Friday, 30 December 2011

A reflection on 2011

I have been doing a bit of reflecting over the past month or so about 2011 and what I have achieved, what I haven't achieved, what I've done and learnt. 

It's been a busy year!!!

We started the year with a flood.  Between 1 December 2010 and mid January 2011, our house had recorded more than 1 metre of rain in our gauge.  Everything was soggy!!!  Brisbane also flooded - Mum & Graham went away on a cruise the day that Grantham was decimated.  His cousins live up there and their lives were saved by them diving into their garage which was under the house and built into the hill.  Other friends who's house wasn't even finished yet went under at Wivenhoe Pocket.  Quite surreal - we sat at home, flooded in, watching it on the news. 

We then headed off on a quick trip to Adelaide for my brother and I.  Dad has diabetes, which he was not looking after, and all of a sudden couldn't feel his feet and legs.  He got the bus home from Kangaroo Island and was diagnosed with Diabetes Neuropathy.  Saw a heart specialist who put him straight onto a Neurosurgeon who whacked him into hospital and diagnosed Guillian Barre syndrome.  12 weeks in hospital and 9 months later, he's a lot better than he was!

Come April, mum is put in hospital with a racing heart.  Her normally ~50 bpm heart rate had gone to ~190 bpm.  She spent nearly 2 weeks in the Mater Private and wound up with the heart specialist stopping and restarting her heart to get it to return to normal.  She now has a heart rate of ~40 bpm!!!

End of April Miss Michelle and I headed off on a road trip to Sydney with Sue.  We dropped Sue off at Gosford, and headed out to Millthorpe.  After Millthorpe, we went to Sydney for ANZAC day, and then left to go up to Glen Innes for the Australian Celtic Festival.  Ok, so we nearly got blown away, but we had a good time!

June came along and we had some time at home, recarpeting and re-timbering the floors... what a job!

July came along and Henrik arrived from Norway for 10 months through YFU.  He's a teenager - what more can I say.  He knows everything, and goes nowhere without headphones on his ears.

August - MUSTER TIME!!!

September - we headed off to learn about Red Claw fishing from Bert.  Went out to Borumba Dam, and over the course of the weekend, we managed 360 + of the little blighters!  Yummmmm...

October we also went camping out at Boondooma Dam.  That's where I decided I wanted to camp in more style - so a week later we were the proud owners of a Jayco Flite Campervan... with a quick trip to Mooranbah thrown in for good measure!

November, Gai and I headed off on our cruise from Singapore to Thailand, Vietnam, Bali, Darwin, Port Douglas and Airlie Beach.  You can read all about that in other entries on my blog...

And now it's December.....  Christmas is gone, and tomorrow is New Years Eve.

This year I've re-learnt to crochet, have continued my sewing journey, sorted a lot of my house out, and started spending quality time with myself.  I think I'm pretty happy about 2011...

The things that didn't go so well is my finances - I need to take them in hand.  That will be my main focus for 2012.  I am not going away on holidays this year as we are heading off in 2013 on a cruise with Chris and Lorraine out to Hawaii, and I want to take some good time off then. 

My goals for 2012 include:
  • Save $1.00 per day.  This is for Christmas next years' expenses.  I've already set this up - and it will be more like $3.00 per day as I have 3 accounts that always seem to have money in them.  I've also started transferring piddly little amounts over too - it will be a nice experiment to see how much winds up in the account!
  • Pay down debt.  This is a serious budget year, and I haven't yet refined what the actual goal will be.
  • Spend time doing gentle things.  Sewing, crochet, knitting etc. 
  • Work on ensuring my relationship with Ken stays as good as it is now!
  • Slow down, focus on what I am doing and finish things!  Don't try and do 10 things at once!!!
  • Take my health into my own hands.  Eat more fresh food, drink less alcohol, get more exercise.
On top of that, I will continue my decluttering journey to rid my life of what I don't want in it.  I'm certainly closer than I was, but I'm not there yet. 

I wish you all a wonderful new year and look forward to sharing some of my 2012 with you!

Friday, 2 December 2011

I made it to holidays!!!!!

Perhaps you’d like to grab yourself a cuppa, or a glass of wine – this is a long blog!!!  I’ve been so busy doing stuff, I haven’t had a chance to write about it!!

Are you comfy??  Ready???

Well… what a week it’s been for me!!!

