My Life Abroad: The Adventures of Two Birds
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Mon
30
May '16

Adam’s trip to Melbourne

It1 seems like it’s been years but finally my brother decided to come out and visit.  We aligned his visit with the big Beer Festival in Melbourne the GABS Fest (Great Australian Beer Spectapular). We calculated it has been about 5 or 6 years since his last visit… much, much too long.  I tried to take off from work so that we could go out and see the sights, but he is also a runner and even though we live over a kilometer from the train station, and the main part of town, he found it therapeutic to run a lot while he was here.

This is my main list for visitors to Melbourne (and Melbourne is by far the best Australian city to visit), of these, they are the mainstay of my “tour of Melbourne” that I offer to our guests.  Check them off your bucket list?

 

List of Top “Things to do in Melbourne”

-Melbourne Aquarium
-Phillip Island Little Penguin Parade
-Hot Air Balloon over Melbourne (or) the Yarra Valley [wine country]
-Queen Victoria Market
-Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) – Cricket or Australian Rules Football
-Healesville Sanctuary
-Puffing Billy Railway
-The Yarra Valley wine region
-Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne
-The Great Ocean Road (The 12 Apostles)
-City Circle Tram
-National Gallery of Victoria
-Melbourne CBD Laneways Tour
-Old Melbourne Gaol (Jail)
-Federation Square
-Yarra River Tour
-St Kilda Beach Boxes
-Flinders Street Station
-Flemington Racecourse
-Haigh’s Chocolates Rialto
-Melbourne Star Observation Wheel
-Arts Centre Melbourne
-Crown Casino
-Hardware Lane

You can Google any of these sites for more information or to plan your next trip to Melbourne!!

 

Wed
30
Mar '16

Melbourne Beer Gala Showcase 2016

22

This is the third year we have attended the Melbourne Beer Gala Showcase and it was great as always, we had a lot of friends in attendance and had a great time.

Clinton only drank Watermelon beer for the whole 3 hours, and the rest of us tried as many beers as we could possibly drink.

It’s something I look forward to every year because it is a boutique beer festival and has a really good turn out, and new great creations every single year.

If you are ever in Melbourne in March – this is a definite “must do”.

 

Sat
31
May '14

Back from my blogging hiatus…

The long awaited return to my blog was prompted by my fellow blogger and very good friend TeeBiss.  Thanks for asking why I haven’t posted for over a year.  I do have a good reason, which I will explain through the course of this post. The last year, since Raegan’s birth has been incredibly busy!!  I never knew how stressful, worrisome, and difficult it would actually be.  But we’ve made it through year one, and I am ready to start blogging again. We started off with some bad news from the Doctors just after Rae’s birth.  She’s got a hole in her heart that didn’t look like it was going to close permanently.  This in addition to the fact that she was born with Atrial Isomerism which means that all of her organs are in the wrong place, can be a very bad combination.  In addition, many times with this condition, the baby will not be born with a spleen. It took months and many specialists to find in the end that her heart, although placed midline on the body had only a very small hole at 4-months, the Paediatric Cardiologist was happy for her to move forward and he would see her in 1-year, her appointment is coming up very soon.  We spent almost the entire year seeing specialists looking for her spleen, testing her to see if she had one, and the main problem was that because the rest of her organs are misplaced, it was likely the spleen was too.  It is a small organ.  We went in for a scan to look for it for the 3rd time and we had to have her fast prior to the appointment.  No milk for 3 hours prior.  They started the scan and there, hiding behind the stomach they found 3 spleens.  Essentially the spleen has broken into 3 pieces, called polysplenia, there’s also something called multisplenia which is when the spleen breaks into 100s of pieces.  With multisplenia and polysplenia sometimes because the pieces of the spleen are too small – they don’t work together to fight off bacterial infections (which is what the spleen does).  Only a month ago, just before her first birthday we got some test results saying that her spleen was working.  We couldn’t be more relieved.  She seems to be carrying on like any normal baby and OMG aren’t we so happy about that!  From 20 weeks to a year after her birth we were sick with worry that she wasn’t going to have a normal life, and that she would have to endure surgery, and pain to fix things up.  It’s amazing, hundreds of thousands of people are born with jumbled up organs, before ultrasound you never would know until you had a surgery.  She’s just one of the many people with this condition.  It just hasn’t effected her in the least.

As I said previously we sold our house in Belgrave, Victoria, AU so that I could take some time off work and we could live on one income.  It probably the best decision we could have made.  We’ve been renting for a year, and after 9 months off, I have returned to work.  Now that I’m back at work 4 days a week (1 at home, and 3 in the office) we are going to upgrade our rental to a bigger place, with room for the dog, backyard, one story and something more open plan. My return to work has been good. I work for a good company that appreciates me and care about work/life balance, so much that they let me work less than full time.  I’ve gone back as a Consultant but we are in the works to bring me on in a full time permanent role. It’s good, I can’t complain really. I was hired back into the same role I was in previously with the same great team – I couldn’t be happier.

