Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Father's Day: What It Means to Me, and Gift Ideas

Father's Day 2015

What to Get Dad? 

Just like last year I've spent a few hours creating a collection of Father's Day gift ideas for you. September 6th is quickly approaching on the calendar. Hopefully this will ease the difficulty in trying to find something that isn't lame, like a tie, or socks, or a wacky novelty book about farts. If you don't see something in this year's list that's sparking any interest then last year's link to gift ideas is here, and will still be relevant today.

1. How about a game of virtual golf? You won't need to buy clubs, rent a cart, or worry about the weather. In Newcastle, a 2 player game at Slice will set you back $60. You may want to  share one of their pizzas while you're at it. Or head over to the Foghorn Brewhouse for some craft beer when you're finished.

2. Don't let your dad be a dag. Why not make his bed a little cooler and cosier with an Aura Home Quilt Cover. Enough style to please mum, with enough masculinity for dad. BAM. You just hit a winner and now you're the favourite child. You're welcome.

3. This really neat and classy Oak Bottle starts at around $60 AUD. What does it do, Peachy? In about 24-48 hour this bottle will infuse your dad's favourite wine or spirit with oak flavour. Watch out - He may just start looking for edwardian chairs and dark wood panelling for his office once he get this gift.

4. I hate WARM beer and chances are so does dad. This Corkcicle beer chiller is valued at around $60 AUD and will take dad's warm beer from warm-piss to thirst-quenching ale in a matter of minutes. And without adding any melted water to his brew like an ice cube would do. Who does that?

5. Two words - Cured Meat. My husband recently came home from the market with some really delicious cured beef from Steph's Gourmet Foods (you can order online and they have free shipping on orders over $45). There's also a new deli in Mayfield, appropriately named Pork Ewe, where you can pick up some delicious cured meats to serve dad on father's day.

6. Coffee time: I found this inventive single serve coffee maker for dad. With one press of a button your dad is only 30 seconds away from a nice hot cup. 

7. This classy men's watch will set you back around $55AUD. Your dad will never be late again. HA! Keep dreaming. 

8. Give your dad a break from all the screams of his grandchildren with these retro Panasonic headphones, retailing for around $99AUD

9. Fahrenheit Cologne is one of my favourite colognes ever. It's such an old 90's classic. Go smell it. I promise you will want every man in your life to smell like this, including dad.
Hot tip: I recently used FragranceX to buy some perfume and they were super speedy when it came to posting the fragrance to me.

10. Settlers of Catan - Board Game: This used to be really difficult and expensive to get ahold of in Australia. But the prices have come down quite a lot and there are far more places to purchase it than 10 years ago. It is by far our most favourite game board game to play. If your dad's into strategising or trading wheat then get him this! The last one I purchased for a great price was on Oz Games Shop but you can also buy it at Toys R Us.

11. I recently purchased the video game Battlefield Hardline for my husband, as a gift for finishing another year of study. He's been up late playing this on his Playstation. It's available for PS3, PS4, XBOX ONE and XBOX 360. It's had great reviews.

What father's day means to me?
Father's day to me is pretty special because I don't have a dad. I spent many teenage years trying to fill that gap with other men I looked up to, like my youth pastor and a few close family friends. I do have a biological dad - yes; a man who physically and mentally abused me while I was growing up. He neglected me, and wasn't there when I needed him most, which ironically was probably the times he was abusing me. He is a man I cannot respect or celebrate, but who's lack of "dad" makes me want to spoil the great dads in my life that little bit more.  I'm so grateful for the men in my life then who showed me what being a dad was really about. They taught me what to look for in a spouse.

Yup, father's day is a BIG deal to me. I now have a man in my life who is an excellent dad to his son. He works and studies like a mad-man but always makes time for us. His priorities are in the right place, and he makes that small amount of time he has so quality by fully involving himself in those precious moments together. By being present.
The other reason I now have to celebrate father's day is my father in-law, John. He's been parenting all 11 of his kids, and their partners for 34 years now. I know my husband is mirroring a lot of what John taught him. These two men in my life always show up and can be counted on. I honour and celebrate them.

Who are you celebrating this father's day? It may be an uncle or grandfather who stepped up to the plate, or it may be your own dad. I encourage you to let them know what they mean to you this father's day, and celebrate the men in your life who show up to fatherhood!

*This post is NOT sponsored. All opinions are my own and passed on to you with lot's of love and consideration. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Holy Frico! My Cheesiest Post Ever

Sponsored by Nuffnang & Frico Cheese 

There are people out there who would turn down cheese to review but not me. When I was asked to write about it my response was "I LOVE CHEESE!" If there was ever a food I had trouble saying no to, it would be cheese. And you know that's true if you read my blog regularly because my husband and I have been pretty committed to eating paleo about 70% of the time since February. That means no cheese. But I can unashamedly say that when the Dutch Frico cheese gods came knocking I swung wide my mortal gates and ushered them in with the over exuberance of  a von Trapp child singing "These are a few of my favourite things..." Why wouldn't you trust the cheese gods who have been making this stuff from Frisian cows since 1898.

