Out back in the outback

Every disadvantage has its advantage. I’ve been promoting this idiom among my Australian friends, and recent events have once again proven the wisdom of the one and only Johan Cruyff. Yes, bad luck led to a broken wrist and two cancelled holidays. But it also prompted my dear friend Mellini to organize a camping trip in Lamington National Park, to “give me something to look forward to”. And it allowed us to join my colleague Dave on his trip out there and back again, which turned out to be quite the adventure. So somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good….

Lamington National Park

Home of the regent bowerbird, know for their courting ritual, Lamington National Park is a paradise for bird lovers and bushwalkers alike. The drive there is beautiful, since you spend the last hour on a spiraling mountain road which offers plenty of panoramic views. After the quaint Treetop Walk it was time to enjoy the sunset and a nice glass of wine from O’Reilly’s Rainforest bar.

We went camping with a bunch of pros, so after a morning concert of the birds, a proper brekkie was served. A good foundation for a decent walk along the Box Forest Circuit, filled with waterfalls and some creek crossings. On Monday we had time for a nice and easy walk to Python Rock, from where you can marvel at the valley from a different point of view.

For the full photographic experience of Lamington Park:

https://photos.app.goo.gl/SbvKwKhMSV6DluYA2

A quick impression:

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Noorama Station, 1 hour south of Cunnamulla and 9 hours west of Brisbane

Renowned for its sheep, wool and cattle production, Noorama Station is situated in one of the most prolific pastoral regions in the country. Don’t just take my word for it, read all about it in this brochure. The current manager is Ben, a good friend from my colleague Dave. Ben asked Dave to escort him and his new bike home from Brisbane, and Dave in turn asked us to do the same for him on the way back. So off we went, on three bikes and one support car filled with a water tank, spare fuel, snacks and a one-handed lady. Thank the engineers for automatic transmission!

The trip was spectacular and the scenery amazing. But since it’s kind of hard to drive one-handed while taking pictures, you’ll mostly have to take my word for it.

Our one full day at Noorama Station was action packed from start to finish. We “helped” Ben and his team of jackaroos herd cows with a spotter plane and dirt bikes. Closer to home we “helped” Carissa and Owen take care of the chickens and vegetable garden. After a second breakfast we had a leisurely walk around the block through the bush, having a taste of saltbush along the way. By then it was time to pay our way by offering some actual help. In keeping with our expertise Jaap fixed the wifi and I sewed (made a start with) some curtains for Annabel’s room. As one does in the outback. After a long day of hard work, we took some us-time in the local spa, i.e. two hot tubs next to a warm water bore in the middle of nowhere (even relatively speaking), surrounded by trees with parrots. We were back just in time to enjoy an amazing sunset and another delicious meal by Carissa. Day well spent!

For the full photographic experience:

https://photos.app.goo.gl/I8G050NyE5h9G1qi2

Some highlights, in case you’re in a rush:

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A handy solution to a disarming problem

The puns may get me some w(r)istful looks, but after Simone took a 9-year old kamikaze pilot to the pedal bike, we’re in dire need of some light-hearted humour to lift our spirits…

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That ‘sprained’ wrist turned out to be broken. In two places, in fact, the radius and the tricky scaphoid. So that cast will stay on for six weeks minimum, and hopefully no more than that.

Of course, typing is a real pain with this whole situation, even though she’s lucky that it’s her left hand and not her right (mouse) hand. We immediately scoured the net for some easy solutions for one-handed typing, but most relied on dodgy software or text-prediction with half-assed dictionaries.

Luckily, Max Baker, back in 2008, had the same idea and scrounged up a super-useful AutoHotKey script for one-handed typing by a forum user known as ‘mbirth’. I have found AutoHotKey to be one of the most generally useful pieces of utility-software on the planet anyway, and it did not disappoint on this account either.

The script causes keys on the keyboard to be mirrored onto the same position on the other hand (if you’re a standard blind-typist).

