October 24, 2014

Lest we forget

Since Matt is a fan of military history, we knew we had to take him to the Australian War Memorial during his visit.

Part commemorative site, part museum, and part research center, it's a major Canberra attraction and displays a ton of artifacts from Australia's military history.

My inner art nerd is endlessly fascinated by wartime propaganda posters, and I was happy to find quite a few pieces scattered around the museum:

The Memorial is also home to a sweet statue of Private Simpson and his donkey, who are a legendary part of Anzac WWI history. For those who don't know the story:
"Simpson landed on the shores of the Gallipoli Peninsula on 25 April 1915 as part of the ANZAC forces. In the early hours of the following day, as he was bearing a wounded comrade on his shoulders, he spotted a donkey and quickly began making use of it to carry his fellow soldiers. He would sing and whistle, seeming to ignore the bullets flying through the air.....They worked all day and night throughout the whole period since the landing, and the help rendered to the wounded was invaluable." 
[stolen from here]

Before we left, we paid a visit to the commemorative area, pausing at the Roll of Honour where visitors can place poppies by the names of servicemen and women in remembrance of their sacrifice.

We thank you for your service.

October 22, 2014

Beer me

The recap of my brother's visit to Australia continues!

As an Oregonian, Matt loves a good micro-brew, so we took him to Canberra's newest brewery: BentSpoke Brewing. It's a cool place, with a good selection of boutique beers on tap and a nifty bike-brew theme (Canberrians love them some bicycles).

Yup, he's in his happy place!

We had lunch while we were there, which I'm sorry to say didn't taste nearly as good as it looked - it wasn't bad exactly, but it was all a bit bland. Like, that's a tomato-based sauce on the buffalo wings, not a chili-based sauce:

But that was okay, because what we were really there for was the beer:

Clockwise from top left: 
Cluster 8 Imperial IPA, Braddon Bitter, 
Nugget lager, and Barley Griffin ale.

Of special interest to the guys was the Hopinator - each day, a different beer is hooked up to this bad boy and run directly through hops before it hits your glass:

The day we were there, it was the Crankshaft IPA - and check out the sediment at the bottom of their glasses:

Since I'm not a beer aficionado I'd volunteered to drive the guys home that day, but I did try a glass of Adam's Cider:

And people - this stuff is good. Seriously, even the guys said it was probably their favorite drink of the day. Very, very tasty.

In fact, it was so good that we bought one of BentSpoke's growlers (a new concept in Australia) and took home a couple of liters to drink over the next few days.


October 20, 2014

Feast Day

My brother is a foodie.

Not the kind of foodie that only eats fancy shit - the Real, Bona Fide Food kind that loves everything delicious. He also particularly enjoys barbecuing, and knew from my Tales of Australian Cuisine that it was something I missed about the USA*, so during his visit he offered to pull out our smoker and cook up some kickass grub for a BBQ Feast Day.

*Note: Aussies will argue this point, but don't be taken in by the whole "throw another shrimp on the barbie" line - generally speaking, they do not BBQ. Grill, yes. BBQ, no.

A trip to Costco yielded a couple racks of pork ribs...

...and since he'd never had roo, we marinated a few steaks as well...

...plus prepped a chicken for the Pirates (they're not big red meat eaters):

While the ribs slow cooked...

...the Pirates and I snuck indoors to whip up a special surprise.

My brother's birthday was a couple of weeks before his trip, and when the boys found out they promptly insisted that we make him a birthday cake. After some debate, they settled on a rainbow pirate theme:

Anyone want to hire a couple of 4-year-olds to decorate your next cake?

Meanwhile, as the ribs neared completion, the guys busted out the grill to cook the roo steak and a few veggies so we could pretend we were eating healthily:

Our new house came with a very friendly magpie who enjoys being handfed tidbits while we're cooking outdoors:

And finally - it was Feast Time!

Once we were all stuffed to the gills with meat, it was time to slap on the party hats and make room for cake:

Happy birthday, little brother!

October 19, 2014

Dirty girl

I've been wanting to run a mud race for a while, so when I found out that the Miss Muddy obstacle course was coming to Canberra, I wasted no time in slotting it into my racing calendar.

Not that it's really a race - it's an un-timed, women's only event, distance varies between 4-6km, the obstacles are fairly low key, and there's no penalty for skipping anything you don't think you're capable of (although they do encourage participants to at least give everything a try). Much lower pressure than adrenaline-fueled events like Tough Mudder/Warrior Dash/Spartan Race/etc.

Since I was too cheap to pay the $10 parking fee, I got Ben to drop me off about an hour before my wave was scheduled to start. That gave me plenty of time to pick up my packet, check my bag, and mosey over to the starting line, where I wasted time taking pre-race selfies of my pink lipstick and race nails:

Oh, and see the girls with matching shirts above? Yeah, this sucker was FULL of teams. Single runners like yours truly were rare, and since some parts of the course were designed for teamwork, I'm totally roping a few friends into joining me next year!

