Monday, August 27, 2012

Otford to Garie Beach


Stopping for lunch at Burning Palms


This passed Sunday we revisited Royal National Park with a family friend and attempted a five hour 9-10km hike from Otford lookout to Garie Beach. This is famed to be the best hike in south Sydney, and is one of the top five most beautiful hikes I've ever been on. We were uncertain that Ana and Lisa (both 4yrs old) would be able to complete the distance with many changes in elevation. In the end, going with another family was the absolute best decision of the trip. Both girls found more motivation in each other and were happy to hike along for the majority of the distance.

Red-belly spotted on the trail

 The trail conditions were of medium difficulty and extremely diverse, starting with rain forest and overgrown palm trees, followed by windblown Ausi taiga and sandstone beaches nestles between ocean cliffs. I found footing on the eroded taiga to be the most difficult. The trail was narrower than the width of an adult shoe and deeper than 1 meter in places. I imagined what it must have felt like to dig trenches of this nature in wartime and was thankful for my health and companionship. We stopped for lunch at Burning Palms beach around 1:15 and the girls took a quick dip in the ocean. From this point out, the views were wide open with no sun cover and three ascents/descents to Garie Beach. The last three kilometers were a constant up down trail, and with no access road we were lucky the girls saved enough energy for the last push. We completed the 10k in a little over five hours and drove back to the second car at Otford.



Hikes like these only come around once a year, and I've been feeling the healthy happy afterglow for the past two days. Several other hikers we passed along the trail could easily have traveled to NSW from a great distance simply to accomplish what we did in an afternoons drive from our home. We are so luck to live near the immense beauty of Australian wilderness.  This will forever be what my heart aches for when we eventually have to move back to America.



An icecream after a long day humanback riding

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Narabeen Ocean Pools




The last three weeks happened all in a day. Had I blinked, I would have missed them completely. It started with a visit from Paul's cousins from Auckland, followed by a weekend of fun with a GE colleague, ending in our Anniversary today. Somewhere in between we managed to film a family movie and take this beautiful hike at Narabeen Head. This beach feeds the largest lagoon in the Sydney region and hosts a gorgeous shallow blue crystal clear sand spit. We could only imagine the crowd in the summertime! I walked clear to the end and watched two scuba divers clear their way around the head. They were in full suits and looked chilly, but having fun.


We climbed the staircase just before the pool entrance to the left and had a nice view of the private beach behind us. There wasn't much of a safety railing, and one brave soul had pitched his tent right on the cliffs ledge. The beach looked like a fun place to try to reach, but Nolan is now too big for his pack. He can hike about 2km, and Paul for another 1km while carrying him. For that reason we had to pass on attempting to reach the private beach and simply admired from afar.


Having Frank in town was a lot of fun in spite of bad weather. We toughed it out and headed to Hannibal's in Surry Hills for some tastey Lebanese food followed by a night of dancing at an 80's throwback bar in the ground of the Observer Hotel, CBD. It was nice having a fellow American to empathize about the poor Ausi coverage of US Olymp athletes. With our Zoo and National Park pass about to expire we made our final visits and captured footage for The Wizard of Aus to be premiered late September!


The Wizard of Aus production set at Taronga Zoo :)


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Bobbin Head Mangroves & Birrawana Loop




For the last month our family has been vacationing in America with grandparents, extended family and friends. Today was our first family hike in over a month, and my body felt every extra bite of Amish donuts as we descended down the Birrawana loop to Bobbin Head playground. It was a short 2km route, clean and dry along the ridge with sweeping views and sun filled gum trees. The further we trodden, the darker and damper the sandy trail became. Small boulders became giant sandstone outcrops littered with lichen and muddy prints. Nolan's extra two inches he grew over vacation gave him a taller vantage point over my shoulder in his pack. His arms reached for every available nearby branch and just when I thought he had fallen into slumber I asked, "Are you okay Nolan?" "Uh huh," was all I got.


The trail ended at the giant Bobbin head playground and we played for 20 minutes in the sand while Paul returned up the trail to retrieve the car. We then made our way to the Mangrove bridge in the video above. We watched tiny crabs pinch claws full of mealtime mud through the periscope roots. Their size paled in comparison to the tropical mangroves we saw at Daintree, however this small area was much more aromatic. The clean Eucalyptus smell comes through the air so clearly in the Sydney winter months and the back-lit mangroves helped me find my zen moment along the trail. I briefly wondered if I would appreciate the mangroves were they my living room and I were simply passing by them on my daily course of survival. Definitely not the ones at Mt. Misery, where everything is hell bent on killing you. One too many movies on the plane ride home made me reconsider archery and enrolling my children in scouts.  