One week ago today I had just started my holidays and was aboard a plane to Singapore…. Now I’m sailing the ocean between Laem Chabang (the port of Bangkok, Thailand) and Saigon, Vietnam. 

Thank god for holidays!!!  I never thought they’d arrive!!!

But… I digress…….

The second last week at work I wound up in Sydney on Tuesday afternoon, and then spent Wednesday all day at Head Office at Rhodes.  It was good – we were writing OHS standards from a corporate viewpoint, which is something I’ve long been an advocate for.  Nathan, Max and I spent the day pacing the room and leaping in and out of beanbags and a really comfy tub chair sort of a thing in wicker, discussing wording of OHS standards.  Ok, so not exactly thrilling stuff, but stuff that needed to be done, because I really am a fan of standardized corporate policies & procedures, and it was time to put my money where my mouth was!

I got back to work for Thursday morning and had an OHS and an Environmental Audit for two days…  that basically means two days of getting a miniscule amount of work done in the morning, a bit in the afternoon, and not much else.  That got rid of the week ending 19 November!!!

Spent the weekend with Chris and Lorraine, which was delightful….  Saturday , Lorraine and I went to the sewing group’s Christmas lunch, and on Sunday we all went to Capelli’s in Gympie for their Seafood long lunch – mmmmmm…..


Monday and Tuesday the following week were basically just tidying up things, and putting a couple of large projects I’ve been working on to bed.  It felt really good to get them out of the way, too – why on EARTH do we put things off??  Anyway, we do...

Gai arrived on Monday, Chris and Lorraine left on Tuesday, I came home from work on Tuesday afternoon and packed my bag – I’m an expert at leaving things to the last minute, and Wednesday we took off for the airport and the rest is history!!!

Gai and I had quite a bit of money in a credit with Flight Centre after they made a boo-boo last year on our holiday overseas and”forgot” to tell us weneeded a visa to visit Vietnam.  Turns out it’snot Flight Centre policy to tell you that you need a visa to visit Vietnam, andthey thought that itwasmy fault that I didn’thave one.  I didn’t agree, andnor did the judge when I took them to the small claims courtand won… 

(just as an aside, they still don’t tell you that you need a visa until you’re using a credit provided by a court of law in booking a flight to overseas….!!!) 

If you don’t get my meaning by what I’ve said up above, let me spell it out.  Use Flight Centre as your Travel Agent AT YOUR OWN PERIL.  Look up the site and google “flight centre visa” and see how many times they’ve not told people they need a visa and been taken to court over it and lost.  Lots of people very unhappy, being stranded in overseas countries and losing out on tours because a so called professional Travel Agency doesn’t have a “policy” of telling you about a visa.  It’s in their terms and conditions you know – it’s your job to get a visa…. (yeah, it is my job to get it.  I don’t get it, though, if you don’t tell me I need it….)

Anyway, Flight Centre rant over….  (I love that they wouldn’t settle out of court – I didn’t sign a confidentiality agreement, which now allows me to tell the world about my experience with them!!!)

Now.  Where was I?

Oh yes…

We had a credit with Flight Centre… 

We needed to use it up, so I had seen a cruise on the Diamond Princess from Singapore to Sydney via Koh Samui, Bangkok, Saigon, Bali, Darwin, Port Douglas and Airlie Beach.  When my auditors decided they were coming a week earlier than previously planned, we both jumped at the chance to go. 

We booked ourselves a Balcony cabin, mainly because that was the very last cabin available on the cruise when we were booking.  I thought it would be nice – we would be on level 14, right up with the swimming pools etc., and we would have a lovely time. 

So – we headed off to Sydney with Qantas, to catch the flight to Singapore on Wednesday 23/11…  Sitting in the Qantas club, I had plenty of time (thanks to Gai’s spectacular organizing skills…) and went to check my e-mails.  I had one from Princess, telling us that they had upgraded us to a mini suite – how good is that!!!  I have never even seen a mini suite, let alone travelled in one!!!

So – we got on the Qantas plane, drank lots of wine, watched lots of movies, and arrived in a very hot, humid and sticky Singapore about 9.30 pm that night.  We got a taxi to our hotel in the Marina area, the Pan Pacific.  Lovely, lovely hotel, except that we had one king bed rather than two singles, but a quick call to housekeeping fixed that in about 15 minutes flat!

