Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dress Upcycling

This week started with an inventory sheet of our family's clothing needs. I usually take stock once a year and create a sticky note to take shopping with me for Christmas.  The lack of consignment sales and coupons makes bargain hunting in Australia a challenge. Instead I decided it is time to dive into making some of our own clothes, more specifically for Ana and I. Dresses seem like an easy place to start and is something we can both always use.  The key is finding material that isn't on it's last leg and has an interesting pattern.  The week Paul and I both left IBM is the week I started thrift shopping for practical purposes.  Now it is more for fun and I try to keep my purchases to exciting colors and patterns. I find it is easier to modify an existing outfit than start from scratch, but maybe that will change.

This yellow dress was Ana's favorite Gymboree summer 2009 dress and in summer 2010, she destroyed the teeth on the zipper beyond repair by trying to fit into it one last time. I removed the zipper and added some matching yellow polkadot fabric to widen the overall body and straps. I also added a white strip to the bottom making it longer. Hopefully it lasts for at least this summer. The pink dress was pulled from a scraps bin in a New Castle salvos. It is a work in progress and may become a quilt instead if I can't get the top to fit right.

The retro dress on the left was from the Neutral Bay salvos dress rack. It was a nice silk material with no snags or wear but too small for my body. I tore off the top for a sash, sleeves, headband, and pillowcased the dress with a golden ribbon.  The black dress on the right was my mothers floor length prom dress made by my grandmother. I put some updated fabric from an old NY & Co shirt on the bust and will use the leftover black fabric for a skirt.  Floor length thick polyester is just unacceptable in the Sydney heat. Hopefully it fits and isn't sweltering!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Ana enjoing Naima's birthday party
Teacup ride at Lollypops

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone back home! The 24th was just another working day for Australians. No crazy consumerism, no turkey or trimming, but we still dished out a weekend of celebration. The rain forced us indoors early in the week, and we started with a trip to visit Santa at Warringah Mall. I did not intend to be in the picture, but my sweet son was terrified of Santa. We also joined friends at an indoor playground called Lollypops. They even have teacups and healthy snack food.  We also had a classmate birthday party celebration complete with chocolate cake and pinata. In traditional style, you invite your entire class over for your birthday here in Australia. I met three Canadian expats, one Israeli, and a few Australians who have made the international rounds. It seems to be a cult here in Mosman, or else the only way people can afford to live here (subsidized).

Grangette Nolan :D

Nolan Counting Birds

On Saturday the rain finally broke in time to purchase a grill and host a pool party.  I made carribean shish kebabs with bacon wrapped bananas and strawberry salad. Our guests brought a delicious chocolate cake, ice cream, and pasta salad for the kids. Watching the sun set over the bay while lounging by the pool with friends was a perfect end to the day.  On Sunday I escaped Naima's birthday party just in time to catch Frank and Georgina at their lovely Neutral Bay restaurant, The Blue Plate. The aroma of American cuisine made me miss home as soon as I walked in the door.  Their Wyoming Chili and stuffing is delicious. Frank also let us test out his new desert, the Hersey Bomb. It was amazing, and they sent me home with all the leftovers!! They were such friendly and generous people, it really helped fill the void left by proximity to family on such a weekend. We are fortunate to live in such a wonderful Mosman community!

My left arm is covered in Santa sweat, but at least we have smiles!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Newington Armory

Paramatta River view from Newington Armory Warf. 
There is something about 90 degree weather that brings out our lazy side. This weekend was no exception, we spent most of it at home working on Christmas cards in order for them to reach the states in time for the holidays. Ana worked hard to make one drawing for every card! We did manage a quick trip back to Sydney Olympic Park to check out Newington Armory. Had I known the playground was completely uncovered, we would have skipped the trip altogether.

In spite of having no seasons, Sydney experiences a variety of climates and levels of extreme heat. Though Mosman is mostly tropical, we are blessed with an ocean breeze to keep us from sweating. This is not the case most places in west Sydney. The heat feels like an oven and the sun doesn't let perspiration stay on your skin long. Furthermore, the Olympic park is built mostly on top of a swamp.

