If it has to be fruit cake...

Sunday, 25 June 2017


As a sufferer from Dried-Fructophobia I don't like fruit cake.  I don't like making it, I don't like decorating it, and I absolutely wouldn't eat it. 

However when Denny asked me to make a cake for Rob's birthday breakfast,  I thought that adding a heavy chocolate mud cake to the feast of yummy breakfast foods might be a bit much, so I suggested I make a cake-shaped-fruit-sculpture instead. 

I was confident in the concept, but the whole process was a bit nerve wracking -  I couldn't really practise it beforehand (due to winter fruit prices). I just had a vague idea in my mind (inspired by other creations on the internet) but I didn't know exactly how it would work, or even how long it would take to make. Until the day before I wasn't even sure I'd be able to buy the fruit I needed - although as it turned out everything was available including a whole watermelon.  In the middle of winter - amazing!

So after shopping for the fruit the kids helped me cut up half the fruit and we put togther a few test pieces the night before.


I wasn't sure how I was going to support the skewers but luckily I had enough bits and pieces of foam around the place, so I carved something that would fit into a cake tin..


Arranging the structure in a tin turned out to be quite clever as it stopped it dripping everywhere. 

On the morning of the party I got up at 6.30 and continued cutting fruit and making fruit skewers. My intention was to have two tiers of the skewers but it wasn't really working out, so I tried out a few other ideas and eventually settled on the watermelon middle tier and blueberry top tier which I think worked really well. The number 40 is carved out of watermelon skin.


The whole process was pretty messy and time consuming, but I just had time to finish it off before we had to leave.. 


The party itself was really good - Denny had done a lot of work with decorations and the rest of the food, and I think the cake was a success. Aside from being unusual, once it was cut people were able to help themselves to the fruit skewers and slices of watermelon. There wasn't much left by the end and the spare bits of fruit that I didn't use were served with the pancakes.   Perfect.


Nice Places

Thursday, 22 June 2017

This photo looks like it could be from one of my recent long adventure jog-hikes. But in fact it's Boronia Beach, just a 10 minute run from Kingston Beach. Nice huh!


Other Milestones

Thursday, 22 June 2017

In other news Jett can no longer say he's never been to Mona with the sigh of someone who has led a culturally barren life.  

We went on Sunday - it was pretty packed but good fun.



Thursday, 22 June 2017

Today was Jett's last ever primary school sports carnival.  I volunteered to help with the judging so I was there the whole day.

It was only as the final relays were happening that it dawned on me that it was the last time I'd be watching one of these! 


Jett swam really well and I'm really glad I got to be there. 


Launceston Sprint Orienteering Weekend

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

We've just had a super-fun weekend in Launceston.  Not one, not two, but 6 orienteering events in three days including 2 hilariously fun night events.  I love these shorter format events - they are generally held in parks or around school campuses and each race features lots (20-25) of controls, so your mind is kept absolutely immersed in this high speed challenge as you turn left or right, run up stairs, down ramps and around buildings and flowerbeds. It's great fun. 


And whilst I had a great time,  the best thing about the weekend was that Zali and Jett loved it also.  They made a few mistakes (like everyone else), but generally ran really well on their medium courses - 1.5-2.5k each.  (Jon and I ran the Long courses which were between 2.5-3.3k).  One of the night events was a score event - which means  you don't have to visit the controls in a particular order like normal orienteering, you score points by visiting as many as you can in a set amount of time. If you go over-time you are penalised some of your hard earned points!  Zali and Jett ran so well together through the dark of the Prospect Golf Course that they got a higher score than absolutely everyone else in their division, as well as everyone in my division, and half the people in Jon's  (we all had the same amount of time for this race so the results are comparable) - and that's even with Jett bumping into someone so hard at the start that he got a bleeding nose. With only 20 minutes running time there was no time to attend to it until after the race! They are also really getting to know the other orienteering kids so they are having a nice social time as they hang out before and after the events.   It makes me so happy that we can all enjoy orienteering together - I can't think of many other sports where the whole family, in fact in some case 3 or 4 generations of the same family could drive to the same venue and all compete at the same time.  Orienteering is such a great sport.  

