Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sydney - One Year Later

Warning - this post is going to have a few asides and probably be a bit rambling!

Chris and Melinda headed to Cairns on Wednesday and we planned to meet them in Sydney over the weekend.  I wanted to spend a bit of time shopping for a ballgown.

Aside number one - Brian and I were invited to the Defence Charity Ball in Brisbane.  I was excited at the idea of going to any ball, but especially one with men in uniform!  It will be fun to have an evening out without children - and special thanks to our friends Amy and Wayne for keeping the boys while we're away.  Of course, this event calls for a new dress since I don't happen to have any ball gowns hanging in my closet.  Melinda helped me find a gown in Newcastle that I love.  It's simple - emerald green, strapless, and an empire waist cut that falls to the ground.  But since we were spending time in Sydney, I decided to look around.  I wish I had taken some pictures of me in the dresses, but I wasn't sure how to do that without looking obvious.  I tried on some ridiculously expensive gowns - one Alex Perry that was $2,500 AUD - but settled on the one from Newcastle.  I did find one turquoise gown that I completely fell in love with, but it needed taken in at the top and I was afraid if it wasn't done perfectly it would have looked awful.  I also tried on a gorgeous pair of Louiboutins, but once again, out of the price range I was willing to spend.

As we were heading into Sydney on the train, it occurred to us that it was exactly one year ago that we landed in Australia for our adventure.  I can't quite believe we've been here that long - amazing!  I still can't believe we live a couple of hours away from this incredible city.  We were lucky to have booked a room at the Intercontinental Hotel, which is a two minute walk from Circular Quay.  To tell you how spoiled we are, we didn't even feel like we needed to book a room with a harbour view, so we were left with a city view.  It was terrible, as you can see!

A view of the Royal Botanical Gardens

View from the pool on the top floor - not too shabby!

We caught up with Chris and Melinda for some shopping and lunch before they took a cruise on a sailboat.  They had originally scheduled it for when we had left, but that cruise was cancelled.  We would've loved to have spent more time with them, but things happen!  While they were on the cruise, we headed to see the Sydney Tower, which stands at 309 meters, or almost 1,014 feet.  The kids were both excited until it was time to get on the elevator.  Nathan began crying, so we grabbed and dragged him into the elevator.  Nothing like looking like awesome parents in public!  As soon as the elevator started, Nath immediately calmed down and was very impressed with the view when we stepped off the elevator - vindication for us!
I love all of the boats docked

View of the Harbour

There is also a revolving restaurant there, which must be amazing at sunset.  I wonder if the food is any good?

Afterwards we caught the monorail to Darling Harbour, which is where we were meeting Chris and Melinda after their cruise, which thrilled the boys to no end.

Aside number two - when asked what their favorite part of the weekend trip was, it was the train ride from Newcastle into Sydney.  I think it's hysterical how much they love public transport.  To both boys, getting on a plane is no big deal, but put them on a train or a bus and they are in heaven.  Will was so excited about his first excursion (what we call a field trip) because he would finally get to ride a bus!  Never mind that he's flown half way around the world...

We wandered around Darling Harbour, enjoying the little shops and cafes.  I would have liked to have shopped more, but didn't think the boys would go for it.  Instead we found an anchor for them to play on before we met our friends.

Typical grin from Wills

Lots of fun

We wandered over to the dock that Christ and Melinda were arriving at, stopping to get me a Flat White on the way.  The boys were very excited to see the sailboat coming, jumping up and down, waving and yelling at Chris and Melinda.  Once they got off the boat, our boys took their hands to walk over to the Opera House for our guided tour.  Bri and I even joked about sending the boys back to the US with them!

I was excited about the Opera House tour.  We had been a little hesitant about taking the tour with the boys, concerned that they would get bored and begin to act out.  We shouldn't have worried - Nathan listened to the tour guide with rapt attention.  He followed the tour guide around - nearly attached to his hip - without any regard to where Bri and I were.  Of course, we followed Nathan closely, giggling all the way.

Aside number three - we shouldn't have been quite as surprised as we were, as Nathan loves to read non-fiction books.  His last library trip included books about how the brain works, how and why to save energy, poisonous animals, and what ancient Rome was like.  I love watching his thirst for knowledge and can't wait to see where his career path goes.  He's even taking French after school because he's read about Paris and wants to make sure people understand him when he gets there!

The tour was absolutely fascinating and I would recommend it to anyone visiting.  We were booked for the 5pm tour, which included the benefit of a beautiful sunset and great photo opportunities.  I had a lot of fun playing and (trying) to be artsy!

Harbour Bridge at sunset

Close up of the Opera House at sunset

Sailboats on the Harbour

View of one of the buildings from inside the other one

View of the city from inside the Opera House
After a quick bite for dinner and goodbye hugs, we hopped back on the train to Newcastle.  We got in decently late, but it was well worth it.  We loved hosting and are looking forward to our next visitors - my parents.  They will be in Australia soon - with the benefit of a guest room, which leads to..