Preparing oven-baked ribs. Yum!!


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mosman to the Rocks track walk



This past week the Redlands Track walk group had a 5km hike from Mosman Ferry wharf to the Rocks. For three women, it was their last hike as some return home or part ways to deal with other transitions in life. We had gorgeous weather and it hardly felt like the precipice of winter holiday, shedding layers as we rounded Cremorne Point. The walking trail was wide enough in several places to actually chat alongside someone while hiking. Combined with a 20 minute ferry return, I felt a great deal of time was spent connecting with people instead of exerting ourselves physically.  The more I listen and empathize with fellow expat moms, the smaller my daily burden feels.


One woman shared her story of a volunteer organization she is traveling to Cambodia with. Being her first trip with them and first time to a third world culture, she shared her feelings of anxiety and excitement. I was proud of her for pushing outside of her comfort zone, even 15 years my senior, on a level that changes much about your outlook on life. Her daughter is spending the summer in Ghana with Engineers without borders and was her source of inspiration. It's stories like these that can make you feel hopeful and proud inside, when all else feels backwards about progress and the human race. Today, I was proud to have walked a mile alongside her in life. Now back to packing!


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sydney Quilt Show


As a lover of fine art and sewing, I can't deny the draw I feel to attend a good craft fair. I remember very clearly how much I despised walking into stores that sold nothing but fabric, dishes, or clothing as a kid. Now that I find myself dragging Ana to such places, I feel a bit of remorse and complacency. Yet, after a full morning of trudging two hours to reach our destination followed by another hour on our feet wandering isles of elaborate fabric... she wanted to stay. And even come back after lunch! I was impressed by her appreciation for hard work at such a young age! That didn't stop Ms Ana from touching every quilt she could at arms length or wanting to buy every craft in the sales stalls.


We certainly had our share of jaw droppers, from the Seasonal Sisters (top middle), to Karen Malone and Marilyn Bell. Many of quilters are published professionals with books I've pulled off the shelf in one library or another. Seeing the fruits of their labor in person made me feel a bit rectified in all the work I've throw into quilting over the past years. Being my first show, I had to ask a volunteer, "What happens to all these beautiful works of art?"  I learned the best will go on to sell from ten to twenty thousand dollars. The rest go home for display, etsy, gifts, etc. It wasn't hard to pick out the works of art over the hobbiests, as they usually had ribbons attached. Some quilts take years and use over 6000 individually cut pieces of fabric. I pondered the cost benefit of such dedication compared to Picasso or Monet. Are they a result of better technologies, artists having more free time, or higher evolved creativity than quilts of the past? Probably all three.




Sunday, June 10, 2012

Australian Museum



 For our fourth excursioner Sunday family outing we chose to visit the Australian Museum in the CBD for a total of $40 ($24 museum + $6 ferry ride + $10 lunch). We took the Mosman ferry to Circular Quay followed by a short train ride.  The Sea Shepherd was parked just in front of the Quay restaurant in full camouflage offering free tours. We hopped off the train at the Queen Victoria building since I had yet to see the lavish interior. It reminded me a lot of the GUM shopping plaza in Russia's Red Square. The high end retail boasted Aboriginal galleries, high heel Uggs, and two hanging clocks. We happened to walk by the one above just as the hourly show began. We stepped outside to hear the nearby church bells ringing at St. Mary's Cathedral and continued on to the museum.


The Australian Museum is the equivalent of The Museum of Natural History in NYC with with a few differences. We started at the top and made our way to the bottom. Much of the museums exhibits are designed for child interaction, and indeed they were the most crowded. Paul really enjoyed the fact that the taxidermy animals in the Kids Space were available for up close inspection and petting. Who doesn't love cuddling up to a wombat? In fact there were drawers full of insect specimens, shells, stuffed wings, beaks, claws, jarred ocean oddities, all available for you to touch and handle. From the perspective, the AM felt much more intimate than the AMNH with less display cases and more interaction. There was kids research section (aside from research floor below us dedicated to members) with computers, videos, and volumes of books covering all sciences. Ana entered a butterfly in the insect drawing competition and we departed for the floor below us.



