Chinese New Year of the Goat

Last Friday, I invited some of my friends and family over to celebrate the lunar new year, which was actually the previous day. This was an interesting week for me trying to balance various cultural holidays, not to mention TC Marcia attempting to dampen our spirits.

Pancake day photos from earlier in the week

Pancake day photos from earlier in the week

After aSHgROVE Tuesday, hosted by Emily and Aidan, I wasn’t sure that I would have the stomach stamina to handle new year as well, but I persevered, as you do. Dion and I prepared a delicious menu, featuring many of our Grandma’s favourite dishes and I set the table with our guests’ Chinese names and horoscopes, and got the Chinese Opera iTunes Radio channel cranking.  There was much eating, drinking, wrapping, frying, toe-nail painting, fortune telling, Kung-Fu Panda watching, cheater’s chop sticks mastering, li see opening and general merriment.  You can see all of this in the photos below…

Bring on the Year of the Goat!

P.S. This post is monumental in that it means that my blog is up to date for the first time since June 2014.  Now if that’s not a great start to the new lunar year, I don’t know what is!

P.P.S Due to the success of my culinary efforts on this occasion, Grandma has promoted me from Assistant Kitchen Maid to Head Chef, although i still have a way to go before I reach Iron Chef level…

Future Beauty and Undressed (Again)

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Australia Day Pedicure

On the Saturday of the Australia Day long weekend, sporting my self-painted Australian flag pedicure, I took myself out for a fashion-themed treat which wasn’t shopping, for a change, purchasing a combined ticket to Future Beauty: 30 years of Japanese Fashion at GOMA and Undressed: 350 years of Underwear in Fashion at the Queensland Museum.

I must admit, I was looking forward to Undressed a little more than Future Beauty because I had actually tried to see it before.  But for some reason, I was drawn towards GOMA first so Future Beauty was my first stop.

I arrived at about quarter to eleven, quite unintentionally, which was perfect for the guided tour that began at 11am.

Our guide’s name was Shirley and she reminded me a little bit of a pixie crossed with a modern Miss Marple – dainty, small and sharp with cheekiness in her croaky whimsical voice.  She toured us through the semi-translucent curtains making small talk to the two asian fashionistas and accompanying fashionisto at the very front of the group, who were very clearly into the Japanese fashion scene, based on their outfits – tropical razorback singlet and black bike pants covered by a net vest and sheer black skirt – and that was the guy!

Photography was forbidden in the exhibition so the pictures you’re seeing are either stolen from the internet of are from postcards I bought in the gift shop.

The first room was called “In Praise of Shadows” and was based on a 1933 essay about Japanese aesthetics, with pieces that were black and white but that were also textured so that shadows and negative space where featured.  The concept of “ma” relates to the energy created by the space between the garment and the wearer (occupier?).

The first three garments were quite modern, around 2009, and Shirley told us how cutting edge they were at the time.  There was a black sleeping bag dress held together by Mr T-style gold chains, a hoodie dress made from newspaper negative fish scales and a lovely basic black coat which I would have happily worn if not for the flecks of glitter.

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Sleeping bag dress

Newspaper scale hoodie

Newspaper scale hoodie

Basic black coat that I would actually wear

Basic black coat that I would actually wear

Further down the space, which was set out like a catwalk, was a grand shoulder-less ball gown, all in black, except for some cheeky tan spots which peeked out through a slit in the front.  Apparently this was to facilitate the “four-in-one” functionality of the dress, which allowed for panels to be removed to achieve four different looks.

Four in one ball gown

Four in one ball gown

At the next catwalk, we had pieces for the 1983/4 season.  There was a black jumper which was made of hand knitted fabric, which was then woven like a basket and a whole dress that was made in a similar style, with a finer knit to begin with.

The next two pieces where particularly avant garde at the time, being described as a fashion “holocaust” by some fashion commentators.  There were two white pieces that were very tattered, featuring intended holes and rough edges.

After a translucent divider, there was a tamer version of the same idea, where the holes in the white garment where all exactly square and placed in geometric patterns.  The shadow given by this piece really was as interesting as looking at the piece itself.

These were followed by three black numbers, with slightly different shades of black – a rectangular skirt with pleats that protruded at the top as well as the bottom, a piece with a low neckline with a lot of ma where a baby bump would be and an off the shoulder trench coat with massive pockets, another piece I’d actually want to own if my budget allowed.

The last one of the shadow room was, I believe, intended to be the wedding dress finale of the “collection”.  It was made of mother of pearl silk twisted into vines and roses.

"Wedding" dress

“Wedding” dress

Shirley led us to the next section of the exhibition which was to do with “flatness” (of garments, not models).  There were two darling, behive-shaped coats, with ma “out to here”, one blue and one red.  I was quite partial to the blue one, although I would be at risk of being mistaken for Violet Beauregard (from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).

Coat with much 'ma'

Coat with much ‘ma’

There were a number of pieces that were more artworks than functional garments – a black jersey wrap dress that wrapped in many directions, including between the legs; 20 sheets of beige binding wrapped around a mannequin which looked a  like a wad of paper towel from a public toilet;  a very comfy grey patterned moo-moo with an extra arm hole around the right knee; a beige wool coat without darting that folded into squares when flat; a black princess sleeved dress with tales and a turtleneck neck that covers your nose; and a red dress with a cutout at the right hip to allow it to fold flat.  My engineering brain went into over drive comparing the dresses on the mannequins to the photos of the pieces folded completely flat displayed behind them.  Shirley explained that most European fashion is about making two dimensional fabric into three dimensional shapes, but that these designers were happy to maintain the two dimensionality.

