Buying a house and making a home

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a while. Travis and I purchased a house earlier this year. Unsure whether we would live in it or rent it out or other, we figured either way it would be a good opportunity to get into the housing market and also a good learning experience. We had been looking around at houses for a while, perhaps a year, maybe even longer.

During this time we were very unsure what we wanted. Did we want to buy a house together, did we want to buy individual houses, how much could we afford, where should we buy. Near our parents? Did we want to buy a house with land, a unit or an apartment? Before buying our house we put three offers – one was two blocks of land next to each other with one piece of land having a small 3×1 house (this was more of a longer term investment as the property was far away from the city), one was a piece of land with two houses, one was a two bedroom apartment which was half way being renovated. Looking back, it was an interesting experience and the diversity in our choices really demonstrated that we didn’t have any specific, particular desires in a house. The apartment was a bit of an anomaly – there was another apartment we were very interested in. Great location, close to the river – what a life it could have been, but unfortunately someone put an offer in on the first day of inspection! The market was extremely heated during this time and our offers were often beaten by people offering more than the selling price!

Anyway, my dear mother brought us to the attention to the house we finally purchased. I remember we went to visit the place on a Saturday morning. It has just been listed on and the agent didn’t even have brochures. My first thought upon entering the property was “no way”. It was a complete mess, even compared to many other places we’d seen. The entrance to the house was by no means safe (no steps leading up to the front door), the house was hardly lived in, there was a bed in the living room, a top 20 songlist pencilled on the wall in the lounge and a billy can in the kitchen! A billy can! I’m not sure what changed our minds but eventually we discussed the benefits of the property, the reasonable sized block, the wooden floors under the carpets, the solid double brick veneer of the house, the joys and experiences of renovation (little did we know!). Anyway, we made our offer and the rest is history.

Sonya and Travis's first home

Here are some before photos of the house:

Outside before landscaping
Bathroom before renovations
Bedroom before renovations
Bedroom before renovations
Kitchen before renovations

So, after buying the house I was left thinking “goodness what on Earth have we done?”. Travis was off course, at the time, gallivanting to the Middle East for work, six weeks at a time. However, on his two weeks off he worked super hard to paint the house and sand the floors. I exercised my DIY skills polishing the floorboards with some polyurethane varnish (probably killed a few brain cells whilst I was at it). Many late nights, lots of trips to Bunnings, and we got it to a liveable, somewhat homely state.
Here are some after photos:

Outside after landscaping
Outside after landscaping
Outside after landscaping
Bedroom after renovations
Dining room after renovations
Hallway after renovations
Kitchen after renovations
Living room after renovations

After only six or seven months of living in our home, it was sad to leave…

Gianni’s Restaurant, Perth, Australia

This post is long overdue! We visited Gianni’s for the first time a few months ago and then again more recently (last weekend) to celebrate a friend’s birthday.

The cosy, family run restaurant in Mt Hawthorn was our first introduction to Balkan food. Given that Travis and I had been there once before, this time round we thought we would try the mixed platter for two which consisted of samples of a variety of dishes:

cevaps – grilled rolls of beef minced meat
pljeskavica – veal meat patty flavoured with salt, onions and peppers
kobasice – smoked grilled, pork and beef sausage
shishcevaps – grilled rolls of spicy minced beef and
raznjici – skewers with cubes of chicken meat.

The platter was served with some homemade bread, dips and a salad – more than enough food for the two of us, particularly as our table had also ordered garlic bread and lepina (air dried beef and homemade bread) for starters.

Our friends ordered pizza, burek (layers of pastry filled with meat or other filling) and sarma (minced beef meat, rice, onions, herbs and various spices mixed together then rolled into large cabbage leaves).

Overall consensus was that the food was enjoyable, abundant (dishes were extremely huge!) and we were all simply very full post consumption. While we didn’t have desserts this time, we did try the baklava on our first visit which was delicious but the small slice didn’t quite satisfy my appetite for the sweet pasty!!

