Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I Think I'll Go See The Queen Today!

"I think I'll go see the Queen today." That's what I said to Zack when I woke up this morning. How random is it that something like this could be on my agenda for the day? Queen Elizabeth II is in Australia for ten days, and today she made a stop in Melbourne for a few hours. She was here to open the new Royal Children's Hospital, view some Indigenous art at the Ian Potter Gallery, visit with her fans, and attend a royal reception. I would like to note (with glee) that she is not going to Sydney on this royal visit; that's because Melbourne is better-hehehe! :)
Anyway, I rode my bike down to Federation Square this afternoon and joined the masses to see Her Majesty board the specially decorated Royal Tram for a ride down St Kilda Road. It was very cool to be a part of it all. In this picture, you can see Flinders Street Station in the background, the large police presence watching everyone, the fancy horses leading the procession, and the Royal Tram about to start heading my way. You can also see one of the big hats that all of the schoolchildren here are required to wear when they're outside, because Australia's sun is so strong. Several schools took a little field trip downtown today!

This is a shot from when the Royal Tram passed by me the first time. Because I was biking, I could actually follow along on the sidewalk and see it several times. People waved flags (as you can see), broke out in renditions of "God Save the Queen," and one lady was yelling, "I love you Prince Phillip!" Australia, though led by a Prime Minister, is still officially a monarchy, and Australians love their Queen!

Queen Elizabeth was decked out in bright pink with a matching hat. She looked out the tram's window and waved at everyone. This is one of my better shots; it was hard to get a great one with the glare of the windows! I've got several more on my Shutterfly site, so head there if you're interested. I even got a little peek of her getting out of the tram at the end of the route.

I love that I live in a city where once-in-a-lifetime opportunities like this are just a bike ride away on a random Wednesday afternoon. They say this is probably going to be her last visit to Australia, so I was extra lucky to catch a glimpse of her! Very cool. I topped off my afternoon by enjoying a raspberry Slurpee (the color of the Queen's outfit) on my bike ride home in the sunshine. Pretty cool!

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip pass by in the Royal Tram

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Zack Yo-Guessed-It!

Over the past twelve weeks, we've had a good time making use of a Groupon-type coupon I bought for us each to get one frozen yogurt creation per week. This place, called Yo-Get-It, is on Fitzroy Street, and it's kind of like Yogurtland in Denver, where you pick your flavors and toppings and pay by weight. The fun part is that if "yo-guess-it, yo-get-it," meaning that if you guess the weight of your creation exactly, you get it for free! We've been trying for weeks, and we've gotten sort of close a few times, but last night, on our last visit using our coupon, Zack guessed his dessert's weight exactly! We were so excited, as was the cashier. She took his picture, and soon it'll be flashing on the TV screen inside the store. This is my horrible phone shot of my winning husband, complete with his sunburnt face. Since he was getting this one "free" with our coupon, he actually got a second one for free last night. He had no problem with finishing both!

The weather has been strange lately. One day it's hot and sunny and the beach is packed; the next day it's gray and rainy and cold. This picture, taken from our balcony, is just a small sample of the craziness that is St Kilda on a warm day, especially on the weekend. We spent Sunday afternoon on the beach (hence Zack's sunburn), and we definitely weren't alone. Today it's been raining all day-ugh! Later in the week is looking nice again; I'm just hoping we have good weather when my family gets here. And yes Dills, we'll take you to Yo-Get-It!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Tatts Cox Plate

Spring in Melbourne is all about the Spring Racing Carnival, which means there are several horse races leading up to the "race that stops a nation," the Melbourne Cup. That's on Tuesday, November 1, and people in Victoria get the day off work. Anyway, one of the bigger races is the Tatts Cox Plate, and we went to see that on Saturday. It was held at the Moonee Valley Racing Club, which is in a suburb North of the city. The weather wasn't the greatest (cloudy and kind of chilly with some rain), but we still managed to have a good time.

There were races held every hour, so our routine would usually go something like this...

