Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mama Did a Bad Bad Thing

Those of you who have been a passenger in a car whilst I'm driving will find the following story difficult to believe. But it's true.

I came home today to find the following notice in the letterbox:

Yep. I've been caught on camera driving 74 km per hour in a 60 km zone. (The equivalent of going 45 in a 37 mph zone). I didn't even see it coming.

Some of you are probably laughing out loud right now because I am actually such a slow driver. In twenty years of driving in the U.S. I never got a ticket. Not one.

I've been in Oz for less than 2 months. And I've already been nabbed. I rarely see actual police cars here. I guess they let these speed sensors in the roads do the work for them.

On the bright side, since I don't have an Aussie driver's license I couldn't care less about the 3 demerit points I'm racking up for my moment of crazy speedy driving. Lesson learned!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Weekend Getaway

This weekend we had our first Australian getaway. We headed to Port Stephens for a 3 days to wrap up the end of the 2+ week school Easter holiday.

We arrived mid-day Saturday and decided to take a bushwalk to the Tomaree Head Lookout. Hiking seems like more fun when it is called a "bushwalk." The views from the top were stunning. I am constantly amazed with the beauty of this country.

Later we hung out by the pool at the Shoal Bay Resort which was great for the kids. The Little Princess swam like a fish and the Little Buddy played in the sand and wading area. The grownups were able to lounge around and relax. Perfect!

Sunday our plans to tour the dunes and go sand boarding were derailed by high winds. Hopefully we will find out way back to Port Stephens at some point so we can experience the dunes up close. But we did drive out to have a quick look.

Yes, those are camels. Some people were willing to brave 70mph winds to take a 20 minute camel ride in the sand. Something tells me that is a bad idea.

Before we left on Monday we headed over to the Tilligerry Habitat State Reserve to try to spot a koala in the wild. We were unsuccessful, but everyone seemed to enjoy the bushwalk anyway.

And I'm happy to report that no animals were harmed during our weekend getaway.

Monday, April 27, 2009

7 Years of Bad Luck

I knew it was only a matter of time before we jacked up this gorgeous apartment. I just figured it would be the kids who did it. I was wrong.

This afternoon as I buzzed around unpacking from our weekend getaway I opened the medicine cabinet a bit too quickly. The heavy mirrored door slipped from my fingers and bumped (ever so slightly) into the lovely glass subway tiles on the adjoining wall.

For a moment I thought to myself, "Wow, I should be more careful. That might actually hit the wall next time." Then I closed the door. And saw the damage.

I called the project manager to report my "accident". I was not at all surprised to find out that this is a custom made door. I'm guessing it's not cheap either.

I did feel a little better when my six year old informed me that the whole 7 years of bad luck thing is probably "just a myth." I hope she's right!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Fitting Right In

The Little Princess and I have an ongoing competition trying to one-up each other in a little game we like to call "Who is More Aussie?" She seems to think she is more "Aussie" than me because she uses words like "heaps"and "ta-mah-to sauce" and calls me "mum". Usually she wins, but last week I trumped her with the holy grail of Aussie-ness. Parking.

I've noticed that Australians love to back their cars into parking spaces. I think it is actually their preferred parking method. Back in the U.S. I only backed my car in when absolutely necessary. (Like when going to see Elmo Live on Stage at the Civic Arts Plaza when a million other mothers with sleepy toddlers would be trying to exit the parking structure at exactly the same time. If you didn't back in you would never be able to get out!) But here everybody backs in all the time. I've been intimidated by all this backing in. The parking spaces here are very narrow, often bordered by cement pylons or cinder block walls. To make matters worse, street parking often involves stopping traffic on busy roads to parallel park. I have walked blocks out of my way to avoid parallel parking on the street. I've had nightmares about long lines of hurried drivers behind me honking while I try unsuccessfully to squeeze my big new Toyota Kluger into a tiny spot on the street.

But now that has all changed.

First, I backed my car into this tiny space at Woolies (the grocery store where you can by 2 12pks of Diet Coke for the amazing sale price of $16 this week).

