Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Day in the Country

It's Memorial Day weekend in the USA, however, we are only reminded of this due to the day off Uri has on Monday.  The kids are off to school which means a free day for Mom and Dad - woot woot!

But, that's not what I was planning to write about.  I wanted to share the day we had on Sunday when we headed out to the country to experience "Austrailiana".  At least that is what our Aussie friends promised us when they invited us out to Gundaroo for lunch.  And, they delivered!  Gundaroo is in the state of New South Wales and about 25 minutes northeast of our 'burb, Franklin.  We had an interesting ride out.  As we live in northern Canberra, we headed through several new neighborhoods some of which haven't even broken ground.  We turned onto an interesting road called Mulligan's Flat which ended up being a dirt road for most of the way.  It was here that my friend Sonja called to make sure we had the correct directions to the town.  I told her so far, so good unless of course the road comes to an abrupt end or we run into not so friendly "mates" out here in the bush.  It was a pretty drive - just what one from the U' States expects to see in Australia - golden brown colored fields filled with tall grass and several kangaroo.  We were the only car on the road and I began to wonder if I should have packed bottled water, snacks and blankets.  We did arrive safely in Gundaroo where we found the main road with only 1/2 kilometer long of "businesses".  We were the first family (out of four) to arrive so we headed into the only gift/antique shop in town.  There were a few items I was considering purchasing, but then forgot to go back into the shop after lunch. 

We had a private room reserved for the 16 of us at the M and B Crowe's Restaurant and Pub.  Again, Austrailiana all the way!  A local artist was on the stoop painting and had his own private art show on display both on the porch and inside.  I have to say his paintings were quite good - beautiful texture and colors. 

Unfortunately, I did not snap a single picture on this trip.  I'll have to head back out there to capture some of the local sights.


Monday, May 9, 2011

Chinese Cooking 101 by Chef Maya

Last week I had my first Asian cooking class by Maya.  What fun we had learning how to prepare the vegetables including green onions, bok choy, carrots, ginger and garlic and stuff and fold the pork wontons.  I finally learned how to properly use the bamboo steamer and after the class headed out to the dollar store to purchase one.  The chinese sausages were delicious in both the steamed vegetables (including bok choy and carrots as well as in a bowl of delicious rice noodles.  Maya's tip was to not overdue it when using soy sauce or other sauces so to bring out the natural flavors from the foods.  The steamed vegetables were delicious as were the wontons.  We also enjoyed wonton chicken soup and teriyaki chicken wings that had been slow-cooking for more than 2 hours. 

I am excited to prepare a similar meal for my family just as soon as I can carve out enough time to prepare the wontons.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day Classic

Today has been a fabulous Mother's Day.  It began with a quick run around Lake Burley Griffin with thousands of other mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters. All of us came out to support breast cancer research at the Australian-wide Mother's Day Classic.  I completed the 10 kilometer run which took us twice around the lake.  This lake is not new territory for me.  While in temporary quarters it is the lake I ran around each time I tied up my laces.  It's a beautiful man-made lake that the Nation's capital city is built around.  National monuments, memorials, museums, Parliament House and beautiful parks line the lake on both sides.  The lake is named after a Chicago-born architect, Walter Burley Griffin, who designed the city. 

Uri brought the kids down to watch me race.  I was so happy to have them there especially because they missed the Half Marathon.  Temperatures were cold (-1 celsius) with frost on the ground.  Its difficult to decide what to wear when its that cold, but the sun was shining.  And, here in Oz, when the sun is out it tends to warm up quickly.  So, at the last minute, I decided to take off all of the extra layers (and I am glad I did!).  I kept my mother's day bracelet on that Chloe made me at school for good luck. 

The first 2ks were not record breaking.  The runners were so thick on a narrow path along the lake that it was difficult to do anything but enjoy a nice warm up.  You should have seen us making our way up the sidewalk to cross the King's Avenue bridge.  We were walking.  It took some time to get my feet warmed up after standing in the frost for an hour before the run.  After the first kilometer they began to tingle as they began to thaw out.  I saw my friend Pam driving over the bridge on her way to park her car.  The main reason I recognized her was because she drives an American car with the steering wheel on the left side of the car.  Pam and some friends were participating in the 5k race taking place later that morning. 

