Monday, December 22, 2008

Dreaming of a White Christmas

We all braved the cold and wet and went to Carols in the Domain on Saturday. Despite the 'freezing' temperatures (I think it got down to 58F) and the damp from the previous downpour - we had a fabulous time with about 100,000 of our neighbours. This is a huge Chrissy tradition here in Sydney, and I kept reminding Dan that he was lucky to be part of it. I am sure he agreed.

The shopping is done and we are looking forward to our first warm Christmas. So glad to have Dan here and have a few friends coming over on Christmas Eve to eat and play Cranium. Wish you could all join us.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A weekend on the road

A couple of weekends ago, Jon had to do some work on Saturday morning in Canberra. More specifically, he had to do some work on the Australian Forces base in the middle of nowhere somewhere near Canberra. So, we decided to make a weekend of it, and drive down and back up along the coast.

We started out early early after a late night out the night before at my company Christmas party. It was a gorgeous day though, and perfect for a drive. And after dropping Jon in front of a 15 foot barbed wire fence, I had a chance to drive as well - for the first time in Australia. It was a bit freaky, but I did well, and I definitely feel more confident about it now. You just have to keep telling yourself to stay left, stay left. Ha.

After Jon finished his job, we headed over the mountains and off to the coast. We had a fun afternoon of driving, stopping when we felt like it and exploring out of the way beaches and scenic overlooks. We had the best fish and chips ever in Batemans Bay for lunch. If you are ever in the neighborhood, be sure to check out The Boatshed! At the end of the day, we checked into a dodgy hotel (four stars here is barely tolerable) and had a dodgy dinner before falling asleep.

The next morning we started out in the little town of Berry, which I loved. We had brekkie in the morning sun and wandered through the little shops. I had a bit of a moment in a little quilt shop - I got a bit homesick and started crying, so Jon had to pull me away. That was a little embarrassing. heh.

As we reached the edge of town, we realised that it was their market day. How fun! We spent an hour wandering through the local market admiring the plants and fruit and homemade crafts and jewellery and everyone's dogs. We left just as it started to rain, and we drove towards the coast with the storm hovering behind us over the mountains. It was a pretty incredible sight.

After that, we were off to Kiama and the famous Kaima Blowhole. It's a coastal area with heaps of volcanic rock, thousands of years old. The ocean has worn a hole in the rock. When the tide is high, the waves build up pressure and when it gets too strong, it blows up and out the hole with a (and I quote) a "whoomp!" Except, we visited on a low-tide day, so there was no "whoomping" for us. But it was still beautiful. There was a sign about the first explorer who described the beach... about 200 years ago. Imagine how cool it would be to be the first person to find something like that! Pretty awesome.

Anyway - we enjoyed the trip and look forward to our next weekend adventure.

These last couple days have been pretty busy with holiday dinner parties and winding up work projects. We are both looking forward to a couple weeks off work. Jon and Dan are planning all sorts of fun stuff, and I will be off on my road trip in just a week!

Hope you are all staying warm back home!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

In the good ol summertime

Monday was the first day of summer here, officially. And I welcomed it in with a lovely case of sunstroke. Spent the day on the beach Sunday and - as anyone would expect from me - failed to wear sun protection of any kind. I am getting way to old for this.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

O Canada

Well, I am back home and officially Canadian. It feels a bit different, but mostly - the trip was exhausting and long. And cold. Flights were uneventful both ways, and the ceremony was long and somewhat boring. But, it all went by fairly quickly and it's good to be back home. Dan and I were on the same flight home and that made it less boring. And we scored exit row seats!

We joined about 10 friends on Saturday for Thanksgiving dinner at Natasha and Tracy's new apartment. Good food and fun was had by all. I made pumpkin pie and we had turkey and all the fixings. Yum.

Showed Dan around Sydney for a bit this weekend before he leaves for his adventures in Queensland. Poor guy was a bit jet lagged, but he'll make it. Sounds like he has a fun trip planned - we look forward to hearing all about it when he returns to Sydney before Christmas. Only a few weeks now and it's vacaton time! woohoo!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Another whirlwind tour

Well, after nearly 5 years, I am finally becoming an official Canadian this week. My application was approved this week, and I was ordered to appear to take the oath on November 26th at 8am. (Thanks, Canada, for the whole 7 days notice.)

So, on Tuesday I will fly 25 hours to appear on Wednesday morning in Mississauga to stand in front of a judge and take the oath of citizenship which will make me a full Canadian citizen. Wow. It feels a bit big and momentous. If you would like to come to the ceremony, you are more than welcome. Just email me for details on the location.

Anyway, as this is the busy season at work for me, I only got 3 days off for this trip, so I will be hopping back on a plane just hours after the ceremony on Wednesday. I think I am in town less than 24 hours in total. The fun bit is that I am on the same plane as Dan on the way back, so that will be cool. I wish I could stay longer and see everyone and celebrate Thanksgiving... but I am also not looking forward to seeing snow, so I will be glad to get back home to sunny Sydney.

Anyway - as I will be in the air over the Pacific on Thanksgiving, I want to wish all our American friends and family an extra Happy Thanksgiving... please eat some mashed potatoes for me! I will be celebrating here next Saturday with a few expat friends who managed to find one of the only turkeys in the country. Looking forward to that!!

The Bush

Here in Australia, there are 5 geographic areas that spiral inwards. The coast, the city, the bush, the outback, and the red centre. We plan to make our way all the way into the red centre in the coming months, but Dubbo is the furthest I have gotten yet. Dubbo is really the last dot of civilisation before you hit the outback. It's like a whole 'nother world compared to Sydney. It's just on the border between farmable land and desert.

We had the opportunity to spend a few hours driving around the red dirt roads surrounding Dubbo last weekend and it was amazing. So many interesting animals and birds. The birds in the country are unbelievable. They come in every colour imaginable.

We explored a rural cemetery with headstones dating into the early 1860's. Some of the birthdates went back to England in the 1700's. So many people died so young back then - we were blown away to think that someone dying at age 23 had lived a full life and was remembered as "beloved wife and mother".

I think the best part was being able to watch the kangaroos just hopping through the fields in herds. I am sure a few locals driving by in their ute's were laughing at us - but we didn't care. We had the best time driving down dirt roads snapping pictures of roos and birds and beautiful views.

We had the full Aussie experience, complete with Ned Kelly pie for brekkie. Strange to think that just an hour plane ride inland and we were in such a rural place. I can only imagine what the centre is like. Can't wait to explore more of this amazing country!

PS - click on the photo collage to see the pictures full size!
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Western Plains Zoo

Last weekend we flew out to Dubbo and visited the Western Plains Zoo, one of the most fantastic safari style zoo's I have seen. It was a great trip and we took some fab photos. Here are just a few. What an amazing variety of animals! Such great textures and colours and patterns to photograph. We were able to get quite close to everything and see the animals in real detail. My favourite was the hippo, of course, but really, they were all awesome.
I will send a prize to the first reader who can correctly list all the animals shown!
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Monday, November 10, 2008

Summer in November

Well, we are starting to feel like we have come full circle. The pub across the street just put up it's Christmas decorations... which I remember seeing when I got here the first time. I can't believe it's been a year already - time seems to have flown.

Jon and I were just thinking today that it's Remembrance Day today back 'home' in Canada. Which marks the 4 year anniversary of when I first landed in Canada as a permanent resident. Four years already! Wow, it seems like just the other day. That was the happiest day - we were so glad it was finally over. And now we are just beginning the process all over again in reverse. How crazy are we?

Anyway, it seems to be snowing 'back home' lately and I have to admit that I am almost a bit jealous. I think we will have to skip Christmas altogether this year. I am not sure I can get my head around the whole summertime Christmas thing. It's too hot to bake and since we didn't bring any decorations, I doubt we will be 'decking the halls'. Can you believe it - strings of ordinary Christmas lights are over $40 each here! Yikes. Oh well, I am looking forward to my road trip, and we are excited to be hosting Dan over the holidays. He arrives just in time to join us for an American expat Thanksgiving.

It's full on summer here now. Everything is in bloom and it's just gorgeous. Temps have been in the high 70's each day with glorious blue skies and sunshine. It just doesn't get any better than that!

And since it's been nearly a week, I think I can end on a celebratory note. I am so proud to be an American this week! So proud of my country and so excited for our new President-Elect Obama!! Hooray!

