Category Archives: travel

Conversations with my husband (from late last year)

Almost verbatim. But edited.

Me: You know how we can’t find our satnav? And I thought maybe we should get another one but you said OVER YOUR DEAD BODY? And we are driving to South Australia? Well there’s a TomTom app that runs on an iphone.

Fraser: Ah ha

me: so you would not crack the shits if I got it?

Fraser: No. But I might ban you from Ikea for 6 months

me: lol << (“as if”)
I’m going to buy this sucker so I can wear it in a bit

Several minutes later …

Me: omg

Fraser: wot?

me: you can buy a YODA VOICE
for the TomTom

Fraser: no

me: Turn left, you must.
A roundabout, there will be.

Fraser: NO

me: Follow the third path, you should
I am not going to
but I am cracking up thinking about it
there is a lot of fun to be had there for $6.49

and, as it turns out, there is a lot of fun to be had wondering about what else Yoda might say.

  • The urge to speed, resist, you must.
  • An accident, there has been.
  • USE the brakes.



Posted by on March 8, 2013 in movies, shopping, travel


Packing time again

With school holidays looming, we’re headed off once more. The cat-sitter (and house-sitter) is booked, the rooms have been paid for. All that is left is to finish work, clean the car and pack. Oh, and write a 1500 word essay.

I have blogged before about trying to pack for game conventions. It’s fair to say, though, that that is the easiest of these tasks. Because when it comes down to it, we throw lots of clothes into a bag and then put games into the car until no more fit. And then trade them out until we have a decent set.

But to do that requires us to pack the car. And the car is still full of stuff I bought at IKEA a couple of months back, when I was going to clean out the Bigster’s bedroom. I got 60% of the work done, then stopped, and now it is around 20% more messy than it was, with 100% more floorspace covered. And I don’t want to move the new stuff in while the floor is still kinda incognito. So that’s a challenge, especially as the Bigster’s response to anyone going into her room while she is there is to go kind of Chuck Norris on them … and she’s there pretty close to 24/7 at the moment.

No-one cleans Chuck Norris's room


And before that can be done, there are several days’ worth of work to do (because going away just brings all of that week’s deadlines forward by a week) as well as a 1500 word essay on internet censorship to be written.

And I don’t think the meme generator can do either of those things for me, more’s the pity.

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Posted by on September 19, 2012 in decluttering, games, study, to-do, travel


Decisions Decisions

So, let’s say someone – for the sake of argument, let’s call her Melissa – had three options. And a ticket to the most hotly-anticipated gaming event in Texas.

1. Be financially responsible and a good parent and stay in Melbourne with my her family.

2. Go to a conference in Boston. Which is directly relevant to my her work. And fly home with a stop in Dallas. Cost: About $5000. Some tax-deductible.

3. Stop mucking around and book the flights and hotel for BGGcon. Cost: About $2500. Plus shopping.

Hypothetically speaking, is there an optimal choice here?


Posted by on June 19, 2012 in games, travel


Of Lanterns, Soup and Duck fat. In no particular order.

Three years ago, during our 5 months in Germany, we happened to be in Düsseldorf in the late afternoon of November 11th. What we saw that night scarred Fraser for life, and has since come up in ever so many dinnertime conversations.

Gangs of children – all warmly dressed in their beanies, winter coats and boots – roamed the streets of the town, carrying little paper lanterns on sticks. Every shop was entered, and staff were on hand to pass out cigarettes whisky sweets and little treats.

They didn’t even have to say anything – as soon as they entered the shops, someone came running and handed them stuff until they left. (Mental note: If in Germany in November, send Otto into a Jeweller’s shop with a paper lantern).

We got back to Wuppertal and it was the same story.

In Fraser’s world, November 11th went down as The Night Children Shake Down Shopkeepers. The lanterns were a concealed threat to come back and burn down the premises if the candy quality and quantity was not deemed adequate.

Fast forward to almost now, and we started to get notices from the school about the Lantern Walk at one of the local German churches. And about school art sessions (parents and siblings invited) to make lanterns – clearly this was a big thing.

Green lanterns, with arms and legs and eyes and ears and cute crooked smiles.

Kommt wir woll’n Laterne laufen, das ist unsere schönste Zeit;
kommt wir woll’n Laterne laufen, alle sind bereit..

The canny among you will be thinking, but it’s June not November – and you are right. But apparently a Lantern Walk would not be a Lantern Walk without bitterly cold weather (not to mention the rain) and early sunset so no-one keeps the Gangs of Children up late. Because you don’t want to keep children up past their bedtime when fire is involved.

So, on Friday night, I got together with two of the other mums to make the World’s Biggest Ever Pot of Pea & Ham soup. Our school recently bought a massive preserving pot that is also good for making soup, and we had captaincy of her maiden voyage.

What we did not have was a recipe for pea & ham soup.

But we were happy to make it up as we went along, and we think we did OK. Three hours of soup stirring and a couple of pizzas later, Otto and I headed home, leaving the pot’s hosts with at least a couple more hours to stir.