This level covered Australian geology and various skeletons on display. Ana hopped on a bicycle showing a human skeleton also riding a bicycle (video below). The rare minerals and meteorites collection gave me childhood flashbacks to fifth grade. My rock collection had swelled to three drawers cuing my mother to enrolled me into an after school geology class. Here you could polish your own stones and of course buy an assortment from the store it was held in. None of them compared to the ones on the museum display case, and I dreamed of having a 3d wall poster replica of the display for Ana's room. Ok, maybe for my room.


Our final stop was the Surviving Australia and Dinosaur exhibit for Nolan. Here I learned of the 120,000 annual deaths in Australia, on average less than 5 are from crocks, snakes, and sharks. The adjacent display of course read that 20 of the 25 most poisonous snakes live in Australia, but hopefully you didn't skip the previous display case. The extinct Thylacine and marsupial lion each had display cases, making them the last of the large predators in Australia. It was explained to me early on from one of Ana's former school teachers that the wildlife in Australia is friendly for lack of large predators on the entire continent. That didn't sit well with me as I passed the large crocodile and shark jaw display. Nolan didn't seem to mind! The shot above reminds me of red ridding hood t-rex style: "Come a little closer my dear, I am deaf in one ear."


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Housing Log

This past week was full of foul weather followed by my daughter catching a cough. As a result, we haven't had a chance to enjoy the outdoors. Hopefully over the long weekend we will take a trip to the interior or Jervis Bay. Either way it gives me a chance to do a blog post on all the moving I've encountered in my life. There are sparse statistics to support that 1 out of every six Americans move a year, putting your lifetime relocation number at 12. Since I've more than doubled that, I've decided to tally a reverse chronological post about each location, size, etc. I consider any dwelling in which you received mail and slept in for over a month to count as occupancy, putting my total at roughly 25. 15 in suburbia, 10 apartments/dorms. Among my top three favorites are all ones that reside on water (big surprise?).  What have I learned from all this moving? That choosing the right neighborhood will make or break an experience over the right dwelling. Size of house really doesn't matter over location and (sometimes) privacy. I hope my children will learn to grow and appreciate this fact as well.

2011-?? Mosman, NSW 2088
  • Estimate$2.3-2.7 million
  • Rent
    Feature: oceanfront
  • Beds: 4
    Baths: 2.5
    Sqft: 1600




Built in the 1930's, this Tudor era home has a terra cotta roof and one original tile bathroom. There is TONS of light in the house, a feature I love and that keeps it naturally warm in winter. No heat or AC, but the pool and view compensate for this. The yard and basement feel like a nice added bonus but access to public transport is tricky. Sitting at the bottom of a steep hill is great for calves, not so great for personal hygiene heading to work. I could also have grown to despise convection ovens.

2010-11 Dunwoody, GA 30338
  • Zestimate®$298,000
  • Rent Zestimate®: $1,800/mo
    Feature: culdesac, private

  • Beds: 4
    Baths: 2.5
    Sqft: 2,332




There is nothing incredibly remarkable about this house other than a decent sized yard and location. Built in the 70's, it actually has pretty poor lighting and landscaping. We did our best to tear out vines and cut back the bushes that were terribly overgrown when we arrived. The previous owners also rented this property and lived abroad, so it could use some tlc. The culdesac sits behind a brand new elementary school (bonus) and is far removed from all road noise. The 18+ giant pine trees produce their fair share of yard litter, but I prefer them to no trees. No basement, but friendly neighbors and I love the old Dunwoody neighborhood appeal with its sidewalks and pines. Marta made visiting other parts of Atlanta a breeze.

09 - 10  Marietta GA 30066 
  • Zestimate®$148,600
  • Our Rent: $1,100/mo
    Feature: culdesac, flowers

  • Beds: 4
    Baths: 2.0
    Sqft: 1,693




We contemplated purchasing this home when first moving to Atlanta - it would have been the easy thing to do. The biggest deterring factor was the road noise behind the house. The interior and exterior were in mint shape. The lot, however, was not private and was part of a questionable school district. I didn't care for the northern Marietta location, being legions away from Paul's monthly commute to the airport. This ranch style would be perfect for an older retired couple.


09fall Munster Germany 48147


  • Estimate$
  • Rent: $
    Feature: Balcony, modern, view

  • Beds: 4 
    Baths: 2
    Sqft: 1500





After moving so many times, there is something to be said for arriving to a furnished home complete with teapot and fresh towels. Indeed the more I move, the more I think this is how it should be. We were lucky to find such a nice location in Kreuzviertel in spite of having to wait a month to occupy it. The modern German kitchen was my favorite of any house to date, just the right size and so practical. Every chef should have a nice view when cooking! The large plank floors and heated bathrooms were a nice bonus. Not having an elevator to the third floor or a car were two of the more challenging aspects of this move. 