The Newington Armory has a nice long Paramatta riverside stroll and picnic pavilion. This is also where you can catch a long ferry ride all the way to Sydney Harbor. The entire scene reminded me so much of the tiny barge river that bends around the south side of Muenster in Germany. Ana had a great time on the playground inspecting everything but the fry-your-hide slide. To cover a playground of this size would be a tremendous challenge and really take away from some of the aesthetics. My best advice is to definitely check it out on a much cooler day than we did.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Freshwater Beach

Gives a whole new meaning to the word "commute"

Quaint and shallow, Freshwater Beach
This has been a lovely week from end to end. It started with a trip to the Opera house to see comedian Eddie Izzard. After explaining what his show was like in New York, I couldn't convince my husband to come along. Instead I strongly coerced a fellow expat into going with me. The ferry ride over at sunset was a delicious appetizer while celebrity spotting at the show was the icing on the cake. Eddie is still brilliant after all these years, though I won't claim to agree with his atheist worldview. Laughing that hard always feels good on the heart. I later read on wikipedia that Eddie ran 42 marathons in 51 days last year around the entirety of England.

The week also included a trip to Freshwater Beach, just north of Manly. It's tiny, quaint, and very shallow for kids. You can touch bottom a good 50m off shore and Nolan forgot all about last time he tried to go head first in the ocean.  My worrywart husband took Nolan straight to the bath but quickly learned one trip in the ocean isn't enough to deter a toddler. I'm so fortunate my husband looks out for our family as much as he does. I will never be the kind of worrier he is, my psyche rejects that much stress. More than once Paul told me he carries the weight of the world on his shoulders.  I'm glad someone strong and brilliant is up for the job as I would have let us loose full speed downhill years ago. We ended the exciting week with an icecream playdate. Even a cocky stopped by for a lick.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Sirus Cove & Reed Park

Ana is ready for adventure at Reid park
It took me nearly five months, but I have finally visited every playground in Mosman. This is no small feat considering there are 15 to chose from. I cheated on Friday and went to three. It's generally better to spread things out a bit, but I was in a curious and adventurous mood. The first visit was the Reid park, a playground and huge dog park directly across from the Mosman ferry.  The sand playground is surrounded by giant palms and a pretty little harbor making it very picturesque. There is no swimming, but a restaurant and trail up several flights of stairs to the west. We made a short lived attempt with a stroller and decided to head back and save our energy for Sirius Cove.

Sirius cove has a beautiful shallow beach for swimming, but not many place to hide from the sun. We didn't bring our suits which was a little disappointing, but spent some time checking out the playground.  This cove looks to be linked to the zoo via walking trail. So many of these tiny trails looks exciting, but are impassable with a stroller. Ana is a great hiker and we are really looking forward to Nolan giving it a try as well. Today was his first dip in our unheated pool and in predictable baby fashion he screamed for five minutes then screamed again when it was time to get out. Sam I am would say,

"You do not like them.
SO you say.
Try them! Try them!
And you may.
Try them and you may I say."

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sydney Rock Pools

10 days is not enough time to see everything in Sydney, but we sure covered a lot of ground! On Monday I took Grandma to Shelly Beach to splash around with Nolan while Ana was at school.  On Tuesday we went to the Zoo and checked out the fantastic seal show and cute baby elephants playing in the water.  Thank goodness for shaded seating, it was as hot as an oven. Grandma got up close and personal with Koalas, kangas, and our favorite friendly emu.

On Wednseday we went to Coogee, then in the evening I took her to Cremorne point park.  This is one of my favorite parks as the view of Sydney harbor is picturesque, the grounds are manicured like a garden, and there is one of 70+ rock pools you can visit in Sydney.  I have seen ten or so, but this one has a spectacular view. This website highlights several, but doesn't include the one at Cremorne Point. When we were apartment hunting our second choice was a modern 3br Mansionette at 72 Milson rd. The view was better than our current place, but the space and privacy was not as nice. I hope we come here to see the fireworks on New Years!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Coogee Cliff Walk

Today was Grandma's last day in Sydney so to avoid severe depression we celebrated properly at Bondi beach. Home to world famous surfers and their parties, the sand at this beach in soft as velvet. The crowd was light today, being 9am midwoch. Ana had a morning splash about in her rashie, and Nolan took a few waves on head first as well.  He screamed but I felt it was a small necessary lesson in fear. He no longer charges right for the water.

