Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Savo(u)ring the Sunsets

I've said it before, but the best part about where we live (in my opinion) is the spectacular sunset we get to see every night from our balconies. Each night is different, and I tend to leave the camera right near the door so I can capture the sun as it changes while going down. As the weather's been getting nicer, we've been able to enjoy the sunset while sitting outside on the balcony. I bought a few Australian camp chairs (for $5 each-score!), and last weekend, we sat outside eating Tim Tams and admiring yet another gorgeous sunset. This is the life!

I made a little slideshow with just a sampling of some of the sunsets I've seen from our balconies. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Triangle Wars

A few weeks ago, the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) took place. There were various movies shown all over the city over the span of a couple weeks. Zack and I went to see a documentary called The Triangle Wars. It's about the fight over the very plot of land we can see from our balconies! Can you see the triangle-shaped parking lot in the lower left of the picture? Also, the big white building behind Luna Park is the Palais Theatre. You're seeing the back of it in my picture.

So the movie was about a huge community uprising that took place a few years ago when the Port Phillip City Council was working with a developer to redo the Palais and create a massive shopping/entertainment complex along the waterfront (in the triangle-shaped area). St. Kilda residents didn't want this at all, and they fought against the council with protests, marches, attending meetings, etc. Some corruption within the council was unveiled, new members were elected (ones who were against the development plans), and in the end, the developer pulled out. We enjoyed the movie; it was full of the things we see every day and even showed our apartment complex in a few shots!

They are still trying to figure out what to do with this area of St. Kilda, but now they are heavily including the opinions of the city's residents. I'm not sure anything will get done during the time we're here, but it's cool that the people of this area are so involved and care about where they live. It's just another reason we're glad we live here.

Speaking of being glad we live here, check out this link:  

Monday, August 22, 2011

Fog, Jog, and a Dog

How was your weekend? This was the view from one of our balconies on Friday afternoon. The fog rolled in big-time; it was almost kind of scary! At one point, all I could see was white out the windows. Anyway, on Friday night we ordered in some pizza and watched Back to the Future Part II (I had never seen it).

On Saturday, we had cappuccinos and lattes with Heath and Isabelle on Acland Street. Then Zack and I walked around St. Kilda and enjoyed the beautiful sunny weather. We have never seen so many people out and about! I guess this is a hint of what's to come this summer. Anyway, we ended up on Fitzroy Street where we used a Groupon-type deal that I had for a rum tasting at a place called 29th Apartment. We got to try six different rums with accompanying desserts as we sat outside in the sunshine. Yummy! This restaurant had fun games to play, and we ended up playing a Connect Four tournament with two Australian guys. Then we ended up doing shouts with them for the next few hours. A "shout" is when someone buys drinks for everyone else; you take turns "shouting" the round. When it started getting cold, Zack and I got some pasta for dinner and went home for an early bedtime.

Sunday morning came quickly, and Zack headed off for a 110km bike ride with Adam and Heath and Isabelle. I met up with Emily for a ten mile run. She's training for a half marathon, and I try to join her for some training runs for the heck of it. Later that afternoon, we had lunch at a Japanese place with Adam and Emily and two other couples from a Meetup group and got some frozen yogurt on Fitzroy Street.

Because I was missing my dog Molly, I posted an ad on Gumtree offering to walk dogs in the area. I got a response from a lady who lives nearby, and now I get to walk her family's dog a few times a week. I can bring Emmey to the beach, take her on a run, or whatever I want...and I get paid! This morning was my first time, and I took a picture down at St. Kilda Beach. Isn't she cute (though not nearly as cute as Molly!)? She's a mix between a beagle and a lab. Emmey is my pseudo-dog here in Australia-yay! So that's what's going on with us lately. Hope you had a good weekend too!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Aubree's Observations About Australia Part III

Our bikes at the Brighton beach houses.

Once all of these random musings start piling up in my head, I know it's time for another one of these entries...

