Thank you to Scott for being a great photography assistant for all of these shots!

Six shots stacked.

I forgot about taking multiple pictures of the same thing for stacking until the very end, whoops.

Tried a bit of light painting. Plus a plane in the background.

(BUTT)

I would like to try again. I’ve booked some time off for the new moon in September, hopefully we’re not in any kind of lockdown then. We kinda need to go even further away, Melbourne was still so bright we couldn’t really take any pictures in the south direction.

Scott and I took a few days off the other week to head out to the country. I booked us a cute little Airbnb cabin in Pyalong, about 90 minutes north of Melbourne.

We stopped at Lune on the way out. They were selling the banh mi croissant that the dude on Masterchef invented. It cost $15 ahahahaaa we are suckers. It was good, but small and sort of weird that it was sweet.. we decided we’d prefer to get two full regular banh mis from Bun Bun for the same money.

They were sold out of a lot of other options so we just got a pain au chocolat, ham & gruyere, and a cheese & vegemite escargot. All nice.

Scott should use that picture for his LinkedIn, y/y?

We also went a bit out of the way to go for a walk at Lerderderg Gorge. It was a nice gorge, but there were a lot of people around. Scott did spot a nice yellow robin though.

There’s a part that you have to step across a series of rocks to cross the water, which was fun, but scary when you’re carrying a lot of camera equipment!

We arrived in Pyalong just before sunset. The property was stunning. Apparently the granite boulders were dropped by glaciers. We wandered around taking a million pictures because everything was so photogenic!

Happy 11th anniversary.

The first night was clear enough that we could take some night sky photos, which I’ll save for another post. It was my first time trying astrophotography, and we got some cool shots, but also made a lot of mistakes. Unfortunately the other two nights were extremely cloudy, rainy, windy, so we weren’t able to try again.

Foggy rainy days. It was ok though, we didn’t really have anything we needed to do, and the cabin had a very cozy fireplace (once you got it lit). We played many games of Orleans, read, photo edited, ate snacks, and just relaxed.

We did venture out to the Pyalong Railway Bridge on the way home. Pretty rickety.

A wedge-tailed eagle flew across the road very close to our car. It was neat seeing it so close. They are huge!

We were supposed to spend the first half of June in the Northern Territory and South Australia, but ended up being restricted to a 5km radius from our house instead. Lockdown 4.0. So the month started off pretty bad, but I tried to make the most of it.

Instead of watching the Melbourne Demons vs Brisbane Lions game at Traegar Park in Alice Springs, NT, we watched it at home in our freezing house. :'( Dees won though. And we had delicious sushi bowls.

I had two weeks booked off work but cancelled the first week and worked instead. We were in strict lockdown so there wasn’t much I could do anyway. I actually got pretty depressed. It was just extremely frustrating that I was back at work, not on holiday, couldn’t reschedule the holiday, couldn’t go to the gym, couldn’t plan my training, couldn’t see my friends, couldn’t look forward to anything.

So I decided I needed a project.

I used that quiet week at work to plan and gather supplies for the following week.

My Saturday gym sessions currently have two exercises from blocks: block snatch and block cleans. I am very lucky that I can train in our garage, but I didn’t have blocks, which meant that I have to do the exercises from a hang position instead. I HATE HANG SNATCHES SO MUCH. Enough that I decided that I wanted to make my own blocks for home.

Originally I was going to make very simple criss-cross ones like I’d seen on the internet, but 1) I wanted to them to have two height options, and 2) I calculated that it would need around $150 worth of wood. So I emailed dad to ask if I could make them without the center supports because I don’t actually lift that much weight. He wrote back with a few questions and then 24 hours later he’d made me a brand new design in OpenSCAD! I could edit the dimensions to what is available here and it even generated a list of supplies. Very cool. Thanks dad. The new plan only used about $70 of wood!

It took me three afternoons to put them together, but I honestly found it very satisfying (other than stripped screws, which was remedied by replacing my screwdriver bit). I had fun using my new drop saw and circular saw, and didn’t even lose any fingers. Thanks dad for reminding me of when mom had to go to the hospital after a drop saw accident at the cottage AFTER I had finished cutting all of the pieces.

They work great! They nestle together perfectly and they don’t bounce or move at all. I’m very happy. I’ll probably add strips on the top to stop the bar from rolling off when I’m not holding it. I only used them one time so far though because the gym re-opened the next week lol. But there is covid in NSW at the moment so it’s probably just a matter of time before we are back in lockdown again. :/

Hide The Pain Harold Katrina.

If you’re in lockdown and don’t bake bread, DID YOU EVEN LOCKDOWN?

I made this bread with leftover whey instead of water, because the internet told me you could do that. But it tasted weird, I don’t think I would do it again. Or at least I would use 1/2 whey and 1/2 water.

Another lockdown cooking project: beef bourguignon. It took 3 days!!! And an entire bottle of wine!!! But it was dang delicious, and made like 8 servings, so in the end I think it was worth it.

One very good piece of news was that my citizenship test didn’t get cancelled. At that point we were allowed to go 25km from home and I guess they decided that it was essential enough that they could let the immigration officers work in the office.

They told me it would take 2 hours, and I had to bring in all sorts of documents. But the dude only asked for my passport and drivers license and I was out of there in 15 minutes, including doing the test TWO TIMES… because I failed the first time….. OOPS. (I got 95% but I failed one of the essential questions because apparently I am a monarchist. I got 100% the second time btw.)

