Friday, July 29, 2011

Back in America

I can't believe I haven't updated in nearly 2 months. I last blogged after my return from Melbourne, and the rest of my time in Australia was really just spending quality time with the friends I made there. I had just under a month left in Perth, so nightly gatherings at my house were expected. We would cook dinner, hang out, watch a movie and all fall asleep on my lovely purple couches. Doing nothing all together were some of my best memories of all of Australia. Almost every Shabbat we would all go to Chabad together, which ended up being a really nice way to spend Friday nightl. It was such a small gathering that it felt like a family dinner.

My last month in Perth was very rainy, which is the norm in the winter there. It isn't too cold during the day, but the nights are really chilly. I didn't do anything too thrilling in my last few weeks. One day my friends and I walked to Heirisson Island to see the Western Grey Kangaroos that live there. There are 6 kangaroos and you can walk right up to them. We, of course, got caught in the rain, and ended up walking nearly 5 miles in it! It was a really fun day though. Other than that, I really just worked and hung out with friends.

My last week was basically spent having good bye parties. One night was with a group of girls I was friends with, one night was "Dana's last shabbat" at Zai Zai's, and a bunch were just my usual group of closest friends. My last night, which was a Saturday, the family decided to throw a huge Australian themed party for me. They had all Australian themed foods (homemade meat pies, hot chips, pavlova, etc). It was so nice and a great chance for me to say goodbye to my Australian "family" and friends. They gifted me these beautiful blue sapphire earrings and gave a toast to me. It was so hard to say goodbye to the little girls, and obviously I cried a lot.

After that, a few of my friends headed back to my house to do final packing and goodbyes. Of course, my bags were way too heavy, so I just started throwing stuff out of the bags. Eventually we loaded into the new nanny's car (she moved into my house 3 weeks before I left) and drove to the airport. I think I cried the whole ride there. When we got to the airport, I was told that I could only bring one bag with me (I was carrying two). It also turned out that I was not scheduled to be on my flight from Kuala Lumpur to Abu Dhabi. I was freaking out, but we were able to work out the flight at least. My friends ended up taking my second bag home (I luckily had packed a Europe bag and a home bag, so I didn't have to do too much transfering). After a very tearfilled goodbye, I boarded my plane to Kuala Lumpur.

I got to Kuala Lumpur at 7am and expected to be able to check in and go to a lounge. Instead, I had to get my huge bag from the baggiage carousel and then wait in an hour long customs line. Then, I was told I couldn't check in yet because Etihad counter doesn't open until 5:30pm. This meant that my THIRTEEN hour layover was spent dragging my bags around. I also couldn't connect to the free wifi on my laptop. After a few hours of wandering and checking out things to do (fyi: NOTHING-though I did see some funny signs-chicken porridge, anyone??), I spotted a computer in the Burger King downstairs. I quickly converted some money and paid for internet. I was able to half-skype with my parents and a few friends (I can see and hear them, but they can't see or hear me, so I have to type my responses). 6 hours and lots of Malay dollars later, I was able to check in. The next flight was uneventful and Etihad turned out to be a pretty nice airline.

I got to Abu Dhabi for my 9 hour layover at midnight, which obviously meant I couldn't leave the airport. I thought I'd be able to sit in a lounge again, but they were so expensive and you could only sit in it for 4 hours. Since I had 9 hours, I figured it just wasn't worth it. Instead I sat in this ornate terminal and was able to use these free computers. They were ancient and hard to use, but at least I was able to pass a lot of time that way. The next flight was also uneventful and I was anxious to get to Paris to meet Lauren.

I arrived in Paris and practically flew off the plane to the baggiage area. I had one hour to meet Lauren off her bus, and had no clue where I was going, so I wanted to rush through the airport. I got directions to the bus terminal and got there with 15 minutes to spare. I waited and waited and no bus arrived. I called Lauren with one of my only Euro coins ( I forgot to activate my Euro credit card) and she told me the bus was running a few hours late. I grabbed a baguette and sat to wait. I got bored, so I walked around to see if I could find a free internet. I couldn't, but I bought a few minutes on a computer and was able to activate my card. I then bought a converter so I could plug in my laptop and buy some internet credit. I was able to skype with a friend in Australia while I waited, and then noticed that I had a dozen emails from my parents saying that Lauren was lost and in the center of Paris. It took a lot of miscommunication and a few hours, but eventually I found Lauren sobbing in the center of the airport. We reunited and took a cab to our hotel, which was pretty far from the center of Paris. We were just so happy to be together and be in Paris that all the stress of the past few hours/days were semi-forgotten. I was just so happy to be able to put my heavy bags down! We found a hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant (had excellent Pho!) and then crashed bag in our hotel, despite it being super bright out at 11pm.

I will continue the Europe tales in another post!

