December, 2012

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2013 Looking Forward

With a new year brings new beginnings. A time now to set those “resolutions” people would say. Frankly I don’t like that word. I am pretty sure I have said it before but resolutions makes it sound like I need to change something. I set myself goals that I want to achieve. That way I can work towards something and there is an end to that process. Whether it be a fitness goal or a travel goal or who knows what, it has to be quantifiable.

I generally have 2 different “Goals” being my Travel and Fitness. These can sometimes inter mingle but usually it is 2 seperate ones.

So for my fitness goals in 2013 they are:

* Run the 10k (at least) at the US Marine Corp Marathon in Washington DC
* Do a Triathlon
* Compete in at least 2 5k (or longer) events in Seattle

My travel goals for 2013 are:

* Add at least one new state to my list of unvisited states (9 out of 50 to go!)
* Requalify for Virgin Australia gold
* Visit OshKosh
* Visit some more local sites around Washington State
* Use up my Qantas Points in some way

I think these set some good goals for me overall on those two counts. In general though I do want to try and strive to get a better foothold at work and see if there is something I can do to keep me wanted around these parts. I also want to see if I can get back into some of the points game over here with some credit card churning etc. I want to try and work on my photography skills and get my photoshop processing more efficient.

I want to also grow my AirlineReporter presence, get some more stories out there on the Avgeek world. I have a few in the plans in my head, but its where/who to pitch to I need to work on. So hopefully I can do something with that in the new year.

Anyway 2013 looks to be a good year either way. It will be my first full year living in the USA and I plan to make the most of it!

2012 Looking Back – Goals & Moments

Each year I try to set myself some goals to achieve in 2012 and this year was no different. I set one goal, tick off as many things on my bucket list as possible.

Here is what I managed to complete:

* Fly a Plane
* Cook a Meal for the people in my life who i cherish the most
* Move out of home
* Run on an Airport runway
* Take a Shower, Mid Flight
* Get a flight in a War Bird – Double points if its a B17 (ended up with a B17)

I also really got stuck into this one:

* Read “The Clasics”

So that’s not bad in my opinion for the last 12 months. Moving over here to the USA was a big achievement for me and that was one of my biggest moments in 2012. I did have some pretty amazing other moments as well when looking back, things that aren’t worthy of a bucket list item but still awesome none the less.

* I took my first ever real mileage run and that took me from Brisbane to Mackay & Rockhampton via Sydney and Brisbane again. Along with another one to Canbera via Sydney & Melbourne.
* Bought my truck after moving over here, a dream I have had for quite some time
* I flew down and did some spotting at LAX just for the hell of it on two seperate occasions, along with another one north to Vancouver just for spotting.
* Traveled all the way out to Ohio to see one specific Aircraft the XB-70 and then also getting a chance to touch the YF-12 at the same time.
* Visited my first real US Air Show and got to see a B2 and then an F-22 Raptor at another show.
* Saw both the Blue Angels & the Thunderbirds on seperate occasions
* Stepped foot on my first 787
* Saw my first 747-8 take off and was as giddy as a school girl
* Started doing a bit more blogging and photography on the side
* Got me a Kitchenaid Stand Mixer (sad yes I know but I love it!)
* Got to see a Patriots football game

So much else has happened in the last 12 months but to be honest, you probably don’t care.. but one thing I have enjoyed over the last 12 months has just been the challenges and how I have managed to work through them in the last 12 months. No matter what curve ball was thrown at me, I took it in stride and kept on going. It has been a great year looking back at all the things I have done and places I have visited, people I have met and things I have done.

Next year brings a whole new set of challenges and goals. Looking forward to it!

2012 Looking Back – Photography

Not much text in this one but I wanted to post some of my favourite photos that I have taken over the last 12 months. Not just aircraft (but that will be the majority of them) but a whole heap of different photos.

From Qatar Artistic & Spotting
From Qatar Artistic & Spotting
From Sea Fair 2012 Processed Photos
From Sea Fair 2012 Processed Photos
From Vegas Avgeek Style
From Artistic 2012
From Artistic 2012
From Seattle Spotting 2012
From Seattle Spotting 2012

2012 Looking Back – Travel

Well it is that time of the year again. I am going back over the last year and looking at a whole heap of things that have happened. One of my big things in life is Travel and looking back over the last year dredges up a heap of memories. But I wouldn’t be a true Avgeek if I didn’t keep a log of all of my flights during the year.