When Raegan was 4 months old we took our first trip to the U.S.  We spent a couple weeks with my brother in San Diego (I love SD, I wish I could afford to live there), and a week in Vegas with my Mother and our extended family on my Mother’s side, and finally a week at my Mother’s place in Sacramento.  We stopped into Chico for a beer festival and to catch up with our friends, and we had a short visit with my cousin Lavette and my Gramma Hay, and we spent a night in LA with my cousin Laura and her 15 mo old Audra.  Raegan was so small but even though she won’t remember the trip, it was so good for my family to see her, hold her, and experience our precious little bub.

So.  There’s my explanation, baby + travel + work = little time to blog.  But actually recently I’ve been thinking about getting back into it and today when I was scrolling through my friends blog I saw a post that was addressed to me.  I’m back.  We’re leaving in 3-1/2 weeks for a Bird Family holiday at Surin Beach, Thailand, with the grandparents, cousins and everyone for 17 nights!  My mom is coming out for a long vacation at the end of the year as well.  I’ll be blogging a lot from Thailand and that will get me going for this next crazy year. It’s good to be back

Here’s a couple recent pics of our little “Chicken”, she’s now 13 months old, you can click on the pictures below to see them enlarged –

 

Tue
18
Sep '12

Lowering the BAC from .05 to .02

This topic brings to light one inherent problem in Australia that I struggle with as an American-Australian. First if I might… Australia claims to be a “free” country but the bureaucratic government here, based solely on the English parliament, leaves little to be desired in the way of “Australians making decisions, and in fact laws for themselves”. There is no medium here for the people, the constituents to vote into law any type of regulation or directive whatsoever. So the question is: “When we vote for a party, be it Liberal or Labour, what are we voting for actually?” Because the actual people of Australia have no say in law as it is made by voting as a public entity – how do issues turn into law. Well it seems that it is up to the parliament members that we vote into office to be responsible for voting on our behalf. Parliament members, just like in America, make lots of empty promises and dodge important issues to the community such as adoption, gay marriage, public job pay increases, or changes to the taxes. Never in the course of the 7-1/2 years I have lived here have I ever seen a referendum come to a vote by the people.

Recently there has been talk of dropping the already low BAC from .05 to a staggering .02 – and basically this means that possibly even one drink could put you over the limit to drive. The task here is to make it so people will not drink and drive at all. This is not something that the people of our state will vote on, we do not get a say, if the parliament wants it to happen, it will pass and it will happen.

Victoria is Australia’s most densely populated state, and has a highly centralised population, with almost 75% of Victorians living in Melbourne, the state capital and largest city. In Victoria there are is an annual average of < 42 fatalities of a total 200 relating to a blood alcohol level of .05 or over. In 2011 in the whole of Australia the road toll nationally was 1,291 in total.

Look, it’s not that I don’t support a responsible drink driving limit, but I do find fault in the Australian government for consistently punishing the people that do the right thing and enabling an entire generation of people that don’t.

Binge drinking in Australia has become a very big problem; this is something that the government is fully aware of but continues to do nothing about. Responsible drinking starts at the beginning. And taxing alcohol ‘in general’ really puts a strain on the groups of people that are responsible drinkers. We are constantly hearing on the news about alcohol mixed with energy drinks (Vodka Red Bull) and in Australia we also have what is called pre-mix cans. A 6-pack of cans you can purchase at the bottle shop already pre-mixed with things like Vodka Red Bull or other high alcohol options mixed with high caffeine energy drink products. This is what the kids drink, none of these types of pre-mixes are geared toward or even advertised for adults. They are sweet tasting drinks that keep you drunk and awake for longer and in the end are a majority of reasons why fatal fights break out in the city centres around Australia. These drinks are served in bars, and because the drinking age is 18 here – they are served to 18 year old kids.

So why aren’t we focusing our attention to irresponsible drinkers? Maybe it’s a good idea to raise the drinking age or banning such pre-mix drinks (like the US has done). It seems like every time the government wants to take a stand on drinking in general – they add another tax onto alcohol, rather than looking at the real problem. These taxes don’t discourage kids from drinking but they do cause hardships on working adults that have to pay $80-100 for a case of beer. You can’t get even a 6-pack of the crappiest beer for under $15.00 here. The same ‘taxing mentality’ to cigarettes has driven the cost for a pack of cigarettes up to $25 a pack – and it hasn’t stopped anyone I know from smoking.