Jersey wrap dress

Jersey wrap dress

Paper towel wad dress, too-high turtleneck

Paper towel wad dress and too-high turtleneck

The next piece was one of a series of 21 garments which folded into atlas-sized books, with beautiful library-worthy spines.  These pieces were very unusual when unfolded and reminded me of the fold-out lanterns and party decorations of my childhood.

Party decoration dress

Party decoration dress

Not surprisingly, Japanese fashion is often inspired by the kimono and the next pieces we saw certainly where, except they appeared to be made from plastic and as a consequence, were very revealing.  Shirley suggested wearing a body stocking under them.

Translucent kimono

Translucent kimono

The next room was all about the intersection between innovation and tradition.  These was a dress that looked like a human-sized loofa; dresses with padding inserted to obscure the shape of the body, which had the appearance of grotesque tumours; an amazing jacket which was grey felt at the top but transformed into knitted cable patterns at the bottom; a red flapper dress made of translucent skulls; a glow in the dark coat that looked like it was out of mine craft; a beautiful gown that was black at the top with a red and gold oriental pattern at the bottom; a rhinestone body suit worn by Lady Gaga featuring Geisha training shoes (Geisha were trained using platform shoes containing bells so that they knew they were walking too boldly if the bells rang); waterproof dresses that looked like glass shards; and a dress made from a shredded magazine.

Human loofah

Human loofah

Felt/cable knitted jacket

Felt/cable knitted jacket

Red skull flapper

Red skull flapper

Black topped, traditional bottomed gown

Black topped, traditional bottomed gown

Lady Gaga's rhinestone bodysuit with geisha training shoes

Lady Gaga’s rhinestone bodysuit with geisha training shoes

Shredded magazine dress

Shredded magazine dress

The “Cool Tokyo” section was where “the young people hang out” according to Shirley.  There were some very interesting combinations of items, such as an astroboy singlet dress and a motorcycle helmet, but there were two pieces which I loved – a red and black lolita outfit and a cape with anime cupids.

Red and black lolita

Red and black lolita

Anime cupid cape

Anime cupid cape

The next room focused more on the fabric than the shape of the garment.  There were some gorgeous “hipster” style prints of balloons, bicycles and toddler’s silhouettes.  My favourites in this room where a shoulder less tea dress made of fabric that sat in cone shapes; a pink lolita dress which incorporated an actual large teddy bear; and a tartan piece which was accessorised with a tartan elephant handbag.

Cone tea dress

Cone tea dress

Tartan elephant outfit

Tartan elephant outfit

There were also some amazing dresses which were designed to fold back down into completely flat Y or hexagon shapes.

Folding dresses

Folding dresses

Shirley ended the tour there and began to ask the fashionistas which pieces they would actually wear.

It was about midday so I stopped for a quick snack which I had packed and then headed to the Queensland Museum for the second part of my fashion experience, Undressed.

The only corsets I was allowed to photograph

The only corsets I was allowed to photograph because they were outside the official exhibition

I’m not going to describe everything I saw because I think I would have seen about 30 corsets which I couldn’t distinguish from each other but here were some of the highlights.

Countless corsets

Countless corsets

I had assumed that corsets would have become less restrictive and consequently less detrimental to one’s health as time progressed.  This was not the case for Edwardian S-bend corsets, which were in fact much worse for posture than their Victorian predecessors because they thrust out the bust and pushed the hips backwards.  Edwardians valued women who looked like they were rich enough to be well fed and the word “mono-bussom” was used to describe one of the desirable features of the “it girl” of the time.  According to this information, I think that Mrs Hughes and Mrs Patmore would have had the most fashionable figures of the Downton Abbey ladies for the Edwardian season.  Ladies Mary, Edith and Sybil would have been considered far too skinny with too much distinction between their breasts and their hips too far forward.

I saw a scarlet flannel petticoat which was recommended as a solution to many of the health issues plagued by British women.  Flannel makes sense.  It’s warm and breathes.  But the health recommendation related to the colour of the flannel too.  Apparently the shade of red mattered a great deal…  Perhaps it made the women go faster so they spent less time outside or got more exercise?

The collection displayed a Liberty Bodice which was a type of corset advertised for war work.  It looked pretty sturdy and featured industrial strength suspenders.   I can’t imagine having to go through the horrors of treating men who’d been gassed or had limbs severed, fighting off infections, flies and dysentery in a make shift camp, only to have one’s stockings slip.  What a nightmare!

One of the oldest bras in any museum collection was actually in pretty good condition.  It was a little cotton thing that looked a little bit like a cropped v-neck shirt with a button at the front, darting in the appropriate places and a tie from the back to the front that met under the bust line.

The oldest bra in the collection is the garment closest to the front corner of the glass cabinet

The oldest bra in the collection is the garment closest to the front corner of the glass cabinet

One of the corsets that sticks out in my memory was one that looked like it was made of ribbons which was recommended for being worn while playing golf.

My favourite piece was a bed jacket that was made of emerald green brocade and was almost shaped to accommodate a bustle.  I would definitely be happy to stay home all the time if I was allowed to wear one of those throughout my palatial estate.

