Sunday, February 24, 2008

Our New Neighbor

The other morning the Queen Victoria docked at the overseas terminal on the dock opposite of our apartment. The Queen Elizabeth II (QU II) docked at the Navy yard as well. Tonight at around 6:00 pm they will pass each other in Sydney Harbor and then the Queen Victoria will go out to sea while the QE II docks till tomorrow night. You would think it was actually Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth the way it is being hyped around here. You see gobs of people carrying all kinds of tripods and camera equipment to get the "best shot". There are signs posted all over the streets to direct people to the best viewing areas to see them pass each other. The crowds of people here in Circular Quay (where we live) have been huge. I present exhibit A. And now I give you...the Queen Victoria. It is definitely the biggest boat we've seen docked here in the harbor.

Saturday we hopped into the Jeep to drive around a bit...after a delicious breakfast at Pancakes-On-The-Rocks. Love those pancakes! We drove down to Paddington (a Sydney suburb) to go to the Paddington Bazaar, another open market of stalls that people sell...well, a bunch of junk. You'd think this is something Phil and I do all the time at home since this is the second Saturday in a row that we've done this...but no, it was just somewhere to go. The weather yesterday and today has been stunning (bright blue sky and lots of sunshine) so we wanted to go somewhere we could walk outside. We then drove over to the Watson's Bay area again to walk around the cliffs. We stumbled across a cricket match at this sports field on the top of one of the cliffs. Still quite a boring game...especially when seen in person and not just on tv. Phil says that any game that boys wear a straw hat to play is one for sissys. Still, a very pretty area.

This coming week will be a busy one. Phil and I leave for Singapore early Tuesday morning. We'll fly home overnight on Thursday. Not sure how much posts I'll well, post while we're gone, but I'll get you caught up when we return. Not sure what to expect in Singapore...I do know there is Long John Silver's there that I want to eat at. Yes, I know...seriously pathetic, but I'm serious when I say that I don't like to try new foods, especially of the Oriental variety. Too many bad smells and slimy looking "meats".
On Sunday, our friends Dave and Amy come down from the states for a week's vacation. Very excited about that! We haven't seen them in a couple of years so it should be a good time had by all.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Inside the Toaster

Well, here you go inside look at our apartment in all of it's glory! The first picture is coming in from the hallway. Sorry it's a little dark, but you can get a glimpse of our great view. The whole wall there to the right is floor to ceiling mirrors. A wall o' mirrors, if you would. On the left wall is some "art"...really just a big squiggly line on a canvas.

The next picture as you walk into the apartment is of our "dining room". Check out the chairs...yep, they're plastic. I feel like I'm sitting on outdoor lawn furniture . We bought and constructed the little wooden computer desk from Ikea...very handy. The wall that the computer desk is next to is guessed it...another wall o' mirrors.

The next picture is of our "living room". Yes, lots of brown and orange. We moved the couch and seats around to make more sense. When we first arrived the chairs were on either side of the tv facing outward. How in the world are you supposed to watch tv like that? (said the American who watches a lot of tv.)

The next picture is looking into our kitchen which is behind the couch. I'm still trying to figure out the oven. The dial to turn it on only has little pictures to tell you what the dial is set on. I know, it sounds easy (and I understand the picture of the fan) but what is the fan and the squiggly line? Just the squiggly line? The one tray? Both trays? One tray and the fan? Still working on it...and of course the temperature is only listed on that dial in Celsius. Still working on that conversion as well. Don't get me started about the dishwasher's pictures either. (The dishwasher is under the bar just to the left of the sink if you're in the kitchen. ) A pot on one tray? A bowl with two trays? A glass alongside a coffee mug? A wire bristle brush? A snowflake? Yeah...what? And yes, the whole back wall of the kitchen is yet again a wall o' mirrors.

If you walk back toward the door, make a right, go into a tiny hallway you're facing the bathroom. If you turn right before you go into the bathroom...there's our bedroom. Behind the wall o'curtain are floor to ceiling windows as well as a sliding glass door to get out onto the balcony. And yes...the whole wall behind the bed is a wall o' mirrors.

