Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year

Have fun, we are out on the boat and.have.been for a few days now, enjoying a Gold Coast NY.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


So there is nothing like arriving home 1 week before Christmas after having just spent 3 weeks being waited on hand and foot, not having to lift a finger, doing nothing .... but get up and walk to a meal to bring you back into the reality of life.

We had not prepared anything prior to going, and there really wasn't anything to buy as pressies on the cruise or destinations we went to ..... so we were totally unprepared.

Arriving home though the girls had decided to ensure we did not forget Christmas ( I do think they thought we might say, we are going away for Christmas)  and had put all the decorations up - it was lovely to walk into your home and have all your decorations up (thank god for Facebook), apparently they looked at last years photos to ensure everything was in the right place.

For those who don't know, the only souvenirs I collect in my travels are Christmas Decorations (Derek, well he likes T Shirts), and I am very particular on where these go.  Over the years I have collected 100's of these from all parts of the world and I love to get them out of their packets (receipts etc still intact) , to remind me of all the wonderful memories of places we have been, people we have been with at the time etc and as a family we tend to reminisce of the stories of what we did in that place, talk about the people we were with at the time etc.. Its a good thing to collect as who wants a house full of this stuff all year, but Santa on a Gondola, or Frosty the Snowman holding the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the 3 Wise Men (bought in Bethlehem) etc are so lovely at Christmas and most people who come over during the Christmas period are keen to see the latest in the collection.  This year we were able to secure a new Christmas Stocking from Raffles in  Singapore, a bell from Brunei (if the place doesn't have real Christmas decorations I get a bell - every Country, City and Town seems to have these) and I Climbed the Harbour Bridge Bauble. 

So arriving home with just over a week before Christmas, 2 suit cases full of dirty clothes, a house decorated, but in need of a real clean and nothing prepared, we were for the first time in 3 months under the hammer to preform and on a deadline.  The only deadlines or dates we have had to remember for 3 months were airport times .... so this was a bit of kick in the guts and being as relaxed as what we have been at first seemed a bit daunting.

The Crossley Christmas is usually a big affair starting early on Christmas Eve and this year was not going to be an exception ..... so first things first. For the full album A Crossley Christmas Dec 12

The remains of the day - I hope you had a great Christmas
Washing - and outsource the ironing (tick)
Cleaning, house inside and out (tick)
Scroll through the cook books (about 40) to find the right things for this year (yes I like to change each year, explore new themes that meet with the traditional) which takes considerable time to write all potential items down, the book they are in, the page number and then cull from there, make shopping lists, make to do lists (to be honest I haven't had a to do list for 3 months and I haven't missed it, but its the only way to get everything done)
Shop, Shop, Shop and yes Shop again and ooh ya , more shopping

After many hours of trolling through cook books the menu was decided with some 30 receipts from 9 cook books and this did not include the basics such as Pork, Turkey, Ham, and general Christmas Yummies (White Christmas, Fruit Mince Pies, Xmas cake etc).  Shopping lists prepared and itemised into the days they would be bought, and receipts itemised on the days they would be made - but given I hate shopping Christmas Eve, everything had to finished being purchased by Saturday and cooking (some 36 real hours started Friday).
Yummie Corner

So what was on the menu you ask - well here is a taste of it

Xmas Eve Morning

Ham and Eggs for Brekky
Yummie Corner (we have a corner of the house we designate to yummies for all occasions, Christmas, Birthdays, Easter even Halloween) stage 2 - as we had some family over on the weekend so that was Stage 1.
Peach and Lemon Iced Tea (home made)

Xmas Eve Lunch - for 6 Tapas

Salmon Pinwheels
Zucchini Fajitas
Crab Tarts
Crab Stuff Tomatoes
Roast Pumpkin Dip
Basil and Cashew Pesto
Lamb Meat Balls and Taziki
Chirizo Empandas
Thai Fish Cakes
Home made marinated Fetta
Assortment of breads with assortments of oils for dipping  
Ginger Fizz (blended pineapple and lime juice mixed with Ginger beer and Mint very refreshing)

Top up Yummie Corner - Round 3

Xmas Eve Dinner Hot and very Traditional - for 8 (enough to be left over for Christmas and Boxing Day)

Roasted in the PM and immediately carved and served
Roast Pork 
Road Beef  with Yorkshire Puds
Cracking the Bon Bon & I won
Roast Apricot Seasoned Chicken 
Roast Stuffed Turkey 
Previously Made and Heated on the night
Sweet Potato Crumble
Roast Vegetable Pie
Glazed Onions with Roasted Capsicum
Garlic Sauteed Mushrooms 
Mashed Potato
Sauces (Apple, Cranberry, Horseradish)
Assortment of wines and champagne

Plumb Pudding, Chocolate and Caramel Pudding - Custards, Cream - Hot

Xmas Day Morning

Yummie corner round 4 (all too full for any further breakfast)

Lunch for 9

All meats from Xmas Eve cold, plus ham - so platters of cold meats
Vietnamese Pork Salad
Noodle Salad
Tomato, Feta and Red Onion Salad
Bacon, Egg and Potato Salad
Heated up leftover from Christmas Eve

Maple Syrup Nectarines
Mango Mess
Chocolate Date Filo
Fruit Platters

Christmas Day 2nd Family and Left over others (another 4 people) - cold deserts from lunch, and more drinks

Boxing Day - all left overs

So as you can see no mean cook, preparation and cleaning up feat!  All was beautiful, with a good array of different tastes for each meal.