Brocade bed jacket

Brocade bed jacket

I also saw actual underpants worn by Queen Victoria.  They were technically crotchless because closed drawers were considered unhygienic at the time.  We were quite amused.

Another fun(bag) fact… most bullet bras of the 40s contained plastic, foam or even inflatable inserts to achieve the very pointed look that was in fashion.

I was also quite intrigued by the Little X girdle – a feat in materials engineering.  And also, it came in blue!

Little X Girdle

Little X Girdle

There was also a set of medical metal stays, which were used to treat spine problems, many caused by fastening one’s ordinary stays too tightly.

Very close to the end, a corset dress worn by Emma Watson to a Harry Potter premier was on display.

Emma Watson

Emma Watson

I watched a looped documentary about many of the pieces in the exhibition.  One of the interesting points made by the underwear expert (Corsetologist?) was that throughout history the (perceived) perfect body shape can be traced by underwear artefacts found but that now, underwear is not really designed to enforce a body shape and women are just expected to be a particular shape, controlling their bodies by diet, exercise and surgery.

Have we really been emancipated by having our corset laces cut or have we just swapped one torture device for another?

The question?

The question…

Äta med Taren

My friend, Taren, and I share many similarities:

  • An electrical engineering-based degree from JCU
  • A similar attitude to risk mitigation
  • A need for polarised sunglasses
  • A love of Downton Abbey
  • A love of Tea Centre loose leaf teas
  • A love of her cat, Toby
  • A weakness for shops in Queens Plaza
  • An understanding of French parenting techniques
  • And a passion for fine food, particularly scones

But one thing that we no longer share is having an address in Brisbane, or even Australia, because Taren has just flown the Aussie nest and settled in Sweden with her fiancé, Marcus.

In the months preceding Taren’s departure, we stepped up the decadence level of our outings, keeping in mind that every where we went, it would probably be for the last time, as least for many, many years.

The Former Portal Hotel

One October Thursday evening, following an event that Taren attended at Engineers Australia, Taren treated me to dinner at the O Bar at the former Portal Hotel. I may have started ordering wine while Taren was still getting her CPD on…

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I really love the atmosphere in the bar, especially the “freak show” style drinks posters and the exposed, dungeonesque walls.

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There was an odd symmetry between by entrée and my dessert (scallops on a round filo pastry circle and then spicy apple and cream on a round filo pastry circle) but all in all, a great meal.

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Jeremy’s

One November Friday evening, in order to celebrate Taren’s engagement, I decided to take her out for dinner. Unconventional, I know, but our friendship is based on both being women on an unconventional career journey for a women so I’m sure it’s fine.

I got my hair done for the occasion, but also because my hair had been overdue.

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I don’t mean to make light of what is actually quite a serious situation to me, but I hadn’t had my hair cut in that long that my usual hairdresser had been diagnosed with cancer and had completed 8 of her 10 sessions of chemo before I rang again for an appointment. Terrible hairdressing client and terrible human being… The other girls at the salon say that she’s on the mend so I hope she will make a full recovery, despite having to re-grow her beautiful long hair.

Jeremy’s had undergone a bit of a make under, adding some beer taps and allowing the waiters to wear jeans. I’m not sure it was a move in the best direction, I was happy with Jeremy’s as it was, but perhaps some change is okay, sometimes.

Again, I was guilty of starting the celebrations while waiting for Taren to arrive…

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We had our usual entrée of scallops and I had my favourite pork belly for the main course. Mmmmmm!

Congratulations Taren and Marcus!

High Tea at Bacchus

One November Sunday afternoon, we booked a table at the Bacchus Lounge for high tea, because we just don’t get enough opportunities for high tea these days. It was a bit of a strange vibe in the outside area of the Bacchus Lounge, sort of Races at the Beach, with pumping music, skimpy dresses and towering heels. We were seated inside, where there was a completely different ambience, wet-look copper panels, wooden furniture and brown organza curtains.

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We selected a Parisienne tea, not au lait, and began munching on our delicacies – croissants, finger sandwiches, scones, cakes and macaroons.  A perfect afternoon!

Buzz Breakfast

One January Saturday morning, Taren, Marcus and I went to Buzz at Gasworks for breakfast. Buzz generally has really prompt service and is one of the only places that will still serve me savoury mince for breakfast, now that it’s not as in vogue as it was two years ago. After saying goodbye to Marcus and Toby, Taren and I continued our day of leisure by shopping til the afternoon.  See me, below, trying on clothes in Review.

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Royal on the Park

One January Friday evening, Taren and I really outdid ourselves on the bourgeois meter. After work, we indulged ourselves with treatments at the nail bar, did a spot of shopping and then headed towards one of our favourite restaurants, The Walnut Restaurant at the Royal on the Park.

In our state of dizzy exuberance (or perhaps it was the exposure to nail varnish), we decided to order the seafood tower.

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We made a pretty good effort in dismantling said tower. There were only a few oysters and some smoked salmon left at the end. But we didn’t’ stop there, ordering crepe suzette for dessert which was flambéed at the table.

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We washed down our night of decadence with some nice sturdy earl grey tea and waddled out of the restaurant to catch a cab and fall into bed.

Bye Bye Australia

One January Saturday evening, Taren and Marcus hosted a safari-themed farewell party at their apartment building.

