Friday, December 5, 2008

!!!

Getting on a plane to come back to Chicago in 14 days and just heard from Kaia's school that one of her classmates has CHICKEN POX!

Let's hope this won't affect our travel plans.....

Australians have much more to do at the end of the year than just deal with Christmas. Because it is the beginning of summer here, kids are in their final days of school so most families are in the middle of end-of-the-year concerts, performances, final exams and things like that.


However, we are truly enjoying watching the Aussies prepare for Christmas....hardly anyone has Christmas lights decorating the outside of their houses - probably because it's summertime here and it really doesn't get dark until about 8:45pm. In the stores, there is not nearly the same amount of Christmas "decor" (read: crap) that we have in America, so not only do Australians not have as much to choose from, but they decorate very subtly in the first place.

Not a bad thing in my opinion....

Monday, November 24, 2008

This is why I love this man....

He knows the importance of a good sandwich. And Manny's Deli in Chicago makes one of the best....

http://www.suntimes.com/news/politics/obama/1292626,obama-visits-mannys-deli-112108.article

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

FaceBook - the ultimate time SUCKER

Is anyone as annoyed with FaceBook as I am? I know this sounds snobby, but after receiving a few (read: TONS) of "invitations" to join, I finally registered. And while it's great to reconnect with everyone, I distinctly remember not living in a cave prior to joining (meaning it is just as easy to email, phone call or better yet, send an old-fashioned LETTER).

Here's an idea for both myself and others: send that email you've been meaning to send to a friend, then get off the computer and go out and enjoy yourselves!

To be put on my wall: "Facebook is a giant waste of time".

Monday, November 10, 2008

Gone Native?

The Connor family is busily preparing for our first trip home for the holidays....well, at least one of the three of us is preparing. I must say the feelings are a bit interesting. I'm certainly looking forward to seeing family and friends, but the thought of dealing with a Chicago winter is almost enough to make me cancel our plane tickets. Melbourne is moving into summer and the days and nights are just beautiful here. Everything is in bloom (sneeze, sneeze, oh those allergies!) and you can smell jasmine, honeysuckle and scented roses in the air. Much more tropical than Chicago.

Swimming is a huge deal here and is ingrained into the Aussie lifestyle It's part of Kaia's curriculum at school and the girls go once a week for lessons. I too am back in the pool and am enjoying their 50 meter outdoor swim lanes here. Almost at 2 kilometers total and thinking about doing an open water (ocean) swim as well.

I would say our settling in process is complete - we have been living in Melbourne for almost 10 months and it feels like home. There is an Aussie tune that Kaia loves to sing called "Home Among the Gumtrees" which kind of sums up my feelings right now:

Give me a home among the gum tress
With lots of plum trees
A sheep or two and a kangaroo
A clothesline out the back
Veranda 'round the front
And an old rocking chair

Granted, we are not living near sheep or kangaroos (and no, they don't roam freely around Melbourne), but the standard of living here is much more relaxed. I'm interested to see how things will feel once we are home and back down under again....

No worries though - she'll be right....Flat white anyone? Or champagne?


If you want to hear the entire "Home Among the Gumtrees" song, click on this link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2qihozUSMM

Aussie tip for you: It's most enjoyable listening after you've tipped back a few tasty beverages.....

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Random Ramblings

I know, I know....no posts since July????

I wish I could say things have been "full on" (an Aussie term for completely busy, chaotic, etc.) and in retrospect they are but not in the newsy, worthy-of-a-blog kind of way. Our days are spent going to school, going to the market, keeping the house tidy, working in infrequent trips to the gym and the typical day-to-day business of life.

I'm exploring an awakening interest in art and have found I'm very interested in the Aboriginal culture and their paintings which in turn is lighting something in the back of mind.....should I start drawing? a journal?

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Slam Dunk

We just returned from a fantastic vacation on Dunk Island. The island itself is located in the state of Queensland which is about a 4-hour plane ride north of Melbourne. Queensland is home to the Great Barrier Reef and Dunk sits right on the far-north tip of the reef. We took a commercial airliner from Melbourne into Cairns and then a 5-seater (!!!) puddle-jumper plane to the island. Ben was gripping the seat arms during that flight.

The Dunk Island Resort is the only hotel/resort on the island and the remainder is protected national rainforest. You can walk the entire island in about 3-4 hours so it is fairly small. Our room at the resort opened up on to the beach and Brammo Bay and we were able to watch beautiful sunsets every evening.

