Dayna's Blog

Holidays, walks and who knows what


Thank you for riding with me

If you rode a bicycle today, then I wish to Thank You for riding with me.

It gets busy on #Canning Street - #Melbourne #bikepath #ridetowork #cycling #bicycling #commuting #lovemyride

Whether it was because a bicycle is your only mode of transport, or because you made a conscious decision to ride, or it just worked out that way, or for one of any number of reasons – your decision to cycle matters. Or, more precisely, your choice to not use a motorised vehicle (if that was an option for you) is what really matters.

When you’re ‘known’ to commute by bicycle, it’s not long before someone will feel impelled to tell you that your efforts in ‘saving the planet’ are worthless (whether or not that’s the main reason behind your decision to ride in the first place). “What difference will one person riding a bike make? It’s not going to change anything in our lifetimes anyway,” they’ll say.

Well, they’re wrong.

Consider this: one bee produces only 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey over its lifetime (or to say it a different way, 12 worker bees will make 1 teaspoon of honey before they die). Yet there are jars and jars and jars of honey on the shelves in the supermarket.

Why? Because there are billions of bees across millions of hives working to produce that honey.

Although each individual bees’ contribution is so very small, would anyone suggest that a bee is worthless?!


In the same way that bees achieve more as a hive, so too does your choice of transport really matter. Because it’s not just about you. It’s about us, collectively.

You may only be contributing the equivalent of 1/12 tsp of honey to the global rescue jar, but when our ‘hive’ (i.e. the world) faces a major and increasing threat to life as we know it, everyone needs to chip in.

So… Thank You if you rode your bicycle with me today. And Thank You in advance if you’ll ride with me again tomorrow.

#Brompton on #PrincesBridge #Melbourne #ridetowork #commuting #cityscape #myBrompton #gamebag

: )


Open Day on ‘THE NEW’ Spirit of Tasmania

“The idea was to create something like a top-notch hotel feel,” quotes The Mercury of Richard Nilsson, the Swedish designer behind the new look of the twin Spirit of Tasmania ferries which travel between Port Melbourne (Victoria) and Devonport (Tasmania).

I won’t bore you with how many return trips we’ve taken aboard one or other of the ferries (strangely, it’s been more often number II), but since the refurbishments were completed in August we have been keen to see for ourselves what has changed. (If you haven’t been before, or if it’s been a while, check out my photos of before the refurbishments here.)

Having received permission to come aboard (you had to apply in the week or two before the Open Day) we decided to catch a tram (well, two trams) across town to Port Melbourne. The route 109 tram stops about 100m from Station Pier. Given we live pretty close to a tram stop, and the high likelihood of experiencing lots of bother trying to find a park had we taken the car, tramming it was definitely the way to go.

Cool! Stilt walkers, balloons, and mini SoT's! Getting excited now!

Cool! Stilt walkers, balloons, and mini SoT’s! Getting excited now!

There weren’t queues, but enough people were wandering in the right direction so it was unlikely anyone was going to get lost – even if there hadn’t been plenty of red-shirted, boat-hatted people greeting people and making sure we didn’t get lost.

Up in the check-in lounge there were a dozen or so Tasmanian tourist stands, to whet the appetite of prospective travellers.

There were about a dozen information stalls to help you plan your next holiday

There were about a dozen information stalls to help you plan your next holiday

A bit of Tassie for everyone in the Check-in Lounge

A bit of Tassie for everyone in the Check-in Lounge

Passing by all the photos in the hall I started to feel the usual excitement I get when we board the big red boat. Pity we weren’t sailing off to Tassie today!

Lots of fabulous photos - many places we've been, some still to discover

Lots of fabulous photos – many places we’ve been, some still to discover

I guess 'The Revamped' would have been a bit long...

I guess ‘The Revamped’ would have been a bit long…

Ooooh! How exciting! Everything is about to be revealed!



Hmmm, this bit feels like Crown Casino… (I haven’t boarded this way before so I don’t know if this has changed or not.)

Oooh, I almost feel like I'm in Crown Casino!

Oooh, I almost feel like I’m in Crown Casino!

First change – no tourism shop. Now there’s a Tourism Hub. There is a desk to the left where (hopefully) a staff member will be there to answer any questions passengers have.

Walking up the port (left) side of the ship there is now a BYO Library (officially named the Reading Room) where there used to be The Leatherwood Restaurant. Clearly this area is for quiet activities – if you want to make noise, there is plenty of space on upper decks.

Leatherwood Restaurant has become a BYO library

Leatherwood Restaurant has become a BYO library

The light shade in the 'library' was very nice - scrolls of huon pine - Deck 7

The light shade in the ‘library’ was very nice – scrolls of huon pine – Deck 7

Next to the library is the new reception area. I wouldn’t have chosen red, and continuing red along the corridor seemed a little over the top, but hey – that’s just my opinion, and it’s just a small area of Deck 7.