Before and After #41 - Offcut Pathway

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Our neighbour has recently replaced the retaining wall behind his house and as a result he had a lot of pine sleeper offcuts.  He was piling these up right next to where I was pulling out ivy a few weeks ago so I noticed he had quite a supply of both long and short lengths of timber.

Some weeks earlier I'd been thinking about how to make the path on the side of our house a bit nicer - it's just a gravel space next to the external wall and the gravel isn't very nice to walk on - especially with bare feet. I'd sort of given up on doing anything as purchasing pavers, sleepers or anything else was going to become very expensive very quickly and it wasn't worth a whole lot of cash to change it.

Then I saw Geoff's sleepers..and had an idea.  He was happy to give them to me to save him a tip load, and I was very happy to take them.  There was a mixture of long sections and short sections so I had to find a pattern that could accommodate both and also stretch the length of the wall - my final solution used every single piece he gave me!


As I was doing this on the cheap I didn't want to pay for any sand (which is a very handy resource when laying any sort of paver), so I just had to excavate the existing gravel with a mattock and a selection of spades.  It was hard work laying every single paver as I needed to take into account the slope of the ground (8 degrees) and lay each paver the same depth.   I used an app on my phone and a giant level to help me with this. Also I tried to heed my string lines but it was difficult with all the different widths!



It's taken about 2 weeks to lay all the pieces bit by bit and the result isn't perfect but I am pretty happy with it!   I ended up spending $70 on a tin of decking oil to extend the life of the treated pine), but that was it.  


Cathedral Rock & Montague Thumbs Loop

Thursday, 8 June 2017

I've always been curious about the do-ability of the loop from the top of Cathedral Rock (which I've done a few times), along the Montague Thumbs Ridge, across to Wellington Falls, back to the Pipeline Track, down the Siphon track back to Northwest Bay River then back to the start - so when I happened to see someone's recent Strava post of that exact loop that they'd started at midnight (for specific training reasons) I figured that if they could do it in the dark, I could certainly do it in the daytime.

So I picked the most sunny looking day of the week but as it was still very cold in the morning I left later than I usually would so the air could heat up a bit - I think it was still only about 7 degrees when I left at around 11am though,   

It took me just over an hour to make it to the top of Cathedral Rock, and I was surprised (and slightly concerned) to find frozen puddles and frost right up to the summit.   Still, the views were amazing as always.


From there I had to traverse along the rocky ridgeline, following a faint (and often slippery) track.  As I scrambled up and down I wondered how anyone could do it at night but perhaps it was easier because you couldn't see how close the drop off was!

I got some nice views looking back towards Cathedral Rock (it's the pointy thing at the end of the ridge):



After that the track slowly descended towards Wellington Falls and it alternated between various forms of unpleasantness including being overgrown, rocky, vague & soaking wet. Parts of it must have been an old hunting or logging trail as there would be sudden sections of wide mossy track, followed just as suddenly by tight forest, or small boulderfields. It was generally hard going and the overgrown sections that I had to push though got me completely soaking wet which wasn't fun as despite the sunshine, it was still cold.    This was a good section of it:


After what seemed like hours I finally made it to the river just above Wellington Falls - I breathed a bit of a sigh of relief at that point as the track markings had been so vague for so long that I had become a bit concerned that I might have accidentally ended up on another track.  From memory I knew that after crossing I would join the well maintained Wellington Falls track to take me back to the Pipeline so the going was going to get a lot easier.