On Saturday, after a quick trip to IKEA for tea lights (that turned into … well … you know … Otto was having a great time in Smålund and I was just wandering peacefully), we picked up the Pot. After some debate, we sat it on the front seat and buckled it in for the drive to the church. With the lid firmly duct-taped on – because pea & ham soup is not a great smell at the best of times, and a car that smells of pea & ham soup might have had me praying for some budding lantern-wielding arsonists to come and torch it.

And then we heated, and stirred, and heated, and stirred.

And Otto went into the church where I think they sang some songs and talked about St Martin. And then the walk began.

And it was absolutely amazing. Because there were – I have no idea but I’d guess between 200 and 300 people. And each person – or each family – had a beautiful lantern that their child had made or that they had bought. It would have been beautiful in the daytime; at night it really was something magical. And we wended our way through the Fitzroy Gardens in the dark, following a guy dressed as Rory from Dr Who.

Lanterns in the park.

Kommt wir woll’n Laterne laufen, denn wir fürchten nicht die Nacht;
kommt wir woll’n Laterne laufen, das wär doch gelacht.

Apparently, the guy was actually dressed as St Martin. But all these Roman Centurions kind of look alike. One year they had a policewoman on a horse, with a long red cloak. Which would have been awesome. There were no police there this year so the priest and some of the adults stopped traffic instead. Because Gangs of Children with Lanterns (and priests) should always have right of way.

And eventually we got back to the church, which was amazingly busy. We sold soup, and there were Brezeln, and hot dogs, and Glühwein, and Kinderpunsch which is like Glühwein but for kids, and a bonfire (sadly lacking in marshmallows). And bread that was – I am not kidding – spread with LARD! Or Duck Fat, which is not quite lard but really there is not much difference. I bought a slice and shared it with 2 friends. Which means “I bought a slice and split it into three, and we all kind of took a little bite at once and then said OMG IT IS CRUNCHY WHY IS THIS SO? and discreetly discarded it.” Because cultural traditions are all very well, but not so much when they are spread with duck fat. In fact, I am going to go on record here and state that I would steer clear of any cultural tradition that involved duck fat in any way, shape or form.

And we stirred and we served. And the Bigster took money because she said she would collapse otherwise. And because her Mean Mother had insisted she come along for a bit of Cultural Involvement. And a dollar fell in the soup pot but we figured it would add extra flavour, and we kept stirring.

And it was a fabulous evening. And we put our heads together and wondered how we can get even half of those people to come to our German Christmas Market in November.

Maybe we should send the children round with their lanterns?


Posted by on June 4, 2012 in education, family, languages, school, travel


Financial Planning, my way. AKA Mature & sensible. Really.

I want to spend, Fraser worries


Posted by on April 12, 2012 in grand plans, house, travel


Being Mature, Grown-up and Sensible. It’s a stretch, believe me.

After a weekend of gaming (LOTS of gaming), Fraser and I had our much-heralded Big Talk on Monday.

On the agenda: Would we or would we not go to Essen this year?

Now I don’t know about your Big Talks with our partners, but ours never go well. At least, not when we are both being Mature, Grown-up and Sensible. Frivolous and Irresponsible are much more charming.

Really, this talk was about a lot more than Essen.

[Imagine here that I wrote lots of serious stuff about Bigster and school. Actually I did but I deleted it because it was boring. Upshot: She can’t travel in October for the next 3 or 4 years.]

The stuff I deleted demonstrates that 2016 or 2017 would be the next time we could actually all go to Essen. And there’s a family consensus that, whilst cheaper, it would not be fair anymore for some of us to go and some of us not to. This is the down-side of being in a family that shares your hobby. Meh, Germany, what’s that? NOBODY wants to go to Essen *cue weird hallucinogenic music and lights*.

And after that, we have to wait till around 2020 for Otto to be done with exams. That’s forward planning for you! In fact, Fraser and I have a date in England in 2021. If we have done being Mature, Grown-Up and Sensible by then.

OMG IN TEN YEARS MY BABIES WILL BE ALL GROWN UP. << This way lies madness. Do not think about it. It does my head in. Frequently.

Anyway. That’s why we wanted to go this year.

Sadly, we overspent last year and – while we have reduced spending dramatically this year already – we are still spending too much. Which fails that Mature, Grown-Up and Sensible test by a LONG way. So the prospective trip has been cancelled.

BUT – and because it is never that simple in our lives:

Bigster wants to do a school exchange program in 2013 or 2014, spending April to June in Germany. Which would be awesome and exactly what she needs and I think she MUST DO IT – except that we would have to host her exchange partner and we just don’t have room. We always expected to renovate our house but it hasn’t happened. YET.

That’s right. MORE PLANS TO SPEND OUR MONEY. Which would involve re-mortgaging the house (ugh) but would improve our quality of life out of sight. At least until someone tells me what all my wonderful plans & schemes will actually cost.

