Sunday, December 5, 2010

Almost 6 months...

I can't believe we've been here 6 months. It feels like it's been ages. Here's an update!

We've been really busy, both working full time. Lots of housewarming parties and friend time, which has been nice. Mark, Tyler, and Nat are ALL going to the States--Mark has actually just arrived. They'll all be there for over a month, which will make the holidays even harder, I think.

Luckily, we're moving in 10 days, and I think that will keep us pretty busy! I can't remember if we had gotten this apartment the last time I wrote, so I'll explain it again. It's a 2 bedroom, 1 bath on the beach! It has air conditioning, electric appliances, and water is included (no more gas or water bills for us!) It's the same price as what we're paying here, but everything is new and the beach is right there. Even though we're downsizing, I think we'll be really happy there. We really don't need this much room, and we'll still have a guest room for when people come visit. How can you say no to a beautiful beach apartment? So we start moving December 15th!

A couple weekends ago we had an "Anything But Clothes" party for my 25th birthday. It was so fun! Basically, everyone had to dress in anything but clothes. Here is a picture of Ben and me in anything but clothes:

Ben is wearing a golden box (note the cupholder) with electrical tape suspenders...and a trashbag budgee smuggler (banana hammock, speedo...) I am wearing a dress made completely of trashbags, a happy birthday banner, and gift bow in my hair.



Some of the girls from my work


Here is Ben trying to convince me that people won't see "the goods" when he sits down, thanks to his trash bag knickers. Turns out, this trash bag budgee smuggler only half worked. Yikes.

Sushi and cheesecake...my favorites!


Ben made sure I had the best birthday ever, since he knew I was homesick and missing family and friends. He booked an hour long scalp/back/neck/shoulder/hand/feet massage. It was absolutely wonderful. I'm going to go back in a month or two and have it done again. I honestly think even if you have no muscle aches or pains, everyone should have massages. They relax you and feel amazing. Then he booked a hair appointment for me to get highlights and a cut...my hair feels soooooo good now! It had been since March...an embarassingly long amount of time. I will also go back to that place because I loved the girl that did my hair and it's one of the best cuts and colors I've ever had! Then we went up to Mandurah, with the intentions of going shopping, but since all the stores close at like 5, we didn't make it. But that's okay :) We had dinner and went to a few nightclubs until about 2am. One of them played BAD '80's music until 1am. How annoying. And when I requested Love Shack, he didn't play it until we were leaving...extra annoying. If you're going to play '80's music, at least TRY to play un-bad '80's music...if it exists.

I look roughly this beautiful now:


The cake Ben made me...it was a lot prettier in person :)

Here's something off-topic. One morning, Ben went out to get a few ingredients for omelettes. When he came back, he said he had a surprise. I thought he had gotten me chocolate milk, or something else equally yummy. What was I thinking? I've been with Ben for 4+ years...of COURSE he got an ostrich egg, not chocolate milk. Silly me.

Ben with THE ostrich egg (did you know ostriches are a descendant of dinosaurs, and their eggs are very similar to dinosaur eggs? They have a coating on the shell that prevents bacteria from getting in and hurting the baby...so we basically ate a dinosaur.)


After Ben drilled a hole, he shook out the egg. This whole bowl was full. We called Mark and Nat and made omelets for everyone. The ostrich egg was equal to 12+ eggs.

So now we've had ostrich...or dinosaur, however you want to look at it.

Ben's job is going very well, and Nancy continues to be happy and impressed with his work. There are a few projects coming in that he's pretty sure he'll be getting put on! Work is going well for me, too. It's stressful, but I like the girls that I'm working with, and it keeps me busy.

We continue to look at ticket prices to come home next June-ish. We're hoping to buy them within the next couple months :) Miss you all!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Halloween, awards, and randoms



Sorry it has been so long since the last post! I don't really have good excuses, but I'll try anyway: Ben and I were really sick for a while, we haven't had a free weekend, that's all I got.

I guess I'll start with Halloween weekend because that's where the pictures start. Ben and I went as Mario and Princess Peach. Ben made this awesome ? box like the ones Mario hits in the game and you get coins or mushrooms or flowers. It was a big hit. When he fist-pumped, a huge mushroom came out of the top of the box. Everyone loved it. He also made me a parasol just like Princess Peach. We went to Ben's co-worker's house and had a GREAT time. There were lots of people and dancing and it was so fun. Ben's boss even made an appearance. Here are some pictures from the Halloween party:

Ben and I as Mario and Princess Peach (note the painted on overalls on Ben!)



Ben, me, Seana, Eli, and Noel (in the front--didn't they make great zombies?!)