Not sure if it feels more like a school corridor or fire department, but it is very red around this small section of Deck 7 now

Not sure if it feels more like a school corridor or fire department, but it is very red around this small section of Deck 7 now

Turning the corner was the next surprise – the new shop! The Pantry will almost certainly meet your (or the kids’) sugar/salt/caffeine requirements, but the most notable difference is the lack of souveniers now. (I hope you stocked up on your last trip as we did!)

The Pantry replaces Tasmania Onboard (shop)

Tasmania Onboard has become The Pantry

The Pantry has also kicked out the pokies! And I can’t say I’m sorry to see them go. It was the only inclusion I really disliked about the previous layout of the ships.

Ahead was more lounge area, with a touch of blue, and lovely Tasmanian scenery instead of TV screens.

The old reception area is now also lounge, as is where the shop (Tasmania Onboard) used to be.

Reception used to be straight ahead, and the shop to the right

Reception used to be straight ahead, and the shop to the right

I’m not certain if anything has changed in the cinemas, but this is how they are now. Red on the left, and blue on the right. (I don’t think you have to read too much into that.)

Onto the cabins.

Not much has changed. ‘Soft furnishings’ simply means the blinds, possibly the upholstery on the chairs, and I’m fairly sure the carpet in the rooms has been replaced. The bunks and bathrooms appear to be the same as usual. The Deluxe suites feel noticeably smaller, but they’re still a lot roomier than any of the other cabins. (Note: the 4 bed porthole cabin photo was from Deck 8)

A brief spell outdoors (still on Deck 7)…

…past the place we used to hang out, read a paper and have a drink whilst waiting until it was time for dinner – the lavender of Bridestowe has been replaced by the Aurora Australis…

…before finally getting a look at the new dining area. Goodbye Captains Table. Hello TMK (The Market Kitchen)! No more table service and white table cloths, I’m afraid. Now we’re all taking a tray and loading our own plates, I think. The menu looks familiar, but I wonder how long it’ll last. As for the condiments rack? Hmmm, classy.

Well, that’s Deck 7 covered. Sleeping, eating, and a bit of lounging.

Unless you’re sleeping on Deck 8, there won’t be much there to see for you – unless you’re here on an open day! So, check it out!

The Recliners have all been replaced. I had a brief sit in one. It felt pretty good, but I’m not in a hurry to give up booking a cabin in favour of the ‘cheap seats’ – especially as I like having a shower at least once every 24 hours. But if you’re not so fussy, and if you’re not taking a whole pile of luggage with you (or planning to bring a lot of souvenirs back), then these might be the best option for you.

The Recliners on Deck 8 have all been replaced so they should be better than ever

The Recliners on Deck 8 have all been replaced so they should be better than ever

Native Tasmanian woods are much admired. It was nice to see them used onboard

Native Tasmanian woods are much admired. It was nice to see them used onboard

Moving up to Deck 9 now – brace yourselves!

Rear of Deck 9 is where things started to get realy funky

Rear of Deck 9 is where things started to get realy funky

Well, they said it would be different. It’s all to encourage more day sailing passengers.

Deck 9 always felt more weather tight than Deck 10, so having lounge areas here wasn’t too surprising. But would there be more of the same upstairs?

Well, no. It was More.

I’m sure they’ve thought about things sliding around in heavy seas. Of course they have. Because not every sail is a pleasant day like this one was.

Now how do you get everyone up on Deck 10 to come down again? Send up the band!

They were very good, and I’ll wager that most of the people upstairs followed them to see where they went, not knowing that we were being surreptitiously being escorted out.

Playing and walking down the stairs was quite a trick. I’m not sure where the trio exited, but we had to walk down to Deck G3; this is usually a cargo/freight deck. Cars are usually parked on Decks 5 & 6, sometimes Deck 4 if it’s really busy.

And that was it! We disembarked at ground level and were treated to a fantastic sight of the Spirit of Tasmania – you may recognise it from their ads. I find it fascinating the way the sides at the front also come away from the ship.



So, overall impression?

Bass Strait is not the Mediterranean; the weather ranges from windy to blowing a gale, so the ‘bringing the outdoors in’  idea with the use of the fake grass and garden furniture struck a chord that didn’t resonate true with my memories of previous crossings.

I didn’t test the furniture to see if it was bolted to the floor, but there is a lot on Deck 9 & 10 that looked like it wasn’t secured. If bad weather is forecasted, there may be a lot for the staff to put away for passenger’s safety. It’ll be interesting to see how long this lasts.