1. Have a drink and chat and wait around for the next race to start. This is Emily, Alena, and I (the American expat wives!) enjoying some champagne. Notice our outfits. Part of the fun of the races is getting dressed up and finding the perfect fascinator (the crazy things on our heads) to go with your attire.

2. Watch out the windows as the horses were paraded around on a little track below before the race. We would try to figure out which ones looked strong or ready to race. This horse is Black Caviar...more on her later.
3. Place a bet. We made little bets on almost every race. You could put $2.50 down on your horse to win and another $2.50 for him/her to place. We usually did these $5 win/place bets, so if our horse got 1st, 2nd, or 3rd, we could at least win something.

4. Hold onto our betting slips, check out how much we might win, and wait for the race to start. Here is one of our slips from a bet on Americain, a horse from the United States who won the Melbourne Cup last year and might win again this year.
5. Either head outside to watch the race or watch it inside on one of the big screens. There were about 40,000 people at the race, so it was pretty hard to see anything among the crowd. But it was fun to be in the middle of the action and cheer for your horse to win!

6. Collect our winnings. I'm not sure if we really came out ahead at the end of the day, but we probably came close to breaking even.

We went with a fun group; here are shots of the gals and the guys from our crew.

Kristy, Alena, me, Emily, Marian
Adam, Todd, Zack, Nick, Nigel
One of the highlights was seeing a horse named Black Caviar. With her fifteenth win on Saturday, she broke the previous record of fourteen consecutive wins set by the Australian legend Phar Lap. People are saying this undefeated horse is the best sprinter in the world and will go down in history. So it was cool to see her, bet on her, and see her win her race by a landslide. She was so favored to win that if the next best horse had won, we could have won over $80 with Zack's $2.50 bet (he did it just in case!).

So it was a good Saturday at the races, followed by a fun dinner in Chinatown. Thanks to Kristy and Nigel for organizing, and hopefully everyone back at home had a good Saturday despite the Notre Dame loss to USC!

Friday, October 21, 2011


I got this nice surprise in the mail the other day. I won a contest and got a $50 gift certificate to spend at some stores in a nearby suburb! I entered an online contest where I had to say in 25 words or less why I enjoyed shopping in Elsternwick. To be honest, I've never shopped there (unless you count going out to eat once and going to their movie theatre a couple of times-shhhh!), but I wrote some cutesy little rhyme, and apparently that worked. I'm not even sure how many people entered and how many winners there were, but hey, I'll take it. And since the weather has changed from sunny and hot to rainy and miserable, maybe today is a good day for some shopping?!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Australia 101

It recently occurred to me that before moving here, I had vaguely heard of Sydney and Melbourne and maybe Perth, but had no clue about other Australian cities or where any of them were. So if I were still in the United States and reading this blog, I wouldn't have any picture in my mind about where things were, and that would bother me. So here you go; this is Australia 101. I probably should have done this about six months ago!

Australia is about the size of the United States and has six states: Western Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania. The Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory are the two territories. We live in the smallest state, Victoria, in the lower righthand corner of the map. Melbourne, Victoria's capital, is right on Port Phillip Bay, and Tasmania is an overnight or daylong boat ride away. We can actually see the boat from our windows here in St Kilda. We'll be going to Tassie for the Falls Festival (a music fest) over New Year's Eve, but we'll ride a plane to Hobart (it's cheaper than the boat).

Sydney is in New South Wales, and it's about an hour and a half long plane ride away from Melbourne. I've been there twice and will go again with my family, and Zack has gone several times for work. The capital of the country is Canberra (pronounced "Can-bruh"), but nobody really goes there because it's just government buildings (from what I hear).

When my family comes (in just over two weeks!), we'll fly up to Cairns (pronounced "Cans") and spend some time at the Great Barrier Reef. In preparation for this, Zack and I have rented Finding Nemo. My sister Morgan is staying an extra week, and we'll be going to Uluru to see Ayers Rock, which is in the Outback. I'll write more about that in November. The whole middle of the country is pretty much desert and uninhabitable. 