Group shot of (most) everyone at Graham and Seana's party



The following night we went to an awards ceremony at the Lighthouse Resort right in Bunbury. It's actually almost across the street from Graham's apartment (Graham is the one that had the Halloween party and the one that was accepting the award.) It was really fun. There were a bunch of people at our table including Nancy, Ben's boss, her friend Jan (who got me information for some local dance studios that I hadn't been able to find online, so I automatically love her), Nancy's sister, Graham and his Irish roomie Seana, and a few others. Graham accepted his award for "Young Engineer of the Year" award--which is really cool, because he is the first regional winner. Every year it's someone from Perth but not this year! He had actually already accepted the award, but the city of Bunbury was so proud that we had a regional winner that they did another award ceremony to honor Graham. Here's a picture of him re-accepting his award:


Graham, Seana, Ben, and me at the Lighthouse Resort after the awards


Here are a few random pictures of Ben and I. Notice how we are always standing in the same area of our house? It's because there's a kitchen counter that we can set the camera on and it lines up perfectly with the doorway so we can set the timer. :)


Random picture 1


Random picture 2 (I'm sporting the leopard sweater Sarah got me as a going away gift!)



Also, flowers are in FULL bloom here. We have rose bushes in front of our windows and they are incredible! Everyone here has roses. It must just be a perfect climate here for them or something. Anyway, here are a few pictures of our flowers:

Those are our windows...so we see these bushes all the time. They're so pretty!




Memere will love these!



Aren't these gorgeous? Are they peonies? It doesn't quite look like a rose


To get an idea of how big these flowers are--the flower is actually bigger than my whole fist:


We have also applied for an apartment! It's a lot smaller (A LOT) than the place we're in now, but it's literally across from the beach! It's all renovated with new appliances and stuff, and a little patio and grassy area out front. And it's a two bedroom so we will have a guest bedroom for all of you that will be visiting. The rent is the same as what we're paying now. The whole apartment has air conditioning and water is included in the rent. We should know next week if we got it or not.

That's about it for now. We miss you guys...can't believe it's been 5 months since we've been home. Getting cold yet?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

1st Anniversary!

We made it through our first year of marriage....not that there was any doubt :) We headed down to Margaret River on Friday and checked into our hotel around 4. The hotel was in the center of downtown..in the heart of everything! It was a great location. We did soooo much during the weekend, so I'll break it down by day. Ready go.

Friday night:
-Ordered from Goodfella's, a woodfired pizza joint. It was yummy and all the pizzas were named after movie gangsters....sweet.
-Visited a bunch of different pubs and stuff for some drinks and live music. There was a band at the Corner Bar which was an outdoor bar attached to our hotel, singing covers. They even sang some Creedance...double sweet.
-Friday, the end.

Saturday:
-Got Gloria Jean's coffee. Yes, Gloria Jean's. Why do they have this chain internationally? They have one in New Hampshire where the coffee is reallllllly good, but this one was...eh. The coffee was insanely strong, and Ben's had grounds in his. He did order a "Turbo Chiller", but grounds? Ew.
-Went to the grocery store to pick up some muffins and juice, and saw GINORMOUS ostrich eggs!!!!!!!!! Huge I tell you! We didn't have the camera, and I regret it. But they were in the "egg" aisle (they don't keep their eggs refrigerated here) in a huge cardboard box. We wanted to get one to bring home but we had too many stops on the way home on Sunday and had no way of keeping it cold. Rotten ostrich egg=most definite stank.
-Headed to Augusta, about 40 minutes south of Margaret River, and took the scenic route.
-Stopped at Mammoth Cave. We wanted to go to Jewel Cave, but it was closed for renovations or something. Mammoth Cave was amazing. It's the humongous natural limestone cave that goes underneath the road. They had ramps and stairs going through the whole thing, and we got headsets that talked about it. There was even a mammoth jawbone in the wall. It was flipping sweet. We spent a good hour and a half there!
-Stopped at a maze. We thought it was going to be cool, but we were the only people there, and there was a big can where you were supposed to pay. (We did pay, but I almost regret it now). It was really pretty, but it was tiny, and Ben's head is like a map so we found the way to the center in like 5 minutes.
-Augusta! This was one of my favorite things of the whole weekend. It was absolutely beautiful. This is where the Southern Ocean and the Indian Ocean meet...so you can literally touch two oceans at one time. There were huge patches of aqua colored water, and dark blue water (more like Maine). I fell on some gravel coming in (ow) and it hurt my pride....double ow. We saw lots of big crabs hiding in between rocks. We made our way out so we could be closer to the water, and it felt just like I was 5 at Wells Beach climbing the rock walls. AND we saw dolphins! They were so close, probably about 20 feet away. The weather was beautiful and we just sat out on the rocks talking and laying in the sun. If anyone comes to visit, we will definitely bring you there!
-By this time we were getting super hungry. We stopped at a little bakery on the way out of Augusta. It was just before closing time and she gave us half off on our sandwiches. Plus she had a gold tooth, which I just wanted to kiss. Ben got a "cream donut" which looked more like an eclair without the chocolate, and he thought about filing for a divorce because he loved it so much. But it's okay, because I basically had an affair with my vanilla square. So we're even.
-Hamelin Bay was our next stop. There are stingrays here that swim with the people swimming because they are fed so often...and no, they're not de-barbed. There weren't any when we went though. Sad face. Ben found some AWESOMEEEE shells though, and we're saving one for his mom's shell collection :) If we can find a way to get it home without it getting confiscated...
-Margaret River Beach...we like beaches, can you tell? We laid out on a blanket until sundown. And watched an awkward couple try to take their own engagement pictures (we can only assume). The guy kept setting up the camera and running around to the girl and picking her up, or having her get on his shoulders, and I don't think his delay was long enough. Silly couple.
-We decided to have a nice, relaxing night in since we had such a busy day, and were going to be touring all the next day. So we ordered "takeaway" (take out) from a place called Chow. They had a mixture of types of foods, like Mexican, Asian, Cajun, etc. It was yummy. Then we watched "Hey Hey it's Saturday!" an Australian night/talk/family/comedy/show. They have musical guests and cheesy jokes, and little games and pranks. It's as corny and hideous as it sounds.