Flavor Tripping Picnic – an experiment with Miracle Fruit

I was immediately interested  when I heard of  Flavor Tripping Parties on the radio by chance. Further searching the web of the parties, which led to the crucial miracle fruit, confirmed what I heard and now I had to try it. But how exactly was I going to acquire a miracle fruit berry, especially since living in Australia?

I resorted to trusty eBay which immediately resulted in plenty of hits, but these seller were all overseas and with many specifically stating ‘will not post to Australia’. However, there was one seller selling five portions of miracle fruit granules at about $17 AUD including postage (from reading; a single berry goes for about $2 US in the states). I immediately purchased and now it was just a matter of waiting for it to arrive.

It arrived concealed as a letter with a small quantity of miracle fruit granule hidden inside. Before arranging the picnic, I tried a small sample with a lemon as a tester. It seemed to work. Next I arranged a surprise picnic with Sonya, but didn’t mention the miracle fruit, which caused her to be quite confused. Now it was time to go shopping, I briefly researched some foods that worked well and others I thought would work well, on the list were:

  • lemons
  • tomatoes
  • cocktail onions
  • gherkins
  • salt and vinegar chips
  • goat’s cheese
  • Guinness (a dark beer)
  • tequila

I packed up the picnic set, and then we headed to Perth’s Kings Park. As we walked towards an ideal spot I briefed Sonya on Flavor Tripping, she wasn’t quite sure about it yet. Luckily I brought a print out of the miracle fruit Wikipedia page, which once reading the effects of turning sour foods sweet, was all excited to try it.

We both took a small portion of the granules and swirled it around our tongues. Sonya made the mistake of swallowing a little too early. After a minute or so and some more granules we began food tastings.

We started with lemons to confirm everything was working, and it was, as the lemons tasted like candied lemons dipped in sugar. We moved on to cocktail onions and gherkins, which were difficult to decipher as the cocktail onions now tasted like sweet brown pickled onions and the gherkins the sweeter bread-and-butter pickles variety. What we then realised was that we should have done a control tasting before consumption of the miracle fruit.

The tomato was an interesting choice that turned out well. Chosen due to its natural acidic taste, consumed after miracle fruit, the tomato could justify its botanical classification of being a fruit as it turned extremely sweet. From fruits and vegetables we moved to the salt and vinegar chips. I am not sure why no other flavour tripping parties had any mention of these, as I thought it was a much better idea than drinking a shot of vinegar. Sonya, a big fan of salt and vinegar chips in their unmodified form, wasn’t happy when the vinegar was missing, complaining they tasted like the original variety. I thought they tasted like salted sweet potato chips.

Having consumed a large amount of foods, it was time to crack open the can of Guinness. This one was one of my favs. Guinness tasted pretty much like lolly water, and Sonya, not usually a fan of Guinness found it very easy to drink. Our final food was goat’s cheese which I had read tasted like cheesecake. Sonya thought it did, describing it as a creamy cheesecake; I wasn’t too sure, not liking the taste.

Finally we had a little bit of tequila. This one was also an interesting one, it did taste nicer, which was a surreal feeling given it still had the strong alcoholic smell and burned on the way down. The fact that we were drinking tequila in broad daylight in a public park probably also helped on the surreal feelings.

The miracle fruit experiment was an interesting experience both enjoyed by Sonya and I.  It was also an interesting experience having a sour themed picnic, with passers by wondering why we had a plate of lemons.

I wouldn’t mind trying to grow a miracle fruit plant and hosting a flavour tripping party with real berries. From what I have read though it is at least 2-3 years for a plant to develop fruit from seedlings, and a 25% rate of seed germination, well, best start early then.

Our Nullarbor Adventure – Melbourne to Perth

After about five days in Melbourne we started our long drive back to Perth. We planned to follow the coast on the way back providing a change of scenery, and due to the extra distance decided to take give ourselves a little over six days of travelling time.

