Scrumptious coffee cake

Coffee cake

So this feels like a bizarre follow up to my last post about weight gain… But what’s a birthday without cake?! It was my boyfriend’s birthday yesterday and he has a certified coffee obsession. So I whipped up this coffee cake which has the most obscenely delicious frosting I’ve probably ever experienced (big call!). So here it is:

For the cake:
– 1 tablespoon instant coffee dissolved in 1 tablespoon boiling water
– 125g softened butter
– 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
– 3/4 cup of brown sugar
– 2 eggs
– 1 & 1/2 cups of unbleached self-raising flour
– 1/2 cup of sour cream

for the frosting
– 3 teaspoons instant coffee
– 3 tablespoons boiling water
– 2 cups icing sugar
– 20 grams softened butter

Preheat oven to 160°C fan-forced, grease and line an 18cm cake tin.

Dissolve the coffee in the boiling water and in a separate bowl, beat the butter, vanilla and sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the coffee and then beat again until combined. Add one egg at a time, beating until combined and then sift the flour over the top. Stir the flour in until just combined, then add the sour cream and again stir until just combined.

Whack the mixture into the cake tin. The batter should be quite dense and stiff, not a smooth runny mixture. Bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the tin for 5 minutes before putting it on a wire rack to cool.

For the frosting, dissolve the instant coffee with the boiling water in a bowl. Then sift the icing sugar over the top of the coffee, add the softened butter and then stir until combined. Spread the frosting over the cake. If you want you can decorate the top with chopped walnuts like I did.

Enjoy!

The Money Shot

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I went travelling and I got fat

So you know when you go on holiday for a week and spend the entire time lazing around like a fat seal by the pool sipping sugary cocktails, moving only to devour a delicious meal that definitely involves a bread basket? Well imagine doing that for 16 months straight. I did. So yeah, I went traveling and I got fat.

It was a heady combination of inconsistent exercise, lack of easy healthy food options and an all-out YOLO diet that did it. It wasn’t so bad at the start of the trip when we were camping around western USA, hiking and cooking all our own food. But then came the South, where we stopped camping, started staying at party hostels and gobbling up all the soul food we could stomach.

A Po Boy in New Orleans? Of course I’m going to eat it

After that came South America where the prospect of a dull 16-hour bus trip was brightened only by purchasing a Mars Bar to eat along the way and where fried cheap street food was abundant. It seems absurd but a packet of chips can provide a bizarre level of comfort when you’re somewhere strange and slightly scary and can’t stomach the prospect of eating in a restaurant when all the meals seem to have hair in them (Hello Bolivia). Towards the end of our trip in Greece, Italy and Albania there was nary a dining moment that didn’t involve dunking bread into oil. I am not exaggerating when I say we ate pizza every single day from Naples to Rome.

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I haven’t even mentioned the drinking.

Cheers!

I’m not going to pretend the weight gain didn’t bother me at the time. Oh it did. Never had I eaten with such abandon, spent so much time in a bikini and had so many photos taken of me at the same time. A truly harrowing combination. I have no idea how much weight I really put on because I didn’t dare step on scales. What’s laughable is I even drafted a ‘how to keep fit on the road’ blog post, before quickly realising I was vastly under qualified to speak on such a topic.

I got very good, if I do say so myself, at posing in flattering angles (notice the casual placement of my purse in the pizza photo!) and it turns out underwater photos taken on a GoPro are surprisingly slimming.

The tried and tested skinny arm’ pose

Apparently it’s hard to look fat under water

So why am I writing about this?

A few reasons; firstly I got really sick of seeing viral travel photos on Instagram featuring a perfectly tanned girl looking back over a skinny shoulder and laughing into the camera while perching precariously over the edge of a cliff. Notice how the most liked and shared travel pics always include tiny women?! Why? Normal sized people travel too. So do those who may or may not have ordered a family sized Texan BBQ meal for two because they saw it that time on Man vs Food. It’s just not possible to travel long term and maintain the exact same diet/exercise routine that you do at home, whether that results in weight gain or loss. Fact. Let’s be realistic.