Sunday:
-Met the Bushtucker bus for our wine/cheese/chocolate/brewery tour. They picked us up at the hotel and we were off! There were 20 of us in the group. We were the only ones from the US, but there were people from Singapore, Scotland, Ireland, and the East Coast of Australia. The first winery we went to was great. It was small and very personal, and you could tell they put a lot of time into making the wines--it was one of those places that you could tell the owners just loved wine, so it was genuinely good. The lady doing the testing was funny, too. The next winery we went to was a bit bigger--that's where most of the vineyard pictures are from. This is also where we had lunch. We were told we were going to get to try emu, but they're big liars. We had roo, turkey, beef, different chutneys and pestos, good bread, etc. AND THEN we tried a moth larvae. Yes, you read that correctly. I thought they were going to be like gourmet, chocolate covered or something. The aboriginal people of Australia (they're like our Native Americans) eat them. They were so gross looking. They looked like the big fat grub that Timon eats on Lion King..seriously. But Ben and I tried them and they were as disgusting as they looked. Next we went to the Cheese Factory. We bought a marinated feta and a sweet chili cheddar. It's funny because Ben and I usually don't like feta, but this is probably the best cheese I've ever had. There's herbs and olive oil and we're going to put it on salad. Yes please. Next was the BIG TIME winery. Ben and I didn't like it very much. It was HUGE and you could tell that it was all about producing wine quickly and efficiently, not about the passion of wine-making and the taste. Most of the wines tasted very mass-produced and cheap. The gift area had like handbags and artwork and stuff. We just didn't like it at all. We like the smaller, quirkier places. The Margaret River Chocolate Factory was next...it was soooo good. And huge! They had so many different kinds just lining the walls. They had islands and tables stacked over your head with different kinds of chocolate, everything you could ever think of...even chocolate massage oil...ewwww. We went to the last winery after the chocolate factory, and it was great. It was a family-owned (father-son) winery, and just quirky and small and beautiful. You could tell the owner (who was doing the tasting) loved everything about wine and wine-making. We tried a chili-infused wine that I didn't like so much, but Ben kind of did. Chili in wine is weird to me. Last but not least...the brewery. This was kind of annoying, because we had to PAY for anything here because they didn't do tastings. It was like, seriously? We just paid for these tours and tasting and now we have to pay to taste? But anyway, it was pretty good, and refreshing after a long, hard day of cheese/chocolate eating and wine-tasting :)
-When we got back, we relaxed a little and decided it would be fun to get dressed up for our anniversary dinner. We had decided to go to the Spaghetti Bowl, which is the oldest restaurant in the downtown area of Margaret River, and a favorite of the locals. It was really good! Ben got chicken parmigiana and I got Fettucini Tusciano or something like that. We split garlic bread and a salad. It's funny how different restaurants are here as opposed to Maine and the States. Here, you don't have to tip in restaurants, or housekeeping, or anything. They get paid a regular wage. But because of that, they don't really talk to you at all, and they don't come back to check and see how the food is or to see if you need anything. There's a big difference in service! Anyway, we had a really nice dinner and we were glad we decided on the Spaghetti Bowl..plus we were craving some decent Italian food (everything is Asian food here).
-We got back and toasted to a year...with Captain Morgan's. We were going to buy some champagne, but we were basically just too lazy. So, sorry Mom and Dad. Don't worry, it was just one. Or seven. Just kidding. Or am I? No I'm just kidding :) Then we ate some of our cake that we bought at the grocery store..it was lemon cheesecake. We were both STUFFED from dinner, but we had a couple bites anyway. We ate our cake topper on our 6 month anniversary since we knew we wouldn't be able to bring it with us to Australia. So...we had fake wedding cake.

Monday:
-Went to the Yahava Coffee Factory and dropped an unspeakable amount of money there. It is sooooo good. And the factory has the coffee cheaper than anywhere around so we had to stock up...right? RIGHT?! We also had the best iced coffees of our lives there. There was ICE CREAM in it. I think I gained 3 lbs just thinking about it. But it was awesome. Good thing there isn't a Yahava here or we'd get addicted quick.
-Went to the Margaret River Fudge Factory. Wasn't very exciting or good. Sad.
-Walked around downtown. We actually walked into almost all the shops in all of downtown. It was nice to just see what kind of touristy stuff they have here. You know how in Maine we think we're so clever with millions of stuffed moose (meese?) and lobsters? Well, Australia thinks they're clever with stuffed 'roos. They're way cuter as a stuffed animal. Or as a steak.
-Then we left Margaret River and we were sad. We tried to do a couple of mazes/caves on our way home but they were charging stupid amounts of money for them so we said (insert fart noise.) We did do a very easy, short hike to a Whale Lookout in Dunsborough. We didn't see any whales, but we heard scary noises that sounded like children being murdered, and it was Sea Lions! And man at the lookout had binoculars and let us have a look. I never imagined they'd make children-being-murdered noises, I thought they'd sound like seals. But they don't. So now you know. And knowledge is power! We also had to pee REALLY bad during this hike (we were so dehydrated and had been pounding water) and by the time we got back Ben was walking like there was something seriously wrong with his nether regions. I found the women's bathroom fine, but getting to the men's bathroom was like an obstacle course. You could see it fine, but there was caution tape, and wires and fences, and Ben ended up running around, through a museum and two staff only doors to get to it. No, I'm not exaggerating. There was a museum involved.