Other major cities in Australia are Brisbane (they've had some bad flooding in recent months), Adelaide (known for good wine), and Perth. We're actually doing a long weekend trip to Perth for Valentine's Day 2012, so you'll hear more about that later. As the weather gets warmer, we're hoping to do some camping around Victoria and get to know our new home even more. Now hopefully you feel like you know a little more about it too!

P.S. Over 10,000 hits on this blog in less than six months...we feel special! :) 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bike Around the Bay

On Sunday, I got up bright and early, made Zack breakfast, and took a bus down to the starting line of the Bupa Around the Bay bike ride. Thousands of bikers were there, even though it was before 6am. This is the start for the 210km ride. With so many waves of riders, Zack didn't actually get to start until nearly 7am.

Here is Zack modeling his lovely jersey that his dear wife ordered for him online. It took over a month to get here for some reason, so he's very lucky it was delivered in time for the race. Woohoo for representing Colorado!

Zack did most of his training with Heath and Isabelle (pictured here in the red and white) and Jo and Nick, so they all started the race together.
After they started, I went running with Emily (10.5 miles!), and then we did a little shopping before driving down to Geelong with Adam. We met up with Zack so Adam could ride with him for the last 80km. Unfortunately, he got some flat tires and eventually Zack had to go on without him, but Emily and I managed to see them at a couple spots on our way back to Melbourne.

He did it! Zack finished the ride before dark, and he didn't even seem too pooped out. I'll let him give you all the details about the ride, the wait for the ferry, the weather, his speed and time, etc. But he did a great job, and now he has something to brag about in return when I bring up my marathons-ha! Good job Zack-I knew you could do it!

To give you an idea of the ride, below is a map of Port Phillip Bay. Melbourne is at the top, and you can see St Kilda (where we live) a little Southeast of the city. You can also find Brighton (where those beach houses are), the You Yangs (where Zack went mountain biking), and Torquay (where we surf). Zack rode down to Sorrento, took the ferry across to Queenscliff, and rode back up to Melbourne through Geelong. For you metrically challenged folks, 210km is about 130 miles. Doesn't that sound like fun?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Pooping Pigeons

The St Kilda pigeons and I have had on ongoing fight. Because we live on the eleventh floor, they like to perch on the edge of our balconies and poop. It's gross, and I've tried all sorts of things to keep these birds away: a fake plastic hawk (they ignore it), petroleum jelly on the railings (they still stand there), squirting them with a water bottle (they come right back), etc.

This is the corner of one of our balconies. See that green yucca plant behind the chair? Well, there is one pair of pigeons that is allowed to stay least for now!
Here's what I found in the pot of that plant a few days ago when I was watering it. Actually, at first there was only one egg at the other edge, and I was confused as to how it got there, wondering where the nest was. But the next day there were two eggs and a pigeon hanging around.

I've since read up on pigeons, and it turns out that they usually lay one egg and then another a day or two later. The male sits on the eggs during the day, and the female takes her turn at night. They should hatch in about eighteen days. Yes, I will take pictures! So that's what's going on around here today. Not particularly Australian I guess, but I've never seen a baby pigeon before, so it could be interesting. Have a good weekend, everyone!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Tim Tam Slam

Tim Tams are a delicious Australian treat straight out of the package. But when my dad sent me a link to websites containing directions on how to do a "Tim Tam slam," I knew we had to "give it a go." And wow, it is bloody amazing!
First, you nibble off opposite corners of the Tim Tam. The flavor doesn't matter, but so far, caramel is my favorite for this activity. Then you prepare your beverage of choice. It can be hot (tea, hot chocolate, etc.) or cold (milk, Milo, etc.), but it works best with a warm drink. Here is Zack preparing for his first Tim Tam slam with a chai latte. I'm not sure why he's making that face!
You place one corner of the Tim Tam in your mouth and the other in the drink. Then you suck up the drink through the cookie, using it like a straw. You have to suck kind of hard. As soon as you taste your beverage, you should put the whole Tim Tam in your mouth. It's important to do this kind of quickly, especially if you're using a warm drink, because otherwise the whole cookie will disintegrate. If your drink is cold, you have a little more time to use the Tim Tam straw.
Anyway, then the Tim Tam will melt in your mouth (literally), and it's glorious. Seriously, SO good. You MUST try it if you have any way at all of getting your hands on some Tim Tams. And if you don't, maybe I will hold another contest soon so you can win some! Maybe when we hit 10,000 page views? We're close!