Monday, October 13, 2008

A whirlwind tour

Well, let me just start by saying that 52 hours of travel time is a bit much for a 5-day trip. Ugh. But - I am home and have never been so happy to be home. The trip back to TO was quick and exhausting, but successful. The citizenship test was easy and I am relieved to have it over with. Now I just wait to be called back to take the oath. (Which means another trip... but I am not thinking about that just yet.)

It was crazy to get off the plane there and see fall leaves and pumpkins and sweaters. I think it was a bit of a shock to the system. While I was happy to enjoy a pumpkin cinnamon doughnut and some cider, I was even happier to come home to summer. The time has changed now and the days are long and warm. It's been in the 80's already mostly every day, and what a feeling it is. I am not sure how I will feel about a hot Christmas, but it's quickly approaching.

Speaking of Christmas, I just planned my road trip with friends Natasha and Tracy. We are heading out on Christmas Day for a 5 day trip around the sounthern tip of Australia. We will follow the Great Ocean Road for about 500 miles past what they claim to be some of the most spectacular scenery in the country. All on a narrow road, hugging sheer rock cliffs, around hairpin turns. And, um, not one of us has yet learned to drive on the 'wrong' side of the road. Should be heaps of fun!!

Jon and I are back to planning great weekends, now that it is warm and sunny again. We checked out the international auto show last weekend, and then went bowling with a group of friends. I got to sit in cars worth more than your average size house. That was pretty cool. Followed that with lowest score of the night at the bowling alley. Not a single strike. Oh well. Looking forward to next weekend, when we join a group and try out the great Aussie sport of lawn bowling. THAT should be interesting!

Just wanted to say Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian friends and family. Wish we could be there to see you all - especially my family - who are all home for the first time in years. Have some pie for us!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A Loss

A moment of silence for Herbie. He was a good mint plant. Until the aphids got him.

Just wanted to stop in and let you all know that Jonathan's trip last weekend was enlightening and productive in a totally unexpected way. I think it's safe to say that the official news is that we are in Sydney for at least another year. (Crazy to think it's been a year since Jon got here already!) We are excited and looking forward to some more adventures. It's been a good year, and I am sure the next one will be even better.

I am heading to TO on Saturday morning, and will be a bit crazy for the next week or so. Way too much crammed into the next 7 days. Here's hoping I can complete this trip without one of my infamous sinus infections. Keep your fingers crossed for me on Monday around 1pm as I am taking my exam! I'll update as soon as I know.

And one last note, a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my wonderful husband on Saturday. He is the best a woman could ever ask for, and so much more. We haven't seen much of each other these past few weeks, and I miss him like crazy. (Wish I wasn't spending your birthday on a plane, hun!) Ya'll be sure to drop him a line this weekend!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Blowing in the Wind

It's almost summer here. I can feel it in the air. The trees have leaves, the flowers are in bloom, and the frangipani have little green buds on them. The days are getting longer and the sun is getting warmer. I can't tell you how happy it makes me to walk outside in the morning in sandals and a light sweater. Awesome. I have been walking home from work in the evenings (about a 25 minute walk) and enjoying watching the neighborhood gardens come to life.

In addition to the smell of spring, there are changes in the wind for the Garcia family. No details yet, but as we all know, nothing stays the same for too long. As we speak, Jon is on a flight to the West Coast of the USA and I am feeling a bit lonely and sorry for myself. Looking foward to his speedy return and the news of how his meeting might affect our lives. I am headed back to TO in a week for a whirlwind tour of my own. I am tired just thinking about it, but so happy to be in the home stretches of my dual citizenship process.

Oh, and thought I should mention that we have a new addition to the family - Herbie. He's a mint plant and he lives on our windowsill. He serves virtually no purpose, but Jon seems to like him, so he stays.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

the State of the World

Well, I have to say that the bulk of my free time lately has been spent glued to the internet and pretty much any news I can get my hands on. These are crazy times and I am not at all sure that 'crazy' and 'good' are synonymous here. Sigh. Seems everyone the world over is talking about Wall Street today. Even the girl who makes my sandwich in the little shop downstairs. I walked into the shop today and the girl says "Hi Val, you want usual?" (Yes, she knows both my name and my order.) Then she said "How you doing today? Big market crash huh? Bad day. You have this juice, it make you feel better." Ha. The juice was good, I'll admit, but I am not sure it's the cure-all we need.

Add to that, the devastation of Huricane Ike. I have friends in TX and this past week wasn't good for anyone down there. I can't imagine seeing whole towns disappear completely. Just undescribably sad.

On top of that (yes, I am going THERE, so you may want to look away) I am unbelieveably frustrated with the upcoming election in the US. Now, since a favourite blogger of mine has recently discussed politics on her blog, and subsequently received death threats, I will keep this tame. But seriously... I have lived outside of the US for nearly 5 years now, and I am getting awfully tired of my country being dogged by the world. And this recent development regarding a certain VPcandidatewhoshallremainnameless has got my feathers in quite the bunch. All I have to say is this, if there was an opening in that department and the only qualification was that you had to be a woman... I sure wish they would have posted it on monster.com... because I know a whole lot of wonderful women who would have been far better and smarter candidates. Granted, none of them can see Russia from their back porch.

Speaking of government... I have been studying the government and history of Canada pretty fervently these past few weeks. I can now name my MP, my MPP, my PM and my mayor. Ha! Oh, and I know what significance the British North America Act of 1867 has for Canadians. (Do you?) No, I am not studying all this for fun... I have finally been called to sit my Canadian citizenship exam. I will be doing just that on October 6th, so think of me that day and send maple syrup-covered good thoughts. Hopefully I will have good news to report on that front soon. And then you'll all be invited to the ceremony where we sing O' Canada and dress like beavers.

On a brighter note, we had a fabulous big bash for my 30th birthday last weekend and a great time was had by all. I would post pictures, but I don't have all the proper confidentiality waivers. Happy Birthday to brother-in-law Dan this Saturday! Can't wait for you to come visit us!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Was that a flying pig?

A few days ago I commented that we weren't holding our breath for visitors, as we had yet to even receive a phone call. Well.... lookee here.

video

Nine to Five

Since my Grams read my blog this week and emailed me to sympathise about how boring my job is, I suppose I am due for an update. I started a new job again a few weeks ago, after returning from our summer/winter vacation. For those of you who aren't so attentive, yes, this would be job #3 for me here in Oz. But - I have to tell you, the third time is the charm. I have found a great job that I love and it's going really well. Still real estate (sorry, mom!) but it's a fantastic office with great staff and a fun loving atmosphere. And it's incredibly busy - so I can absolutely not winge about being bored any longer. Anyway, while I wish I had found this job 9 months ago, it was worth the wait and I am happy. It's in the next suburb over, but still walking distance (though I am pretty lazy and almost always take the bus.)

Jon's job is going ok. A few ups and downs lately with an extremely heavy workload and no relief in sight. Quite a few of his co-workers have resigned recently due to various reasons, and he has sort of been picking up the pieces. Keeps him in the office more though, as opposed to on the road, so I am happy about that. Not sure what the future holds for his career, but I am glad that he is such a hard worker and loves what he does. I am one lucky lady.

Monday, September 1, 2008

First day of spring


Today was the first official day of spring in Australia. It was a beautiful day with a high of 20C / 70F and gorgeous sunshine. I noticed this morning that most of the trees have traces of new leaves coming, and the birds are singing again as the sun comes up. I am SO looking forward to spring and summer! Can't wait for longer days and warmer weather and lots of outdoor activities. Everyone just seems happier when the weather gets warmer. It's supposed to be nice again tomorrow... then about 4 days of rain. Sigh. Sure would like to 'chuck a sickie' tomorrow and go to the beach!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

September

How fast a year goes. Time seems to go even faster, the older you get. I remember when a summer day would last forever, and a school year would be like a lifetime. And now, a year disappears before you even know it.


A year ago this weekend we told our families that we were moving to Australia. We sure got some mixed reactions. Either we were brave or crazy. Mostly crazy, I think. Everyone promised to visit - but we aren't holding our breaths for that! We have yet to even get a phone call, much less a visit. LOL


Anyway, it has been a pretty crazy year. I think I speak for both Jonathan and myself when I say that is has been a pretty big lesson in stuff and what is really important in life. Nothing makes you reevaluate the stuff in your life like an international move. Turns out that more than half of the stuff we owned wasn't quite as neccesary as we thought it was. And even now, a year later, there is stuff we hauled here that we still haven't used. (Ahem, that ratchet set, for example.)