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It was the last time I would see Toby so I made sure to get lots of cuddles in, whether he wanted them or not.

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It was lovely to see some of Taren’s old uni friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen for 6 or 7 years. Taren also put on a great spread, particularly the sauerkraut and corned beef BBQed sandwiches. Definitely, a culinary highlight!

Last Night in Oz

On the last February Tuesday evening, Taren and Marcus dropped their bags at my house and we headed out to James Squire for a last supper. I managed to order most of a pig for dinner, which was amazing.

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Taren had managed to soften the blow of her leaving by selling me her iRobot for a pittance, but I was still very sorry to see her leave, the soft of feeling you have when you graduate… I’m so happy that we’re each starting a new chapter – Taren as a Swede, me as a Roomba owner, but sad that the time we shared in the way that we used to share it is over, for now.

Our first time in Brisbane together in 2008

Our first time in Brisbane together in 2008

Our last time in Brisbane together in 2015

Our last time in Brisbane together in 2015

All the best on your Scandinavian sea/snow change, Tazza!

P.S. Taren and I have managed to continue our decadence by having a virtual tea date over Facebook

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P.P.S  I have personalised Roomba, that is, made him more like a person…

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Christmas Spirit of Queensland

T’was the weekend before the weekend before Christmas, which is where I’m considering is the beginning of my Christmas season. We kicked off with a lovely Brisbane “family” BBQ at Mel and Hugo’s.  The highlight for Sophia was definitely the acquisition of bon-bon hats.

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I trudged through the last four days at work, preparing packages of Grandma’s fruit cake for my colleagues and then attending my adopted team’s break up at Malt an amazing whiskey/whisky bar with the only unisex toilets outside of Ally McBeal.

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We had my “home” team’s break up at the Gatsby Lounge at Black Birds.  I’m not going to say much about the event except to show you how I started the evening and how I ended it.

Before

Before

After

After

Not surprisingly, I was desperately in need of coffee and a decent breakfast on Friday morning.  Luckily, I had officially begun my annual leave so Davey could treat me to breakfast at Tutto Caffe in Ashgrove, where they serve bowls of coffee and amazing savoury mince.

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We did a little Christmas shopping and I got a massage to ease into the holidays. On Saturday morning, I stopped by Taren and Marcus’s to have some of Taren’s wonderful scones and give Toby his Christmas present, a drawing of himself with “Home is where your cat is” written in Swedish.  Here he is admiring himself. IMG_9708

I was unreasonably excited for the journey to Townsville because this year, thanks to an archaic employee entitlement, we got discounted tickets on the Spirit of Queensland Tilt Train to Townsville!  We waited patiently at the station for the train to arrive.

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Then, we settled in to the spacious, space-age compartment in “Rail Bed” Class.

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I really couldn’t get over the space!  Our steward was quite a flamboyant chap named Stephen.  He reminded me of a slightly less suave, slightly more pudgy M. Gustave, flirting with all the elderly widows and providing excellent customer service in general.  Stephen informed us that this was only the first week that this train had run, which is why it was so brand spanking new and swish. Stephen served us a welcome drink and, after watching the true story of a mortician turned murderer starring Jack Black and yet another Drew Barrymore Adam Sandler rom com, an amazing dinner of chicken salad, rib eye and mashed potato, and a cheese platter.

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A couple of movies later and a brief stop in Bundaberg and it was time for bed.  The hostesses came around with their remote controls and transformed the seats into beds, complete with fluffy new linen.

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I thought I would find it difficult to sleep while in motion, but it was actually quite cosy in our little pods.  The worst thing was the lady in the seat beside us who whispered in her sleep like some sort of Ring Wraith… We woke early in the morning for a shower, which required more core strength than usual to keep upright and a coffee in the common dining car.  It became evident the different in experience between our class and the unfortunate travellers in economy.  Davey and I were pretty up beat while the other travellers in the dining car snapped at each other about current affairs while holding their sleepy heads in their hands.

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We headed back to the front of the train where our delicious hot breakfast was being served. IMG_9730

Very soon we arrived in Townsville where Davey’s parents were waiting for us.  What a great way to travel, if you have the time!  It did take 17 hours… In the afternoon, we braved the crowds at Stockland to shop a little and Davey won me a purple cloud with arms from a skills tester.  Not being familiar with the Adventure Time series, we have named him Durple the Purple.

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In the evening, Marge treated us to some delicious, comforting curry – an excellent welcome home meal!

Attempting to make the most of my holiday, I awoke insanely early on Monday morning to go on a walk around the river before it got too hot.  I had forgotten what a beautiful area I grew up in. IMG_9739 IMG_9742

I followed my walk with a swim and some Blood Orange tea, a perfectly chosen Christmas present from Taren.  (Those things were not enjoyed simultaneously due to the no glass in the pool rule.)

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Grandma and I went for an excursion to K Mart to pick up some Christmas supplies.  Unfortunately, on the way, I managed to back Dad’s car into a parked car.  Luckily, the parked car was abandoned according to the lovely lady in the house it was parked in front of and that Dad’s old car had a matching dent in the other side so I just succeeded in evening it up…

Davey and I met Kimmi and Damo for lunch at the Vale Hotel, which I hadn’t visited since the current dining area was the location of the bottle shop many years before.  We were hoping to hear the announcement of Kimmi’s baby’s gender but we were informed we’d have to wait til the afternoon. We killed time by attempting to try out scuba diving but being informed that they were too busy unless we wanted to travel hours and hours on a boat to do it. Soon it was time to return to the Cawoods’ for the reveal.  Kimmi and Damo presented the future grandparents with a wrapped gift, which turned out to be a Buzz Lightyear fishing rod – it was a boy!  I stayed for a few more drinks and then returned home to have a dinner of macadamia stuffed chicken with my parents.