Aside number four - we have to move soon.  Which is frustrating, even though it does have it's upsides.  When we rented this house, we felt like we were lead to believe that it would be a long term rental.  The agency knew what we wanted, but alas it was quickly obvious that the owner really didn't want to rent in the first place.  Without going into any major details, the owner wants to move in himself now.  I gave myself a few days to be not happy, and then went with the "there must be something better suited for us" approach.    One of the things about this move is God has clearly been teaching me how to trust Him better - even in the little things.  It's not a surprise to most of you that I like control.  Well, I basically have control over nothing in the whole house scenario, for reasons I don't want to go into on a public forum.  Suffice it to say, what our hopes were for a house were not only met, but ridiculously exceeded.  Not only do we have a guest room now - which is good since people are fairly consistently coming to visit now - but the landlord was happy to sign a longer term contract!  Not to mention the many friends that have offered their help, be it by watching the kids while we move, helping us unpack, offering us beds to sleep in if the move takes longer than expected, and meals.  It's such a reminder of how incredibly blessed we have been in this move.

Wow, that was a lot of info in one post!  I promise to post pictures from the ball and our house as soon as they both happen!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Our First Visitors!

We had our first visitors land in the country two weeks ago!  Chris and Melinda are friends of ours from Kentucky.  We met Chris in our church choir and soon found out that he lived down the street from us.  He met Melinda, and the rest is history!  It was lovely to have good friends as neighbors just down the street and we miss our dinners together!

One of our first places to take visitors to see is Oakvale, where you are able to pet Koalas and feed Kangaroos.  Let's face it, it's what any visitor to Australia is excited to do.  I know when I saw my first Roo I felt like I was truly in Australia!  I think it was a good first experience, but I'll let you judge from the pictures!

Chris enticing a Wallaby

Melinda being surrounded by Roos

It's still fun for me as well!

The boys enjoy it as well - and why wouldn't they?

Will's jumper isn't just any old jumper - it is an Australia jumper, hence the green and gold.  I always thought it was odd that those are there colors in the Olympics, but, as my friend Amy pointed out, it does make them easy to identify!  On a side note, Will was cheering for Australia in the Olympics.  We tried to convince him to cheer for the USA to win gold and the Aussies to win silver, but he wouldn't budge.  However Nathan's mate, Wes (pronounced with a zed, as are all of their s) was cheering for the US instead of Australia.

Sorry about this next shot, but I didn't have time to fool with lighting and I had to get this picture!

Clearly Will is an animal person!

And since we had other adults with us, Brian and I got a picture together - a real rarity for us!

Brian also ticked off a Cockatoo

A Wallaby with her Joey - so cute!

It was fun showing other people how much fun it is where we live!

That evening we met a group of our friends at the RSL club.  It was fun introducing friends from different continents and I even got to play translator.  I think everyone had a fun evening.  Melinda commented that she and Chris felt very welcomed by everyone and that it didn't seem like that was the first time they had met.  So glad we have such wonderful people as friends here!

After church on Sunday we went out to the lighthouse and had tea.  There is a beautiful view from there that makes the food taste even better!  I didn't take any pictures there, but I'm pretty sure I've posted pictures in the past.  Melinda, I still think you should do a guest post with your pictures!

After lunch we went back and changed.  Brian kept bugging me about what I wanted to do special since it was my birthday, but I just wanted to show them around some of my favorite beaches.  We ended up taking a walk up past Barry Point on a recommendation, and boy am I glad we did.  It was a fun walk with beautiful views and lots of places to rock climb.

View of where the spit is, although it's underwater

The lighthouse in the picture above is no longer a working lighthouse.  To get there, you have to wait until low tide and then cross the sand spit to the island.  So far, timing has not worked for us to be able to cross the spit, much to Nathan's chagrin.  It was nice to get a good view of it on our walk.

Some serious waves that day

I took a lot more pictures, but I figure that's enough for one post!  We did some more exploration of the area and even a bit of shopping.  It was nice to shop with a girl, especially since I found out I needed a ball gown pronto - but more on that later.

After a few more days in Port Stephens, Chris and Melinda were off to Cairns to see the Great Barrier Reef - something we will be doing with my parents in about a month!  After a few days there, they flew into Sydney and we were able to meet them there.  Now on to photo editing those pictures!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

It's Winter?

I've always hated the cold.  Long ago I told Brian that if we had to move, it wasn't going to be one inch north of where we were.  He took me at my word and now I'm where the average high in winter is close to 16 C, or 60 F.  Some days it's even warmer and we like to take advantage.  We were lucky to have several of those during the last school holidays.  We chose to head out to Zenith Beach on one of those days for an informal photo shoot.

Zenith is on the Tasman Sea, not the bay, so I had to coax Nathan to get even close to the water.  He hates any type of wave.  I'm not sure if it's because of the noise or he's just frightened.  That's why he looks unhappy in some of this picture, but I had to get the water in the shot.

A tripod was worth every penny it cost
I was hoping that would have turned out better, but Will looks annoyed as well.  What kind of mom am I, wanting to get a picture with my boys?  They were much happier after I let them play around.

I've been letting Nathan take some pictures with my camera and he's getting much better.  I'm even usually in frame!

I love the bush behind the beach.  This beach is next to Stephen's Peak, which we've been wanting to climb for awhile, it's just never quite worked out.

Pretty short entry, I know.  We've been busy hosting our first guests since we've moved down here.  Our friends Chris and Melinda stayed with us for several days and are in Cairns (pronounced like Cannes, I've discovered) presently.  We will be meeting them in Sydney.  I have lots of pictures from our adventures and am currently in the process of editing.  You will be inundated with pictures in the next post, assuming I got some good ones!