You just start to think about "needs" a lot differently. I almost think at this point we could still stand to purge half of the stuff we still own. I think it's been a good lesson for both of us. I read an article recently on the 10 things everyone should do once in their lifetime, and one of the items on the list was "give away everything you own." Wow. Can you imagine? For most people, that would be the most traumatic thing they could imagine. They have spent their lives gathering all this stuff, and to get rid of it would be the total opposite of what they had spent all that time doing. But you know what - it's really freeing to just let it go.


Jonathan and I mentioned several times this summer that we wish we had a couple days back in TO to clean out the storage unit and get rid of another whack of stuff. We didn't have time on this last trip, but I definitely think we'll make time next trip. I hate living in two places and having stuff to worry about in two places. I am looking forward to purging a lot of it and having it all in one place again someday.


Anyway - back to the subject of this post. September. It's always been a good month for me. My birthday, the start of school, the beginning of autumn, September has always been my favourite month. While I am not starting school this month, and it's springtime here instead of autumn, I am going to be celebrating a birthday in a few days. And this year it's the big 30th. How excited am I?? Actually, I am pretty excited. You all know how I have always loved my birthday. But this year, I am really excited. I am leaving my 20's behind. No doubt they have been some good years. But I know that my 30's are going to be even better.


I am looking forward to trying things I have never tried before. I am looking forward to seeing more of the world and going places I haven't been yet. I have to laugh when I look back at myself when I was turning 20. How far I have come. What a different person I am now. What a different perspective I have on life and love and the future. What a wealth of friends I have. I could never have imagined the interesting people that would come into my life and make it as joyful as it is.


Anyway - I suppose I am waxing a bit nostalgic, being as it's a milestone and all. I just wanted to share with you all how much I appreciate you. You all make my life better, more fun, and more interesting. So, thanks!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Holidays in North America


Thought I would share a few of our favourites from the trip. We had a few days of lovely weather, and some rainy days as well, but in all, it was fun to have a few weeks of summer in the midst of our winter. Started out the visit with a week in Canada visiting family.
Then we spent a weekend in Mackinaw and I took my first trip to the Island. Absolutely beautiful in summer. Can't imagine living there in winter though! Such amazing flowers and scenery. Fun to finally see the Grand Hotel in person.
Also had to include some pictures of a yummy club sandwich and a bacon and blue cheese burger... words can't describe how good those were! After Mackinaw we had a couple of fun days in Michigan... visited the Newaygo Country Fair and saw some of the local wildlife.
Finished out the visit with a day at Canada's Wonderland, where I decided I am now too old for rollercoasters.
So nice to see so many friends and family... wish we'd had time to see everyone. Anyone we missed - feel free to come visit us!
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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Elvis has left the building

Yes, we survived our trip back to Canada/USA and a pretty good time was had by all. The flights were long and miserable and I managed to bring back yet ANOTHER killer sinus infection... but in all, it was a good trip. A bit depressing to see our stuff living in a storage unit, however. So fun to see friends and family though. Kinda made me homesick, and at the same time, made me glad I am so far removed from all the drama. Haha. (Love you guys!)

We are back and settling into normal life again. My new job is going great, and Jon's job is as busy as ever. I think his entire company breathed a collective sigh of relief when he showed up for work on Monday. LOL

It's nearly spring here and I can't wait for warm weather and longer daylight hours!!! I totally have spring fever. It's getting nicer though - average daily temp this week was 62F with sunny skies!

I promise to blog more about the trip later, and include some pictures (including some of a particularly good baconandbluecheeseburger) but Jon and I are off to see Elvis this evening in Bankstown. Apparently he is in town for one night and one night only. Got to dust off the leisure suit and blue suede shoes.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Going on Tour

Well, the weather here has been crap, so I am REALLY hoping that ya'll are having a nice summer back there... because we are on our way over! We leave this Friday and are on the road for 17 days. I think after that, I will be very happy to come back "home" to Australia. I am not really looking forward to being in a strange bed for that long. But, we are looking forward to seeing everyone and getting some sun. It's been one of the coldest winters on record here... which figures, since it was the coolest and wettest summer ever. So, we are really excited for some warm weather and a few days of summer. Maybe when we get back, we'll have brought the sun with us! Here's hoping.

We arrive in TO on Friday evening, and will be in TO, SSM and Michigan for the following 2 weeks. It will be a crazy couple of weeks, and we'll be travelling several thousand miles, both in the air and in the car. Hope to see most of you and catch up!

On another note, I have finally received a really exciting job offer and will be starting something new after we arrive home. Hoping this is the one I have been waiting for, and glad to look forward to coming back refreshed and ready to go. Thanks to many of you for your amazing references. Much appreciated!

Have to get back to packing now. See you all soon!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Well, I jinxed it.

Todays local headline:

Sydney, Melbourne brace for cold snap

Winter has well and truly arrived for the southern states, with areas around Melbourne experiencing snow and Sydney bracing for its coldest week of the year. But it’s proving a bonanza for those heading to the snowfields, with big dumps falling overnight and more on the way.
A cold front from the subpolar area that swept through NSW yesterday has brought the mercury down to extremely chilly level — with colder conditions to come. "Tomorrow will be a degree or two cooler in the metro area, dropping down to about 14 (58F)," Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Jane Golding said. "The overnight minimum will be as low as seven, which is about 4 (38F) degrees colder than last night."
But spare a thought for those in the city's western suburbs, which are expected to drop to a near-freezing one degree overnight. Statistically, today, tomorrow and Thursday are recognised as Sydney's coldest days of the year. Any improvement is not expected until at least Sunday when the temperatures should return to the high teens (60s).
One area appreciating the cold snap is Australia's snow resorts, which have finally had their first decent fall of the season. All Victorian and NSW resorts overnight received at least 10cm of snow, with long-suffering Mount Buller enjoying an excellent 20cm (8 inches).




Yep... it was definitely chilly today. I even wore a coat. Jonathan didn't of course. Nothing new there. We will be "celebrating" the cold weather in style this weekend at a Christmas in July party with a bunch of new friends.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Life, Work, Food and The Pope

Well, if there is anyone out there in Internetland who has been missing my updates, I should apologise. Life has sort of gotten away with me here and I can't say it's been a bad thing. Seems that after 6 months of living in Oz, I have settled into a lovely routine (lovely, as Australians love to say.)

Shortly after my last blog entry, I left my boring job and (as much as I hate to admit this) accepted another job which has turned out to be equally as boring. I just don't understand the professional culture here. I am really struggling with work. I just want to WORK. I want to go in each day to the office and have a full day of work to do. I am seriously worried that I am not going to find that here. I may have to leave Real Estate completely. Sad, since I just completed my Certificate of Registration exam. Sigh. Who knows. Maybe the right job will present itself at some point. I have been meeting with a new recruiter, so you never know.

Ok, enough about work. (Bloody depressing topic.) So - Jonathan and I got a chance to see Gordon Ramsey cook live in Sydney a few weekends back, and that was pretty amazingly great. If you don't know who Gordon Ramsey is, I can't help you. But he was great. As was the Food Show that he was here for. Really fun way to spend a Saturday.

Last weekend a couple of friends decided to have a real American bbq and invited us over. We brought guacemole and salsa. How American of us, eh? LOL. They did burgers on the grill and a good time was had by all. We have made some fun friends here and we seem to find something entertaining to do most weekends. Sydney is good for some sort of event that has to do with either music or food (or both!) pretty much every weekend. We have made a real effort to check out lots of little neighborhoods and kitchy shops and events. It's been fun being a tourist in our own city. We never made enough of an effort to do that in TO.

Next week the Pope is in town. It's World Youth Day... which is really inaccurate. They should be calling it World Youth WEEK. Now, I am all about the youth of the world coming together to learn and grow and all that. But this WYD thing is really messing everyone up. They are closing the bridge and most of the area streets to public traffic. Public transit is going to be a nightmare... expecially since CityRail is talking about going on strike right in the middle of the week. Niiice. Well... I am sure that however it goes, all halfamillion or so visitors will enjoy the winter weather we have been having. It's been a balmy 70F each day and sunny. Can't beat that! The Snowy Mountains (4 hours south) got 4 feet of snow last week. SOOO glad we don't live there.