Day 1: Great Ocean Road drive (Melbourne – Geelong – Apollo Bay – Port Campbell)

We left Melbourne on the morning of 4th January to start our long journey back to Perth. Our first stop was Urquhart Bluff where we stopped to have lunch. Urquhart Bluff, located 200m above sea level gave us a nice view of the beaches while we enjoyed lunch.

Continuing along Great Ocean Road we stopped at the Split Point Lighthouse overlooking Airey’s Inlet. After the lighthouse, we came across a more official overpass signage for the Great Ocean Road, naturally we stopped to take more photos of the sign and the statues. The Great Ocean Road is as you would expect a great road that follows the ocean. The 243km road is interesting for the first hour, but after a while the scenery becomes repetitive and the bends inconvenient. A journey that should only take a little over two hours turns into an over six hour ordeal, and for us the whole day.

Some of the interesting things on the way were some koalas in the trees on the side of the road which were quite an attraction; we also managed to catch the Twelve Apostles before sunset. The Twelve Apostles have been highly touristized to the extent of making accommodation extremely difficult to find in nearby Port Campbell. That night we set up tent on the town’s recreation oval, but at least it was free.

View from Urquhart BluffSplit Point LighthouseGreat Ocean Road Sign
Winding Great Ocean RoadKoala in a TreeSonya and the Twelve Apostles


Day 2: Port Campbell – Warrnambool – Portland – Mount Gambier – Kingston – Victor Harbor

Our first stop for the day were two arches; The Arch and London Arch, both natural arches formed by the erosion of limestone, followed by two bays; Bay of Martyrs and Bay of Islands. The end of Great Ocean Road brought us to the large town of Warrnambool. As we drove around we found an interesting sign ‘Granny’s Grave’ which we found out was the grave of the first white woman buried in Warrnambool.

We reached Mount Gambier early in the afternoon and were greeted by the Lady Nelson; a sail ship at the entrance to the visitor’s centre. After gathering more tourist information we headed to Kingston, famous for the Big Lobster (which apparently was For Sale). We continued north along the coast, passing a number of salt lakes heading towards Wellington. As we reached Wellington we abruptly arrived at Murray River and were a little confused to the lack of bridge. It then clicked when we saw the car ferry approaching from the other side. It was quite an interesting experience, the ferry even managed to fit a road train besides us.

Realising we were quite late if we wanted to get to Victor Harbor that day, we hastily drove nonstop for the rest of the day.

The ArchLondon ArchTravis and Grannys Grave
The Lady NelsonSonya and the Big LobsterMurray River crossing


Day3: Adelaide (Victor Harbor – Adelaide)

We planned to give ourselves a whole day to spend walking around Adelaide, which gave us a lot more time to enjoy things. We arrived in Adelaide a little after 9am and starting walking down King William St, through Rundle Mall towards the cultural boulevard of North Terrace. Walking along Adelaide’s streets we stumbled upon many statues, sculptures, memorials and interesting buildings. In the town hall we saw a statue of Queen Adelaide, along Rundle Mall we met bronze pigs, and towards North Terrace the South Australia National War Memorial.

On the North Terrace are situated the Art Gallery of South Australia, South Australian Museum and the University of Adelaide all magnificent Victorian style buildings. We briefly visited the Art Gallery, and then walked though the University of Adelaide’s buildings towards Torrens River. As we walked along the river, Sonya enjoyed photographing the wildlife, particularly the ducks (she he has an abnormal fascination with ducks). By accident whilst heading back down Frome Road we stumbled upon Adelaide’s Botanical Garden.

The botanical Garden was the highlight of Adelaide for me, there were a ridiculous amount of plant varieties, unfortunately we didn’t get to see them all. there were plants with weird seed pods, a green house featuring the giant Amazon Waterlily and plenty of roses in the National Rose Trial Garden. As we exited the gardens we came upon the National Wine Centre, not surprising as Adelaide is famous for its vinification. The National Wine Centre has an exhibition area with information of grape varieties, viticulture and all other things associated with wine making.