Ben did the island rainforest walk up Mount Kootaloo which is a 45-minute walk UPHILL to the top. Good exercise and gorgeous views. He also did the Sunset Sea Kayak Tour which he really enjoyed.

Between the Aussie mainland and Dunk Island is a tiny island called Purtaboi. We rented a small boat take us to Purtaboi for a family picnic and exploring which was great - sort of like "Gilligan's Island" - except our picnic hamper had champagne....the island is very rocky and the "beach" is almost all coral so you need water shoes or something to protect your feet.

We enjoyed the beaches, swimming pools (solar-heated - brrrr!), sea-kayaking (saw a 15ft. sea turtle while out on the kayaks), jet skiing, beautiful sunsets and good food. The beach and rainforest scenery are out of a picture book and it was fun to watch people gaping (when we weren't staring at the beauty ourselves).

I took a snorkeling trip out to the
Eddy Reef which is a small horseshoe part of the Great Barrier Reef. It's a 1 1/2 hour fast boat trip out to the site so lots of people were getting seasick which was kind of gross, but once we got there everyone was fine. I did snorkel and also ended up doing an introductory scuba dive with an instructor. The dive is handheld and they take you down about 20 feet to "swim with the fishes". We got to put our hand inside a GIANT clam, touch sea anemones and watch an octopus scurry away. Just truly incredible....I think I want to go for the diver certification now.

The island is home to the
Ulysses Butterfly which has an electric blue wingspan of 5 1/2 inches. One landed on my sarong for a moment and it was just the most gorgeous thing.

Kaia and Ben took a couple of jet-skiing rides. I can already tell Kaia has a need for speed.
And I promised to blog on the insects - well....to put it bluntly they were HUGE. We saw a Golden Orb Spider on the resort. Stunning in a fearsome-size kind of way. You could totally tell we were tourists because all the Aussies were just walking right by us while we are staring at the size of this thing. Just so you know, that spider is a SHE. The one we saw was as large as Ben's entire hand (not just the palm). She hangs out on her web (which was strung about 12 feet above the sidewalk BETWEEN trees) and all her teeny tiny (think the size of your pinkie fingernail) boyfriend spiders (the males) crawl around on the edges of web waiting for a mating opportunity.

Makes me glad I'm a she and not a he....

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

40 in Australia

Today is my 40th birthday.
Well, actually the day of my birth starts in 2 hours, but I'll be too tired to post at midnight so we'll just improvise.

I was going to write about how the past 40 years have been great and I'm looking forward to the second part of my life and blah, blah, blah but once again I must post about an Aussie insect.


Now, the insect is not necessarily exclusive to Australia. However, since he's hanging out on my window screen right now I am taking creative license to say this specific insect is exclusive to my little neck of the woods. The insect is a Praying Mantis and he has been walking up and down on my window screen all day today.

For now, he's on the outside of the window screen so we are all happy. And to tell you the truth, he's fascinating. He's got big, googly eyes and he turns his head to look at you. I know my American com padres are wondering how big he is so think 3 inches. Large and green. Kaia decided to name him "Leafy". Kaia's playdate thought "Fluffy" was more appropriate. I like the name "Stayoutofmyhouse".

But I digress....I'm 40 years old - Happy Birthday to Me! As much as I would like to be in the States celebrating my 40-ness with friends and family (and summer), I must say my new Aussie mates are doing a fine job of looking after me. Plus the winter here is, well, non-existent. The days are in the low 60's with sunshine. Some gray clouds and rain occasionally, but it certainly is not cold. Nothing a coffee or glass of champagne can't help.

I'm trying to reminisce about my life so far, but I can't help but think about the future. I think it shall be truly interesting. New experiences, new sights and sounds, holding on to family, mixing new friends with old, appreciating the small things in life and being grateful for the larger things as well.

We are off on a much-needed holiday to Dunk Island near the Great Barrier Reef next week.....I'll post about the island insects when I'm back. :)

Friday, June 6, 2008

PUMP you up...(NOT)

A few weeks back, Ben and I joined a health club to get our just-about-40 bodies back into 20-something shape. Ben calls it the "Schwarzenegger-ization of Ben and Maura". The gym is only a 5-minute walk from Kaia's school so I have been very good about dropping Kaia off and getting to the club to "wail on my pecs*". Additionally, the club offers some very fun group classes with names like Body Combat and Body Pump. I've tried some of these classes and found I enjoyed them very much - especially the Body Combat one which employs lots of karate and Tai Chi movements for those days when you pretend you beat the hell out of an imaginary opponent .