The morning of Christmas Eve Eve, I had actually attempted to go for another early morning run but I was having a little Townsville-induced hayfever, so Mum and I decided to just have an indulgent breakfast instead.

While we were dining, a beautiful bouquet of flowers arrived from one of Mum’s colleagues, complete with a new little friend “to add to the parliament”, as the card instructed.  (For more owl-related details of this holiday season, see my mother’s blog.)

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Davey and Grandma joined us for a lunch of gluten free smoked salmon sandwiches and Davey slept off his lunch while Grandma and I had an intensive cooking masterclass.

Grandma walked me through the preparation of dim sims, which are made more complicated by not actually having a written recipe, and we also managed to slot in some chocolate and ginger balls during particular “downtime” steps in the dim sim procedure.

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My favourite parts of dim sim making are the times where you have to test the mixture, and test the finished product.

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After all the dim sim sampling, Davey and I went for a walk along the river.  It turns out that there is a new hot spot for turtles other than “Turtle Bridge”.  Along the path between Marabou Drive and Aplin’s weir, running alongside Riverpark Drive, there is an area of the bank that was blocked by the residents after council in-action.  This is where any turtle who’s worth his shell mould hangs out for hand outs from joggers.

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Christmas Eve finally arrived, and we spent the morning at Castletown getting some last minute provisions and having roast for breakfast.  We also saw some nipple balls – a definite omen of a good Christmas, I think.

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My hayfever was getting a bit much for me so I slept most of the afternoon and then finished off re-wrapping the presents after the terrible job the charity wrapper did at the shops using some of Mum’s hand-stamped owl tags.

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Davey and I were both exhausted from the day and didn’t even make it past the airport scene of Love Actually.

Christmas was quite a bit more exciting than usual given that we were expecting more than twenty assorted Bailliewoods for lunch.  (I have coined the portmanteau Balliewood to describe Baillie and Cawood shared family members, concepts and/or occasions.)

After a traditional breakfast of rum balls and mince pies, we had a little present unwrapping and then got down to the business of decorating the house.  Damo was good enough to do all the hard work to spare me from the horror of having to touch glitter.

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John and Damo prepared a roast each in their webberques, beef and lamb as I recall, while Marge cooked a third turkey roast in the oven.  Accompanying the triple roast threat were crispy baked potatoes, creamy potato bake, honey and butter carrots, crunchy garlic beans, roast pumpkin, beetroot and pistachio salad, tangy Asian noodle salad, home made coleslaw prepared by yours truly, Marge’s famous damper dripping with butter, dim sims (also my contribution), bruchetta and all the usual roast trimmings of gravy, sauces, mustard, dressings and chutneys.

This description is starting to remind me of the way JK Rowling describes the Hogwarts Christmas feast – but it was just as magical, and didn’t even involve the unfair treatment of house elves.

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I applied my grandmother’s usual strategy of “just have a little bit of everything”.  But this lead me to a piled plate, bowing in the middle (it was a plastic plate) and the disbelieving comment from Damo’s brother (who is unfamiliar with the parity between my eyes and my stomach), “You’ll never eat all that!”  Challenge accepted… and completed!

Lunch was amazing, obviously, but I still managed to squeeze in a sampling of Granny’s pineapple pudding, Emma’s trifle, some pavlova and a creation of Davey’s involving three packets of caramel crowns and a pint of cream.

The remainder of the day was spent swimming, grazing on chocolate and ginger balls, drinking, gossiping, reading the rules of Minecraft with Liam, avoiding two of the Miss Baillies who had been given glittered Elsa costumes for Christmas and napping.  The Bailliewoods certainly know how to do Christmas!

On Boxing Day, we recovered from our gastronomical exertions the day before.  I went for a swim to try out my new strapless heart rate monitor and then began the preparation for the Third Day of Christmas, the day my parents were hosing their celebration.

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I continued on my gadget-induced enthusiasm by starting the following day with a run, anticipating the amount of food I would consume that day.

I was gladly put in charge of the kitchen on the Third Day of Christmas.  Dad even let me borrow his souvenir apron from Diamond Lil’s Floating Pleasure Place…

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I didn’t have my usual project scheduling software available but I made do with a note pad to ensure piping hot food on the table at 1pm.

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The schedule did allow for the opening of presents and a break for cheese, but then it was back to the grind stone to sort out the ham, using Aoife’s brilliant pineapple macadamia glaze.

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Dad prepared the wine, Mr Carson-style.

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I was pretty excited by the food, if I do say so myself.  There was a crispy pork roast with crackling, glazed macadamia and pineapple ham (mentioned previously), baked potatoes, onions, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, honey carrots, cauliflower with dill sauce, bread rolls, gravy, apple sauce and good ole fashioned frozen peas.  I’m having “meal nostalgia” just thinking about it now!

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We recovered from lunch by watching the Doctor Who Christmas Special and then finished off the day with a little pudding.