The flying wasn’t all of the travelling I did but it does form the largest form of it. But it is always interesting to back over some of the stats of my travel from the previous year. Now 2012 would not be as large as 2011, but I sure did cover some ground!

2012 Flight Map

As you can see in the map, theres a fare amount of distance covered by some of those lines. What you can’t see is the repeated trips to places like LAX, SFO, SYD & MEL. All in all in 2012 I took 34 flights with only 3 “Long Haul” flights (BNE-LAX, BFI-DOH & DOH-IAH) the rest of them were all lovely short segments.

Lets look at some of the geeky stats:

Total Segments: 34
Total Miles: 46676
Shortest Flight: Cleveland to Dayton – 162mi
Longest Flight: Doha to Houston – 8047mi

New Countries: Qatar
New Airports: DAY, CLE, DOH, BFI, LAS, ROK, IAH

New Airlines: QR, AS, QQ, EV, XR, OO, AX
Most Common Airline: Virgin Australia

New Aircraft: 787, CRJ-700, ERJ-145, CRJ-200, Fokker 100, 777-200LR, 737-900
Most Common Aircraft – Boeing 737 (all variants)

That is a lot of geekiness right there. I do keep all of this. But add onto this the move over here to the USA as “Travel”, along with several trips over the border to Vancouver (but since I didn’t fly it doesn’t count).

I did my first ever mileage runs (covered in a different look back) but then I got to fly in some awesome aircraft this year. Out of all of that I would definately have to say the 787 was the highlight. There was trips for work, trips for leisure, trips for spotting and trips for points. All rolled into one and you have a pretty epic year of travelling.

And so you don’t forget, heres links to some of the Trip Reports written along with the photos:

Trip Report – Whale of a Weekend
Trip Report – 5 Flights, 2 Days, 11 Coffees, To many Diet Cokes
Trip Report – Avgeek Easter
Trip Report – Bolting North
Trip Report – 4th July Shenanigans
Trip Report – Labor Day Follies
Trip Report: Vegas… #avgeek Style
Trip Report: Delivering the Dreamliner

Emirates First Class
Status Run Weekend
Visa Interview
Avgeek Weekend
Anzac Day 2012
Emigrating to the USA
Vancouver Weekend
LAX Spotting Trip
USAF Museum
Dorkfest 2012
Vancouver Road Trip
Vegas Avgeek Style
Qatar Trip

Trip Report: Delivering the #Qatar787 Dreamliner – Conclusion

Introduction
Delivery Dinner
Seattle to Doha
Exploring Doha Day 1
Exploring Doha Day 2 & 3
Doha to Seattle
Conclusion

I would have to admit that to say that having to take 4 days off leave for this trip was not worth it would be an utter lie. This was probably one of the most amazing trips of my life. I managed to add a whole heap of firsts to my log book for this trip:

* First Flight on a 787
* First Flight on a 777-200LR
* First Flight on Qatar Airways
* First time to Houston Intercontinental (IAH)
* First time to Doha (DOH)
* First time to Boeing Field (BFI)
* First time in the Middle East
* First ever Delivery Flight

Some of these things I doubt I will ever be able to do again. I mean how often will I get access like this as well. In the time I was away I flew a total of 17328 miles spent over 31 hours in the air and that was only 3 flights. Normally that kind of distance would be spent on a whole heap of flights maybe 6 or 7. But not this time around.

I don’t really know how to top this trip though. Sure I have had some epic trips in the past, and I still have some things to tick off of my bucket list (Around the world in first class I think is the next big one) but all the sacrifices I am going to have to make now that I am back (not that this trip cost me much, but more the fact that my waist line took a bit of a hammering, but I expected that) were worth it. Experiencing new cultures, new foods, new scenes all in a matter of a few days, it is a travelers dream.

Being able to get on a delivery flight was a dream; it is one of those experiences the Aviation Geeks like me just drool over. An inaugural is one thing, but a delivery (or ferry flight whatever you want to call it) is a true privilege. Experiencing the brand new products, new service, all on a brand new aircraft being delivered half way across the world, getting to meet some media in the process, learn from them and being treated like legitimate media was an honor and something I will cherish.

