Category Archives: Australia

Top Ten Things I Love About Australia

1. Hands down the people are the thing I love the most, specifically our family and friends in Australia. I could miss out on everything else on this list and just see the people and be a happy person.
2. The food, which I’ve already outlined here, but aside from missing genuine Mexican food we love the food options down under. Highlights include: spinach rolls, fish and chips, sushi, Peppermint Magnum bars, kebabs (at the mall!), Thai and Indian food in Forster/Tuncurry, flat white coffees and Christmas pudding.
3. Chocolate – yes, technically a food but this needs its own line item – the chocolate in Australia is just delicious, mostly because it’s not filled with wax and is made with copious amounts of cream. Plus it comes in fun flavors like honeycomb, cherry/coconut and caramel/nougat.
4. Use of electric teapots and having a cuppa – anytime you go to someone’s house, you can expect to have tea (or coffee) with them. Everyone has an electric teapot on their counter and in five minutes you’ll be having tea and maybe a snack. The instant coffee is delicious and convenient. I wish this was something we did more in the States, it’s just a nice aspect to any evening to sit down and have a cuppa with people (of course we do it our own way with pod coffee brewers and Diet Coke).
5. Road signs and billboards that provided me with endless amusement. Admittedly these can be amusing in the States as well, but since I was a passenger for all of this trip and we did quite a bit of driving, I got to pay more attention to them as we passed. I’ve already mentioned how I love to make fun of the warning signs in Australia in a previous post so I’ll leave that as it is but this time I noticed more billboards, my favorites were those warning against things: [to paraphrase] “Being five minutes late or paralyzed – you decide” or a series talking about skin cancer (which is very serious and prevalent in Australia) but the signs were EVERYWHERE and some would show a woman in a bikini with the tagline “A perfect spot for melanoma” or “There’s nothing healthy about a tan” something along those lines – totally Debbie downer billboards. But the best was a series of three billboards along a 1km stretch that were promoting regular pap smears all with cheeky taglines “Pap tests. A little bit of awkward for a whole lot of peace of mind.” This again, is for an important thing, but these billboards are so frequent and intense something about it struck me as amusing, probably because most of our billboards related to healthcare are advertising hospitals and insurance companies rather than specific problems.
6. The shops close up at 5:30 (the grocery stores are open later) but the mall areas just close up and at first I found this off-putting but really, it shows a general prioritization that Australias have in putting living life AHEAD of working. In the US, we’re all about convenience and getting things when we want them but realistically, nothing is so important that I can’t wait until a later time to pick up. Instead of running errands all over town in the evenings, we should just be home with our families or out doing things together. I like that idea.
7. Being about to see kangaroos and wallabies in the wild – so cool.
8. The gorgeous scenery that is found everywhere – I love driving around New South Wales (the state we were in) – it’s like driving around up north, more towns and way less cities. It’s hilly and lush with the ocean never far away (at least where we were).
9. Their money is just way cooler than ours – isn’t it so pretty? Plus they use $1 and $2 coins. Now if only the American dollar was stronger because the cost of living in Australia is way higher but our dollars are about equal so to us, everything seemed to cost so much more. For example, we’d pay $2.22 for two 20-oz. bottles of Diet Coke here in the States but in Australia we’d pay $3.50 for ONE half liter of Diet Coke and $24 for a 24-pack of cans.
australian money

10. The general laid back attitude of the people. “No worries, mate.”

Top Ten {Tuesday}This post is linked to Oh Amanda’s Top Ten Tuesday.


Notes from a Big Island, Part Two

On a much lighter note… the second half of our trip. for your viewing pleasure, another image gallery, please click to embiggen. Also shown are some photos from the beginning of our trip and our trip to Blackhead Beach with Sandra, Joel and Stuart (a great many were taken by our budding photographer, Liam).