Anyway, on Mondays the gym offers a group class called "Body Attack" which consists of 50 minutes of cardiovascular exercise. The instructor is a waif named Kerry who looks like she was born to teach these classes - you know the kind: 0% body fat, smiling the entire class and a perennial optimism even when doing pushups. So we start the class with music blaring and we are all jumping around looking like blobs while Kerry is happily showing us how she can talk normally even with her heart rate pulsating through the roof. We go through our warmup and jump into our "Are you Feeling It Yet????" sequences when about halfway through the Body Attack class we are performing high-step running. Here's the scenario: I'm high-stepping it, left, right, left, right, left and then when right foot comes down I land inappropriately on my ankle which then proceeds to betray my almost-40 body weight. I tumble down, down, down.

Oh the horror!

Needless to say, the ankle was twisted and I was unable to finish the class which is unfortunate because that isn't very Schwarzenegger-like. This is the first time I have ever fallen in a class and I'm wondering is this the classic middle-age "beginning of the end"? Let's hope not.

Ben and Kaia wrapped and iced my ankle for me that evening after I took off my shoe and realized there was a bit more swelling than I originally thought. I'm taking the rest of the week off from the gym which isn't very Schwarzenegger-like either, but is good business for the bakeries and pastry-shops in the area....


*"wail on your pecs" Reprinted without permission from Beth Somers

Saturday, May 17, 2008

2 Tickets to see "Iron Man" movie: $35
Tapas and glass of wine at Kasbar restaurant: $45
Money to pay babysitter: $75

1st official "date" in Australia with my husband = priceless

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Not to rub it in but....

here in Melbourne we have moved into our first week of winter.

It's 64 degrees and sunny.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Connor Sports Report - Aussie Footy

Ben and I joined a health club last week. Our membership includes 3 complimentary sessions with a personal trainer. So while I'm familiar with gyms and their equipment, I thought it would be a good idea to meet with a trainer and develop a fitness program that would suit my needs and time constraints.

So I was assigned to Mark (Aussie pronunciation = "Mahck"). Mark is an ex-footy player with a neck span of about 3 feet. He is passionate about footy so while taking me through my workout, he gave me the low-down on Australian Rules Football.

For those unfamiliar (read: non-Australians), Australian Rules Football is extremely popular (read: obsessive) in Melbourne. The game and teams are governed by the Australian Football League (AFL). The fans call the AFL governing body "The Devil Reincarnated". There are a total of 16 teams in Australia with 9 of these teams residing within Melbourne area. So needless to say there is a lot of footy rivalry in this town. Ben and I have attempted to watch this game on the telly a few times and came away completely confused. While it's called football, the game itself is more like soccer and NFL football but without any protective padding. Players throw, kick and run with the football. The game referees blow their whistles, but the players don't seem to notice or listen to the whistle-blowing and keep on playing. Mark says this is because while there rules to the games they are not set in stone and are are considered "interpretive". So the referees calls/decisions might change from game to game.

Mark says this makes the footy fans "chuck a spaz" (read: get angry).

A popular (read: required) thing to do within Melbourne is be associated with a footy team. There are generations of families who all "barrack" (read: cheer) for their team. The Connor Family has already been asked several times who our team of choice is and since we are undecided, the pressure is on for our Aussie friends to recruit us to cheer for their beloved. Saturday is footy day and everywhere you go, whether the market or the pubs you'll see fans with their footy scarves on promoting their love for their specific club. The scarves are just like the scarves we wear in winter, but they have the footy team's name and colors on them. Sort of like wearing a Chicago Bears winter scarf.

Anyway, back to Mark. In the midst of describing the fervor people have for their teams he also said it is very common for rivals (this means FANS not the actual team members) to seek each other out and "give it heaps". In American terms, this means to "talk trash" about the other's team.

For example, Mark said if you really want to offend a fan from the opposing team you walk up to them and say

"Hey Filth.."

and if you really want to insult them you say "Hey Filth" with an American accent....

(Picture me lifting weights and cracking up at the same time - ROLF! :)

Anyway, Mark is trying to recruit me to support his team which is Carlton (or is it Collingwood? or St. Kilda? or Richmond?)

He has one more training session to convince me....

Saturday, May 3, 2008

My stomach gets all Misty('s)

I have an Aussie girlfriend who lives in Perth and her name is Catherine. We met each other when our kids were littlies and she turned me on to an Australian website that sells US foods like peanut butter (Jif), A&W Root Beer (1 can is $2.20!), etc. Anyway, if you want to take a look it's:

http://www.usafoods.com.au/products.php

We haven't purchased anything off the site but another plus is they have a store located near us so we can also go shopping for that much-craved Apple Jacks cereal if we need to.