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Sunday was another lazy day.  Dad and I tried to re-watch The Hobbit: An Unexpected Jouney but Dad kept “watching with his eyes closed” (and snoring).  In the afternoon, we used our Christmas present from Naomi and Paul to go to bowling with Kimmi and Damo.  This was the first time I had ever bowled without bumpers and I was terrible.  I started off with no pins and ended up averaging 1 or 2 pins per round.  Luckily there were delicious Bailey’s cocktails to soothe my disappointment/embarrassment.  We also had a round in the arcade where Kimmi and I kicked butt at Dance, Dance Revolution, horse racing and the killing spiders in a jeep game.

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In the evening, we had a BBQ with the Cawoods and Davey showed us how to play the dice game, Greed, at which Marge was particularly successful.

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On Monday, I woke up to Mum’s sudden burst of kitchen creativity where she had created us cut out scrambled egg sandwiches for breakfast – hers in the shape of owls and mine in the shape of trains!  Delicious!

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I spent most of Monday preparing some artwork for John’s 60th birthday – a drawing of Cawood Castle in Yorkshire and a matching drawing of the Cawood home in Townsville.

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But, I did have time to enjoy a break of French Earl Grey tea and a read of my Everything I Know About Christmas I Learnt from a Little Golden Book book, both gifts from my aunt and uncle.

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I had really been craving a hearty, hobbit-ish stew since watching The Hobbit the day before, and it seems that Kimmi had read my mind.  We went over to her’s for dinner and were served a really filling, meaty stew with some incredible mashed potatoes and crusty bread.  Hobbit heaven!

On Tuesday afternoon, Kimmi and I were treated to massages in a funny little place in the city run by an ex-cane farmer.  This was Kimmi’s Christmas present from us.  Here is an artist’s impression in the form of an IOU.

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In the evening, my parents cooked up a stuffed turkey roll which had missed the Christmas line-up and was languishing, unappreciated in the freezer.  Lucky, Davey and I were there to help with eating the “leftovers”.

On Wednesday, we drove to Ayr to visit my paternal grandparents for morning tea.  Here’s Grandad being overwhelmed by the spread!  (My favourite was the cheese cake.)

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It also appeared as though I missed the memo to wear blue.

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Wednesday also happened to be New Years’ Eve, and so, John’s 60th.  If you thought that I described a lot of food for the Christmases, that was nothing compared to the NYE spread!

There were 5 spit roasts which Davey managed throughout the afternoon while we watched The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

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The party kicked off in the early evening and we took some photos to mark the occasion.

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Marge and Kimmi had had a special cake made incorporating a base of sticky date pudding, a white chocolate covering and a bottle of Penfolds – all of John’s favourite things.

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Dinner was pretty amazing again featuring turkey, two lamb, pork and beef roasts with roast veggies and countless salads.

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But the cake really was impressive both in appearance and taste!

Davey and I didn’t actually manage to make it to midnight (again) but Kimmi and Blu woke us up to ring in the New Year.  Blu’s celebratory action of choice was to delicately chew at the mattress edge.  So long, 2014!

We began 2015 with heavy heads and still-full stomachs.  Later in the afternoon, Mum and I went to the new cinema to see The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.  I dressed for the occasion with my Legolas-inspired braid.

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I think the cinema was very very new because the staff seemed confused and the session times screen was still on the floor.  Nonetheless, the screen was in focus, the popcorn edible and the other patrons quiet, which makes it better than the Mount Isa cinema (which I boycotted between 2009 and 2010 in protest).  I had forgotten, or was in denial, about the ending of The Hobbit so it was a bit of a teary experience.  I fear that I might re-watch this trilogy the way I watch Moulin Rouge or Season 3 of Downton, that is, stopping the disc before the demise of the favoured character and convincing myself that this point was actually the end of the story.  I will always mourn the lost life that Tauriel and Kili could have shared, and their little dwelf babies that were never born.

Grandma joined us for dinner.  Here is proof of Grandma and I being related, both performing our classic trick of blinking while being photographed in the first picture.

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We were intending to have fish and chips but they were closed so we ended up with KFC, one of the very few places open, as my last dinner in Townsville.

We were scheduled to leave on the southbound train on Friday afternoon.  In the morning, we packed up all of our presents and possessions, taking an additional suitcase due to a surplus of swag.

The train was running a little bit late and we sat in the dry heat against Davey and John’s insistence that we go to the pub instead of waiting.

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We boarded eventually and were assigned similar seats in the same carriage. 

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We had a dinner of roast lamb with a stemless glass of red wine followed by a cheese platter. 

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I watched Jersey Boys, the concept of which I had previously protested against thinking that if you weren’t going to see it live, why not just listen to old Four Seasons records?  It did actually turn out to be a good film and an excellent catalyst for falling asleep in my space-aged pod.

It was quite a humid morning when we arrived in Brisbane, following our lovely cooked breakfast, of course.

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We dragged bags to a taxi and very soon we were home, ready to unpack and spend some time taking stock of all our Christmas goodies.

Some presents that were waiting for me at home included yoga pants (a pair each from Grandma, Dad and Davey) and a willow ware dinner set (from Gran and Grandad).  It was like Christmas all over again!

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It really was lovely to visit Townsville to see the Bailliewoods, Griggses and Chock Mans but at a rate of 1 roast a day (13 days, 13 roasts) my waistline just can’t sustain more than periodic visits to the ‘Ville.