Only that was where I made a mistake. Actually I made two, no make that three, or possibly four mistakes. - the first was not having my Mt Wellington paper map with me (duh) as I'd decided just to use Strava's map on my phone to give me my locaton (and it didn't fit into my small bag).  Strava didn't show that there was a crucial turn I needed to make once I was on the Wellington Falls track, in fact it didn't show any other tracks at all, so I ended up on a different track, climbing a lot higher than I needed to. I did wonder what was going on as I remembered the Wellington Falls track as being smooth and pleasant, and the track I was following was rough with steep bits. Neverheless I reassured myself that there was only one track in the area and it must be the one I was on so I must be remembering it wrong.   So it was a good half an hour of arduous trail before I emerged at what was undoubtably the Potato Fields (a rocky boulder field way above the Pipeline Track and not near where I wanted to be). It was also at this point that my phone started to get very close to flat (mistake number 3 was starting with my phone on 60% of charge and listening to podcasts without thinking about battery!).   I wasn't sure whether I should continue in the same direction and hit the Snake Plains track which I knew would drop me onto the Pipeline, or to heartbreakingly turn around and retrace my steps back to Wellington Falls.  I tried to bring up  a more detailed map on my phone but I couldn't and I wanted to save a few % of charge in case of emergency (btw I also had an EPIRB with me in case of real emergency).  So after a brief stop for snacks and to consider my options* I decided to turn around. Backtracking wasn't as bad as I had thought it would be as it felt like it was more down than up and 25 minutes later I was back at the vague track juction. 50 metres past that I saw the big signpost which confirmed I was finally on the right track! And the track was as nice and smooth as I remembered, in fact the next 10 minutes of running were the nicest of the whole trip despite the fact I was pretty tired.  Due to the battery issue I couldn't take any more photos on my phone which was a shame. I do have the Strava map though.. my out & back diversion is pretty obvious..

and take a look at the climb, the bumps after the halfway point is where I had to retrace my steps..


Once at the Pipeline Track I just had to cross it and descend what is known as the Siphon Track. It follows a large pipeline straight down the hill and is impossibly steep and slippery. Luckily it's also quite soft underfoot (good for landing on) and parts of it are quite incredible where it has been cut through the forest.  It was quite an experience coming down it - I pity all those involved in making it!  I tried to find some history of it on-line but all I could find were other blog tales of equally arduous adventures doing this circuit - some people mentioned it took them an hour to get down this section of track - I was lucky that it only took 15 minutes or so, others mentioned that the entire loop took them 10 hours. Gosh!  The people who did it at midnight the other night took just under 4 hours all up and I took around 4:30 including my detour.  I notice that Strava has assumed that I was stopped for a lot of that time and has told me that my total moving time was 2:54 which is complete rubbish as I stopped for maybe 20 minutes altogether it was just that some other sections were so slow it thought I was stopped.

Anyway - I slipped and slid my way back down the Siphon Track back to North West Bay river and crossed easily (the river is quite low at the moment) then had just a few ks along the river's edge to make it back to the car. My total journey was 18.9k.  The route without my Potato Fields detour is about 15k. I had been out for a lot longer than I expected so I was pretty happy to make it back to the car and drive straight to the supermarket for some late lunch!   

* I decided to turn around for two reasons - firstly I didn't know exactly how much further along I had to go before there was a trail that cut down to the pipeline track, then I would still have had to backtrack along the Pipeline to get back to where I needed to join my next track. As it turns out the trail back down to the Pipeline would have taken me an extra hour or more but I didn't know that at the time due to mistake 1.  Secondly,  Jon knew my intended route, and although I still had a bit of phone battery and my EPRIB, if anything happened and I couldn't contact anyone (say after a fall),  no-one would have expected me to be up around the Potato Fields area. 


Mount Fortescue Loop

Saturday, 3 June 2017

This week I did my new favourite long run which I'm officially calling the Mt Fortescue Loop.   I did it for the first time back in March with Julie. It's is obviously heaps more fun doing it with a buddy, but with good weather forecast and a free day on my hands after a hard few days of orienteering coaching at Kingston Primary School, it seemed like a nice opportunity to do it again despite having to run it solo.

This time it was reasonably sunny but not all that warm, so I avoided stopping too much for photos as I got instantly cold. I love the fact that this run passes through a variety of terrain -  open heathland, rainforest and dry sclerophyll forest - with the added benefit of an excellently maintained track and fantastic views.


The Three Capes Track was much quieter this time around - I only passed about 5 hikers, and the ranger at one of the huts said he was not expecting any guests for the first time ever that night.  That kind of explains how I accidentally scared the bejesus out of him when I said "hi" as he was doing some maintenance work outside - he jumped about a mile but quickly recovered and was happy to have a chat and offer me water.

There was a huge pod of dolphins in Fortescue Bay as I started my run, they were gone by the time I got back though.  