I know I’ve said this before but there is just something wrong about turning 18 in this country, the first year you are old enough to drink is the same year you are allowed to start driving. How are our children to learn responsibility when they are giving two of the biggest responsibilities in their lives in the same year… and at 18 for that matter, one of the most immature of ages? If we are able to turn our attention to the real problem of “binge drinking teenagers” and start to teach our children to be responsible drinkers we might actually get somewhere with this.

A culture of pre-mix drinks geared toward a much younger generation

   

At least in America you are learning to drive at an age before you are too confident and ‘know everything’ to the extent of being as reckless as some 18-21 year olds. And although we did drink when we were young, in high school for example, we weren’t able to go to bars and night clubs that stay open all night and drink until we were stupid high on energy drinks and hard alcohol. We had some time between learning the responsibilities of the road and road rules, and starting to drink – 5 years as a matter of fact. Can you imagine taking on all of the responsibilities that go with drinking, and driving in the same year?

And back to the question at hand… really what are the benefits of .02 BAC? Certainly it keeps drinkers off the road – that can only be a good thing. Making this change as Switzerland has done definitely means that the road toll will decline. But for those that are responsible, and want to have a glass of wine with their dinner out, or meet friends for a drink in the city after work, there are no options. Public transport such as trains and trams end at midnight, a cab from the city to my house is over $100. I’d say about 90% of Melbournians do not live walking distance from a bar, pub or restaurant, we are much more rural community. The majority of the restaurant/pub industry is in the city centre. I think that it means that the bar and restaurant business in Melbourne will suffer some great losses. This industry is one of the best in Australia and it means that our culture will change to one that does not include having a drink with your meal and sharing a drink with friends. BAC .02 definitely means no drinking.

For me it all comes down to a change in the attitude of our parliament members, in the way that they think and lead this country. We have no say, obviously, but until parliament can put their hand up and take responsibility for what is going wrong – and by that I mean turning our attention to the problems we are now instilling in our younger generation with behaviour toward alcohol, and not creating taxes and new laws to increase the cost of alcohol for the general public – will change finally result in a positive outcome.

Read more…

Move to .02 drink-drive limit inevitable: expert by Danny Rose, Brisbane Times –
http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/move-to-02-drinkdrive-limit-inevitable-expert-20100315-q7nk.html

Tue
4
Sep '12

Tall Poppy Syndrome

Albeit an unknown saying in America, ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’ really does exist in Australia.  It is a common occurrence in Australia and for some reason it is justified here as a way to put someone back ‘in their place’.  As an American, I had never heard of this phenomenon until I moved to Australia and I can confidently say that it is non-existent in the U.S., sure there is a one-off occurrence of cutting someone down but not so much that there is a “term” for it.  I find that in American we tend to build people up and pride is something that we are known for.  This is a story of the opposite.

“Tall Poppy Syndrome” is Australian slang for the tendency to criticise highly successful people (i.e., tall poppies), and ‘cut them down’.  I almost can’t believe that something like this exists.  I find many think of this as an acceptable way to bring someone with a high ego back down to earth, via put downs, by their peers.

Australians (New Zealanders, English, and the like) do have a tendency to criticize their own – that those that have become successful somehow need to be criticized by those that have not. You’re head too big because you’ve made millions or have had great success in business? Really?! Let’s cut you down to size.  Great idea!

Just a couple of examples:

1)  This year, on ‘Australia Day’ – January 26th – the national day of Australia, it was announced on in News that flying the Australian flag on your car was considered ‘un-Australian” and of all things “racist”. The Western Australia News (Perth, WA) made sweeping generalisations as to the meaning behind the flying of the Aussie flag in their article Australia Day Car Flag Flyers Racist. Flying of the flag to mean not pride, but in making a point that the white Australian culture, and more importantly its values, are in danger from immigrants to Australia.  I’ll tell you what, I really think that words like “racist” and “racism” delivered by our own country’s news source forces the issues and really brings the country down to the bottom rung – sometimes I feel like the media here really pounds home the sore spots in an effort to make them worse, to spread the downward spiral. Negagive news brings negative feelings throughout the country.

Is there something I am missing here?  I’m from America, a country made of immigrants – my family came from Italy, and Scotland, and it is likely that your family whether you be an American or Australian came from another country as well. Even I find it hard at times to accept all Australian ways and culture as an immigrant to this country, I can’t imagine in coming from a completely different kind of culture, religious background, or completely different country where people are looked at and treated completely differently, then fully taking on Australian culture and values.  Still, becoming an Australian citizen hold a great amount of pride for me personally, it is not going to make me change my religion, change how my values were formed, and make me a different person – so why should it do that to anyone else?  Becoming an Australian shouldn’t mean that you cant wear your head scarf to school, that you have to stop speaking your first language, or that you have to change your religion, it’s suppose to mean that you are willing to accept some new values in your life. Somehow I don’t always feel like the Australian Values are all that Australians expect from their new citizens.

