A Perfect Day

Back when I was younger, I dated this guy....  He used to play me this song in a misguided attempt at romance...

To be honest, I always found it a bit creepy; but I understood the sentiment.  I was in my mid-twenties when I was first introduced to Patty Griffin (Thanks to my sisters!) and this song...

I love this song - love it, love it, love it.  Even if I am not having a "heavenly" day, just listening to it can lift me about halfway...

Today was a perfect day, a heavenly day...  We had plans to go to a rodeo with our fabulous American friends; but, as Joe was still recovering from Wednesday's sunburn we decided to bow out and spend the day inside.  What made it so perfect?  If I described to you all of the little things that we did today, the yummy dinner, the movie we watched and the tiny meaningful moments that made up the day, it would only lessen the experience.

For now, I just want to snuggle into bed knowing that I have another entire day tomorrow to try to repeat today....

Sunday Blog

Well, as you may be gathering, this will not be a post about Thredbo or even an installment 4 to our Christmas holidays.  This is just a quick little note to let you know that all is well!

I promise a Thredbo blog is soon in the coming - just as soon as I get the photos sorted.

Joe and I have been busy...  Busy with work and busy with the general day to day things.

But, it's very very late - and I still have to do an on-line grocery shop - and my feet hurt....  So, I am going to say goodnight and leave you with the promise of more exciting entries to come this week...

Christmas Vacation - Installment 3

** Just a quick FYI for those interested - I wrote this entry 2 days ago; but I didn't have the photos organised for it and plus, it's the weekend, and I was busy relaxing!  - sorry it's so late in coming! **

After our late night of wild and crazy domino playing - we opted for the later breakfast time the next morning.  There were more choices on the menu that day, including some delicious little potato cakes and a few more egg options.  I have to say, both mornings, the breakfasts were very good - nothing super fancy; but really tasty and nicely presented - Barry cooked the breakfast and Rod served the table.  I got fried eggs the second morning and they were some of the best eggs I've had in a while... not sure how he cooked them l but they were crispy on the bottom and soft on top!   Plus there was freshly brewed coffee - flat whites, cappuccinos etc...  After breakfast we packed up and got everything ready to go - we still had about 20 minutes till check-out.  P.I.C was enjoying the paper in the conservatory and I was jotting down some thoughts on my laptop in the dining room when Barry and Rod descended again.  They basically asked us to get our stuff out of the rooms so they could go in and make them up for the next guests - I get it, they have every right to expect us to leave before the final check out time; but in this case we had a bit of time where we were just collecting ourselves for the next leg of the trip.  We felt rushed out and we ended up pulling out of the parking lot still about 10 minutes prior to check-out.  It left a bit of a bad taste in our mouths about the stay.

All in all, Barnsley House was a beautiful beautiful place to stay.  The gardens were overwhelming inviting (see pictures above) - the whole place had this pervasive air of restfulness about it.  I thought that the rates were a good value as well - prices were comparable to some of the nicer B&B's we've stayed at in the States.  I do feel like Rod and Barry's attitudes effected our stay a bit; but, I do feel that if we had stayed at any other time than Christmas (and more than one day), than our experience would have been much more positive.  Also, the fact that it was rainy on Christmas and we couldn't enjoy the outdoor areas was really unfortunate.

We drove back up into town to find it absolutely bustling with activity.  We headed to the visitor information center so P.I.C could ask about the best way to get to Thredbo.  Beechworth is famous in it's own right for being the town where Ned Kelly was jailed and stood trial.  If you have a couple minutes, you should click on the link and read about him.  It's a very interesting story and still very important in Australian culture today.

On our way over the the courthouse, we stopped inside an old telegraph office.  The office is still functional and for a very small fee you could send a telegraph message to anywhere in the world!  Joe promptly wrote one out to his Dad back in Kentucky.  We are still waiting for the call to tell us that he received it - We are figuring that it is probably going to take sometime for it to actually get there as it will need to be mailed once it gets to the States. The guy working the telegraph was an absolute wealth of knowledge and was able to tell us some of the history behind the telegraph in Australia.

