Thursday, December 30, 2010

Weisse Weinachten

I have tried writing this post a few times but there is just no way of starting to describe what a phenomenal holiday I just had with a group of fantastic people, in breathtaking surroundings and basically just a perfect time away. If I could describe exactly what happened and how much fun I had and what we got up to then I would be here for hours and you would probably give up reading after about 4 extreme length paragraphs gushing over everything. Basically I apologize of the extensive amount of positive adjectives but the past five days have been a total trip of a lifetime. It was one of those holidays where you just laugh and laugh and laugh. We spent time eating and drinking and chatting and playing in the snow. We went on the Sound of Music tour and sang along and skipped around the sights. Ate a ridiculous amount of food on Christmas day and drank the day away. Froze our toes off in the weather while we traipsed the Christmas Markets. Wandered the town of Salzburg and saw some beautiful sights and then kept warm in the Augustiner Beer Halls.

Without boring you to death about all the details I thought the best way to show you how much fun I had would be by showing you a few of the photos so here goes!

Me, Shea and Arron in our cabin on the train on the way from Munich to Salzburg. It was cheaper to fly in and out of Munich then get the train then fly direct. It was so packed when we first got on we had to sit on the floor in the hallway. When we finally got into this little compartment there were two young german boys playing their music out loud so we had a bit of entertainment at least. They also taught us how to say merry christmas in german.

When we arrived at the property they were kind enough to leave behind a case of beer, a case of white wine and a case of red white. But you know... of course we had stocked up on the way (just in case). This was the best way to cool the drinks. I might just add that we finished the free booze on the first night. All but one bottle of red wine.
After a few rounds of drinking jenga and other drinking games a viewing of the Sound of Music was compulsory viewing as we were off on the tour the next day. Me and Toni found a little attic space so after scoring a boost of the boys to get up there we got to chill out on mattresses in our own little possy. The photo is from up in our hidey hole.

And the sound of music tour begins!!!

Me in front of the Von Trapp Villa. This was actually the back of the house but the front of the house was actually a different house. Remember when they pulled up at the back of the house in boat and they all fell out? Learnt on this trip that poor Gretel couldn't swim and Maria was supposed to catch her but she fell out a different way so they had to cut the scene and get someone to save her!

Me in front of the gazebo where they sung "I am sixteen going on seventeen". Because of some stupid lady who danced around in it, fell over, then sued they no longer leave it open. I had my heart set on dancing around in there but had to settle for this photo instead! It also not in the same place as when they were filming because too many tourists flocked there and were singing around it!

Shea, Candra and I in the Mirabell Gardens where they filmed "Do Re Me". The first one is me and Shea doing ' So - a needle pulling thread', followed by Candra and Shea doing 'Te - I drink with jam and bread' and lastly ' Fa - A long long way to run'. This song got a few sings over the weekend with the version of beer sung by the boys several times. Also on a drunken night me and the rest of the girls demonstrated the end part when they jump up the stairs. Its on someones camera somewhere...and i hope done day it doesn't end up on youtube. Its basically a shambles anyway.

Christmas Morning Brekky! Prior to going to the house we had all had a chat about who would cook what and what exactly we would be eating. Sean had contacted the owner of the house and got him to recommend a local butcher and bakery that we could order our meat from. We had grabbed our groceries while we were out on the sound of music tour so we were set for a few days. I had volunteered to cook the champagne breakfast as I have no idea how to cook a roast and cutting up croissants, fruit and making scrambled eggs is about how culinary I get. Luckily Vanessa volunteered to help too and with a few extra helpers we put in a spread that I am pretty chuffed with thank you very much.

Santa time! We had organised a secret Santa between the 15 of us so everyone got to open a pressie on Christmas day. So after brekky we all sat on Santa's (Sean) lap (even the boys) to open our pressies. I scored a bottle of perfume and some nail polish which was a perfect gift and it was good to feel a little bit spoilt. Everyone seemed to like their gifts and after we had packed up all the wrapping paper we got around to trying to guess who our secret Santas were.

Frolicking in the snow! Best way to work up an appetite for Christmas lunch. Not only was it a white Christmas because there was snow already on the ground but earlier that morning it had snowed so we had lots of fresh powder to play with.

The first photo is of Jen, Charlotte, Shea and I in front of our house and by house I mean mansion. It had 13 bedrooms, zillion bathrooms, two kitchens, massive living room with a big fireplace to keep us warm and even its own bar (which we didn't raid too much thank god). Plus a bit field out the front for snow frolicking.

The next couple of photos is Toni gathering snow for our snowman building and Jen trying to roll a snowball for his head. Because of the powder none of it was sticking and so our snowman was a bit wonky and not very round.

