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August 31, 2014

Hunter Valley

The other day I took a day trip up to the Hunter Valley with some friends. Hunter Valley is famous wine country, about a two hour drive north of Sydney; we took a train and a bus (had to leave the house at 5am). I haven't taken a regional/longer distance train from Sydney since I was little, so I was pretty entertained.

Apparently, to taste wine, you should 1) take a sip to cleanse your palate, then 2) take another sip and hold it in your mouth to release the flavours (or something like that) and then 3) take another sip, and at which point you can finally appreciate the taste.

The weather was very erratic all day; sunny one minute, pouring rain the next.

The Audrey Wilkinson winery/cellar door is probably the nicest one we visited. It's a beautiful old house on top of a hill, with a view all around the Hunter Valley.

Stopped at Hunter Valley gardens for lunch; we ate at this restaurant with lots of signs for sale and cow puns everywhere.

We then went to a distillery, where they had these cute test tubes for tasting. I'm not the biggest fan of drinking spirits straight.

We ended the day at a chocolate shop, where I bought some fudge that I promptly ate.

Afterwards, we went straight back to Sydney, feeling extremely sleepy from all the wine and food. I can't say my taste in wines changed much, I'm still not big on red wine; although I did find that I liked port, which I hadn't tried before. All in all, was a really good day; nice to get out of Sydney for a change of air and frame of mind.

August 28, 2014

Click these: Working out, travel, & more

A photo I snapped after a run a few weeks ago. I'm itching to get running again but I've still got a horrendous chest cough. I guess I'm sort of enjoying just having a bit of lie-on-bed-and-read time in the afternoon when I usually go for a jog.

Click these I'll be having an early one tonight, because I'm leaving the house at 5.30am tomorrow morning to catch a train up to the Hunter Valley for a day of wine tasting. I don't really drink wine (I only like the pink fizzy kind) but I am expecting to come back very cultured. Hope the rain holds off!

August 26, 2014


I've had a lot of spare time this year, so I've started exercising a lot more. I think it's the first time in my life I've had a regular schedule of physical activity (that hasn't been imposed on me e.g. PE at school). Here's what I've been doing:

  • Running - I go for 5km runs, three times a week. I started at the beginning of last year, when I downloaded a Couch to 5k app. I've never been a runner and it's still really challenging for me (I'm in pain from about 2 minutes in all the way til the end), so I don't think I'll be doing City2Surf anytime soon.
  • Swimming - I go to the pool once a week and swim 3km each time. Swimming was my sport I was younger, so I find it much easier than running. I like swimming as exercise but it's just hard to schedule in a visit to the pool at a good time. I also wish I could listen to music while swimming, because right now I have to just get lost in my thoughts and my imagination can get pretty whack.
  • 7 minute workout app - This one I do really sporadically on days I don't run/swim. 7 minutes sounds too good to be true and it is - you're supposed to do three in a row, which I don't, but something is better than nothing right? It actually makes me feel a little out of breath! And I don't even do proper push-ups.
In terms of what I've gained this year by exercising more, I haven't really noticed any difference. I don't feel that much more energetic, and I still get puffed out during daily activities (to quote Wai Lam when we were running to catch a ferry: "Are you sure you can run 5 kilometres?"). I still like it though - it makes me feel like I've achieved something (especially since I've become queen of procrastination this year), and there's nothing like post-exercise endorphins when you've been having a bad day. I think it's also helped with my body image - not because my body has changed much (I shamelessly use exercise as an excuse to eat more) but because I can now appreciate what I can physically do, as opposed to view my body as an end result, or as an object to be molded by my behaviours.

As of today, I haven't run in more than a week because I just can't shake this cold I have. I thought I was getting better last week, so I went for a swim, but I must have misjudged badly because right after that a nasty chest cough flared up and I've now lost my voice (I sound like Marge Simpson). So I'm taking a break, which I hate, because in terms of running I feel like whenever I stop for a week I regress double that. Ah well, it's been raining a lot anyway!

