Monday, February 25, 2013

Awesome Australian Open

Madison Keys on her way to a win!
So this blog post is about a month late, but better late than never I guess. We went to the Australian Open again this year. One day we got a grounds pass and cheered on American Madison Keys (maybe we're distantly related?). We also saw Marcos Baghdatis, a guy from Cyprus who was entertaining because the crowd was full of people singing and cheering in Greek. I can't remember who else we saw, but the weather was warm and the tennis was good!

The next day we bought some day tickets to the Hisense Arena so we could see some higher ranked players. I enjoyed watching Serena Williams again, with nearly front row seats. I just wish I had brought my good camera, because security wasn't checking lens sizes this year, and I could have gotten some awesome shots! Anyway, at one point in the match, Serena twisted her ankle or did something to her foot and went down. It was kind of a scary moment. Trainers and such rushed over to her, and the match was delayed for a bit. But after getting it wrapped up, she was good to go, and she still easily won.

Australian life is consumed with the tennis for the last couple of weeks in January. If you're not at the matches, you're watching them at whatever restaurant or bar you're at, or it's on your television at home.

"Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi"

I really enjoy the Australian Open, though I had never watched tennis before moving here. There were several nights where we stayed up late to see who would win. It also kept us entertained in Byron Bay when there was nothing else to do in the crazy rain. It's so cool that this international event takes place in the city where I live and that I can just decide to go check it out one morning, hop on a tram, and be witnessing top-ranked players play tennis just thirty minutes later!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Bon Voyage Emily and Adam!

Their taxi driver took this last picture of the four of us before they left!
In many of our blog entries over the last two years, you've probably heard the names Emily and Adam. Though they moved to Australia from Denver (we were nearly neighbors!), we didn't know each other at all until Emily and I met at a book club here in Melbourne about a year and a half ago. Since then, the four of us have done so much in Australia together. We've completed athletic events such as the Great Ocean Road Half Marathon, the Tough Mudder, the City2Sea Race, and the Bay in a Day bike race. We've celebrated holidays like Australia DayThanksgiving (twice), Christmas in July, and birthdays. We've gone surfingcampingrock climbinghiking,  mountain biking, snowboardingrunningdancing, and bowling together. We've been to hockey and rugby games, watched the Grand Final of footy, gone to horse races in both the city and the country, and we even went to the circus. And we drank wine together. Oh so much wine!

Needless to say, when Emily and Adam headed back to Denver a few weeks ago, it was kind of sad. We were glad they stayed at our place for their last few weeks in Oz (because their lease was up), so we could make a few more good memories (including watching several episodes of How I Met Your Mother).

Here Emily and I are destroying the everlasting birthday balloon. I had gotten it for Emily way back in September for her birthday, and it lasted fairly well all the way until the end of January for my birthday. But we decided it could be put to rest after that! Also notice the plate of delicious chocolate chip cookies on the table. Emily is famous among our Melbourne friends for those, and warm ones were waiting for Zack and I upon our return from Byron Bay!

Here's Adam all packed and ready to go. He and Emily are currently traveling around Japan and Southeast Asia before heading back to Denver, so they had to fit everything into their backpacks. I'm not quite sure how they did it! You can read about their travels on their blog here. You'll notice there aren't a lot of Australian entries...they always joked that they would tell their family and friends to come and read our blog, since they were probably with us and doing whatever we were doing anyway. So hello to any Adam/Emily visitors...this blog post is full of links you might like!

When we leave Australia, which may be sooner rather than later, so many of our memories will include good times spent with Emily and Adam. They were/are great friends, and we hope to be reunited with them back in Colorado. Adam and Emily, if you're reading this somewhere in the middle of Cambodia, we miss you!!!

"A big yellow taxi took our friends away!"

Monday, February 18, 2013

Luna Park at Last

A few weeks ago, I finally went to Luna Park! We used to have a view over this Melbourne area icon when we lived in St Kilda, but we had never been inside or rode any of the rides. It was time to change that, so we met up with Kristy and Nigel on a nice Friday night and finally went inside Luna Park.

Kristy and I got the unlimited rides pass (not cheap at $45 apiece!), and the boys got single ride passes and then played a few games. Here's Zack trying to get tennis balls into the jugs. He got one in and won the awesome blow-up bat pictured below. Nigel did the same, and the boys had fun hitting each other (and us) all night with them. 

