Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Monster Molly

We got a BIG surprise in the mail the other day. My brother Justin and sister-in-law Cindy sent us a monster-sized Molly! It's called a Fathead Wall Graphic, and it's basically a big reusable sticker. You can get them of various sports teams, famous players, Disney characters, etc., or you can get a custom one made from a personal picture. So they had one of our dog Molly made for us! She is currently located on our door, so it feels like she's always sitting in the corner of our living room. It's almost like she's here with us, minus the licks and the requiring of constant attention! We miss Molly, but this present makes us smile. Thanks Justin and Cindy!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Zack's Trials in Traralgon

Traralgon Post Office
Zack works. A lot. Especially in the past month, he's pretty much worked nonstop...including very late nights and weekends. Some of you probably wonder what he does. Well, he works for a company called Accenture, but his current project is with ASIC (Australian Securities & Investments Commission). He is the Test Manager, and a large part of his project went "live" last night. You can watch a video about it or read a news article. It's a pretty big deal, because for every business in Australia, there is now one website for registering names (different states used to have their own systems).

Sunset at Caulfield Station-waiting for the train to go join Zack in Traralgon.
Anyway, the ASIC office is located in Traralgon, which is a random little city in Eastern Victoria. It's a two hour train ride to get there, and lately Zack's been spending most of the week there. Sometimes, like over Cinco de Mayo weekend, and this past Thursday night, I hop on the train and go join him for a night or two. Though he spends a majority of his time working, we at least get to have dinner together, and at some point in the evening he comes home and goes to bed!

To be honest, there is not much to do in Traralgon. When I'm there, I go for a run, check out the shops, hang out in a cafe, etc. The only "sight" to see is the Post Office (pictured above). It was built in 1886, and it's a historical landmark. Otherwise, there's a mall, one main street with some shops and restaurants, a few hotels, and the train station. Not very exciting. But hey, if it means I actually get to see my husband, I'll make the trip to Traralgon every now and then!

Wetland area in Traralgon where I went for a run the other week.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Mrs. Keys' Observations About School

So my CRT (casual relief teaching) work has been picking up lately, and I'm usually out at schools a few times each week. I've noticed some other differences between Australian and American schools lately and had a few amusing experiences I thought I'd share for today's blog post:

1. I already mentioned a few common names for boys (Hugo, Henry, Harry, and Jack). I've noticed a couple more: Hamish and Luca.  I haven't noticed a pattern with girls' names yet.

2. Pencils are called gray lines. Markers are called textas. Erasers are called rubbers. And pencils don't seem to have erasers at the ends of them. Kids are always looking for rubbers to use or borrow. I think bringing this one invention to the Australian school system would singularly save hours of wasted time each year!

3. Younger kids get confused when I write my a's how they look when you type them. They want to see the regular circle with the tail. It's a hard habit to break! Older kids don't care.

4. The other day I "taught" Italian. No, I don't know Italian! I guess they figured because I know some Spanish that I could handle it. With most classes, the kids had projects about famous Italians to work on anyway, so it didn't matter.

5. When a Year 5/6 class walked down the hall toward their room and saw me, they asked if I was their Italian teacher. When I said yes, one girl said, "Yay, you're so pretty!" and then almost gave me a hug. I wonder what her normal teacher looks like?

6. I introduced myself to this same class with the usual, "My name is Mrs. Keys, I'll be your Italian teacher today, etc." and they all burst into spontaneous applause. It's a pretty good gig when you get a roomful of people clapping for you just because you say your name and tell them you'll be with them for an hour!

7. Australian kids are obsessed with their rulers and "ruling up" their pages before starting their work. For some reason, their paper in their notebooks doesn't have the red/blue margin lines that we're used to seeing, so students have been taught to use a ruler to draw a line across the top and down the side before doing any writing. I sort of understand the line along the side (so the writing lines up all the way down the page), but geez, these kids are super anal about having to "rule up" everything perfectly! One girl almost cried today because she couldn't find her ruler, until I showed her how she could use the side of her book to do the same thing.

8. Every school I've been to seems to have two distinct breaks. One is mid-morning, and the kids definitely eat. It's not just a recess. Some schools call it "brain food," and it has to be fruit or something semi-healthy. Other schools let the kids basically eat an entire lunch! Then they have a later break, usually at around 1pm. They eat again and get a longer recess. It sure breaks up the day and makes it go quickly. Sometimes, you only have one subject/lesson after lunch before the kids go home!