However, the best find on the US Foods website is the link to Misty's American Diner. Yes, that's right A-MER-I-CAN.

http://www.mistysdiner.com.au/index.asp

Ben and I have been craving an American burger since we got here and McDonald's just doesn't do the trick. So we visited Misty's this evening for dinner and came away fat and happy. Misty herself took our order and we exchanged "Where are you froms?". She's from Arizona -- how she landed in Melbourne is an answer we'll get the next time we go there to dine. Ben and I ordered two American cheeseburgers, onion rings and chocolate shakes. Kaia got the Kids Burger Special which included a juice box. I mention the juice box because unfortunately, she ended up drinking 1/2 of my shake and 1/2 of Ben's.

Which was a darn shame because you have to understand that when Aussies make milkshakes they don't put ice cream in them. They only put chocolate sauce in milk and blend. That's not a shake - that's CHOCOLATE MILK. Misty on the other hand made a true American stick-to-your guts shake and the shame was that Kaia drank most of ours and left the people who pay for her meals wanting for more....

The burgers were outstanding - thick, delicious and topped with the works. Misty tried to talk us out of the onion rings because she "doesn't hand make them". We wished we took her advice and gone with her homemade breaded cheese sticks instead. Kaia's meal came with french fries which were de-lish. Misty made sure we liked everything and even gave Ben a sample of her home-cooked chili. Plus she sells Hershey's Chocolate Syrup so we happily took one bottle off her hands for the bargain price of only $12.99

Rest assured we'll be back for more.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mix & Match or ala Carte

Day 1 of my new Physical Fitness regimen and after a terrific workout I believe I've figured out the solution to life's problems:

Wine, Anti-depressants, Exercise --

Put them in whatever order you choose.....

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Back in the saddle

OK, so Ben and I will be 40 years old this year....I know, I know, most of you thought "Wow, they are such a hip, young couple they couldn't possibly be older than 29...".

Well, sorry to shatter the dream but in honor of our "milestone" we've decided to celebrate the relentless coming of middle age.

So Great Barrier Reef here we come...

Details to follow when we head out in July.....

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Vent

I want to go home.

I miss my family, my friends and my life back there. I don't want to "experience" and "enjoy the adventure" anymore. I want to hold my nieces.

There I said it. Now it's off my chest and I can continue on.

OK I'm going shopping.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

God Save the Queen


Now that we are getting settled into Melbourne and Kaia is back at school full-time, I have been able to start exploring this wonderful city we are so lucky to live in.

So Ben was running late for work the other day and I ended up driving him to his office. Since I was downtown sans husband and child, I decided to visit the infamous Queen Victoria Market. After navigating my way there I roamed around for a full three hours taking in the sights and sounds of the QVM. I don't believe there is anything like it in the States. The market is open every day but Mondays and Wednesdays. I can only describe it as a farmer's, "got it off the back of a van", art fair and supermarket on steroids. There is something for everyone here. Fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, olive oil, coffees and wines are just the beginning --- butchers, fishmongers, delicatessens offering meats, cheeses, olives and the like. Several bakers offer cupcakes to fresh sourdough loves and croissants. It's a foodies heaven. The stall owners shout their prices to the public and it gets more frantic as the hours pass on because they want to get rid of their merchandise.

And if you don't want to shop for food, there are aisles and aisles of clothing, coats, shoes, jewelry, souvenirs, housewares and your odds-n-ends like soaps, candles and mirrored pictures of Andy Garcia or Tony Soprano. There are even animals and a pet shop. If you want to try on clothes, a stall owner will happily hold up a curtain for you for "privacy". Shoes? Sit on a folding chair and if they've got it in their truck they'll be happy to talk over a price with you.

I got a fabulous pair of boots for only $99 (which is a deal in Australia)!

The only thing the Queen Vic Market is missing is the fabulousness of the Kane County Flea Market. The Flea will always be one of my all-time favorites --- not because of their wares, but because of the fantastic company I keep on those trips.

You know who you are....

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Onion Makes Me Laugh Until I Cry

One of the things I was missing from the States was Ben bringing home a copy of the latest Onion - an opinionated newspaper with a fairly irreverent look at life, politics, sports and just about everything in between.