We left Adelaide in the early afternoon and after a little over four hours of driving, reaching Port Augusta where we camped. That night was the windiest night we had experienced, I couldn’t get much sleep as the tent flapped and I worried it would blow away.


Sonya on a park benchSouth Australia National War MemorialThe Art Gallery of South Australia
The University of AdelaideVictorian style buildingRiver Torrens
DucksEntrace to the Adelaide Botanic GardenGiant Amazon Waterlily


Day 4: Port Augusta – Whyalla – Wudinna – Port Kenny – Ceduna

On the way to Whyalla we stopped at three Geocaches, which were all a short distance from the main road, one did require the crossing of train tracks though.

Whyalla greeted us with the HMAS Whyalla J153 at the entrance to the Whyalla Maritime Museum, after a number of pictures with the ship we continued towards Cowell. Cowell is known for its farming of Pacific Oysters, so naturally we had to purchase some for lunch ($5 for half a dozen). One of the more interesting Geocaches was the old Mindrow Creek School located about 10km from Cowell on the Birdseye Highway. The school was opened in 1918 and was in use for twenty years. We decided to have lunch at Cleve a small agriculture town.

Towards Streaky Bay from Port Kenny are interesting shaped rocks, known as Murphy’s Haystacks. The name arrived due to initially being thought to be hay stacks from afar; the peculiar shaped lip is due to the strong winds blowing from only one direction. South West of Streaky Bay between Corvisart Bay and Sceale Bay is Westall Way Loop Drive, which is a scenic drive that follows the coast and provides access to a number of beaches and natural features. In order of arrival to these were High Cliff, the Dreadnoughts and the Granites. The Granites are a rocky coastline with areas of small pools.

From Streak Bay we drove to Ceduna where we camped overnight.

HMAS Whyalla J153Travis and the old Mindrow Creek School GeocacheSonya and the old Mindrow Creek School
Murphys HaystacksTravis and Murphys HaystacksSonya and Murphys Haystacks
The Granites off Westall Way Loop DriveSonya at the GranitesOur Ceduna accommodation


Day 5: Nullarbor Return (Ceduna – Point Sinclair – Koonalda – Balladonia)

The unfortunate thing about the Nullarbor is that there is really not much to see, and if you have been through there once, you have pretty much seen it all. Unfortunately, this day of driving marked our return trip across the Nullarbor. To break the driving up, I tried to stop at as many Geocaches as possible (Sonya wasn’t quite so happy about this), and we would take the time to travel away from the Eyre Highway which did bring us to some very nice spots which we would have normally never found.

Heading towards Point Sinclair (about 20kms of the main Eyre Highway), we came across an interesting salt lake known as Red Lake, as the name suggests, the lake was red in colour. What was further interesting was that across the Panong to Point Sinclair road was Lake MacDonnell which was your normal looking blue colour. Unfortunately, the Geocache at Point Sinclair had been muggled (broken into by the non-Geocaching public, if you needed to read this, that would be you).

From Point Sinclair we travelled towards the heart of the Nullarbor National Park another Geocache took us to Koonalda Homestead, an abandoned sheep station and road house situated on the Old Eyre Highway. The surrounds of the homesteads served as a graveyard for cars that couldn’t make it all the way across the Nullarbor, there were many vintage Holdens and Fords, which presented nice photo opportunities. I wanted to go into the buildings but Sonya wouldn’t let me. The whole area was quite spooky.

The rest of the day we spent making headway, finding two more Geocaches and again crossing the “Australia’s Longest Straight Road”. We arrived after sunset in Balladonia and had a very simple and quick dinner of corn, tuna, rice and packet soup. Note to fellow campers, the rice was a mistake as it took an extremely long time to cook.

That day we travelled over 1000km taking a little over 12 hours. The advantage of driving east to west is every days worth of driving you gain about 30 mins more before sunset.