Secondly, I feel a tad foolish about the amount of time I spend worrying about how I looked, analysing photos and agonising over whether to post them on social media. I was travelling the goddamn world! What a privilege. Who cares how I looked?! When I look back at photos now I think about the moment, not the dress size. I’m lucky I have such a patient boyfriend who was prepared to re-take photos of me… What a diva. Sorry babe! Believe me for every photo on this blog there were many that didn’t make it… But thankfully my negative feelings towards how I looked never stopped me from doing anything; I was swimming every day, pulling on leggings to hike up a volcano and silently praying the ‘one size fits all’ safety gear was adequate so I could mountain bike down the reassuringly named ‘death road.

You can’t see in this pic but those pants where waaaay too short

Thirdly, food is such an important part of the travel experience for me. I’m not someone who can travel somewhere and cook chicken and salad at the hostel every night. Would New Orleans have been the same without eating jerk chicken and rice while sitting in a gutter having danced my heart out to a jazz band on Frenchman Street? Would Italy have been the same without my dedication to sampling as many flavours of gelato as humanly possible? Could I really say I’d been to a Scottish wedding without trying the haggis and three kinds of potatoes served up?! Food and culture are so intensely intwined and I wouldn’t feel I’d properly experienced a place without trying the local cuisine. Sure sometimes I probably took that to the extreme but I don’t regret anything I ate.

Tacos were literally my life in Mexico

With that in mind, now that I’m back and settled in a job and home it feels good to have a consistently healthy diet. I joined a gym and am back doing the Spin classes I love. I’ve also got an awesome new housemate and we’ve started doing circuit workouts at home. It feels good.

I’m not looking for sympathy or for comments like “you look fine!”, self image is deeply personal and entirely internal; no amount of you-look-fines from people will help if you’re feeling low. Feeling uncomfortable in your own skin is horrible.

I’m aware that what I’m talking about is often seen as largely a first world problem, but crippling low self esteem should not be underestimated. I experienced a very small dose of what a lot of people experience every day for years without end and the results can be devastating. It never got quite that bad for me.

I just wanted to be honest about my experience and to encourage people to fully experience the world, regardless of how they think they look, and to leave no burger untasted. Because you really do only live once. #noregrets

 

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Bank Street Pizza, Avenel

What’s better than crisp apple cider, great company, wood fired pizza and a garden in which to enjoy all of this? Pretty much nothing. That’s why it’s absolutely worth the hour and a half drive from Melbourne to Avenel to get to Bank Street Pizza.

I went on Saturday with my cousin Sebastian and his girlfriend Alannah who are visiting from Canada at the moment. Avenel is a half hour country drive from where my mum lives.

We made a booking which was somehow lost but luckily there was a table for us anyway. We ordered drinks and set about trying to choose from the outrageously good looking list of pizzas on the menu.

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Cheeky Cider from the Cheeky Grog Co, they use apples and pears from the Murray and Goulburn regions of Victoria

We somehow narrowed it down to three; the Scotty with pork and fennel sausage, the Faz and Cal’s Capricciosa.

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Alannah & Seb

It was the best pizza I’d had in a long time; super fresh local ingredients combined in interesting flavour combinations.

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Hard to pick a favourite but I can’t go past a pizza with olives and anchovies. I once heard anchovies described as ‘salty eyelashes’, so accurate!

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The Faz

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Cal’s Capricciosa

By dessert time the sun had well and truly set. We enjoyed Jock’s ice cream; coffee and coconut lime as well as a slice of chocolate fudge cake in the lantern light.

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Amazing food. Book ahead if you’re going, it’s wildly popular and only open on weekends. Check out the menu here.

The next evening I took the Canadians out looking for ‘roos. We headed up into the Strathbogie Ranges around dusk.

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Dusk and dawn are prime time for hitting kangaroos with your car. I drove very slowly and carefully.

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It wasn’t long before we spotted a pack of kangroos bouncing along. The way they slip through fences is masterful.

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Hello

Remember that time I hung out with kangaroos on the beach? Good times.

Have a great weekend x

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Lately

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My ‘Valentines Eve’ flowers

What’s new with you?

I’m going through a crappy, stressful, tiring patch, just to be completely honest! Looking forward to doing absolutely nothing this weekend.

Are you watching the new (last!) season of Girls? I’m so sad it’s going to be ending, but I watched the first episode with my friend Kate tonight and I loved it. I also loved Vogue’s 73 Questions with Lena Dunham. I went back and read this Q&A with the costume designer from just after season 1, so fun! And the part about Spanx! Fascinating.