In Singapore we saw all sorts of things including Jurong Bird Park, High Tea at Raffles (I was SO born in the wrong Century), Little India for a lovely henna tattoo, the Mustafa centre (just because we could), the Marina Bay Sands – the top, and the Hawker Centre for the BEST satay sticks that I have ever eaten with Mr Neil…. 
The view from our balcony in Singapore.  The 3 towers are the new Marina Bay Sands - do you like the ship on the top???  That's got a pool in it that you can swim up to the edge of!!!

All too soon, Singapore came to an end though, and it was Sunday morning, so off to the Marina Bay Sands again we headed, to get on the boat.  Thanks to the Elite Passenger Status that I have (thanks Mum & Graham for taking me on enough cruises with P&O as a kid which count towards the Princess Status thingy) we sailed right through the boarding process, got on a bus and just over an hour after leaving the hotel, we were boarding our ship!!! 

First things first – lunch, then we went back to the cabin, unpacked, and hit the decks.  Ohhhhh… the mini suite is great! It’s basically a cabin with a large bathroom, and a small lounge room attached, and a balcony that’s twice as wide as a normal balcony.  Noice!!!!  Oops – forgot to mention, glass of champagne to help us unpack….

view from the lounge into the cabin

We trotted upstairs to find a bar to have a drink to celebrate holidays, and found the Crooners bar.  It’s a lovely little bar on the Promenade deck and so we parked ourselves there and met a couple called Dave and Sue.  Lovely couple!!!  Spent quite a while in the bar, and looked up to find ourselves gliding away from the dock… oops – missed that!  Funniest thing was that Sue told us she had a lapband – Gai and I melted into giggles at that!!!!

Monday found ourselves at sea.  I don’t really remember what we did, other than we did sleep in, and then we went to a lecture from a guy representing Good Feet, which are an orthotics company.  Had a nap in the afternoon, ate dinner and collapsed into bed!

Tuesday we were in the port of Koh Samui in Thailand.  We didn’t take a tour, and didn’t really have a plan either, so when we got off the boat (quite early in the morning thanks to that black elite card which meant I didn’t need a tender ticket), we were accosted by taxi drivers, and wound up accepting one’s proposal of US$100 for the day to go around the island, which was a great thing to do!  Saw all sorts of things, including Grandmother and Grandfather rock, and the Mummified Monk (real – and he wears Raybans) and spent about 3 hours in Chaweng beach, where we had a pedicure which was gorgeous…

Came back to the boat, and Gai took some tablets & that left me to my own devices for the evening, so I had taken my little laptop to the Crooners bar, thinking I’d write this blog and then have some dinner and come back to the cabin….  Wrong!  Found Sue and Dave there, and sat for probably 3 or 4 hours and then went to dinner – again a lovely evening.  Headed off around 9.30 pm for bed, totally wrecked again!

Today we were in the port of Laem Chaebang – also known as Bangkok, even though it’s really only 30 klm to Pattaya.  We went on the shuttle bus to Pattaya, and I have spent all day shopping, for other people.  I have 7 t-shirts and 4 pairs of various shorts for Brent, 2 t-shirts, 1 shirt, 2 boardies and a couple of dress shorts for Ken, some lights for Richelle, some painkillers for Ken, and some antibiotics for the household for “in case”….  I got myself a lovely little handbag in amongst all that. 

This afternoon we have come back on board, headed to the Crooners bar & met up with Sue & Dave, and saw an elderly gentleman making Waratah’s from ribbon and a polystyrene ball….  It was amazing to watch him!!! This is apparently his “afternoon hobby”, with his morning hobby being sketching….  I’m going to have a go at making one when I get home – they look really easy, but also very classy. 

Tonight we ate in the Santa Fe dining room, I had Scallops for entrĂ©e, and Crawfish for mains.  You don’t know what Crawfish is?  Neither did I!!! Turns out they look like little bitty baby redclaws without any claws or feet (probably because they’d been removed).  I don’t envy the poor cook person who had to shell them!!!  They were probably the size of the little shrimp that you get in the chinese fried rice… but oh goodness, being fresh, they were yummy!!!

Tomorrow the plan is to go to the Champagne Art Auction at 2.00 pm.  And back to the Crooners bar for 5.00pm.  That’s about all the plan that’s around at the moment…  I like it like that, it’s nice to be able to do nothing!  I might do some crochet, I might make it out of bed in time for breakfast at the restaurant, or I might not.  I might go to the sew & chat group if its on – I haven’t read the Princess Patter yet, so I don’t know what else is on that I might want to do.  If the learn to dance class is up to the Waltz, I’m going to that (if it’s not on too early…..)