XOXO,
Dana

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Great Ocean Road


Hi! So I just got back from my Great Ocean Road tour, led by Ride Tours’ owner, Todd. It was AMAZING! The Road is unbelievably beautiful. Like breathtaking, heart-stopping gorgeous. It was hard to tear your eyes away from the scenery. I didn’t really know what to expect on the trip, but I was really excited to escape a city for a few days. It was so worth the money to see the expansive stretches of pristine beaches, riotous waves crashing against the shore, limestone rock formations, rolling green hills and an amazing sunset. The first day was PERFECT weather. Blue skies, wispy clouds, cool temperatures. Even though the second day was rainy and blustery, it just made the sea even more romantic looking. I’ll go into more detail about what we actually did and saw:
Day 1, Todd picked us each up at our hostels before 8am. There were 2 girls from Virginia, 3 girls from Ireland, 1 girl from Canada, and 1 guy from Kent, UK. Everyone was really friendly, and I didn’t feel weird being on my own. Anyway, we first had a 2.5 hour ride to get to the GOR, so all of us slept. We stopped for tea and got to know each other, then continued on our way. Then we got to Logan’s Beach, which is where ‘right’ whales come to nurse each winter. Unfortunately, we were still a few days early to spot whales, but the views were nice. Then we stopped for everyone to buy lunch and so Todd could get supplies for our barbecue dinner, then continued on to Tower Hill to actually eat. Tower Hill is an extinct volcano with a sunken crater, so heaps of kangaroos, koalas and emus live in it. We ate at a picnic table and these 3 emus were circling us. We quickly spotted a koala sitting up in the eucalyptus tree. Apparently koalas sleep for 16-20 hours a day, and are very picky about the type of eucalyptus they will eat. They strip the trees COMPLETELY bare-if they pick every last leaf, the tree dies and cannot regenerate; if they leave even one leaf, the tree is able to repair itself. It was really interesting to learn about this, and even weirder to see totally bare trees. The parks will sometimes put plastic cones along the base of a dying eucalyptus tree to protect it and keep koalas from climbing up it. We went on a small hike and saw some kangaroos and wallabies jumping along in front of us. I, of course, was ecstatic to see koalas and kangas so close to me! After Tower Hill, we stopped for petrol and cheese samples from Cheese World (which has it’s cows/dairy plant right across from the shop). After this short stop, we were finally at the ‘Shipwreck Coast’ of the Great Ocean Road. This part doesn’t really hug the shore, but you can pretty much always see the ocean less than a kilometer from the bus. We kept stopping at lookouts to see the named limestone formations, including the Grotto, London Bridge, Bay of Islands, and Bay of Martyrs. Our final stop of the evening was at the 12 Apostles. There are actually only 8 rock formations, but apparently ‘they’ thought twelve sounded more biblical and would draw out a crowd. The sunset at the 12 apostles is well-known, and well worth seeing. The sky looked like pastel brush strokes. It was an unbelievable sight. After the sun goes down, the ‘fairy’ penguins come out of the water to sleep in the sand dunes. We watched a trail of them come straight out of the water, but it was too dark to get any pictures of them. After this, we made our way to the hostel to shower and cook a barbecue. Todd bought all of this vegetarian stuff for me (I know, I know) and we also had a really delicious green salad. It was a nice change from other tours I have done that do not serve a single green vegetable or fruit. He only bought wholemeal breads too, which I was so happy about (I had decided I wouldn’t buy a single meal on my tour to save money, so I had brought PB, sultanas, muesli bars, apples, etc with me). After talking around the dinner table for a while, we went to shower and then to bed early. The hostel was really clean and nice, but I was freezing from 3:30 til 6:30 when I got up. We ate brekkie (toast, cereal, fruit, tea—I made a few sandwiches for lunch, dinner and tomorrow’s brekkie) and then hit the road for another long day.
Day two was cold and gray, but that didn’t detract from the beauty of the Road. In fact, I thought it made the road look even more amazing-really misty, huge waves and a beautiful hazy horizon. We stopped at Loch Ard Gorge first, which was the site of a fatal ship wreck in the 1800s. It was easy to see how the ship, the Loch Ard, sunk. The waves were insane, the currents were wild, and the rocks were jagged all over the place. There is a story of the only two survivors finding shelter in one of the damp caves on the beach (which is really far down from the cliff/Road). After this, we returned to the 12 Apostles to see it in a different light. It was not as striking as it had been at sunset, though it was still d steps that lead all the way down to the beach. It is pretty steep and pretty far down, but it was a nice stop. I found amazing seashells (green and black zig zags, turquoise, purple, etc) and stuck my feet into the Southern Ocean (!). After this we drove for an hour through tall old-growth forests, and went on a Temperate Rainforest walk at Maits Rest. It was so cold inside the forest, but I loved it. The trees were mossy and 200+ years old. This might have been my favorite stop (beside the 12 Apostles sunset). The next drive took us through amazing green hills that were filled with mist (and sheep). On the right of the bus the whole day was the amazing ocean and we even saw a rainbow peeking through the gray clouds! [[[I kept oohing and ahhing over everything, and the guy from Kent was like ‘do you not ever see beaches where you are from?’ I was like ‘I live close to the beach in Florida and in Perth, but it is so different (and flat-the waves and the topography) compared to this.  He thought it was funny that I was so enamored with the sight of the waves. ]]] We stopped in Apollo Bay for lunch, which is a charming main street nestled in rolling green hills, and overlooking the Southern Ocean. Lorne is a nice beach town that is famous for a New Year’s Eve music festival, and a ‘pier to pub’ swim each January, which is apparently the world’s largest attended open water swim. We then made a quick stop at the ‘Round the Twist’ lighthouse, which knows fame from an Australian kid’s television show from the 90s, that was only really famous in the UK and Ireland. The Brit/Irish people on our tour were SO excited and sang the very strange theme song. Our last stop was at Bell’s Beach, which is home to Quicksilver and Ripcurl, and the site of the world’s largest surfing competition. We watched surfers for a while, then drove through Torquay, where the actual surf shops are. All that was left after this was a 1.5 hour drive back to Melbourne. The sun set on our drive, so we all fell asleep again. We dropped everyone off at their hostels and I checked back into mine. Overall, it was a GREAT trip. I am so glad that I chose to cut into my time in Melbourne and go on the tour.
Now I am just getting ready for bed. Tomorrow I am waking up at 6, going to the markets, going to the Botanical garden, and then exploring a few artsy alleys near Federation Square. I have to leave for the airport around 10:45 and then it’s back to the grind. I am excited to get back to Perth, because (so far) it is my favorite city in Australia and I have less than a month left to enjoy it.  It’s always nice to get away for a few days, but it makes ‘home’ just a bit sweeter. I don’t even like thinking about leaving my life here, even though I am excited to see you all. Okay, going to sleep!
1 month from today I will be in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Abu Dhabi on my way to the City of Lights!
BHAPpy, I’ll be in Florida in 40 days!
Dana xoxoxo
On the plane back to Perth, so I thought I would add a little addendum to last night’s post. I woke up at 6am today so that I could fit in a few things that I didn’t want to miss. The only problem was that I didn’t realize that Melbourne doesn’t get light until nearly half past seven! So, I walked to the Queen Victoria Markets which, while “open”, wouldn’t be fully set up until after 9am. I decided to speed walk down to the Botanical Gardens, which are pretty far from my hostel. I made it there at 7, and then realized they didn’t open til 7:30. Luckily, a guard opened the gates at 7:05, so I watched the sun rise while wandering around the gardens. I also made a quick stop at the Shrine of Remembrance, which sits high atop a hill and looks out over the city. The city was lovely at night-with Federation Square and all of the skyscrapers lit up. After the gardens, I made my back to Flinders Street, which has many small intriguing laneways. Some of the alleys are filled with cafes and shops, but a few are filled with amazing street art and graffiti. I had been told not to miss these, so I went up and down a few taking pictures. It was really cool to see the art covering walls, windows, trash bins, etc. After the laneways, I decided that I should get back to the markets to make my purchases. I walked around and looked at all of the food stalls, (which looked like an awesome way to shop for your food), while I waited for the merchandise vendors to finish setting up. I finally was able to buy what I wanted then I headed back to the hostel to get my bags and go to the airport bus. I was way ahead of schedule, so I walked down this one street so I could see the Old Victoria Mint and the Supreme Court. Then I sat in a cafĂ© and drank a chai latte to kill time. Finally I decided just to take the bus to the airport and wait for my flight while reading magazines. Now I am on my flight back-I just slept for a while and now I am bored-2 hours to go!
See you from Perth,
Dana xoxoxo


