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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!