Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Epilogue

Today marks six months since we left Australia.  And the truth is, I still think about it every single day.  I miss the beach, and my apartment.  I miss our friends and the stunning natural beauty.  I miss the sunshine, and the harbour.

Our last family photo in front of our apartment.  On our way to the airport. 3 July 2011
And even though I am happy with the decision we made to move to the UK, there have been times when my husband and I have asked ourselves, "Why did we ever leave Australia?"

When we first considered moving to the UK I wondered if having a second expat experience would in some way diminish my memories of Australia.  I can now answer definitively-no, it will not.  No matter how many places I live or how much I travel, I will always look back on our time in Australia as sort of magical. 

It really is a "Lucky Country" and I feel lucky to have called it home for over two years.

Friday, August 19, 2011

You Did It!

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all my faithful readers who voted (and voted and voted) to make Yellow Brick Road one of the Top 25 Expat Mom Blogs on Circle of Moms.

I can't believe I actually landed in the Top 25, and I am truly honored.  And, a special thank you to the anonymous reader who originally nominated me for the contest.  Thanks for reading, and thanks for voting!

To those of you stopping by from Circle of Moms, I'd like to say WELCOME!  I'm so glad you've clicked over.  I hope you stay and have a look around.

We left Australia for good last month, and I have decided to archive this blog as a sort of permanent record of our time there.  I still get emails from other Americans considering a move to Oz, and I enjoy being able to offer them encouragement and advice.  So The Yellow Brick Road will stay right here.

But my expat adventures aren't over yet.  This week we're moving across the pond and setting up house near London.  We're looking forward to a year of culture shock. miscommunication, funny stories, and lots of travel.  I would love to have you along for the journey.  So consider this your official invitation to join me at my new blog: Along The Yellow Brick Road.  Here's your chance to become one of my first followers!

Cheers,
Jenny

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Aussie Gift Guide

It seems that July is the perfect time for American expats to head home for a holiday.  It's a chance to escape winter in Australia and soak up some North American summer.  Americans are off school for the summer and most Aussie schools have a 2-3 week holiday break in July.

Annual home leave is a nice little perk that most expats enjoy.  A chance to reconnect with family and friends back in America.  And many of us want to bring gifts to all those people to let them know that even though we live on the other side of the world we haven't forgotten about them.

One can only buy so many stuffed koalas and coin purses made from kangaroo scrotum.  That's why I have put together the following Aussie Gift Guide.  There's a little something for everyone.


For Her:

An Oroton Bag
These beauties are designed in Australia and sold in boutiques around Oz and Europe.  As far as I know they are not widely available in the US.  A great gift for someone special.  They also sell key fobs and umbrellas if you're looking for something less expensive.

Von Treskow Coin Jewelry
This collection featuring Aussie coins that have been turned into necklaces, bracelets and earrings is one of my favourite things.  They're beautiful and wearable and Australian without being cheesy.

Ken Done Hoodie
These hoodies are nicer than your typical souvenir shop sweatshirts.  The colours are fun and Done's signature kangaroo silhouette is eye catching.

Havianas Aussie Beaches Flip Flops
Of course, in Australia they call them thongs.  These sport a small metal charm in the shape of Australia and they have the names of popular Aussie beaches printed on the sole.  So cute!  And everyone loves Havianas.

For Him:

Australian Wine
My favourite bottle shop is the Australian Wine Centre near Circular Quay.  They are helpful and have a great selection.  They will even package up your purchase in a box that can be checked as luggage on any major airline. 

Havianas (see above)
In addition to the Beaches version, Havianas also come with an Aussie Flag on the strap.

Bush Hat
These kangaroo leather bush hats are fun, and the Squashy collection are easy to pack in your suitcase.

Photography Prints
Ken Ducan has some amazing photographs of this beautiful country.  One of his prints (or a less expensive calendar or book) would make a great gift.

For Kids:


Between the Flags Gear
This shop benefits the Australian surf lifesavers, so you can feel good about shopping here.  Plenty of cute kids swimmers, hats, and towels.  Great sales in June- I saw lots of items for only $5 each! 

Candy by Sticky
This shop in The Rocks is a big hit with kids.  I picked up the cutest candy with a tiny koala on each piece.  Packaged in cellophane bags they make great little give aways for friends at home.

Anything from Paddy's Market
Paddy's Market (in Chinatown) is the place to go for cheap souvenirs.  If you need 30 pencil sets with Aussie animals on them, you'll find it at Paddy's.  They also have bags, towels, t-shirts and, strangely, a huge selection of trashy lingerie.  But that's another post.  Paddy's is a good place to go if you need to buy cheap gifts in bulk.

Animalz
These beautiful little wooden toys are designed in Australia.  The Aussie pouch, containing an echidna, koala and wombat is my favourite.


For Yourself:

Now that I'm back in the U.S., the one thing I wish I had more of is video.  I found a 45 second video of Balmoral on my phone today and watched it over and over.  I would love to be able to look back at quick snippets of our life in Sydney.  It would be the best gift of all.



Jenny

Sunday, July 10, 2011

How We Said Goodbye

Repatriation.  After 2+ years working to build a life in another country, we suddenly find ourselves about to return "home".  We spent our last week saying goodbye to all the people, places and things that we loved in Australia.