Melbourne Day 1

Last week went by really fast. On Friday night I went to Chabad with some friends. It was really small, and felt like a family dinner. I’m used to the Chabad at UF which hosts hundreds of students every Shabbat, so this was pretty interesting-people from all over the world, of all ages. The rabbi’s wife was so sweet and welcoming, it was a nice experience.
On Saturday, the dad’s parents came to town, so we had a barbecue for dinner. Then the five year old slept at my house and we went to bed at 7pm. It was so nice to get a full night’s sleep. We woke up the next day and went to brekkie with the grandparents at Tarts (best soy chai lattes). The mom came home from Singapore in the afternoon, so I hung out with a friend in the CBD.
On Monday, I packed for Melbourne and babysat, and then a few friends came over to cook dinner (shakshuka) and hang out since I was leaving for 5 days. They ended up staying til the middle of the night, and since my taxi was coming at 5am, I didn’t sleep at all. I went to the airport and had a very uneventful flight to the east coast. When I was disembarking from the plane, this girl said hello to me and I realized I had met her at this party a few weeks ago. She is from Paris and is also spending a few days alone in Melbourne, so we decided we should stick together.
I went to my hostel to check in then explored the area and the Queen Victoria markets. The markets were dingy and just like every other market I have ever been to, pretty much. Then, I walked to the tram and took it all the way down to St. Kilda to meet my friend. Her hostel’s travel consultant told her that it would be cool to go see the penguins that come onto the St. Kilda pier every night at sunset, so we hurried to walk down to the beach before the sun set. On the way we passed Luna Park (who also owns Coney Island!), and we walked the long way, along the beach, to get to the pier. It was starting to get really cold, but we sat on the pier until we saw the penguins emerge from the water. They are each about one foot tall, and a bit blue-ish. They are so cute!!! And they bark at each other, which is a funny sound to hear coming from a penguin. Anyway, then we grabbed a quick dinner and coffee to warm up, and then I headed back to the tram. On the tram, the police harassed me because I didn’t know how to buy a ticket. He was threatening to fine me, and embarrassed me in front of a tram full of people. I said it was an honest mistake and immediately offered to pay the fare, but it took him almost five minutes to relent. Eventually I paid the $3.80 and made my way back to my seat. Finally I made it back to my hostel and relaxed until I went to sleep.
Today I woke up and realized I pretty much had to cram all of Melbourne into one day. I walked down into the CBD and wandered in and out of shops, then met up with my friend for more exploration. We started at Federation Square, which is this really amazing complex (architecturally), which stands opposite the largest train station (Flinders Street Station), which stands opposite St. Paul’s Cathedral. It is such an interesting intersection. Anyway, then we decided to hop onto the free City Circle Tram, so that we could see some of the sights along the Yarra River, such as the Docklands, New Quay and Harbour Town. There were such unique buildings and sculptures everywhere (including a Cow up a Tree sculpture, which I loved). We hopped of the tram to get coffee and then decided to walk up and down the pedestrian bridges that span the Yarra River, between the north and southbank of Melbourne. We went into the aquarium so my friend could buy a ticket to walk underwater with sharks on Saturday. Then we explored a few famous laneways (Centre Way and Degraves St). After that we grabbed lunch (Indian for me) and then split ways. I walked up to Fitzroy, which has a major road, Brunswick, that is famous for vintage shops and boutiques. I wandered in and out, but the sun was starting to set (at 4pm), and I didn’t want to be lost that far out in the dark, so I tried to find my way back to the cbd. Of course, I got lost, but that I meant that I got to see St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Parliament House, Princess Theater, and Fitzroy Gardens. I wish I hadn’t felt rushed, but I just ran out of time. I hopped onto the tram and then walked back to my hostel. I am just relaxing tonight-I leave for my tour of the Great Ocean Road at 7am, and it will be a long two days. I am so excited for the tour. I really like Melbourne a lot, but it is basically like any other large city. The buildings are really nice to look at, the food is pretty cheap, there is a lot to see, but I’m pretty glad that I didn’t just stay in the city for my whole holiday. I mean, I definitely could spend more time exploring all of the gorgeous parks and gardens, but really I saw what I wanted to see. On Saturday morning, before my plane, I will walk to the Botanical Gardens and explore them.  Alright, more updates about the Great Ocean Road coming soon! Until then,
BHAPpy,
Dana xoxoxo

