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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas or as the Aussies say "Happy Chrissy"

We first want to say Merry Christmas to all of our friends and family. We love you all so much and hope that you have a truly wonderful Holiday season. We miss you all and think of you always. I am so thankful that MIkey and I have each other. We have few Firsts this Christmas that I would like to take a moment and reflect on. This is our first Christmas together married, our first Christmas away from home, our first Christmas in Summer, and our first Christmas in Australia! Yes it is warm! There have been a lot of festivities that we have taken part in for the spirit of the season that I would like to share with you.

The first was Narrabeen Lakes Festival, which was a 2 day extravaganza filled with singing,dancing, carols, food, drinks, shopping booths, and fireworks. It was located right on our own Narrabeen Lake. The weather was beautiful adding to the festive event. We were lucky to see a variety of interesting and diverse performances. The guys favorite was The Red Barron. The name says it all. An older man sitting center stage with an accordion and a baritone voice. I really enjoyed the Casino Jazz Band and the belly dancing. When the lady performing the belly dancing asked for volunteers to join her the guys insisted I go. So I did, hey I have to remind myself I am in Australia!! The carols that started at 6:30 were beautiful too.

So after watching some performances we had to go and try some of this food that was smelling so good all around us. We settled first on an appetizer of Chips on a stick. This is something I have never seen before and I have to tell you it was really good and interesting. A potato spiraled around a stick and fried like a french fry with some special seasoning to spice it up. We then had the Turkish chicken, spinach, and cheese quesadillas. Mikey had watched these older women work so hard in the heat making the dough from scratch that he wanted to support them. It really hit the spot. We decided to get off our feet and out of the sun to sit and enjoy our lunch. We found a nice spot under a big norfolk pine by the lake where we ate our food, drank some cold relaxing adult beverages, and took in the beauty of the Lake and its surroundings. We could still hear the music which added nicely to the moment.

And then the shopping. We browsed for a while and though the Neon Colored Halloween Wigs were tempting I settled on an organic bar of Goats Milk soap and Mikey on a Tool CD. The festival was perfectly capped off with an awesome fireworks display over the Lake. It was a great event and was a great way to start the Christmas Season.

Other moments of an Aussie Christmas. The other day I got on a public bus to go to work to find the bus completely decorated for Christmas.Tassle everywhere, the ticket boxes wrapped in wrapping paper, a santa clause standing right when you got on , Merry Christmas signs in the front and back, ornaments hanging from the bus seats and poles above, battery operated lights lining the ceiling, and stickers all over the windows. I was so glad I had my camera because I went snapping away! It was a tourist moment and a good one. It made my day. Carols By The Lake was another event that happened right in our neighborhood. Unfortunately it poured so we listened to the carols from our porch and got to see another awesome display of fireworks. We missed the free sausage sizzle and santa claus:( We have been able to attend the church right across the street from us. The December Sundays have been filled with Christmas spirit which has been a great for us.

Christmas Eve was a relaxing night for us. Our roommate went up to the Gold Coast so we had the house to ourselves which was nice. I tried my hand at cooking some of the traditional dishes again. Green Beans, Stuffing, gravy, and a new one, Sweet Potato Casserole. Sweet Potato casserole was my favorite dish growing up and I think I did a pretty good job with the recipe. It was really good! We decided to keep it simple and affordable with a 10$ roast chicken. To top off the meal our French roommate went all out and gave us our Christmas present before he left and it was a 55$ bottle of French Champagne. This is the nicest bottle of champagne I think we have ever had! It was really really really good too. It was such a nice gift I felt like each glass we had needed to be in an interesting spot. One glass in front of the tv for the Carols by Candlelight that were on, one glass on the porch for sunset, one glass with dinner, and the final glass down on the beach where we got to see all the christmas lights, fireworks in the distance, and watched the moonrise.

Christmas Day in Australia. We started with the 9:30 church service which was great. Then opened our gifts to each other which we both ended up getting each other Australian souveniers. Mikey got me an Australia beach towel(finally I don't have to use our 1 bath towel for the beach), and a Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House shirt. My stocking was filled with a bar of Swiss Hazelnut Chocolate. He knows me well! I got him a Northern Beaches 2011 Calendar and a Sydney shot glass. His stocking had Christmas jelly beans and a Bueno. We then skyped our families to say Merry Christmas, had breakfast of eggs and bacon, and were out the door to our Christmas Lunch.