Thanks to my little sister Colleen for alerting me to the fact that the Onion is online! Now I get to enjoy a laugh every now and then with my "flat white". This is what I found today - enjoy~

http://www.theonion.com/content/node/77294




Monday, April 7, 2008

What are ya aftah?

I've been gathering little tidbits of Aussie words and sayings to share with my readers. So here's a sample of what Australian words/lingo versus what Americans say:

Rock Melon = Cantaulope
Good On Ya = Congratulations
What's On = What's Happening (like on a weekend or evening)
Diary = Calendar
Fairy Floss = Cotton Candy
Lolly = any type of candy
Breky = Breakfast

And my personal favorites:
Having a yak = having a chat
Bloody Hell = insert your favorite swear word here.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Road Trip!

Feeling extremely comfortable behind the wheel, Ben, Kaia and I headed to Phillip Island this week for a much-needed holiday. The island is a 90 minute drive southeast of Melbourne and is well-known for its famous "Penguin Parade". You can purchase tickets to enjoy the experience. The parade happens every evening after dusk when the world’s smallest penguins, the Little Penguins, emerge from the sea after a day of fishing and waddle ashore to their sand dune burrows. We weren't really sure what to think until we actually saw the penguins....so CUTE and all fat and happy waddling up the shore. There were hundreds and hundreds all coming up from the waves and as they were shaking the water off their feathers you can hear the penguin babies calling for them. We were able to watch the penguins walk up the shore towards the burrows - they stop every now and then to listen for their baby. The ranger said that some penguins have walked all the way to the parking lot which was a good mile away! We were instructed to look under our cars for any stray penguins and inform a ranger so they could scoop them up before anything unfortunate happened.

An amazing experience.

We also visited the Phillip Island Wildlife Center and were able to hand-feed the kangaroos, wallabies and emus. Kaia LOVED it. The roos were extremely gentle -- the wallabies a bit more pushy (they wanted to get at the food) and the emus were definitely the bullies of the bunch. We just puffed ourselves up to make ourselves look bigger and they left us alone. Ben took that pic of the koala - isn't it ADORABLE?

During our two-night stay there was a windstorm raging across Melbourne with gale-force winds. Phillip Island was hit as well and the island power went out at 2pm and was not restored until 9pm that evening. Afternoon naps were taken by all as there was not much else to do. Tons of trees and huge branches came down but luckily no one was injured.

Kaia's next term break in late June so we are planning to go somewhere warm since it's going to be WINTER here.

How weird is that? Winter in July??

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Easter What???

The Connor family has just closed out our first Easter in Australia - successful by Kaia's standards which is good because I have been berating myself for not putting enough stuff in the Easter baskets this time. But I'll cut myself some slack since I just didn't have the time or wherewithal to put a whole lot of effort into the holiday this year.

On to more interesting things:

Kaia came home from school the other day claiming she saw the Easter Bilby during class.

I was sure I didn't hear her right so I just said "You saw the Easter Bunny at school? Oh that's good because I talked to him the other day to make sure he knows we moved to Australia and he promised me that he knew our new address and he'll be here on Easter..." -- etc. etc...

Kaia looked at me like I had three heads and said "Mom, I didn't say Bunny I said BILBY."

Huh???

So Kaia gave me the lo-down. The bilby is a native Australian marsupial who has long ears. The species is endangered and there are currently only about 600 bilbies in existence today. Because they are endangered there is a national effort to promote "bilby awareness" and Australians have introduced the Easter bilby. People can now purchase chocolate Easter bilbies at the grocery store during Easter and the proceeds will go toward restoring the bilby species.

So next year in addition to our chocolate eggs and treats, I'll be putting a couple of bilbies in the baskets...

Happy Easter to friends and family in the States and beyond!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Reunited and it feels so Good

The movers delivered our sea shipment yesterday. This is the part of our household which was required to packed up on January 3rd to begin its long trek to Oz. Our furniture, beds, kitchen and the majority of Kaia's toys were boxed or wrapped up and put into one of those big metal containers you see on freight trains. The train then took our container to Los Angeles where it waited with other containers to be put on a cargo ship and begin the long haul across the Pacific Ocean.

Of course, I don't remember half of the things I packed and now there are so many boxes that it looks like something exploded in our house.

But let's not worry about the explosion just yet. The gentlemen who delivered our goods were two good Irishmen, Joe Daly and Jay Fahy. Both Joe and Jay had a touch of the Irish flu as they had been celebrating everything green the day prior. Plus Joe is married to an Irish lass from Belfast.