The route began to thin out at 3 kilometers.  My first 5 kilometers were good.  I was on pace and comfortable.  I was happy that I took my under-shirt off.  The sun was warm.  As I approached the halfway point (which was back at the start) I saw Uri making his way to the sidelines with the camera.  Although he was looking at me he didn't see me.  This is a picture of me getting his attention.

The second 5k was not as easy.  My notorious ITB problem came back...on the other leg.  Boy, it was painful.  Kilometers 6 & 7 were particularly hard, but I just wouldn't give up.  At 8k I saw that I was not off my pace too much and remembered my family was at the finish so decided to go for it.  I was happy to finish strong and came in at 55 minutes exactly.  I am quite happy with how I did.  I'll be calling the PT in the morning! 

My run today was dedicated to four amazing women: Kathy Alexander and Susan Richter who fought and survived this disease with incredible spirit, determination and grace; Uri's dear friend, Teri Morris, who is currently fighting this disease; and in memory of my grandmother, Grammie Bec.  It was emotional to be at this event thinking about all of my friends and family who have struggled with this disease.  This event also made me miss my friends and colleagues from the American Cancer Society, New England Division.  I'd have these fleeting moments of thinking I'd see someone I know...can't help it when I am surrounded by pink at a breast cancer walk/run.  I was especially happy when I saw two good friends from the Embassy; Maya and Sonja, who were there volunteering.  Thanks ladies for coming out to help! 

The Tribute Wall
After the race, I enjoyed a nice breakfast at home made by my hubby and cashed in on several of the coupons from the coupon book Anabella gave me for Mother's Day.  These included 7 kisses, a hug (which I have gotten three times so far), an uninterrupted bubble bath, and one back rub.  The coupon book is such a fantastic gift!  Lastly, I've had uninterrupted time to write this post because my husband and Chloe headed off to the grocery store.  


Thursday, May 5, 2011

April School Holiday - Part II Pambula Beach

During the second week of the school holiday, the girls and I headed to the Sapphire Coast on Wednesday to join our friends, the Borgos, at their holiday home in Pambula Beach.  The Sapphire Coast is along the eastern seaboard of Australia in south eastern New South Wales.  It's approximately 7 hours from both Sydney and Melbourne, and is a popular beach holiday spot for many Victorians.  Our road trip took about 4 hours in all.  We made one stop in Nimmitabel to try out the meat pies (and a coffee for me) from the local bakery. Yum!

The girls didn't see too much of the scenery along the way as they were enthralled with their movie, Aquamarine, one they have seen many times before.  The road down took us through many small Australian towns including Bredbo, Nimmitabel, Bemboka, and Candelo.  It wasn't until we were in the Snowy Mountains region heading up then down Brown Mountain that I wondered if I should be concerned about driving alone (solo adult, that is) with little to no mobile phone service in my 10 year old Subaru Outback.  Heading down the mountain through the switchbacks was a bit nerve-wracking!  But, Mother (as I call her) or Roo (as Uri and the girls call her) performed beautifully. 

As we entered the beach neighborhood where Sue's house is we saw many kangaroos on the side of the road and hopping through the neighbor's yards.  It was so fun to see them!  We enjoyed a tour through Pambula and Merimbula - getting a sense of where we were and a quick peak at the amazingly beautiful beaches surrounding the area.  What is so nice about this area is that it is surrounded by a couple of National Parks keeping the development in check.  Ben Boyd National Park is the one in the immediate area of Pambula. 

The first evening Sue exposed me to my first club experience.  Club Sapphire in Merimbula ended up being a nice place to go with the kids.  The food was okay, but what totally sold me was the "child-minding" or babysitting on-site.  Sue and I were able to enjoy our dinner in peace and have an actual conversation without interruption.

Some highlights of our Pambula Holiday:

Potoroo Palace - a place to visit to enjoy getting up close and personal with native Australian animals and creatures.

"I AM NOT A PORCUPINE...So, What am I?" I AM AN ECHIDNA (e-kid-na)



Kookaburra sits in the ole Gum Tree...