One of the bonuses of this run is that it's possible to have a hot shower back at Fortescue Bay, so when I got back to the car I got clean and warm, then had lunch on the beach before heading home.  It was so nice and completely worth the long drive.  Strava said the run was 18k this time around - last time it said it was 19.4k so that's a bit odd.  The terrain and the tracks are so nice that both times I've run it I haven't really wanted it to finish (it helps that the 2nd 10k is mostly downhill!).  I was a bit faster this time around (2.21mins this time, 2:34 last time) but that's more about not having anyone to chat to than anything else I'd say. 

Hopefully the nice weather will continue as I've already got an idea for next week's adventure run.

Bruny Island Day Out

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

I'm keen to get out and about during what is hopefully my final few weeks of non-working time, so yesterday I went to Bruny Island to do a few of my favourite walks. 

First I did the Cape Queen Elizabeth walk on North Bruny. It's a 14k walk from the Bruny main road out to the beach then along to and up to the Cape. If done in low tide you are supposed to be able to go around the rocks, but low tide wasn't very low yesterday, so despite being just 20minutes away from the lowest point, I had to abandon my attempt after being sloshed by waves before I'd even gotten close to getting around the rocks.  Still, the up and over route was pretty nice too.  It was quite a cloudy and grey day with a few bits of drizzle, so the photos haven't really done the area justice.


Upon returning to the car I changed out of my wet gear (from drizzle and waves) and headed off to Adventure Bay to make and eat lunch with some of the yummy woodfired bread I'd  bought from the Bruny Island Cheese Company on the way through.   I was a bit weary by this point (I jogged most of the Cape QE walk), but since I'd paid $33 for the ferry I wanted to make the most of my day so after eating I headed down to the start of the Fluted Cape Walk.

I've taken better pictures when I've done it previously as part of the 60 walks challenge, I only took a couple yesterday.


The circuit was really enjoyable, despite being a bit tired.  I ran bits of it, but mostly just strolled along, listening to my podcasts.  All in all it was a good day out.  There were some really lovely bits of forest and great running on both walks, and the scenery was lovely.


Sewing Projects

Friday, 19 May 2017

One of the things I really don't get time to do much of when I am working is sewing - so it's been nice to get a few projects done in the last couple of weeks. 

The first project was to convert a section of the World Masters Games bunting into some waterpolo/swimming bags for the kids.


I did get permission from the organisers to take a section (in fact they cut a piece for me), but I was completely prepared to steal some if I'd had to - there were kilometres of it at the orienteering alone, I can't even guess how much must have been made for the whole games.


The bags I made are the rope backpack style - perfect for fitting in goggles and a towel and heading off to waterpolo training. I had enough material left over for a packing cell/food bag for hiking,  and another backpack for me and Jon to share.

My next project was to finally sew some cat material I got from Ikea a few years ago, into a cat cushion for Pinto. I didn't take any before or during photos, but this is the final result - I'm pretty happy with it - I've never done the 'piping' before that you can see around the edges:


Importantly Pinto seems to like it - much more than the shark-bed that's for sure!  Luckily Denny's kittens seem to enjoy like that:


Melbourne Weekend

Thursday, 18 May 2017

We’ve just had a super cool weekend in Melbourne for Susannah's 50h birthday party.  I finally got to wear my punk outfit and Jon pulled off a last minute triumph by renting an Adam Ant jacket at the eleventh hour. Combined with the hair and makeup services provided by myself and the kids he got much acclaim as well as a packet of Hobnobs for his trouble.  



 The party was lots of fun - even getting the number 75 tram out to Camberwell was an experience - first there was just us (in punk gear), then as the tram travelled along Flinders Street it started to fill up.  By the time we got to Flinders Street Station it was jam packed with football supporters - all wearing their own costumes - supporters jumpers, scarves and beanies.  Our made up faces and punk outfits only started to look out of place as the tram emptied out and we hit the suburbs 15 minutes later.  In fact I must admit  that as we walked the few minutes from our hotel to  the tram stop at the very start of our journey we probably passed 5 people who looked more punky than I did!

 us before and after the party

We did two escape rooms while we were in Melbourne - one went well and was lots of fun, the other went less well - in fact we felt like we were a bit ripped off (financially and experientally) by the 2nd one. I'll have to send them some feedback I think.   As we were staying in the city we were able to walk or free-tram everywhere which was really cool.