We are headed "home" to Canada and the US in just a few weeks now. We'll be travelling 25 July through 11 August. Looking forward to seeing everyone. Have to admit, I am most looking forward to shopping for cheap stuff and eating cheap fast food. Oh, and buying books. Heaps and heaps of books. Yes, they do have them here... but I refuse to pay $35 for a paperback. No, I am not kidding.

Ok - off to bed. I promise to write more later. Maybe. ;)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Waves and Wine

Last Friday Jonathan had to travel north of Sydney for a job. We decided to make a weekend of it and stay on the coast. There is a beach about 2 hours north of Sydney on Anna Bay that is just amazing. It is called "the largest moving coastal sand mass in the southern hemisphere." And let me tell you... it's amazing. I thought the Sleeping Bear dunes were something... they are tiny compared to this beach. It just goes on forever. Pretty amazing.
The tide was coming in this morning as we walked on the beach. Makes you feel pretty small in the grand scheme of things.
After we spent the morning on the coast, we drove west to the Hunter Valley. Known for it's vineyards, the Hunter Valley is a beautiful inland valley home to many dairies, wineries, cheese factories and b&b's. Similar to Napa, it's a beautiful place, full of rolling hills and gorgeous scenery.
The Hunter put on a brilliant display of it's autumn colours and charmed us with it's sunshine and fresh air. We had a chance to do lots of taste testing and driving and photo taking. We decided we definitely have to go back and take some of the local cooking classes offered. How fun to learn to make fresh pasta in this very Italy-like place.

Just as the day was ending and we were headed home, we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a herd of kangaroos hanging out in a roadside vineyard. I couldn't get close enough for a good photo... but I promise you it was pretty cool. They just stood there and stared at me before casually hopping further down the rows. Camera shy, I suppose.


Winter in Summer

Well, it's full on winter here now. Cold and rainy and dark. Seems bizarre to think that it is June. June has always been a month of sunshine and gardens and going to the beach. A month of bbqs and ice cream and bare feet. Not so in Australia. Here in Sydney, it's a month of warm jackets, socks and rain. LOTS of rain. It's supposed to rain for the next 3 months... and that is apparently good news here. Weird.
Other than the weather, life goes on as usual here for us. Jonathan is still travelling quite a bit. Which is becoming a little more frustrating, as the weather gets bad. He spends a lot of time waiting for delayed flights. On the bright side, we are racking up the domestic airmiles, so we'll soon get a nice weekend away out of it. Maybe we'll head down to Adelaide and swim with sharks?!
My job situation is still not great. Not much to do, which is hindered by the downturn in the market recently. Starting to feel the shockwaves from the troubled US market and the results of 13 interest rate hikes here just in the past 24 months. Not to mention the fact that petrol is now almost $7 per gallon here and food prices are nearing record highs, as they are worldwide. So... obviously real estate is an interesting business to be in these days. However, I had a great offer this week from a smaller local company who has less overhead and is looking for an all round manager for their 5 person office. I will most likely be making the move, even though I will be sad to leave the fun office I am in now. I have made some good friends there, and change is always hard. But, I feel that they will have to downsize eventually anyway, so it's probably best to move on now.
Other than that, things are good here in Oz. We are really enjoying living a simpler life. I don't know if I ever want to go back to having 2 cars and a lengthy commute. And I am really not sure we will ever want to go back to rural/suburban life again. We might be true "city slickers" after this! (sorry, Mom!) We have decided to stay in the apartment we are in now. It's been good for the most part, and unless something major changes, we'll most likely be here for awhile.

Sure would be nice to hear from friends and family back home. Seems a little like we dropped off the face of the earth lately. Word to the wise folks - skype. It's free, easy, and well, free. So sign up and give us a call. Or email. Email is always good too.

And one last thing... (warning. the following may be offensive to some viewers.) I just have to add a big whoop! and a Go Obama! Just because I can. LOL

Thursday, May 22, 2008

At long last

Finally, the dishwasher is fixed. It only took 3 months and me nagging them daily. I am so glad to have it back. My kitchen finally feels clean again. Very good news.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Six Months

Hard to believe it's been 6 months since Jonathan arrived in Australia. And I've been here 4 months now. Sometimes it feels like forever, and other days it feels as if we are just off the boat. There are so many things I love about Australia. I love how much sunshine there is here. Sometimes it seems like it's sunny every day. But winter is on it's way and that may change.

I love that everything you could ever need is just a short walk away. The grocery store, the fruit market, the library, everything. I love not having a car or having to worry about the price of gas ($5.54 USD per gallon). We are enjoying the opportunity to explore new places and try new things. We have learned so much about Australia that we never knew. And... we've learned a whole new language! Those of you who think Aussies speak English have never had a convo with an Aussie! LOL

Other days it's hard to be so far from friends and family. As easy as it is to forget we are on the other side of the world, we are reminded how out of the loop we are each time we call "home." Sure would be nice to hear from you all more often! We are just a phone call away... and Skype is free!

Currently, we are planning a trip back to North America in late July and early August. It will most likely be a 2 week trip with a few days in both hometowns (the Soo and Grand Rapids), as well as a few days in Toronto. We'd love to see you all and will post an itinerary once it is final.

Looks like the apartment hunt is on the back burner for awhile. We couldn't find anything we liked more than where we are now, so we decided to stay here for awhile. The dishwasher still hasn't been fixed, but I suppose I am used to it by now. Whatever.

Jonathan is still travelling quite a bit for work. Seems that he is at the airport at least a couple days a week lately. My job isn't going as well. While it's close to home and has great workmates... it's just not challenging enough. I am not one for sitting around and doing nothing. So, I have been looking for another position again. No drama, just want to do something that feels a bit more meaningful.

Oh! And a quick bit of good news... we found a local restaurant supply place that apparently sells Mexican products, including corn tortillas! So, we'll have to check that out. We are SO missing Mexican food. It just does NOT exist here. Weird.

The Three Sisters

Spent an amazing Saturday in the Blue Mountains recently. Located about 2 hours northwest of Sydney, the mountains are sacred Aboriginal lands, and recognized as a National Park. And what an amazing view. Brilliant blue in hue, and covered with eucalyptus trees. The spell of eucalyptus oil is everywhere. While the area is a major tourist destination, it still feels very wild and natural. There are amazing bushwalks and hiking trails... but don't head in unprepared, you can get lost out there for days.

The photo above is a view of the public lookout called Echo Point. It's an amazing vantage point and allows almost a 360 degree view of the area.

This rock formation is called the Three Sisters. About a hundred steps carved into the side of the mountains leads to the first 'sister' on the left. Another 700 steps further and you are at the valley floor. I managed to make it the first 100 steps, but that was enough for me... and we still had to climb back up. Definitely not a view for the faint of heart. One wrong step and it's a straight drop. Eek.

The legend of the Three Sisters is an old Aboriginal folk tale. Apparently, they were 3 beautiful young women who fell in love with 3 handsome brothers from another tribe. But because the tribes were forbidden to inter-marry, the entered into a horrible battle. A local shaman turned the sisters to stone to keep them from harm during the battle. Sadly, the shaman died in the battle, and to this day, the sisters remain stone.

Australia truly is a beautiful country. So much history.







Tourists

A couple of weekends ago we decided to be tourists and visit Wildlife World and The Sydney Aquarium. As these are both located smack dab in the heart of Sydney, we thought they would be totally cheesy tourist traps, but they ended up being really cool and we had a great time. Thought I'd share a few pictures from the day. (Click on the photos to make them larger.)
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Monday, May 5, 2008

At a party...



This is a commercial for a bank here. I think it's hilarious. Not sure what that says about me... Enjoy!

Monday, April 21, 2008

That would make my dad nuts.

I have vivid childhood memories of my father's reaction to bare feet. He used to hate it when we would run around in the great outdoors without shoes on. As an adult, I can understand his concerns... we lived on a farm and there were all manner of things you could step on or that could step on you. It was just dangerous and stupid to run around barefoot.

But, as a kid, there is nothing better in the summertime than running around barefoot. I admit, to this day, I hate wearing socks, and I refuse to wear them unless it's COLD. I'd much rather throw on a pair of flip flops and tough out the cold weather as long as possible.

Here, it's easily warm enough to wear flip flops a good 9 months of the year, if not longer. And you could probably get along just fine without even owning a pair of socks. But, it's the craziest thing here... people go barefoot... everywhere! On the bus. On the train. On the city sidewalks. In the supermarket. In the library. I am not kidding. I have seen people (both children and adults!) barefoot in each and every one of those places.