How do you guys like to get your exercise?

August 24, 2014


I'm doing the blog's first giveaway! A little one, just to say thanks for sticking around. I have no idea what I'm contributing to the world by blogging, apart from being a prime example of Millennial narcissism. But if you somehow enjoy reading my blog as much as I enjoy reading the blogs I follow, I'm happy. So this is what I'm giving away (I thought about it for ages so let me ramble a bit):

  • The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. Two of the Sherlock Holmes short story collections in one. I tried to pick a book which was a classic, but not so classic that you've studied it at school and now hate it. I have all the Sherlock Holmes books and they're on my favourites shelf, they're so fun to read.
  • Lush Ultrabalm. For your chapped lips and chafed skin after you've been tailing suspects in the cold all day. I've also been using it on small patches of dryness/irritation like eczema and scrapes, works wonders. Apparently it also softens hard skin, heals tattoos, and removes makeup, etc etc.
  • Notebook. Random notebook, small and inconspicuous, good for taking notes while you interview witnesses.
  • T2 All Sorts. Just a variety of tea to help you relax after a long day of investigating. There's English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Lemongrass & Ginger, Chamomile, Peppermint, China Jasmine, Sencha and Chai.
Did I just make this giveaway detective themed? I think I did.

This is open internationally and will run until 14/09/14. I know not everyone uses GFC or Bloglovin, so you don't have to be a Bloglovin/GFC follower to enter with the Leave a comment option (following with those will help you get extra entries though!). Please use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

There will be one winner, who will be chosen by Rafflecopter at random. I'll contact you via email if you've won and you get 1 week to reply before I choose another winner. Good luck!

August 22, 2014

North Island

This is, finally, the last of the New Zealand posts! I probably shouldn't have done a post for every day we spent on the South Island but I just took so many pictures. For our last three days in New Zealand we swapped the mountains of the South Island for the rolling hills on the North.

We flew to Auckland, but hopped in our hire car straight away and made for Rotorua.

We passed through Matamata on the way, where the Hobbiton set is. We'd decided against visiting the set, because it's quite pricey and we're not die-hard LOTR fans.

This is what the tourist information centre looks like though, cute.

Our first stop in Rotorua was the Redwoods. Definitely a sight to see!

There's me, for scale.

I took a lot of photos, but as you can tell, they all come out kind of the same.

After a visit to the Polynesian Spa, we went to a pub near our hostel and ordered way too much food...

The next day, we went to Wai-O-Taupo thermal park. Rotorua is famous for its geothermal activity - the whole town smells vaguely of rotten eggs. The colours are the result of different minerals.

It looks better in photos, which are zoomed up to all the colourful bits - it was mostly steaming grey water.

A pond of kryptonite.

A bubbling mud pool nearby - it was cute how it went gloop gloop gloop and made patterns.

We hit the road again, to spend the night in Hamilton on the way back to Auckland.

It's a university city/town, and while it was sort of quiet there were lots of restaurants and bars. We found a nice one, but I just had a caesar salad because I was still feeling gross from the night before.

It was desserts specials night, so we went in for it.

The next morning we drove back to Auckland, and then flew home. Phew, New Zealand posts over!

August 20, 2014

Raining, pouring

Fellow Sydneysiders - how crazy has the weather these past two days been? Luckily I didn't have any obligations on Monday, so I stayed in bed all day with my laptop, nursing a head cold, while (what sounded like) gale-force winds lashed at the trees outside my window. I did have to venture out today, and although the rain had somewhat abated, I still got caught in a bit of a surprise shower.

I sort of love the cold and wet, to an extent (it then just gets inconvenient because Sydney stops functioning when it rains). It makes staying inside so much nicer. The heat makes me luggish but cold weather makes me feel sharper.