There you have in the toaster.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Living in "The Toaster"

I just realized (ok, Phil came up with the suggestion this morning) that you haven't seen where we live down here yet. Yes, we live in what's fondly, or not so fondly referred to as "The Toaster". When this apartment complex was built, most people ( or Sidneysiders, as people who live in Sydney are called...I know, what?) were totally against the construction. They felt like it cut off the Opera House and the Botanical Gardens (directly behind the buildings) from the rest of Sydney. And yes, I can see why people would call it a kitchen appliance. It does sort of remind you of a toaster. Here it is...our apartment circled in red, and yes, we really do live next to the Opera House. Cool, isn't it?

On the ground floor of the apartment complex are a bunch of shops, little restaurants, and a couple of small outdoor cafes. Ask Phil how his $8.00 piece of chocolate cake was from one of those outdoor cafes the other night. No wonder they didn't put the price on the menu.

The next picture is looking out from our little balcony. We have a great view of the Harbour Bridge from home sweet home. We plan to watch the New Year's Eve fireworks from it come December. Check out the dark clouds...drought? yeah right. If you look to North Sydney, right under the bridge you can see Luna Park. It's an amusement park. This is where Phil asked for a hotdog when he was down here awhile ago for business and he was handed a hot pink, nee magenta colored hot dog.

Looking straight ahead off of our balcony you can see the Contemporary Art Museum (the yellowish-orangish building). Being the patrons of contemporary art that we are (yes the reclining nude statue from our living room is still put away) I don't envision too many trips there. To the right of the museum is the area known as "The Rocks". If you remember from an earlier post, this is the oldest part of Sydney. The little white house there in the front-right of the picture is Cadman's Cottage, the oldest resdence in Sydney. The overseas cruise terminal is right in front of The Rocks. A big Celebrity Cruise Ship just left a day or so ago and now a smaller boat came in this afternoon. You can also see the many ferry boats coming and going from the ferry terminal just to the left of the picture. It's like living on Staten Island! (If I mentioned my Upper Peninsula of Michigan heritage in an earlier post, I most certainly can't leave out my Staten Island heritage too.)

Finally, the last picture is downtown Sydney. The ferry, train, and bus terminals are all right there so we can pretty much get anywhere in Sydney from the apartment. The yellowish stone building with the clock on the front is the Customs House building. It was built in 1885 and is on the place where supposedly the Union flag was first flown in Australia in 1788. (Yes, the handy guide book once again.) See the green canopy at the bottom of the picture? An aborigine sits there every day playing his digideroo for all the tourists. (and the opportunity to get your picture taken with him. Did I mention that you could buy his cds for $10?) Tomorrow I'll post pictures of the inside of our apartment in all of it's glory.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Busy Saturday

On Saturday we finally got the car that the company is leasing for us while we're down here. We dropped off our rental and picked up our Jeep Wrangler. After a long lesson on how to remove the canvas top (complete with plenty of zipper tugging and even use of a small screwdriver) we took it home. The weather looked a bit iffy...what's new, so we walked over to the Rocks. Every Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 till 5:00 an outdoor market is set up for throngs of people to walk through. Literally, throngs.
As the morning progressed it looked like it would be ok, so we went back to the garage (or car park as they're called here) to get the Jeep. Ever try to put the canvas top of a Jeep down in a low ceiling'd garage? After much driving of the car back and forth between the pipes hanging from the ceiling, we were off.

We decided to drive over to Watson's Bay to walk around and have lunch. After driving just a short bit, we both agreed we would never be contestants together on "The Amazing Race". (I know, Kelly, a dream just died.) My map reading is apparently not quick enough. I may be right on which street to turn on (and I usually am) , I'm just a bit late on telling Phil to turn.

The drive was very nice. Many people had told Phil that if he had the chance to drive through the eastern suburbs, he should because it was very nice. At first, we had to disagree. It looked nothing special until we drove a bit. Then the houses became very nice. And the views...straight out over the harbor looking at the city skyline, Harbour Bridge, and Opera House. Very nice indeed.