Today I am standing in the lobby of my office and I look out to see 3 guys walking by without shoes on. Just walking down the street. It's chilly here today. And raining. And these guys are wearing shorts, hoodies, and no shoes. Just strolling down the sidewalk. And I thought to myself "now THAT would make my dad nuts."

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Potato, Potahto

We finally bought a television today. We are back amoungst the ranks of those who are overinformed. We are telling ourselves it's ok to spend 7 straight hours in front of the television... after all, we are just catching up after not having one for 3 months. And, it's winter, so it's ok. Riiight. Whatever.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Like herding turtles

And life continues. I feel like I am in a black hole as far as communication goes lately, so many apologies to those of you suffering from blog withdrawal. Just realised I have lived here for 3 months now and no one has called us from "home," not once, and that is a bit of a depressing thought.

We have been apartment hunting. Sigh. I don't know if you recall Jonathan's frustration during his first round of apartment hunting... but I can assure you that it.is.not.fun. Hard to believe that our 6 month lease is up already, but it is. So, we have been considering moving. Which, I must stress to you is no easy decision.

We have had some maintenance issues with our current property manager. We have been 5 months without heat or air conditioning, and over 2 months without a working dishwasher. We cannot seem to get them to fix these items, and it's a bit of a pain to constantly be wondering if or when it's going to happen. Not to mention, it's a bit of pain to keep paying rent each month when they aren't being fixed. And since we are now heading into winter without heat... well, we are considering a move.

So, here is how apartment hunting in Oz works. You go onto the website www.domain.com.au. You search by suburb for the areas you want. You narrow it down to the price range you can afford, and then you spend about an hour writing down or printing out all the remaining properties the fit your criteria. Then you call each and every agent and get the OFI (Open For Inspection) time. Which is a 15 minute period on a random day... usually Saturday. Then you fill out an application for each property. EACH one.

Then, you get up early on a Saturday, dress to impress, and race around like a crazy person to each of these 15 minute OFI sessions. Here's where it gets fun. Since you are not the only one looking for an apartment like this, you get to stand in line at each OFI with about 50 of your nearest and dearest rivals and then you ALL traipse through the apartment at once, trying to decide if you like it. It doesn't really matter if you like it though, since you only have the opportunity to get into about 10 or 12 each Saturday (and that is if you have a car!) - you basically have to apply to ALL of them. Whether you like them or not. And so you drop off an appplication and speed off to the next OFI.

If you DO like it, and you might even want to live there, you have to bid at least $20 over the listed price... which is PER WEEK, by the way, for those of you who actually looked at the website. No, those lovely 1 bedders listed for $500... those are not monthly rates. They are weekly. Heh.

Anyway, so after you have run all over kingdom come trying to view a dozen properties in a span of 3 hours, you sit back and wait. And sometime in the next week, you may or may not get a call telling you that your application has been selected and you are the lucky new tenant with a hideous purple bathroom, shared laundry, dodgy neighbours and (if you are really lucky) a balcony.

We saw 10 apartments today. I hated them all. I am exhausted.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Catching up

Once again, I am sadly behind in the blogging department. So much going on, and I keep saying I am going to update, but one day leads to another - you all know how that goes.

We had a lovely Easter weekend, 4 days off work and some good times with friends. I think it was officially the last weekend of summer though, because it has really cooled off and started to feel like fall. My brain is a bit wacked by the reversal of seasons. I am having trouble with Easter bunnies and fall leaves at the same time. It is definitely Autumn though, and we are enjoying the cooler temps, I guess. While I was secretly hoping it would just stay summer year round, I am sure my body will appreciate the time to recover from many recent sunburns.

We spent Easter Saturday in Wollongong (about 1 hour south of Sydney) with some new friends we met on a website for Yanks in Oz. Mike, Jenifer and their two boys Liam and Nevin. They are also expecting son #3 in about a month. Mike is Aussie and Jenifer is from California. They are good fun and whomped us soundly at 2 rounds of Cranium. We had a bbq and enjoyed the company. (This is after the men/boys assembled the bbq and bought charcoal, only to find that there is no lighter fluid to be found in Oz, so they got "creative" in lighting the coals. Oy.) We have lots in common and had a great time.

We have discovered an outlet mall not too far from here and finally did some shopping for shoes and clothes that fit. Jonathan has lost some serious weight here, and all of those new pants we bought back in November, yeah, they don't fit anymore. Oh well. I have also been losing weight, while not as quickly as Jon. (It might have something to do with the fact that I eat chocolate and he doesn't.)

Anyway, we were psyched to find an outlet store with a good selection of shoes at normal prices, and ended up buying 6 pairs between us. We own more shoes now than anyone ever really should have. But when you have an opportunity here to buy 6 pairs of shoes for $200... you jump on it, because ONE pair here is usually $100. Crazy.

The price of stuff here is completely outrageous. Seriously... that is a blog all on it's own, so I'll just leave it at that. It's bloody expensive to buy anything here.

Jonathan has been travelling for work quite a bit lately. In the next 3 weeks he will be in Parkes, Tweed, Bega, Nowra, and East Maitland... in case you wanted to look those up on a map. He generally flies to these places and stays a day or two. But he's always home on the weekends, which is nice. He's been working on a lot of court projects, so he's generally flying to a remote city to work in their courthouse. Good way for him to see the country AND earn frequent flier miles.

My job is going well. I had a meeting with my boss a week ago, in which I complained that I feel underutilized. I think I may live to regret that. We'll see how it goes. I have accepted the fact that I am not meant to work in a boring job. Call me a stress-aholic if you will, but it's far worse to sit around with nothing to do. Anyway, I work closely with a 21 year old girl with no work experience, which is a challenge for me. Mom would call it "an opportunity to learn patience."

We have been having some issues with our proprty management company (the people who work for our landlord to maintain our apartment.) Our AC hasn't worked in over 4 months. And the dishwasher broke over a month ago. Neither of which is fixed yet. I have had to get a bit cranky with them. If we don't get some service soon, we may not be renewing our lease next month... which means moving. Ugh. Not my fave. We'll have to see how it goes. We would like to have a balcony and a second bedroom (for an office) but we are so close to my work right now... it's going to be hard to find something we like enough to move. More to come on that, I suppose.

I am under the weather today and have been taking it easy. Hopefully it's just a 24 hour thing so that our weekend isn't totally wasted. This Wednesday is our FOUR year wedding anniversary... crazy to think it was that long ago already. Seems like just the other day.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Job

To answer the many questions... my job is going well. I work with some great people, and the average age in the office is about 30, which is fantastic. (Let's not mention that I am hitting the big 3-o this year! Yikes!)

It's definitely a change of pace for me...I am not used to having such a low-stress job. But, it's been good for me as well, and I am settling in. I have made some fun acquaintances that I hope will turn into friendships, and I am learning a completely different aspect of real estate, which is always good. Never thought I'd be doing marketing full time... and I never thought I'd admit to missing the accounting work. I am hoping to tie some of that back in eventually. We'll see how it goes.

However, I am loving the 2 minute walk to work, I am completely spoiled with that. I can't currently imagine going back to a crazy commute. For now, it's exactly the right place for me.

Wildlife

Just thought I'd share a few photos of the local wildlife. Since everyone enjoyed my giant-flying-cockroach story so much.














Housekeeping

I have noticed that the time changed in North America this past weekend. We are now 15 hours ahead of EST. So when it is 6 am in Michigan / Ontario, it is 9 pm here.

Our daylight savings time will occur in early April, and we will return to a 14 hour time difference... which is a bit easier to calculate. Look at the clock... and mentally go all the way around, and then add 2 hours.

Just in case anyone was to ever consider, say, calling us. LOL

Life is a Highway

Well, I must apologize for the long silence. If I ever had any doubts about whether people are actually reading this blog, the last few weeks have answered that. Sincere apologies to those of you who have written to inquire if Jon and I are still alive. We are, and we are well.