All those things touted by the 787 program by Boeing, the bigger windows, the better cabin pressure and humidity thanks to the composites used. It is all true. I really did feel much better after the landing in Doha than coming back from Doha on the 777. Don’t get me wrong the 777 service and crew were fantastic as well, but I just didn’t physically feel the same and I had been in the air pretty much with a similar time frame/day. I had never really believed it before, but now I do. If I had the choice of a 787 vs. any other aircraft, then yes I would take it without a second thought.

In the future I hope that I get more of these opportunities as I move forward with the sideline stuff. I really have to thank David at AirlineReporter for the opportunity to go, because if it wasn’t for him not being able to, I definitely would never have had the chance to go. Also thanks go to Qatar Airways and their social media/media team. They planned and arranged all of this and for that I am truly thankful. All the hard work they would have had to of gone to for this trip and to invite a lowly blogger along (although I have been promoted to “Lead Correspondent” now) deserves the biggest praise I can give. So with that, I say thank you and next time if I can fly Qatar Airways, I won’t give it a second thought.

Trip Report: Delivering the #Qatar787 Dreamliner – Doha to Seattle

Introduction
Delivery Dinner
Seattle to Doha
Exploring Doha Day 1
Exploring Doha Day 2 & 3
Doha to Seattle
Conclusion

Sunday 18th November 2012

Up early, hitting the gym to make sure that I don’t feel guilty before what was to be a truly epic return home. I had been looking forward to this morning just as much as the flight over. So with a good 5k run in the gym, this would mean I could really enjoy myself today.

I checked out of the hotel and met up with my contact at Qatar Airways who was saying farewell and dropping me at the airport. It was a bit saddening to leave Qatar as I had a fantastic time and had enjoyed the warm weather so much I didn’t really want to head home to the Seattle winter. The weather wasn’t the real reason for not wanting to go home, but it’s a good excuse, right?

From Qatar Trip

I was dropped in front of the Qatar Airways Premium Terminal and instantly a porter was there to help with the bags and take them into the check in area. It was surreal to have someone help with my bags like that as any time I had previously flown Business I still had to schlep my bags through the terminal. Pretty awesome so far. Check in was a breeze I barely even spoke, just handed the lovely lady my passport, told her I was headed to Houston and I went back to chatting to my contact at Qatar Airways. Next thing I know she’s handing me my boarding pass wishing me a safe journey. I quickly remembered I needed a bag tag for the swag bag and I was given not only the usual paper one you would expect but a lovely plastic one (that I kept for later).

From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip

Immigration was its usual Qatari breeze, hand over passport; smile for the birdie (look into the camera) and then stamp stamp off you go. Security was a bit longer due to only 2 channels open but in saying that, it was still not even 5 minutes, if that. Got to love this experience so far. So once the dignity dance was done and I was all dressed, I headed up the escalators, leaving the duty free to later.

At the top of the escalators, some staff were checking everyone’s boarding pass, not sure why as I mean it’s not as if you could be in this terminal without one, but I think they were keeping a record of the flights people were on to make sure that anyone who came in, eventually went out. Either way after they checked my boarding pass, they pointed me to the left, wished me a wonderful visit and off I went, past the cloak room (all the lockers were taken), past the nursery, past the games room, pass the smoking room, past the Doctors Clinic. Say what now. A Doctors Clinic in the lounge. Crazy! This place was like phenomenally awesome.

From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip

I finally made it actually into the lounge and it was just full of people. There were so many people in there it wasn’t funny. But it was the morning peak time with flights landing from all over Africa and the Middle East heading out to Europe and the USA (All the USA flights to New York, Washington DC & Houston all go out within 45 minutes of each other). I managed to find a single spot in the dining area to grab some breakfast and after a couple of poached eggs on toast. I headed off in search of somewhere more relaxing to finish my breakfast. Some fruit (god the dates out here in the Middle East are yum) and a couple of fresh pastries should round things out nicely (I grabbed a brioche bun thinking it was something else, but it was still good).