We parked the Jeep and walked over to Doyles on the Beach. This was Australia's first seafood restaurant and opened in 1885. (Got to love my handy guide to Sydney book.) We didn't go in the restaurant...heard it was extremely over-priced for what you got, so we went to their little seafood stand right next door. Got some fantastic fish and chips. Yes, still a bit over-priced but boy, they were good.

After lunch we drove over to the other side of Watson's Bay (it's at the tip of a peninsula) and walked along the cliffs looking out over the Pacific Ocean (actually, I think its called the Tasmanian Sea.) Very pretty, isn't it?

After walking around a bit, we jumped back in the Jeep and drove it south to take a look at Bondi Beach. It's 1/2 mile (or 1km) of white sand known for big waves so it's popular with surfers. We saved actually getting out for another day.

After returning to the apartment, we ended the day by walking over to the Rocks for dinner at our new favorite restaurant...Pancakes-On-The-Rocks. can get a plate of fluffy buttermilk pancakes for about $8.00. Yes, you're cringing at the price back home, but a cheap meal here! Mm, Mm, Mm, very tasty. Of course you can get "real" meals or crepes if you want, but nothing says tasty like a plate of butter-slathered pancakes. (minus the syrup, of course). A good day..except for the sun burn on my face. No, mom, Karen, and Jared, I forgot to put on sunscreen. Yes, I realize that isn't good. Yes, I realize I now look like a raccoon because I was wearing my sunglasses. No, I won't forget to put it on in the future.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Pasty in Australia!

Tonight Phil and I walked over to Woolloomooloo (try saying that 5 times fast) an area of Sydney that is on the other side of the Botanical Gardens for dinner. We went to Harry's Cafe De Wheels. This is a food van which began as a pie cart in the 1940's serving "pie floaters" (meat pies and mashed peas.)
It is a big tourist stop now that whenever celebrities are in town, they go there and get their picture taken ordering food. A lot of celebrity photo frames are nailed on the outer walls so you can see whose been there. Phil bought a meat pie and I had a pasty. For those not of Upper Peninsula of Michigan descent, a pasty is a pie filled with meat, potatoes, carrots, and perhaps rutabaga, that is usually eaten with ketchup. Mine didn't have ketchup and also included peas and gravy inside, but it wasn't bad. Not mom's, but not bad.
Harry's is right near the navy base here in Sydney so I also added a picture. We had a great time walking along the Botanical Gardens all the way back to the Opera House and then home.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

An Ode to Australia's Greatest Invention

As mentioned in a previous post, last Friday night we took the train to Olympic Park to hear a free outdoor concert that they have there every Friday night during the summer. We brought a blanket to spread out on, but did not anticipate the grass being a bit wet from the previous day's rain. Lo and behold (thanks Jess for the catchy phrase) we noticed they were selling (for $8) the holy grail for anyone tired of holding themselves up in a sitting position. I give you....the Bum Box. Check out their website: (and I did not pay $8...the guy behind the counter took pity on the pathetic Yank with wet stains on her jeans and just gave it to me. ) And ode to a truly wonderous invention!

When I'm in pain and can sit no more

and my back and bum feel very sore.

I pull you out and promptly sit.

My Bum Box is a perfect fit!

You can support 120 kilograms.

That's me or Phil plus a bag of yams.

We plan to take you everywhere

because we came and brought no chair.

You fold up flat when we are done

and provide us with a lot of fun.

Woe to those who go without

a Bum Box...they will truly pout!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The United States vs. Australia

Some more differences that I've noticed while working hard at my new job of "Professional Tourist".

1. All the outlets here have an on/off switch that you have to push before anything that is plugged in will work. Phil says it has to do with the I don't know, 200 and something volts waiting to be used. Something about an electric shock that you wouldn't wake up from...

2. When waiting to cross the city streets, you hear a clicking sound that as soon as the WALK symbol appears turns into...the best way to desribe it is the sound of an old Atari game space ship sound that beeps very quickly. You don't even have to look for the walk/do not walk symbols...just listen for the space ship sound.