1.  My name is considered very strange here. I know it's not a common one in the United States, but here, people say they've never even heard of it. They don't know how to say it, spell it, etc. I have to repeat myself an average of three times when meeting an Australian. They think I'm saying "Albury," which is a city in New South Wales.

2.  Australians know more about America than most Americans. When the electrician tried talking to me about American politics, I felt like an idiot. Australians know about our celebrities, musicians, politicians, history, etc. Hands down, most of them would beat most of us in a trivia game with questions about the United States.

3.  It's a normal occurrence to hear about the Australian dollar and what it's worth compared to other currencies on the news on a regular basis. One Australian I was talking to was shocked that US news doesn't report on what the American dollar is worth and that we just don't care!

4.  A bachelorette party is called a "hen's night." Mom is "mum" here. Babies are "bubs" (and they wear a "nappy," not a diaper). And Father's Day is in September, not June.

5.  Before moving here, I would have pronounced our city as Mel-born. Now, I say Mel-burn. Australians say Mel-bin, which I think is the same as Mel-burn but with their accent. Since I don't have their accent, I would feel like a poser if I said Mel-bin. So I don't. Lots of Americans I've met say Mel-bin, but I feel like a tool when I try it.

6.  Debut is pronounced "day-boo," and schedule is pronounced "shed-yule".

7.  Dates are written with the date first, then the month, and then the year. So today would be 19/08/11. Confusing. It makes buying flights and such kind of complicated; you always have to double-check to make sure you have the right dates, especially if it's something like 3/5/11 (that's May 3rd, not March 5th!).

8.  It's a weird feeling to be out in public and have nobody know you're a foreigner until you open your mouth. Sometimes I feel like I have a big secret, because everyone around me (when I'm silent) probably thinks I'm Australian. At other times, I forget I'm in another country and am surprised when I get curious looks the moment I talk.

9.  Morning and afternoon tea are part of the Australian culture. Basically this just means snacktime. At the preschool where I volunteer, the kids get a break for "morning tea." They eat some fruit and biscuits (crackers) and drink some water. At work, Zack sometimes has morning tea meetings where they have pastries and such. I think this is a very cute and British-sounding tradition.

10.  Markets are a big part of living in an Australian city. I've already written about the huge Queen Victoria Market, but there is also the famous South Melbourne Market which is open a few days a week. And each suburb seems to have its own market on some sort of regular basis. St. Kilda has one on the first Saturday of the month (right behind our apartment building!). It's an awesome way to get some fresh produce and support local merchants.

11.  Australians say "ta" as a shorthand form of "thank you." Instead of "you're welcome," they say "no worries."

12.  Sizing is different here. A size 6 in the United States is a size 10 here for clothes.

13.  You can ski in Australia! There are a few "mountains" within a few hours of Melbourne. It's of course super-expensive and we didn't bring our snowboards (and have been told it wouldn't be worth it compared to Colorado), but it's kind of neat that we could go if we really got the itch. Supposedly New Zealand has some awesome mountains.

14.  Spring is actually maybe on its way. We're supposed to be in the mid-60s for the next week or so (sometimes with rain of course, but whatever). This is progress, people!

Okay, that's all I've got for now. Have a great weekend everyone!

At the Cadel Evans parade.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

G'day Grocery Cart!

Good morning. Um, yes, that is a shopping cart in our living room. Why, you ask? Well, when you don't have a car, and you're tired of going to the grocery store nearly every day to buy things and try to figure out what's for dinner, then you make a menu plan for a few weeks along with a long shopping list, and you need to bring the cart home with you because you can't carry everything! Woolworths (called Woolies's basically Safeway) is just across the park, so it's not like I hauled this thing very far. And I'll take it back today, especially because I want my money back.

Yes, money. You have to pay to get a shopping cart. You put a gold coin (either a $1 or $2 coin) in the slot in order to unlock it from the row of carts, and when you put it back, you can get your money back. I guess it's a good way to get people to not leave their carts all over parking lots and such. But it can sure be a pain when you don't have any change.