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Time Flies

I don't know where time is going, but it is running away way too fast! I leave Perth in 37 days and I am so sad thinking about leaving my life here. I was talking to the dad about it yesterday, and my experience here has been the best of my life. I have an actual real life in Perth-it's different from studying abroad or traveling. I drive a car, I have a job, I have my own house, and most of all, I have good friends and a new amazing family that treats me like one of their own. I am basically obsessed with the little girls and the parents, as well as the aunt and her family, plus zaida and granny. I know these next 5 weeks will fly by.

The last 3 weeks have been very busy. The dad went to Bali for a few days with his friend, so I was with the mom and the girls all the time. The Sunday he was away, I got a hysterical phone call from the mom that she had cut off her finger. I raced up to the house to see the kitchen covered in blood and the mom in shock. She had accidently sliced her finger with an immersion blender, so her dad raced over to rush her to the ER while I waited with the girls. The two year old was totally oblivious to the chaos, and all she said was 'I want icy pole!" (popsicle). That was a crazy crazy day that had started out so nicely with a friend and I leisurely making brunch.  Anyway, her finger is mostly better now, but she did have to have reconstructive surgery that day in the ER. She couldn't drive for 10 days, so I was her chauffeur and her nanny (I washed her hair for her while the dad was in Bali).

I accidentally crashed their BMW that I always drive into this yellow pillar in a parking garage, and I freaked out and called them crying. They were more freaked out that I was crying than the fact that I put a small hole into their front bumper. Luckily (?) the mom had put a small hole into the back bumper the week before, so they weren't upset with me at all. They are the best.

On Mother's Day, we had gone out for a lovely brekkie at 'Tarts'. It is a really nice cafe that is just a short walk from our street, on the other side of Hyde Park. We each had a chai latte for some reason, even though none of us ever ordered those before. Now, we ALWAYS drink chai lattes everywhere we go. I am obsessed-they taste like autumn in a cup. I bought some so that I can make it every morning before I walk to their house in the cold.

The girls watch 'Annie' and 'Mary Poppins' every single day now, so I basically always have those songs stuck in my head. The five year old thinks its hysterical to get songs stuck in your head, so every day when I leave, in addition to saying 'cheese!' (which is her I Love You, to me), she yells 'Jordan!' (this song from one of her favorite kid shows-3rd and Bird). Now the two year old yells 'Jordan' when I leave too, even though she has no idea why the five year old says it. The two year old also screams my name and tackles me when I walk into the house now. She says my name in the cutest way possible and then gives me 'fishy kisses'.

The five year old now goes to this Anglican private school, instead of the Jewish day school, because they have the best academic record in Perth or something. Every Monday, I pick her up from Chapel and then take her straight to Hebrew School. It's a funny transition to go back-to-back, but she just tells everyone that she does NOT believe in Jesus (or his naughty brother, Jesus Christ-she somehow got mixed up and thinks that these are two different people and that JC is naughty because when people are angry they yell 'Jesus Christ!', while the priest at her school always tells her that Jesus was so kind). The Chapel lesson is the funniest thing I ever saw, with every child (except for mine) marching around and singing and dancing to Jesus musicals. I had to choke back my laughter the whole time.

I have been going out heaps more in the past few weeks, even though I have been busier with work. It is getting cold here, so going out at night is really nice. I also regularly say 'no worries', which seems to be my one totally Aussie phrase that I say without thinking about it. I haven't done anything new in the past few weeks-another trip to King's Park, more Freo, etc. Lots of reading when I have time. Heaps of Jillian Michaels workouts. Same old, but never a dull moment.

Alright, going to live up my last 37. Have a wonderful day!

Kangaroo Kisses,
Dana xoxoxo

Saturday, May 7, 2011

EUROPE!


I come home July 14! That's just 67 days, folks!

But first, I get to spend 1 day in Malaysia, 9 hours in Abu Dhabi, and 10 days in Europe! I fly into Paris and out of London, so I will obviously be in those two cities, but I haven't decided how I want to break down the days. I am so excited that I get to end my 7 amazing months abroad with a trip to Europe, but I am also really sad to be leaving Australia. The mom cried when I booked my trip and now time seems to be flying past a warp speed. Anyway..

Since our trip to Broome was canceled, the parents felt really bad and offered to pay for my round trip tickets to Melbourne (which is on the southeast coast of Australia). I will be there from May 31-June 4 and will be going on a 2 day Great Ocean Road trip! I am really excited because I hear Melbourne is a super trendy, fun city. It's supposed to be really cold there during that time of year, but I can't wait!

The last two weeks have really been spent trying to get my flights settled, researching for my trips, etc. I've also been enjoying the gorgeous weather by reading and running in Hyde Park. It's been in the mid-20s (celcius, that is!-low 80s Fahrenheit) every day with a breeze and clear blue skies. I love it!