Well, that's about it. Did you make it through this whole blog? You better have, because we're writing this for YOU, you know.

Also, here's a link to the pictures in case you haven't see the album already!

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2348033&id=5800571&l=6d904c7264

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Albany and Stirling Ranges Adventure!

I am just finally getting around to updating. We spent all weekend with some friends in Albany and the Stirling Ranges, and didn't get back until Sunday night. By the time we had dinner and did some laundry and unpacked, it was time for bed, and we've been working and working out like mad people. So! Here is an update, with all of our adventures (and pictures!!!!!) from Albany and the Stirling Ranges.

Friday, Ben picked me up from work and we headed out to Albany. It is southeast of Bunbury, about a 4 hour drive. Mark had given us his GPS to use, and it took us on crazy, unpaved roads where we almost hit all kinds of creatures that we had never seen before. It was like 40 kilometers on a dirt road and we didn't see a single car or have cell reception. But it was kinda fun :) The house we were staying in for the weekend was beautiful! It was on the ocean in Albany, and it was huge. Ben and I had our own room with a nice queen bed, and everyone could spread out in their rooms. One of the girls had cooked a really nice lasagna, so we all sat down together (there were 8 of us) and ate a nice big dinner before the adventures on Saturday!

We woke up at 7 and Ben cooked everyone omelets. By the way, have you ever had artichoke and asparagus in your omelet? I never have, but Tyler insisted it was good, and it WAS. We headed to the Stirling Ranges, about an hour drive from the house in Albany. We all intended to hike Bluff Knoll--it is over 1000 meters tall, and a "3-4" hour hike. It is also the highest mountain in the southern half of Western Australia (and Western Australia makes up about 1/3 of the country).

The entire hike took us about 4.5 hours. We took a few breathers and spent 45 minutes to an hour on the top. The hike itself was INTENSE! The hardest I have ever done. But we went at our own pace, and took lots of beautiful pictures. There was absolutely nothing from stopping us from falling off the mountain--it felt like we could just fall off the earth. It was a winding trail that went all the way up to the very top of the mountain. Once we got over the tree line and on the back side of the mountain, the wind was crazyyyyy. But it was nice to have a breeze, since it was in the high 80s (for you American folk who use Farenheit) all day. The way down wasn't hard as far as heart rate goes, but it was difficult to control walking down the mountain. The "steps" are really high and you have to make sure your footing is decent so you don't go tumbling down 1000 meters. I'm pretty sure you wouldn't make it out alive if you did!

It was breath-taking and beautiful, and I can't wait to go back again. It was unlike anything I have ever experienced. The pictures are pretty good, but they honestly don't do it justice. You'd have to experience the hike for yourself :)

When we got back from the hike, we showered up and walked down to the beach. The boys went swimming, while Nat and I were not so brave. We barbecued and hung out, and lazed around after a very busy day.

Sunday, we took the back way home. We stopped and saw an area that looked and reminded us of Acadia. There was a part where water rushed in and slapped the sides of the ledge, and it reminded us of Thunder Hole! There was a natural rock bridge, too. The coast line looked so much like Maine, it made me miss home. We also drove through a cool windfarm with huge wind turbines. We were hoping to walk through but it was raining pretty hard.

Then! We did the Treetop Walk. It was raining, but they gave us ponchos to wear. It's basically this huge bridge structure that ascends up into these huge, tall trees. Did I mention it's "slippery when wet"? Because that's kind of important. AND, the structure that you walk on wiggles!! It was a little scary, but mostly cool. The highest point was 40 meters!! Which seems like nothing when you figure we HIKED 1000 meters the day before, but being in the tops of trees and looking down, it seems really, really far. We felt like we were in Jurassic Park. I was kind of hoping to see dinosaurs, but no luck unfortunately.

Here is a link to an album with pictures from the weekend. There were way too many to put in this blog, but you should be able to see the photos, regardless of if you are a facebook member (or my facebook friend) or not.
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2336016&id=5800571&l=41a362df5e



So now, Ben and I are just getting through this week as far as work goes, and then it's off to Margaret River we go for our 1 year anniversary! We are so excited. We plan to do another moderate/difficult hike on Saturday, and then some tours, dinner, etc.