Highlights from the second half of our trip:
– Dinner at the Forster Bowling Club (lawn bowling, that is) with the Donkins (Joel, Sandra and Jacob)
– Visiting with Aunt Monica and Uncle Jack (Monica is Simon’s dad’s 90+year-old sister – they are both amazing)
– Feeding the kookaburra family with Aunt Monica
– Going out for a double date with Sandra and Joel for Sandi’s birthday – scrumptious, authentic Thai food
– Seeing three dolphins (in the wild) jumping out of the water while driving over the bridge between Forster and Tuncurry
– Visits to the hospital to see Dorothy – the kids thought it was cool and loved playing in the family room
– Spending the morning walking around Forster, exploring the shops, jumping on the trampolines one last time and soaking up the sun
– Spending an afternoon at the beach by Dorothy’s house
– Celebrating Dorothy’s birthday with her and singing the quietest rendition of “Happy Birthday” ever sung
– Spending a great deal of our last day with Dorothy sans children thanks to a gracious Joel and Jacob keeping them entertained
– Dinner at Sandra and Joel’s house with Chinese food brought up from Sydney
– The boys would also include playing with waterguns and bubble wands and eating Paddle Pops outside at Grandma Dorothy’s house
– Borrowing Sandi’s new car to drive down to Sydney for the last three days in our trip – we didn’t even crash it, though I can tell you now that the carpark at the hotel was the tiniest underground parking structure I have ever been in – it was laughably small and we had to do multi-point turns to go up the ramps between levels (thankfully never meeting a car was coming the other direction)
– Visiting with Rod and his kids in Wollongong – great company + more good food + weather that turned out sunny rather than windy and rainy = fun times (not so fun was the sunburn I acquired that day – after nearly three weeks of carefully applying sunscreen, I did not bring any that day)
– Visiting with Kylie, Bobby, Julie, Jen and Mark in Campbelltown + all their kids (sadly no photos were taken by me) but we had a great evening catching up and Liam attempted to learn to play cricket (it is not his forte)
– Spending the day touring Sydney and seeing the sites by train, foot and ferry including: Manly Beach, Darling Harbour, Circular Quay, Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge, Royal Botanical Gardens
– Walking through the Royal Botanical Gardens and seeing a gigantic fig tree
– Taking the ferry to Manly for lunch (sushi and ice cream, though not at the same time)
– Not a highlight: Liam’s epic meltdown on the way back to the hotel after our day in the city. It was the worst one I have ever witnessed by my son and I applaud his vigor (that was, until his 6-hour cry fest at the end of our day of traveling – but I’m trying to block that out).
– Paddy’s Market – always a fun detour to check out the wares all the vendors are selling
– Brekkie at Macca’s with a saintly Joel, Jacob and Elena (who got up at an ungodly hour to drive down to Sydney and meet us) prior to our flight home

There were so many highlights, no list could do them justice, but this gives you a little sampling of our trip. We are especially grateful to Sandra, Joel and Jacob for all they did to make everything go smoothly.

In process

Disclaimer: I realize many of my posts at the end of the year were about being busy and busy-ness… and I also realize we are all busy because that is pretty much how life goes. I am overall just a busy person as that is part and parcel with being a full-time mom and full-time business owner, I am not whining or complaining (and hopefully haven’t come across that way) but this space is also my outlet about what I am thinking, what is weighing on my mind and how I’m dealing with it. Also, in this post I’m going to talk about death, just so you know. </disclaimer>

I’m not normally one of those introspective, new agey people who needs time to process things that have happened. Normally, things happen and I feel what I feel about them and can (typically) recognize the impact and keep on moving. I’m a roll-with-the-punches sort of gal. The past 6 weeks (and perhaps the past 6 months) have really put me through the ringer with one thing after the other; and since we booked our tickets to Australia, I just kept thinking in the back of my mind, “I’ll deal with this, that and that other thing after we get back.” In the meantime, we made the decision to move our business before Christmas (good choice overall, just bad timing) which meant on top of normal life being off kilter, work was also out of whack and all sense of normalcy was out the window. The minute the holidays and the move were over, we boarded a plane to leave the country for three weeks which is a whole lot more off-kilterness (totally a word). And as I noted yesterday, while we were gone a third of our tree fell down and smashed our car and fence (thankfully not our house with its new roof), certainly a best case scenario thing for if that was going to happen since wonderful (times a million) friends took care of a bulk of the immediate problem with that incident. Perhaps God is trying to get my attention, or Simon’s, or both (that’s a post for another day).