I always find it interesting seeing peoples’ feelings on Valentines Day. It’s such a polarising holiday. Andy sent me some ‘Valentines Eve’ flowers as per a joke from our first Valentines Day when I got ‘Friday 13th’ flowers the day before Valentines Day. Very sweet!

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Hello

My Canadian cousin Sebastian and his girlfriend are visiting at the moment. On the weekend we ate delicious pizza and went looking for kangaroos. We were successful!

I’ve been madly filling out our new house with furniture and decor bits and pieces. We lost a lot when the last two housemates vacated so it was looking very bare. I had two photos from our trip printed as huge posters which I can’t wait to hang, I’ll share photos when I do.

Do you send thank you notes? I got a card, completely unexpectedly, today. It was so lovely and made me wonder why I haven’t sent one in ages. It’s so uplifting to be on receiving end of one, day changing even.

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Thank you for reading

Enjoy the rest of the week

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A wedding in Tasmania & a new camera lens 

Last weekend Andy and I attended a wedding in Tasmania. It was a lovely few days and a great opportunity to try out my new camera lens. I have a Samsung NX1000 mirrorless camera (also called a compact DSLR) and I smashed the only lens I had while we were in Mexico, quelle horreur! I couldn’t find a new lens anywhere so we had to buy a little point and shoot camera which actually did take pretty decent photos. Anyway, since being back home and making money I could finally afford to get the camera body professionally cleaned and buy a brand spanking new lens!

I found the 50-200mm lens on Gumtree, the seller is a lovely man named Eunice who conveniently lives around the corner from me. I used that lens to take a lot of photos over Christmas but I soon realised I would need something smaller so returned to Eunice for 16-50mm lens, again, new in box. He knocked $10 off the price. Shout out to Eunice!

I used both lenses to take photos at the weekend and although more bulky, I really can’t fault the quality of the 50-200mm lens. Take a look:

I haven’t included a lot of faces because as I’ve mentioned previously, I’m not sure how Andy’s friends feel about appearing on Le Blog. My friends on the other hand! #famewhores

That cheeky grin ❤

How insanely beautiful are these flowers?! And these buns?

How come mine never look this amazing?!

I bought my dress on sale at Gorman a few weeks back, I never buy expensive clothes anymore so I felt a little sick handing over my debit card! Did I mention I bought two dresses?! Ouch. Gorman have such fun prints.

The light in the evening was really beautiful

The food at the wedding was insanely good; probably the best wedding food I’ve ever had. So much seafood! The entertainer was amazing also; he performed live songs as well as DJ’d and it was the perfect mix of crowd pleasers that had us dancing the night away. What is a wedding without dancing?! I’ll leave you to ponder that.

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3 fun ways to display your travel photos & memories

One of the best parts about coming home from a trip is going back through the photos, right?! Except all too often your travel snaps are left languishing on phones and memory cards before becoming long forgotten digital clutter. While I’m really keen to do a photo book that tracks our entire 16 month adventure, the prospect of going through thousands of photos is more than a little daunting right now. So in the meantime I’ve printed some of my absolute favourites to display around the house, here are 3 different ways I’ve done them:

Instagram photo collage

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There are lots of websites where you can link to your Instagram account (and other social media) and select and drag photos from your feed to print into a poster. I used Poster Candy for this one, its 40x50cm, costs $39 and contains 30 photos. It was a really easy system to use, postage was super fast and the packaging had candies inside. Win!

Photo coasters

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I can’t take credit for these beauties, my very thoughtful friend Kate crafted these herself! She printed my photos, attached them to tiles before lacquering over the top. One of the most lovely Christmas presents I’ve ever received. If you Google ‘photo coasters’ plenty of printing options come up.

Display a map instead

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For Christmas I bought Andy this map of US National Parks from Etsy seller Best Maps Ever. We visited several National Parks on our USA road trip and absolutely loved them, so having a framed map is partly a great way to reminisce but also a motivational reminder to visit more of them! I’d love to have a huge world map that takes up an entire wall one day…

Do you ever get around to printing your travel snaps?

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Mini getaway to Port Fairy

We are just flying right on through January aren’t we?! A few weeks ago (I’m in complete denial as it was actually before Christmas but shhhh!) I caught up with my close friend Bec for a relaxing weekend on the coast. Bec was in Warrnambool for university so I drove down early on a Saturday morning, listening to The Moth all the way.