3. When meeting people they ask you, "How are you going?" They don't really mean how you are going, such as by car or bus. They mean, "How are you doing?" Luckily, no embarrassing moments to report there. Although did hear a funny story when the Chinese husband of one of the tax people that Phil works with mentioned that when he first came here he always responded "by bus" until he learned what they were actually asking him.

4. When you see "capsicum" on a menu, that means red or green bell peppers. Where in the world did they find the word, capsicum?

5. Restaurants do not put ice in drinks here. For those who know me...this is a grave matter. I like my glasses practically filled to the top with ice. I've had to learn to suffer through luke warm glasses of water. (I cannot drink my Diet Coke with no ice. It's just not the same. Sigh.)

6. Only in Australia will you find people walking down the city sidewalk with a surfboard under their arm.

7. Not only do people drive on the left side of the road, they also walk on the left side of the sidewalk and stair cases. I never noticed before that we tend to walk on the right until now, when I constantly find myself suddenly veering to the left in order to avoid a head-on collision.

8. Only in Australia will you find people on a bicycle peddaling furiously in full cycling gear right next to a busy highway.

9. At a restaurant, they don't have "to go". It's called "take away".

10. I would say after much time of people watching...after all, a professional tourist has plenty of time to do that...that when you see a young family walking past, 8 out of 10 times you will see the man with the diaper bag (or nappie bag) slung on his shoulder pushing the stroller (or pram as they're called here). I'm not sure why that struck me, but I guess back home I usually see it the other way around.

Finally, a most Happy Birthday goes out to Mom! It's the 13th here but the 12th there. Happy Birthday! Wish we were there, but see you in March! Love you.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Taronga Zoo and Australian Hospitality

On Saturday we decided to take the ferry boat over to the Taronga Zoo, Sydney's zoo because "after a short shower at 10:00 am it is supposed to be fairly sunny until the evening when we may experience another short shower." Hm....not so. It did start to rain at 10:00 am but did not let up for the rest of the afternoon. Lovely. But the zoo was a nice trip anyway. When the ferry dropped us off, we took a cable car (like what you'd find at a ski resort) up to the top of the mountain to enter the zoo. Saw lots of animals as the pictures above show...
This morning (Sunday) we went to a church we passed on the way to one of our trips to Ikea. The people were very friendly and an older couple invited us over to their home for lunch. A very interesting and fun afternoon! Learned about their role in promoting Christian concerts all over Australia as well as finding out that the man was in charge of organizing all of the transporation for the artists for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2000 Olympics....Karen, I know you're jealous!
After leaving their home we went over to Hillsong for their evening service. Very good! The couple that Phil met several months ago invited us to sit with them, go out for coffee after the service and then go out to dinner with them after that. Quite the long day! I even branched out, was brave and tried Vietnamese food for dinner. Not sure if I'll try it again.
You hear a lot about "community" in church and that we should be looking for opportunities to build into other people's lives, or be "intentionally intrusive" in people's lives as our sunday school teacher is fond of saying. I can say that at both churches we attended today, we met people who take that as a personal charge. A truly good day.

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Rocks

Yesterday and this morning I walked over to The Rocks. I had to make it a two day trip because yet again, the sky opened up yesterday afternoon and it poured. Again. If I hear one more person talk about the drought in Australia....The Rocks is "the site of the first white settlement in Australia." January 26, 1788 to be exact. (Yes, I'm copying out of my Sydney guide book again.) There are still some cobblestone streets and older looking buildings in the area.

Today there are plenty of shops, restaurants and art galleries that call The Rocks home. The first picture is a row of buildings called Campbell's Storehouses, named after Australia's first waterfront entrepeneur, Robert Campbell. He bought that land in 1799 and then 40 years later, built those buildings. Today they are restaurants. And no, nothing looked good to me from their menus. Yeah, I know, I'm too picky.