Around 10:30 we took the scenic drive around Tamarama and Bronte to south Coogee and parked at a big dog park.  There is a 5km cliff walk from Bondi to here that we scaled 1km of.  My mom was excited to see prickly pear cactus in full bloom for the first time as well as the deep azul Tasman sea. It was a hot muggy day overall, but better to be out than in. Believe it or not, our house doesn't have air conditioning. We decided to take an evening stroll around Cremorne to get one last good look at Sydney harbor and top it off with some pizza at Fritellis. No more family for four more months. #iSad

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Grandma's Tour of Mosman

Today was a hot, shower scattered day.  Between pool dips and rain drops we took Grandma on a tour of all things Mosman.  Middle Head Mosman Barracks is quickly becoming one of our top spots and the strong breeze today was such a nice relief from the heat. When dropping mum and I off at the zoo, Paul discovered Bradley's Head park. Overlooking Sydney harbor, it has a light house and a huge mast dedicated to HMAS servicemen. Sailboat regatta judges were scattered throughout the park and we had a great soggy view of the race.

We drove past Balmoral Beach and the taste of Hunter Valley Mosman festival going on, and made our way around beauty point. We made a visit to the Mosman market and admired some of the jewelry and clothing wares for sale. Finally we made good on a promise to use the pool and fix our wind-blown broken pool awning. Grandma and Ana sure have a great time playing together!

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Night On The Rocks

Last night I got to spend an entire evening with my best buddy and partner in crime, my mother dearest. We decided to go out for a hot night on the town and had our fair share of gawking at the Customs House.  Around 6pm we took the Zoo gondola down to the Mosman ferry and had a quick ride across the harbor into circular quay. We stopped for a quick drink at the Opera House Bar and enjoyed the sunset over the bridge. We were too late to catch a tour of inside but made a stroll around iconic Sydney Cove to a little place called Wine Odessy in The Rocks. You can pay for wine here in increments and I quickly learned it is a tourist trap. While the idea is clever, the amount of wine and service you enjoy was marginal. I think we spent $50 on 3 glasses of mediocre wine. We braved through a crazy calamari appetizer and made our way for an ice cream shop. Wine and ice cream is a legitimate dinner with your mom. :D

After a nice caramel macademian sundae we decided to try one more bar. I had read up on Cafe Sydney on top of the Customs House and figured it couldn't have been more expensive than our last venue. At $20 a cocktail, it most definitely was. I had a delicious Lady Hendricks that tasted and smelled like a liquid rose garden. Besides having a wonderful night view of the harbor bridge, Cafe Sydney is questionably a hired companion hang out. We nearly fell out of our seats a dozen times gawking at some of the women and their bird-of-paradise attire. We broke our curfew and the bank having a fun time, and caught the bus home to Mosman before turning into pumpkins.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Hunter Valley & Gardens

For the first time since May, my husband and I went on a romantic 24 hour date.  Paul had business in New Castle again on Friday morning and this time I accompanied him alone. I spent my newfound freedom getting my first ever massage and a big chocolate Belgian waffle breakky from Coco Monde. Do you know how delightful it is to have a huge plate of waffles all to yourself? After a hefty helping of gluttany, I picked up Paul and we headed an hour west to Hunter Valley Gardens.  The $24 entrance fee covers eight spectacular gardens including a storybook garden, Indian Mosaic garden, and our favorite the Rose Garden. We estimated the gardens held close to 200 wedding annually which would make it a very lucrative business model. Only 10 years old, everything (with exception to the closed orchard) was well manicured and fragrant at a level I've never experienced. I wished they sold bottles of the rose garden smell in the gift shop. Intoxicating.

We only had enough time to hold a tasting at one winery, and in Backscheider fashion pulled into the first humble uncrowded place we passed, Littles Winery. After three types of Semillon and Shiraz, we headed down a long dirt road to enjoy the sunset among the Kangas.  Paul pondered whether or not all the wineries share a distillery and are only differentiated by branding while I pictured what would happen if a troop of Kangas went bounding through Napa and Sonoma.  Overall, I still enjoy California wines more, but the scenery and low level of tourism in Hunter really made it a wonderfully private evening. We found a vacant room at Chateau Elan, a large golf resort with hot air balloon rides, horseback riding, the Greg Norman works.  On a tip from my masseuse, we headed to Harrigans Pub for a steak and live music.  The whole day couldn't have been more picture perfect.