In other news:
1) Ben is getting put on more projects as long as LCAA gets them (they are bidding on some right now)
2) My job is good, I like money, and babies are pretty cute, so it works out well
3) We are saving up to come home next June--researching cheap flights, it's looking promising!
4) We are faithfully going to the gym---Ben feels good to get back, and I'm loving the Les Mills classes
5) We are thinking about being Minnie and Mickey for Halloween, yes??
6) Our electric bill for 3 months was $56.70, and NO we will not trade with you!

xoxo

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Possum or Opposum? That is the question.

I can't believe we've been here for almost 4 months. Things have changed so much already since we've been here, and I can't believe how much we've been able to accumulate in so little time. Thank God for yard sales!

Last week was chaos. The lead in the nursery at work was gone all week, and I had to take care of all the paperwork, cleaning, etc. It was very difficult. We also had a new kid start on Thursday, possibly the worst day to start. We have another kid that only comes in on Thursdays, and he cries ALL.DAY.LONG. And it's not just, "Sniffle sniffle, I want mommy", it's "WAHHHHHHBLOODYMURDERISOUNDLIKEMYORGANSARETRYINGTOCOMEOUTMYPORES" screaming. Seriously...so for a new kid to start on a day that the other kid is crying all day long, it's distressing for the new kid, AND the teachers. Two days of stressed out kids=stressed out Julie. Anyway, Friday evening was nice. We went over to Graham's place, one of Ben's co-workers, and chatted for a few hours and hung out. We saw a possum!! (Opossum? I feel like I've seen it spelled with an 'o' but that seems silly because if it's going to be silent anyway, why bother with that letter?) We were outside talking and I saw a big, rat-like creature in the tree and I swear my heart stopped for a minute. I thought, "Oh dear Lord, kill me now. There is a giant rat in the tree probably chasing a giant tarantula and I'm going to just curl up and die right here." So instead I loudly interrupted (oops?) "IS THAT A POSSUM!?" It was. And we watched him jump from one tree to another. Possums are creepy and I would not recommend getting one for a pet unless you're trying to scare people away so you can live a very isolated life.

Ben and Graham are working on a design for an airport here in Bunbury. Ben is excited because he actually got to do some design work! Since their company is new and small, Nancy focuses more on management projects because design can be 'risky'. But I think Ben really enjoyed doing some designs last week, and they're really cool looking. If we had a scanner, I would scan them in to show you, but we don't so I can't.

Random picture time.

Best apple juice ever. It's completely organic and comes from a Farm about 45 minutes away:



This is a watermelon we got at the Farmer's Market. They were on sale for 99cents per kilogram. I'll convert it for you because I know most of you are either too lazy to do it yourselves, or you will actually do the conversion and I don't want you to have to do all that work. The watermelon we got was about 6.6 kilos---that means it was about 14.5 lbs!!! And, I think you can figure out 99 cents per kilo, the watermelon was about $6.60AUD. And, with the exchange rate being about 97 cents to the USD right now, that means our 14.5 lb watermelon was $6.40 US dollars. Won't find that in Maine, huh?


Slow cooker lasagna. I found the recipe on Sparkrecipes.com, part of Sparkpeople.com which I joined 6 months ago (and has been helping Ben and me lose weight and be more active and healthy). The picture just kinda makes it look like vomit, but it tastes better than it looks!


These are what I call my 'Mom' sneakers. I finally got myself a pair of good cross-trainers because we are FINALLY joining the gym this week. 6 months of workout DVDs=bored Julie. And Ben would like to get in and do some cardio and weight-training. Anyway, this is the first pair of workout sneakers I bought for the comfort and fit, instead of liking the way they look. They are Reeboks, they ended up being $60 (which is awesome because everywhere I was looking workout shoes were anywhere from $150-200, and I was SO not ready to pay that), and they look EXACTLY like workout shoes my mom would buy. So, this one's for you mom:


We bought a washing machine for $40 this past week! A girl at work asked if we needed one because her neighbor was selling his. It's in great condition and fairly new. It is so nice not to have to go to the laundromat! Also, because we don't have to do our laundry all at once now, we are able to just do a load, and hang it to dry, and it doesn't take up the entire clothes line. Which is nice because the air is able to blow through the clothes better and dry them much more quickly. Here it is:


And, finally, a picture of us. (Awwww). I know, we haven't taken many pictures of the two of us, we just kind of forget because there are so many cool things going on around us--getting a picture of us seems boring compared to Kangaroo joeys and "Give Way" signs.


Next weekend we are going on a camping and hiking trip to the Stirling Range Mountains near Albany. It's a few hours southeast of here, and we're going with a few friends. It's supposedly really beautiful there, so we will have lots of awesome pictures I'm sure! And the weekend after that is our 1 year anniversary that we're spending in Margaret River--plenty of pictures to come these next few weeks. Miss everyone at home. xoxo

Monday, September 27, 2010

Trip to Freo and other Adventures!

Ben and I have been so busy with work that the weekends have mostly been catching up on cleaning and laying out on the beach. This weekend was a long weekend for us though, because today (Monday) we had a public holiday--the Queen's Birthday. So we both had it off from work! It's so nice to look forward to a shorter week now.

Here are a few pictures from our latest adventures in the Bunbury area:

Evergreen tree on the other side of the beach :)



Our favorite place to go--Koombana Bay Beach. Sand for miles (or should I say kilometers?) public restrooms, gas grills, perfection!