We were invited to have Christmas lunch with Mikey's FCS CEO(his job from the states) The lunch was great. Turkey, ham, all kinds of vegetables and potatoes, and green beans. Desert was a chocolate cake with raspberries and chocolate sauce and also a fruit cake with custard sauce to go over it. The family was so nice to us and we were thankful to have a family for the day. They even got us presents from Santa that consisted of Australian made food and wines. I got a bottle of wine, brie cheese, a box of tim tams, and jelly. Mikey got a bottle of white wine, shortbread cookies, Australian made gourmet tomato sauce, and vintage cheese from Perth. As the lunch was served we each got to open a Christmas Cracker. They are these tubes that you pull the top off of and they make a pop like a firework. In them are a few little toys, a joke, and a hat that we all wear throughout the evening. It was blast.

Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, is known for its cricket match that starts at 11am and is played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground between Australia and England and the Sydney to Hobart sailboat race that starts at 1pm leaving out of the Sydney Harbour. We watched these events on tv while taking a day of rest and relaxation. Overall it has been a busy season. There have been a lot of interesting differences and some traditional similarities. We missed all of you so much and in a way are glad that it is over so that we don't feel like we are missing out. New Years this weekend should be once in a lifetime with the Sydney Harbour fireworks. We will let you know how it goes.

Love Kristen and Mikey

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Palm Beach Lighthouse, The Eagles, and our Christmas Tree

Palm Beach Lighthouse

Now that we are getting settled into our new home we have jumped right into all of the things to do in the community! It has been great fun. Recently we climbed the Palm Beach Lighthouse, which is in Palm Beach, the northern most town of the northern beaches. We are in Narrabeen then it goes Mona Vale, Newport, Avalon, Palm Beach. It was refreshing to be in nature and one with our lighthouses again. We saw so many in our beginning travels that I was starting to miss them! It took us about 2 hours and at the top we had some outstanding views of the northern beaches.

The Eagles

This past Tuesday, December 7, we got tickets to The Eagles! They played at Sydney Olympic Park's Acer Arena. It was a beautiful place though it is far from the Northern Beaches!! We spent 3 hours traveling to make it there by 8. Just to give you an idea, I took the bus to Manly to meet Mikey when he got off work at 5pm. We then ran to the Manly Wharf where we caught the 5:45 Manly to Sydney Ferry. We arrived in the city at 6:15 in time to catch the 6:23 Parramatta River Ferry. This ferry took us west stopping about 8 times, finally to Sydney Olympic Park. I thought we would be with in walking distance to the arena but not so much. We had to take a bus! So after the bus driver decides to take a 5 minute break we were on our way. It is 7:30 now. The bus took us all around Sydney Park which was awesome to see but time is wasting and we seem to be circling the arena but never reaching it. Finally I decided we were close enough to the arena so I pushed the stop button and we got off where we ran about 15 minutes to the arena. Will call, a few beers for the seats, and we stick our head in to see the first song, acapella Seven Bridges Road, right at 8pm. We then made our way to the seats and watched an AWESOME 3 hours of Eagles Music. They played all the classics; Hotel California, Take n it easy, Peaceful Easy Feeling, Take it to the Limit, Life in the Fast Lane, Love Will Keep Us Alive many many more and ended with a solo performance of Desperado by Don Henley. MIkey and I slow danced! It was truly amazing to watch the Eagles across the world in Sydney Olympic Park in 2010. So now how to get home!! The cab line has about 200 people in it, ferries are closed, and no direct bus to northern beaches, so the Train! Packed with everyone from the concert and hot. We make it to our stop in the city and then take a bus home which apparently at this time of night stops at every single stop:). It was 1:45 am by the time we walked in. What a day!

Our Christmas Tree

Well, as you all know the holidays season is here!! So we had to have a tree and at least 1 string of lights. Kmart had a 6ft 15$ artificial tree, 8 ornament packs for 3$, and a 10$ set of lights. So we decorated for Christmas for under 35$ and it works. We have added a few cut outs of magazines and other interesting ornaments to add to the collection. It will help us stay in the spirit when we are so far from our friends and family. We will truly miss all of you so much during the Christmas season!



Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A home away from home and Happy Thanksgiving

Our New Home

Well, Mikey and I are officially LIVING in Australia! We found our home along Sydney's northern beaches in a small town called Narrabeen. It is beautiful as most cities in Australia are. The beach is our backyard

View to the North

View to the South

and Narrabeen Lake is a short stroll down the Narrabeen Plateau. Our new home is on Ocean Street and we are unit 1 of a lovely 4 story condo. It is a 2 bedroom 1 bath unit with a nice balcony that faces Ocean Street.