9. Swimming is a regular part of many schools' PE curriculums. Or when I've done after-school care, lots of kids go off to swimming lessons for part of it. Also, kids seem to do their music lessons during the day instead of after school. Random children leave in the middle of various subjects for their keyboard or flute or some other musical lesson.

10. Kids trade footy cards (they look just like baseball cards!) with each other at recess. I don't think they call it recess though. I think it's just "break."

11. Teachers in Australia get yard duty just like in the US. But you have to wear a bright neon vest and carry a "bum bag," which is a first aid kit fanny pack thing. I've heard that fanny pack might not be an appropriate term in this country!

12. Favorite questions asked by kids so far:
-"Have you met President Obama and Mrs. Obama?"
-"How big is the Statue of Liberty?" (I describe it.) "Oh, well forget it. I don't want to see it then."
-"Are you from Ireland?" (Lots of Irish girls come to Australia to work as teachers.)
-"Does everyone in America carry a gun?" "Do you get robbed all of the time?" (They watch too many American movies I guess!)

That's all I can think of for now. I'm sure I'll collect more tidbits and do another post like this in the future!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Great Ocean Road Half Marathon

This past weekend, we ran the Great Ocean Road half marathon. Emily convinced us that it was a good idea, and I'm glad she did! I've decided that three marathons is enough for one lifetime, and the only other half marathon I've run (three times) is the completely downhill Georgetown to Idaho Springs one in Colorado, so I was a little hesitant about this course, because it definitely had some hills. But Zack and I both signed up for it a few months ago, and knowing that our friends had signed up as well gave us some motivation to train. Zack tried to squeeze in at least one run during the week if work wasn't too crazy (I usually ran about three times during the week), and we usually did a long run with Adam and Emily on the weekend.

Adam, Emily, Nigel, Zack, me, and Todd before the race.

In the dark, early morning hours on Sunday, we had to drive to Apollo Bay and then take a shuttle bus to the starting line at Kennett River. At least we got to see a beautiful sunrise! But it sure was cold. The start was kind of a crazy mess with slow people in the way and everyone trying to get going. We all got separated and started the run, warming up as the sun came out.

My first mile was probably the hardest. The arch of my left foot was so tight that I thought I was going to have to drop out. A few weeks ago, my inner ankle started hurting every time I would run over five or six miles. I finally went to a podiatrist last week, and it sounds like I have posterior tibial tendon dysfunction caused from overuse (yet another reason to not do another marathon!). He told me to stay off of it for the week before the race, ice it, tape it up for the race, and get an orthotic and do other forms of exercise afterward. My arch loosened up after about a mile, and even though the tape fell off after just three miles, my ankle amazingly didn't hurt much at all during the run, so I guess it was good advice!

I don't like to run with people when I do a race. I think it messes up my pace, so I create a special playlist of songs, put in my headphones, and live in my own world for a couple of hours. I did see Emily out ahead of me for most of the race; I only passed her with a couple of kilometers left and only ended up only one minute ahead of her in the end. For the first part of the race, I noticed a shadow behind me. I just thought it was some other runner who was close by for some reason, but I eventually realized it was Zack! He paced off me the entire time! I wouldn't let him run next to me until the end, and we ran across the finish line together in Apollo Bay.

There were a few highlights throughout the course. One was seeing a koala up in the tree alongside the road. Another was the amazing view around every corner; it was definitely the most beautiful course I've ever run. And we totally lucked out with the weather. We had no rain, and the temperature was cool and perfect for running.

I was also happy to run the half marathon in under two hours (1:56:45). This course was actually 23km (a half marathon is 21.1km), so we had to run a couple of extra kilometers after the real half marathon. I ended up in 95th place out of 216 women in my age group, so I guess I'm quite average. I had a 5:32 km/min pace, and my (and Zack's) total time for the whole race was 2:08:23. The first four finishers (Adam, Nigel, Todd, and me-even though Zack finished at the same time) scored for our team. We placed 25th out of 48 teams; again, pretty average!

Emily-my running buddy! Post-race picture.
I didn't feel very good after the race, but we all went out for lunch at the brewery in Forrest and my stomach started to settle down with some crackers and soup. Zack and I spent the rest of the afternoon on the couch, ordering pizza and going to bed by 9pm! We were all very sore the day after the race. Everyone's quads were especially bad; we assume this was because of the hills. Going down steps was extremely painful!