Our next stop was the courthouse - we paid our admission fee and as we prepared to head inside, P.I.C happened to make some remark to the man behind the desk about his major (and I do mean major - P.I.C is obsessed) interest in Ned Kelly.  The man quickly engaged in conversation and we ended up getting a bonus lesson in how the class systems were set up back in Ned Kelly's day.  It was interesting to hear from a local about it and also someone who was so obviously well-versed in the history.  It really added an additional layer to our experience as we went through the courthouse.  One of my favourite parts was that they had recorded "readings" of certain trials playing in the main room.  The result of that was that, if no one else was in the room, you could sit and imagine what it must of been like actually hearing these trials go on.

It was an interesting visit; but the day was hot and we were very tired so when P.I.C suggested going to another museum, we all deserted him.  Joe and I opted for a carriage ride (made even more awesome by the fact that the carriage owner had his two dogs - one adult and one a tiny puppy (but both the most well-behaved doggies ever) tethered to a post by the street where we were able to pet them to our hearts content)) and then the three of us retired to the pub for a cold beer while P.I.C geeked it out in the other museum.

We met back up at one and headed out towards Thredbo.  We briefly discussed having lunch in Beechworth; but we were all still full from breakfast so we decided that we would just find a cafe or winery on the way and stop there.  I have no idea of the route that we took or the route that we were supposed to take - we were listening to podcasts and enjoying the scenery in the backseat while Cristin and P.I.C were in charge of maps and other such navigational tools.  The woman in the visitor's center gave us directions to some scenic highway  that was so new that it was not yet on the printed maps or on any GPS systems.  I don't exactly know if we ever found that highway; but we did find some pretty great scenery - this is the sort of view that makes you stop, sit by the side of the road and wonder at how anything can be this beautiful.

Even though the road was beautiful, it was in the middle of nowhere with no lunch prospects.  We finally passed a little pub around 4 - the kitchen was closed so no luck there; but I was getting sick from being so hungry so I made myself a quick half sandwich while we were stopped in the parking lot.  I ate way too fast and I made the sandwich with hot (really really hot) salami by accident so, by the time we came across a proper town, I was feeling pretty vomitous...  Everyone else was really hungry though so we stopped for a look.  I had noticed a "Man From Snowy River" Museum on our way into town; but it was boarded up and in disrepair so I didn't want to go back and get a picture of it.  Luckily this arcade was right in front of where we  parked so I was able to get some sort of picture to show my sisters.

While everyone else walked up and down main street looking for food, I sat on a bench, felt sick to my stomach and generally had a couple of miserable minutes where I wished for all, each and any of my sisters to be sharing in this Snowy Mountain experience with me.  We met back up at the car in a matter of minute - everyone felt the food choices to be dodgy so we decided to just press forward towards Thredbo and figure out food when arrived.  I discovered that having the window down made my tummy issues disappear, the air started getting much much colder as we climbed and the view started looking quite mountainous!  It was exciting to feel the altitude and temperature change so quickly as we continued.

                                          ........... Ok, Thredbo update tomorrow...........

Christmas Vacation - Installment 2

After the movie we decided to drive around the town to see what there was to see - short answer, nothing.  It was a ghost town... I would not have been surprised to see tumbleweeds blowing down the six streets that comprised the downtown area.  Rod had told us that we should go to "The Gorge" to see the waterfall or to go out to "The Lake".  It wasn't a very nice day - gray, rainy and a bit depressing.  I think we were all feeling just slightly dampened at the idea of not being with our families on Christmas; but we were determined to make the best of it.  We drove up to the access road that leads to "The Gorge" only to find that it was washed out from all the rain and flooding.  We Cristin and P.I.C briefly considered hiking the 4km into the woods to see the waterfall until I declared that an 8km hike was not my idea of a good Christmas...  We decided then to find "The Lake" - we did find it eventually; but it was mostly full of family groups celebrating the holiday by having a BBQ and swimming around in the dirty water.  Again, we felt quite out of place driving slowly by on the crunchy loud gravel road as every head swiveled to see who we were.  We left the lake without even getting out of the car.  In the end we drove down to the other end of the gorge which was right outside of the town.  The sky was getting more and more gray; but conditions ended up being perfect for those really dark black and white photos.

