybe we’ll try that someday (definitely not anytime soon though). Plus we still need to knock out that Stinson Beach loop!

Sorry For The Lack of Updates!

5 Apr

I have a huuuuge backlog of stuff I need to post about but James and I were sick for a couple of weeks after we got back and it’s been non-stop socialising since then.

12919544_10154046620544557_799844233_o

image stolen from Anne Marie!

I promise I’ll post about Hawaii and all the bike rides we’ve been doing with friends next week. I’m going to try and be better about updating the blog this summer!

Finally! Mammoth Snow!

29 Jan

Last year we went snowboarding at Mammoth Mountain for the first time and conditions were pretty dire (though we still had fun).

Thankfully this year has been much better! The first few days of our trip were OK, but being between Christmas and New Years, were busier than I like. I am snow-curmudgeonly like Chuck – I only like to go on weekdays.

But then the storm hit! I think Mammoth got something like 3-4 feet of snow in as many days. It was cold, windy, and amazing – because everybody left. I’d board down without seeing a single other person, and it was snowing so hard that by the time back up to the top all my tracks had filled in.IMG_20160105_115338I think I took this photo on Day 2 of the storm and you can kind of see how heavily the snow is coming down. James is resentfully plodding through the snow because we had to unstrap to get to Chair 12 and it was really, really not worth skating there.

Cheer up Jamesy; it’s not so bad.
IMG_20160105_115326On an unrelated note, later that week he switched to skis.

Mike also joined us in Mammoth for a couple of days. On one of the days we were boarding together I was seduced by some pristine tree snow and was stuck for like … 20 minutes. I kept thinking I could rescue it without unstrapping, but finally just had to dig myself out and walk.
IMG_20160106_105207(When I took that photo I sent it to James. And he messaged back and was like “are you stuck? :(” Because he knows me. He knows I wouldn’t unstrap unless I had to)

Anyway, by that time Mike and I had gotten hopelessly split up so he went on without me and called it early. It was a shame though, because the second half of the day got so much better! Conditions got colder and windier and again, everyone went home! It was amazing having so much snow to (almost) myself. I kept telling myself just one more run, but giving in and going again.

The day after the storm was beautiful and clear. James headed out with me and I showed him some of the fun runs I’d found.
IMG_20160107_094657This was a comparatively tracked out bit but I don’t have a lot of action shots of James so I’m sticking with it!

They opened the backside and it was freaking glorious – about 3 storm days worth of untouched snow. There were huge lines at the gondola to get there, but it was worth it.
IMG_20160107_111002Each of those channels is at least knee height and you’d glide through them like butter. The steep terrain was easy – it was the flats where I had to worry because the couple of times I got stuck it was a bloody ordeal to get out.

So pretty! The trees looked like coral.
IMG_20160107_111844That yellow sign in the distance is a cliff warning. Welp, will be giving that a wide berth!
IMG_20160107_125052We were in Mammoth for 13 days and I boarded 11 of them. I was so exhausted by the end – both my feet had blisters and my legs were just not working anymore. I’m glad the storm was more towards the start of the trip. It played havoc with our inbound flights, but if I could time every trip for a storm I would be a very happy snow bunny!

Heading home. Going to miss that gorgeous view.
IMG_20160110_163336

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