It's been a busy couple of weeks and I have gotten behind in my posts. I'll try to catch you all up. Jon and I have been doing a bit of traveling lately. Jon has been exploring the small towns of NSW doing various work projects. Seems every week he is flying to some little town somewhere in the "middle of nowhere". He is getting all kinds of chances to see roos and I am honestly jealous. His job is going well though, and we are glad for that.
A few weekends ago Jon had the chance to attend an AMX conference in Brisbane, which was fun for him. A good opportunity to network and meet some people in the industry. While he was gone, I got a chance to finally unpack the last of the suitcases, install a bookshelf, buy some throw pillows, and settle into the apartment at long last. I am happy to announce - we have a sofa! NOW it feels like home.
This past weekend we took a road trip to the Southern Highlands, an area south of Sydney in the foothills of the Blue Mountains. It was a gorgeous drive into some absolutely gorgeous countryside. We have had a long stretch of fantastic weather, lots of sun and an average temp of 25c/80f each day. We are heading into Autumn here though, and it's just nuts to see the leaves changing colours in March. The upside-down seasons still have me a bit topsy turvy.
A few photos from the Southern Highlands...

The long Easter weekend is approaching and we are planning another road trip to the Blue Mountains and the Jenolan Caves. Looking foward to seeing even more of this beautiful country.

God Save the Queen

February 24th was a bit of a historic day for Australia. On this day, both the Queen Victoria and the Queen Elizabeth II (QE2) were in the Sydney Harbour at the same time. Above is the photo of the Queen Victoria, which is circling the globe on it's maiden voyage. This ship is the largest in the Cunard line and one of the largest cruise ships in the world. It's a stunning ship. Unbelieveably large and state-of-the-art. Truly an amazing sight.

We planned a get-together for a group of fellow Yanks we had met in an online chat group and we all headed down to The Rocks to check out the ships and watch them pass in the Harbour. We were joined by a few thousand of our closest neighbours. It was a great day, beautiful weather, and we made some new friends. It was really something to see the ships together in one place.
As the Queen Victoria departed the Harbour, the QE2 was just entering... and as they passed eachother in front of the Opera House, they both blew their horns and the crowds cheered. We counted over 16 helicopters in the sky, catching the event on film. What an awesome memory - and one never to happen again in this lifetime. The QE2 was on it's final voyage, circling the globe for the last time. It has been sold to a businessman in the UAE, who paid $50million to turn it into a world-class floating hotel. The QE2 was visiting Sydney Harbour 30 years to the date after it's first visit, on it's maiden voyage. What an example of life coming full circle.

I think this is one of the moments that will stand out for us as being truly Australian. To see such an event amoungst thousands of people who all came out to sit in the sun and watch something simply momentous... and to experience the feeling of community and excitement together, it was really a fantastic event.

At the end of the day, the QE2 docked in the Harbour. What a difference in design between a ship built over 35 years ago and a new ship! Sure would love to see the inside someday... maybe when I have a spare $15,000 lying around.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Pancakes and Patchouli

What a great weekend! Saturday we finally got a day without rain, and so we decided to go exploring in an area of Sydney we hadn't been to yet. Glebe is an older part of town with a bit of a seedy past. Today it's a funky, eclectic neighborhood filled with shops, restaurants, and backpacker hostels. It is also home to the Glebe Market, where you will find all things hippie and funky. It was quite a fun market to browse in, even if the smell of incense was a bit strong. By the time we left, I was almost convinced that dreadlocks were the way to go. LOL

After a ramble up Glebe Point Road and a short tram ride, we arrived at the Sydney fish market (www.sydneyfishmarket.com.au) only to find it closing for the day. We were a bit disappointed and decided we needed to make a trip back soon to stock up on some fresh fish and seafood. Nothing compares to the fresh stuff just pulled out of the ocean. We are getting quite spoiled here with all the yummy fresh fish available.

From there, we ended up walking to Darling Harbour. We sat and ate an ice cream while watching the finals of the dragon boat racing contest. There is always something going on in Darling Harbor and it's fun to just hang out there and people watch.

Today (Sunday) we set out early and started our day at Pancakes on the Rocks (www.pancakesontherocks.com.au), which is now my new favourite thing in Sydney. Check out the menu. To.die.for. Yum. You have no idea how good those pancakes are until you take that first bite... and then you are hooked. The best part - they are open 24 HOURS. I see a lot of pancakes in our future.

Of course, after that, we had to walk off breakfast, so we wandered through The Rocks Market for a few hours. This is by far my favourite market here. It's a great mix of arts & crafts, fun and funky, and amazingly unique. It's chock full of tourists, as the cruise ships dock just blocks away, but it's fun to hear all the languages and accents. Before I visit the States and Canada again, I will have to make a huge shopping trip to the Rocks and stock up on all the cool stuff I want to buy as gifts.

It started raining again this afternoon, so we headed home. I just have to mention however, that Jon made The Best Dinner Ever this evening. Marinated lamb tenderloin with a salad of mixed greens, snow peas and avocado. And he even got dessert at the Patisserie next door. MORE than made up for a crappy Valentines Day. I am a lucky woman.

Back to work tomorrow. Sigh.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentines Day

Well, it's Valentines Day. Jon is out of town on business and his trip was unexpectedly extended another day, so I am alone tonight. I made a nice dinner, bought some ice cream, and was settling in to watch LOST when I hear a noise and see something move out of the corner of my eye.

Did you know that the cockroaches in Australia can grow to be about 6 inches long and they FLY? They are the nastiest things IN THE WORLD and I just killed one by bashing a kleenex box against it. It was the grossest thing I have encountered in a long while.

Please note - the existence of such a creature in my home is not an indicator of my cleanliness level. These beasts are everywhere here and since our windows do not have screens, they tend to turn up often. Just a fact of life in Oz.

As I was here alone, I allowed myself a small screech followed by some not-so-nice words. After I killed it, flushed it, and scrubbed the residue off the wall - I felt a sudden pang of sadness.

I had forgotten to take a picture of the corpse. Dangit.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Miscellaneous News

Jon had to travel to Canberra last Thursday and I rode along. Canberra is the nation's capitol and is a 3 hour drive from Sydney. It is not a pretty city and is quite depressing (so glad we don't live there!), but I did get to do some fun exploring. I toured Parliament and the National Rose Garden, and spent hours in the National Gallery and the National Museum of Australia. The gallery was fantastic! They had quite a nice collection of Picasso, Monet and some fabulous Asian art that was over 1000 years old. Really cool. The Museum was fun and has a nice interactive exhibit on the history of the country. Fun and educational. Even better, all of them were free!

I think I walked about 15 miles though, and I was beat after. On the drive there and back we saw kangaroos and an emu! That was pretty fun. We were laughing at ourselves... we felt like such tourists. People out in the country see roos in the fields and think nothing of it. Jon and I were practically hanging out of the car windows like dogs with tongues flapping. It was pretty cool though. Can't wait to get into the red centre and see roos galloping around in herds. They are pretty wild looking.

It has finally stopped raining. So nice to finally see the sunshine. Folks here are predicting the wettest summer on record, with above average rainfall lasting well into the winter (which is in June, here.) Perfect. Something to look forward to.

I started my new job today. Too soon to tell much, but I think it is going to be just fine. Two minute walk to work, busy enough job to make the days go by quickly, and a great group of work mates. Not too shabby.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Sunshine, at long last

It finally stopped raining today. It's gorgeous and sunny and a perfect 24C / 76F with blue skies. I should be at the beach or at least outdoors in the sun, but instead I am glued to the computer, waiting to see the results of the Super Tuesday primary voting. I think I need to get a life.

Tomorrow I might be heading to Canberra with Jonathan for a few days. He is supposd to travel down for work, and I am hoping to tag along. I will have the camera ready in case we see any kangaroos or wombats. I am worried that I may never see any. After all, 3 years in Canada and I am yet to have a decent moose sighting. Sigh. Let's hope for better results down here.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho....

It's off to work I go! This woman is EMPLOYED! Just had to share, I accepted a great offer today at a lovely Real Estate office not even a block from home. I will be starting Monday as their new Marketing Manager. Many thanks to my amazing references, and thanks to the rest of you for listening to me whinge for 5 weeks about not having a job. I have 5 days to enjoy life before I am back in the trenches. No more job interviews! Woohoo!

Now I am off to buy a celebratory sofa!

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Rain in Spain Falls Mainly on the Plain

Last Friday, our crate finally arrived. After about 60 days at sea and many thousands of miles, our stuff was finally here! We rented a ute (utility vehicle, aka SUV) and drove all over kingdom-come in order to process the paperwork involved. We had to pay the cargo handler, who shipped it from Melbourne. And then we had to go to the airport and pay our friendly local customs and quarantine officers a visit. Thankfully, they were in a Friday mood, and we made it through without any "random" inspections.

