Friday, September 30, 2011

I Got Swooped!

In Australia in the springtime, some birds (especially magpies) are known for "swooping." Basically, during the breeding season, the birds want to protect their nests, so they dive bomb toward people's heads. There are stories on the news of certain streets to avoid that have particularly violent birds, and there have actually been injuries because of this.

I guess this swooping thing happens a lot with bikers, so you see some people that have twist tie thingies sticking up from their helmets with the thought that the birds will swoop those instead of their heads (since they swoop the highest thing). People who do this look like ridiculous aliens. Anyway, I digress.

So yesterday when the rain seemed to have stopped, I headed out to grab a few groceries and pick up some dry cleaning. When I got out of Woolworth's, there was a downpour. My hands were full with grocery bags, and I of course hadn't brought my umbrella. So I got soaking wet while walking toward the dry cleaning place. While speeding down the sidewalk, I suddenly felt something hit me. It kind of side-swiped the back left corner of my (wet) head. It didn't hurt, but it surprised me. I looked up, and a squawking bird was perched on the wire above me just staring at me. I realized I had been swooped!

This is something that Zack and I joke about every time we see a magpie. "Watch out; you'll get swooped," we say, but we never thought it would actually happen. The bird that swooped me wasn't a magpie though. From what I can tell from my internet searching, I think it was a myna, which can also be spelled mynah, which may come from the word "miner" said with an Australian accent.

Anyway, who cares? The darn bird, whatever it's called, swooped me! It did another swoop down toward me, squawking the whole time, but it didn't hit me the second time. I got a little scared then (I didn't want my brains pecked out!), so I started walking in the street, and it seemed to leave me alone.

Part of me wonders if I was especially vulnerable because my wet hair looked like a nest? Check out the embarrassingly lovely picture below to see what I mean! So yeah, I've been swooped. Does this make me officially Australian?

Soaked and Swooped

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Random Stuff on a Rainy Day

I found this spider on the wall above our bed the other day. It was super tiny, about the size of a fingernail, so I wasn't scared or anything. But you hear about all sorts of deadly spiders in Australia, so I researched what kind it is...turns out it's a green huntsman spider (not dangerous).
Vanilla slice is a popular dessert at all of the cake shops on Acland Street, so I decided to make a batch at home yesterday. It's basically puff pastry sheets with a custard layer. The strawberries are my own touch. It was quite yummy if I do say so myself (and I do).
Yesterday was the wettest day in Melbourne in over fifty years! There was thunder and lightning, and this picture of a rainbow is not from yesterday, because once the rain started, it never stopped. This was taken from our balcony last week. I'm not sure if you can see it from this picture, but there was actually a faint double rainbow. No, it was not a "full on double rainbow all the way across the sky." If you didn't catch that reference, go visit Youtube sometime. Hilarious.

So yeah, today looks like another gray, cloudy day, and the sideways rain just started up again. Fun. I guess I'll go do laundry now. Oh, you wanted another sunset picture? Okay, if you insist!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Red Bull Down Under

Yup, they have Red Bull in Australia too. And they even have the Red Bull car! I snapped this shot while walking down Acland Street the other day. Not much else going on around here lately; hence the lack of posting. I'm not sure why my last post was formatted in some crazy way. It didn't look that way on my end, but it should be fixed now! Have a good Tuesday.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I Entertain Photographers!

This has nothing to do with Australia, but there's not much else going on this week. I'm quite sure most of you dealing with the now-turning-chilly weather back in the States don't want to hear about me enjoying an afternoon spent reading a book in my bathing suit on the beach across the street in Monday's 80 degree weather. So I'll write about something else! 