After a bit of snowman building we got a bit distracted by the appearance of a bottle of Baileys. So we sat on shopping bags in the snow (too keep our bums dry) and had Baileys on ice. Which was basically a handful of snow in our Baileys. Ingenious.

The final photo is what was our attempt at a snowman (Frosty got aborted pretty quickly after the appearance of booze). Basically that hunk of snow was used for place to put our drinks and a place to put our cameras for self timed shots. There were intentions of finishing him off but we never got around to it.

About ten minutes after this photo was taken we got bombarded with snowballs by the boys. They had planned an attack and locked us out of the house and came charging around the corner letting them fly. The snowball fight lasted a few minutes and even though there were 10 girls and 5 boys I am sorry to say we got absolutely annihilated.

Christmas Lunch! The Menu for Christmas lunch was: Three hams, two roast porks, two roast turkeys with stuffing, roast chicken, roasted veggies (pumpkin, parsnip, capsicums, carrots, potatoes, garlic, onions etc), cauliflower with cheese sauce, potato bake, brocolli, vegetarian lasagne (there is always one), cob loaf with cheesy dip, gravey and a patridge in a pear tree. It was all declicious!! And while it wasn't QUITE the same as home it was still a pretty mean lunch (sorry mum!).

As well as organising a secret santa we had decided to play the present game with two pound pressies. The idea behind it is that you put a pressie in the middle then draw a number out of the hat and take turn chosing pressies in that order. If you don't want to chose a pressie out of the middle you can chose to steal someones present. Then when it gets to their turn again they can steal it back or chose someone elses etc etc. Its a pretty cool game especially where there are a few really good ones and a few really bad ones. Two of the boys hadn't organised pressies so they just wrapped up some stuff they found lying around the house. The one that was a keeper - really wasn't it one of the girls t-shirts she had got for christmas off her mum haha. I first chose a really good hot chocolate and mug set but it got stolen so I ended up with a Christmas candle which was still nice. Just not as yummy.

Shea and Arron with their Pavlova. It seemed appropriate that an Aussie and Kiwi dessert made an appearance at our Austrian Christmas but when Arron volunteered to make the pavolova I'm not sure he really knew what he was taking on. He had never actually remembered eating one before let alone making one. Shea had never made one before but knew the basics so after texting her sister for the recipe they set to work. They didn't have their usual ingredients and had to work out exactly what the German packaging said. They also didn't have a big mixing machine so they spent 1 hour and 45 minutes beating the egg whites with a hand beater. After heaps of work they ended up making the most perfect pavolova I've ever had. The it was fluffy and light and delicious and it didn't collapse at all. They were pretty proud of themselves and I reckon they should be!

Christmas Markets in Salzburg. It was so cold that day that we were freezing as we walked around but it was so worth it. They were so pretty. I wish I had a zillion Euro's to deck out a christmas tree with the stuff they had there because it was gorgeous. To warm up we had a hot chocolate with Baileys. Also spotted a cute little sausage dog which brightened my day! Didn't buy anything but gifts for others but could have easily gone crazy!

Me and the girls warming up by the fire after a day at the Christmas Markets. The rest of the crew had gone snowboarding in the German Alps about 20 minutes away. They returned home not long after these photos were taken drunk and noisy and our silence was ruined. Got to say it was good while it lasted but it was funny hearing all their stories!

On our second last day in Salzburg we had to check out of our amazing house and head into a hostel in town. After dumping our bags we went for a wander around Salzburg. The sun had come out but there was still snow on the ground so the sights were beautiful. It is such an incredible city and one I highly recommend visiting.

To pass our last afternoon we visited the Augustiner beer halls. Augustiner is one of the beer halls that go to Oktoberfest so it was well worth checking out. We had lost a few travellers along the way to other destinations and heading home so we were down a few numbers. Toni's cousin and his mates were in Salzburg for the night so they soon joined us an a few bevvies and we were soon a big crew again.

These photos do not describe half the fun I had and there are a thousand more stories I can add but I think many of them are ' you have to be there' kind of things. In fact most of you will think I am crazy if I tell you about the million renditions of the 12 days of Christmas we did. The endless drinking games we played/learnt as well as all other shenanigans we got up to including a stint on the dance floor.

It was one of those trips that I will remember for a lifetime and when I am old and grey will tell anyone who will listen about that trip when I was 23 that I took to Austria with 14 of my friends. It is unlikely that kind of trip will happen again soon because next year we are losing a few members of our crew and a few of us may have visits from family or go home to visit family. Still! Maybe its one of those things that could never be repeated. Either way like I said - complete trip of a lifetime!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Baby It's Cold Outside

This weekend just gone we had another beautiful downfall of snow! I was out and about working at the cafe when it started pelting? bucketing? pouring? (what is the correct adjective for a massive fall of snow?)and within minutes the city had been covered in a blanket of white. Unfortuneately I didn't get the chance to go and play because I had to be boring and work. So while my housemates were out sledding I was carrying coffees and whinging like a three year old to anyone who would listen that ' I WANNA GO PLAY IN THE SNOW!!!!'