Merry Belated Christmas to all my Lords and Ladies! downton all

Undressed: Up Late

For Davey’s 29th birthday, I bought him tickets to an event which would combine my love of Victorian fashion, Davey’s appreciation of scantily-clad women and our mutual enthusiasm for cocktails and canapés.  Undressed: Up Late was an 18+ event centred around an exhibition at the Queensland Museum showcasing 350 years of underwear in fashion, on loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

I was glad I’d pre-purchased the tickets, because the event was sold out before the night!  We stopped in for a few drinks at the QPAC lawn beforehand.  Unfortunately, for Davey, there was live jazz.  Davey questioned why they were taking so long tuning up…

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Closer to the kick-off time we crossed the overpass to the museum and it became apparent that I had completely mis-read the target demographic.  I really had thought that the promise of drinks and burlesque dancers would have attracted a particular type of male, who I have always found like both of those things in abundance.  But not so, we were surrounded by hundreds ladies, each with a brood of besties, chattering with excitement about their girls’ night out.  As someone in a male-dominated field, I can’t remember the last time I’ve been in close proximity to so many pairs of ovaries at once!  Davey seemed unphased by the gender imbalance, possibly due to the fact that some of the attendees had decided to come dressed (undressed?) in intimate apparel.

We acquired some beverages and studied an interesting exhibition of exhibitionism – a model who sat in her underwear and ate an apple, then listened to a talk and demonstration about corsettry.  But, I think we could both agree that the highlight of the evening was the dancers.  A brunette and a red-head entertained us with their individual acts.  There were feathers, stockings, negligees, red lips and perfect victory rolls set beautifully to vintage recordings.   The birthday boy was even lucky enough to get a photo with the performers.

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We had some dumplings, sliders and more cocktails while waiting to get in to the actual exhibition.  We were turned away by security three times due to over crowding so we decided to call it a night.

Happy Birthday, Davey!

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G20 is as good as a holiday…

One of the most important political events in the world was unfolding under my balcony, so naturally, I took the opportunity to escape.  There is no selfie with a foreign dignitary in the world that would compensate being covered in protester’s projectile of choice (eggs, rocks, molotov cocktail?), being strip searched by the police or, most sobering, being a victim of the T word.

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My office was closed for the whole working week so I popped down to Newcastle on the proceeding Saturday.  The flight was uneventful, unlike the daytrip I took earlier in the week, on Thursday, to attend a meeting at Hexham where, on our return to Brisbane, we were delayed 45 minutes, instructed to fly away from Brisbane airspace, landed in a thunderstorm and then waited for 50 minutes on the tarmac until the storm subsided and ground crew could receive us.  I usually try not to ponder a flight-related fatality, especially whilst in the air, but as lightning turned the dark clouds surrounding us into strobe lights, I couldn’t help but think how embarrassing it would be if I had spent my last hours on earth watching old episodes of Fawlty Towers.  What an anti-climax.  Luckily Em had a wonderful hot meal of mussels to fortify my nerves when I got home.
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But back to the trip at hand.  As mentioned, I arrived in Newcastle the Saturday before G20, leaving behind my very first capsicum to fend for itself against protestors, politicians and police.
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My first engineering task was to assist with some couch manipulation in order to move a chair from my Aunt and Uncle’s study to their living room.  It turned out that all of this struggle was to accommodate me in the family room, and I felt very welcomed.
Determined not to squander my time away in wanton (wonton?) laziness, I rallied my cousinesses to attend a Body Balance class at the gym.  Naomi arrived early with a surprise for us in her thermos.  I was secretly hoping for hot chocolate, but Naomi had very sensibly made us all a green smoothie to start the day.
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We all felt quite relaxed after the class and continued our relaxation with some lunch and light shopping.
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Lunch

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Light Shopping

I was to spend the week working in the Hexham project site office.  My colleague, Dominy, picked me up before the crack of dawn so it was very lucky that the office had a coffee machine.
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The site office was quite an old building, with a brick structure, covered on the inside with 60s style wood panels and with an art deco facade on the outside.  I sat the photocopy room – a small room which echoed every time someone walked up the stairs.  I felt a little like pre-Hogwarts Harry Potter.
However, I started to feel more like Hogwarts era Harry in terms of sharing one’s environment with something that isn’t entirely muggle… The longer I sat in my little office the more I felt that there was someone sitting behind me, looking over my shoulder.  And as I was quietly closing one of the doors between corridors, something from the other side pulled the knob out of my hand and slammed the door.  Creepy!  Though, what can one expect from a building with “Hex” in the name…
It is our tradition in Brisbane that we have dinner at a pub called The Grove on second-Wednesday nights to celebrate Aidan’s return home from his FIFO job.  Without intending to carry on a semblance of this tradition, my aunt and uncle invited me to their usual Wednesday night haunt, The Lemongrove, for dinner, a meat raffle and a members’ draw.
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My aunt won a ham and I tried out a gluten free apple cider so everyone was a winner!
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After sitting at the right people at this dinner, I was given the opportunity to ride in a coal train cab on Thursday.  I found it really interesting and pertinent to my vocation to see how my end users actually use the product of my labour.  The drivers I was with were also really friendly guys, happy to answer my questions at appropriate times on our journey.  I imagine that most of you don’t actually want to see 50 photos of NSW coloured light signals, or the numerous videos I took of aspect sequencing, so I’ll move on.
Thursday marked the last day of my working week due to the Friday G20 public holiday.  Although, working and living in a different location, going on exciting train adventures, and possibly experiencing paranormal office activity did make it less work-like than usual.
On Friday morning, my aunt, uncle and I went for a little shopping excursion and had some morning tea.
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I had intended to catch the train to Maitland to visit my cousin for lunch.  I bought my Opal card at Waratah station, tapped it on and boarded the train.
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It was all going well.  I watched the wetlands fly past the window while reading my crumpled copy of the Big Issue.  That was, until we got to Thornton and the train stopped for half and hour.  We were asked to de-train and then the train left, passengerless, stranding us in what appeared to me to be the molten core of nowhere.  It was so hot I thought I was going to melt – “Oh what a world!  What a world!” – into a slimy pile of paisley goo topped with my felt hat.  Luckily Kel came to save me.
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Felt Hat