On Sunday after the second escape room we went ice skating with Clare on the beautiful ice at the dockland ice skating rinks.


Then we went to the football at Etihad Stadium- which turned out to be a great game and we had great seats - in fact the swans won by 30 or so points so it couldn't have been better.  


We also managed to squeeze in a trip to the Lindt Chocolate Shop (one of the many in Melbourne) so Zali's prayers (for a bed covered with lindt balls) could come true..


All in all it was a great weekend, jam packed with fun Melbourne activities. We had a 4am wakeup on Monday to get the 6am flight home but even that went pretty smoothly as we were staying so close to Southern Cross Station.    Yay Melbourne!

Before and After #40 - Be afraid.. Be very afraid..

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

In a few weeks Jon and I are attending a 50th birthday celebration in Melbourne where the theme is ‘Best of British’.  I’m going as punk cos I think that was a pretty cool fashion and art movement and I’ve also never had the opportunity to dress punk before.  

As everyone knows, to be properly punk, you really need a good pair of Doc Martens.  I do own some Doc Martens, but unfortunately they are Mary-Janes like these:

Not the sort of Doc Martens that you glimpse people wearing in dark alleys right before they knock your teeth out and steal your coloured hair spray.   I wear mine to work. Sometimes I even wear them with socks - which I guess is scary in it’s own way.

Anyway - I needed some boots, so yesterday I went to Big W and bought some sort-of-ish-not-really-but-at-least-they-are-lace-up-boots.  These..

Yes - i know, you still aren’t worried about meeting me in that dark alley (unless I’m wearing my MaryJanes with socks in which case you are at real risk of laughing yourself to death).  That’s ok - I’ve got paint, and I’ve got time.. and I’m not afraid to use it..

And I’ve also got masking tape - that’s what I used first..


then white spray paint..  

the more tape, followed by blue spray paint.

Then I had to do a lot of touchups with a paintbrush as spray paint is no match for masking tape really..

Then more tape for the red bits..

Then more touchups..

Then I hand painted on the narrow red lines (which I'd learnt weren't even centred), and retouched the blue where the masking tape had peeled it off in bits (due to not allowing enough time between coats I guess).. and so finally I had..


Stll not exactly Doc Martens, but I'm pretty happy with the result! 



Wednesday, 3 May 2017

When we were in NZ I was disappointed to discover that they had recently voted against getting a new flag.  I can’t understand it.  Why would you want to have a flag that’s constantly confused with Australia’s flag, and why would you want to keep the union jack in the corner and not be your own country? huh? huh? 


The proposed alternative (above right) wasn’t my favourite design but it was certainly better than the original. In fact even this early suggestion is better than the original in my opinion..

So anyway - today I had reason to look closely at the Union Jack, and I’ve decided the third reason to get a new flag is because the union jack is so difficult to draw - let’s have a closer look at it…

 It looks sort of like a red star on a blue background doesn’t it. Well if you are drawing it, you need to allow for that white space around the red star thing, and the red star thing isn’t really a red star at all, it’s got thick and thin lines which AREN’T EVEN CENTRED within the white parts.  I mean what’s with that? If you look closely you’ll notice some of those thin red lines are on the high side of the white space, some are on the low side - i didn’t even know that before today and I’ve been an Australian citizen for 47 years!! Uff.  

And to prove my point I just asked Jett to draw it without using a reference - and he did a pretty good job but it’s still obvious it’s not a good flag to draw.


Unlike say..Denmark, or Japan, you only need one texta for those ones..

Not that it should be the only attribute of a country flag, but it certainly helps your patriotic craft projects!

Of course, the Union Jack isn’t the world's hardest flag - I pity the poor Sri Lankan kids, trying to reproduce their flag for school projects…


Cool things

Wednesday, 3 May 2017


After the 1st qualifying race at Woodhill one of the volunteers came up to me and introduced herself - and it turned out she was a blog reader!  How cool is that!  In all the excitement I forgot to ask how she originally found the blog, but she said she liked it because she had similar interests and a similar sense of humor.   Amazingly, Valerie is also into all manner of projects, and like me, she will also attempt projects she's wildly unqualified to do. Also she had come all the way out from the States (Washington) to assist with the results software for this event - something I also like to tinker with!  