We were getting very hungry so we drove back into town.  I asked if we could stop at this beautiful little stone church with an open door - it was dark inside and smelled like incense.  There was a creche and an advent candle wreath.  It was just what I needed to see to remind me of what the day was really about.  Right as we were about to leave the church, the rain started - huge angry drops that wouldn't let up.  We were trapped in the door way for about ten minutes until it was safe to make a run for the car.

Back to the B&B for lunch we went...  Cristin and I were able to whip up quite a feast of turkey sandwiches, tuna sandwiches, olive and feta salad, chips, biscuits and lots of wine.  It wasn't the fanciest Christmas lunch around; but my tuna sandwich was so yummy!  We ate, sitting around the coffee table (since we weren't allowed in the dining room) and watched some tv - I remember "Just Shoot Me" being on; but it was mostly just background noise.  We all agreed after the feast that it was bath/relaxing/nap-time.

After all the relaxing time (which mostly ended up meaning napping time) we reconvened for a late night game of dominoes.  This coffee table gathering was celebrated with salami, cheese, fruit, champagne and Hershey's Kisses fresh from a care package from the States (thanks Annmarie!)

Rod and Barry got back around 10:30 - Barry (he was the super uptight one) came to ostensibly "check on us" which we understood was really him checking on his beautiful lounge for damages.  We had to force him to take out dirty dishes and trash.  We were not given clean dishes, or new trash bags - also, our beds were not made up for the night.

We finished the game late - after midnight for sure; and, just so I can go on record saying this, I totally won....

                              ............................Installment 3 - coming soon!.....................

Christmas Vacation - Installment 1

Per the usual, I've returned from somewhere with far too many photos and probably not enough witty prose to go along with them.  I'm just going to write the whole story, plug the photos in and keep my fingers crossed.

After my homesickness leading up to Thanksgiving (I know, I know, you have no idea what I am talking about since I never did end up writing a post about Thanksgiving) I was looking for a way to mitigate any sort of celebration or expectation of celebration for the Christmas holiday.  Much like my old industry in the States, the entire country of Australia seems to shut down from Christmas to New Years ((and in some cases two weeks into January) They call it the "Silly Season")) so we were going to end up with about a week and a half's worth of vacation in a city that had virtually ground to a halt.  I didn't need all that down time to get me thinking so we decided to take a vacation.  I started looking a while back for some little shack or cottage on a beach somewhere where we could have a nice week away. I soon discovered that it is nearly impossible to book ANYTHING near a beach for the Christmas holidays - ah yes, and also they seem to charge double over the holidays.

Luckily, our intrepid friends Cristin and her Partner in Crime were also looking to get out of Sydney over the holidays so we decided to holiday together.  We settled on a trip length of 4 days - 2 days in a little historic town  called Beechworth and the remainder of the time in a ski town at the top of the Snowy Mountains called Thredbo.

Joe and I both took the day off work on Christmas Eve - P.I.C (Partner in Crime mentioned above) had to work till noonish so that gave me the morning to pack and get the apartment settled. P.I.C and Cristin picked us up around 2 and we started the drive south.  The drive was pretty unremarkable at the beginning - of course there was much talking and laughter - also some podcast listening and snacking.  I first realised that we were not only going south; but also, back in time, when we stopped for petrol the first time and I saw the pumps were circa 1970.  We stopped for dinner and shopping in Gundagai.  It was a cute little town with an IGA (which was our main reason for stopping there).

After we stocked up on lots of wine and food for Christmas day, we wandered down the main street to "the local" hotel which was surprisingly crowded for a Christmas Eve evening.  We ordered our fish and chips (and, of course, I'm the one with the Corona) and then found a table outside in the courtyard.  As we sat there, we began to notice that people were walking to the hotel from all over the town - it was almost as though the entire town was coming together to celebrate Christmas Eve at the pub.  Also, it should be noted that these folk were showing up in what was obviously their Christmas finery.  We ended up eating rather quickly and then moving on as we felt further and further out of place the longer we sat there.  It was extremely obvious that we were "not from around these parts"and it felt a bit like showing up at a huge party and being the only people that weren't invited.

In Beechworth, we had booked ourselves into a lovely Bed & Breakfast called Barnsley House.  Cristin and I were seduced by the pictures of the rooms on the website - claw foot tubs, private patios, afternoon tea and a bright sunny conservatory just perfect for reading.  After I booked the room, I got a very nice e-mail from "Rod & Barry" informing me that they would be gone on Christmas Day visiting family and that our food was pretty much up to us.  They would make us breakfast of course; but it would be early.  No problem we thought - there are little fridges in the room so we would just buy some groceries and have some snacky sort of meals.