Our Balcony with Camping Chairs

Though we wished it was a view of the ocean we get to do some fun people watching which is always entertaining. We have a pool that will come in very handy during the hot summer months that are coming soon!! We share this lovely place with Nathan our French roommate. He works at the FCS warehouse here in Australia which is the company that Mikey worked for in Florida. It was meant to be! He is really nice and has been teaching us some basic French. We know about 14 sayings which is a pretty good start! We will keep learning. His english is pretty good though he has trouble understanding me:) I guess I talk fast??!!

We have been here for 3 weeks today!!! It has already flown by. After settling in for a few days we got on the job search and had some luck!! Mikey landed a job at the Quiksilver Board store in Manly, Sydney's most southern of the northern beaches. Basically Manly looks at Sydney across the harbor. It is a happening little beach city so Mikey will keep busy. They also have him working at the retail store on the Manly Corso and at the Tom Carroll store in Mona Vale, which is the town right north of Narrabeen. They must like him:) I found a classical Pilates studio in Mona Vale so I fill my mornings with a few hours of teaching pilates to Australia's women. They are great and the studio is really nice. So it looks like we will be able to stay in Australia for the next 6 months as we had planned!

We recently had some American friends from Jacksonville, Steve and Julie, in town for about 10 days. After leaving St. Thomas where they lived for 2 years they headed to Australia for 3 months. They had been doing the traveling as we had in the beginning and had finally made it to Sydney and good timing because we had our place. It was fun seeing fellow Americans especially since Tommy and Jenny are gone:( So we exchanged adventures, made dinners together, and did some sightseeing! We went into the city where we ate at China Town and then went to the Sydney Fish Markets

which were awesome. Every type of fish, crabs, oysters, muscles, and so on.

We got some Sydney Rock Oysters that were beyond Amazing!! We then headed back to the Rocks for a sunset at Glenmore's Rooftop Beer Garden overlooking the Rocks, Harbor Bridge, and Opera House. Sydney is only a 30-40 minute bus ride so we will be spending lots of time there when we need some city life!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

From Left to Right

Drew, Mikey, Nathan, Steve

It is these holidays that we miss our friends and family even more but thankfully we had Steve and Julie to help us put together this American meal in a foreign country that definitely does not celebrate the first friendship between the Pilgrims and the Indians. Well I was determined to make some of my moms and Mikeys' moms homemade recipes. it was not easy as they did not have a lot of key ingredients that I needed. We went down every aisle about 4 times in 2 different grocery stores trying to find what we needed(Thanks for the patience MIkey!) There was no cranberry, no squash, no French Friend Onions for Green Bean Casserole, no pumpkin pie, and no whole Turkeys unless pre ordered at a butcher. So we had to do a little rethinking. We found 2 pre cooked half turkey breast that looked really good. We also got a 1/4 pound honey baked ham from the deli and figured this would work. We made stuffing, green beans, corn, and a salad. Steve jumped in and made home made mashed potatoes with garlic and jalapeno. They were really good!! We got some good fresh rolls from the bakery and a tiramisu for desert. It would have to do! So we had Mikey and I, Steve and Julie, Nathan(French Roommate), and Drew from across the street. Drew works at FCS in Australia, so MIkey knew him from home from international sales meetings. He also helped us get the place we are living in. He was excited to have his first Thanksgiving. And it was good!! We all felt that we had made the best Thanksgiving meal we could under the circumstances and we had our closest friends in the country with us and that was the most important thing. So Mikey and I survive our first Thanksgiving together married in another country!

We both have off tomorrow so we plan on doing a hike around here and then getting either a 5$ 3ft tree or a 15$ 6ft tree from Kmart. They are artificial as Australia has no real christmas trees. Interesting huh? Since Thanksgiving is over we are starting the Christmas season and thank goodness they do celebrate christmas here!



Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Finally Melbourne to Melbourne

This blog is a little behind. I am writing about our time in Melbourne from October 27-November 2.