Australian Values: Australians respect women, other people’s beliefs, democracy, and our mates and we always give each other a fair go.

America has about 100 years on Australia as far as ‘creating a new country’ goes – from personal experience I can say that Australia is far from accepting of other cultures.  Personally, being white and speaking English has made it easy for me but for those that come from foreign lands, from oppression, and across oceans – wanting to make a better life for themselves and their families, it’s a very difficult process.  To me this is what America is all about.  Why is Australia different?  Because they never became independent of England? and never had the opportunity to create something for themselves?  Maybe I’m far reaching but from what I can see, the fear of the threat of immigrants in this country is sad.  I would never be here if it weren’t for the ability to become an immigrant.  And just to be clear… I’m not speaking of illegal immigrants.  For those that immigrate to this country as I have, I hope that you are greeted with open arms and acceptance, and I hope you are able to take on Australian values and make a go of it here.

Lady Liberty says “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” 

The feeling is… you’d better knock twice, and then piss off if you don’t like it here – because this ain’t America, mate.

I absolutely don’t like being referred to as a racist for having pride in a country that I live, love, and am a citizen of. With an American background it’s hard to understand how flying a flag could mean anything other than pride… unfortunately racism still runs rampant here. Australiais a country of immigrants too, and I find that is what makes this such a wonderful place to live.  I work with people from all over the world, I have an English neighbour, people from other countries bring their cultures in the form of entertainment, food, cultural diversity that is different than anywhere I have ever lived before. It is one of the reasons that I never want to leave here – for me it has been a wonderful, exciting, and life-changing experience.  I sure hope it won’t take 100 years for Australia to catch up.

2) Yesterday I heard that a public figure here, Charlotte Dawson, a Model and Television Personality, has been bullied on Twitter to the extent that she tried to take her own life.  I can’t tell if this is a “Gen-Y manners thing” or if it is a matter of this Tall Poppy Syndrome.  I can save me Gen-Y/Z rant for another blog but just to touch on the ideals of our young people today makes me want to vomit.  How can people be so insensitive – has the Internet really come down to tossing all your common sense and humanity out the door?  Just because you can’t “see” the person you’re talking to – doesn’t mean that there isn’t a real human being on the other side of your computer.  Cutting down a person that has built up a successful career – Charlotte Dawson – is suffering the wrath of Tall Poppy Syndrome in the worst way. I hope that she can be strong and I also hope that she cancels her Twitter account.

For all of the cultural diversity that Australia holds I find that people become citizens here because they enjoy the life here and want to offer their children opportunity that they could never find in their home country.  I also find this the same for myself – granted we have no children – but the lifestyle here is different, relaxed, less violence, no guns, they have things like “work / life balance” and Christmas in July, we get a public holiday for the Melbourne Cup (horse race), a 12-month maternity leave, and we have a booming society and the ability to be highly successful.

I can only hope that Tall Poppy thinking finds it’s place in the rubbish bin (that’s the trash) – where it belongs.  Be happy, be proud of your country, be happy for people that succeed, they are your people and just like everyone else, they need your support in order to succeed.  Success is nothing to be afraid of and is no reason to bang on in this disgraceful manner.  Get over it Australia, if someone is successful and you are not, don’t be a poor sport, pick yourself up and try and do something meaningful with your life.

Tue
10
Apr '12

2012 – Annual Easter Campout

This year was a small afair with the Eagles family and the Birds.   We travelled out to our normal destination in Briagolong just past Sale, Victoria out east of Melbourne.  It’s our regular spot because in Australia most of the camping is “caravan park camping”.  Each tent 2-meteres from the next.  It’s like a bad case of clostrophobia.  Ask anyone, if they camp this is what they know.  It took a lot to find the place where we camp, the next camp site is kilometers up the road in either direction.  It means we can have a bonfire/campfire, play music as late as we want, drink and stay up until we’re ready to go to bed – nobody to bother, nobody to bother us.  Isnt this what camping should be?

This was Lulu (our puppy’s) first Easter camping trip and she did really well.  We are able to keep both dogs off their leads so they can run around, play, swim in the creek, and just be happy and enjoy the outdoors.  They had a great time.  As for the Eagles, little Alex started camping with us about 5 years ago, she was so little – now she’s 7 going on 12 – man they grow up fast!  Alex had a great time, gathering bark and sticks for the fire, swimming in the creek, and listening to her MP3 player.  The Easter bunny – who by the way is a regular white bunny with a blue ribbon and bell around the neck – came for a visit, with his easter basket that refills itself.  It left some nice chocolates for Alex!!