So now we are back and while life should be back to normal, I’m still feeling a little lost, like I don’t know where to begin or pick things up. The three weeks in Australia were a bit of a whirlwind, though we stayed primarily in one place and didn’t have an overload of plans, they were still full.

Outside of the last time we were there and had to say goodbye to Simon’s dad, I don’t know that I’ve ever had to say goodbye to someone, knowing with great certainty it would be the last time I would ever see that person this side of heaven, certainly not someone I love, respect and cherish. There is not an easy way to do that, but I think we did it the best we could, despite what anyone else may think or how they would have done it (we all have our ways). There is no exact formula or right way to say goodbye but I have great comfort in knowing that we all know God and have Jesus in our hearts so it truly is a “see you later” scenario. It still doesn’t make it easy and it still hurts my heart for my husband and his mom, and for my kids and myself, along with Simon’s family as a whole. It’s impossible to be the people leaving as well as the ones left “behind.” Death and dying are pretty sucktastic if you ask me, but being sick and suffering are not great alternatives.

I’m sensitive to not making this about me because I am “just” the daughter-in-law and in reality have only met my mother-in-law in person a few times, but I think in being sensitive to that, I’ve pushed back some of my feelings on the matter and held back, thinking that I am not entitled to be overly upset or emotional about it. Plus, it’s less painful to be slightly detached and to be the stoic one – but I’m going to allow myself a moment here.

I dearly love Dorothy and feel so blessed to have been given the time with her that I’ve had, the chats and insights into her life. I love that the boys have had time with her and have loved on her as much as they have (they were wonderful with that, btw). We are lucky that we were able to go there. My heart breaks for them, anticipating the day I have to tell them they won’t be seeing their grandma again and while Jack won’t understand, I know that Liam will and he’s going to be so very sad. My heart breaks for my husband because while he says he’s at peace with it, because he is after all pragmatic and straight-forward with how he approaches things, it’s still his mother, his one constant for his entire life and she will be gone. My heart breaks for Simon’s family, especially my sister-in-law, who is left behind dealing with everything after the flurry and excitement of all the visiting family. See, it’s sucktastic.

I have a hard time calling our trip a vacation because that was not its purpose. I wish we could have been somewhere that wasn’t a place everyone wants to go, because that aspect of the trip was so small compared to the bigness of everything else. Which is not to say that we didn’t have fun or loads of awesome experiences, we totally did and tomorrow I’ll talk about those.

So bear with me, I’m still processing it all and trying to find normal again. But I thought you should know, I need a little gentleness and understanding. Don’t we all?

And as long as I’m laying it all out there… two other things weighing on me are:
1. Acutely feeling the loss of having my husband around after a month of his not working. After two years of his working second shift, and our tag-team parenting, this month of togetherness has sort of ruined me for our “normal” and I anticipate a little depression in relation to that detail.
2. Feeling out of touch with my friends – my sounding boards and often my sanity – this is very normal for this time of year, as each winter, after the holidays are over, I feel this way. The snow often comes and keeps everyone inside, and people are recovering from the holidays and school breaks, and we all take time to regroup and it often feels like forever until we can reconnect again. The timing of our trip magnified this feeling for me because I missed seeing friends in general along with a MOPS meeting (thanks to a school delay, I only missed one, I might be the only person in MOPS who was glad for it to be cancelled). But the good news is, I have some gatherings to look forward to – plus a Friday date with Sandy at my house! And I promise not to be a needy mental case when I see my friends, scouts honor.

And just so I don’t leave you with all gloom… a photo from our seeing Rod in Wollongong, I ran ahead to get a photo of the guys with the brood of children. I love the disapproving look on the woman’s face behind them – total photobomb. And would like to note that Rod’s children were bundled in heavy jumpers while my kids were complaining of being too hot in long-sleeved t-shirts. And, God bless Rod and Leann because they have three-and-a-half-year-old twins!