Max needed something for the left hand (a nice solution if you don’t want to let go of your mouse), but of course Simone needed a right-handed solution. The script is well-written though, so it was as easy as flipping the original and mirrored key definitions around. I then figured a one-size-fits-all solution would include both left and right hand and would just flip the whole keyboard.

I like Max’ suggestion of flipping the key caps, but it’s less practical on a laptop, so a few dollars spent at a news agent and a Sharpie-scribbling session later, we managed to get around the problem of remembering key positions as well.

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Problem. Solved.

(whole solution for download here, if you need it – get AutoHotKey from their own site)

Melbourne – a long weekend

(Photo’s will be added later, for now all I have is the amazing video of the seals by J.)

It’s been a long while since my first visit to Melbourne, but last weekend I finally got to share all my favorite spots with J. Time for a city trip (in combination with a work trip, we’ve got to stay sensible after all). Even though I had planned to do a whole lot of nothing, combined with a whole lot of eating, it turns out we’re really bad at doing nothing. So busy schedule ahead!

Friday, we arrived in the arvo to a cloudy and wet Melbourne. After lunch at Purple Peanut we walked over to Victoria’s market. More importantly however was dinner, which was had at the Vegie bar, my favourite restaurant in town. With that item checked on my list, the weekend is already officially a success!

Saturday, it was time to discover all a sunny Brunswick Street has to offer, which turned out to be a fab brekkie at Smith & Daughters, lots of shopping, coffee and a footy game between Fitzroy and some other team. We managed to work out most of the rules from watching them for a while. For the evening program, we diverted to Carlton for a movie (Colossal) and Italian dinner at Lygon Street.

Sunday we reconnected with nature (and because we’re still in Australia, we got some car-time in as well). In the morning we went swimming with the seals, together with Marlon and MJ from WaterMaarq, from the tip of Mornington Peninsula. It. Was. The. Best. This was high on my bucket list, and rightfully so. We were quite lucky with the beautiful weather and a private trip with WaterMaarq, who normally have up to 6 guests on board. J. shot some fab footage (video below runs for 12m50s). To top it off, MJ did some excellent captaining on the way back, enticing the local dolphins to come by and say hello. I forgot to fall in the water, so no swimming with them though.

After that, the plan was to discover Phillip Island before joining the penguin parade, since the island seemed pretty close by. However, water. So, the planned bush-walking had to make way for another two hour drive around Western Port Bay.  The parade was, what can I say… The penguins are super cute! Really wonderful to see them splashing about in the water and making their little parade across the sand. But also, so many humans, being humans.

Monday is road trip day. Of course we set course for the Great Ocean Road. After the usual trip to get at the start (everything fun “in Melbourne” seems to be about a 2 hour drive away), we started the day with some proper chocolate and coffee. With that, we were ready for some awesome views, some of them I enjoyed doggy style (head out of the window with my hair in the air like I just don’t care, what did you think?). We also made time for some off the road fun with Erskine falls and my first ever tree top walk in the Otway National Park. On the way back we got caught in the mother of all rainstorms, so we found our way to the shoulder of the highway, and waited it out. When you’re not driving, a good rain and nearby thunder can be fun. This was only a temporary inconvenience, so we made it in time for our reservation at the fancy Transformers in Fitzroy. First time I managed to get a booking in here. It’s a beautiful place, where I got to show of my new bling. We chose the Feed Me menu, where the chef decides what you eat. It was delish, however I do feel you would be better off making your own selection. Next time!

Tuesday we got our portion of culture at the Melbourne Museum and the National Gallery of Victoria. We also tried to go see Guardians of the Galaxy 2, but apparently everybody else in town also decided to end Anzac day in the cinema. So instead we got takeaway Indian and had a quiet night in the airbnb. Which is a nice way of saying I went to bed early :).

The rest of the week was work-work-work, with three days of Delft-FEWS user days. But that my lovelies, is a story for another time.