So I spent a couple hours wandering the quiet city with my camera. I went to the Lululemon outlet, got bubble tea, borek, and popped into a whole bunch of shops too. It’s a good thing I didn’t get covid because my exposure site list would have been very long, haha. Most of my pictures didn’t turn out very well. I am definitely still learning how to use my camera.

I’d had Cactus Country bookmarked for years, but because it’s 3 hours away from Melbourne and not really close to anything, we still hadn’t made it out there. But it fit into our Bright and Echuca trip perfectly.

It’s $17.50/adult to get in to see 1000s of cacti and succulents set up in little themed trails. There are number markers that match up to a guidebook that gives you tons of fun facts and information. They also have a cafe where you can try cactus cake and cactus ice cream, and a shop where you can choose a cactus to bring home.

We were lucky to see a few flowering cacti.

So colourful! I kinda want a cactus Christmas tree.

Huuuuge!!
Spiky boy.

They use these ones to make the cactus cake.

Scott made me do this.

Cactus ice cream and cactus cake. A friend asked me what it tasted like and I wasn’t sure how to describe it. Maybe like apple? The ice cream was mild with a pleasant crunchy texture, and the cake was moist and spiced.

I bought a little Monkey Tail cactus to try to grow at home. We’ll see how it goes.

Overall we both loved Cactus Country! My favourite was the “underwater” themed area with all sorts of genetically unstable mutant cacti. The place was huge, there was so much to look at, so many cool pictures to take. And the information guide was very informative. I recommend a visit for sure.

Scott and I booked off the first week of March a while ago, without booking anything else, but planning to go somewhere. Maybe Queensland! Maybe Byron Bay! Maybe Western Australia! (I really wanted to go somewhere with warm swimming.) But after Jill’s ruined trip to Melbourne we decided that it’s still too risky to cross borders. So instead I tried to find the warmest places in Victoria (lol).

The weather was actually great in Bright, which is up in the Australian Alps. Nice and sunny and warm, but the water was freezing. We still got in the river in town for a little float, which was nice.

I hadn’t done much research on the campground I picked. I knew it was on a lake, and thought we’d do some swimming there. But after driving continuously UP for 40 minutes on switchbacks, we realised the campground was right on the TOP of Mt Buffalo, where the temperature was about 10°C colder than in town. Whoops. It was scenic AF but so cold. We felt like death getting out of the car in our wet bathing suits. One morning when we got up it was 0°C!!

See, it’s a legit mountain!! And pretty ideal for lazy people like me because you could drive nearly all the way up to the top. We only had to do a quick little climb up to The Horn at the very tippy top (30 minutes return).

We did a whole bunch of short hikes around Mount Buffalo National Park. Gorge Heritage Walk (1.5 hours), Lakeside Walk (45 minutes), Chawell Galleries Track (45 minutes), Eurobin Falls Track (45 minutes). They were all nice. Lots of big rocks. A bit of climbing.

Lizards!

Trying the ice bath technique on my sore calves.

Rosemarie suggested that we try mountain biking at Mystic Mountain while we were in the area. We tried to arrange a lesson but it was too hard so instead we just rented bikes for a half day and attempted to figure it out on our own. I was real worried. (Scott’s done it before but I never had.)

Anyway we started on the easiest run, which was basically just dirt tracks going around in squiggly circles, with a few bridges and jumps to try out. That was fun, we did that three times. Then we tried the second easiest run, which was similar but longer and had loose rocks ERRYWHERE, so it was really slippery. Sorta fun. At that point my butt was already very sore. Then we tried one tiny part of a blue run, which had MUCH BIGGER lumps!! And then I couldn’t find any comfortable position at all to be in, and we were both sweaty and tired, so we decided to head back. Scott did one more lap on the easy one one more time while I lay down.

After 3 nights in the mountains we needed to warm up, so we moved on to the Echuca area, which is a town on the Northern border of VIC, separated from NSW by the Murray River. It can get pretty hot up there, but not while we’re there, of course.

We stopped at Cactus Country on the way, but I have so many pictures to show you I’ll make it into its own post.

We stayed in a campground a bit of out town. It had… A LOT… of birdlife. Like THOUSANDS of cockatoos and galahs flying over starting from about 6:00AM. If you’ve ever heard one cockatoo squawking, you would know what I am talking about. It also had a lot of flies and mosquitos. Also the pool was freezing. But other than that it was fine!

Because 1000 birds is not enough for me, we took a boat tour through Barmah National Park with Kingfisher Cruises to see even more birds. It was great! We saw cormorants, spoonbills, azure kingfishers, egrets, tawny frogmouth, eagles, darters, treecreepers, yellow rosellas, pelicans, ducks, and more that she pointed out but I forgot. The azure kingfishers were so pretty and we got to see them fishing and eating shrimp out of the water. BTW I posted a whole bunch of Scott and my bird photos on my Facebook if you’re interested.

Echuca has a lot of paddle steamers. The most in the world apparently. We did the Wharf to Winery tour, where you ride a paddle steamer to Morrison’s Winery for lunch and wine tasting, and then get the boat back. Lunch on the deck with kookaburras, rainbow lorikeets, and yellow rosellas flying around was simply lovely.