I've also been cooking a lot. The mom is trying to send me back to America ready to be a good Jewish wife/mom. I roasted a whole chicken this week (like shoved the lemons/garlic/rosemary inside the chicken, kinda thing), and made us yummy curry honey mustard salmon for shabbat. We also did a lot of baking. The five year old LOVES to bake, and there was this show called 'Junior Masterchef' that we used to watch together every week. This week we plan to make French onion soup, and then grilled fish with homemade pesto. It is really fun for me to experiment in the kitchen and try new recipes, though touching raw chicken was NOT my favorite thing.

Today is Mother's Day here, so we went for a lovely brekky at a place called 'Tarts'. It is a delicious outdoor cafe, and we had the BEST chai lattes. We were literally drooling over how delicious they were. They must've been topped with pumpkin pie spices, because  I felt like I was transported straight to autumn. Well, it is autumn here, but I mean't October/November time. I feel like the holiday season should be upon us! I keep waiting to hear Christmas music in all the stores! We got the mom flowers and tonight we are having a picnic. It should be a good day!

The dad is going to Bali this coming week, the mom is going to Singapore the following week,  I go to Melbourne the week after, and then their new GP (general practitioner) practice opens the Monday I get back, so it should be a busy couple of weeks. I will be working a lot more and will try to update when I have anything exciting to share.

The poor little two year old fractured her arm last week, but despite that she has been 'happy as Larry' (as they say here). She was so good when they changed the cast (plaster) the other day and has really just been happy as can be. I love her more than ever, and she has really become so attached to me. What will I do without my two bubbas?? I'll miss these girls so so so much!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Kangas, Koalas and Wombats, Oh My!

I am officially going to Tulane Law!!! After weeks of research and decision making, I finally decided that I think I will be happiest and most successful there. I am so excited to move to New Orleans and begin a new chapter of my life.

The last few weeks have been pretty uneventful. I have been babysitting heaps more, mainly because the five year old is on school holiday. I have also babysat for a different family, for Zay Zay's girlfriend's daughter and for the little bubba. Granny, the aunt and the bubba just went to Richmond, VA for a few weeks, and will be stopping in NYC for a few days, where Brooke will babysit for him! My girls want to skype with Brooke and bubba that night.

The rest of the days have been spent on very long walks, doing law school research, and exploring Perth. I have been trying to go on new and interesting walks each day, for about an hour, so I have been to King's Park a few times, Hyde Park a few times, down to the CBD, etc. My ipod died, so its been a bit difficult to last for an hour, so switching up the location is totally necessary.

Pesach was such a neat experience. I am so glad I got to be a part of a South African/Australian Passover. Shul was very interesting-its an Ortodox shul, so men and women are separated, but there is a bimah in the center and a choir sings all of the prayers instead of a cantor. Zayzay is the lead of the choir and it sounded almost like a barbershop quarter in the way it was all sung. I loved the sound of it.

The seder was very similar to ours: read the English around the table, and did approximately the same amount of Hebrew that we do at home. I helped Granny make some of the Pesach food, just to see how it differs from home. We made boiled and FRIED (weird!!) gefilte fish. I had never heard of fried gefilte, but they are basically just fried little fish ball thingies. We made the matzoh balls with her, but she made the soup herself.  I thought it was pretty awful soup (compared to mommy) but everyone else loved it. The soup had just shredded chicken in it (no veg) and was very very oily (I didnt eat any at all really). The matzoh balls were okay (I ate one small one to be kind) but were made with vegetable schmaltz and tasted pretty fatty. They weren't fluffy and airy and incredible like my mother, the amazing cook! The rest of dinner was delicious-yummy brisket/tsimmes, veg tsimmes, pickled veggies, a huge salad (that I made), and roasted potatoes. For dessert I made coconut macaroons, and granny made halvah ice cream, fruit salad, weird almond cookies and stewed apples. Overall, a yummy dinner, but a pretty noisy atmosphere. The kids (my girls, bubba, plus bubba's 3 cousins on his dad's side) were running everywhere, kids were being taken home periodically, some of the adults were a bit unattentive, etc. which made for a very disorganized seder (ironic, no? doesn't seder mean 'order'?). The only songs that sounded the same were dayenu and hadgadya. Anyway it was very nice to feel part of the family, though I missed home a lot.

The next night's seder was at Zay Zay's house. His food was MUCH better and I really enjoyed the more intimate seder that we had. I made matzoh crack for the family, and the uncle basically proposed marriage to it. He said it was the best thing he had ever tasted! (Melt 1 cup butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar in micro for 2 minutes, spread over 4 sheets of matzoh and bake until bubbly about 12 mins, let cool for 1 minute then spread 1 cup of chocolate chips over the top and refrigerate for an hour).

I had such a long week this week. I babysat several of the nights and most of the days, and went out with m friends to an Allied Health (all of the uni's medical students) social on Thursday night at Metro City night club. It was pretty fun! On Friday, the parents went to stay at a hotel for the dad's birthday this weekend, so I stayed home alone with the girls for 2 nights. It is hard work being a single mother! We did all kinds of SciTech activities (which we picked up last week at SciTech, before lunching at Wagamama and drinking hot chocolate at SanChurro Chocolateria...mmmm!). We made bouncy balls, had touchable bubbles, strawberry cream smelly bubbles, bath crayons, painted easter eggs, etc. We also made icing and then decorated a birthday cake for the dad. It was so much fun being with the girls non-stop and I love them even  more now. They behaved so well for me and even slept til nearly 8:30am one of the days!! That never happens when their parents are home, so I was very happy about that. On Sunday I took the girls to the hotel to swim with the parents, and I went home to go for a walk, go look for birthday presents for the dad, and straighten my newly short hair. I went back to their house in the arvo for my very first easter egg hunt. It was so cute and there was so much chocolate. The five year old was HOARDING it and then devoured a huge chocolate bunny. This shop, Chokeby Road, sells beautiful chocolates, and the mom went all out. The mom got me my own teeny tiny easter basket, and I had a lot of fun watching the girls hunt for the eggs. The parents even got me a lovely bracelet for taking such good care of the girls. Since it was the dad's birthday, he invited me to go for drinks at the Queens with a few of his mates. I knew them already and it was a lot of fun.