When I'm in a running race and I see the photographers snapping away so that they can sell their shots later online, I know I will never buy them, so I entertain myself (and the photographers) by doing ridiculous things for the camera. I leap in the air, stick out my tongue, wave my arms and legs, do a "Newsies jump" (Google that if you don't know what it is!), get really close to the lens, etc. The photographers are always excited to have something interesting to focus on rather than boring runner after runner, so they often laugh and take extra pictures of me. Zack has a cool feature on his computer where he can copy the pictures from the website and we don't have to pay for them, so I thought I'd share a few choice ones with my lovely readers.  Enjoy! 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Spring Into Shape

Just about to start the race.
Yesterday, I ran the first of three running races that are part of the Spring Into Shape Series in Melbourne. There is one race every month for three months. Zack came along as my cheerleader and photographer, and I completed the 12.7km (about 8 miles) run in 1 hour and 10 minutes. I was decently happy with my pace and placing 29th out of 83 females in my age group.
Pushing hard at the finish.
After the race, we walked around Federation Square for a bit and then went out for brunch on Acland Street. I was even able to get the restaurant to cook my bacon "American-style." Here in Australia, "bacon" is actually more like pieces of ham...not thin or crispy at all. So it was awesome to have some "real" bacon with my scrambled eggs and hash browns. Yum!

After brunch, Zack convinced me to get a foot massage at the Thai place down the street, which felt great after my run. We spent the afternoon hanging out in the sun on the beach and took it easy last night. Not a bad Sunday!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Gunnamatta tops beach danger list

So we decided to head to the other side of the bay area today towards Mornington peninsula with a few mates and ended up at Gunnamatta beach. The sun was shining, I was excited about surfing, and it was going to be a wonderful day. The beach looked beautiful and initially, the waves seemed smooth and controlled - perfect conditions.

Once I got in the water however, the clouds rolled in, the waves got bigger, and the sea looked angry. No matter, I got this. While I was surfing (attempting to) a nice bloke mentioned something to me about watching for the rip which was somewhere near me. I have no idea what that means but it is a cool conversation to be having on a surf board in Australia so I just try to swim into shore and all is well.

Fast forward to my next foray out for a surf. One minute I'm swimming out towards the good waves, the next minute I'm all alone and seem pretty far from shore. It's deep and this is shark territory. I start paddling hard to get back to the shore and after a few minutes I realize I'm actually further out to sea and this must be what a rip is. I panic, naturally, wave my arms, and in return, Aubree smiles and waves hello. She couldn't hear me screaming bloody murder for help because I was so far out. By now I'm well past the waves out to sea and losing it.That's probably the worst thing you could do. I also want to get rid of my board and try to swim to shore because it's slowing me down - that is the next worst thing you can do. I begin to think of sharks and the fact that I'm probably going to die. Keep in mind I'm way out to sea now, completely out of control, and there's no life guards or help in sight. Sharks can sense fear and panic from great distances and I was giving out a healthy dose of both.

Finally I look up and someone on the shore (can't make out who from this distance) is waving me to swim parallel to the shore. I think it's a lost cause and my arms are shot, but I take the advice. After what seems like the longest quarter mile of my life, I reach another surfer (salvation) and he points the best route into shore. I just have to make it through the enormous waves on my way back to the shore. The big wave crests behind me, lifts me up, and carries me forward. I hold on to my board for dear life and ride it in fast - it was actually pretty fun. I finally made it in to shore and enjoyed the rest of the day at the beach soaking up the rays.

Did a little research tonight - Gunnamatta has emerged as Victoria’s worst beach with record numbers of swimmers getting into trouble.It's full of treacherous rips and the power of the water is incredible. This is a very hazardous beach, with an average of 113 rescues per year.

So the moral of the story is that if you ever want to try your luck at dying, come to Gunnmatta and hopefully you'll live to tell the tale!

Note - we didn't have any pics of the beach so I googled and found these representative photos.

Sunny, Sandy Saturday

Not my feet-I'm taking the picture!
We rode with Adam and Emily down to Mornington Peninsula today for some surfing at Gunnamatta Beach. Their car looked pretty cool with four surfboards piled on top of it! The surfing was not good for us beginners (choppy and big waves), but the beach was beautiful and the weather was gorgeous...sunny and 75 degrees. We spent most of our time just relaxing on the sand. Some coworkers of Emily and Adam met us down there, so we hung out with them and went out to lunch. I took a picture with my phone to give you an idea of how we spent our afternoon. Zack looks very serene here, but maybe he'll blog sometime about getting caught in a killer rip that pulled him out to sea today. I have since Googled this beach and found many a story about the big rips that exist here. Scary stuff! But I have known for awhile that there is never a dull moment being married to this guy. Anyway, I'll leave you with yet another sunset picture from our balcony. I think this one is from this past Wednesday night. Pretty soon I'll put up pictures of our actual balcony; it's starting to look nice with some plants and lights and such. Anyway, I hope you're having a good weekend too!

