Saturday, September 29, 2012

The School for Wives

Though we still have at least seven months left of our time in Melbourne, we've started thinking about the things we want to do at least once before we leave. It's kind of our Melbourne "bucket list" of sorts, and one thing we've been wanting to do was go to a show at The Arts Centre. This big white spire is a visible landmark in the city, and we pass by it on our tram rides every day. It's full of theatres and concert halls, and we decided to go see a play called The School for Wives last Sunday night. Maybe Zack wanted me to learn something?!
It was a packed theatre (the picture to the right was taken early on), and the show was very funny. It was the story of a rich guy who paid for a girl to be raised in isolation so she would be completely ignorant, moldable, and wouldn't cheat on him when she became his wife. However, she falls in love with another guy, and trouble ensues. I liked how the lines rhymed, and a few of the secondary characters were hilarious. We had a nice date night out on the town!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mexican Food and Bowling

Australia is not known for having good Mexican food. It's definitely one of the things I miss about the United States. We had heard a lot of good things about a restaurant called Mamasita, and the Lowells and we have wanted to try it for awhile. So a couple of Fridays ago, we finally crossed it off our Melbourne bucket list. Verdict: It was okay. This is the only picture I have from our time there (my drink). The food was good, but not amazing, and it definitely wasn't cheap. I'm glad we went once, but I probably wouldn't go again. They don't take reservations, and it's a very popular place, so if you get there after 5pm, there's a line out the door. Luckily, we knew this and got there early!
After our Mexican feast, we went bowling. The girls had a good night; Emily won, and I came in second. It's about the only time we've beat the boys at anything! We ended the night with some deliciously unhealthy crepe desserts (I had banana Nutella of course). It was a fun night out with American friends spent doing American things!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Tesselaar Tulip Time

I grew up in a city called Holland, Michigan. It's a cute little town (settled by the Dutch) right on Lake Michigan, and every May there is a festival called Tulip Time. About a million (literally) tourists come to see the streets lined with and fields full of tulips, watch the klompen dancers and multiple parades, and eat Dutch food and festival specials like 'elephant ears'. As corny as it is, I sometimes miss Tulip Time. I even had my very own Dutch costume and marched in the parades as a kid. So imagine my delight when I discovered that a little town called Tesselaar, about an hour outside of Melbourne, has their very own Tulip Festival during Australia's spring season. I just had to go!  

The "festival" was really just one large area with some food stands, Dutch souvenirs, and thousands upon thousands of tulips. I was actually quite impressed with the number of tulips; it reminded me of Veldheer's Tulip Farm in Holland. People who aren't from Holland probably won't get the song reference, but here I am "tiptoeing through the tulips"!

I got a chance to play with my camera lenses and tried to take a few decent pictures of the flowers...

Obviously several people had the same plan we did on this rare sunny and warm Saturday!
There were several interesting sculptures, like the one seen below left, among the flower fields. Also, I'm glad that Zack is willing to go along with taking ridiculous pictures such as the one below right!

Holland, Michigan has its own authentic Dutch windmill called De Zwaan that's over 250 years old. My brother Justin and sister-in-law Cindy (the ones who are watching our dog Molly) actually had their wedding reception on Windmill Island a couple of years ago, and I did some photography for them. That's where I took one of my all-time favorite pictures (seen below).

In contrast, here I am with one of the tiny, unimpressive windmills at the Tesselaar Tulip Festival on Saturday. Ha! Hey, at least they're trying to be authentic I guess!

The people who were working at the Tulip Festival were all dressed in Dutch costumes. When we saw this girl in the souvenir shop, we couldn't believe how much she looked like a younger version of me, and I just had to get my picture with her. Seriously, this picture kind of freaks me out, because I feel like I'm looking at myself about 15 years ago!
Even though we're on the other side of the world, I felt like I was back in my hometown for a bit on Saturday. The sun was shining, the tulips were in full bloom, and the Tesselaar Tulip Festival did not disappoint. Unfortunately though, they weren't selling any elephant ears!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Elephants in the City

Well, we haven't found all 50 yet, but when Zack or I happen to come across one of these elephants on our travels around town, we snap a phone picture of it. I'm sure I could find a map showing where they all are, but I much prefer coming across them randomly! Here are the ones we've found so far...

There's actually another one to the left of this one, but a lady was sitting on it (even though the signs say don't!).