We had brunch at the Pavillion Cafe & Bar, overlooking the sea.

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It was such a beautiful morning.

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We hadn’t caught up since our Roman Reunion so it was glorious so sit in the sunshine, sip coffees and catch up on gossip. I had the ginger wild rice porridge.

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After breakfast we walked along the pier and watched a seal frolicking and floating around. He was joined by two huge stingrays that shimmied out from underneath the sand. I wish it had been warm enough for us to swim.

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After perusing the local farmer’s market we jumped in the car, pumped the tunes and drove to Port Fairy with all the windows and the sunroof open.

We rolled into the main street of Port Fairy, still singing Blank Space by Taylor Swift at the top of our lungs and headed for our Airbnb. We stayed at Hanley House, a darling old cottage near the main street.

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Being in Port Fairy was a surreal feeling for me. I’d been twice as a teenager with a friend for the annual folk festival. My cloudy memories focussed back to sharp details as we strolled around and I remembered the lay out; where the festival grounds are, where the hostel is, where the beach and caravan park are. Where the roundabout where all the cool kids used to hang out is.

We walked around Griffiths Island until we could no longer bear the wind.

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Bec in her full leg brace thanks to a knee injury and surgery

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We drove to the beach where I had my first ever kiss at age 14, with Ben from Geelong:

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After the kiss I discovered Ben’s gum had ended up in my mouth…. gross. I thought we might have a long distance romance but when I called Ben’s house (the joys of landline phones only!) after the festival ended his sister kept telling me he wasn’t home. Haha!

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The Moyne River

That evening we stayed in, devouring a ridiculous amount of cheese, and wine.

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We caught the sunset dipping into the ocean and then went back and watched two chick flicks (including My Best Friend’s Wedding, one of my ALL TIME favourites because it doesn’t have a traditional happy ending).

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The next morning we ate at an aptly named establishment before hitting the road.

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Such a lovely, relaxing weekend. Have you been to Port Fairy? It’s actually been voted the world’s most liveable town! I highly recommend a visit, for first kisses or girly getaways.

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The year that was 2016

How has your first week of 2017 been? Were you, like so many people on social media, bursting to leave 2016 behind?

While it was a polarising year, I can’t complain as I spent the first 8 months of it travelling the world. There were certainly challenges, but the good overwhelmingly outweighed the bad. Here’s what happened:

January

We rang in the new year in a small town on a Brazilian island called Bara de Lagoa. While dodging firecrackers exploding around us on the beach, we wore white and jumped over 7 waves as per Brazilian tradition.

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Barra de Lagoa, Brazil

February

In Feb I blogged about Colombia, it’s beauty and what it was like to be violently mugged there.

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Near Casa en al Agua, Colombia

March

In March I fell in love with Mexico and the cenotes (sink holes) around Tulum.

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Cenote Zacil Ha

April

In April I blogged about snorkeling with stingrays, eels and sharks in Belize the month before.

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Snorkelling in Belize 

May

In May I blogged about what an amazing/crazy experience travelling to Cuba was.

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Travelling in a vintage car in Cuba

June

In June we explored the Emerald Isle and I struggled to understand Irish accents.

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In Ireland

July

In July two amazing people got married in Scotland and I was so proud of them.

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Lauren, Lecki and I

August

In August I celebrated my birthday with a rather interesting sailing experience in Greece.

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In Tinos, Greece

September

In September we hiked to the highest point on an Italian island called Ischia and discovered what a hidden gem Albania is.

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On Ischia

The last stop on our trip was a Roman Reunion with some of my favourite people.

October, November, December

It seems cruel to lump all these months in together, but there really is no single photo the encapsulates arriving home after 16 months of travelling, the endless job applications and searching for a home!

Well I found a job, and a home which we’ve since had to move out of! We literally moved this morning. There have been ups and downs but I learnt the truth about returning home after travelling and reflected on the worst moments from our trip.

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December with family in Point Roadknight, Victoria, Australia

Wishing you all the best for 2017 and thank you for reading xx

 

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Christmas 2016

One of the best things about celebrating Christmas early with half your family (see last post) is that when it’s over, ‘real’ Christmas is still around the corner!