So I was mistaken on Aussies not celebrating St. Patrick's Day. Joe and Jay were most gracious to let me know of the host of Irish pubs that are more than happy to celebrate anything Irish any day of the week.

Thanks Joe and Jay!

Kaia is thrilled to have all her stuff back and Joe and Jay were amazed at how many boxes were labeled "TOYS". Of course Butterscotch received a warm welcome, some brushing down and a carrot.

We all had great sleep last night on our own beds and pillows from home --- true bliss.....

Monday, March 17, 2008

Too Ra Loo Ra Loo La...

St. Patrick's Day is not celebrated here in Melbourne - what kind of TRAVESTY is that? :)

So, the Connor Family will be thinking of our Irish folk in the States and maybe adding some green food coloring to our wine, milk and beer tonight.

In the meantime, here is an old Gaelic blessing and our wish for you:

May the roads rise to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
The rain fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Countdown to Butterscotch's arrival: T-minus-4-days

Some of you may have met Butterscotch before we left the States. Butterscotch Pony is a voice-activated plush horse which also moves her head and ears, and blinks her eyes. Butterscotch even whinnies and neighs like a real pony. Plus, little ones can sit on Butterscotch and pretend to go for a ride.

Guess who got Butterscotch Pony for Christmas?

Kaia was thrilled to receive her "real" pony. The unfortunate part was that she didn't get to spend a lot of time with Butterscotch (or any of her Christmas gifts) because we had to have the house packed up to go to Australia by January 3rd. We had to explain to Kaia that Northern Trust wasn't going to pay for a business-class plane ticket for Butterscotch so the horse had to go on a "special" trip on a boat with all the rest of our things.
Anyway, today we received word that all of household goods have passed Australia customs with the exception of one thing: a small ladder. This is your typical $30 four-step wooden ladder that I bought for my first apartment in Chicago so I could change light bulbs and reach the tops of cabinets. The ladder has been sitting in our garage in Naperville and may have had some dirt on the feet when it got packed. So AU Customs stuck it in quarantine and the ladder failed whatever quarantine tests it was subjected to.

Poor ladder.

Since AU Customs won't store things for unglamourous ex-pats like us, we were presented with two options:

1. Have the ladder "disposed" of.
2. Have the ladder steam-cleaned.

To throw the ladder away is $93.00. To have it steam-cleaned to Aussie standards is $150.00.
Needless to say, our $30 ladder will become a sparkling clean $180.00 beauty.

I need to change the light bulbs here to.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Talkin' bout a heatwave!

Ben and I just got back from our first Lauriston Prep Parents Cocktail Party. It's 10:00 pm Thursday evening and it's 93 degrees outside.

I need another glass of champagne!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A glass of grass please

Warburn Estates Sauvingon Blanc from South Australia. Would recommend to all of you who are awaiting spring as the grassy overtones of the wine are very apparent.

Spiders and Beetles and Gary - OH MY!

I don't mean to make this blog all about Australian insects but the way the creatures are introducing themselves just begs for a write-up.

My latest run-in with an arachnid happened two mornings ago. This time the furry (yes, FURRY) invertebrate was IN THE HOUSE walking down the doorframe of Kaia's bathroom. Measurements? Not including the legs, the body was a good inch long.

EWWWWWWW!

I know spiders are predators and eat insects and all but when a large fuzzy crawler is in your house, you are not thinking about all the mosquitoes it will eat.

You are thinking the spider will eat you.

Alas, Ben was home and to the rescue -

(Side note: What am I going to do when Ben is at work and one of these things decides to show up????? Am I courageous enough to do battle with the underworld?)

Things are getting creepy enough that I've bookmarked this reference site on my computer:
http://museumvictoria.com.au/Spiders/index.aspx

It has a handy search and classify function that lets you input what you know about your eight-legged friend so you can determine what type of spider has been traipsing around your house.

How convenient.

Additionally, Kaia's bathroom seems to be a party place for all things animal as this morning we found a 2-inch gecko on the floor. Ben was home and the gecko is now outside roaming our courtyard.

I've named the gecko Gary. Kaia has named her Jenna.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Going Postal


The Australian mail system (called Australia Post or AU Post for short) is taking some getting used to. It's quite different from what we are used to in the States. First off, Aussie mailmen ride around on scooters on the sidewalks to deliver the mail. So you need to watch where you are walking otherwise you might get clipped. Between that, driving on the other side of the road and watching out for trams, I'll be lucky if we don't have any ER visits in the next week....let alone the next 3 years!