For Mom and Dad Toothaker :)



'Roo steak! We eat it weekly now!




'Tis the season-- Mama 'roo with her joey! Sometimes they sleep head first with their hind feet sticking out like this little guy



Friday and Saturday we bummed around the apartment and the beach, and ran some errands. It's been really gorgeous weather here lately, about 28 degrees Celsius (which is right around 82 degrees Farenheit, we are trying to get used to the different units here!) No one felt like hanging out Saturday night so we spent the night with all the windows open in the apartment and had our music blasting. It was fun to just relax and hang out with each other with not much to do.

But...you know me. I can't do that two days in a row. I get too antsy. I like to have something to do! I've been wanting to check out the Fremantle markets (Fremantle is a well-known area on the Southwestern coast of Australia--most travel books mention Fremantle). It's just a few minutes south of Perth, about an hour and a half north of us in Bunbury. It's a very bohemian city with tons of cool shops and cafes. The architecture reminded Ben and me of Quebec city, just a bit more modern. So we looked online to see if we could find a fairly cheap hotel, but were having trouble because everywhere was booked! I'm sure everyone was there for the long weekend. We found a room above an Irish pub called Rosie O'Grady's right in downtown. We decided to go for it. It was cheap, and we thought if anything it would make a good story. We knew it would only be for one night so we booked it and headed up to Fremantle.


The outside of Rosie O'Grady's. Our room was a couple flights up



Our room at Rosie O'Grady's. Pretty standard. We had a shared bathroom, but it wasn't a big deal because there were two bathrooms and only two rooms--so it was like having our own bathroom.


This is the balcony outside of our room at Rosie's. Sweet leprechaun! If you look closely, downstairs is the bar/pub/restaurant/stage area. It was a big downstairs though.


It's impossible to feel so far from home when the decor at the local pub is the same. Why not a 'roo head?

We had a BLAST! I would LOVE to live in a place like Fremantle. There are lots of people around, everything has a very relaxed vibe. Our room was tiny, but clean and cute! It was just above the pub and there was live music from an Irish band who were surprisingly entertaining. We went down and had a drink and watched the band. They even had some Irish stepdancers come out a few times! And they were way more fun to watch than I was expecting. Definitely not my kind of dance, but different and cool anyway. We ate dinner at the pub, too. It was realllllllly good. We had lamb shank with mashed potatoes in a red wine sauce. Mmmmm.

The next morning we threw our stuff in the car and walked around the Fremantle Markets. They were great! Lots of really cool vendors with interesting stuff to sell. Boomerangs, didgeridoos (an aboriginal instrument, here's a link to someone playing one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DC9w4KWEgJE ), candy, coffee beans, food, carved wooden games...they just had everything. We didn't buy anything, but I know we'll go back to Fremantle fairly frequently (alliteration much?) I really loved it and Ben liked it too. I think it will be one of those places that if we have a weekend with nothing planned, we'll just head up for a night. There's so much to see and do, it's definitely one of my favorite places that we've seen so far.

This looked like an AWESOME store, but it was closed for the holiday :( Something I want to check out next time!


Fremantle Markets! The vendors were set up inside.


So there are some of our recent adventures. Our anniversary is coming up and then we'll have lots of pictures. Margaret River, here we come!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Rambling updates

What a lazy weekend we had. The weather was very rainy on Saturday, so doing anything outdoors was pretty much out of the question. Sunday was a little bit nicer, and we did the "Tuart Walk" (TOO-art). Tuarts are a type of Eucalyptus tree here. We thought it would be a lot longer than it was, but it was only about a mile and a half, and we walked it in about 30 minutes. It was nice to get outside and enjoy the weather, though.

Last week we tried Kangaroo steak! It was really good! Very lean, about 98% fat free too. It tasted a lot like steak, just a little game-y. Not as game-y as Moose though. Definitely something we will be eating often, probably more often than beef, especially because of the nutritional value. We love red meat and won't give it up, but it helps to have something that's a bit better for us.

We are finally done paying all of our ridiculous rent payments this month. We've had over $1000 (that's a lot to us!) in bills that we don't normally have to pay. Between having three rent payments this month instead of two, car registration, a doctor bill, my qualification assessment, and extra money for the week of rent we hadn't paid, we'll be glad when this month is over. Next month we'll actually be able to put some money away, and still go to Margaret River for our 1 year anniversary. I can't believe we've already been married for almost a year...and together for four! It's really cool to see how far we've come together. We're looking into getting our wedding bands engraved as gifts to each other. We want to get a part of "One" by U2 engraved on it. "We have to carry each other". I don't know if that's too long though. We'll see :)

I can't wait to finally have my qualification assessment finished. Then I'll be offered a permanent full-time job at ELC, I'll get a raise, and paid vacation. I'm already there full time, I might as well reap the other benefits, too. I like the job and the kids. And the vitamins are really helping. I'm still sick, but it's just congestion mostly, I could live with that forever compared to the last few times I've been sick.

Ben is enjoying his job. He's getting to do some real engineering work! Figuring out sizes of pipes for plumbing or something. I don't know. But it's all kinds of equations and math and pipe design/layout stuff, so he's happy to have a break from all the errand-running, etc. I know he'd be happier doing structural design work, but you have to start somewhere.