This seems like the only outdoor time we really get to spend, and I’m glad to spend it with the Eagles.  Just hanging out and enjoying a nice toasty fire on a cool night.

We also had some local friends visit that live in Sale, camping for one night and helping us cook a 2.5 kilo lamb in the dutch oven with some beautiful vegetables.  We love Norelle’s lamb roasts and the dutch oven right in the fire makes a great way to cook such a big piece of meat.

 

                      

 

There’s just nothing like the Australian bush land.  I truly love the variety of landscape in this country.  From desert to rainforest, bushland to coral reefs, there’s just nothing that I can think of that compares.  It’s amazing that we have been able to travel so much throughout Australia and see such different parts of the country.  It makes me feel like I am more a part of the landscape when I am able  to interact.  Only a week or so until I fly up to Darwin for the weekend to be with Birdie.  He has been working up in Darwin for over 2-months and I’m going to take a couple days off to go up and see him there so he doesn’t have to fly home for the regular 1-1/2 day weekend he is allotted (which by the way is frikkin bogus, but I won’t go there…).

I’ll try to capture what Darwin is like in some photos during my upcoming visit.

Thu
8
Dec '11

The Cost of Living in Australia

Lately there’s been lots of talk, and a couple of exposè’s on “A Current Affair” about IKEA and how the pricing structure is different in Australia from that of the UK and America.  It’s hard to understand why this is such a big shocker, when some of the prices are as much as double for the same item purchased in the US but I think that the Australians are forgetting to look at the big picture and are picking on IKEA for something that almost every company is responsible for doing here.

Prices are high.  For those of you that live in the US and complain about high prices for your groceries and clothing, cars and even gas (petrol)… you don’t know the half of it.  Prices are so high in Australia that the weekly groceries that used to cost me $100 in the US cost me about $250 in Melbourne.  In addition to not having the variety of goods (by far) that we have in the US, the prices are double if not more for goods that we use everyday.  I’ve tried to gather a price comparison of grocery goods, and other items just to make my point.  I will not use imported products as the cost may be raised due to shipping costs that are transferred onto the consumer.

 Product  US $  AU $
 Local Beer (6-pk)  3.99  15.00
 Chicken Breast (3 lb., frozen)  5.49  13.00
 Canned Green Beans (14.5 oz)  0.49  1.50
 Loaf of bread (12 grain)  1.89  2.49
 Dozen Eggs (Grade A Large)  1.19  4.50
 Cream Cheese (8 oz)  1.00  3.29
 Toilet Paper (6-pk)  0.98  2.00

Groceries are one thing, but let’s not stop there, mostly I am amazed by the beer prices here in Australia, for not only locally made beer like VB (Victoria Bitter), but for beer like Stella (for example) which is a imported beer to the US, but is made in Australia for Australians.  A 6-pack of Stella in the US is $8.99 (which is imported from Belgium) and the same labelled Stella beer made in Australia is $16.00.  In general we pay about $50 – 80 for a slab of beer (30 cans) – and this is the reason we make our own beer – it pays to have a brewmaster in the family.  It certainly doesn’t stop at beer.

Cars are another shocker, today I saw a left-hand drive 77 Mustang for $30,000.  Does that sound insane to you?  It does to me.  I’ll use Volkswagen as my example because they have some of the same cars for sale in the US and AU.  A VW Golf in the US retails at $17,995- $28,995 and the same car in Australia retails at $25,491 – $57,570.

The clothing problem is a constant one, typically a pair of jeans cost over $100, and because there is no ‘Ross’ or ‘Old Navy’ with bargain basement prices, the only way to get a discount is to shop at Target or Kmart.  And Target/Kmart in Australia doesn’t compare to the stores in the US.  Different brands, products, and quality by far.  Definitely not many stores have larger sized clothing, and you can’t find a men’s shoe over 11-12 (which is a problem for my size 13 husband).

What truly impacts these differences?  The cost of living is much higher here, the minimum wage is $17.00 p hour, but how does that impact a chicken’s eggs, or a grocery store loaf of bread.  I’m tired of hearing the complaints about how Australian’s have to pay for for “IKEA goods” when they are paying more for just about everything.

Shipping costs from the US to Australia are quite high, so you can’t afford to buy Australian, and you can’t affort to buy from overseas. Many websites don’t allow Australian credit cards or don’t ship overseas at all.  Luckily there are now more companies shipping to Oz, making an impact on the Australian market and forcing many to consider that even with high shipping costs, we can get cheaper products from overseas than we can buy at home.