Going home, twice

Even when you’re sure you don’t want to fold yourself into an airplane to burn some additional fossil fuels, apparently you can find yourself back home in Europe before you know it. What followed was an action-packed rollercoaster of sleeplessness. Oh jet-lag, how I’ve missed you!

Being back in the Netherlands felt very weird for the first 30 minutes. But with my OV-chipknip still activated, the transition was quite seamless. Although I did notice the people were taller than I’m used to. I might have even felt short here and there…. And also, cycling on actual bicycle lanes, with loads of other cyclists, and motorists who behave. Such a delight! But my fears of annoyed people everywhere, getting angry about the smallest of things was quite mistaken. Queenslanders might be known to be very relaxed, but the Dutch aren’t so bad either ;).

Work was non-stop chatting with colleagues, catching up on all things work you don’t hear about via email (pro-tip: that’s a lot). Family and friends time was filled with hugs, chatting, musea, Vegetarian Butcher nomnoms and Christmas dinner. And birthdays, both belated birthday presents as well as an actual birthday cake. And sewing, there’s always time for sewing :).

After a wonderful two weeks, the plane back to Brizzy felt like a trip back home as well. I made it back just in time for the New Years Eve fireworks and the sweltering summer heat. And also the reunion with Jaap wasn’t too bad :). There’s no place like home, I’m fortunate enough to count two places as my home.

Below follows a recap in pictures. A picture says more than a thousand words. so a lot of pictures tell a long story. You’d better get comfortable first :). #LookBeforeYouLeap #BezintEerGijBegint

 

The central thread of the trip was the TimTam challenge. This typical Australian treat should be used briefly as a tea-straw, making the inside a delicious warm chocolatety goo, which will be a party in your mouth. People were skeptical at first, but try they all did. Afterwards all but one were convinced this is truly the best way to eat a TimTam.

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End of the year means performances by both niece and nephew and a dance class of sis where I could join in. Funfun.

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Enjoying the nomnoms from the Vegetarian Butcher while I can!

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Teylers museum, the oldest museum of the Netherlands located in Haarlem, got visited twice. Once on the day they were expecting the 100.000th visitor and once for a tour in the library together with the in-laws.

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Mum took me to the very impressive Feathers exhibition in Volkenkundig museum in Leiden. So much I did now know about the traditions of feathers, and the cultures who use them to signal position and status. To know about the past, puts current day haute couture in a different light.

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This year I could join the office Christmas Carolers, without being able to participate in any of the rehearsals. Good thing I remembered most songs from previous years :). The only disappointing bit was that in my absence they removed the hand gestures and little dance moves. That didn’t stop me from having some fun though! #WhereIsTheParty? #HereIsTheParty! #DontJustLookAtYourPaper

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I spent most of my time in Haarlem and Delft, but couldn’t resist checking out our neighborhood in The Hague, and to admire the new metro station at Den Haag Centraal.

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Birthday time. Some present where seriously overdue, others where exactly on time.

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The birthday girl wanted to visit the Store Wars exhibition in Hoorn, good for some old fashioned fun.

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The two fish of the family enjoyed a morning in the pool

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And the rest of the time was filled with family and friends. And of course lots of food and matching beanies.

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Speed record – dress in one day

I’m in the market for another wedding dress, but this time it has to be on the cheap. So yesterday arvo I ventured out to the salvos in Red Hill. This is a massive op shop, with separate “boutique” section with a high end selection and a well organised and huge “normal” section. It seemed to be my lucky day, with a wonderful wedding dress at display in my size! However, its price tag of a 1000 dollars didn’t really fit my budget. So I had to rely on my ingenuity and went to work. Alas, the Australians are simply too short, so it was though going. After a good hour of  deliberations with tops and skirts, I wandered into the section with fabrics and saw this perfect off-white tablecloth with silk embroidery, complete with 8 serviettes. Finally something I could work with to create a full-length wedding dress that fits!