We're looking at what's available for houses/units right now, and trying to get an idea of where we'd like to live. There are some really nice units that are so close to the beach, and cheaper than what we're paying here. They're also renovated so they're a lot newer. If you click on this link you can see them: http://www.realestate.com.au/property-unit-wa-bunbury-404774737

Who knows if they'll be available come January though. But it's good for us to get an idea. We're thinking of going more minimalist, that way we don't end up with a lot of large stuff to have to sell when we decide to come home. The car will be enough! These units come with a refrigerator and a washing machine, which would be nice--if they break, we don't have to buy a new one, it would be the landlord's responsibility to fix it or buy a new one. I like that! We don't really care about our stuff being nice and all matching and stuff. Eventually we'll have our own home where we can spend money on nice, comfortable furniture, and design things the way we want it. But for now, yard sale stuff works. We want to enjoy everything we can out here, and don't want to spend our money on stuff like...coffee tables. That's just silly.

We have another trip we're thinking about doing next year, maybe the year after. (Maybe a 2nd anniversary trip?) We're going to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef! How cool is that? They have tons and tons of trips that we've looked into that provide you with lodging and wet suits, and scuba certification, etc. They have 1/2 day trips all the way through like week long trips. We'd probably just do a day or two. The prices are pretty reasonable. They also have adventure packages where you can scuba and also do bungee jumping, sky diving, hang gliding, etc. AND we get frequent flyer points because we use a rewards card at our local grocery store, and we will gain points from flying home next year (as long as we use Qantas airlines), so we'd get one ticket to Cairns completely free. It would end up being a pretty inexpensive trip. Cairns is completely on the other side of Australia, what better way to use frequent flyer points then to scuba the Great Barrier Reef?

So, that's pretty much it. We're hoping for better weather this weekend so we can spend some time on the beach and not have to run outside and pull all of our clothes from the line because of ominous overhead clouds! Hope everyone is doing well, we miss you!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Officially Spring!

It is officially Spring here in Australia. They change seasons on the first of the month--we don't know why since the rest of the world does it based on the, you know...sun. But as of September 1st, it is spring, and it's definitely warming up. We spent the whole day outside today, and it was a much needed relaxing day.

There is a walk that goes around the entire Lescheneault Inlet, it's a little over 3 miles. We did our laundry this morning and hung it to dry, and figured since it was only 11:30, we'd do the walk. We've been wanting to do it since we discovered it when we first got here, but it was always either raining or we didn't have the energy to do the whole thing. Today was a perfect day to do it, it was so warm and breezy, and we didn't have much else to do. The walk has a boardwalk section over an estuary type thing, all staying close enough to the water to touch. It also goes along the city edge, through a small part of a residential area, lots of parks, and by the popular beach at Koombana Bay (where some dolphins live and often swim with the people.) It was cool to walk in so many different areas, all along the same path. Here are a few pictures from our adventure (we took about 2 hours enjoying it!)

The beginning of our adventure. Check out the pirate in the left bottom corner.


This outlook was on a "shipwreck".


I want to like this, but it continues to creep me out. These wooden people were on all four corners "raising the roof" to this rest area along the boardwalk.


Cool bench! And how easy does it look to make? Were they lazy or creative? Hmm..


This bird was fast at grabbing up little fish under his feet. You can't see it very well, but he has really light fluffy feathers on his bottom-region.


It's weird to see a different flag waving. Australian pride!


Gorgeous house on the Inlet.


Art and graffiti. It reads, "Wake up to the blood stain of real life and REVOLT."


Our landlords are doing some renovations in the unit behind us, and decided to CUT DOWN THE LEMON TREE. We are so sad. BUT, Ben climbed through the fence today, and there were the lemon branches, just laying in a pile with most of the lemons still attached. He filled a huge shopping bag and brought them back into the house. We made more fresh lemonade (thanks for the new recipe, Mel!) and have a huge bowl full of lemons for the next time. Here are a couple pictures showing how incredibly HUGE some of these lemons get!

Look how happy we are with our ginormous lemons!


This weekend has really been great. Last night we celebrated Nat's birthday at Mark and Tyler's. There were just six of us, and we barbecued and had cake and chatted. It was really fun and just the sort of night with friends that we needed.

After our walk today, we went back to the beach we saw at Koombana Bay. We had never been on that beach before, and it was great! We brought our books and fell asleep in the sun for a couple of hours. They have grills that are free to use, nice gas ones. People were grilling up veggies and sausages, and playing with their kids in the grass and on the beach. It was beautiful. Ben and I both kept saying, "this is what we thought Australia would be like." We're going to start grilling dinner down there a couple nights a week and hanging out on the beach until the sun sets after work. We love being outside and need to enjoy the fact that we CAN be outside 12 months out of the year without snow pants on. :)

That's all the adventures for this week. This month is very tight money-wise--I've just started working full time, and we have 3 rent payments this month instead of 2. And because of the landlord screwing up our rent, we are paying back a week of rent that got skipped. So, money is tight. But it's okay. Next month we're going to find a way to get down to Margaret River for our 1 year marriage anniversary (4 years together!) even if it's just for a couple of nights. What good is making money if you don't enjoy the way you spend it?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Perth Adventures