From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip

I settled in for my morning ritual. Coffee, emails, relax, switch off my brain. Could there be a better way to start the day than this. O did I mention that I was in an airport, with a half decent view and if I wanted to, could go and have a lie down on one of the many couches before my flight. I could seriously spend all day in this lounge and I wish I had of come a bit earlier to really relax and enjoy it. The first class side even has a day spa so THAT I could enjoy.

From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip

About 15 minutes before boarding I packed up my stuff and headed down to the Duty Free store to see if there was something I could buy to use up the last of my Rials. After browsing, there was nothing that tickled my fancy and after confirming with the staff that there was a different selection onboard, I bought a really cheap gift for a friend and headed towards the gate area. I wouldn’t really call it a gate area either; it was just a desk with a check in terminal as you headed directly onto a bus that took you to your aircraft.

From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip

Qatar Airways QR77
Doha to Houston Intercontinental George Bush
0900-1640
Boeing 777-200LR (A7-BBD)
Business Class – Seat 7A

Boarding: 0810 (Gate 12)
Push Back: 0909
Take Off Roll: 0928 (Runway 33)
Top of Descent: 1535
Touch Down: 1600 (Runway 26L)
Shut Down: 1607 (Bay D7)

The flight was called for boarding like 50 mins prior but I mean we still had to go through secondary screening (I hate that) and then off to the aircraft by bus. After going through security again, redressing (again) and this time having to remove my watch for some reason, even though I have never had to do that before. I was able to redress myself (while trying to stop the security from moving my stuff around without me seeing it) and get onto the bus. Once the bus was full (there’s only a dozen or so seats) the doors shut and off along the tarmac we went. Past an Air Arabia A320, past a whole heap of Qatar Airways jets, big and small. Past an Emirates 777-300ER, right up to door 2L of our 777-200LR. There was a bus already at the rear steps for the Economy passengers, and literally as we pulled up, they opened the doors and the hordes flowed up the rear steps.

From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip

However I was first onboard our aircraft, greeted with a smile, and I snapped away while the cabin was empty. I was in the mini cabin between the galley and economy. It was a good size cabin, 3 rows of 6 (2-2-2) but even then it is only marginally smaller than the 4 rows up the front. As everyone boarded I was greeted by the Purser and he introduced himself and offered any assistance. He mentioned that he had seen I was on the delivery flight and I explained I had loved it and was looking forward to more flights with Qatar Airways. A very true statement.

From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip

After many more photos, a pre departure beverage, handing out of all the goodies (pillows, slippers, socks, menus, amenity kits, pajamas etc.) we buttoned up and the steps were pushed back away from the aircraft. We pushed back a bit late waiting on paperwork to be finalized. It was coming to the end of the morning peak but still there was plenty of aircraft making their way to the takeoff points. Two Qatar Air Force Mirage 2000s taxied past us (unsure if just landed or heading to take off) and we eventually joined the long queue. We held for a while with other aircraft taking off ahead of us including a Qatar Air Force Dornier Alpha jet, a Westland Lynx landed and then it was our turn.

From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip

We turned onto Runway 33, the GE90s (which I was sitting on top off) spooled up, sucking in anything not tied down in the entire middle east (I still love the sound and feeling of these engines) and down the runway we rocketed. It was a fairly long roll as we were bound to be heavy with fuel. As we pulled out from Doha I wished it was not going to end as we pulled away from the city, back over the desert heading towards Europe. I browsed the menu and seeing that the first meal was breakfast and I had just eaten, figured I would give this dining on demand thing a real try. There were 2 main meal services in the menu, Breakfast & Lunch. There was also the “Indulgence” menu (aka snacks). I figured I would try and reset my body towards North American time.

From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip

I set up my plan for the flight. A 14 hour flight and touching down in Houston at 4pm, but leaving around 9am. Rather than eat as the menu suggested which for some reason had a breakfast up first, I decided to work for a bit putting me around lunch time in Doha but a midnight snack time in Houston. This could work. So 2-3 hours solid work, break for “lunch” and eat off the indulgence menu. After “lunch” and a movie I could, continue working or keep relaxing till about Greenland/Iceland which should be about half way through the flight and then have breakfast. Considering I usually ate pretty light anyway I was sure there would be some muesli and fruit leftover. Then after some more work/movies I would be able to finish off with Lunch with everyone else as we approached Houston, fully back into sync on US time.