It all started on Christmas Eve with a festive breakfast at my dad and step mum’s place.

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Heaven

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My sister, brother, me and dad

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Dad ‘ho ho ho-ing’

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Bagels & smoked salmon ❤

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Hugo knows were to hang out

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Siblings ❤

After breakfast we drove up to my mum’s place in the country and after lunch, got busy decorating the tree!

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And ourselves…

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So angelic

We decorated as A Muppet’s Christmas Carol played in the background. It’s tradition.

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Charlie

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Cheersing to a job well done

The next morning Santa had been!

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Mum’s garden in its early morning glory

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Stuffed stockings

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What’s Christmas breakfast without champagne?! Those fly covers say a lot about an Aussie outdoor Christmas…

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Lunch was a seafood affair.

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How cool are the fish plates?! Apparently they’ve been in the family for years

We had prawns, tuna sashimi, smoked trout, smoked salmon and oysters.

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I whipped up my favourite chocolate gingerbread cheesecake (recipe here).

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I used a different cake tin so it looked a bit different to the first time I made it.

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Eye fillet and turkey for dinner

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Not a great photo (why so yellow?!) but the only one I managed to get of the entire cast

Such a wonderfully relaxing Christmas full of food and family. How are your holidays going?

 

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Family Beach Christmas 2016

Every year my dad’s side of the family celebrate Christmas the weekend before the 25th. We all converge at a beach house near the beginning of the Great Ocean Road and eat, drink, swim, play games, sing, heckle one another and just hang out. It’s really lovely and relaxing.

I hadn’t been at one of these pre Christmas weekends since 2013 (last year we were in Brazil!) so I was really looking forward to it. My sister and her boyfriend flew in from Rwanda just in time to join us. Such bliss.

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Point Roadknight beach

This year the location was a rental home in Point Roadknight, which is right next to Anglesea.

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As you can see from our attire, it really wasn’t very warm!

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That didn’t stop the swimmers though. My sister and I were kicking ourselves for not bringing our swimsuits.

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Hugo and Spike getting invovled

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This photo reminds me so much of a photo taken about 26 years ago, with my dad and 3 of his brothers lined up in the water at Geelong, each holding one of us kids. It’s kind of an iconic photo in my family, everyone has a copy! I need to track down one for me…

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I became kind of obsessed with getting a good photo of these old jetty posts.

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This dog can pose

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That afternoon we went for a drive. We stopped at a lookout where three German backpackers were trying to capture the perfect dude photos for one another. You know that weird pose guys do where they don’t smile and they kind of hold their arms kind of stiffly in front of them?! They were doing that.

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I chuckled and admired the view.

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Doesn’t get much more Australian than a magpie, a beach and a safety sign

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Shark spotting?

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My sister rocking the Texas Tuxedo

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That evening us ‘kids’ were in charge of dinner. We made gourmet burgers, I was in charge of fries. I’d never made fries before and somehow absolutely nailed it?! Bet I’ll never manage to do that again.

The next morning a bunch of us decided not to let the mild 13 degree temperature stop us from swimming. We’re kind of a competitive family, so people don’t like to chicken out of things, be it swimming in Antarctic temperatures, singing loudly or giving impromptu speeches.

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All smiles beforehand

Needless to say it was cold. Luckily the world’s most expensive canteen is right there on the beach ($10 for a bagel!) so we warmed up with coffees.

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I bought a new camera lens which is really huge and I’m still getting used to it, hence these photos are so close up!

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We had a Christmas lunch on Sunday afternoon. It started, as most good things do, with cheese.

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This time, the ‘Grown Ups’ were in charge of the food.

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Our much loved Matriarch

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Waiting for crumbs

After lunch we did our ‘bad santa’ Kris Kringle, which involves choosing a present from the pile or stealing a present off someone else.

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It was pretty hilarious and went on and on…

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The most frequently stolen items were a portable charging device, a bottle of gin, three giant Toblerones, a cool hip flask and a JB Hifi voucher. A crazy cat lady action figure, which has appeared at the previous two Christmases, did the rounds again.

Cheeky passed out from all the excitement.

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Dessert time! The table was heaving with dessert options but I only managed this snap of the perfect mince pies.

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And finally, a class photo:

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Another great year with the Brewins. How was your Christmas?

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