I was given 5 different Frico cheeses to enjoy. I added the gouda to my scrambled eggs one morning because it's supposed to be the perfect melting cheese. It didn't disappoint. I started by sautéing some mushrooms in olive oil then added some fresh garlic and chives to the pan for about a minute. I then threw in some eggs, and baby spinach. Then topped it off with grated gouda, and the result was creamy and smooth, compared to the sharp cheddar I sometimes use when my husband is just begging for scrambled eggs.

The last job I had before I became a mum was my favourite place to work ever. The girls there were so much fun, and we had a really generous boss. I didn't know a happy workplace existed before then. I guess that explains why over two years after leaving I'd still want to have four of those funny ladies over for a ridiculously classy evening of cheese and wine.

See, I can be classy sometimes. Am I right, ladies? The round cheese you see before you is smoked cheese. I have never been a smoked cheese fan because my logic is this: Why would you want a cheese that tastes exactly like smoked ham when you can just eat smoked ham. But my bestie came over to finish off the remnants a few nights later and I suddenly understood why it was created. It's for all the people with pig-less diets. I'm looking at you vegetarians. OK, that's not totally true because all the meat eaters at the wine evening of debauchery loved it. It was just me.

How freaking cool is that cheese in front of you with the toothpicks sticking out of it, like high-rises in a big cheese city. That one is called Gouda Spiced Cumin and it's amaze-balls. I loved the spicy flavour and didn't think it was overwhelming at all.

The pink cheese you see in front of you is actually smoked salmon. Stop being an idiot. And let's get serious about the Chevrette goat cheese. You can't really see it very well in this picture. It's kinda sitting on the back left of this cheese city, next to the awesome red pepper (capsicum) jam. What an awesome combination that was, and by far my favourite of all the cheeses. Goat cheese is usually my favourite cheese, but I'd never tried a hard one. It was hard, and I got hard, and then I finished when I added the jam. Oh man. Who needs a man?

Random - Want to see goats screaming like humans. Watch this:

Here's another mini cheese spread I made up to have when my toddler finally shut-up and went to bed for the night. A little stay-at-home date night with my husband. Perfect!

WTF is this?
I debated sharing this photo because it's REALLY, really difficult to make macaroni and cheese look hot and sexy. I'm sorry those breadcrumbs aren't doing anything for you. Especially because plating-up is not my speciality. I won't pretend this looks awesome but you need to know I made it with homemade macaroni noodles, and used Maasdam in it, which is a sweet and nutty cheese that you can also use in salads, sandwiches or cheese fondue. My vegetarian brother-in-law loved it so much that he took half of it home and is still somewhere licking the casserole dish. Michael, if you're reading this - I really want my Corningware back. 

Get your Frico on by heading to your local Woolies.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Our Thailand Honeymoon From Hell

Flashback to spring 2006 and you have a young couple in their early 20's just married and headed overseas for a 3 week honeymoon adventure. That was me and Dave. It was definitely an adventure but didn't feel much like a honeymoon. Sure there were bits and pieces that made it special and fun but the terrible, gross, and horrible overshadowed much of it. I feel like it's important to note that my husband and I were already seasoned travellers, although so young. We had already been to third world countries including Thailand (me) and India (Dave), and parts of South America (me).

We started our trip in Pattaya, Thailand. Above are the gorgeous scenes from our hotel Marriott.
We loved this resort. It was gorgeous. But as we walked around Pattaya and spent a few days there we realised Pattaya is not a honeymooner's city. The resort was a totally different world than what awaited us on the outside of it's walls. While other cities in Thailand seemed to have a border between red light district and tourist hub, Pattaya did not. When relaying stories of our trip to an older acquaintance later on he was taken aback. He was surprised that a Travel Agent, specifically specialising in Honeymoons, would send us there. His wife was a seasoned travel agent and would never have done that, he said. Let's just say it was pretty interesting to constantly have bold attempts of solicitation made towards my new husband with me hanging off his arm.

You'll have to excuse my fashion from 10 years ago. Just before the elephant had eaten grass he had decided to hem my pants to mid-calf. Not a good look, but at least I got some quality elephant time in, which is always going to be a great memory.

Oh Pattaya, with it's not so nice beach running along side the dirty old white men. White men who were looking for pussy or cock or both . It was time to head to Koh Samui.

We turned up to a bed covered in flower petals that would rival most men's proposals, and a cake made mostly composed of cheap icing. We loved this, and of course had to take heaps of pictures with our bed. Lucky for you - with clothes on. We did take a moment to change into our matching robes though.