So out came the laptop, a drink in hand and I settled down to working for a while. Unfortunately the power plug was out in my row, so it meant I had only about 3 hours of work or so till my battery would be critical anyway, so that gave me a deadline for lunch time. Good way to manage it I guess. The minute I returned from the bathroom though, I had noticed that all of the shades had been drawn and most people were about to go to sleep. This didn’t seem at all smart to me but hey, what do I know. So while others slept, I worked.

From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip

The flight was pretty good. I worked, I ate, I watched a heap of movies, I ate some breakfast, I watched more movies. I worked a bit, I had some lunch. Add in a quick chat with the crew while taking some photos over Greenland, enjoying some relaxing time browsing the duty free catalogue but not able to get the cool aviator cufflinks I wanted (if anyone at Qatar Airways reads this, I wouldn’t mind a set of those cufflinks in your duty free mag *hint hint*).

From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip

The food was just great and I especially enjoyed the Soups. I actually had 2 different soups on this flight. During my “dinner” I had the cauliflower soup and then during my “lunch” I had the Pea & Mint soup. Both were fantastic. I also noticed that for some reason I always chose the vegetarian options. Both on the way over and the way back, the vegetarian meals just sounded so good and it really was. This one was a Flaky Vegetable Roll with Pineapple Korma & Tossed Okra Potato served with a Cashew Chili Rice. It was one of the Master Chef meals I tried (the Mint & Pea Soup was another) and this one was by the Vineet Bhatia who is a Michelin Star Chef from Mumbai but based in London (confused yet?). Unlike other airlines that just have one big name chef to design their menus, Qatar has 4 of them so that means you have a high likelihood of having at least one item across the course of your flight.

From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip

As we tracked south over the USA making landfall around Wisconsin we flew over Chicago, followed the Mississippi towards Texas and crossed into Texas close to Texarkana (which I have visited before). I didn’t want this flight to end as it was just so good and the crew was awesome. The purser came back to check on me and I had to admit they had been so nice to me. At one point during the flight there was me, the purser and 2 other cabin crew trying to recharge my laptop and it just wouldn’t work, so they took it forward to the cockpit to recharge. Amazingly generous of them! The purser asked how the flight compared to my flight over.

From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip

I had to sit back and think for a few seconds. Was it all true about the cabin pressure and the humidity etc? I thought back to how I felt on the flight towards Doha and I had felt pretty damn good on the way over. Whereas at that point, I did feel extremely run down, like someone had smacked me over the head a few dozen times. Pretty similar to how I have felt on every other long haul flight I had taken between Australia and the USA (only slightly better cause I wasn’t in economy). I guess it was true all the hype. Made for good data for an article I was due to write.

From Qatar Trip

Pretty soon we were on descent into Houston. I was looking forward to getting onto the ground and experiencing a new airport but I had a few priorities though. Get through immigration as easy as possible (always a hassle usually) and then get a shower. I had checked before and there was showers in the C Terminal United Club (which I would have access to thanks to an international ticket and an onwards business class ticket, o and also my *A Gold status.

From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip

We touched down right opposite the D terminal (where international arrivals come in) and sitting there was a lovely BA 777-300ER (I hadn’t seen one yet and they don’t have many in their fleet) and a Lufthansa A380 (plus the usual United you would expect at one of their hubs). As we pulled in my name was announced to present myself in the jet way. Umm ok something is up. What I didn’t expect was an escort by Qatar Airways staff through the terminal. What an awesome way to end what had been a phenomenal trip. Walked all the way through security, immigration (which was a breeze mind you thanks to the escort) back through customs and then through security again. Seriously I was so not wanting to get on this next flight as it being United, the service would no way in hell compare to what I had just experienced. Hell I think Qantas First in April is going to be a tough call against this.

From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip

Since I was no back in the USA, through security and escorted all the way to the check in desk at the nearest gate, I bid goodbye to my escort from Qatar who I had been chatting with for the last 45 minutes to an hour it took to go through the formalities (would have been quicker by one of my bags came late off the belt and with that, a zip was broken so I had to make a baggage report) and had been good chatting with him. I was in the United Club in the E terminal the same terminal I would be departing out of. But I really just wanted to get my boarding pass for my next flight, then go and find a shower in whatever club I needed to go to. Turns out the E Club had showers. WINNER! I could sit down and relax and not move for several hours.