But I digress....back to the AU Post:

Besides the mail people riding on scooters, there is also no Saturday mail delivery so Aussies (and the Connors) only receive mail Monday-Friday....I believe this is part of the laid back lifestyle which Australia embraces and expats such as myself are somewhat stunned by ("What do you mean the Target is only open until 6p?").

Plus these mail people do not pick up mail from your house...you have to drop your letters off in a red Australia Post Box. Several people I talked to were fascinated when I told them that USPS picks up mail from your house if you leave the red flag up on your mailbox.

And finally, the scooter-driving mailmen do what only and exactly what their title implies: deliver mail. Only. So if there are packages or treats from eBay or any other thing larger than a catalog, you are directed to the AU Post location where the package is awaiting your arrival.

No UPS Man here.

However, we'll survive....and if anyone would like to send Skippy Creamy Peanut Butter or Culver's just let me know and I'll be happy to pick up wherever AU Post directs me.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Mmmmmmmmmmmmm

Arrogant Frog Ribet White which can be found for under $13.
In places other than Australia.



Today I drove to Kmart and some more observations


I'm getting pretty good at this driving thing....OK, at least on roads that don't have the word "way" at the end of them (IE: freeway, expressway).

Everyone I've talked to says I need to go to Kmart to get the basics I'm looking for like cleaning supplies, toothpaste and the like. So after I took Kaia to school and armed myself with my formerly-known-as-Target list I ventured out to the great unknown. I did get lost, but only briefly and here's why:

Lots of the more well-known stores here (like the Targets, Safeway Supermarkets) are attached to malls which is a bit different than in the States. It's interesting because you see people in the mall who have just done all their grocery shopping at Safeway and they are walking around with a cart full of groceries --- in the MALL.

Another interesting thing is the grocery stores do not sell liquor. It is not legal to do so. However, most of the time there is a liquor store right next door to the grocery store. Usually near the supermarket is a separate butcher and fishmonger so you can buy fresh meat before shopping for the latest outfit.

Interesting no?

Some additional supermarket observations:

The Aussies do not refrigerate their eggs. They are displayed on a shelf in an aisle. Beth, being a foodie, do you care to comment on this? Personally, I think of SALMONELLA when I walk down that aisle.

The fruit and vegetables are really fresh and the majority (95%) are grown in Australia. Nothing like supporting the economy!

On to Kmart:
The Kmart I visited is part of the Chadstone Shopping Complex which is also home to a Target, Borders, Myer (similar to our Macy's) and David Jones (similar to our Neiman Marcus) and a Safeway Supermarket. Then there are the smaller stores within the mall which I haven't seen yet. Needless to say, the mall is HUGE - much larger than Yorktown or Fox Valley.

I'm looking forward to getting lost in there :)

Anyway, the Kmart is exactly what I'm looking for when it comes to buying the necessities of life. It's a bit more reasonably priced than what I've been experiencing.

Which means I can buy one additional bottle of Sauv Blanc with the money I'm saving!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Along Came A Steatoda Grossa.....


Some of you may know that Australia is home to several species of poisonous spiders -- not too mention snakes and sharks. While the media has done a wonderful job of scaring the public (IE: National Geographic's aptly entitled "Australia's Backyard Killers), the vast majority of Aussies seem to be walking around happy and spider-bite free.

Last night before I went to bed I turned off the living room light only to notice one of Australia's arachnids hanging in its web in the transom window above our front door. To say that I jumped back about a foot is an understatement. This thing was LARGE by U.S. standards. With leg-span, it would have easily taken up the palm of my hand (that's 3 inches across)...and to make matters even more interesting, I wasn't sure if it was inside or outside the front door.

I called upstairs to Ben - who luckily was home and not in Sydney like he is today. He came down and we both stared at the spider trying to decide what our options were. But first we had to figure out if it was inside our outside the front door of the house.

Guess who did that?

Ben determined the spider was outside the front door by using Kaia's Croc to see what the depth of the transom window was above the front door. He was so relieved until I pointed out that Kaia and I were not using the front door until the spider was not in residence inside OR outside the door (what if it decided Kaia was a perfect morning snack?).

So we walked through our options:

Option 1: Ben thought he would "catch it" with a drinking glass. I pointed out that the spider was indeed larger than the opening of the drinking glass and with legs as long as my fingers, it would probably sprint away onto Ben's arm, run down his body across the floor and tackle me.

We decided not to use the glass.

Option 2: Our rental townhouse has a central vacuum feature in which you stick the vacuum hose into the wall, it turns on and you can vacuum to your heart's content. All the dust, dirt and anything else you feel like sucking up gets deposited into an enclosed container downstairs in the garage. Once it's full, you empty into the container into a garbage can.