My German friend is back in town now, so we had planned to go to Caversham Wildlife at Whiteman Park on Anzac Day. Caversham charges a single all-inclusive fee, and you get to cuddle and pet all of the animals that you want. (The rest of the zoos in Australia will charge an entrance fee plus cuddle and photo fees). We even got a free clip-on koala with our admission. Anyway, we high tailed it straight to the kangaroo pen, which was a massive area with maybe 100 kangaroos roaming about. We immediately started cudding the cute and friendly kangas and even found a mommy kanga with a bulging pouch. The joey wasn't visible yet, but the mommy loved us and followed us around. We held hands with another baby joey and just really loved being with all of the kangaroos. Since it was early, they were all hungry and wide-awake, so they were a lot of fun to be around. We heard that later in the day they are so full and tired that it just isn't as exciting. We were glad to have been one of the first visitors inside! We then headed to see some kookaburras (unfortunately, NOT sitting in an old gum tree, but instead in a large cage). The koala enclosure didn't open until 10:30, but we wanted to be first in line, so we headed over and lucked out by being let in early with just three other people. We got to play with the mommy koalas (all of whom had joeys in their pouches). We learned that all marsupials have pouches and their babies are all called joeys. The joeys are born and move straight into the pouches, where they grow for about 6 months. I learned a lot and loved petting the koalas, though they were much more interested in their fresh eucalyptus plants than us humans. After the koalas we decided to get in line for the wombat show. I didn't expect a wombat to be so large, but it was 30 kilos (~60 pounds)! It was so cute and looked like Phil, my pug. We were first in line, so we got to go on the stage for pictures first. We also got to touch some blue tongued lizard, a weird possum bushy tailed thing named Luna, and a wallaby joey. We got to look at this carnivorous owl wich a dead mouse hanging out of its beak and a large snake. After the show we headed back to the kangaroos to play some more. This time we actually saw a joey emerge from the pouch! It kept going back to nurse from the pouch and I got to look inside a kanga pouch. The joey kept trying to climb back inside, but the mommy kanga kept walking away. The joey then walked up to this large male kangaroo and it reminded me so much of the Dr. Suess story "Are You My Mother?". Anyway, I took a million videos and pictures of the joey and the mom, so if I can figure out a way to post them here, I definitely will. After another hour with the kangas, we headed to the farm area to pet some donkeys (one kept making silent heehaws!), llamas, rabbits, pigs, guinea pigs, ducks, turkeys, goats (one fell off a rock and onto my left foot), sheep, cows, camels, etc. I love animals, so this was another amazing morning in Australia.

After nearly five hours at Caversham, we decided to head to the nearby Swan Valley to check out a few wineries/breweries. On this one road are dozens of them, so we figured we would just stop at any that looked interesting. Well, being easter weekend (or maybe its always like this?), there were many places offering free tastings, so we decided to hit up as many as we could. We first went to the Margaret River chocolate factory, where we tasted delicious mini chocolate buttons (dark was my favorite, followed by the milk. The white was way too sweet). Then, we headed to Lancaster Wineries, where we got to sample at least half a dozen wines, as well as this incredible creamy spicy cheddar. We also walked through the vines and took pictures. This was a beautiful winery and I am so glad we stopped. We then headed to this brewery, but we weren't impressed, so we left without buying a beer. I did climb this incredibly large, gnarly tree outside though. I have never seen a tree like this, with one trunk, but each huge branch fanning out and touching ground, creating huge natural archways. It was so cool. After monkeying around, we headed to this coffee sampling place. We got to try 3 different coffees, each made in a French Press.The coffee (or koffee, as they called it) was so watered down from the French Press, it was barely drinkable. We did sample some yummy chocolate covered espresso beans, but even they were weak.The atmosphere at this place was kool though, and they roast their own beans on site. Not worth purchasing any koffee, but it was an interesting place to stop. Our last stop was at this honey farm. The owner couple was so sweet and attentive. I ended up purchasing a jar of honey and some lip balm. I liked supporting the locals, and also the honey in the super market here is horrendous, and this was delicious! We finally headed home, full of delicious samples, and very happy with such a lovely day. The weather was perfect, our timing at Caversham was perfect, the samples were all perfect-I'd call this day one of my top days in Australia so far!

I babysat last night for Zay Zay, uploaded my pics and named my videos. I came home and woke up this morning feeling totally exhausted. I guess this week was so go-go-go that I wiped myself out. I relaxed while my friend went to Freo Markets, and then mustered up the energy to go for a long walk to the CBD. I wandered in and out of some of the Asian Markets and some of the shops, but most were closed since it is a public holiday (which makes it a 5 day weekend-Good Friday kicked off the public holidays, Sunday was easter, Monday was Anzac Day and I have no clue why today was also one). I then came home so that my good friend could pick me up for a spontaneous arvo of lazing by the river. We picked up coffee (me) and ice cream (her) and then lounged in the grass by the Swan River. It was a gorgeous afternoon. I came home very ready to cook dinner (Pesach ended tonight!), so I first had a teeny taste of peanut butter (oh how I missed it for 8 days!) and then made this amazing pasta dish. I boiled 1.5 cups of orrechette spinach pasta, then drained it and mixed in 4 tbs of non-fat cream cheese, 1 can of artichoke hearts quartered, 1 can of cannelini beans, minced garlic, and then a few handful of spinach to wilt at the end. I then added a small sprinkling of garlic basil cheddar to finish it off. I also heated up a bit of a frozen seafood mix and stirred it into my portion of the pasta. I LOVED this meal (alongside some roasted asparagus) and cannot wait to eat the leftovers tomorrow.