From Qatar Trip

I grabbed a shower in the dodgy looking shower rooms, went back outside to change the leftover Rials back into USD (which gave me a whole 16 in cash… woooo) and then sat my butt down in the United Club and relaxed. Coffee in hand, some chocolate coated raisins (cause I am a sucker for those things I swear) and my laptop to catch up on life. I whiled away a few hours in the one spot.

From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip

About 10 minutes prior to boarding I packed up all my stuff and decided to wander on over to the gate which was about a 5 minute walk through the E terminal, past the hordes of people heading home from football games or starting their thanksgiving travel really early.

From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip

United Airlines UA1204
Houston Intercontinental George Bush to Seattle Tacoma
2120-0015+1
Boeing 737-800 (N14228)
BusinessFirst – Seat 1A

Boarding: 2050 (Gate E16)
Push Back: 2125
Take Off Roll: 2137 (Runway 26L)
Top of Descent: 2317
Touch Down: 2359 (Runway 16L)
Shut Down: 0004 (Bay N16)

Boarding was a scrum, the gate lice were going crazy, their seemed to be half a plane load of people pre boarding or in the case of “Military in Uniform” it’s pretty much whoever wants to get on the plane first. I had to join the ranks of the gate lice to even attempt to get on and get my stuff in the overhead bin which would be required considering I was in row 1 and couldn’t have my bags anywhere but in the overhead.

From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip

I was by now totally a wreck. Ready to pass out, just wanting to be left alone. No channel 9 on this flight as it was an ExCon bird but that meant free DirectTv. So I found an interesting channel to distract me, put my headphones on, grabbed my book (first time on this trip I had actually read it funnily enough) and started to chill out.

We took off and it was slightly bumpy on the way out over Dallas. Drinks were served and sadly no standard Hot nuts on this flight (not sure why) all we got were a packet of lame pretzel sticks. What did I care though, I was just happy for anything. The service was fine up front, friendly and all but I did have to repeat “Diet Coke” so loud that I was shocked the whole plane didn’t hear me, cause apparently my accent is so bad no one can understand those two words :/

From Qatar Trip
From Qatar Trip

Dinner (well a snack according to United) was a fairly nice Antipasto platter with a fruit salad side dish and a brownie. What I could have really gone for was something really sugary to keep me going but that was failing fast and the coffee just did not help. I was drifting in and out of my thoughts for most of the flight and since it was pitch black out for just about all of the flight, I didn’t really take any photos.

From Qatar Trip

We came into descent in solid cloud which meant it was a bit bumpy, punched out of the clouds over Bellevue and then did a loop out over Lake Washington coming in for a 16 approach. The 16 approaches are good if you’re on the Starboard (right) side of the aircraft as you get a good view of downtown. Sadly all I saw was pitch black lake. Boooooooring. O did I mention that it was raining and less than 10C when we touched down. Welcome home!

We touched down and taxied quickly to the N Gates. The crew seemed to be in a rush to get off the plane and either get to the crew hotel and get some sleep or just get the hell out of dodge. I didn’t blame them cause I wanted the same but it was midnight, I had to be up for work in 5 hours and I was a good 45 minutes away from home (by the time I get my bag, get to the truck and drive home). I was looking forward to getting home though to get some real sleep.

My bag came out with the priority baggage (awesome work United) but my Aegean Airlines Bag Tag was gone, broken clean off. Aegean will only ever issue one bag for the entirety of your time with them. My one and only tag was gone forever. That was just a good way for United to make me feel after the crappyness I was at by this stage. Couldn’t do much about it really, so I called the parking garage to come pick me up.

From Qatar Trip

5 minutes later I was in my truck, heading for home after the staff at the garage put my bags in it for me, along with some water and 30 minutes after that I was pulling up at home into my driveway and within 1 hour and 15 minutes of touching down in Seattle. I was at home, asleep in my bed. Ending a truly awesome flight.

First American Christmas

Well my first American christmas is over and it wasn’t a white christmas. Not much to talk about it really other than the fact that I have been doing a lot of thinking over the last few days. Yes I do feel lonely right now at this time of year. But that is to be expected. I am a metric buttload of miles away from my family, all my friends that I have known for quite sometime are back there as well. So yes it’s tough. But I knew that going into it.