In a totally unrelated note, Zack was the only one (out of six of us who went out the other night) who got carded at the Espy. And the drinking age in Australia is eighteen! Take a look at the pictures...does my husband look like a teenager?! Lucky me!

Happy birthday Mom (today for you-yesterday for us)! We will celebrate when you get here in a few weeks by doing a Tim Tam slam together. Have a good weekend everyone; my young husband will be spending it biking 210 kilometers on Sunday!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Camping and a Corella

On Sunday night, we did something rather random. We stopped by Woolie's to pick up some snacks (cheese and crackers, strawberries, chocolate, etc.) and wine, and then we walked across the street to set up our tent on the beach. We crawled inside, ate our little dinner, and played Farkle by candlelight while the rain started and the wind blew. It was totally spontaneous and fun, and that's what made it cool. You're not allowed to actually camp overnight on the beach, but nobody seems to stop you from setting up a tent for a couple of hours.

Check out this bird that landed next to our balcony today. I looked it up; it's a Western Long-billed Corella. As long as it doesn't swoop me, I like it!

There's not much else going on around here. We've had several gray and rainy days, and Zack is currently in Traralgon (a city a few hours away by train) for work. His big bike race is this weekend, so he's been busy training. Other than that, we've just been looking forward to my family's visit in November. Oh yeah, on Saturday night we finally made it out to The Espy, which is the famous Esplanade Hotel, for some live music. Okay, that's all for now.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Sunday Night Sunset in a Swing

Me looking orange in the setting sunlight.
Melbourne had its Daylight Savings Time switch this past weekend, so we lost some sleep on Saturday night by jumping ahead an hour. That meant that starting on Sunday night, it now stays lighter longer in the evenings, which is pretty nice. We took advantage of it by walking down the beach and grabbing these fun swinging chairs in the back of a beachfront restaurant to watch the sun go down. Not a bad way to end our low-key weekend!

By the way, today I tried out for the Deal Or No Deal television show!

My phone camera's view from the swing.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Saturday Morning Spider

On Saturday morning, Zack got up to go on a bike ride. The problem was, there was a spider web on the frame of his bike. After some searching, he found the spider INSIDE of one of his biking gloves. After some research, we determined that it was a brown huntsman spider, so maybe it was friends with the green one that I killed the other day.

So then we needed to figure out how to get the little bugger out of the glove. Shaking it didn't work; he wouldn't come out. So I suggested we drown him out. We put his glove in the sink and started filling it with water, and sure enough, out floated the spider!
Here's a picture of Zack smashing the spider with a wooden spoon. Notice the tongs in his other hand; he used those to carry the glove over to the sink. It was a fun morning researching the spider types, getting it out of the glove, and freaking ourselves out.

After biking, Zack and I spent a lazy afternoon watching (and napping during parts of) the AFL Grand Final. This is basically the Super Bowl of footy. There's no halftime show, but Meatloaf was part of the pre-game festivities, and he was HORRIBLE! I'm not just talking "oh he doesn't sound that good live" type of horrible. I'm talking "he must be drunk or on drugs or both" type of horrible. I don't think he hit a single right note, he shook in strange ways, and he even threatened the audience with, "I wanna hear some singing, or I'm gonna kick your a**." Classy. And apparently he was paid $500,000 or more for this disaster of a performance. Ridonkulous. Anyway, the Geelong Cats beat the Collingwood Magpies, and that's the end of the footy season. I guess cricket starts next? I'd better start trying to figure out the rules to that game now.

If you'd like to torture yourself with a replay of the Meatloaf performance, you can check out this Youtube video. Don't say I didn't warn you! (If you only have a moment to waste, start at about the 5:45 minute mark and catch the end of a song you might recognize.)