My trip, according to Facebook posts

December 30, 8 p.m. | Burning off energy before the long haul.

December 30, 11 p.m. | Found a perk of traveling with kids… Upgrade to premium economy seating.

December 31 (technically Jan. 1, in Oz) | Someone has had his fill of traveling! Which is perfect since we are here! Happy New Year! (I’m a little exclamation mark happy!!!)

January 7 | Liam asked me if it was August here because the weather is so nice. Having a lovely time down under!

January 10 | In Australia, Jack naps and Liam plays outside on his own… this might mean I’m never coming home.

January 11 | Liam just looked up from drawing on the iPad and said, “I just sent that to Facebook and now I’m taking a mind picture.” Um ‘k.

January 12 | Jump around

The bridge between Forster (where Simon’s mum lives) and Tuncurry

Big thank you to the guy who took our picture, though I asked for a shot showing the background and he mostly got a shot of the ground in front of us 😉

January 13, a.m. | I was thinking about relandscaping, but this seems a bit extreme… thank goodness for great friends who come to the rescue (and insurance to replace the fence and vehicle) and that no one was home to get hurt.

 While we were gone, our tree fell down on our Explorer and fence, putting both out of commission. Thankfully we have awesome friends who helped take care of the problem for us. Sadly, the car was totalled so now we are car shopping – any recommendations for a mid-size sedan?

January 13, p.m. | Love is a husband who will ask what you want for dinner and then go out and get the yummy Indian food you requested when he just had it two nights ago. Thanks, honey!

January 15 | Goodbye Forster (Simon’s mom’s place is way at the bottom of the hill and to the right)… We will miss everyone! But we will always have our memories and more to come!

A visit at Wollongong with the best man from our wedding and his kiddos

January 16 | Sydney!

Simon (in the red shirt) gets up close and personal with a street performer.

This street performer took about 20 minutes to set up his finale, which was him climbing up a rope onto a pole and juggling knives; I’d be impressed but not only was it not very impressive, I really think I saw this guy 8 years ago when we were in Australia the first time.

Photos brought to you by free WiFi at McDonald’s

(The only place in Sydney to get free WiFi)

January 17 | One more day in Oz, then the long trip home starts tomorrow…  Start praying, going home is sometimes harder.

January 18 | Unimpressed with going home… But am looking forward to being home.

January 19 | It’s good to be home (despite the cold).

Our furnace wasn’t running when we got home (Simon fixed this – thankfully – with some banging and cleaning dust off sensors) but I was wearing capri pants and ballet flats so I put the first thing on my feet that I could find, my double layer wool mittens – perfect!

Say What?

Australians, I’ve found, love to shorten words in everyday usage. For example: brekkie or brekky instead of breakfast. And Simon’s mom has said that if you have a short name they give you a longer nickname and if you have a long name, you get a shortened nickname. When it comes to the words, this can sometimes be confusing, but I think I am starting to learn and be able to keep up.

Let’s see if you can guess what the follow mean:
copper (pronouced “cop-pa”)

Any guesses?

Answers below

. . . .

arvo = afternoon
cozzie = suimsuit (as in your swim costume, and also, swimmers)
copper (pronouced “cop-pa”) = friend, buddy, mate (this one has a long history that I heard on the TV the other day but can’t quite remember, but they use it in the Wiggles so I’ve heard it before and just thought they were talking about police)
garbos = garbagemen, or refuse removal technicians
Maccas = McDonalds
bikies = bikers, of the motorcycle-riding variety
cuppa = cup of, as in, “Would you like a cuppa [tea/coffee]?”
mozzies = mosquitoes

Also, fries are called chips, or hot chips.
And potato chips are called cold chips or (more commonly) crisps.
Cookies are biscuits, or bikkies.
Sprite is called Lemonade.
Diapers are nappies.
The counter is the bench.
The trashcan is the bin.

Even when we all speak English, things are a little different.