Work helps.. but it doesn’t distract you 100% of the time, part of me wishes it could though. Maybe that was why I kind of regressed a bit yesterday to old mal for a little bit. I took my “All bets are off” on Christmas day a little to far and I ended up going a bit overboard I think. But I will cut back, work out and work it all off and get back on track ready for the new year.

I do want to thank David though. He took me in, he let me become part of his family for the evening. It wasn’t by any means a “Traditional” christmas but it was pretty damn good, and I got to teach david a few aussie things as well (like what my dad’s rocky road is all about ;))

I might be posting a bit over the next few days covering my usual 2012 round down. What I did over, what my highlights were, how I went with my goals and then also what is in the plans for 2013.

But first I leave you with this… my one and only gift opened on christmas day… thanks to my friend Kat in Canada who knows me all to well and sends me a coffee gift basket.

Dear God… it worked!

Words just can not describe how ecstatic I am right now. So much time and effort has been put into today, my apartment has been beautifully warm and I haven’t even needed the heat on due to the cooking today. As I have always wanted to try and make a christmas pudding on my own (usually I’m always helping my Dad who is the cook back home for this kind of thing). Now that I am over here, may as well give it a try, no harm right? Well add in a bit of a tough call on this because I comitted to bringing one for Christmas Dinner at my mates place. There was no going back it HAD to happen. If it didn’t, I had no real back up.

So for almost a month now since I made the comittment, the fruit has been soaking in Bacardi Black Label. Now it is far from traditional for this as usually it would be bundy that the fruit would of been soaked in. I have been stressing for weeks now, wanting to make sure that it all worked. As I spent weekend after weekend prepping to make sure I had the right things for the recipes. I had to hunt down a pudding cloth which meant a trip to the local craft store to get some Calico, but over here thats not all that easy now is it, because it isn’t even called calico, its muslin cloth. Then there are some of the spices, the recipe called for Mixed Spice, which of course isn’t here. Apparently it is called “pumpkin pie spice” and it exactly the same! And people say things are not different over here!

So the day approached, planning had to be done as once I started cooking this thing, it was all or nothing. 6 hours it would be on the stove, for at least 6 hours I would not be able to leave the house. So I made sure all my shopping and groceries were done yesterday, all the ingrediants were in the house, I had everything! I woke up this morning hit the gym and then as soon as I was showered and clean, before even having breakfast I got started on the pudding!

From Expat Life

The mix was made. Now time to deal with the cloth. One of the wierdest things and the most crucial. First you have to make sure the cloth is drenched in the boiling water, then you lay it out, cover it in flour and hope & pray it all works. Because if you don’t tie that string tight enough, it is SCREWED. So I did what I could. I tied it as tight as I could, I retied it again just to be sure. Totally worrying over each little bit. The funny thing was when I started putting it into the pot, well that was when I was starting to really worry.

In the bottom of the pot full of boiling water your meant to put a plate so it has something to protect the pudding from the bottom of the saucepan just in case. Also serves a dual purpose as the rattling of the plate keeps you aware that it is boiling. I wasn’t going to use a good plate though, stuff that! So off to the “thrift store” I went. Pretty similar to a Vinnies back home, I picked up a plate yesterday for 55c (incl tax). SCORE! I would have no problem if the thing cracked or was ruined cause seriously who cares about 55c. So into the saucepan it went with loads of water and then in went the pudding for the next 6 hours.

From Expat Life

So now I am stuck here, watching a stove for 6 hours. What to do, what to do! Well I made sure to finally eat (since by now it was almost 930am and no breakfast) but I had also decided to use up some of the leftover fruit. I kept some aside for a backup dessert in case the pudding didn’t work (Ice Cream Christmas Pudding in the middle of winter anyone?) and took the remainder and turned it into Fruit Mince Tarts. They turned out ok, and a spoon full of the mixture I tasted… HOLY CRAP WAS IT STRONG! Half a bottle of rum went into that fruit and it was killer. The tarts could do with a bit of perfecting and I may attempt another batch next weekend.