Ditto with the bars on those levels. I was advised that the Bars on Decks 9 & 10 would be open for day sailings (as you’d expect) and winter sailings (for at least a few hours. Something to watch with interest. I certainly hope that Deck 10 is a little more air-tight now, as it used to get a bit chilly up there during winter.

We are both very sorry that The Leatherwood restaurant has been scrapped. Having only one sitting a night did not improve profitability, but the demand was certainly there to do two sittings – even in winter. Now, instead of racing to get a restaurant reservation, I wonder if we’ll be hurrying to get a small table for dinner – despite the expanded dining area.

It’ll be interesting to compare our next voyage to our previous experiences.

You can check out the official time lapse videos and information about the refurbishments on the Spirit of Tasmania website.


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Stephen’s Favourite Couscous Salad

Don’t be alarmed: one recipe post does not a cooking blog make. No, this entry is covered by the “Who Knows What” clause I slipped into in my subtitle. My ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card, so to speak.

Why then? Because various family members have asked for the recipe, and despite having previously emailing it to the nominal head of the family to disseminate, a couple of years on I’m still getting requests. And let’s face it: emails are easy to lose – unless you use Evernote or similar, or are particularly organised when it comes to recipes.

Stephen's Favourite Couscous Salad with a rather large lamb kebab (skewer)

Stephen’s Favourite Couscous Salad with a rather large lamb kebab (skewer)

Preparation time: 2hrs (less if you’re better at chopping – or less pedantic – than me)
Cooking time: 10min
Servings: Approx. 12

1 x 250 packet Pearl (aka Israeli) Couscous
Olive Oil
Sea Salt a couple of small pinches
~2tsp Black pepper, freshly ground
2-3 tbsp paprika (any type)
1 tbsp Garam Marsala
1 lemon, zest & juice
1-2 limes, zest & juice
1 medium carrot, extra finely diced
1 medium Lebanese cucumber, finely diced
1 medium red capsicum, deseeded, finely diced
1 long red chilli, finely diced
1 x 310g/420g corn kernels, drained
100g pine nuts
3/4 cup currants
125g Turkish apricots, diced
1 pomegranate (see notes below)
1/2 bunch spring onions, finely sliced
1 bunch of fresh coriander, finely sliced
1 bunch of fresh mint, finely sliced
200g Greek style feta, diced

Cook the Pearl Couscous following the packet instructions. It takes about 10min on the stove. Stephen always does this bit, which allows me to start chopping.

Once the couscous is al denté, drain, return to the saucepan, drizzle over some olive oil, and stir to coat the pearls. Be generous but don’t drown them. Add the salt, pepper, paprika, Garam Marsala, half of the lemon & lime juice, and stir until consistent. Leave to cool.

Prepare the rest of the ingredients as described above and mix them all into your largest mixing bowl.

By now the couscous has had plenty of time to cool – use a wooden spoon and some more lemon/lime juice to separate the pearls again, then mix the couscous, remaining juice and zest into the rest of the salad.

Taste and adjust as required.

Will keep well refrigerated for a few days in an airtight container.

As a chopping guide, I like the carrot pieces to be about the size of a match head, and the cucumber and capsicum no bigger than a pearl of couscous.

Turkish apricots are plump and easy to dice. Cut each apricot into 6 or 8 pieces. You could buy a packet of diced apricot pieces to save a bit of time, but I always buy a larger packet because a few always seem to disappear before they make it into the bowl. Whatever apricots you buy, they’ll be plump by the next day anyway as they absorb juices in the salad.

Never bought or used a pomegranate? I like a large one that’s a deep pink/red colour all over with no dark or soft spots. Wear an old top, or at least an apron to avoid stains. Have a bowl ready for the molasses (i.e. the little gems you want to eat) and somewhere to put the skin and pith. Carefully top & tail – I also like to peel most of the thin leathery skin off mine. Cut out the pith at the end so you can carefully pull the pomegranate apart and pick out the molasses. Give them a quick rinse, drain and add them to the mix. I’ve often seen pomegranate molasses in a little container ready to use and have bought them once, but I’m not sure you get as many as when you buy a whole fruit. Yes, I know my method isn’t how Jamie (Oliver) does it, but I want all the molasses from my pomegranate, thank you, not just the ones I can bash out.

Spring onions: I just use the dark green end of a whole bunch because I’m not particularly fond of onion, but this salad would really be lacking if it were to be left out. If you’re not turned off by raw onion like me, maybe try substituting in a finely dicing a large red onion.

Feta: I cut the block of feta into pieces of about 5mm x 5mm. They’ll probably break in half as you mix the salad so don’t worry about cutting the block in half through the middle. I prefer Greek style feta as it keeps it’s shape better in the salad.

If you like your food hot, add some chilli powder into the cooked couscous, or maybe add two chillies or try hotter varieties. The recipe as described has just a hint of spice.

: )