After a bit, the boys headed off to the bar, and Kristy and I stuck around to get our money's worth by riding every ride possible.
Some rides were surprisingly fun; others were kind of lame. I did enjoy the sunset view from atop the ferris wheel; we couldn't have timed that ride more perfectly!
The Great Scenic Railway, which is the 100-year-old wooden roller coaster that goes around the outside of the park, was the one ride we just HAD to try. They were closing it on and off throughout the night due to high winds, but it finally seemed open and we waited in line for our turn. We finally got to ride it, and it was TERRIBLE. I mean seriously awful. If you're American and have been to Cedar Point, you know how rickety some of those old wooden roller coasters can be. Well, multiply that times 100. It honestly hurt, and I wanted off almost as soon as it started. It jostled you and banged you and shook you beyond belief. I would never never never ride it again, though I'm glad I can say I did it once. Anyway, we can cross Luna Park off of our bucket list, which is a good thing, because we may not be in Australia much longer! More about that in a future post...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Random Summer Happenings Post

Because I still haven't sorted through my pictures from our time in Byron Bay, or when my parents and aunt and uncle were here, or the Australian Open, today you get a random blog post with some phone photos of things we've been doing this summer. In no particular order, here's some of what we've been up to in January and February...

I met up with Zack one day in the city for a run and lunch on Degraves Street afterward. These camera-wielding dogs are in Federation Square. I'm not sure why they're there, but I thought I'd better get a picture with them.
We have salmon for dinner nearly every week, because it's so delicious fresh from the market. Here's one of my salmon creations...pan fried salmon with homemade pesto sauce atop quinoa. Yum!
We watched the National Championship Game for college football at our friends' place. While we enjoyed cuddling their dog Roo, we didn't enjoy Notre Dame's performance in the game and the resulting score. Let's not talk about it!
I had a celebrity sighting at the South Melbourne Market. The girl with the skirt in the back is Ellie from MasterChef 2011. You may recall that this was the show we watched religiously when we first moved here, and Ellie was one of our favorites. I just had to snap this stalker phone photo to show Zack while pretending I was looking at potatoes!
Speaking of potatoes, these potato swirls, which are found at the Queen Victoria Suzuki Night Market, are delicious. The sangria is tasty too. This night market runs every Wednesday night during the summer, and it's a great place to go to try all sorts of delicious food (I even got an American pulled pork sandwich one night) and listen to some fun live music. We've gone a couple of times, and it's been a great way to spend a summer evening.
And last but not least, I decorated our house a little bit for Australia Day (which was January 26). I'm not sure if you can even see the little flags strung across the top, but they are there. Yes, even though I'm American, I've got some Australian spirit!

Anyway, that's a little glimpse into our summer so far. The weather has been incredible (which is rare for Melbourne), so we've been soaking up the sun and making the most of it while we can. That's probably why I've been slacking on keeping up with the blog!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Jackpot of American Food

Remember this post, in which I listed food suggestions for an American store in Melbourne? Well, my aunt went out and bought EVERY SINGLE ONE of those items in Michigan and brought an entire suitcase full of goodies for us when my family came at the end of January. How awesome is that?! I can't believe she made it through customs (she didn't declare a single item-don't tell border patrol!). 

Zack and I have each gained at least five pounds since opening this suitcase of fun. For breakfast we've enjoyed Bisquick pancakes with real maple syrup and lots of sugary American cereals. For lunch, we've had Velveeta Shells & Cheese three times. For dinner, we've had chili atop Fritos, and tomorrow I'll make black bean enchiladas. I've made pumpkin bread and muffins with chocolate chips and Rice Krispie treats (with Cinnamon Toast Crunch instead of Rice Krispies), and it was all scarfed down in just over a day. The candy and cookies are long gone, and we finished off the Wheat Thins (me) and Funyuns (Zack) today. But we've got plenty of pumpkin, black beans, and some ingredients for main dishes that should last us awhile. Anyway, thanks Aunt Kathy-what an incredible surprise-you are awesome!

Our amazing stash-with Aunt Kathy and Uncle Greg.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Super Surfing Saturday

A few weeks ago, Zack and I rented a car on a random Saturday and went surfing in Torquay. The nice part about our trip was that we didn't rush or cram in the surf time. Often when we go surfing, we aim to get up very early in the morning in order to get down to the ocean while the waves are at their best, we practice our surfing nonstop for a couple of hours, and we immediately head back to Melbourne because it's either cold or rainy at the beach.

This Saturday was different. We slept in, went out for brunch, then headed down to the beach and surfed at a leisurely pace. We'd hit the waves for awhile, come out and enjoy the sunshine, then go back in, then come out and read a book, etc. It was great! The surfing conditions weren't the greatest, but we didn't care. It was nice just to be in the semi-warm water and enjoying the summer weather. We plan on doing it again soon!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Pie and Chocolate with the Fam

My mom, dad, aunt, and uncle are back in town after their amazing time in New Zealand. Today I took them to Pie Face for lunch, one of my favorite Australian chain restaurants where you can get sweet and savoury pies of all types. I got my usual chunky steak pie with mashed potatoes and gravy on top. Now, these pies are nowhere near as good as the ones Zack and I found the other day at a place a short walk from our house called Pure Pie (which we highly recommend-it's in Port Melbourne), but Pie Face has several locations in the city and is a great place to take tourists for a quick, easy lunch.

