Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Australia

Happy Halloween Mates!  This year we were invited to join several expat families at a traditional Halloween party. I'm glad we decided to go, because trick-or-treating in Australia is a bit of a let-down for Ana. Most of the candy was gone by the time we set foot outdoors at 6pm. This year, she decided to dress as a lemur... surprised? I didn't get a good shot with her mask on because she was too busy having fun. Kelly and David, the hosts, decorated a table with dry ice which I have no idea how they found. We had the children feel around in a bowl of witches eyes and worms, some of which ended up being consumed.

Paul chatted merrily over beer with a few Australian and Irish families whileI helped run the pinata and witch table. I wore a magician costume and Nolan dressed in his Lederhosen.  I stayed for a while afterward to help clean up and got to know a DJ label manager from Germany and her adorable three children. All in all, we had a marvelous time and slept very well that night. And I managed not too eat ALL of the candy the kids collected ;-)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Glenrock State Conservation Reserve

Sometimes it's hard to believe how fast the time goes by. We've already been in Australia for five months and this week Paul's colleague Irena commented over dinner, "Your daughter has an Ausi accent."  Paul has been making frequent trips up to New Castle for work, about two hours north of Sydney. This was the first time he offered to take us along and I accepted.  Unfortunately it began pouring rain on the drive up and I didn't get to see as much of Glenrock State Conservation as I would have liked.  Paul also didn't bring his hiking gear, but that doesn't stop a dedicated traveler.

Nolan at Cafe Fresh, Charlestown
After a quick chocolate shake lunch in Charlestown, we made the two hour drive home along the coast. We lamented on the cost of living in Sydney which is inflated even more in our Mosman neighborhood.  Without coupons, I have been searching for creative ways to stay on budget such as recycling old outfits or taking advantage of free movie rentals at the library.  I decided to do a snapshot of what our monthly expenditures look like in Australian Dollars:

Electric Bill $100
2 Annual Zoo passes $260 (same price as 4 U2 tix)
Kid's Chair from Ikea $69 (almost positive I paid $30 in the US)
My first outfit up-cycle attempt
Mac Donalds for family of four $22
Harbor Bridge Toll $4
Eating out Family of 4 budget (pizza, thai) $30-35 no alcohol, no tipping
4kg Halloween Pumpkin $20
Woman's Mall Haircut (no wash or style, just a dry cut) $70
Woman's Swimsuit $50
Gas for my SUV $97
Dentist cleaning $200
Doctor Visit $80
Parking Ticket $88
Half Dozen Eggs $2.75
1 three litre bottle of skim milk $3
1 three litre bottle of whole milk $6
1 Box Cereal 430grms $4
4 Pack AA Batteries $20
Bananas $7 per Kilo (roughly $10 a bunch)
Pringles (1 can) $4
Blueberries 125g (roughly 50 blueberries) $3.20
Average Groceries for a week $200
Average bottle of wine $12
Mazda CX-9 cost $45,000 new + Stamp Fees
National Povery Line $47,000
No Sales tax on anything which is nice!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Kamay Botany Bay National Park & Museum

Our 40km drive to Botany Bay today quaffed of ocean reggae haze.  I didn't intend it to be a history lesson, but Botany Bay is famous for being Captain Cook's landing place in Australia (re: Plymouth Rock). There is a very nice visitor center with a small museum and art work.  The park itself is positioned to overlook Botany Bay shipyard. The Caltex Oil refinery is also within 2km of Kamay point giving it a refinery Joliet smell. All of the industry and haze combined put it dead last for Paul's favorite Australian parks, but I was willing to give it a fair chance.

A large obelisq marks Cook's landing spot and where the Queen visited nearly 40yrs ago to commemorate 200yrs since his voyage.  The Queen visited Canberra last week and we reflected on how much change she has seen in her 85 years.  Living in Australia has definitely given me a new respect for the British Empire. The visitor center attempts to respect the aboriginal culture by selling artwork and depicting the landing through cartoon figures saying, "well, there goes the neighborhood."  Sometimes I wonder if that is how Australians really feel about their Indonesian neighbors that keep arriving in boatloads.  There are more scenic parts to the park that drive along the coast and overlook ocean cliffs, but it is doubtful we will ever return to enjoy them.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Rosherville Reserve & Chinaman Beach

Whenever Paul is away on business, we try to keep our weeks busy and our drive time towards explorations minimal.  Last night we went 1.3 miles to Rosherville Reserve.  Just North of Balmoral beach, it is a more private well groomed cove with a playground and wide open sports fields.    I love watching Ana run full speed barefoot, her tiny pigtails bouncing every step. My son has no fear of the unknown, or even the known sometimes.  After sampling the sand, he went straight towards climbing the slide.

After a quick playground inspection we headed for the beach.  Several homes had private beachfront entrances and I imagine they start at 10-12 million. It was low tide when we arrived and low traffic gave us some excellent shells for picking.  I must be getting old because I'm no longer a fan of filling my home with the smelly sandy dead crustaceans, but Ana loves it.  With our pockets full it was time to head back.  Kids and mama worn out - mission accomplished!