Awwww. I cannot believe how young we look. 
Yes, catholic son, we know exactly what you're thinking. Bow-wow-chica- bow-wow. He almost had a near nipple slip in this photo. You're full of disappointment. I know. Just wait, more nipple to come.

That night we took off to a restaurant and had a prawn noodle dish and massaman curry. Then we came back and had a drink on the balcony, an awesome honeymoon romp all over the flower petals, then fell into a heap of wedded bliss and prawn dreams. 
That is until I woke up to puke. Not just once. 9 times, all night long! How do I remember that? I found an old video I made of myself from the next day, relaying the gruesome story with the energy of a turtle who's taken a few too many hits off it's marine biologist's bong. 
It's fair to say that night was the sickest I have ever been in my 33 years on this earth. 
I woke up the next morning with the bathroom's bin next to my head. The hotel manager came into my room to check on me. As I was puking over the bin he was telling me how their water pipes had recently been contaminated with sewage. Awesome. Thanks. Great story, buddy. He recommended we take a tuk-tuk (covered-ute-people-mover) to the local hospital. I was admitted right away for severe dehydration and food (or drinking sewage) poisoning. To make matters worse - it was my 24th birthday.
Dave had planned this awesome day of surprises. He had rented a jeep and was planning on driving me out to some waterfalls for the day. Forget it. Instead I received a nice bunch of red roses, the Thai version of Hydralite, and the adult decision of whether to poop or puke first. Why not both at once?

Totally aware I look like shit.

I was also extremely bored because there was no english TV to be had, and this was before the days of having movies on our laptop. David's turn - he became the sickest he'd ever been in his life too. At one point he got up from the bed beside mine and headed to the bathroom looking like he was going to pass out. He had a nurse chasing him. "Mista, mista, mista!!! You come back. You lie down, you not go toilet." We heard David vomit and then fall to the floor. I was useless to get there with an IV attached to me. The next thing I know there's around 4 or 5 nurses crowded around David, waving salts in his face, and unzipping his pants. I can honestly tell you that unzipping his pants with 5 nurses around him is the thing that brought him back to us. They should really try this method in western hospitals. 
Dave somehow managed to avoid being admitted to hospital even though we both admitted he needed to be. Of course we didn't tell them that. David wanted the freedom to leave and go back to our hotel and get more things if needed. And work on getting our travel insurance to cover our hospital bill, which I will tell you was no easy task.
I was finally released from hospital back to sewage hotel. The staff there had another little cake for me for my belated birthday. Of course I couldn't stomach eating a mostly-icing-cake so I just took a photo of it instead. I may have been out of hospital but it took me days to feel myself again.
I still managed to have surges of energy to be my goofy old self when our camera was pulled out. Dave hired the jeep again and we headed to that waterfall, then went to a fancy restaurant to celebrate my 24th.
I wish that had been the end of our troubles. Nope. Every day we had to return to the hospital to see if we could get our passports back. They were holding them as collateral to make sure we didn't skip town without paying the bill. We were having loads of issues with our travel insurance not wanting to pay up because my insurance paperwork had been made in my new married name, a name I had only held for 1 week and had no paperwork to support, except for my not yet official marriage certificate. Again, our travel agent who supposedly specialised in honeymoons, had screwed up big time. The "expert" should have known that a newly married woman would have next to no documentation supporting that new name. This was all happening back in the day, when long distance calls still applied, and it wasn't as easy as jumping on skype to get ahold of someone. We also had issues with the hotel manager re-negging on his sewage story to our travel agent so he didn't have to cover a night of our stay. We just wanted to wake up and get on with our days instead of spending a big part of every morning going to hospital to see if our billing had gone through. We finally had our passports released to us just hours before our flight was due to leave for Phuket.

Very purposeful nipple slip. David takes notes. This is how it's done. 

Temple of doom. Just kidding. Nothing bad happened to us at this temple, but you know it should have. Bloody miracle.

Ahhhhh, some time to relax. Finally. That is until one of us drowned. Just kidding. We didn't, even a little.

Off to the fertility rocks we rode. David took some time to pose with the penis rock and vagina rocks.

The grand fisting of Golganthia, the fertility rock of doom. 
Just kidding. That's probably not the real name of this giant vagina rock.

Nipple God has a sense of humour, people. It's no accident these two rock formations ended up next to each other. Fertility, it's why I come up here, (well, I have the phuking and the puking part of it down right).