Overall, it was a wonderful weekend, and we're so glad that we signed up and trained for the Great Ocean Road half marathon. If you're looking for a beautiful race course, it's definitely at the top!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Fun Before the Run

Yesterday (Sunday), Zack and I ran the Great Ocean Road half marathon with some friends. I'll write more about the actual race in the next post, but we spent the weekend in a rental home in Skenes Creek. Fellow American expat couples Adam/Emily and Todd/Alena, along with Aussie Kristy/English Nigel rounded out our crew.

Saturday morning started with a delicious French toast breakfast cooked by Adam and Emily.

Kristy enjoying the view.
Adam and Emily cooking.

Then we drove to Apollo Bay and hiked part of the Great Ocean Walk. We had sunny weather at the start, but that turned into a little bit of rain near the end. It was a still a beautiful walk with gorgeous views. We also saw a little bit of the 14km race that was taking place in town on Saturday afternoon.

Nigel with the dogs and the rainbow.

Kristy and Nigel brought along their little dogs named Ralph and Flossie. They were funny and cute, and they got plenty of attention from all the dog lovers in the house! On the drive back to our place after the walk, there was a little rainbow over the ocean.

When we got back to the house, there were cockatoos on our balcony! We fed them some birdseed and enjoyed the view of the ocean in the background.

Saturday night's dinner was a pasta feast to help us carbo load for our run the next morning. Todd and Zack cooked up the deliciousness, and we all pigged out. For dessert, Alena tried her first Tim Tam slam, and Emily made some amazing chocolate chip cookies. Yum!

Alena's Tim Tam slam!

Todd and Zack hard at work.

No, there are no pictures of me today. That's what happens when you're the photographer! Anyway, we had a fun weekend of enjoying the Great Ocean Road, playing games, laughing together, and running the race. But more about that in the next blog post!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Kayaking in the Bay

A few weekends ago, on a sunny Sunday morning, Zack and I headed down to the suburb of Hampton to go kayaking with Kristy and Nigel. We spent about an hour out on the bay, and it was one of those crisp fall days where the sun was shining and the sky was blue. Zack and I hadn't been on a double kayak since our honeymoon in Kauai, so it was nice to see that our paddling (or maybe just our communication) skills had improved over the years.

Nigel and Kristy

We paddled under a pier, near the beach, out farther in the open water, and had a little couples' race to some rocks (we won!). Then we spent some time near the big yachts and sailboats, choosing our favorites and coming up with clever names for our future boat (ha!). I think we would name ours "Molly Brown," because then she'd be unsinkable! After kayaking, we enjoyed some lattes and muffins at the beachside cafe. Hampton is a cute little dog-friendly suburb, and we enjoyed our sunny Sunday morning there.
Choosing our future boat. :)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty=view of last night's sunset from our balcony...

Beast=jellyfish found on the beach while walking the neighbor's dog this morning...

Have a good day!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

American Food Store Suggestions

There's a new little store on Carlisle Street in St Kilda, and it stocks American products at a discounted price. They're just starting out, so right now they just have lots of soda (hooray for Dr. Pepper!), Pop Tarts (at $10 a box-I don't miss them that much), and some candy and spices, but they're open to suggestions on other items they should carry. I made them a list, and I thought you readers might find it interesting. These are all things that we can't get easily (or sometimes at all) in Australia, and for one reason or another, I've missed them at some point. I was excited about finding the canned pumpkin pictured to the left ($10 for a large can) last month at David Jones, which is a department store with a specialty food shop on the bottom floor. I do love my pumpkin desserts! Here's hoping that this new store takes some of my suggestions and prices them affordably...

Suggested American Items:

Canned pumpkin
Canned black beans
Fritos corn chips
Graham crackers
Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce
Cereals (Life, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Quaker Oat Squares, Corn Pops, etc.)
Wheat Thins
Chips Ahoy soft bake cookies
Funyuns (Zack likes these-not me)
Peanut butter M&Ms
Cornmeal or cornbread mix
Chili seasoning packet
Pot roast seasoning packet
Malt O Meal
Maple syrup
Dove or Secret solid stick deodorant
Velveeta shells and cheese

Monday, May 14, 2012

Rebels Playing Rugby

On Saturday night, we met up with Kristy and Nigel at AAMI Park to watch a rugby game. The Melbourne Rebels played the Crusaders from New Zealand, and they won 28-19! I guess this was a big deal, because the Crusaders were heavily favored. Zack and I had been to one rugby game back in Denver (the Glendale Raptors were the national champions), but we didn't really understand the game. So it was good to have an Australian (Kristy) and a Brit (Nigel) with us this time to explain the rules to us.