Anyway - it was very cool to meet her, and I really appreciated hearing there was someone who enjoyed reading my blog!  Thanks for introducing yourself Valerie! 

NZ Day 30 - Long Distance Final

Sunday, 30 April 2017

For the first time since the very early days of our trip, we awoke to the sound of rain on the roof.  We’ve been incredibly lucky with the good weather generally, so suffering through a day of rain wasn’t going to be the end of the earth.  Clare, Paul and I had early starts, so we were out at the event first. The arena setup looked really good again, set in the pine forest with great vantage points of the finish chute and a fantastic atmosphere.


The terrain was incredibly cool - fast open running around soft (but not sandy) dunes, then into horrible thick stuff with low visibility.  It was the thicker stuff that turned out to be my undoing, as I was having trouble with my vision anyway - with water all over the outside of my glasses and the fog on the inside of my glasses completely obscurring my view of both the map and the terrain - it was particularly bad in the thicker areas and I made mistakes that forced me to relocate off nearby tracks.  It was shortly after that point that I was caught up by some runners on my course who had started a bit behind me (thus were ranked higher), so I decided that in light of my vision problems, my best bet was to try and stick with them - so I spent the next 5 or 6 controls running along behind them, keeping a vague idea of where we were. This worked well until they disappeared from view for a moment in another section of thicker vegetation and suddenly they were gone. Luckily I was still with a Swiss runner (Jeanette) I’d caught up to at about the 2nd control who had also lost the pack, so we were running together as we did the last few controls - my vision was so bad by the end I almost missed a compulsory taped road crossing (I couldn’t see it on the map OR in the terrain!) but by then we had silently established a rapport, so, breaking silent-mode, she said ‘hey! over here!’ as she ducked through it, which saved me from further lost time!  The combination of early and late mistakes but with some fast running in the middle section meant that I finished a respectable 9th.  Clare didn’t have the luxury of a pack to run with and also made a few of her own mistakes, so she finished in 8th, 2 seconds ahead of me.  

The technical terrain caused lots of people to have mistake ridden races, Jon finished 21st, Paul had a great first half but might have cooked his goose too early as he faded a bit in the 2nd half and finished 23rd, Andy was just behind him.   Harald lost a few minutes here and there and finished 4th, and Linda unfortunately fell and broke her compass on her way to the 2nd control, which made it very hard to navigate through the sandhills but she still managed to finish just 7 seconds away from 3rd.  Andy was pretty happy with his run.  The rain stopped after a few hours which was also good - particularly for the kids who just had to wait around as they don’t have any junior races. They spent a long time building a rain shelter from forest wood which was a good distraction.

And so ends the orienteering part of our trip.  Being able to stay with Kim and Helen in Auckland for the first few races and then having such a lovely place to stay in Murawai just topped off our holiday perfectly.  I really enjoyed all the sprint races - despite my mispunch at Rotorua.  Winning a medal was obviously a massive highlight - it will undoubtably be the one of the highlights of my lifetime of orienteering (my others so far are JWOC 1990, coming 3rd in Elites at the easter 3 day in 1997, and winning a pair of Blundstone Boots at a race in Hobart once :) ).  Speaking of a lifetime of orienteering it has been very cool to see all the real oldies competing out in the forest. There was some great commentary as a finish chute sprint unfolded between two 90 year olds which got a great reception from the spectators.  I love this sport! It was a shame there were no races for the kids though - Zali and Jett both enjoyed the races they did before the World Masters and were keen to do more.

So with a fair bit of sadness we said goodbye to our excellent Sydney and Norwegian friends and headed back to Auckland, where our spirits were instantly lifted by a lovely family dinner at Kim and Helen’s with Don and Helen Snr.  Being the bestest hosts ever, Kim helped us return the hire car last night and drove us to the airport at 4am (yes 4am!) this morning, saving us a large amount of stuffing around this morning. We’re lucky to have such a good family!

What a fantastic adventure this last month has been. Campervanning, hiking, Rotorua, hanging out with family, orienteering. It’s been just brilliant.  

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