Then I parallel parked my car on Military Road perfectly on the first try! I was too busy gloating about my amazing Aussie parking skills to take a picture of the perfect parking job. But trust me, it was spot on. Even the Little Princess had to concede. I am so Aussie. I fit right in.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Brightmore Reserve

Since the weather here is gorgeous and the Little Princess is still on school holiday we're cramming in as much kid focused fun as possible. My new friend, the fabulous Florida Girl in Sydney, told me about Brightmore Reserve so we decided to check it out today. This place is so cool! It's a bike trail designed for kids 10 and under, complete with round abouts, pedestrian crosswalks, and right hand turn lanes. It was crowded with little ones on all kinds of bikes, push cars, trikes and scooters. The kids had so much fun. And best of all, it's only a couple kilometers from our apartment.

When we got home, guess what was waiting for us at the front door?

Yep, the Little Buddy's balance bike, a JD Bug Trainer. He is so excited to head back to the bike park and try it out. I hope he doesn't try to imitate the crazy motor cross stunt guys we saw yesterday at the Easter Show!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sydney Royal Easter Show

Today we ventured out to the Sydney Royal Easter Show. I'm not sure why it is called an Easter Show. It's the Aussie version of the county fair, with a few key differences.

Showlink Tickets

The purchase of your ticket includes public transportation to and from the show. Brilliant! It was so easy to buy tickets online, print them at home and then use that ticket to board the bus, ferry and 2 trains that took us to Sydney Olympic Park. My kids think public transportation is almost as good as a carnival ride so this was a real bonus for us.

As far as I know, Showbags have no equivalent in the US. They seem to be overpriced bags filled with food or toys or whatever that are sold at the show. I'm not sure why people feel compelled to spend $25 on a goodie bag of cheap Dora the Explorer toys or a chiller bag filled with milk products. It seems to be an integral part of the Easter Show experience- but one we missed out on since my kids had no idea what the showbags were and therefore did not spend the day begging me for one. Instead they picked a stuffed wombat and a stuffed bilby for souvenirs.

Extreme Sports
There are lots of extreme sports featured at the show. We were lucky enough to catch some motocross stunt riders and some stunt truck drivers. The little buddy was literally jumping up and down cheering them on.


Just like the American county fair you'll see plenty of cows, sheep, goats and horses at the show. But you'll also have a chance to see diving pigs and wild bilbies. They also had a farmyard nursery exhibit with all variety of baby animals for the kids to see and touch. This was a highlight of the show for us. We also got a picture taken with a little lamb. I figured it's a good stand in for the Easter Bunny shot we never got this year. (The Easter Bunny doesn't hang out at Aussie malls).

Another highlight: the John Deere tractors on display that the kids could try out.

And, just like back home we knew the day was complete when we all walked through a giant pile of manure in the cow exhibit. Gotta bring a little bit of the farm back home!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Heaven on Earth with an Onion Slice

We found it- right here in Sydney. At The Counter- our new favorite burger joint. And I'm not just saying that because it's an American chain restaurant. The food was mouth watering.

The Counter is a fun take on a classic American burger place. They hand you a little clipboard and a golf pencil and you tick off exactly what you want on your burger. They do it your way. The burgers are huge and yummy and just what you'd expect. They have French Fries on the menu. We had ours with cheddar cheese (not that mysterious tasty cheese typically found in Australia). They serve soft drinks in big glasses with- I almost couldn't believe it- plenty of ice! They didn't offer free refills, but I'm going to ask about that next time. If they have free refills this place will be absolutely perfect.

The Counter is totally kid friendly. It's noisy so no one really noticed our two year old melting down in the booth. He was distracted for a bit when the waitress brought him some RANCH DRESSING to dip his fries in. Are you getting a feel for how awesome this place is?

And if all of that didn't make me feel totally at home, check this out:

See those cool aluminum barstools? They are the same ones I have in my kitchen in California. Miss you, Crate & Barrel.

I just checked out their webpage- and guess what? They have one in Westlake Village! I hope the American version is as satisfying as the Aussie one. We'll definitely be going back to The Counter.
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