So, which one's your favorite? I'm partial to #2 and #3 (the one with faces and the jeweled one). Anyway, it's fun to find these around town, and they remind me of our good time in Thailand!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Candy Tram

Earlier this year, I wrote about the Slurpee Tram. Incidentally, when I look at the stats, that is one of our blog's most popular entries. I'm guessing that people Google "Slurpee" and somehow end up on our blog. Anyway, lately, the tram pictured below is my favorite. It's an M&M tram, and it says, "Do not lick advertisement." It's very colorful and cute, and it makes me smile when I see it pass by. I haven't gotten to ride it yet though; I guess it's not on my usual route.

P.S. Did you know you're not allowed to put the "&" sign in post titles or labels? I wanted to call this post "M&M Tram," but it wouldn't let me. Annoying!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Our Lives Lately

What have we been up to lately? Well, perhaps a few grainy phone pictures can fill you in...

We went to a footy game at the MCG a couple of weeks ago with some friends. The Hawthorn Hawks won, so our friend Nigel was happy. Interestingly, each footy team has a theme song, and most of them are Aussie words sung to the tune of classic American songs. Hawthorn's song is to the tune of "Yankee Doodle Dandy," so I had that in my head all night. St Kilda, since they are the Saints, uses "When the Saints Go Marching In."

We've been trying to eat healthier food lately. Living close to the South Melbourne Market makes this a lot easier, and we go there at least once a week to stock up on fresh produce. We also got a juicer, so we've been throwing all sorts of things in that. It's about the only way you'll get me to eat vegetables! Beetroots are hugely popular here in Australia, and when you make juice from them, it's very very red (as seen above).

And sometimes we've been "bad" and haven't followed our healthy eating plan. For example, on Friday, I didn't get a call for work, and Zack's still sort of on the bench (between projects), so we spent the afternoon in the CBD wandering down Degraves Street. We hung out at a cafe, people-watched, ate some sushi, and splurged on these yummy tiny (salted caramel and raspberry white chocolate flavored) cupcakes.

We've actually been getting some Springtime weather lately (hooray!), so we've been walking to Albert Park on some evenings and on the weekends to throw the frisbee, kick the soccer ball, and/or hit some golf balls at the driving range. Zack is finally making use of the golf clubs he brought from the other side of the world!

So that's a taste of what's been going on in our lives lately. How about yours?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

White Wine Party

White wines unocovered post-tasting.
You may remember the red wine party we had a few months ago. If not, you can read about it here. Anyway, last weekend, we had a white wine party at Kristy and Nigel's place. Everyone brought a bottle of white wine, and we did a blind tasting to see how good our palates were. The choices were chardonnay, pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, chenin blanc, riesling, and semillon. I only got 2/6 correct this time. Kristy and Todd both got 4/6 for the win!

Zack's special meatless pie!
Kristy and Nigel made a traditional roast dinner with all of the fixings for everyone, and it was amazing. Kristy was even nice enough to make a special fake meat pie for Zack the vegetarian. We stuffed ourselves silly and then tried our best to distinguish between the white wine flavors. The chardonnay was everyone's least favorite, but it was an organic wine, so maybe that made for a strange flavor. I had never even heard of a chenin blanc (the one I had to bring), but it ended up being my favorite!

Zack=Dog Whisperer
We also had a good time playing with Kristy and Nigel's tiny doggies. They are kind of crazy little things, but Zack got Flossie and Ralphie to cuddle up to him and even sleep for a bit! It was a fun evening, minus the fact that Zack lost his phone on the taxi ride home. Luckily, he already got a new one from his work. We may not be wine experts, but it was fun pretending we knew what we were tasting!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Mrs. Keys' Observations About School Part II

I've gotten CRT work pretty much every day possible since we got back from Thailand and Bali, so I've come up with some more observations about schools here in Australia. If you missed my original posts on this subject, you can find them here and here. Anyway, here are the ten interesting differences that come to mind right now (with a special cute story at the end)...

1. Most schools group their students into "houses." These are not physical structures; they are just names for groups of students from various grade levels. So in one classroom, you have a few students from each house. There are usually four houses per school, named after nearby streets or important people in the school's history or something like that. Houses compete for points throughout the year, and each classroom has a house point chart. Teachers use house points as incentives and discipline tactics. They'll say things like, "Go subtract ten house points" when a child misbehaves, or they'll hand out house points for having neat desks or lining up quickly. House point totals are usually announced at weekly assemblies, and sometimes a trophy is involved. I guess it's a way to get the whole school and students across all grades connected on some level.