The third picture is Cadman's Cottage. It is the oldest residence in Australia (built in 1815). Tonight we're off to Olympic Park for "Music by Moonlight". Every Friday night there is a free concert in the park. Tonight is "From Broadway to the West End" Ah...musicals. Phil will be thrilled.
Finally, a big Happy 8th Birthday to Josh and Zach! I know your birthdays are on the 8th, but since it's the 8th here....Happy Birthday. Have a great party on Saturday and we wish we were there.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Royal Botanical Gardens

In celebration of my first day of sunshine I wandered over to the Royal Botanical Gardens yesterday. This 75 acre (30 hectares....I know, what?) park is where the first farm was when colonists came over from England. Yes, I am copying that from my handy Sydney guide book. I really didn't know that. It was very pretty. Lots of flowers, palm trees, manicured lawns, ponds, even a cactus garden. As I soon found out, it is also home to a "wonderful array of Australian wildlife including fruit bats". Yes, bats. And not the small kind from home. These babies have wing spans of at least two feet. Lovely. If you all remember my last experience with a bat (flying around my living room) you know that I'm not fond of them. At all.

Once I walked more towards the harbor, I enjoyed the park even more. Great views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge as well as the Navy yard. I took some pictures, and yes, those are bats hanging in the tops of the trees of the first picture.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Pictures from Olympic Park

Karen, I know you've been waiting to see these. I think, finally, I've figured out how to attach pictures. The first one is me at the Olympic Park sign. The next two are inside the Aquatic Center. When they built it for the Olympics, they also built a smaller pool along with a slide and toddler pools because they wanted to be able to make much use out of it after the Olympics were over. There was a swim club swim meet going on while we were there.For $6 you can also come and swim for the day. The next two pictures are of Telstra Stadium where the opening and closing ceremonies were held.

Oh...and by the way, there IS an Outback Steakhouse in Australia! We went there for dinner last night. Well I'm off to the park to enjoy the sunshine (finally). Although I saw on the news last night that it's supposed to rain Wed, Thur, Fri, Sat, and Sun. Oh joy.

This is just to add back the picture from post #2...

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Getting Out There

I've made my first venture out into the city. (I'm not counting last night when I walked to Phil's office to meet him for dinner and got lost and had to look at my street map three times to figure out where I was...can we just smack a tourist sticker on my forehead?) To celebrate my first day here without rain...yes, it's still overcast but at least it's not pouring rain,I walked to Phil's office (no need for the map, thank you very much) and met him for lunch. As we walked around the food court, I foresaw a lot of fish and chips in my future.
For those who know me best, I generally do not deviate from my list of foods that I know that I like. I do not experiment. I do not try new things.
Australia has a lot of new things. I did decide on the fish and chips (which is included on my list of foods I like). Phil got a Portuegese chicken sandwich on Turkish bread. As you can see...trying new things when it comes to food is one way in which we differ.
After lunch, Phil went back to work and I went out on my own. After much investigation on the internet, I discovered a Christian book store, can you believe it, one block down from where his office is???!!! Again, for those who know me best, I officially list reading as one of my hobbies. I checked it out. Food is not the only thing that is expensive in Australia.
Books that I can get at CBD back home for anywhere from $7 to $10 cost close to $20 here. BUT...I did find one for $5.80 that just happened to be one that I had seen before and wanted to read. My first experience with using Australian money. I used my $2 coins and had no problems to report. (Yes, Phil paid for my lunch because it was very crowded, people everywhere and I didn't want to fumble around in my purse. ) And who, by the way, charges 20 cents for each ketchup packet (or tomato sauce) as its called here??
After leaving the bookstore I slipped on my IPod and walked the streets of Sydney listening to Jeremy Camp. (a collective sigh is heard from the DAGS near and far) Nothing like it! Listening to the words..."Because I can rest my hope in You. 'Cause everywhere I go, I know You're not far away. I know that You're here...You're right here. Jesus, You're right here." How true. The God of Langhorne, PA is also the God of Sydney, Australia. That is a great thought!
Before I go...I've just been informed that Sox, our dog now has his own blog. Check out for the latest news. Although you who know him already know his latest news...eating, sleeping, playing with his ball, more sleeping...