Finally, we had to wait in line at the shipping wharf and have it loaded onto our ute by forklift. We established that the crate weighed 381 kg, or 838 lbs. It was a havy sucker. But - after all the traveling it has done, I am pleased to report that everything arrived safe and sound and completely unscathed. We were pretty happy to drive it home and get it unloaded. Our empty crate now resides in Jon's company's warehouse, in case of future need. Anyone want a large wooden crate??

So, we now are settling in with boxes of stuff that we really have no room for. Sigh. It sure is nice, however, to have sheets and towels and pots and pans and books and clothes hanging racks. It's starting to feel like home. Still have to get a lounge (sofa) and a tv, but we'll get around to that soon. Once we have everything settled, I'll post photos of the apartment.

On another note, it has been raining here for over a week straight. Sheets, buckets, monsoons of rain. IT WILL NOT STOP raining! Kind of a bummer, as it is the middle of summer and it should not be raining like this (according to the locals), but on the bright side - we don't have to shovel it! That, we are thankful for. From what we have seen online lately, our friends and families have had one of the snowiest winters on record. (I promise, I am not laughing at you. I swear. Ok... maybe a little.)

The job search continues. It's taking a while for two reasons. One, I am picky and would really like to have a job I ENJOY for a change. Two, things are just different down here. People just take their time... with everything. It's very laid back. Very. But I know the right offer will come along any day now, and before you know it, I'll be complaining about how much I need a vacation.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Lamingtons


Just have to share what is probably the number one reason I have not lost weight here in Oz.
This, my friends, is a chocolate Lamington. It is cake, rolled in chocolate, rolled in coconut.
It just does not get any better than this.
Here is a recipe if you are interested in making these at home: http://www.aussieslang.com/features/australian-lamingtons-recipe.asp

Happy Australia Day!!

Happy Australia Day! The 26th of January is considered the nation's Birthday, and we had a lot of fun celebrating. We spent the day on Saturday in The Rocks, which is Sydney's oldest neighborhood. Lots of free outdoor activities and fun for everyone. We got to see some of the air show - compliments of the RAAF - and the parajumpers who eventually landed in the harbour. It was a gorgeous, sunny day, and I was sure to wear LOTS of sunblock.

The highlight of Australia Day in Sydney is the Ferry Boat Race and Regatta. Literally hundreds of boats and ships decorated with flags parade through the harbour. It's so much fun to watch them go by and see all the different kinds of boats - everything from a guy in a row boat to giant masted tall-ships. The view from the Harbour Bridge is supposedly really something, but we took a ferry across, just for the fun of it. (And because the breeze off the harbour was cooler, I must admit.) The atmosphere was very festive and we had so much fun sitting on the grass, watching people go by. Such an interesting blend of people here. We felt really at home.
After the heat of the afternoon, the sun finally went down and we joined some new friends for dinner in Darling Harbour. Seemed like the whole city showed up for the fireworks.
The rest of the weekend was spent chilling out and exploring the outer reaches of Sydney. This weekend we may venture further and try to get photos of some wildlife.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Clarification

Just in case anyone was wondering - it is not WE who "stagger home from the local watering hole in the wee hours." Though, we did accompany a few new acquaintances home from one last weekend, following a get-together of local American ex-pats. It was quite the event and I can post youtube videos to prove it. But, I'd rather not. Lets just say you SHOULD NOT ride the train home if you DO NOT have a ticket. That, my friends, is a hefty no-no.

And I never meant to imply that my dear husband "demands" me to cook dinner. I am very fortunate in that he does most of the cooking. I clean up. Did I mention I killed our dishwasher?

And - to answer your 3 most frequently asked questions:
1. yes, I am still unemployed
2. no, we don't have any furniture yet.
c. no, the toilet does not flush in "the other direction."

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

An Average Day - The Late Edition

So, by now most of you have noticed that I don't blog much. Those that know me, know that while I deem myself to be quite the wordsmith, I rarely ever (if at all), make the time to put pen to paper. Or in this case, type a few lines. That, and I haven't consciously made the effort to drift past here lately. Well, chalk it up to what you may, here I am. I'll follow-up with the "Late Edition"...

I too had an average day... Started with my usual cup of coffee from our local purveyor (The Moody Chef - www.themoodychef.com). Let me also take a moment to give their B.L.A.T (Bacon,Lettuce,Avocado,Tomato) Roll a nod! Also a fine burger complete with beetroot! Granted you need to have the Hungry Jacks from time-to-time, I'll reserve those occasions for the stagger home from the local watering-hole in the wee hours (another story).

Work presented the usual challenges. It's a bit transitional at the moment and there are a number of changes being implemented. Most frustrating for me is the fact that I have very little influence on the changes. There seems to be a lot of pontificating, but very little progress. Ugh.

For the record, I don't demand dinner. I'm actually quite happy to prepare any number of curious and interesting dishes. In fact it's almost a pastime of mine to seek out new favorite dishes and attempt to "decode" their recipes for re-creation at home. Well, that and the "take-away furniture" (yet another story). I'm quite pleased with the variety and level of international cuisine here. Although I occasionally miss the AYCE sushi of Toronto. Food here is usually quite fresh and varied. Yum.

Indeed, the news of today (both here and globally), was the passing of Heath Ledger. Seems to me too early to speculate on cause, but it is sad for both his family and friends.

Well, seems my bedtime is upon me. I'll try and stop by again soon....

An average day

As I am still unemployed (despite good effort, I assure you), I find myself forming rather domestic daily habits.
I wake up early and see Jon off to work around 8. As it is then about 4 pm (the previous day) back in Michigan/Toronto, I spend the first few hours of my day checking email and reading my chat groups. (I get very little email from ya'll, by the way.) I read the news online and catch up on what has happened during the day, while I was sleeping. Then I spend about 3 or 4 hours job hunting. Sending resumes, making phone calls and searching for new postings. I schedule a few interviews and make some brunch - usually toast. Haven't found milk here that doesn't make me sick yet. So - no cereal for awhile.
The early afternoons have been spent interviewing, going to the library, the grocery store, etc. Yesterday I walked to Mosman (a suburb about 20 minutes away on foot) and got a library card. It's a very nice library, with new books, big windows, and confy couches. Nice place to hang out. You can only check out 12 items at a time though, which is irritating.
Sometimes I get take away for lunch and eat it outdoors. There is a great fish place 2 blocks away that has $6 fish and chips for lunch. Very good and very cheap.
Yesterday, Jon came home from work and I informed him that I needed to go to the beach and get a burger. So we spent the evening up at Manly Beach. We walked the promenade and watched the surfers until dark. Full moon last night, it was beautiful. I got a cheeseburger at Hungry Jacks (which is Burger King). Best burgers in Oz. And NO beet root!
Today my husband has informed me that he wants dinner at home tonight, so I walked to the grocers and picked up some prawns and chicken and stuff for a stir fry. And I stopped at the bakers and got bread and a chocolate scone... my fave. I have the chicken marinating now and the dishwasher is humming away. The windows are open and I can hear people walking past and buses driving by and the occassional miner bird screeching.
The big news here (and everywhere) today is, of course, Heath Ledger's death. As a much-loved Aussie boy, his death has shocked everyone and it's all anyone is talking about. Such a shame. What a loss. He was younger than me.
Well, on to a few more interviews tomorrow. I hope to get a good offer soon, but I am holding out for something fun and an employer who is honest. Hopefully not an impossible goal!
This Saturday is Australia Day and it's a 3 day weekend! Loads of fun planned - I am sure to have stories and pictures next week!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

General update

Well, I haven't been blogging, because there isn't much going on here lately. Jon has been in Canberra for work this week and I have been spending the week looking for a job. I am still trying to think positively about the one in North Sydney, as I have been on TWO interviews with them and they have told me that I am the front runner. But, they won't be making any offers until next Monday, so... we wait.

It's supposed to rain here for the next 5 days. And it's only about 75F, so I guess it's NOT always hot and sunny here. Huh, go figure. The rain is nice though. Keeps everything green.

Not much else to report. Thanks to everyone for keeping their fingers crossed for the job situation. I am hoping to have some good news soon.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Saturday in Sydney

So, it turns out the Noodle Market isn't a farmers market. It's just food stands and live entertainment. And now we know. Have to find somewhere else to buy cheap fruit and veg.