After a bit of warm up dancing, we were off! From this point on, you'll have to excuse the quality of the photos - I had my phone wrapped in a ziploc bag for waterproofing, so everything is kind of blurry.

A couple of minutes running and we hit the first minor obstacle - an icy, knee-high pool of water to run through:

Next up was a tire drill:

And my finger. Get used to it, because there are more to come. 

Another short jog and we hit the low crawl. Race organizers divide most of the obstacles into an easier version, which is always on the left, and a harder one, which is always on the right. I opted for the right, and scooted through fairly rapidly:

A quick run through a disused barn and the first of the wall obstacles came up. I have zero - and I do mean ZERO - upper body strength, so even though these are short I was already dreading them. I choose the easier version on the left, where the first wall had hand and footholds (the second was blank and I got a handy ass-push from a fellow runner before flailing over the top of the wall):

Relieved that the walls were over (for now), I trotted on to the weights. There were options for 3kg pipes...

...9kg kettlebells, and 20kg bags:

I opted for the kettlebell, did my lap of the arena, and ran on to the balance beams:

From there it was about a half kilometer jog to the color cannons...

My finger says hi again!

...and then around to a tunnel of cobwebbed cords:

This was one of those obstacles designed with teams in mind, since you needed other people to easily maneuver through the cords. I cheerfully attached myself to the team running behind me, and we all scampered through and progressed to whatever the hell these things were (I couldn't see any difference, so I picked the one on the right):

And then - more walls. Ugh. But the left one was fairly easy - lots of handholds, and a ladder-like structure on the other side to climb down:

I got all nostalgic when I saw the next obstacle: monkey bars! I LOVED monkey bars as a kid, and was cheerfully confident that I could easily swing my way across:

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Yeah...no. I got four bars in and slipped off - remember what I said earlier about zero upper body strength? I meant it.

Luckily the next obstacle was more my speed - more balance beams. Since this is something I'm relatively good at, I had no hesitation in opting for the harder version on the right, which was longer, more zigg-zagged, and had varied heights:

And then - MORE WALLS.

The walls got increasingly difficult as the course progressed, and I won't lie that I was nervous about scaling the final one in the course:

I had plenty of time to stand there and stare at it, too - this line took FOREVER to move. I must have waited at least 15 minutes to climb that damn wall. But I did! I got another ass-boost, but I made it over (and may have let out a little cheer at the top)!

Next up was this odd container full of inflated...things.

No idea what they were, or really what you were supposed to do in there. They weren't all standing up, so it wasn't a inflatable gauntlet to run through. The teams were mostly just whacking each other with them - so maybe that was the whole point? I dunno.

Some horizontal climbing was next, and I didn't hesitate in choosing the harder side - I might struggle with going over a wall, but along it? No problem:

I was pleased at the sight of the next obstacle, a big up-and-over net climbing exercise:

This is something I'm pretty good at, and I scampered over that thing like a squirrel on speed before running on to pools full of icy, waist-high water:

And then we finally came to the mud crawls! Three of them, interspersed by sawhorses you had to scramble over or under:

This was also the point at which I stopped taking photos - my armband got covered in muddy water and I didn't want to risk opening the ziploc to pull out my phone. But trust - it was by far the best part of the race!

There were additional intervals involving a foam pit, slip 'n slides, and then... Look, we need to take a moment and give it up for the Miss Muddy organizers.

YOU GUYS - they had half-naked firemen hosing off the runners and then offering a photo op. I couldn't get a good photo at the time, but this one I took later from the boundary line should give you the idea:

Do they know their audience or what?! 

Well played, race organizers. Well played.

Leaving the soaking wet firemen, I arrived at the last obstacle of the day: the mega water slide!

The line for this thing took at least 15 minutes. Probably more like 20. If I was doing this event again I'd probably just skip it - but I was determined to go through every obstacle, so I parked my ass in line and waited it out.

Unfortunately, the dude at the top of the water slide sent me off too soon, and I plowed into a group of three women who hadn't quite cleared the bottom of the slide. I'm sure it was actually pretty funny to watch - I couldn't stop and hit them all in the legs, and they toppled like bowling pins. No one was hurt, but still - wtf, Dude At The Top?

A quick dash up a hill and I was done!

HAWT, I know. Be jealous! 

Since Ben and the Pirates were waiting, I skipped the showers and headed straight to the car, where I took another selfie to better show the mud all over my face:

All up, it was a pretty fun way to spend the morning! I'd totally do it again next year...but I'm dragging some friends along next time!
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