08wntr West Chester, OH 45069
  • Zestimate®$414,800
  • Rent Zestimate®: $400/mo
    Feature: golf course

  • Beds: 5
    Baths: 4.5
    Sqft: 5,088




For six months we lived with my parents while our daughter was born in Cincinnati. It was a huge relief having the extra set of hands, and a great way to share the new parent/grandparent experience. This house is very tall with a full basement and kitchen. It is private on three out of four sides, but overlooks a fairly busy road. To the west it it overlooks hole 17 and a goose pond.  The practicality of occupying something so large doesn't appeal to me, but the schools and golf community aspect do. And who doesn't love having grandma and grandpa around?!

07fall Guilderland NY 12084
  • Estimate$
  • Rent: $815/mo
    Feature: golf course view 

  • Beds: 1
    Baths: 1
    Sqft: 900




Of all the places we have lived, this one has to be among my least favorite. Pregnancy hormones aside, the 2am fighting neighbors made it hard to sleep. We sublet from an Indian couple who left a nice thick curry above the kitchen stove. That took a good three days of bleach to clean out. Snow is also tons of fun in winter, but not so much when your digging your car out for work at 6am at six months pregnant. There was a library very close by and a community gym/pool, but I wouldn't consider Guilderland as one of my personal favorite communities.


07wtr Serria Barcelona Spain 08017
  • Estimate$
  • Rent: $
    Feature: bakery, public transport

  • Beds: 3
    Baths: 1
    Sqft: 1100




Viva Catalunya! We shared this tiny flat with a friend while Paul finished business school and I finally got to have a gap year seeing Europe. There was little to no sunlight, but the galley kitchen and large bathroom were updated. We were poor poor college students with no TV, car, or responsibilities. We took public transport everywhere, to every corner of Barcelona and beyond. This apartment served its need well with just the right amount of space. I would not consider living there now with kids due to lack of yard and sunlight.

05-07  Ann Arbor, MI 48104


  • Estimate$
  • Our Rent: $750/mo
    Feature: 

  • Beds: 1
    Baths: 1
    Sqft: 500




This tiny little house just off Packard street is subdivided into four apartments with adjacent garage parking. It still gets a decent amount of road noise, but is far enough off campus to avoid party crowds. The location is ideal for Michigan football games, and I grew very fond of the south side of A2. Sidewalks, trees, fall foliage (pictured above from my Zell Laurie office), and tailgates. The apartment got plenty of light, but had no updates. The bedroom was big enough for a queen bed and that's it. The nearby shops were not so great, so I regularly drove a few extra miles for groceries. We could bike to work and school, even in the winter. Overall the great neighborhood compensated for a dwelling to small to host any company.

05smr Wappingers Falls, NY 12590
  • Zestimate®$265,700
  • Our Rent
    Est. Mortgage: 

  • Beds: 4
    Baths: 3.0
    Sqft: 1,376




For a brief transitional period in time I boarded with Paul and his roomates in Wappinger Falls. This home had 3 bedrooms on the top level, and one in the basement that the owner used. The vaulted ceilings and long wooded driveway was a nice feature. The owner was very practical and cleared just enough land around the home to keep trees from posing a menace to the structure. I grew to love the Hannafords nearby and winding commute through Wappinger Falls. Another ranch style home just the right size for a family of four in a nice location.


03-05 Carmel NY 10512
  • Zestimate®$273,000
  • Our Rent: $600/mo
    Feature: Waterfront

  • Beds: 3
    Baths: 2.0
    Sqft: 1,428





This house was actually an old barn converted by a doctor living in the ajacent property. It sits on lake Carmel, though the waterfront is technically public land. The zen style garden in the back was just as big a selling point to me, though at this stage in my life I would look into building a garage. Parking was tight with two renters, but privacy was good. Lake Carmel isn't the cleanest, as everyone is on septic systems instead of public water. Each floor had a room which allowed everyone to spread out nicely. The top two rooms had a nice view of the lake which we put a tiny sailboat and kayak on. The size of this house felt just right for me, though the layout is not ideal for a family.