My main rule of wet weather dressing is not to wear jeans if it's windy, because jeans don't dry. So I rug up on top and wear a skirt/dress with stockings and heavy-duty boots. Also today I found out how much wet wool stinks - you know that moment when you're sitting on the bus wondering what smells so bad and realising it's you? Yeah.

Coffee, cake and discussing hypothetical situations at My Sweet Memory (dork-ass name for a cute cafe) following a pre-birthday dinner for Wai Lam (happy birthday, girl). Once again giving me two spoons for the souffle I didn't share.

August 17, 2014

Books vs. Kindle

A couple of months ago, for my birthday, some of my cool friends got me a Kindle. After using it for a while now, I feel like I can wade into this discussion.

kindle vs book
In favour of the e-reader
  • You can get classics for free, as copyright has expired (you can also get other books for free, if you're a horrible person)
  • You can get books instantly and have loads to read with you at once - especially good for travelling, so you don't have to decide which two books are going to take up precious luggage space and weight (I hope my two ASOIAF books enjoyed their tour of China).
  • You can read embarassing books in public (ahem Vampire Academy).
  • They're as light or lighter than most books, and you can hold them and turn "pages" with one hand (important when I read in bed in winter, I like to stay as tucked into my blankets as possible).
In favour of the book
  • They don't run out of battery (maybe they should make solar-powered kindles, like calculators).
  • They can withstand more abuse (e.g. if you're at the beach and a freak wave comes out of nowhere, as my salt-water stained copy of Persuasion can attest to) and you don't have to be precious about them (I probably wouldn't throw my Kindle into my suitcase from across the room and proceed to shove two pairs of shoes on top of it).
  • You have to treat an e-reader as another valuable to keep an eye on, like your phone or camera (reminds me of when I squeezed my copy of The Book Thief into an unlockable outside compartment of my backpack, and Wai Lam quipped that if anyone stole it they would be an actual Book Thief... ha... ha...)
  • As much as I hate people getting all romantic about physical books (because in the end it's about reading, not smelling the damn things), I can't help but get romantic about physical books (the way they look on my shelves, being able to lend them out to friends, passing them down through generations...)
In conclusion? I love my Kindle, and I've spent a lot less money on books in the past few months. Although I had grand plans to read all the classics, I only managed to get through half of A Tale of Two Cities (which I was not enjoying by the way) before I got sucked into less cultured books. I'd still buy physical books, like the one above (more on it later), which I know I'll love and re-read over again (including the ones I already have on Kindle).

Anyway, if you really don't care about all that, let me talk to you about The Silkworm, the second of J.K. Rowling's books she's written as Robert Galbraith. I talked about the first one, The Cuckoo's Calling, last year. In summary, it's another detective/crime novel featuring the central characters from the first book. I'd buy anything J.K. writes until the end of time, but I really do like this series. This book was a bit harder to follow than the first, but the ending is good and it'll have you wanting to re-read immediately to pick up all the clues. She said she could write more of these books than the Harry Potter ones, I'm okay with that!

What's your take on the book vs. e-reader, and/or what are you reading right now?

August 16, 2014


Oh no, they groan. Is she still not done with her New Zealand posts? Second-last one, folks. I didn't mean to drag 'em out for so long, because I feel like this blog loses its context when the first few pages are all travel posts. I just took so many pictures, because NZ is ridiculous. This post is less nature-ish, though, because we finally hit civilisation again after a week on the road.

But first, let me re-emphasise that the South Island has mountains.

Got it? Good.

We stopped at a frozen lake on someone's private property, but everyone had crawled through the fence to walk on it.

Anyway, we made it to Christchurch, where we were staying for the night. With a bit of daylight left, we decided to explore the city centre. It's the largest city in the South Island, and an important thing to know about Christchurch is that it was struck by two earthquakes in the space of six months in 2010-2011, causing extensive damage with fatalities from the second one. Walking around, it is very obviously still recovering and rebuilding. A lot of buildings are empty and boarded up, and it was pretty quiet (it was a Sunday night, though).