AAMI Park is a neat venue. From the outside, it looks like a bunch of joined golf balls with lights. Inside, it is smaller than expected, and with general admission seats, we were able to sit pretty close to the action. It was a cold night, so we bundled up to stay warm. Note the hat and scarf I am wearing. I made (knit) those all by myself! Go ahead and feel free to be impressed now. :)

I was surprised that the game was over so quickly. There were two forty minute halves, and the clock never stopped (other than at halftime). I'm used to American football with tons of breaks and four long quarters! It was also interesting to realize once again that Australian sporting events do not have cheerleaders. In America, there is no way that you'd go to a game like this and not have hot girls in skimpy clothes on the sidelines shaking their butts to dance music at every pause and break in the action. In fact, the entire focus in Australia is truly on the game. There are no flashy lights, fireworks, songs being blasted through the loudspeakers, organized cheers, etc. In some ways, this is good (you end up actually watching the game!), but the American part of me can get a bit bored with no distractions to keep me entertained. I'm cool with no cheerleaders though (no offense to any cheerleaders intended!). I'm not sure we'll become hardcore rugby fans, but it was a fun way to spend a chilly fall evening with friends.

Friday, May 11, 2012

We Have A Winner!

Congratulations to Pam, the winner of our One Year Australia-versary Contest! I wrote down everyone's name on little pieces of paper and drew one randomly from a bowl just a few minutes ago. Pam, please send me a message with your address, and an Australian prize pack will be headed your way in the near future. Thanks to everyone who entered our contest; it was fun to "meet" some of my closet readers and hear from friends and family.

Sorry I've been slacking on the blog lately...I've had a busy week of work. But I'm off today, so I hope to get a few posts lined up for next week. Here's a sunrise picture I took the other morning from our balcony that you can admire while waiting for other posts. Sometimes there is something good about getting up early!

Good morning Australia!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Cinco de Mayo Mango Margarita

Happy Cinco de Mayo! No, Australians do not celebrate this holiday, but we did, perhaps a little bit too much (note the size of the margarita above!). Zack had to work, so I joined him in Traralgon for the weekend, and we ate at the only Mexican restaurant in town last night. Then we hit up the Star Bar, which is where Zack's work colleagues do karaoke on Wednesday nights when they're in town. A late-night cheese pizza hit the spot before we crashed in bed. We headed back to Melbourne on the train this morning, and Zack went straight to work again-no bueno! 

P.S. Last chance to enter the contest!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Girls' Night Out

Sheena, Alena, and me at Naked for Satan
Kelly, Kristy, Emily, and Maggie toast to Girls' Night

On the Tuesday night before everyone had Wednesday off of work for ANZAC Day, all of the girls from our Tough Mudder Team AUSsome reunited for a girls' night out. We met up at Naked for Satan, which is a cool bar in the suburb of Fitzroy on Brunswick Street. They have yummy flavored vodkas and fun food. You pick from an array of little tapas, and you save the toothpick found in each one. At the end of the night, you pay $1 per toothpick ($2 on the weekends). It's a good deal, and you get to try all sorts of things. We hung out here until the place shut down at around midnight.

It's true-blondes have more fun!
Then we headed to a different bar for some dancing. The DJ played great music, and we had an awesome time getting our groove on. One of my favorite moments was when the Americans (Emily, Alena, and I) requested Miley Cyrus' "Party in the USA," and then we went crazy when it played! We shut this place down too and then headed home. I definitely haven't been out past 2am in a very long time, and I took a much needed nap the next day. But it was worth it. Girls' night out was a blast, and we hope to do another one soon!

P.S. It's not too late to enter our contest!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Wrong Thong

Zack is in Sydney this week for work and sent me the picture above last night. Apparently you can buy thongs from a vending machine! Yes, flip flops are called thongs here. Very strange. Anyway, Havaianas are a very popular brand here in Australia. Nearly everyone has a pair of Havaiana thongs and wears them all summer long. They come in all sorts of colors and designs. Yes, we have some too. Zack's were featured earlier in a Perth post. Mine are pictured to the left!

It's not too late to enter our Australia-versary blog contest. You have a few more days to answer the easy questions for the chance at a fabulous prize (maybe a pair of Havaianas?!). So get your comments posted!