Grocery shopping here is kind of stressful. It always takes awhile to learn where everything is in a new store, and things here have different names. The other day I learned that cilantro is called coriander after a very confusing exchange with the produce man. Also, the selection is quite limited in many areas. In some ways, this is good. You don't stand in front of shelves of peanut butter or cereal trying to figure out which one is best. But in other areas, it's pretty frustrating. There are no black beans for sale in this country! Or all of the varieties of wholegrain pasta! But the Asian aisle is bountiful. You can get all sorts of curry pastes, Indian naan (bread) flavors, and rice. I'm not even going to talk about prices. You learn to just deal with it eventually (or else starve!).

Well, that is all for today. It's rainy and cold (as usual), so maybe it's a good day to clean my desk. Exciting, I know. Oh yeah, yesterday I updated my Shutterfly site, so if you're interested in lots more pictures of the things I mention in my blog entries, check out the link in the upper right corner. Enjoy!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Chocolate Rush Festival (and contest winner!)

The Chocolate Rush Festival took place in the Docklands this weekend, and I was intrigued. A whole festival dedicated to chocolate? Surely this must be heaven. So yesterday while Zack was out mountain biking, I went, expecting to stuff myself silly with all forms of chocolate. This was, unfortunately, not what happened. Instead, this lame "festival" consisted of paying an outrageous entry fee to walk around what looked like an abandoned warehouse with about fifteen "booths" run by various chocolatiers selling their wares. That's had to PAY to eat chocolate...after already paying the entry fee! Argh! Yes, there were a few samples, but they were teeny tiny morsels. One booth selling chocolate bars did have some plates with chunks of chocolate, so I "happened" to walk by them about six times trying to get my money's worth!

I did give in and buy myself a passionfruit hot chocolate (because it sounded too interesting to pass up-yes it was good) and got a couple of macaroons to share with Zack (pistachio and raspberry), but that was it. There was a cooking demonstration going on (and they handed out recipes), and the chocolate sculptures on display were kind of neat, but otherwise, it was a total waste of time. Oh well. I'm just glad I didn't drag Zack there with me. And now I can say I've been and can warn others not to go. I could have just gone to Max Brenner, spent my entry fee there, and been sick with chocolatey goodness!

Now what you've all been waiting for...the winners of the Chocolate Contest! I couldn't count the late entry (though it was good!), because the winners had already been decided. In second place, Cindy! Her line about "trying seven" really resonated with me, and her reference to Acland Street showed that she reads this blog on a regular basis!  Congratulations Cindy...there might just be a small treat headed your way (and maybe one for the doggies too). Drumroll please...we have a TIE for first place. One of our winners is Aunt Jean. Though her line about hiding it "in her hem" was a bit of a stretch, the other lines were clever and had me laughing out loud. Our other winner is the combo of Chelsey and Katie. Their plea was heartfelt, and I liked how they worked my name into their rhyme scheme. Winners, you can expect some delicious Australian chocolate to arrive at your homes in about a week. Thank you to all who entered; the poems amused me. I'll have to do another contest sometime. I hope everyone had a good weekend!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Loud Noises, Police Call, Yu Yangs

So I've turned into the lame old guy who calls the cops when loud noises interfere with his sleep. Last night at around 4am I was awoken to a rockin' party half a block down the street with some really funky music and lots of laughing going on. Scrooge doesn't like laughter and music at 4am. I'm all for it, as long as it wraps up around 10 or 11pm. So I watched as a squad of two Victorian police officers snuck in through the back yard of the party and quickly got the noise turned down. I couldn't fall back asleep, so I ate some chocloate and pizza and watched The Informant, GI Joe, and eventually Taxi Driver. The Informant is awesome, as was Taxi Driver. GI Joe, well not so much.

After a short nap and the end of the movies, I opted for a 60km bike ride down the beach road. It was my fastest ride yet, completed in two hours with an average speed of 31km/h. I guess I wanted to outdo Aubree, who ran 6.5 miles this morning. Or it could be that I started riding my bike to and from the Melbourne office daily.