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InstaWeather record of the temperature

We indulged in some Hogs Breath for lunch and picked up the boys from school.  Kel dropped me at the station I had intended to visit earlier in the day and I made it all the way back to Waratah.
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Maitland Station

Back in Newcastle, my uncle and I went on a little shopping excursion where I found a “thank you for putting up with me” present for my aunt – a disco rubber duck that flashed rainbow colours!
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In the evening, we took some photos before heading out for a night on the town.
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Naomi and Paul accompanied me to an art exhibition opening that I’d seen advertised on Facebook as the artists are folk music buddies of one of my friends.  I’d also purchased some of their jewellery before.  Upon arriving at the gallery, Naomi and Paul realised that they already knew one half of the Strutt Sisters because she is the mother of one of their daughter’s classmates.  So I attended “The Strutt Sister’s: Let the Chips Fall Where They May” as a friend of a friend, an existing customer and the second cousin of a son’s classmate.  Just call me Kevin Bacon!
I was already reasonably excited for my night out, but I was tipped over the tickled pink edge upon finding that the gallery doors were painted like a TARDIS!
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You can check out the exhibition here:
https://www.360cities.net/image/strutt-sisters-let-the-chips-fall-where-they-may-exhibition
My favourite was, not surprisingly, Lights Out, because it featured a steam train.
We also ended up with our photo on the internet!
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After dinner, Naomi and I attempted to go to a Japanese restaurant on Darby Street, but its listed address ended up being a carpark.  In the end, we caught a taxi to Honeysuckle and got a table at what appeared to be a very popular Japanese restaurant overlooking the harbour.
Aside from NSW liquor licensing preventing me from ordering a milk-based cocktail from the menu (which hadn’t been updated), we had a lovely evening of Japanese tapas.
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The waiter even complimented me on my Japanese pronunciation when ordering!  We finished off our multicultural meal experience with dessert at Movenpick.
Saturday started off as a lazy rainy day of lounging on the couch, followed by a treat of McDonald’s for lunch with 3/4 of the Trute family.  In the afternoon, we created a menagerie of Play Doh animals, where I did my best to avoid the glitter Play Doh while still appearing to be a “cool Aunt”.  (I don’t think this worked and I’m pretty sure Amy at 4 years old, is much cooler than I will ever be.)
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For dinner, I made Thai fish curry as a pay back for all the amazing food my aunt and uncle had fed me during the working week.
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On Sunday morning, the house was transformed into a feminine hygiene factory with a working bee of volunteers making products for Days for Girls.  (You can see an explanation of their great cause here.)  I took some photos to document the occasion and then got out of the way, catching the train to Maitland (and actually getting all the way there this time.)
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Kel and I had a disappointing and windswept walk around the Maitland markets (which had apparently taken a turn for the worst) and then stopped in at The Pourhouse, a boutique beer bar in downtown Maitland.  I tried out a testing platter of Willie Smith’s Organic Cider, Kooinda Valhalla Golden Ale and Doctor’s Orders Brewing Prescription 12 Belgian Black IPA all of which, I thoroughly enjoyed.
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I then washed it down with a burger and chips “chaser”.
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After lunch, we went for a little wander around the shops.  I was complimented on my brooch (which was an Empress Wu original) by the shop assistant in Bras ‘n Things and got into a conversation with her about fashion design.  She told me that her nephew often designed for Cate Blanchett.  I asked if he was the designer of “that dress” and indeed he was.  I was inspired by that design to create my first crocheted garment a few years earlier.
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What a strange coincidence…
I also bought a shirt at Cotton On Body which reads “COCO NUT”, which I thought was hilarious at the time.  Note to self: minimize shopping after going beer tasting.
I was also pretty excited about finding a train!
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I spent my last evening in Newcastle crocheting and watching a Cilla Black biopic.
Monday was a quiet day of retrieving all my possessions which had spread around my aunt and uncle’s house, and playing babushka doll shop with Amy (an excellent game, especially when Amy’s shop introduced a convenient online shopping and delivery arm!) until it was time to fly home.
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Despite this being a work-related trip, I had a wonderful and relaxing time with my family in Newcastle.  Perhaps I should bring a Simmons/Trute entourage on all my future site visits to make them just as enjoyable as this one!
P.S. I arrived home to find that my apartment building was still standing, undamaged, largely because it was too darn hot for protesters to be bothered doing anything more strenuous than a slow walk with placards.

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