To continue our touristy expedition, we went souvenir shopping, and my Aunt Kathy got some awesome purple Uggs (her favorite color!). Then we headed to Chokolait, a chocolate place I've read about and been wanting to try for awhile now. The picture below is of the mud cake, which was delicious, but the chocolate pavlova was incredible. I'm going to have to go back for another one of those! Tonight we're dining at/on the Tramcar Restaurant, so they'll be a blog entry about that coming soon. Off to get ready...

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Sweet As Trip of a Lifetime

We flew out of Christchurch on the evening of Saturday, January 5. Zack and I both agreed that this was truly the trip of a lifetime and New Zealand is an incredible place. We were treated to a beautiful sunset over the mountains as we flew away from our dream holiday.

Here we are sporting our new shirts and jade necklaces on the flight home. "Sweet As" is a saying in New Zealand that basically means "awesome." For example, our trip around the South Island was sweet as and there will never be another vacation like that one!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A Jucy Love Story

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Aubree and a boy named Zack. They spent many months planning their holiday trip around the South Island of New Zealand, and they booked a Jucy campervan to take them around the country. When they met Jucy in Christchurch, it was love at first sight. Zack loved the quote about music on the side of the van, and Aubree loved how clean it was and all of its features. They set off with Jucy to explore the land.

Jucy went with them everywhere. She pulled up right next to the beach so Aubree and Zack could have an amazing view as they slept in Kaikoura.
She took them to wineries in the Marlborough region and stopped along many beautiful viewpoints near the Marlborough Sounds.

She held their wine and cheese and crackers on Christmas Eve as they snacked and watched the sun go down in Abel Tasman National Park.

Jucy looked so beautiful when she reflected the colors of the sunset in her windows.
Jucy drove them along the West Coast and then on to Wanaka and Queenstown. Though she got left behind when Aubree and Zack did exciting things like bungy jumping and skydiving, Jucy didn't complain. She just waited patiently for them to return.
Jucy especially loved the lupines that were seen in many places along their drive, and Jucy stopped to smell the flowers whenever she could.

Jucy was no ordinary campervan. She came equipped with a fridge, gas cooker, sink, and water tank, so Aubree and Zack could cook on the go during the day.

At night, her seats folded down into a super comfy bed, and Aubree and Zack could watch a movie on the DVD player as they went to sleep. They didn't have to wake up early in the morning, because all of Jucy's windows had darkened shades that snapped down and kept the light out.

Jucy loved taking Aubree and Zack to Milford Sound; driving through the Homer Tunnel was her favorite part. She wasn't a fan of all the rain, but she got them there and back safely.

Jucy never got tired of stopping along the road to let Aubree get out and take pictures of the beautiful views, even if Zack got a bit sick of it!

Jucy looked especially lovely with Mount Cook in the background on Aubree and Zack's last night in New Zealand.

Jucy didn't mind that her front windshield was covered in holiday park stickers by the end of the trip.
After nearly 2800 kilometers together, Aubree and Zack didn't want to leave Jucy. They were so sad to have to say goodbye to her in Christchurch, but they knew she had to be given back in order to make other people happy. They still miss their Jucy, and they will forever remember the wonderful times they had together in New Zealand.

P.S. I am in no way getting paid for endorsing Jucy campervans, though if they'd like to send me some something, I would not complain. We just really loved our Jucy and feel like there was no better way to see the South Island of New Zealand!

P.P.S. Update: I shared this blog post with Jucy on Facebook, and they're going to share it online and send us free T-shirts. Jucy rocks!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Mount Cook Mania

After our skydiving adventure on Friday, Zack and I drove up the East side of the South Island to spend the night near Mount Cook. We had seen glimpses of this mountainous region when we were on the West side near the glaciers, but the view was much better from here. This strange round cloud encircled the peak as the sun went down while we were driving. When we reached our campsite, the view of the mountains was even more amazing.

On Saturday morning, we drove to Mount Cook National Park to do a short hike. It was a gorgeous, sunny day, so we were able to get some good pictures. As seen in the glaciers, the snow atop these mountains had a cool blue tint to it.
I loved the reflection of the mountains in this random pond!

We weren't able to hike for long, because we still had a four hour drive to Christchurch to drop off our campervan before closing time. But we didn't mind the drive, because we got to pass by incredibly blue water like that seen here in Lake Pukaki. The color was truly unreal.

The Church of the Good Shepherd on Lake Tekapo is one of the most photographed in New Zealand, so we made a quick stop there to join the many tourists getting pictures.

Then it was off to Christchurch to say goodbye to our beloved Jucy campervan (post about that coming) and head to the airport to leave New Zealand. Boo!