The plan was to make a “square skirt” from the table cloth, which is a simple as cutting a hole that fits over your hips and finish said hole with a (elastic) waistband. The serviettes would have to be assembled in a top in some fashion. After an evening of plotting and scheming I had the rough outline of a plan.

This morning Linecraft proved to have the perfect ribbons and other haberdashery to make this vision a reality, so I ended up spending more on this than on the fabric itself.

Next step: cut a big hole in the table cloth. No guts, no glories! After that first big step, the rest was rather smooth sailing and before afternoon tea I had transformed a table cloth in a proper dress. I’m not showing the whole dress for now, since it will be a few weeks before I get to wear it. Don’t want to spoil the surprise, that would be bad luck *grin*.

I’m actually quite pleased with the end result, having a bit of a twenties vibe about it. Now all that is left is to trash it a bit, but why that’s necessary is another story.

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Australia as you’d imagine it

When talking about our Australian adventure, non-Australian people tend to respond with some envy and tell us how they would love to live in Australia for a while and what a great country it is. I frequently get the sense that when this happens, two things are conveniently forgotten: #1 – Australia is mindbogglingly huge and, as a result, most of it is about as far away as any typical holiday destination in Europe would be. #2 – we’re not actually on an extended holiday here, so most of the time, Australia is just a strange country with a strange culture in which we work and have our daily lives; not the wonderful beach, diving, outback and jungle experience that the word ‘Australia’ evokes in people’s minds.

However, recently we treated ourselves to a bit of exactly that and chose to ignore the distance for a bit. We headed out to the west coast, through Perth and up to Exmouth for a diving and snorkeling trip that turned out so much better than we’d hoped for. And hopes were high, because we weren’t going out there alone. My sister Trudy and her husband Eric were along for the ride – for them, this was the final leg of a long trip that took them up the east coast, including the Great Barrier Reef and this was to be the grand finale.

The Ningaloo Reef is an amazing place. Remote, relatively untouched and fairly close to the West Australia coast. Exmouth is a town of 2,200 people, although at the height of the tourist season, its population will swell to about 6,000. With a few 100 more in Coral Bay, that’s pretty much all the people in an area 200 km long and 50 km wide, with most of the reef just off its coast. Just the flight in offers views of a land that really resonates with that National Geographic stereotype of Australia we’re familiar with.

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We went diving and snorkeling on the Muiron Islands to the north of Exmouth, as well as on the Oyster Stacks to the west and in the Coral Bay, but the absolute highlight of the trip must have been our experience with the humpback whales. This is one of the very few places in the world where you can actually swim with them, something the local diving outfits are trialing for the very first time in West Australia – and we were lucky enough to be on board for a trip that had even the crew jumping for joy at the end of the day. Whales swimming underneath us, next to us and rising to the surface to greet our boat, almost inviting us to swim – we had several opportunities to literally look these wonderful creatures right in the eyes.

After all that, Trudy and Eric left and would soon after return to Europe. Between them and Simone’s parents earlier this year, that was likely the end of family and friends visiting from Europe as well – we’re out here by ourselves and just Australian friends and colleagues for some time now.

Simone and myself weren’t quite done enjoying Ningaloo though – Sail Ningaloo took us on the Shore Thing, a catamaran with a crew of two and up to eight guests. Us and four other guests were taken out onto the Indian Ocean, to parts of the reef that are too far for the day-tripping diving outfits to visit. A diving trip straight out of your dreams, 5 days and nights of every need being taken care of and just great diving on untouched sites with lots of life and variety.

Most days, Australia is just a country, where you need to work, shop for groceries and take care of everyday jobs. But every now and then, we find the time to be reminded why Australia is high on the list of countries people would like to visit. And it can really deliver, if you accept its tremendous size…

16 years togetherness

Selfie time for this old couple in West End.

Last week we renewed the lease on our West End unit and tonight we celebrated the 16th anniversary our first kiss in some of the local establishments. Seems like we’re here to stay a while longer 😉

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