The Cathedral, still standing damaged and overgrown (it's fenced off, I took this through a space in the wall).

A shopping quarter with all the stores in shipping containers.

There's also a lot of street art around, on blank and damaged walls. On a quick google I found a page with more that we didn't come across.

August 14, 2014

Saturday sunset

I love driving along the Grand Parade, even though it usually involves a slight detour, as it runs alongside the beach and has views of Botany Bay. As I drove home last Saturday afternoon, with golden hour fading but before true dusk had set in, I decided to stop and enjoy the beach for a little bit. I had my camera on me so I took some snaps.

I've mentioned this before, but I love the sound of waves - it just scratches some sort of itch in my brain.

The city to the north.

daniel wellington beach
The days are slowly but surely getting longer. Watch was c/o DW.

Tried to take some outfit shots with my remote but most of them came out blurry, apart from this one, conveniently capturing my look of terror as I see people approach.

So I scurried back to the car.

August 12, 2014

Click these: Atlas Addict and more

I've put together two guides for Shannon's travel photography and guide site, Atlas Addict. One for Prague, one of the most beautiful cities ever that I can't go back to because it will never measure up to the first time, and another for Sydney, which I grudgingly call my home. Have a look at the other guides too - Shannon has got some great photographers contributing.

Click these Lately, for some reason, I've felt a resurgence in my interest in blogging. I'd planned to do more with the blog this year, and according to the numbers I've been posting more than usual, but my heart hasn't been in it. In the past few days I've changed the layout and followed a whole bunch of new blogs, and I'm feeling enthusiastic all of a sudden. I'm going to do new kinds of posts, like these links out ones. I'm going to start replying to comments more quickly. I'm thinking of doing a giveaway, to say thanks for following. I don't know where all this has come from - maybe I'm just feeling sentimental over how much you guys felt me on the topic of haircuts. Apparently, if blogging's good for one thing, it's bringing together socially awkward penguins.

In real life news, today was a good day. The weather has suddenly turned really cold and it's put me in such a good mood. I walked home from the station in the dark and pouring rain, even though my dad offered to pick me up, because I wanted to revel in the weather and how warm I felt in my new(ish) coat. I admit I started regretting it halfway when my umbrella began to turn inside out, but it made home feel so much cosier when I got there.

August 10, 2014

On haircuts

I got a much-needed haircut last week. I guess these pictures are pretty pointless, since it doesn't look too different - just a trim and added layers. How stressful is getting a haircut though? Because firstly, you have to call up to make an appointment, and I hate making phone calls. You turn up, and then sheepishly pull out pictures of Amanda Seyfried to explain the style that you want. Following that you have to make awkward small talk with the hairdresser for about an hour (I do love the head massage thing they do when they wash your hair though), while staring at your face in the mirror thinking about how bloated it looks with that hairdressing gown thing on. And then if it turns out badly, you have to pretend to like it (I have never complained about a haircut). Worse than a dentist appointment, and apparently you're supposed to get a trim every 6 weeks? This was my first visit to a salon in a year and a half. I'm quite happy with how my hair turned out though, it was pretty much what I wanted. And now it only takes half the time to blow-dry.

August 8, 2014

Back in black

all black outfit
dune boots evolution tote
Polo Ralph Lauren jumper / UNIQLO jeans / Dune chelsea boots / Evolution tote bag.

A pullover jumper is risky; you have to really to commit to wearing it. You can't unbutton it like a cardigan when you get warm, and when want to take it off, you risk wiping all your makeup onto it (or this). Anyway my point is that Wednesday was cold and sunny, suited to keeping a jumper on all day. This one's actually a men's sweater, my dad's, but it fits me perfectly. I like this outfit better with my loafers, but I had to do a lot of walking that day and I can't walk fast in my loafers (slippery leather soles, I've stacked it at least once). Sigh, you have to be practical sometimes.