Costco is a new thing in Australia, the first one in Downtown Melbourne – and after 1-year it is taking hold on the retail market, before Costco you never saw bulk packaging, no toilet paper over 12 rolls, no diapers over 24, no block of cheese over 16 oz.  It’s changed the market completely and Costco is moving all over Australia, #2 in Sydney and #3 in Ringwood, Melbourne.  I’d love to see more retailers come to Australia, and make a difference. In the last 7 years I’ve seen a lot of new things in Oz, and and I hope to see more changes as new retailers make their mark here, well…a girl can dream!

Sun
11
Apr '10

I’ve always dreamed of a birthday in the woods…

And my 40th to boot!

I’ll have to say that our annual Easter Camping Trip was a great success this year, my 40th was an event for sure!  Crazy pinata, many late night card games, booze, swimming dogs, an easter egg hunt, booze, the best velvet cake ever, some more booze… a quick dance break, and more booze. 

We had a wonderful time this year and had many more join us.  A total of 12 adults, 1 child, and 3 dogs! 

camping-gang.JPG

We got our most fabulous campsite: Johnstone’s Creek which is about 3 hours away from Melbourne in the bushland of Australia. It was beautiful as always. 

This was Spot’s first trip and he got his first swim in the creek, it was also his first time out with the girls Lily and Daisy – Dawn’s two Jack Russel’s.  They all seemed to get along well for all being off leash and free to roam.  I can’t say I enjoyed Spot sleeping on our camping bed with us – he tend’s to steal the covers.

Heres some quick picks from our weekend.  Was great to have everyone along this year.  Thanks for making my birthday so great!

sign.JPGcampsite-new.JPG dsc04145.JPG dsc04144.JPG dsc04147.JPG dsc04146.JPGdsc04160.JPG  dsc04157.JPG dsc04149.JPG dsc04152.JPG alexeggs.JPG campkitchen.JPG sleepy-rod.JPG

Most memorable moments…

1. A quick “dance break” from helping the ladies play cards by Alex, prompted many additional dance breaks throughout the night

2. Keeping the neighbouring camp (about 100 meters away) up through the night with our music resulted in honking horns and a few birds flying at 6am

3. A pinata with way way too much candy

4. Spots first deep water swim (deep for him is up to my knees)

5. Having all my bestest friends around to celebrate my 40th with.

Special thanks to Dawn and Norelle for putting together the “party” part of the birthday weekend, it was a blast.

Sat
20
Feb '10

Cake Decorating 101

What you should know is that my Mother used to make cakes like this.  I guess that’s why I know how to do this.  I always loved that my mom took the time to make me a decorated cake of my favourite character.  I did for some time, while living in Virginia, have my own business decorating cakes for birthdays and weddings.  It’s definitely fun but takes heaps of time.  I think it will be fun to make cakes for my niece and nephew for their birthdays – it’s something I can do to contribute.

Thanks Mom for teaching me this great trade

So Amanda, my sister-in-law talked it over and we came up with Dora. 

dora1.jpg Step 1.  First you have to come up with a drawing for the size of the cake.  I use baking paper to make my drawing because it is easy to erase and it takes me a bit to get everything perfect.  Yes, I said perfect.  I’m no artist, I just find a picture of the character and do my best to replicate it into a larger size.

Step 2. Bake your cakes.  This took 3 round cakes. Trim the tops using a cake trimmer or a knife works just as well – so all the cakes are the same height.  Place them top down on your board.

Step 3.  Cut the cakes into the pieces that make the shape for your character.  I used one round for the face then cut pieces for the hair from the other two cakes.  Her hair is chocolate and marble, face is white cake.  Using different cakes also gives options for flavour.  I also placed extra trimmed pieces of cake on the hair before icing, to give it a 3D effect.

 

dora2.jpg   dora4.jpg

Step 4.  Make your icing.  I bought premade icing and using food colouring made a tan for the face, brown eyes, and black hair.

Step 5.  Do any flat surfaces first, on this cake I did the face icing flat then used an icing bag and tool for the hair.  Smooth out the icing on the face then draw on eyes using writing icing or a writing icing tool.

Step 6.  Use an icing bag and tool, here I used a 16mm star shape to do the hair.  Make little stars all over to fill in the area.

And… you’re done…

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 Hola Dora!

So, 2nd Happy Birthday Madden – Love Auntie Lainey

And.. I love you Mom.

Wed
29
Jul '09

Home Sweet Home

Well, finally discharged on Monday – I’ve been home for a couple nights now.  It’s good to be back in my own home again.  I have to realise that we only lived in our new house for 2-weeks before I went into hospital – I was gone for 4-5 weeks and now I’m back!  I still can’t find my way to the bathroom in the middle of the night – it’s all still too new getting around in the dark! 

I have a bit of outpatient treatment to go in the next few weeks, today is my last blood transfusion (thank gawd), but my red blood cell count has been quite low with the plasma pheresis treatments.  Without the blood transfusions I am quite drained, tired, and really unable to function appropriately.  Friday is my last plasma pheresis treatment, in an effort to remove the plasma from my blood replacing it with good plasma – all in an effort to increase circulation to my fingers and reduce the numbing in some if my fingers.