The only downside of snow is that the whole city shuts down. Trains stop running because of frozen tracks, flights get cancelled because there is snow on the runway and basically the rest of the transport is ridiculously delayed. This basically meant that instead of heading out for cocktails with my work girls I went straight home, got into my jarmies and hung out with my house mates and watched a movie. Pretty good way to spend an evening anyways!!

I had the next day off so I was pretty excited by my schedule for the day - go play in the snow and make a snowman. That is literally all I had to do in my to do list. It was also our flat Christmas so we had to pick up some groceries as we were having a roast! We head of into the snow at around 10.30 and went the really really long way around to the shops. I didn't really mind because it meant we got to walk through Wimbledon Common which is near my house and have a bit of a play in the snow. We threw a few snowballs, checked out some of the pretty trees, Siobhan even tried to walk on a frozen lake and I attempted to make a snow angel. After about an hour we were getting pretty tired and pretty frozen so we grabbed a coffee before collecting our groceries. Instead of doing the massive trek home we hopped on the tube and headed back home to pop on the roast and relax with some wine (everyone else with mulled me just normal).

To go with the theme of the day we put on 'The Holiday' which is a christmassy movie and basically just bummed around and drank and nibbled while we watched a movie. After a little while we decided that it was time to make a snowman so we all ran out to the back yard and started collecting the snow. Its actually hard to make a snowman! I dead-set thought it would be super easy to make a big tall one but after about half an hour were were running out of snow and running out of energy. Its also hard to make them nice and round. Ours was sort of triangular and lopsided even though Sam used her 'smootheriser' to smooth it out. The 'smootheriser' was actually a ping pond paddle with disney characters on it and she spent a good few minutes wacking the crap out of our snowman. Once we had decided he was tall enough (a.k.a when we were sick of playing in the snow) we got out the coal for his eyes, carrots for his nose and 2 pence pieces for his mouth. Lance lent him his scarf and beanie and with a few sticks for arm Frosty the snowman was born.

A little while later it was time for dinner and we sat down to an amazing roast cooked by Siobhan. Roast pork with roasted vegies, cheese sauce on our brocolli and cauliflower, gravy and potatos, crackling and all the trimmings. It was soooooo yummy and the perfect way to end a winters day. The roast was followed by self saucing pudding and ice cream. It was amazing. For our flat christmas we also had organised a secret santa and so we all swapped pressies and I was happy to find a packet of mint slices and a head massager. The mint slices were a hit and really didn't last long. Jules (who was my secret santa) must have heard me go on about how much I missed them from home and I was so chuffed she had made the effort to get them. I am really lucky to have such fun, cool and thoughtful house mates. They definitely make it easier to be away from home at such a family orientated time and its so lovely to know that I have my own Pulborough Whanau (thats kiwi for family).

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Madame Jo Jo's

When its someone in our flat's birthday we usually go out and do something fun (or stay at home and have yummy food) so for Lance's birthday he decided to hit up Madame Jojo's. Madame Jojo's is a burlesque club in Soho and none of us had ever been there so we were pretty keen to go. It was also the first flat outing with our new house mate Matt who had just moved in that week.

Before hitting Madame Jojo's we went to a dutch pub around Leicester Square for a few drinks and nibbles with a few more of Lance's friends and family. It was a pretty cute little pub and the drinks were cheap so we were a little bit pissed before we moved on to Madame Jojo's. We headed there around 10ish and it was pretty quiet so me and Sam ducked out to get some food. After munching down a vegetarian kebab we headed back into the pub and found it had filled up a bit more.

The music was pretty good as the DJ played mixes of 50's and 60's swing music so we hit the dance floor. We couldn't really keep up with the regulars though because there were some AMAZING dancers there. There were people that were obviously regulars so they had perfect moves and they had the clothes to go. One girl was done up perfectly its like she had traveled through time. The night was so much fun and it was good to get out and dance even if I was pretty bad at that style. Totally makes me want to learn how to dance properly! Hopefully I can learn some moves and head back there and dance with style.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Oh Christmas Tree Oh Christmas Tree!

We got our Christmas tree!

After much nagging on my behalf I convinced Sam to help me get one after I had finished work on Saturday arvo. I didn't actually realise it would be such a mission! Usually at the home the hard work - getting the box down from the roof - is done by my dad.