From Expat Life

But the main thing was I was still stuck around the house, So I gave the apartment its biggest clean, i tidied up everything and put hours of work into cleaning the house (especially after the mess I had created this morning). 6 hours later though the timer finally went off. After having to fill the pot with more water every 20-30 minutes it sure was good to know it was all done! I pulled it out of the pot and let it drain. I even had to call home and get Dad’s advice on what to do if I should pull the cloth off it. He told me I should of done it the minute it came out. WOOPS! So I did it straight away and SUCCESS!!!

From Expat Life

It worked! No water got in, nothing! It didn’t have the skin I like but hopefully some time in the fridge will help that out to set now. I am totally stoked that it turned out. All the stressing, effort and everything was not in vain. Now comes the problem… do I serve it with Brandy Custard or Ice Cream? one little problem.. I don’t have any brandy :/

What a week!

The run up to Christmas is always shocking at work but this week has just been crazy in life in general, adding to the madness of work. I posted earlier in the week about my weekend full of cooking and the 2nd update to the christmas cooking will be coming next week but with more planning and investigation there is now more to be cooked ;)

The craziest part of this week has been the temperatures up here in Seattle. Today marks the official start of Winter here in Washington state (apparently). It is also the Winter Equinox and also apparently the day the world is due to end (but I am still here so go suck it mayans). The temperature has now plummeted. I have struggled all this week with dealing with the temperatures. Monday it was raining and freezing cold, so that meant moving the run into the gym, no big deal but I feel like a Hamster on a wheel sometimes. Tuesday brought with it the first impending snow. It was meant to come down just north of my place in Everett.

It did snow Tuesday morning but none around me and it was no rain so out I went into the cold weather either way, I needed it! Seeing cars driving past with all the snow piled up on top was surreal and some guy in Shoreline (another suburb not to far from me) was out running in the snow. Instantly that was like “OMG that would be me if it was snowing here”. Plenty of stories on the news about roads and cars going everywhere, crashes etc. This was going to be interesting!

Wednesday it really did snow at my place! I walked outside to falling really light snow, I ran as fast as I could to the gym for my workout (since I don’t usually run on Wednesdays) and by the time I came out, the snow had turned to Rain and it was pretty much all gone :( so no photos. Thursday, no snow, but plenty of rain in the morning but it had ended by the time work had finished, hell there was even Blue Sky before sunset (at like 4:30pm) :( But this morning it was Ice. My first real morning of dealing with ice as I had to get out and run in the cold (I couldn’t do another day inside) and it was crazy. The first half a kilometre was a bit slippery so it was super slow and a few times I almost fell over! The drive to the park and ride this morning had a bit of a fishtail to begin with in the truck, but 4WD and traction control fixed that and I made it safely to the car park where I slowly walked across it ;)

I wonder what this weekend will bring now that its officially winter and its barely getting above single digit degrees C. Kinda wish I was home and it was like 30c and warm and blue sky. Guess I will just have to cope with the occasional bit of blue sky we get here like this afternoon. It may have been blue sky outside but it sure as hell was not warm!

Book Review: Or Is That Just Me?

Long bus rides in traffic and lots of waiting for late buses means another review, shortly after the other one.

Or Is That Just Me?

The book is “Or is That Just Me?” by Richard Hammond. Yes Richard Hammond of Top Gear fame. I had previously read one of his books being “On the Edge” which follows his life threatening car crash a number of years ago and his road to recovery. That was a pretty sombre book looking at his life and the crash and how it affected all of those around him. This is definately a more light hearted book. Filled with lots more humour and random thoughts at times. The randomness of this book is actually kind of good.

“Or is That Just Me?” is all about Richard’s road to his 40th Birthday. All the big events (which for some reason or other tended to involve a hospital stay) leading up to his dreaded turn to be the big Four Zero. I am a long way off this mark myself but it did kind of make me think a few times “why am I actually scared of that age?” The book seemingly jumps from one tangent to the next and you can get lost easily. It is as though he is writing his own thoughts down and if something pops into his head, he just keeps writing it down. Kind of makes for interesting reading actually, as though he is actually talking to you. I would love to hear this book as an audio book with Hammond actually narrating it. Would probably be hilarious.

Some very good tales and a great light hearted read. Something I need right now after coming up to a rough time of the year!