The next 6-months are going to be my test, with my medication it makes it harder to fight off infection (auto-immune), so after I hit the remission marker I will be able to come off the drugs and return to life as normal!

In the interim, my brain is becomming mush!  I can’t wait to get back to work and being busy again.  I’m going back to work on Monday, and I can’t wait to get going again. It will be nice to see my co-workers again and to provide them with the support they’ve been missing with me gone from the team.  Everyone has been so supportive during this difficult time. 

So, I’ll be updating on the blog here and there with medical information however I hope that my life can return to normal and my blog as well! 

Thu
12
Feb '09

Bushfires in Victoria rage on

090209-01-australia-fire_big.jpgIt has been such an emotional week here in Victoria. As we enter the summer months in Australia the heat has been rising, it’s dry, the wind hot and fierce. Last weekend we had the highest temperature ever in our State of Victoria upwards of 116 f. Melbourne is a big city and like most it is surrounded with rural areas filled with trees and beautiful homes in the hills. The fires came so fast. The wind, strong as ever, blew flames through small rural communities throughout Victoria in minutes – lives lost, dreams shattered, in a matter of hours.My friend Dawn is from Grass Valley (my hometown in California), she and her husband Woz live in Kinglake which is one of the most hard hit area by the fires. When the fires ripped through Kinglake most were unable to escape their homes. There’s one way in and one way out, many died trying to escape in their cars – overtaken by smoke. Dawn and her neighbours somehow survived the fire in Kinglake, only about 100 homes in Kinglake have been spared. A total of 1803 homes were lost in this fire throughout the rural suburbs and as of today there have been a reported 181 lives lost (however it is believed that there are close to 300).You know I love America but there is something I have learned about Australians in my four short years here – they really come through for each other, the support throughout Melbourne and all over Australia has really touched my heart. In these very difficult economic times people all over Australia elvis_gallery__268x400.jpghave donated over 100 million dollars just this week.I would like to ask all of you, my friends, my family to make a contribution to the Red Cross of Australia for these bushfire victims.  Every little red cent counts when there are so many that are displaced, have lost their homes and most have lost a loved one.  I’ve been trying to do my part, we’ve donated money but I’ve also helped to organise a drive for clothes and toys at work which had a wonderful turnout! Please, make a secure donation online for thousands of those in need, those from my own community:

https://www.redcross.org.au/Donations/onlineDonations.asp

The devistation is going to be longlasting.  Already with economic crisis and housing shortage in Melbourne these people are going to struggle to even find a place to call home.  Your donations really will make a difference.  Contribute just a bit and add to the millions of Australians and people all over the world that have donated over100 million dollars to these families already! I’d like to share some photos of the heroes and fighters – the people that have saved lives and the fire itself in it’s destruction.  I hope these pictures will help you understand the gravity of the destruction to a beautiful community and so many lives.

Updates this week lead us to believe that the high temperatures and continued fires that rage on in Melbournes rural suburbs are threatening Healesville and Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary.  For those of you familiar or that have been to Healesville this is a devistating proposal.  Please keep us in your prayers and I will keep you updated on the happenings this weekend.

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Please, we need your help.  Donate!

Sat
27
Dec '08

Our worst travel nightmare…

Okay, so Christmas morning we’re so excited and get to the airport. We’re waiting in the Business Class line (which is short) and we hand over our passports to check in for our flight.  The agent asks if we have ‘other’ passports.  And my reply is of course not.  Our passports both expire at the end of April 2009.  Unfortunately, to travel to Asia you must have 6-months of validity on your passport available.  So it’s a holiday, and tomorrow the day after Christmas is a holiday, then of course the weekend…  we catch a cab home 🙁

We had our little anger session (at ourselves mostly for not knowing), and a bit of a cry, then we start to re-book our flights and change our arrangements.

So we will each be first in line at our respective passport offices on Monday, and I may even catch a quick flight to Sydney if they only do US passports there, we hope to obtain new passports on Monday and fly out on Tuesday. At least we will be able to arrive on the 30th and have New Years Eve with our friends who will have already been there for days.  We’ve extended our time in Koh Samui by 3-days to try to make up for it all.

So here is our new countdown.  Stay tuned to find out if our entire holiday will be ruined or we will live through our worst travel nightmare…

Fingers crossed, wish us luck.

Lainey

Thu
7
Aug '08

You do a little good work and “boom” your on the news!

Sat
19
Jan '08

Perth, The Western Coast

Well, I start out on my first trip to the west coast tomorrow morning (Sunday).  I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s like, not much of my family here have been so I don’t have many preconceived ideas about it.  I hear that the beaches are nice and that there is booming industry there – so we’ll see.  Stay tuned for my update on Perth and Darwin.