Finally Melbourne to Melbourne! It is definitely a full circle for the four of us. We left our lives and homes in Melbourne Florida to travel across the world where after 3 1/2 months together we made it to Melbourne Australia. We tried to get some place to stay in the city but with the famous Melbourne Cup Horse Race on November 2nd the city is EXPENSIVE! So we resorted to our trusty caravan parks. We stayed in Ashely Gardens which was only a 40 minute bus ride to the city. Melbourne is quite different than Sydney city and much smaller in its sight seeing. It is known for its great food and drink. So after some time in Federation Square

Victoria Art Museum, and St. Paul's Cathedral we made our way to a restaurant. After we walked along the Yarra River

that runs through the city and made our way to Melbourne Royal Botanical Gardens. The rain moved in our second day here so we moved into our first cabin

in the caravan park and it was a pleasant spurge for us. It had a fully equipped mint kitchen, tv, dining table, 1 double bed in the kitchen, and a small room with 2 sets of bunks. But the rain came and we were soooo glad to be in doors. We went to the biggest casino complex in Australia located in Melbourne called the Crown. It was exciting and took me right back to my Vegas days. Tommy likes to try his luck so while he gambled Jenny, Mikey, and I stumbled upon the Australia vs New Zealand Rugby match on the big screen. It is a big rival and what a game! We brought our spirit and cheered for the Aussies who won in the last minute. We had a great time and headed back to get a good night sleep in our new Cabin! Sunday was our last day together before Tommy and Jenny would board a plane to Bali. We decided to check out one of Melbourne's trendy suburbs, St. Kilda, located on the river. It was beautiful and WINDY! We got to take the tram there which was neat. We made it to the strip with all the good food and the cake shops. It all looked so good. We couldn't resist trying one of the treats from these cake shops that are famous in St. Kilda.

We headed back for our last night together. We made our favorite meal, tacos, and watched our show, the X factor. Monday morning we had breakfast together got Tommy and Jenny packed and said our sad goodbyes. What an awesome 3 1/2 months together and we will miss them! They are off to Bali for a honeymoon and warm weather, and we are headed back to the northern beaches of Sydney to make a home for 6 months.



Friday, November 12, 2010

Phillip Island, Bells Beach, and The Great Ocean Road

On our way moving south we hit a big mile stone when we crossed the border from the state of New South Wales into the state of Victoria. We decided to make a stop in Phillip Island, an island about 2 hours south of Melbourne. It is known for its Penguin Parade, which we ended up not doing because it was way too expensive and photography is not allowed. Instead we went to Nobby Island the northern most tip where they said we could see seals but it was too windy and cold and the telescopes were down so no seals either. But a walk around Swan lake where we had a picnic lunch and a wave check at every single headland filled the day up with adventure. The best part were the 4 men that we met around the camp kitchen at our caravan park. They had menus that included fish, steak filet, and wine, lots of wine. We must have looked pretty shabby because they shared their gourmet salads, thai wrap appetizers, fresh caught salmon, and eye fillet steak(best cut in Australia) They said they do this weekend once a year to get away from the wives and do some fishing. After they left other people started leaving food for us to take including eggs, crackers, 20 left over sausages and burgers and some other items. Everyone is soooo nice. So though we saw no penguins or seals our campsite was home to a wallaby that grazed around our site all day. Pretty cool!!!

We left after 2 days and headed for Torquay, the great surfing town and start of the great ocean road. To get off of Phillips Island and head west we had to get onto the Mornington Peninsula where we took the car on the Queenscliff ferry. It was beautiful! We camped in Torquay next to Drunk Dave who was pretty interesting. The guys surfed Bells Beach the famous surf break which was awesome to see, we filmed:) The 4 minute hot showers were a first though Jenny and I worked the system by keeping a watch in the shower and at 20 seconds til hopping out and pushing the button for another 4 minute shower.

After 2 nights here we packed up the car to take a "must do" drive on the Great Ocean Road. We drove 5 hours through about 10 cute little towns, several lighthouses, and ended with the rock formation of a life time, the Twelve Apostles. Words cannot describe these eroded limestone formations so I will let the pictures speak for themselves. Jenny drove us along the Great Ocean Road which was exciting! Girls in the front, guys in the back! After a long day of driving we stayed in Lorne one of the towns along the coast where we feasted and slept. We are on our way to Melbourne tomorrow for some more city sights. Finally, Melbourne to Melbourne!!

Phillip Island
Swan Lake

Pyramid Point

Nobby Island with Seals we couldn't see:)
Our Campsite Wallaby
The crew with Thai Appetizers and fresh Salmon, gifts of our camp kitchen friends!

Bells Beach

The guys surfing Winkipop at Bells, Mikey found a friend and Tommy contemplates the waves

Good Friends

The Great Ocean Road
Guys in the back, Girls in the front, they look thrilled!
Wild Echidna on the side of the road, a first!!
The Twelve Apostles