The Crazy Crossley Girls 
Overall though it was a good day and very enjoyable.  It was great to have fantastic weather as it seems like many years since it was a perfect Christmas Day, where you could sit inside in the air conditioning  but outside as well without it raining or being boiling but still hot enough to enjoy a swim in the pm to let all the food settle down.

What did I enjoy most about this Christmas was not working, Derek not working more so  we were able to enjoy doing these preparation things together with no time limits and no phones and emails going - even if I was off prior to Christmas I would have to do all of these things by myself as Derek never stopped the week before Christmas so it was great to have him around to help clean up, wash up and do taste testing.  As I mentioned in a previous blog I am loving cooking again and being able to take the time to do everything properly by the receipt - everything turned out perfectly as I prepared one thing at a time - very very relaxing and enjoyable.The other great thing was while some of us started early on Christmas Eve, Danni (Daughter 2 and Derek always worked up to at least 5pm on Christmas Eve - and even Danni got this Christmas Eve off so everyone was home on Christmas Eve morning so we had 2 great full days together which was fantastic).

As always though as much as I love Christmas I personally can't wait to get my house back to my house less decorations,pressies lying around everywhere etc so all signs of these things were down and put away again for another year by 2pm.

Finished that and headed off to try Dereks latest toy he got for Christmas - a metal detector (we have to make money somehow lol)  and  off we went to get out of the house after nearly 6 days inside cleaning and cooking - what did we find? - will let you know next blog.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and if you are like me you are looking forward to a new and exciting year with 2013!  Stay safe.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Just Crusin' - Asia - Diamond Princess

Overview:  3  smiles - Too many at sea days - got a bit boring even for me there is only so much sun baking one can do.

Cost: 3 smiles - just under $10K

Bangkok, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Darwin, Port Douglas, Sydney - 5 Countries

So about $250 per person/day for 19 days including: 

  • Flights to Bangkok
  • Accommodation in Bangkok 1 night
  • Transfers
  • 18 days on the Diamond Princess
  • Tours
  • Food
  • Drinks
  • Entertainment
  • Souvenirs 
  • Shopping etc

While we got the cruise at a great price most everything else was at top dollar and of course the at sea days rack up the drinks and other costs while on the boat.  

I suppose now we have just about been everywhere in Asia so overall it was a good way to see these areas - I can now tick off this and except for Singapore I doubt any of the other places we would go back to, so from that perspective it was good value.

Favorite things:

  • Vietnam
  • Harbour Bridge Climb
  • Singapore

Check out all the links below for each blog, photos and videos!

Diamond Princess:  

Probably too big for our liking, just too many people and we were still getting lost on the last day as we had to meet in a bar we had not been before.  The boat was beautiful though. We did however learn a lot about cruising that we had not realised before 

a) check the ports - Darwin and Port Douglas were pretty uninspiring especially after so many days at sea
b) check the amount of at sea days - 4 days is pretty boring unless you want to drink all day or play silly deck games, go to shows etc
c) check the size of the boat and how many people it holds - our last cruise was 500 people but this one was full at 3000 people too many for my liking 

For all the stories, pics and videos, check out the following blogs:-

Port Douglas to Sydney

So we said goodbye to Darwin and started another long leg at sea - 3 days and headed to Port Douglas.  Not much to say on this given we have been there many times but it was again good to get off the boat, stretch the legs.  Port Douglas was pretty rough as we had to get tendered to shore - a lot of grey faces on these tenders.  Isn't it funny that people on a cruise look at a tender and go "I don't like boats, it looks rough" funny I would have thought travelling on the sea was something you would have gotten use to.  As I said to Derek, I bet if the boat were sinking they would have pushed there way to get on first. 

Tendering back to the boat - rough as

The stop at PD was pretty uneventful, but gave us a warning of what was to be our Queensland leg of the journey for the next 2 days - wet, rough seas, windy (all coming from the cyclone off Fiji/Samoa).  Plenty of sick people as decks were closed. Welcome to Sunny Queensland - not this time.  It was such a shame as I would have suspected the trip down the coast through the Whitsundays would have been spectacular if the weather was good and seas calm, but not to be this time.

 Thursday as we headed into Sydney Harbor - it was a beautiful fine and sunny day, with slight seas - Sydney put on her best for us and it was absolutely perfect, with dolphins following us in all the way.  While we have been through Sydney Heads a million time (maybe a slight exaggeration) this was so perfect being up so high, on the decks, everyone out, deck parties, Peter Allen video playing I still call Australia Home and all good Aussie songs being streamed out it did bring a tear to the eye, unfortunately we were unable to partake in the drinking fest given we were getting off to do the Harbour Bridge Climb and breath testing for zero alcohol was needed.