Tomorrow I get to go mountain biking for the first time in Australia at the newly remodeled Yu Yang trails!  It is Victoria's best mountain biking area. Til then, try to keep the noise down and happy (Yu Yang) trails.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Hometown Hero

Flags they handed out along the ride.
Don't forget about the Chocolate Contest going on in the blog entry below. Though it's almost the end of Friday here, most of you still have another day to enter. The competition is heating up! Anyway, onto today's entry. If you know anything about biking, you know that Cadel Evans won the Tour de France this year. What you may not know is he is the first Australian to win this competition, so it's a big deal, especially since biking is so big around here. Today, Cadel came "home" to Melbourne for a big celebration. I rode my bike downtown to witness the craziness (I figured that was an appropriate means of transportation for the occasion!).

Cadel Evans did a short bike ride down St. Kilda Road to get to Federation Square. I couldn't get extremely close, but he was shaking hands and saying hello to the Aussies as he rode. Lots of people rode their bikes down there too, and there were yellow flags and signs everywhere.

I can't even explain how many thousands of people filled up Federation Square. There was no way I could get anywhere close to the stage, but they played everything on the big screen and had a great sound system, so I could see and hear it all. Victoria's Premier gave a speech, and there was a taped speech from the Prime Minister, a performance of the National Anthem, the gifting of Cadel with a trophy and a monstrous yellow jersey saying "Australia congratulates Cadel," and more. Then some guy interviewed Cadel, and he was very humble and funny. Australians don't like a "tall poppy" (someone who brags about how awesome he is), so Cadel is well-loved by the people in this country. They now speak of him as one of the legendary Australian athletes for all time. It was neat to be part of such a special moment in Australian history.

A full Federation Square for Cadel Evans!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Chocolate Contest

I had this delicious hot chocolate over the weekend.  We were at a place called The Stokehouse on St. Kilda Beach having some drinks with Heath and Isabelle (and then Emily and Adam) on Saturday afternoon. When you order it, they actually give a block of chocolate to the kitchen to be melted. Then they add the steamed milk and somehow make this cool pattern on top. So good.

In honor of this hot chocolate (and all of the delicious chocolate in this country), I've decided to hold a contest. To enter, you have to write an original poem and leave it as a comment on this blog entry. It can be any kind of poem and any length, but it must somehow be about chocolate! I will choose the winner over the weekend, so make sure you post your poem by Friday. I will send the winning poet a delicious Australian chocolate candy bar, so get writing! This will be entertaining for me as well, because I love comments-ha!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Date Night

On Friday morning, Zack informed me that I should get dressed up for the evening. In fact, he told me that I should go shopping and buy something new to wear. So I did! Not that I need his permission, but I tend to not buy too much for myself unless it's a really good deal or I really need it. So, having no clue what we were doing that night (he wouldn't tell me), I ventured out to see what women's clothing shopping was like in Melbourne. After a little research, I decided to go to Chapel Street. This is a long street/area with all sorts of shops, restaurants, etc. I had been there before (we rent cars from Avis on that street), but I had never been in the clothing stores. Wow. It was overwhelming. You could spend weeks just shopping. There are little boutiques (um, $500 for a shirt-I don't think so!), European designers' shops, and so much more. After lots of browsing and sticker shock, I found a store called Ojay that was having a 40% off sale, and I bought a top (pictured here) and a blue silk dress that I just "had to have." I'm sure I'll find an occasion for wearing it at some point, and it was on sale! Anyway, I also got a black skirt and some jewelry at Sportsgirl (a pretty popular chain here) and called it a day.

As I got ready for the evening, I snapped a few pictures of yet another awesome sunset from our balconies. I'm not sure I'll ever get sick of this. I may have to create an entire photo book of sunset shots when we leave Australia! Seriously, the sky was this color. The water looked like gold.