Now every once in a while I put up my Australia map so you can get an idea of where I’m headed on my next business trip.  If you click on the left sidebar under “Map of Australia” you can see the lay of the land. (You can also find some other great information about Australia there.)  However, here it is for you:

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As you can see leaving from Melbourne, Victoria going to Perth, Western Australia is “coast to coast” – and about a 4 hour flight.  I will be in Perth for three days then flying straight up to Darwin in the Northern Territory for three days, also quite a trek — and finally back to Melbourne.  Luckily we have a three day weekend next week so I will get some recovery time from all that flying.  This is my last trip of the project and I can finally say I’ve been to every state and experienced the many different ways of Australia. 

Of course, these trips being for work and not pleasure means I didn’t always get to see everything I wanted or get to go to every town I wanted — I still have my top 4 list and I’m looking forward to getting around to those places in the next year or so with Birdie.

1. Coober Pedy (South Australia) – home of the opal mines and a town in the desert where it’s so hot, the people live underground.
2. Uluhru/Ayres Rock (Northern Territory) – the classic Aussie desert rock.
3. Flinders Ranges (Victoria) – camping and walkabout in the “Outback”.
4. Kangaroo Island (South Australia) – breathtaking scenery, seal beach, desert and beach.

Videocast Brilliance

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I don’t know how I came across these guys but Rhett & Link are freaking hilarious. These faternal twins just have it going. They quite often are creating songs in their videocast that make me fall to the floor with laughter, usually about current events and other nonsense.  It’s worth checking out their site. I’m now a big fan. The Facebook Song is my very favourite, and for you that are on Facebook, you won’t be able to resist these hilarious songs and there’s a ton more where this came from.  Enjoy!

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 You can check out their website on www.rhettandlink.com

Our Winery Visit

Last week, bored and sitting around on the weekend, Birdie decided to take me up to Healesville for a country drive.  On the way home we stopped at Chandon (champagne and sparkling wine) for a drink and some quick eats.  It is really lovely there and I always have a good time when we go.  I am looking forward to taking Adam and Mom there when they come in March! 

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Here are a couple pictures from our day:

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***

Mental Status: Getting ready to leave for Perth tomorrow morning early… kinda looking forward to it!
Favourite thing this Week: Meeting some new people this week and having some excellent conversations – welcome new friends to the Lainey Bird blog.
Book this WeekDouble Cross by James Patterson <-almost done, I just don’t get enough time to read anymore, however my 4 hour flight to Perth will change all that.

Mon
26
Nov '07

Second Annual ‘Thanksgiving in Australia’

Well, there’s a lot to say on this post but I won’t bore you with the full details…

We had our second annual Thanksgiving with our closest friends and family and it turned out better than we could have expected.  The stuffing (my Mom’s recipe) turned out fantastic, and the turkey was beautiful.

We had a few kids and they had a great time, as well as the adults. A couple high points – Dawn brought a copy of her episode from The Singing Office (the TV show) where she and her co-workers from the CFA (County Fire Authority) competed against AG Clothing. And Lawerence got a hair cut. Both very fun to watch, well for us.

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Woz tried not to look but it was inevitable, Dawn was singing on Television (that little devil).  We had a wonderful day and it was so good to see all our friends. 

Blairs girls traded off taking pictures of everyone and everything with each persons camera. My favourite picture from the day was of Ashley and Sky mucking around in the backyard, they wanted their picture next to this purple bush. Sky just kept yelling ‘I can’t see’, while Ash laughed.

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Remember I was saying about “Mo-vember”.  Well our friend Lawerence showed up to our Thanksgiving dinner with a very long beard. He wasn’t sporting the mo for Mo-vember but Rod decided that he should have a mustache, so with approval from Lawerence’s wife Norelle – Rod proceeded to cut Lawerence a “mo”.   

Thanksgiving is special to me, and to Dawn (my compadre), it is so nice to have that “family” atmosphere around the holidays especially Thanksgiving since we don’t have our own families close.  The turkey, stuffing, the wine and friends – it’s all worth having everyone around to celebrate “giving thanks” for what we have.

Here’s a quick overview of the yummy day (click on the pic to enlarge):

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I really do love our friends here, we had a wonderful day and with Birdie’s Sierra Nevada beer brewing in my tummy I must call it a night. Looking forward to next year’s Thanksgiving dinner.

We’re gearing up for the 3rd Annual Camping Extravanza

Space is limited so sign up now if you are going on the camp this year, I hear it may be near a beach!!  I’m looking forward to seeing where Woz is going to pick this year! Weeeeeeeeeeee!