03smr New York NY 10017
  • Estimate$
  • Rent: $
    Feature: Manhattan 

  • Beds: 1
    Baths: 1
    Sqft: 200


As I checked out of the Radison on Lexington Ave for the last time, I gaped at the $15,000 hotel bill. "What kind of company can afford such an atrocious overhead?" I thought. Little did I know so much of my future life would be living in similar fashion, hotel room style. It is also worth noting you do not receive your Radison points unless you check out and back in every 10 days. Doh! Being in NYC at 23 I felt pretty cocky - like I had arrived and made it in life. I remember going to coach and buying the most expensive hat in the store the first week I was there. Summer of 2003 was also the famous power grid failure. I was in the basement of the Deuche Bank building, configuring a bunch of towers when the lights went out. We all scrambled outside, over cockroaches to the street level. My parents phoned me right away, a little freaked out. Did I mention I was on the 26th floor? With no elevator and no way out of the city there was only one thing to do, have a street party. A Jewish restaurant put their wares (beer, food) onto the street for pedestrians. At first I thought it very generous, but I could tell they were nervous about looting. How would you stop it without electricity? As the Rabbi bound his wrists and chanted over and over nervously to himself, three IBMers and I thanked him for the alcohol and made our way to time square to check out the action. One man carried a sign, "This is only my first day in America" My first exposure to big city living was exciting and surreal. 


02-03 Fishkill NY 12524


  • Estimate$
  • Rent: $1800/mo
    Feature: Pool, gym

  • Beds: 3
    Baths: 2
    Sqft: 1300







01-02 Duhme Hall West Lafayette IN 47906 
  • Estimate$
  • Rent: FREE (counselor)
    Feature: Privacy, no roomies 

  • Beds: 1
    Baths: 1
    Sqft: 100



01summer Fishkill NY 12524


  • Zestimate®$470,300
  • Rent Zestimate®: $600
    Feature: Pond, hiking, private

  • Beds: 6
    Baths: 3.0
    Sqft: 2,640






00-01 West Lafayette, IN 47906 
  • Estimate$
  • Rent: $
    Feature: Sorority life 

  • Beds:1 
    Baths: 1
    Sqft: 1500



00smr  Hudson OH 44236
  • Zestimate®$423,100
  • Rent Zestimate®: $2,578/mo
    Feature: Horse farm, pond

  • Beds: 4
    Baths: 4.0
    Sqft: 4,004




99-00 Hillenbrand Hall, West Lafayette, IN 47906 
  • Estimate$
  • Rent: $
    Feature: Private bath 

  • Beds: 1
    Baths: 1
    Sqft: 400



99smr Hudson OH 44236
  • Zestimate®$156,100
  • Rent Zestimate®: $1,392/mo
    Feature: 

  • Beds: 3
    Baths: 2.0
    Sqft: 1,366











98-99 Earhart Hall, West Lafayette IN 47906 

  • Estimate$
  • Rent: $
    Feature: Enginerds!

  • Beds: 1
    Baths: 1
    Sqft: 200



94-98 Dublin OH 43017 


  • Zestimate®$407,900
  • Rent Zestimate®: $2,749/mo
    Feature: Finished basement

  • Beds: 4
    Baths: 3.5
    Sqft: 3,205






92-94 Novi, MI 48374 


  • Zestimate®$389,100
  • Rent Zestimate®: $3,043/mo
    Feature: garden, double bay win

  • Beds: 4
    Baths: 3.5
    Sqft: 3,075





92smr Sturgis, MI 49099
  • Zestimate®$469,400
  • Rent Zestimate®: $1,511/mo
    Feature: Waterfront

  • Beds: 4
    Baths: 2.5
    Sqft: 3000?



90-92 Lima OH 45805 


  • Zestimate®$220,400
  • Rent Zestimate®: $1,831/mo
    Feature: Finished basement

  • Beds: 4
    Baths: 2.5
    Sqft: 2,840





87-90  Northville, MI 48167


  • Zestimate®$294,200
  • Rent Zestimate®: $2,228/mo
    Feature: School playground

  • Beds: 4
    Baths: 2.5
    Sqft: 2,242






80-87 Canton, MI 48187 
  • Zestimate®$129,000
  • Rent Zestimate®: $1,409/mo
    Feature: 

  • Beds: 3
    Baths: 2.0
    Sqft: 1,488




Honorable Mentions: 1008 23rd street, south bend IN 46615
  • Zestimate®$69,400
  • Rent Zestimate®: $715/mo
    Feature: Grape vines, alleys
  • Beds: 3
    Baths: 1.5
    Sqft: 1,536





Honorable Mentions: Grandma's house

  • Zestimate®$104,800
  • Rent Zestimate®: $961/mo
    Feature: Grandparents
  • Beds: 3
    Baths: 1.5
    Sqft: 1,719