Soon Zack came home with full grocery bags and started to prepare a feast!  We started with an appetizer (Australians would call this an entree or canape) of toast with brie cheese and spiced pear paste, paired with a delicious Yarra Valley wine.  You can see me enjoying that in the picture at the top. Side note-wow, do I look pale. I don't think I've ever been this white; I guess that's what two winters in a row will do to you! Anyway, it was enjoyable to watch Zack navigate the kitchen. I did have to tell him where to find a few things, but he is darn good at making a few things (namely sandwiches and pasta), so he didn't need my help.
Zack made us a delicious dinner of pasta with alfredo sauce and crab cakes, along with some yummy garlic bread. It was awesome! Yes, he even bought that candle to go along with the dinner. What a guy; I think I'll keep him! After we ate, we went out to a fun little bar on Acland Street and had a drink. Some Australian guy even shared his chocolate dessert with us-random (but delicious)! We went home and didn't even have room for the dessert Zack had bought for me (my favorite chocolate cake from the place near his work), so I got to eat that for breakfast on Saturday! It was a great Friday night on this side of the world. You should leave a comment and tell us about your weekend!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Blue Mountains

On Sunday we headed to the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney. They actually do look blue, apparently because of the eucalyptus oil combining with the atmosphere to create a blue haze. It was kind of a trek to get out there, because they were working on part of the train route, so we had to take a bus for about an hour, wait for awhile, and then take a train for over another hour. But it was worth it. We started by walking through town and checking out the Three Sisters. This is a famous rock formation, and all of the tourists were there.

Then we started our hike (or bushwalk as they would call it here), and it was quite the hike! We went down the Giant Steps (all 900 of them-seriously), walked through the oh-so-green rainforest, saw several waterfalls, heard lots of noisy birds, and went back up a trillion more steps as part of the loop. We only saw a few people once we got away from the big staircase down into the valley. The whole thing took us a few hours, and our legs felt the results of those darn stairs for several days afterward! We felt like we were climbing a 14er in Colorado, huffing and puffing and wondering when we would ever reach the top. Maybe we're just out of shape (quite possible).

On our long walk back through town to the train station, we stopped in a little place for some Chinese food. Much to our delight, the prices were completely reasonable, the quality of the food was excellent, and the portions were large. You don't find that winning combination in Australia very often! We both fell asleep on the train and bus ride back to town and woke up sore the next morning. I think the Blue Mountains are a pretty cool place to visit if you have a spare day while visiting Sydney. We're kind of spoiled brats because we compare everything to the mountains in Colorado (and not much compares), but we were impressed with the waterfalls and green plants growing everywhere. It was also nice to just get out of the city. We sure did miss Molly the Trail Dog though; she would have had a blast out there!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Sunny Sydney

We enjoyed Sydney much more this time around. Maybe it was the warm, sunny weather. Maybe it was the liveliness we saw in the streets (we were here on a Sunday-Tuesday last time). Maybe it was because we were able to explore things at a more leisurely pace and not spend all our time on the normal tourist attractions. Whatever it was, it was nice. We like Sydney a lot, but we're ready to head home to Melbourne tonight. Zack probably has to come back here next week, but maybe only for a day or two.

I spent my days exploring various parts of the city. You've already seen some pictures from Watson's Bay. But I also walked around the CBD, taking pictures in the Royal Botanic Gardens and at Hyde Park. At Hyde Park, there is the Anzac Memorial. It's basically like a miniature Washington D.C. with a reflecting pool, monuments and statues, and an eternal flame in tribute to fallen soldiers. Zack and I met for lunch a few times this week and enjoyed our picnics in the park.

Since we were here over the weekend, we went out on Friday night and pretended we were still young. We hung out at an Irish pub called Scruffy Murphy's and saw some live music by a group called Elevation. They were a U2 cover band, and they didn't exactly make up for us missing the real U2 concert in Denver this summer, but we had a good time nonetheless. We even went downstairs to the club for awhile and stopped by the Marble Bar at the Hilton to see all the "pretty people." I don't think we got to bed until about 2am, which is very late for us!

I'm at a McDonald's using their free internet right now to write this blog entry. We're in the process of switching internet companies, because we hate Vodaphone, so it may be a few days before I'm able to write again. We'll see! In the meanwhile, you can look forward to the entry on the Blue Mountains hike, from which our legs are STILL recovering!