1 December 2011

Well – I made it to the stitch & chat – I finished a whole hand towel topper thing for my friend Victoria for Christmas!  I had already made the dishcloth, and this is just to match – it’s nice to have that gift out of the way!  At the stitch & chat, I met a lady who was also crocheting towel toppers.  Turns out she’s the wife of the gentleman I told you about above, who made the Waratah’s!!!  There were quite a few other ladies there too, it was very pleasant chatting to all of them.

At 1.15pm I was heading to the Art Auction, and ran into Dave & Sue, so went and had lunch with them on the deck.  I just had some cheese & crackers and some mushroom ragout, which was all lovely, even though I’m not so fond of the Horizon Court, I think it’s a little “Coles Cafeteria” like…  We wandered down to the art auction, and it went on FOREVER!!!  Didn’t finish till 4.00 pm!!!  I’d given up about 2.45 pm and gone and looked at my e-mails, and came back and it was still going!!!  Wandered back to the Crooners bar at 5.00 pm and met Dave & Sue again and went off for some dinner. 

All in all, a lovely relaxing day at sea!!!

3 December 2011 – welcome to Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City…

Today was an early start.  I had finally decided that I should do a tour into the city but one where I was left to my own devices.  Turned out to be a great decision!!!  We had a great guide, who rattled on non-stop most of the way to the city (a 2 hour drive!!!) but he was interesting to listen to.  After a quick orientation, we were left to go our own ways, and I headed off towards the Notre Dame Cathedral and the French Post Office.  Both really interesting architecture, and beautifully preserved.  The French Post Office had wonderful tiles on the floor, and booths that you could go into if you needed to make a phone call… 

Cathedral Notre Dame

The Old French Post Office

From there I headed down Dong Khai street, which is a street full of stores like Versace, Rolex, Cartier etc. on one side, and tiny little shops and workshops on the other side, next door to other shops selling gorgeous silk clothes & lacquer ware. 

I bought some T-shirts in Ben Thanh market, they were about $6 each, and two Jimmy Choo handbags – one for me and one for Lorraine.  They were about $40 each, or 965,000 Dong…  I also bought a small lacquer ware pot for about $5 for Ken’s mum. 

Before I knew it, it was 2.45 pm and I was back on the bus.  The absolute funniest thing happened on the bus too.  There was these two old ducks from Wales in front of me on the way to Saigon, and on the way back they were sitting across the aisle.  They had gone into the supermarket and had found two small casks of wine.  They had bought them and then proceeded to decant one of the casks into their water bottles and a thermos that they had with them.  They had decided that they’d take the chance on getting one box through the X Ray and if they had that taken off them, at least they’d have the other cask in their bottles…. 

What a bloody brilliant idea!!!  Why hadn’t I thought of that???

There was a bit left over, so I offered them my small water bottle but they filled it up and gave it to me.  Not bad wine actually!!!

We got back on the ship a bit after 5.00 pm – gosh I smelt soooo bad!!!  Sweaty, stinky, icky.  I felt a lot better after a shower, but didn’t really feel like being sociable so here I am with room service, and the wine.  Gai didn’t feel like going out and didn’t want to eat anything so she’s tucked up in bed with the biggest block of Cadbury’s I’ve ever seen!  It’d seriously be 3 of the family blocks that you can get in Australia!!!

Before we set sail, there was lots of little sampan type boats hanging around the ship.  The kids on board were having a great time – jumping around, in and out of the water.  The tugs came close before long and rounded them all up.  I think they wanted people to throw money to them, which I think a few people did.  It’s all notes, so it’s not like its coins that would sink.  We’ve been underway now for nearly an hour and a half, and we’re still in the Saigon River.  It’s about 20 miles to the river mouth, and lots and lots of traffic around – I have heard the ship’s horns quite often, about every few minutes.  We must nearly be there though – we just went past the heavy lift boat with the Oil Rig on board, and I just watched the Pilot disembark our ship, so we’re on our own now.  Absolutely NO OHS there!!!  A small boat being thrown around, with no railings on it…  the Pilot just jumped off our ship onto his boat, and ducked inside.  No lifejacket either… Ahem. 

We now have three sea days before we arrive in Bali on Tuesday next week.  After 3 ports in the past 5 days, I’m ready for nothing!!!!