2. Every school seems to have a never-ending supply of tea, coffee, biscuits (cookies), crackers, and cheese in the teachers' lounge. Maybe my school back in the US was slacking, because I think we just had tea and coffee. Australians even supply various types of milk in the fridge! I think it's part of the morning/afternoon tea culture, and I like it! And some schools even supply fruit for their students.

3. Kids, especially younger ones, freak out if you mess with their routine. I'm sure this isn't distinctly Australian, but it's something I've definitely realized as a sub. Even the littlest thing, like writing the spelling words on the big whiteboard versus the one in the corner of the room, can elicit a chorus of "You're supposed to write them over there" or "Mr. Whatever doesn't put them there." Sometimes, if it really doesn't matter, I simply say (nicely of course), "Well, I'm not Mr. Whatever, and today they're over here." I like to think I'm teaching these kids to be a little more flexible!

4. The kids at the schools where I've subbed on a regular basis know me as "the American teacher." When they originally try to figure out where I'm from, one of the first guesses (especially among the younger kids) is Ireland. There are lots of Irish teachers doing CRT work over here, so I can't blame them for thinking that. Unfortunately, recently when I tell the kids I'm from Colorado, they only know about it because of the movie theater shooting. It's not a very good impression of my state-ugh!

5. During the Olympics, many schools did an ongoing activity called the Potato Olympics. The kids decorated/dressed their own potatoes, wrote "biographies" about them, and even created events for competition (potato toss, timed slide runs, etc.). It was a pretty creative unit, and some schools found a way to incorporate math(s!), social studies, and science lessons into the project. A few schools I've been to have also had real Australian Olympians come in to speak at assemblies-very cool for me as well as the kids!

6. Apparently, at least at one school in the Preps classroom, the name for a certain part of the male anatomy is a "doodle." When I got a few tattles from Preppies one day that a certain kid was showing his underwear and/or his doodle, we had to have a little talk about doodles only being appropriate for mummies (not mommies-mummies) and daddies and doctors to see. Oh, the joys of teaching Preps!

7. I've mentioned some common boys' names in other posts, but a really common one I forgot is Lachlan, which is shortened to Lachie (pronounced Lock-hee). For girls, a few common ones that seem a bit unique to Australia include Ava, Georgia, and Tahlia. And I'm not sure if old-fashioned names are becoming the latest craze, but in one recent Preps class, I had an Esther, Olivia, Alice, and Agnes!

8. Several teachers have classrooms that are unbelievably messy. I'm talking stacks of random crap in all corners of the room and even on the floor sometimes. It drives me batty! Maybe I'm entirely too organized or Type A, but I can't even imagine functioning on a daily basis in some of these rooms. While I'm there, I try to tidy up things as best I can (without disrupting their "system"), and I try to get the kids to clean up their desks and cubbies. It's interesting to see how the teacher's disorganization spills over into the kids' behavior and messiness level. Again, this is probably not uniquely Australian...I just notice it as a sub without my own (neat and tidy) classroom!

9. Recess or break is in the morning, and kids get extremely confused if you call the playtime after lunch "recess" as well. To them, that's just the playing part of lunch after ten to fifteen minutes of eating, which is done in the classroom or outside on warmer days. I haven't seen a single cafeteria. Some schools have "lunch orders," which is some sort of catered lunch that can be ordered ahead of time. A few have a "canteen," where students can buy some a la carte food items and treats.

10. LOTE is the name for the foreign language class at some schools. I just learned that it stands for Language Other Than English. In the realm of "foreign language," last week I taught one music-loving Preps class (actually, it was the class with doodle-boy) the song, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." Luckily, I thought ahead and changed the "Root, root, root for the home team" lyric to "Cheer, cheer, cheer..." because of the different meaning that "root" has in this country!

Cute Story of the Day: I taught a third grade class today, and one boy was especially trying. Jack (not his real name) spent the morning knocking things off kids' desks, walking by kids' computers and pecking random letters, and just being obnoxious in general. Apparently (according to things I overheard from the other students), this is a daily occurrence. I had a talk with him about treating others how you would like to be treated and such, but he was still testing my patience. I sat with him on the bus ride to swimming and engaged him in some conversations about finger tricks, footy, painting, etc. When he opened up about his interest in painting, I jumped on it, asking if he wanted to do that when he was older...become a famous painter and such. He said no, but that he was sure he would be famous. I asked, "What are you going to be famous for? Playing footy or swimming or what?" In complete seriousness, he answered, "I just know I'm going to be famous, because I'm going to go to the North Pole and find where Santa lives." He continued, "I'm going to take a snowmobile and go all around looking everywhere, and when I find him, I'm sure everyone in the world will know my name!" I kept my composure and assured him that yes, he probably would become very famous if he was able to find Santa's home. How adorable are third grade boys?! Incidentally, Jack's behavior was nearly perfect for the remainder of the day!