Me and my friend have just been relaxing and watching the Harry Potter dvds that I have. Its been storming on and off this evening, so its nice to just sit inside watching movies and writing this post. She goes back to Germany this week, which makes me want to go home too. I am loving my time here and am very excited for the next few months, but I do miss a lot of things about home! I think I will end it here. Hope you all are well and thanks for reading such a long post!

KANGAROO, KOALA and WOMBAT KISSES!
Dana xoxo

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Rotto, Uluru, Rotto again

Hi! So I am back from a very exciting few days away that was bookended by two trips to Rottnest Island.

Last Sunday we woke up early to catch the ferry over to Rotto. I loved the ferry ride and feeling the breeze from the water. We road along the Swan River and saw beautiful homes before cutting out to the Indian Ocean and crossing over to Rotto. We got off the ferry and walked toward the most famous (and most beautiful) beach called 'the Basin'. The water was unbelievably clear and we even saw some dolphins. We had packed a picnic because we were warned how expensive Rotto can be. After lying on the beach for a while we went in search of the pub and some quokkas. We found a small group of the quokkas which are like extra-large rats or very small kangaroos. They have a rat-like body (thats how Rottnest got its name-the settlers thought the island was overrun with large rats), but hop like kangaroos and use their hands like the kangas. Anyway, we tried going to the main pub, but it was closed due to a concert later that evening. We found a different pub and just relaxed until the ferry was set to leave. It was such a nice day and watching the sun set on the water was beautiful.

Monday I worked, then packed for our trip to Alice Springs/Uluru (Ayer's Rock). Tuesday we woke up and cleaned then took a taxi to the airport. It was an easy 3 hour flight, and Qantas was a great airline to fly. We took a shuttle to the hostel, which was super funky, but very clean. We quickly put our stuff down and headed out with our cameras to Anzac Hill to watch the sunset. We passed so many aboriginals (who smell terrible, its so unfortunate) and this was my first real encounter with them. After the sunset we headed back to the hostel, which is known for its cool bar and cheap menu. We then packed smaller bags for the tour and headed to bed early because we had to be on the bus by 6am. We woke up and got on the bus, along with four German girls, two 18 year old Dutch boys, an older German couple, an Italian man and eleven Taiwanese tourists. It was the tour leader's second tour ever, but everyone at the hostel raved about him, so we were pretty excited. During the drive, I saw a Red Kangaroo about 50 meters from the bus window! It was massive, but I was thrilled to finally see my first wild kanga! We also passed a rock that tourists always think is Uluru, but it isn't, so it is nicknamed Fuluru (fool-uru). Anyway, after a 700 kilometer trek, we arrived at King's Canyon for a 4 hour hike. The first leg of the hike is called 'heart attack hill' because it is so steep and takes around 20 minutes of constant climbing to summit. My friends and I led the pack, with the Italian and the Dutch behind us, the Germans just behind them, and the Taiwanese a good 15 minutes behind at all times. The views were gorgeous. At the halfway point there is a water hole called Garden of Eden, that is literally just an oasis in the middle of a very dry canyon. We swam in the water and cooled off before continuing the hike. Eventually we made it back to the bus and headed to Yulara. We set up camp and I helped the tour guide cook dinner while some of the guys built a fire. When the sunset and it grew dark, the stars became visible and were unbelievable. It was unreal how well you could see every constellation, some planets, and even the Milky Way Galaxy. Everything was so clear, it was truly outrageous. I take the five-year old to the Planetarium all the time, so I was really good at pointing out and naming a lot of the things in the sky, so it was fun to share that with the group. Anyway, after dinner we got into our swags (an insulated sleeping bag), with no tent, and were supposed to go to sleep. The only trouble was, I didn't expect to be surrounded by so many hard-shelled insects, so I started to panic. One crawled across my face (luckily I was wearing a fly net on my head) and I scrambled up and out of my bag and didn't lay down again. I was too freaked out (I even kept my sneakers on in the swag for a quick getaway). The Dutch boys and the tour guide thought this was the most hilarious thing they had ever seen and made sure to make fun of me for the rest of the trip. I stood up for the next few hours and finally tried going back to sleep, but my heart was racing and I pulled an all nighter. It was a good thing that the stars were so beautiful, or I would have been really really bored. The group was woken up at 5, so we watched sun-up and ate breakfast, then got back on the bus and headed to the Olgas (Kata Tjuta). This is a really impressive rock formation, comprised of 36 domes. It is 16 miles from Uluru, but all in the same Kata Tjuta National Park. We went on a 10 kilometer hike, which was much more gravelly than the day before, so you had to be more careful about how you stepped. Also, the flies were horrendous at the Olgas. Thank goodness for a fly net!!!! This was also a nice hike, and my friends and the Dutch boys sang Christmas and Disney songs (I have no idea why) to pass the time, and finished the hike almost an hour before some of the others. We then headed to a new campground to shower, eat lunch and set up camp. Then, we headed back to Uluru to do a quick walk, see the cultural center, cook dinner and watch the sunset. Unfortunately, it was cloudy, so we didn't get to see Uluru light up in the sun, but we were able to see a pretty nice sunset. We went back to the campgrounds to sleep, and again there were so so so many bugs. One of the German girls said that she heard I didn't sleep all night, and wondered if I wanted to sleep on the bus with her. So, to the laughter of some of the guys, we packed up our sleeping bags and set up beds on the bus benches. I slept so well!! I didn't get to see stars, but it was cloudy, so sleep was very nice. We woke up at 5 again to go watch the sunrise at Uluru. It was cold and buggy, so I had my flynet over my hoody, and the hoody pulled shut so you could only see one eye. The tour guide didn't stop laughing for an hour at how stupid I looked, but I didn't care, as long as I wasn't eating flies for brekkie!! We then made our way to the Uluru base again for a 10 kilometer base walk around the entire rim of the rock. It was a bit anticlimatic after the exciting hikes we had done the two days before. The actual climb was closed due to windy conditions (as well as the Aborginals having strong dislike of people climbing their sacred and spiritual rock-the visitor guide says "the climb is not prohibited, but we prefer that, as a guest on Anangu land, you will choose to respect our law and culture by not climbing."). I wouldn't have climbed due to insensitivity/guilt and due to the difficulty of the climb (30+ people have died on it due to heart attacks or falling!!) and you aren't harnessed to anything. Anyway, our reward for the base walk was a hot brekkie of baked beans, toast, sausages (for those who eat pork), tinned peaches, yogurt and spreads. The other days had just been bread and spreads. It was nice to taste fruit again (even if it was tinned), as I had craved it after each hike. After breakfast we knew it was time to head back to Alice Springs and had a 4 hour bus ride to look forward to. Everyone else can sleep on the bus rides, but I have trouble, so I just looked out the window and relaxed. It was a lot more green than I was expecting in the 'Red Center'. Apparently, since December 2009, they have had a wet season that has lasted far longer than ever expected. I had also finished my book on the first day (Ape House, by Sara Gruen-also author of Water for Elephants. I liked Ape House much better, and lent it to my friend on the trip, who also devoured it in one day!), so the bus ride felt like forever. Luckily, we stopped after 2 hours to look at this spiky lizard dragon thing on the side of the road, and then again at the 3 hour mark to make lunch and go for a camel ride. Me and my friend road a camel called Helly. It was $6 for 3 minutes, and the camel ran with us on it for the last part of the ride. It was histerical and so worth the small amount of money. We also got to see llamas, a dingo and three little kangaroos. This was my first time seeing a kangaroo really hop. I loved it, obviously! We soon arrived back in Alice Springs, where we checked into our rooms (they had accidentally overbooked so they had to give us private doubles instead of the 6 person dorm style rooms we had paid for. This was a lovely surprise!). We then walked around Alice Springs and then headed back for a final tour dinner at the hostel bar. It was so nice and we all drank cider and beer before calling it an early night. The next day, one of the German girls and I shared a cab to the airport. She was coming to Perth and didn't know anyone here or where to stay, so my family offered her to stay at my house for a few days. It is always nice having company here, because sometimes it can be lonely in my house at night. The dad picked us up from the airport and then let us borrow the car for the rest of the day.