This past weekend we went to an awards night in Perth for Ben's company Lowes Churchill & Associates. We drove up Friday afternoon and checked into our hotel, Waterside Apartments. Nancy, Ben's boss, reimbursed us for the room! It was actually a 2 bedroom apartment with a kitchen that we split with Mark and Nat. We had a balcony that overlooked the water (and freeway...haha) and our rooms looked over the courtyard. It was a great place to stay. The area was exactly what I think of when I think of Perth (we were in South Perth, outside of the city). It was built up with really really tall, BEAUTIFUL apartment buildings and hotels. There was a running path along the waterfront, and you could see the city. There are a lot of pictures in this blog, and we found a way for you to zoom in on them. Hold down the "Ctrl" button while you click on the picture you want to view. It will open the picture in a new tab and you'll be able to see it a bit larger. Here's a panorama view of the city--I love that our camera does this:



So, Friday we went to the awards night around 6:30. We ended up walking to the restaurant, which was at the Perth Zoo, it was only about 1 km away (about .6 mile). The food was really fancy, we had like 4 forks and different knives and spoons. It was fun though, we got all dressed up and had a 3-course meal. Of course, I forgot to get a picture of the four of us all together dressed up. But there will be other times I'm sure! Nancy gave a really nice speech about how the company was very young, including the people in it, and how proud she was. Here's a picture of the company receiving their award for "Best Regional Project Under $100 million":


(From the left: some motivational speaker who was really long and boring and loved to toot her own horn, Mark, Zack, Zack's gf/fiance, Nancy, Nancy's niece, Nat, Ben, and Graham is in front)

After the awards night, we wanted to go out into the city to see it at night. We didn't get to see much, but one of the girlfriend's of the guys that works for LCAA (he works out of Perth) told us that the casino is open 24 hours. So we decided to check it out! Ben and I have never been to a casino before. We didn't do any gambling, but we did laugh at the stuff people gambled on. Like virtual horse and dog racing--do they really think THAT'S not rigged? When we got a cab back, there was a long line of people. They basically have a big lane of cabs and everyone just waits in a line for one. It's funny, because you really notice how people are a lot less pushy here. Everyone just waited their turn and were very civil (even the 18 year old drunkies).

Saturday we went to the Perth Zoo. It.was.AWESOME. We spent the whole day there. I couldn't believe we were able to spend like 6 hours at the zoo! But it was really fun, and they had cool animals. There was an Australian Bushwalk where you just walked through where animals were roaming freely--like kangaroos, wallabies, weird birds, etc. Get ready...there are like 30 pictures.


Zebras.


Wombat. They're like hairy pigs.

Sun Bear.


Tree Kangaroos. They looked so soft and cuddly. He doesn't look as demonic as the picture shows--silly camera flash.



Tasmanian Devil!!


Love this picture of the lady tiger. Look how happy she is in dreamland.

We watched the male tiger for a long time. We could get nose to nose with him through the glass. He kept pacing back and forth and coming SO close to our faces. It was AWESOMEEEE

Showing some teeth.


"How YOU doin'?" Best picture of a kangaroo ever. Oh so seductive.



White Rhinos sunbathing.



Radiated tortoises.



Pelican. Which is really big...up to my hip in height.


Painted Dog. NOT a hyena, although they look similar.


Cutest meerkat EVAAAA. Check out the little smirk on his face. (A meerkat is Timon's character in Lion King!)


Awesome lions having a rest.

Koala! Sadly not as cute and cuddly as I was expecting. He looks old and wise, doesn't he?


This 'Roo was in the bushwalk. We were SO close to him. We could have touched him, but thought we should probably leave him alone.


"The Dingo ate your baby!" (This is a dingo. Just looks like a dog. He was so cute though, and seemed kind of sad. And old. And tired.)


Giraffe. Hopefully you know that.


Baboon. Don't their butts look painful? This one in particular didn't leave this tree--he just kept licking it. They had just been given sugar cane, maybe there was some on the tree?

Galapagos Tortoise. He was MASSIVE. At least three small children could ride him. Here, he is enjoying a lovely salad.


Lazy Croc. Ben would like to point out that the zookeeper's have done a marvelous job at recreating the crocodile's natural habitat--a Florida pool.


Baby Orangutan. We watched the orangutans for like 30 minutes. The mother got mad because so many people were watching and gave everyone the middle finger. Then she scooped up her baby and climbed up these really tall towers they have for the orangutans. The baby started showing off and hanging around the bars and ropes. I think s/he has a piece of sugar cane in this picture.


Little Penguin. They were really cute, and their coats are a pretty royal blue--which you can see better in the video. We got there right at feeding time!

Here is a video of the little blue penguins being fed. Right between :06 and :09 seconds you can hear an Australian crow--doesn't it sound like a crow from the States but with an Australian accent??


video


Ben and Mark riding the lions outside of the fancy Perth Zoo restaurant.

Well, there you have it. We had a great time, and any of you that visit will have to come to the Zoo with us. It was an awesome experience and we'd love to do it again.