But – again – this has to happen SOON. Because I don’t think it’s fair to renovate while your kid is doing their final years of school. (Note to self: Life would be much easier if I worried less about being fair.) And because the exchange partner would be here at the start of next year or the following year, and we need somewhere for her to sleep (apparently the cubby house would not be acceptable). And because our house gets messier by the day because we have already thrown out or given away most of what can be thrown out or given away and we just keep collecting games books shoes stuff. We need the extra space. And because my brother & his wife live in the same municipality as we do and their house plans have just been rejected after the Council spent ten months considering them. Which I prefer to call NOT considering them. SERIOUSLY. TEN MONTHS. SO RUDE. With similar stories from other local friends, we have to get started soon or we will be in our nineties before ANYTHING gets done! And the kids will probably have left home by then.

But also because I want a game room and a hidden door and all the awesomeness I am planning for. (You can see some of it here, on Pinterest, if you are interested). (Aside: OMG! PINTEREST!!! What a time suck!)

Cue much Angst and Obsessing from me.

Also, betting odds. To wit:

  • Go to Essen this year: 678,755:1 (Coincidentally, this equates to the odds of winning the lottery with a 12-game ticket. Must ponder that.)
  • Go to BorderCon this year: 1:785 (unless something dramatic happens, we’ll be there)
  • Renovate house this year: 2:1 (I think the odds are good but I always do. Note: This does not include allowance for time-wasting by municipal staff.)
  • Go to BGGcon this year: 364:1 (Still a VERY slight chance of this as there is a work-related conference the week before.)
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Posted by on April 11, 2012 in grand plans, house, travel


Big, not-quite-plans

So, Fraser and I had another of those Big Conversations during the Christmas-New Year break. This one went a bit like this:

Me: Bigster will be in Year 9 next year. So in 2013 and for 2 or 3 years after that, she’ll have end of year exams in October-November.
Fraser: Yes. So?
Me: Well if we WANT to go back to Essen, this year could be our last chance!
Fraser: Yes. That is correct.
Me: So …
Fraser: We can’t afford it.
Me (cunningly): Yes.
Fraser: Yes what?
Me: Yes we can’t afford it.
Fraser (confused): So why are we having this conversation?
Me: Well, maybe we SHOULD be able to afford it.
Fraser (frustrated): Have I not been telling you that we need to Spend Less?
Me: Yes. And you are right.
Fraser: So how are we going to afford a trip to Essen?
Me (triumphantly): I think we should Spend Less!

At which point, his head exploded.

So here’s the Plan.

1. Spend Less.
2. ??? (also Revisit conversation (and spending) at Easter.)

Which of course means that I have three iterations of an itinerary already. At 70% at least. And we have both booked time off at work, because there’s no point deciding to go at Easter and then finding we can’t get the time off. And we’re talking about all sorts of places to visit and see and kinda planning for a day at Legoland Windsor and balancing the many days we want to spend in the UK with wanting to spend a full two and a half weeks in Germany so the girls can hear it spoken and wanting to see some other places too. And my friend gave me a whiteboard and it is covered in notes about towns and B&Bs and maps and people to see. And we’re going to try to sell off some tat on eBay for spending money. And i have ALREADY Not Spent about $2000 and although that doesn’t really count as savings it still makes me feel all warm and noble and self-sacrificing. And our Hotel Of Choice has vacancies at Essen time but shhhhh don’t tell anyone or they might get booked. And the girls are excited most of all that they might go back to CARDIFF and even more that they are going to ESSEN and can we work there please mummy and WHOA hold it right there we aren’t even in the 100% club yet.
But it will happen, right? Because now I have told The Internet.


Posted by on January 16, 2012 in grand plans, travel


That was SO not the question I just asked you …

Me, by email, to inbound duty free shop:

If I pre-order (large item X) for collection next Monday morning, are you able to wrap it up so my kids don’t immediately see what it is, given that it is their Christmas gift and all?

Inbound duty free shop to me:

Hi Melissa, if you can just send us your flight details and credit card number, we can put one of those aside for you.

Me, to Inbound duty free shop:

Um, I kind of need to know whether you can wrap it up pls? Cos  otherwise, no sale.

Betcha they still don’t get it.

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Posted by on November 25, 2009 in christmas, shopping, travel



I will blog about this elsewhere in good time, but meanwhile I just have to comment …


What sort of a name for a place is that?

“Oh, I am just off to Moist Cheeks for the afternoon”

It sounds – it doesn’t even sound dirty. Just kind of creepy.

I tried replacing Moist with Damp, Sweaty … nope.  Didn’t help.

All the way there – all the way through the town, even – we giggled.


On Satnavs and Love Affairs

I have only 3 things to say:

  1. Otto still does perfect imitations of Svetlana, the SatNav we had in the UK. Usually when we are in traffic, and often entirely appropriate.
  2. OMGTomsk is quickly becoming K-K-K-Ken. Named after one of the voice options that we don’t even use.
  3. I regularly say “thanks love” after K-K-K-Ken gives us some particularly good directions.
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Posted by on September 14, 2009 in travel