We chose the vacuum option and will draw straws on who needs to empty the vacuum container at a later date.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Observing the Aussie Way

The first few weeks of living in a different country are a bit like having a new baby without any help or any of those lovely gifts you receive for a baby shower. Your days are spent in a bit of a fog and you need to accept that getting one thing done (like buying a toaster) should be considered an accomplishment.

This however, does not go over well with my "put everything on a list and get everything done" nature.

But alas, this is how it shall be for the next few weeks and maybe even months which is something I'll need to get used to. I'll start working on that after I get over whatever virus/cold has taken hold of my head. Yes, I'm sick and I believe I picked it up from Kaia and Ben so it's my turn. It's not very comfortable being sick when you are sleeping on a rental bed with one pillow and no cable tv.

Enough feeling sorry for Maura - on to more observations:

  1. Lemonade = Sprite
  2. They don't carry rootbeer here and Ben is still grieving over this.
  3. You are able and expected to bargain a deal on anything in the stores -- this would be like going into a BestBuy and saying "hey, I'm not paying $1,599 for that refrigerator". It's very interesting and for those of you who know I like to haggle at the Kane County Flea Market you know this is kind of shopping is right up my alley. So far I've done fairly well at getting money off on a refrigerator and washer/dryer along with free shipping. Here's the kicker: the delivery person will hook up the refrigerator and the washing machine, but someone else needs to install the dryer and that will cost me $99! GRUMBLE.....
  4. I enjoyed a lovely Sauvingon Blanc the other day called "The Arrogant Frog" - however, it doesn't taste so good when you have a stuffed-up head.
  5. Jumper = sweater, skivy = long-sleeved tshirt or turtleneck.
  6. The Melburnians are all commenting on how cold they are - they are coming off a very hot summer and moving into autumn - and they think 60 degrees and sunny is cold.
  7. I have now driven twice to Target with no accidents - although the turn signal is on the other side of the steering wheel so I keep flipping the wipers on. Maybe it is better to walk.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Happy Anniversary to Us!

Today is Ben and my 8th? 9th? wedding anniversary! How are we celebrating you ask? Well, I found out it was our wedding anniversary by reading two "Happy Anniversary" emails from Kathleen and Beth (THANKS FOR THE REMINDER SISTERS!).

So now that I realize we should be celebrating, I'll call Ben on his Blackberry and see if he can join Kaia and I for dinner and a glass. It would be nice to go out dinner and have a glass of Sauv Blanc in a wineglass and not a coffee mug (which will do until we get the rest of our furniture and household goods).

Thanks to everyone too for all their wonderful blog comments (and for reminding me that it's my wedding anniversary).

What would I do without all of you? :)

Monday, February 25, 2008

48 hours in the not-so glamourous life of a new ex-pat

Well we made it Down Undah on Saturday afternoon. The flights went very well - no delays and Kaia was G-R-E-A-T. Here are highlights of what we have experienced in the past 48 hours:
  1. Set off the townhouse alarm as soon as we walked in the place (HI NEIGHBORS!)
  2. Figured out that Target is not anything like the Target in the States (What do you mean you don't sell toothpaste and telephones?)
  3. Spent some quality time with my Australian girlfriend Catherine, her husband Vic and their two kids, Joseph and Amy. Had a few good laughs and got some great Aussie tips over a couple of glasses of Savinugon Blanc.
  4. Took Kaia to her new school to meet the teacher and say hello to her class. Good part: the little girls LOVED Kaia - they all wanted to stand next to her. Bad part: Lauriston has a nut-free environment and a little girl in Kaia's class is extremely allergic to nuts. This means no PB&J sandwiches for Kaia's lunch.
  5. Ben rented a Toyota Camry for us so I drove the Aussie way for the first time today and didn't kill my family. Kaia was walking into the store with us going "YAY! Mommy didn't kill us!!!!!" - I'm sure the people around us LOVED that.
  6. Figured out everything in Australia is not only expensive, but UN-HEARD of expensive. Example: Ben got a second set of keys made for the townhouse....4 keys = $28.00AUD

Here are some other titles I could have used for this post:

I just spent $48.00 on a hair dryer.

They don't sell pretzels in Australia - only 5 million kinds of potato chips

How long until the "glamourous ex-pat" part comes along?

:)

On a serious note, it is exciting even though this part is tiring. We are all handling it very well - Kaia especially.