Red LakeTravis looking for Point Sinclair GeocacheSonya and the Nullarbor Plain sign
Koonalda Homestead car graveyardKoonalda Homestead abandoned road houseTravis and the 90 Mile Straight sign


Day 6: Balladonia – Norseman – Esperance

We woke up early, ready to drive to Esperance, I initially wanted to take a little shortcut onto the gravel Balladonia Road, but after driving about 14km taking about 14 minutes we decided that it was too risky for our car, especially given it was supposed to get a lot worse further on. After wasting about one hour, we got back on the Eyre Highway and headed to Norseman.

In Norseman we searched for a Geocache on Beacon’s Hill, it took as a little time to find the correct road with most of the roads being private mine site roads. A little from Norseman near Bromus Dam we found another Geocache. There was a spider web with spider above the location of the Geocache which Sonya was quite scared off. From there it was non-stop to Esperance where we arrived a little after lunch giving us plenty of time to explore the surrounding areas.

For the first time we set up camp early in the day, had a very cruisy lunch next to our tent, and then headed out to Cape Le Grand National Park. Cape Le Grand is 56km east of Esperance and features some of the nicest looking beaches. Once in the national park the predominant Frenchman Peak catches your eye as your begin to approach the park. We arrived at the base of the peak; a sign stated it was a two hour return journey to the top, so we decided to give it a miss.

We decided to spend the rest of the day exploring the beaches, first was famous Lucky Bay, which as per photos had amazingly white sand and blue water. From there we drove a little to Rossiter Bay which was a let down as the beach was covered in seaweed. We drove back past Lucky Bay to Thistle Cove; the beach had an interesting mix of rocks and sand. Finally we drove to Le Grand Beach passing some kangaroos along the way.

That evening for our last dinner we had steak, a side of pasta and salad, not too shabby at all.

Norseman Beacon LookoutNorseman Tin CamelsFrenchman Peak
Sonya strolling down Lucky Bay beachLucky BayThistle Cove rocks
Thistle CoveCape Le Grand National Park kangaroosOur last supper


Day 7: Esperance – Ravensthorpe – Hyden – Perth

We packed up the tent for the last time and left Esperance towards The Great Ocean Drive, (Western Australia’s version of Victoria’s Great Ocean Road, not the subtle naming difference). By now I was in Geocache crazy mode and the only reason I was keen on this drive was that my GPS was showing four Geocaches around the area.

Our first stop was Rotary Lookout, while Sonya took photos from the lookout, I went into the bushes (to search for the Geocache). The next Geocache was on a hill next to Twilight Bay. Again while Sonya photographed the beautiful beach, I went in search of the Geocache. We had a brief stop at Observatory Point, which gave us nice views of the smaller islands, unfortunately no Geocaches was near. From Observatory Point we headed to Ten Mile Lagoon Wind Farm, I think this was our third or fourth wind farm on the trip. However, it was better then the others as we could go right up to the tower. Coincidently, there was a Geocache right next to the tower as well. From there we continued on the Great Ocean Drive loop which headed back to Esperance, passing Pink Lake, which wasn’t pink at all.

We left Esperance at a little after 10am, Esperance to Perth is about a 700km journey, meaning it would take roughly eight hours. We had a few stops along the way with the main one being to visit the famous Wave Rock in Hyden. We left Wave Rock disappointed, maybe it was the heat or maybe the travelling had finally worn us down.

We reached Perth at 7pm, on arrival we washed, waxed and buffed the Tucson before returning it to Sonya’s dad.

View from the Rotary LookoutTwilight BayTwilight Bay
Observatory PointTen Mile Lagoon Wind FarmHyden Wave Rock


The holiday was a great adventure, and it turns out that crossing the Nullarbor is extremely easy. There are a few things we would have done differently, with the main one being more time. The allowance of two and a half weeks was simply not enough to view and appreciate the Australian landscape. Secondly, a decent 4WD is also required if you want to not be confined by the bitumen roads. I am sure we will cross the Nullarbor again someday.