When we went into the IGA to stock up we were slightly horrified to realise that there were only 3 types of meat in the deli case - the whole store was really operating under the umbrella of "slim-pickins".  We called Rod & Barry to check if there was a BBQ we could use - there was not.  We asked if we would be able to access some plates - we would not.  It was around this time that they started referring to Christmas being a "limited service" day.  This did not bode well.....

We checked in very late much to the disapproval of Rod and Barry (both wearing shorts and house slippers - very strange).  We were reminded several times about the early breakfast and told that they needed to leave for their families house by 9:30am sharp!

Admittedly, the house was completely gorgeous - everything was done up perfectly down to the last detail.  It was in a bit of a dodgy neighborhood; but since it was enclosed in a high dense hedge it wasn't really noticeable after you pulled in.

The next morning it was up early for breakfast - there was one other couple staying at the B&B.  They were from Melbourne and were there for Christmas with his family as he had grown up in Beechworth.  They were easy and fun to talk to.  We must have been lingering a bit too long over our coffees; because Rod came over to the table to tell us that we needed to finish up and vacate the dining room so they could lock-up and leave. It was right around that moment when I realised that they were locking the door that led to the back of the house (which included the kitchen, the dining room and that gorgeous conservatory).  We were then left with just our rooms and a small "Guest Lounge" to our disposal.  We settled in to the lounge to watch a movie - there was nice selection of DVDs that were for guest use; but we opened them only to find that all of the disks had been removed and replaced with small stickers that read "Ask Rod or Barry for assistance".  They really were living up to that stereotype of fussy gay couples.  Thankfully I had downloaded some movies onto my laptop so we were able to watch "Love Actually" (albeit on a very small screen).

.......More to Come....

You Found Me How?

Not sure if you remember (just pretend here that you could never forget); but awhile back I wrote this post about Google Analytics and what drove people to my site...  I have to admit, when I first started blogging, I was a wee bit obsessed with how many people visited per day, where they were coming from and how they found me.

Well, I've gotten busy - the side effect to that is that I care much much less.  I haven't been on my analytics page in months!  So, I popped on yesterday just to see how things were going.  Sadly South Korea has been ousted from the number 5 slot in the country rankings; but mostly everything has stayed the same.

I was quite please to see that I had acquired many new and strange Google searches that I can't wait to share with you.  I was trying to list these in my order of favourite; but it has proven far too hard to choose - Please buckle up and enjoy.

"feel his stubble" - I typed this one into Google to see where I was in the search results.... Yikes, it brings up some questionable search returns!

"bogans in maroubra" - I'm sorry, I'm laughing too hard to even comment on this one!

"British expat club Kirribilli" - I think each of these words were used in separate posts...  I must have been hundreds of pages through the search results!

"Bronte fine wine old bottles" - No clue on this one...

"i just can't get over being homesick, Australia is too modern for me" - This one is a bit sad; but I can't help wondering where this person came from who is thinking that Australia is too modern?  I am constantly amazed at how many things here are stuck in the 80s, 70s, 60s and sometimes even 50s...

"left and right lucky every night"  - Bwah ha ha ha ha ha!  That is all......

"it been raining for the whole day and been sleeping since morning, got to take a bath now" - I'm not making this up - There's no way I could make this stuff up!

"Moved into Victorian house fruit flies coming out of sash windows?"  - I know I've written about our sash windows.... but fruit flies too?

"should i go for a walk at one in the morning" - Again... no words for this...

Well, this concludes my little foray into analytics for this quarter - hopefully, with more and more entries the search results will get more and more crazy!  Do you think that's possible?

What To Do This Summer?

Ok, I'm getting a bit nervous seeing as our six month anniversary of living in Sydney has come and gone without us having much to show for it.  We've done precious little in this great city and I plan to rectify that.  Of course, being here in the winter to start with doesn't lend itself to a whole lot of activities; but this summer is chock a block with fantastic stuff to do.