Climbed the bridge - and have to say this is a fabulous exciting thing to do - and would highly recommend it, while it seems a little scary to begin with, it wasn't as hard as I had expected and the views are to die for.  Well done Bridge Climb, great commentary, great climb, great process, great experience one I know we will remember forever.  

Sydney Shots

Darwin Day

So after 4 long days at Sea we finally got into Darwin - uuuum not the most exotic port after so long but where keen to get onto terrafirma - so push and shoved our way out onto shore at 7.30am.

On the map the city looked a fair distance so though we would take the shuttle bus organised at port.  What a bloody rip off $28 for 2 people - and to be honest it took us about 500 meters (not good enough Darwin).

So we walked around the city of course all shops where closed -for a city like this you would have thought a boat in port with 3000 people on board the shops would have opened to capture some extra bucks but no oooh thats right we are back in Australia where retail complains about the lack of sales but don't take the opportunities to make money when it's available.

So a walk around the city, back down to the bay area and its am   Ooooh dear what to do, its so hot that sweat is dripping off us but really didn't want to go back on the boat yet - too soon and given we have the next 3 days at sea we definitely needed something else to do.  

Helicopter ride here we come - one of the best ways to see any place - no walking, no sweating but getting a good look at everything.  

Got picked up at 10am and went to Charles Darwin national park, where the Helicopter was parked (somewhere around here according to the pilot), he found the keys where are conveniently hidden under a rock, and off we went. If you are ever in Darwin highly recommend Coolibah Air

WOW fantastic trip - great commentary, great scenery, great fun. So we got the exhilaration we were looking for, got to see probably more than most and had a great time as well.  Got back on the boat for about 1ish where we took a well earnt dip in the pool.  

Darwin at this time of year is hot there is no denying that, and as usual this is cooled down by late after noon storms - and just as we were about to leave port in it came.

Check out Darwin by Air Album


Ummm, not my most favorite place in the world and this where a cruise is great, if you really don't like somewhere well its generally only 1 day.  Of course the day didn't start well when Derek was sent back to change from his long shorts & T Shirt (which we wore in Egypt, Turkey and Palatine last year) into long pants and long sleeved shirt (the only ones he had where those we wore to dinner) so him and a lot of men didn't start the day very happy as it was extremely hot and humid.

To be honest I thought it was a country paved in gold and expected it to be much cleaner, nicer, modern than what it ended up being.  I was shocked by the devastation of the forests which one of tours we did  to see the wild Borneo monkeys in their natural habitat - but alas the stench of the polluted water ways was over powering and of course there were hundreds of boats doing the same thing to get a small glimpse of 1 loan monkey which just made me so sad.  As people pushed each other to try and get a shot of it where only a few trees remain with industry right behind them and the junk and remains of construction all around or the giant monitor lizards on the shores climbing over rubbish was just so sad.  I was so saddened by this that I elected not to take photos.

Of course the Palace is Gold, the Mosques where Gold, the Museum  was dripping in Gold to be frank there is no hiding the wealth in these areas and yes there were some lovely streets but overall these where few and far between.

I am always gob smacked when on tours they take you to places like the local markets which just about made everyone vomit the stench was so bad.

The people though love to tell you they don't pay taxes, they get free education, free hospitals, only pay 30 cents a litre for petrol and can apply once married with a child for a free house (which takes 9 years to get) so they are truly conned even though its sprinkling gold dust and I would have thought with a population of less than 400,000 the generosity would have be further extended as most people seemed to be living in poverty, in areas not much better than Egypt.  No more sorry didn't like it, wouldn't go back but glad I saw.

The Brunei Album

To experience the water village check out our video Brunei Water Village

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Slice of Singapore

How different can two countries be that are so close - Vietnam with its bright colors, crazy bikers, and what seems like a natural culture and Singapore so modern, clean, organised.

Started the day with a breakfast at the zoo - we thought this meant seeing the animals getting fed breaky so we had already had our breakfast on the boat - but that was fine because it gave us more time to look around this incredible zoo where a lot of animals are just walking the streets or jumping over you, and really nothing enclosed as such.  

It was hot hot hot though and the sweat was poring off us, so when that trip finished (3 hours or so), we jumped into a cab to do the next most natural thing one needs to do when in Singapore - yes you guessed it go to Raffles and have a Singapore Sling (only one each though at $35 each it was pretty expensive), but hey you only live once and it was worth it - very thirst quenching, yummy and served with a smile.

Yep we will go back to Singapore in the next 12 months and experience a bit more of its shopping, beaches, and the new Bay area. 

 Here is the full Slice of Singapore Album

Check out the video of the baby Orangutan

A Taste of Vietnam

WOW what a bustling place Vietnam is!  Bright, colorful, clean and alive but unlike a lot of Asian cities clean and yet still natural as people go about their daily business.  Watch out for the motor bikes though - they are absolutely crazy!

We got to see a lot in 1 day driving nearly 6 hours throughout the day, had a fabulous time in a traditional water village, tasting all their wonderful foods and customs.  Going up the Mekong Delta as well was exciting and hectic crazy as well, but a fantastic day.  Our guide Ben was delightful with all his great stories.

For a taste of Vietnam click here Vietnam Photos