Today we spent the day being tourists. We took the train into downtown, and spent the afternoon walking around The Rocks, which is the oldest part of Sydney. From there, we walked under the Harbour Bridge and out onto Circular Quay (pronounced 'key') which is the main harbour entrance for both ferries and cruise ships.

We continued walking past the Opera House, into the Botanical Gardens, and all the way onto MacQuaries point. Then, we turned around and walked all the way back the way we came. It was about a 5 hour walk. Jonathan says it was "maybe" 5 miles. I say it was about 15. Ok, maybe not, but by the end, it felt like 15.
I definitely needed ice cream by the end.

It was a beautiful day. Quite hot and sunny. The Botanical Gardens were really pretty. Lots of giant fig trees and flowers. I have never seen birds of paradise growing before - amazing!

The size of the trees were really something to see. I told Jon that it made me think of the story of the Swiss Family Robinson. I never believed they could build all that in a tree - until today. These trees are like every kid's dream. You could build an out-of-this-world treehouse in these things! Some of them were over 200 years old and had branches that had grown so long that they had started root systems of their own. Very cool.





Another cool thing in the Gardens were the bats! Huge, hairy bats... hanging everywhere! They were really interesting. Kind of creepy - I am not sure I would want to be there in the evening when they all took flight. Might be interesting though.

It was a good day. I think tomorrow we are going to pack a picnic and go explore Bondi Beach. I think "explore" in my case might mean soaking my feel in the water all day.

No news on a job for me yet... but I am hoping for good news to share on Monday. Keep your fingers crossed for me. My second interview went great on Friday, so you never know.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Noodle Market




Tonight we are going to the Noodle Market. It's like a farmers market, Aussie style. Every Friday night in the summer, they have an outdoor market in North Sydney where you can buy fruit and veg. You can bring a picnic and hang out and meet people and just enjoy being outdoors. They even have entertainment like concerts, clowns for the kids, etc. Sounds pretty fun. And, it's a cheaper way to buy produce than in the grocery store. Produce is VERY expensive here. Bananas are about $2 per pound. And mangoes and avocados can be as much as $3 each. So, we plan to hit the Noodle Market each Friday for some fruit... and to meet some of our new neighbours.

I have a second interview this morning for a really great job. I hope to have good news to report about that soon!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Settling in

This blogging thing can get difficult after awhile. I wonder what sorts of things are going to be interesting for someone else to read about.

Jon and I spent last weekend settling in. Got a bed finally and assembled it. So nice not to be sleeping on the floor anymore. We also spent a small fortune on "stuff" at IKEA and Big W (which is realy Walmat, but don't say that to an Aussie, because they are pretty squidgy about Walmart and all things American.) Whatever. We can't wait for the Costco to open!

The weather has been great. A bit rainy last Saturday, and then a few days of cloud, but that was good for me, because I have managed to get a beauty of a sunburn already. My nose is peeling like you wouldn't believe. We spent the weekend wandering downtown Sydney and checking out Darling Harbour and the various tourist attractions. We also went for a drive up the coast a ways and saw some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Most have been closed for swimming due to the tail end of Cyclone Helen, which went through last week. The waves have been over 9 feet in places. The surfers love it though.

I have been going on these fun little mini-adventures I like to call "job interviews." They are just delightful and I can only hope that they are not all in vain and that one of these days one of them might actually result in a (gasp) job offer! We are keeping our fingers crossed. I am starting to feel like a bit of a lazybum.

No living room furniture yet. When we get around to it, I'll post pictures of our apartment. Right now, just picture a big open space with a pile of laundry in the middle.

Ya'll would not believe the number of restaurants around here. I think there must be at least 100 within a 10 minute walk of our apartment. Not great for the diet - but the Thai food sure is good! yum. We have been doing well though, and going for a long walk every day. I hope that my stash of "skinny clothes" will fit soon, or I am going to feel real foolish for filling a suitcase with them instead of more important items... like sheets. Or flip flops.

Our crate hasn't arrived yet. Maybe another week or so. By the time it gets here, it'll feel like Christmas, because we'll have forgotten half of the stuff in there. There will be exclamations of "wow, I totally forgot we owned THREE plastic pasta strainers!"

This coming weekend we plan on heading back down into the CBD (Central Business District, also known as "downtown") and checking out The Rocks and the Botanical Gardens. Friday night is the farmers market, which I need to stop at and buy some fruit and veg. Much cheaper there than at the local grocery store.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, I am getting around quite well now on the bus and train. I feel like I can get pretty much anywhere and it's not bad at all. And my cold is pretty much gone. Finally.

More soon!

Friday, January 4, 2008

One of those moments

Yesterday I sat under a palm tree, reading a book. I hear a noise, look up, and see a lorikeet. I think to myself, "self, you are sitting under a palm tree, reading a book, and there is a lorikeet over your head. Oh, and self? It's January."

I wonder if that kind of moment will seem commonplace after awhile? I hope not.

I have my first Aussie job interview today. And our bed is being delivered today. Woohoo!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Happy New Year from Sydney!








Happy New year to you all. Hard to believe we are finally here. What a crazy couple of weeks. Christmas was good. Jonathan was home on the 19th and we had several crazy days of running around and buying last minute stuff (that we later learned we had NO room for in our suitcases.)

We had Gabby with us this year from the 22nd through the 28th, and the visit went pretty smoothly. We arrived in the Soo late on the 22nd and stayed through the morning of the 28th. Somewhere in there I came down with a bad cold and sinus infection, which I am not so happy to report, has followed me to the Land Down Under.

On our way north to drop off Gabby on the 28th, the rear wheel bearing went on the car, which made for a not-so-fun day and caused us to arrive back in TO around 3 am on the day we were to fly out. Oh, and did I mention we also were enjoying a huge snowstorm that day? Ugh. However, we managed to get packed and to the airport on time. (Thanks Mr. DiMarco!)

The flight to LAX was not so fun. The stewards and stewardesses were former Nazis who refused to let anyone use the washroom for 4.5 hours. Note to self, avoid American Airlines. Once we were in LAX though, we had relaxed and finally realized "hey, we are on our way to Australia!" That euphoria almost helped us ignore the price of a sandwich in LAX.

The flight from LA to Sydney was great. Seriously, I have never enjoyed a flight more. For those of you who swear they'll never visit us because the flight is too long, I have to say, your loss. It's not bad at all. Big shout out to Qantas Airlines, you guys rock. We settled into our comfy seats, turned on the video on demand movies, and were served dinner, snacks, hot cocoa before bed, and had comfy pillows and blankets. They even give you socks for the plane. Nice. In the morning, we got a hot breakfast, hot towels, and a gorgeous view of Sydney harbour as the sun came up on New Years Eve.

As a recap, we left TO on Saturday evening, and arrived in Sydney 21 hours later - on Monday morning. Sunday was pretty much lost. That is a bit of a weird feeling.

Arriving in Sydney was a surreal experience. It was HOT. And sunny. And there are plam trees everywhere. I was a bit shellshocked and tired. Anxious for a shower and a change of clothes. We took a cab to our apartment (which is great - well done Jonathan!) and dumped all our stuff on the floor. Four days later, it's pretty much still there. LOL

After doing a bit of grocery shopping and taking a nap, we were off to meet some friends from Jon's office for the NYE fireworks. We had a great view from the naval base, and it was amazing to sit and look at the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House and think "we are really here!" The fireworks were the best in the world. Absolutely amazing. What a show. What a fun night.

On Jan 1st we went up to Manly Beach and stood with our toes in the waves while we watched the surfers. Amazing. What an experience to stand on one of the world's BEST beaches on the first day of the year. Unforgettable. Manly is so beautiful, it instantly inspires you to sell everything you own and live the rest of your life as a beach bum. Ok, maybe that is just how it inspired me, but I promise, you have to see it for yourself. It's amazing.

Jan 2nd Jonathan was back to work, so I spent the day finding my way around on foot. It's about a 25 minute walk to Jon's office from home and pretty much anything you could ever need is within walking distance. I am hoping to find a job I can walk to or at least get to easily by bus. Shouldn't be too hard. I got a bit of a sunburn on my walk and need to be more diligent about the sunblock, hat and sunglasses. It's VERY sunny here.

Today is my catch up day and I'm starting to seriously look for a job. We have a bit of shopping to do yet for the apartment (some furniture might be nice, eventually) but otherwise, I am anxious to get back into a routine.

I promise to post more pictures soon!