I got home from work and found out that Sam had spent a little time that afternoon trying to find our Christmas decorations from last year in our 'Harry Potter cupboard'. Our cupboard under the stairs is the kind of cupboard where you can't open the door without fear of everything falling on top of you. Sam had wrestled through all the crap and couldn't find the decorations so put it ALLLLLLLL back in so its only up to our knees now (which is a bonus). We then found the decorations sitting on our living room bookshelf. Hahha whoopsy... poor Sam. We then had to rearrange the furniture so we could fit it in our lounge room. So once that was done we were ready to go!

We decided to head up to our local fruit and vege man and get one from there. Once we were up there we didn't really know what to look for - I mean i've never bought a real life Christmas tree before and neither had Sam. Do you look for the bushiest? or the greenist? or the tallest for the price range? gahhhh... Sam actually poked one and ended up making three fall over. hahaha we just sort of walked away and pretended it wasn't us. We ended up choosing one at random and and grabbed it off the guy.

After stopping at the offie to pick up some wine for the tree decorating and festivities at home (Lance's birthday) we wandered down the road with a couple of bottles of wine and a tied up tree. Luckily it was only a short walk and we were home in no time. We popped it in the living room and undid all the ties and voila! Sam popped on some Christmas carols and we spent a little while putting decorations on and singing along. Sam found a branch that had fallen off so we popped a little decorations on them and taped them to the door - impromptu wreath!

My mummy had sent me through some home made Christmas decorations so I popped them up on our mantel piece. Sam had been sent some Christmas decorations last year so she popped them on the tree including a NZ angel and a jandal (which is a kiwi word for thongs by the way). It felt a bit weird putting up a tree and not putting on the usual decorations - you know the ones you made when you were primary school and the ones you have been given over the years. Then again it was kind of nice to have a new experience and get new decorations. I had already bought myself one from Harrods and if I am here next Christmas I might try and make it a tradition.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Angus & Julia Stone

Oh how I love them and their music.

They played last Thursday night in London and I was really excited about going. Once I found out that they were playing I convinced Claire to come with me even though she had no idea who they were.

The gig was pretty different to the last one I went to of theirs. Last time it was in Brisbane at a place called The Tivoli which is a venue often used for smaller gigs. Its standing room only but quite intimate and unless some really tall annoying person stands in front of you (which almost always happens to me) then you can pretty much always see the stage. This time it was at Festival Hall at Southbank (next to the London Eye) and it was in a theater kind of setting with allocated seats and balconies etc etc. You could still see the stage but it wasn't the kind of intimate setting as last time so you kind of lost some of the experience.

As usual I was blown away by their talent. Angus Stone is a complete babe and I often talk of my absolute crush on him but just like last time after seeing Julia perform and listening to her live I walk out of there with a 'girl-crush' on her. She played five instruments - Mandolin, Guitar, Piano, Harmonica and Trumpet and sang songs with purely her voice. She did a cover of Grease's 'Your the one that I want' and 'Somewhere over the rainbow'. Last time I saw them they did a cover of 'Tubthumping' so I was expecting something amazing and wasn't disappointed.

They played mostly stuff from their new album 'Down the way' but I was pretty happy to hear a few favorites from their old album and grabbed Claire's arm excitedly when when they played 'Just a Boy'. Claire must have thought I was crazy but I love that song so much!! I wish they could have played every song but alas the concert was over before too long. It was go good to see some Aussie musicians in London and share the experience with a new friend. Hopefully this isn't the last of Aussie bands I see while I am over here.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Its Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

The snow has settled in (much to my delight!) and the beginning of December means that the Christmas festivities have well and truly started.

Thursday night we headed down to Trafalgar Square after work to see the Christmas lights turned on for the GIANT Christmas tree that is placed there for the city. Every year Norway gives London a tree to thank them for their help in the war. There is a ceremony in Oslo when it is cut down and it is then transported to London where we have a ceremony when it is put up and the lights are turned on.

It was quite a quick presentation with a couple of speeches by the Mayor of Westminster and a Representative from Norway. Throw in a few Christmas carols played by a brass band and you have yourself a fun little event to get you in the Christmassy mood. After watching the ceremony and grabbing a few happy snaps we headed off down to the pub to get warm and grab a good meal. When its snowy and cold its quite easy to go into hibernation and little nights out like these can really remind you how much fun London can be.

I'm still not over the snow! In fact I am loving it even more since we got to go home early from work due to snow causing delays with the transport. YAY! Snow day! Since the snow hasn't really affected my travel at all I had a great afternoon finishing my Christmas shopping and lazing around at home. It was a bit lonely at work this week with half the office unable to get in but if I had the choice of playing in the snow or working I know what I would be doing!

By the way - snowball fights are the most fun! I really need to improve my aim as I missed everyone almost every time but I am sure that I will get better as I am sure there will be lots more snow fights on the way. Especially with the beautiful snow like in the photos below!