The Beach

A fun and delicious place to get fish n chips on the beach

Chloe playing in the sand
Trying to decide which magazine to submit this photo to...Gorgeous!

Sue enjoying the sun and the view

Our hike to the river -  a nice easy walk through the sanctuary to the old horse-racing track ended up being an easy hike through the fields to the river.  It was worth it.  Gorgeous views along the way and we taught the girls how to skip rocks across the water.
Field of kangaroos

(Thanks for snapping this photo Anabella)
The Royal Wedding - I was a bit concerned before heading down to the beach that I was going to miss the Royal Wedding so I had Anabella ask some questions ahead of time..."do you have a TV at your holiday house?  will we get to watch the Royal Wedding?"  Luckily, Sue's mother is originally from Scotland and Sue lived in England for some time so she was very keen to watching the wedding.  In fact, she was quite informed...even better than the commentators.

Random pictures

"The dingo ate my baby"

Don't worry Ms. Sieber the girls did plenty of reading on holiday

Uri and Sue's husband, Travis, joined us on Friday for the weekend.  The husbands took the girls for another beach day while Sue and I got some retail therapy accomplished.  Before meeting back up with our families we had a delicious lunch on the wharf overlooking the main beach.  That evening we went to another club.  This time the golf club in Pambula.  Sue promised we would see kangaroos playing golf, but we didn't.  The food was quite good and there was child-minding.

We are so grateful that Sue and Travis shared this treasure of a place with us.  The Sapphire Coast is a gorgeous vacation spot with many pristine beaches, lush national parks and lots of things to do with your family.  It was the perfect Australian holiday!

Monday, May 2, 2011

April School Holidays Part I: Sydney

We kicked off the school holiday (Term 1) by celebrating our sweet Chloe's 6th birthday.  We celebrated two days early as we were going to be in Sydney and I didn't want to packed up the presents.  I baked beautiful vanilla cupcakes frosted in pink and chocolate and decorated with pink hearts and pink sprinkles.  Chloe was so happy to bring these treats to her classroom on Thursday to share with friends. She enjoyed all of the birthday wishes from family and friends and the beautiful presents too.

Happy 6th Birthday Chloe!
birthday skirts

Our week in Sydney was fabulous.  The weather, except for the first day, was glorious.  Our CT friends/Aussie family, the Calis, were there too.  So, Jodi and I had the kids to entertain for the week while our hubbies worked.  I thoroughly enjoyed shopping the Markets in The Rocks on Sunday.  Doing the markets with Jodi rather than Uri is a completely different experience (no offense, baby).  In short, we shopped like Chicks!  We found a wonderful Asian clothes designer and each found a fabulous, inexpensive new frock.  Jodi helped me find a gorgeous, inexpensive gold-plated chunky necklace, too. And, it took me coming all the way to Oz to buy my first pair of Uggs.  Funny, because I am not sure I'll need them, but they do look so cute -- greyish, green with ties up the back.  Our kids, three in all, complained the entire time, but we were determined to get through every vendor. 

On Monday, off we went on the 30 minute ferry ride to Manly Beach.  One word to describe it: AWESOME!  The beach, the shopping strip called The Corso and the weather made it quite enjoyable.  The kids had so much fun playing in the water although we did not allow them to go in too far as neither Jodi nor I had our suits with us. 

We enjoyed visiting the Aquarium, the Royal Botanical Gardens, the Sydney Tower and the Westfield Mall/Strand Arcade.  We indulged at night by eating and drinking well:  Malaya Restaurant in Darling Harbour, Odyssey Wine Bar and Restaurant in The Rocks and Pony in The Rocks.  Jodi and I enjoyed one night kid-free.  We pampered ourselves with a manicure, browsing in a couple of galleries, followed by drinks and dinner.  It was so nice to be out in our new frocks purchased from the markets without our children. 

A couple of new red wines that we discovered were: Epsilon Shiraz from Barossa Valley and a Cullen wine from Margaret River in Western Australia.  I cannot recall if the Cullen was a Cab Sav or Shiraz...but it was yummy!  Going forward I am going to take pictures of the wines I like.

A little pampering
the Harbour Bridge

A quick drive thru Bondi Beach