Not too shabby for a phone shot!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Post-Surfing Sustenance and Sad Sports Saturday

Well, we did end up going surfing on Saturday. The weather wasn't the greatest, but we avoided the rain and had a good few hours in the ocean at Torquay. The waves weren't that big, so it was good for practicing getting up on the board and learning when/how to catch the waves. After surfing, we almost always seek out a place to enjoy some delicious fish and chips. Something about this salty meal tastes so good after time in the water. Saturday was no exception. We hit up our regular place in Torquay, mainly because you can get a fish and chips meal for $6! We bring along our own bottle of ketchup, because you get charged about thirty cents for a tiny tub of tomato sauce at most places. Excuse the extremely poor quality pictures...I only brought along my little camera, which wasn't even working for a few months because it had sand in it.

Other than surfing, Saturday was a sad day for sports in our household. The St Kilda Saints lost their playoff footy game against the Sydney Swans, so they're out of the tournament. On Saturday night (our Sunday morning), my beloved Notre Dame football team lost a heartbreaker of a game to dumb Michigan. Yes, I am from Michigan. But I went to Notre Dame, so my loyalties are with the Irish. Here is a picture of our darling dog that I stole from my sister-in-law's Facebook page (thanks Cindy!). Yes, Molly Brown is wearing her own personalized Notre Dame dog jersey. No, I don't normally dress my dog...only for very special occasions. Let's hope ND can get their act together for next Saturday's game against Michigan State!

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Rest of Last Weekend

Besides going to the footy game, we did a few other fun things last weekend. On Friday, Zack was in the mood to go to a play at some sort of small theatre. So I found the Red Stitch Theatre on Chapel Street, and they were performing The Aliens, which is actually an American play! We grabbed a few pizza slices before the show and went inside with our drinks. The theatre only holds about eighty people, so we were super close to the stage. There were only three characters in the show and one set, but it was pretty interesting. We got our culture fix.

On Saturday, Zack and I went to Lysterfield Park. This is a place about forty-five minutes outside of Melbourne, and it's full of trails through the woods. Zack mountain biked with a friend while I went for a run around the lake. I was (and still am) so jealous that Zack got to see kangaroos on his ride, and I didn't get to see any. He didn't have his phone with him, so he couldn't even take pictures. Someday I'm going to see Australian animals in the wild-argh! I didn't run with my camera, but I managed to snap this lame picture to give you an idea of the area. You could spend hours exploring the trails at this place!

It looks like it may be a rainy, cold weekend in Melbourne, so I'm not sure if we'll follow our original plan to go surfing tomorrow. We'll see!

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Win at the Footy

On Saturday night, we went to another footy game at the MCG. You may remember the entry about the first game we went to with Heath and Isabelle. This time, we saw the St Kilda Saints battle the Carlton Blues with our friends Alena and Todd (from Chicago). The stadium was a lot more crowded this time, probably because it was a night game and the last one of the regular season. Playoffs start next week. The Blues are in 5th place, and the Saints are in 6th.

I was excited to finally get to wear my St Kilda gear. You don't get many chances to wear socks like these! Alena bought a scarf outside the stadium (she's a Blues fan), so we both looked like true fans. We met up with Todd and Alena before the game for some drinks and food and then headed to "the G" for the start. Yes, I enjoyed another meat pie during the game! Carlton led for the first half, and Zack and I were gearing up for another St Kilda loss. We even had a bet going with Todd and Alena: if the Blues won, we had to buy them drinks and vice versa with the Saints. St Kilda stepped it up in the second half and ended up winning by twenty points! Woohoo-free drinks for us!

Todd and Alena

A fun night at the footy!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Spring Has Sprung

In Australia, spring begins on September 1. Hooray! To "celebrate," I walked around the St. Kilda Botanical Gardens. It's only a few blocks from our place, but I had never been inside. It's nice...lots of trees and big grassy areas. Once the weather is warmer, I can see us alternating having picnics on the beach and here.

I'm borrowing Heath's nice camera lens for a bit, so I used that to take some pictures of the plants and flowers I saw today. I thought I'd share some of them by covering every color in the rainbow.  Here you go!

Blue (Skies)
Happy Spring!