Ana has a go at writing her name left stickted on Chinaman

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Dee Why Lagoon & Long Reef

Today we decided to check out the beach just north of Manly called Dee Why.  It is part of a lagoon aquatic reserve that has a shallow reef jetting out into the ocean.  If you walk all the way around the golf course peninsula you will find even more beach on the other side.  There is a very nice paved and boarded walking path that had more dogs than people today. Paul and I took turns watching the children play in the sand while we each made a quick jog up and down the beach. Toting 20lb Nolan around without a stroller can feel backbreaking in the sand.

Ana insists her fairy wings help find shells
 Ana is a beach lover, so on the drive over Paul reminisced about his first trip to the beach.  He was 15 and on a mission trip that took a pit stop in Veracruse, Mexico.  He remembered the tide and waves lifting his body very easily, which is sort of how felt the first time I went in the ocean.  My parents took me to Hilton Head when I was three and I remember holding onto my mom for dear life as the waves pummeled my body. We didn't take Ana swimming this trip as the current was very strong and she is in need of swim lessons. It's amazing how many beautiful beaches there are in Sydney and we feel so spoiled to be able to take our children whenever we want. Don't forget the clear zinc sunblock and hat!

View of Dee Why from the top of Long Reef

Friday, October 14, 2011

Balmoral Beach & Rocky Point Island

Rocky Point Island
The weather has slowly been improving and we had our first pool guests this week.  We decided to take an evening stroll at Balmoral beach and catch a full moon rise.  This beach is less than 2km (about a mile) from our home but with two kids we chose to drive.  There is a small Island and bridge going over a sand spit that Ana loved playing under.  Balmoral has a history of shark attacks and you can see remnants of an old shark net positioned 200m from the coastline.

Ana hiding under the spit bridge
When we arrived there was an intense rugby match going on the beach.  As many games as I've watch now, I still don't grasp the rules of how play begins and stops. Any sport that has medics on the field the entire match is too dangerous for me.  I also finally got to go out without my children or husband for the first time since moving to Sydney.  Overindulgence is easy when you go through a four month spell and I was ready to party all night.  Thankfully for my liver, I didn't.  All of the ladies I met were extremely nice and I hope I get to meet them again, though with Paul's schedule I never know. The next three weeks involve crazy amounts of travel for him. Thank goodness Grandma is coming soon!

History of fatal shark attacks at Balmoral

Balmoral Beach wishing well

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Descent into Awesome

Look out pool, my daughter is well armed
In spite of a four day work week, this one was very demanding and stressful for Paul.  A low key weekend of beach lounging and entertaining were in order and we gave our hiking shoes a needed break.  Instead we went kayak and grill shopping, stopped at the Manly library and beach, and enjoyed lunch with some co-workers.  Burgers, corn off the cob, and curry sweet-potato fries... mmmm!

Ana and Reece after Fairyland Class
Ana attended fairyland class round two, the last installment.  This time she went with her fellow American friend Reece.  She still wouldn't eat the Vegemite sandwich, but always has a good time and fairyland.  She can't wait to take grandma there when she visits!  Every Thursday is Imagination Ballet by the lovely Ms. Brittany Nixon.  She is a very talented instructor from Arizona who married an Australian and runs a wonderful program for children.

Pique, Grangette, Plie, then blow a kiss to Ms. Brittany Ana!

On Friday night we took the recommendation of a friend and tried a Fratelli's Pizza in Cremorne.  While the restaurant is very small and packed, the pizza is the best we have found in Australia.  We downed TWO whole pizzas and my belly hadn't felt that good in a long time. I am so thankful we can afford to eat out once in a while, even with young kids.  As hard as it may be having Paul away, or even at home but constantly on the phone through meals and into bedtime, we are extremely lucky to afford such a nice lifestyle.  In spite of my four-month straight babysitting marathon, I constantly remind myself how fortunate I am.

Date night stuffing our faces at Fratelli's Pizza, Cremorne

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Tallowa Dam in Kangaroo Valley

On our way home from Fitzroy falls, we decided to take a 30km detour to check out one of Australia's largest dams.  Tallowa is part of the Shoalhaven water supply and is nearly half a kilometer in length.  To Paul's dismay, it is not hydroelectric. The series of tubes you see below are part of an elaborate fishlift to assist with a critical migratory pattern.  Yarrunga lake is popular with anglers and there were several fishing away during our quick visit.

Tallowa Dam Fishlift
The Dam looked sled-able and I wouldn't be surprised to find a youtube video somewhere of a person trying.  Shoalhaven is used as drinking water, so signs and fences are posted everywhere to kindly keep out, lest you want a $10,000 fine.  There was a large boyscout adventure excursion underway when we arrived. 100 paddlers headed upstream in canoes looked like a fun time.  I can't wait to try that with Ana and Nolan!