The kids each had parties at school and needed small gifts to hand out to their classmates and friends. I scoured Pinterest and found this adorable idea for s'more kits.   I tweaked it a bit to fit our purposes and printed our email and skype info on the back.  Such a cute little way to share an American tradition and encourage the kids to keep in touch.


We hosted a party, with sushi from our favourite place Goeman, to say farewell to our Australian, American, Canadian, and British friends down under.  

We went into the city and had lunch at the Opera Bar, and one last hot chocolate at Guylian.  We tracked down our favourite street performers and stocked up on Australian wine to bring back with us.

We walked from Bradleys Head to Balmoral one more time on our last full day in Sydney.  It was the most gorgeous winter's day.  Sydney was wishing us a fond farewell.  It was the perfect way to appreciate the beautiful spot we have called home for the past 2 years.

View on the bushwalk







On our final morning, 2 of my dear friends stopped by to wave us off.  It was emotional.  We loaded the kids (and 9 suitcases!) into the van and I went back to do one last sweep through the apartment.    It was surreal.  I walked through each room trying to take a mental picture.  This was my home.  I want to remember the happiness we felt here.  I want to carry this experience around with me forever.  And as the door to the elevator closed that last time, I knew I would.  I will always have Sydney.

Jenny

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Gifted

Last week I had a birthday.  A milestone birthday. 
Yes, that one. 
To mark the occasion I decided to get myself a gift.


I first read about it at Simple Mom and knew I had to have one for myself.

The format of the book is so clever.  I love the way it chronicles your life for 5 years and allows you to easily look back and see what you were doing exactly one year ago.  Some people have suggested occasionally having your children write in the journal to record what their handwriting looked like.  The one line a day format is not intimidating- I think I'll actually be able to keep up with this journal.  I'm looking forward to recording all my adventures in its pages.



I love this little journal so much I decided to gift it to my children's teachers and coaches as a way to say thank you to them before our big move.  A little kraft paper and a strip of printed map made for pretty wrapping.

I hope the recipients love this little journal as much as I do.

xx  Jenny

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Misadventures in Packing

Before the movers arrived a couple weeks ago, I went through every cupboard, wardrobe and drawer (or draw as some say here).  I asked my darling husband to sort through his belongings and get rid of anything he didn't want to take to the U.K.   We purged enough clothing and shoes and toys and household items to require several drop offs at our local thrift shop

When the packers finally showed up, I had carefully set aside one suitcase  for me and each child which contained everything we'd need for the next 6 weeks.  This was no easy task since I had to pack for 2 climates!  It was pretty minimal- but adequate.

Now notice that I did not pack a bag for my husband.  This is an important point in the story.  He was responsible for packing his own bag.

Fast forward to packing day.  The crew arrived and, in a very Un-Aussie like way, swept into action.  They were quick, efficient and thorough.  In less than 5 hours all of our belongings were wrapped and packed and stacked in the container.

In fact, they were so good that I was almost able to overlook their slightly offensive musical tastes (like T-Pain's "Take Your Shirt Off" ).

At the end of the day, we breathed a sigh of relief.  The hard work was done.  Now we'd be able to spend the next 2 and a half weeks visiting with friends and enjoying our time in Sydney.

But of course, everything did not go off without a hitch.  When my sweet husband went to get ready for work the next morning he quickly realized something was missing from his suitcase.  Shoes.  He has no shoes.  Well, except for the trainers (that's what they call sneakers here) he had on his feet.  Every other pair of shoes the man owns are now in a container not to be seen again for 6-8 weeks.

You might think, no problem,  just go out and buy a new pair of shoes.  Sounds simple enough, unless you've seen the type of shoes Aussie men tend to wear.  Think long, pointy, duck bill-like footwear.  That's pretty much what was "on offer" at our local shoe shop.

And then, yesterday, I was walking past our local Vinnie's- the thrift shop that served as a dumping ground for all our unwanted stuff.  And guess what I saw in the front window-  proudly displayed to lure in bargain seeking customers?

That's right:  a pair of my husband's discarded shoes!  We could actually buy his unwanted shoes back for the bargain price of $70 AUD  (about $72.80 USD).



Believe me, I was tempted to buy them back, but I resisted.  So if you happen to see my otherwise well dressed husband going to fancy dinners and meetings and goodbye parties in his trainers, you'll know why.

Jenny

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Dear Australia

I don't want to leave you- with your sunshine and white sand beaches and happy people and tall white gum trees.

I want more time to watch my kids run around Rocky Point Island and stare out at the sea and think about how lucky I am to have landed in this lucky country for 2 years.

I want to ride on the green and yellow ferry, marvel at how the sea and the sky could possibly be so blue and stare at the sparkling white sails of the Opera House as we pull into Circular Quay. 

I want to stop by the kiosk and stroll along The Esplanade holding my husband's hand and just freeze time for a moment.  I don't want to say goodbye.

We will come back some day.  It won't be the same, but I'll remember.  I'll show my daughter where she learned to ride a bike and my son where he spent so many afternoons digging in the sand.  And I'll tell my baby, "You were born here."

Thank you, Australia, for being our home.  I will miss you.  Only one week left.


Photo:Vincent Lai


With love,
Jenny


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