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 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.

-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 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 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.

-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 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 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 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.

-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!

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.

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!


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. 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, part of 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