We were feeling a bit shell shocked going onto Phuket so we hid out in our hotel for a few days. When we finally did venture out it was to find a laundry mat on our freshly rented motorbike. On our way through the busy streets of Phuket we had our next honeymoon mishap. Dave slammed on his brakes to avoid a motorcycle taxi that had sharply cut us off.  We would have collided with the motorcycle taxi if he hadn't reacted so quickly. However, as a result of slammed brakes, the bike skidded to a halt and landed on top of both of us. Dave's leg was scraped up pretty badly and I got away with minor cuts and bruises. It was mostly shock. I burst into tears. I couldn't believe we had finally left the safety of our hotel for the first time only to end up in an accident. The taxi-man stopped, looked at us, smiled and then continued on to his rank. He didn't offer any help. A stranger came out of nowhere an lifted the bike off our left legs, and helped us get up. David had seen my tears was having a massive rush of testosterone and adrenaline. I watched him pop a can of spinach, call me Olive, and then take off after the taxi-man. It's a well known fact that logic doesn't fully develop until 25, and he was a year off. He told the taxi-man off, told him to go apologise to me. Taxi-man just yelled and cursed in Thai back at David, and even though he was three quarters of David's size, he swung a misguided punch. Myself and another taxi-man got in the middle to try and break it up. We went back to our hotel, and I cried some more. I was still feeling weak from my stay in hospital and just wanted to go back to Australia by this point. 

Don't mess with the dude wearing his wife's high school basketball shirt.

We stuck it out though. And continued on our journey, taking small day trips on boats or exploring parts of Phuket. We had some other minor issues, like when I was called a bitch and run out of a small shop for bartering on a necklace. I guess the small things just added insult to injury and made it harder to enjoy the overall trip. Even though my first trip to Thailand was more enjoyable, and was humanitarian based I still can't see myself every going back. I even have Thai relatives. I. just. can't.

 This was taken on the drive to Bangkok airport. How many humans can you count on the bike? Good, now how many helmets? What about bare feet?

Have you had a holiday from hell? Blog about it and link back to me and I'll share it on my Facebook page.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

My Humps, My Lovely Humpback Whales - Check it out!

The very immature and mean jokes I heard in school came frothing to the tip of my tongue yesterday, as I waited for Captain Jack (yes, his real name) to take us out to sea, in search of whales. "Yo Mama's so fat .... she had to go to Sea World to get baptised." I can't help myself. Clearly.

If you haven't had a chance to get this close to whales in the wild before then I highly recommend you do. For the last 13 years I've lived an hour away from one of the best whale sighting areas in the world, and only just went yesterday to see them. I grew up seeing the Orca Killer Whales at the Vancouver Aquarium. That was always the highlight of our family trips there, until they decided not to keep them in captivity any longer.  Fair enough. I've also spotted a whale from the balcony of my hotel in Maui once, and from the beach here in Newcastle that other time. But this experience was by far my favourite.

We boarded the Tamboi MV Spirit of Port Stephens at 10am. I think we got the best winter weather you could ask for.

 Fitting that it was National Sister's day, as my husband poses with 3 of his 5 sisters.

 Another wonderful outing that made me wish I'd remembered the monkey leash. This little guy would not even sit still for his beloved (Grand) Ma. Read more about the "leash" here. It was a 3 hour boat ride of taking turns wrangling this one.

 World War II Gun Emplacements - "Fort Tomaree included light stations, a radar tower, torpedo tubes, and barracks, where around 500 army, navy and air force personnel served."
- NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service -

 Photos won't do this justice. Captain Jack was able to manoeuvre the big vessel we were on right into this spot in the rocks. Mad Skills.

 (only  a small part of ) Our family - Aunty Judith and (Grand) Pa

 Right before my half monkey/half human son successfully managed to climb up to the second level, with the fearful assistance of his parents. I declared "We are never doing that again."

Finally spot our first Humpback. We saw 3 pods in total. Most of our time were spent near a mother and calf

I may have squealed like a dolphin in my excitement at spotting the whales. I'm pretty sure the whole boat heard me. Embarrassing, but I was too caught up in the moment. Plus I'm pretty sure I heard a whale trying to converse back with me. So there.

 One of my many attempts at holding my large 2 year old still (for his own safety).

When you can't catch a photo of a whale jumping out of the ocean you settle for a few whale tail shots. I love these!

These seals are sitting on the most protected island in NSW, Cabbage Tree Isl. If you set foot on it you will be fined $100,000. That's because it's the only breeding ground in the world, besides Boondelbah Islands, for the endangered bird Gould’s petrel.
When we headed back to the bay I decided it was a good time to make a sandwich. Sure enough, this big pod of Bottle Nose dolphins appeared starboard. (Notice my nautical speak there. You're super impressed, aren't you). You've never seen someone make egg salad sandwiches so quickly.

Captain Jack was kind enough to let Charlie have a go at "driving" the boat. Imagine if he knew it was actually on cruise control and his steering efforts were for naught. This was the most peace we had the whole time as it's all he wanted to do since we got onboard. Who cares about incredible humpback whales anyway?

Bucket list #204 checked off!