Well, time for bed, because I'll probably be heading to school in the morning...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sunday Morning Football

It's Sunday morning, and I'm not sure how/why I woke up so early. I guess the good thing about it is that I can "watch" the Notre Dame football game. By "watch," I mean I can Facetime on my iPhone with my brother and sister-in-law in Michigan and watch the game on their TV. 

As I was writing this, Purdue tied the game up at 17-17, and then Notre Dame kicked a field goal with a few seconds left for the win. Woohoo-go Irish!! That means I can wear my new ND shirt (thanks Mom!) today without feeling embarrassed.

P.S. How cute is my brown doggie? We miss you Molly!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

My Husband the Senior Manager

Last week, Zack got the awesome news that he was promoted to Senior Manager with Accenture! He worked incredibly hard over the past few years (especially on his most recent project), so he definitely deserved it. I'm very proud of him!

I made a sign for the door to welcome him home on the day he found out about the promotion and then forced him to pose for cheesy paparazzi-style pictures as he came down our hallway. My kind husband is very tolerant of my excessive picture taking!

I found a store in South Melbourne that makes balloon bouquets, so I quickly rushed home from school that day, had them make up a Congratulations one, bought a bottle of champagne, and biked home (not easy with a bag full of balloons!) to get ready for the Senior Manager to arrive.

Congrats Mr. Senior Manager!
We have a tradition in my family: whenever someone gets a new job, promotion, or raise, he or she has to buy pizza for everyone. So I made Zack buy us pizza for dinner! It didn't quite go with the healthy eating plan we've been trying to follow lately, but we made an exception considering the circumstances.
It was a fun, celebratory evening with a shared bottle of champagne, lots of pizza, and several kind Facebook 'likes' and comments from friends and family. We've been waiting and hoping for this news for quite awhile, so it was great to finally be able to enjoy the official announcement of his promotion. Congratulations Zack!

P.S. Zack is probably going to be embarrassed when he reads this post. Too bad...this is what he gets for letting me take over the blog! :)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Frisbee Golf and Farewell

We left New Zealand on Sunday, August 20th in the afternoon. Since we had the whole morning to spend in Queenstown, we played a round of frisbee golf with our friends. There's a fun course right down by the lake (Lake Wakatipu) in the city. 
I was absolutely terrible at the game, but it was still a good time. Being near the lake made for some interesting frisbee chases down the hill! Adam and Todd ended up tying for the win in the end. 

While the boys figured out who won, we girls took silly pictures.
We flew out of Queenstown later that day, sad that our short weekend was over, but happy that we'll be back in December to properly explore the South Island of New Zealand!
Goodbye, New Zealand...we'll be back!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Exploring Arrowtown

On our third full day in New Zealand, we didn't feel like making the trip to another ski resort for sub-par snowboarding, so we all piled in the rental van and went to nearby Arrowtown. This is an old gold mining town, and it's very charming and cute. We started the day with a scenic hike. I don't think I've mentioned it yet, but New Zealand reminded us SO much of Colorado. From the moment we stepped off the plane, we felt that way. Even the air we were breathing felt the same. Anyway, there are many similarities in landscape with our home state.

Below is a picture of our whole American group near the top of the hill on our hike. That random dog in the picture belongs to the person who we asked to take our photo!

Adam, Alena, Emily, Kate, me, Zack, and Todd (and a random dog!)
Zack let his facial hair grow during our Thailand trip, which somehow turned into a mustache. It's gone now (thank goodness), but in New Zealand, it was in its full glory. Here are the guys posing for a "mustache shot."

After our hike, we explored the main street of Arrowtown. Zack and I enjoyed some souvenir shopping and fudge tasting; then we ducked into a country music show to hear some tunes. We were the youngest ones in there by about 30 years and we got a few strange looks, but it was fun to listen to some of the local talent. We finished off our visit to Arrowtown with some delicious hot chocolate and drove back to Queenstown to make a homemade spaghetti dinner. Yum!