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Getting Settled In

Well, things are looking much better after some needed sleep...although yes, still waking up at 4:00 am or so, but at least we're going back to sleep. We went to the Olympic Park yesterday and had a great time. It was so cool to walk the grounds. We got into Telstra Stadium where the opening and closing ceremonies were held. They were having some big Fan Day for a bunch of different rugby teams so we slipped in and took some pictures. (Yes, I still have to figure out how to post them.) Now rugby is interesting...I was watching a match on tv (not sure what they call it) and was trying to figure out the rules. A guy has the ball and is pretty much tackled to the ground but if he can throw the ball to another teamate, play continues down the field. Strange...but not as strange as cricket. Watched a bit of it on tv as well. Cannot figure that one out at all.
Speaking of tv. Phil found out that they are showing the SuperBowl tomorrow at 10:00 am (Monday) Whoo hoo...we bought some chips and salsa and American hotdogs (the ones that are not a sickening bright pink) for the game. He's coming home from work in the middle of the day and we'll pretend we're back in the good ole' USA watching the game.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Observations on the flight and my first day in Australia

1. I really like flying business class
All I can say is that was one long day of flying. I have never been on a plane for so long. The perks of business class included a seat that reclined fully flat, a suprisingly good filet of beef dinner (using real plates and glasses!) and a snack bar that was open during the whole flight t so that we could help ourselves whenever we wanted a snack or drink. The snack container of Pringles was especially good while watching "You've Got Mail" on my entertainment screen at my seat.

2. I'm really not going to like flying in coach when I come back in March.
My neck is anticipating the permanent crick as I imagine sleeping straight up and down with my neck flopping side to side.

3. It's really weird to sit in the front of a car on the left side and not be driving.
Phil is great at driving on the right side of the car while being in the left lanes. As we traveled along to our apartment building from the airport, I felt very confused as to where cars were turning and how I will possibly learn how to do it. I have visions of creating the biggest traffic jam Sydney has ever seen once I try it. I'm not really anxious to begin learning how...I figure I'll start my exploring on foot for now.

4. Our apartment looks...interesting.
Picture a lot of mirrors everywhere, lots of brown and orange, very modern everything. (Sorry Taylor and Jessica...the couch is brown, not yellow. An improvement!) Our table has clear plastic chairs and modern "art" here and there. (and yes, the recling nude statue on the table below our tv is going to be put away for our stay here.) Did you know that instead of handles, toilets in Australia have two buttons to push- one for a full flush and one for a half flush? Interesting idea. The whole wall in our family room (read kitchen, living area, and dining area all in one) is one big window (that opens up into a small balcony) with a terrific view of the Harbour bridge and the ferry terminals. Once I figure out how to post pictures, I'll put some up.

5. The Opera House looks a lot bigger when you're staring up at it from the steps surrounding it.
Last night we walked over to it (it's right next door!) and walked around. We picked up a schedule of events for the month of February. It's not just opera...they have concerts, plays, and dance there as well. Nothing looked too good. Not even the Glenn Campbell concert. (Sorry, Kelly) :) Maybe next month.

6. Everything is expensive here.
While walking around last night we stopped at Baskin Robbins (yeah, another taste of home) for a snack. Would you believe $4.80 for a single scoop ice cream cone? Yikes!

7. This is really different from home. Sigh.
I'm doing ok, but am having a tougher time being away from home then I thought I would. I've broken down several times since we've left. Over my chicken sandwich at the Burger King in the Philly airport before our flight (thinking of Sox). {An aside-Burger King over here is called Hungy Jack's"} Curious thought- are all my references to home about food? Listening to our first voice mail on our phone here from our pastor back home. Reading the book our Sunday School class wrote us during our "Not Farewell but Happy Travels" party. Sitting in a food court here not seeing anything that looks familiar. Even now as I type. I know things will get better (I'm sure lack of sleep is playing a part) but I just need to take things one day at a time.

Today we plan on going to Ikea to get some stuff for the apartment and then driving over to Olympic Park to check out where the 2000 Olympics were held. (Karen, I know you're jealous!) I'll take some pictures and then see if I can figure out how to post them here.