I've cobbled together this list and I'm looking for some input - anyone want to do these things with us?  Anyone been to these in the past with reviews of whats worth it and whats not?  Lots of them are happening in the next few weeks so I need to make a schedule, book tickets and make some plans!

I've underlined my favourites - and am now realising that that was most of them..... Guess I have some hard choices to make...

The Rocks Markets By Moonlight

Chinese New Year Events:

Dragon Boat Races - Saturday 12, Feb and Sunday 13, Feb - Darling Harbour

Twilight Parade - Sunday 6, Feb - Town Hall to Chinatown

Chinese New Year Markets - Friday 28, Jan to Sunday 30, Jan - Belmore Park

Cinema Alley - Friday 11, Feb - Haymarket - Must book seats

China Heart - Sunday 30, Jan to Sunday 13, Jan - Powerhouse Museum

Australia Day - Wednesday 26, Jan
Ferrython - 11am
Parade on the Water - 1pm
Live Music in the Rocks - from 11am
Darling Harbour - from Noon
Short Films

Mike Birbiglia - 13 to 16, Jan - Everest Theatre by Central Station

The Giacomo Variations - 19-22, Jan - Opera House

Symphony in the Domain: Midsummer Shakespeare - 22, Jan - The Domain

La Boheme - July to October - Opera House

Sting: Symphonicity Tour - 31, Jan to 3, Feb - Opera Forecourt!

Mahler's Sixth Symphony - 3 to 5, March - Opera House

SYDNEY PHILHARMONIA CHOIRS - Sunday 12, June - Opera House

Macbeth - 10, Sept to 8, Oct - Opera House

Sydney Shakespeare Festival - February Weekends - Glebe Harbour Foreshore

International Short Film Festival - Week of 7-16, Jan - Bondi Pavilion - Sunday 9, Jan - Best of Poland Films

Picton Rodeo - 8th of January - Picton

Opera in the Domain - 29th of Jan - The Domain

Annie Leibovitz - to the 27th of March - Museum of Contemporary Art

A New Year

I went through a period in my life where I was big on New Years resolutions - I'm over that phase and instead of making a horrifying list with things on it like "Drink 3 litres of water everyday" or "Spend less money" I now just try to take a couple of days early on in the year for some reflection.  Firstly, I make a list of things, people, experiences etc... that I am thankful for (yes, I know that's what Thanksgiving is for) and, where I can, I try to thank them or pay something back or forward if I can.  Secondly, I try to be really honest with myself about the things that I really failed at throughout the year; but conversely, I recognise the places where I excelled - where I improved and then I try to build on them for the next year.

Honestly, I haven't really sat down to have "the big think" for this year yet; but some initial findings have become crystal clear.  Moving to this great country has had it's ups and downs.  More ups than down (Although, I confess I still struggle with the Anti-Americanism that I find so often); and so so so much learned from this whole experience.  My marriage is starting this New Year with a depth of love and shared experience that is overwhelming.

I've made friends here - incredible, generous, funny, wonderful people that enrich my life on a regular basis.  Friends that I can even see every day for a whole week and not get sick of!

Seriously though, this year is going to require an especially long "think".  If I find anything interesting I'll let you know.

I've posted below a video that I took of the New Years Fireworks - It's quite long and you can hear my uncontrollable giggling and laughing (a side effect of champagne and excitement).  It's also shaky and very "homemade" - so, I recommend forwarding to the last couple minutes to catch the grand finale.  Or, if you have no interest in hearing my super-annoying voice, you can watch the one below this one that was professionally taped!  If you have the time, I would watch both - if you are short on time I would definitely watch the professional one!

Just a quick note about the fireworks - They have a very good show at nine for the kids and then the regular ones at midnight (I think this is brilliant).  Also, they shoot them off from many different locations in the Harbour so that, depending on where you are, you can see the same thing as everyone else (I think this is brilliant as well).  So, the ones to the left in my video were being shot off from Ft. Dennison; but there were more to the left of that and them three other places on the right of the bridge.  It was nice cause there was a view from all the windows in the apartment!  They also shoot fireworks off the tops of the skyscrapers in the CBD - this city is crazy about it's fireworks! 

Anyway, enjoy!  I hope you had a wonderful New Years celebration - I'll see you again soon!

My amateur video:

The video that's really good!