Perth has such gorgeous, cloudless weather, so we decided to head up to King's Park to walk around and take pictures. She has an amazing Canon DSLR, and let me try taking pictures with it, so I had a great time walking around the cliffside park. We then went to Subiaco and drove around the river a bit. I had to babysit that night, but went to sleep immediately after I got home. I was so exhausted from not sleeping much on the tour. The parents best friend called them on Saturday morning and asked if they wanted to go to Rotto on her friends boat the next day, but they were unavailable, so their friend asked if I wanted to go (along with my friend). We, of course, accepted and got to excited when we heard that the boat owner is the fifth richest man in Australia!

Sunday we woke up and I drove us down to to Cottesloe beach for brekkie. I had amazing porridge (oats) with bruleed banana and toasted pecans on top. So yum! Then, we headed over to Fremantle to catch the boat. I was picturing a super-yacht, but it ended up being like a 39 foot older yacht. It was still nice, but not what I was expecting. We passed the guys house (I mean compound-10 million dollars at least!) on the river, so I totally expected a brand new, huge yacht. Apparently, the guy is just down to earth and has a lot of memories attached to the boat. Anyway, it was super nice of him to have us all on-it was a totally random mix of twenty-people. I was glad that not everyone knew eachother-it meant more mingling and less awkwardness. It was a gorgeous day and the ride out to Rotto was gorgeous and filled with champers (champagne). We anchored and I literally did not leave the water from them minute we anchored until we pulled up anchor a few hours later. I missed home boating a lot, but it was still fantastic to be back on a boat and in such clear, cool water. We then motored over to the pub side of Rotto and sat and watched the sunset and ate dinner. It was a perfectly lovely day and my friend who is staying with me said it was her best day in Australia in the 4 months she has been here. I agreed, it was amazing!

Monday it was back to the grind (if you can call playing with two adorable and sweet girls, 'the grind'). I work a very full day on Mondays, usually 7am until 10pm. I took the girls to the SciTech place after school, so that broke up the monotony of a long day. The little two year old knows every single word to Katy Perry's 'Firework' and this other song 'Hurry hurry hurry, now quick quick quick'. It is so so so cute and I could just eat her up with how funny she is. Tuesday I babysat then finally got to use part of my coupon for a haircut. It included dye, style, cut, head massage, etc and felt phenomenal. The hair dresser actually used to cut Isla Fisher's hair back when she grew up in Perth. He pretty much did whatever he felt like, and now I have really short hair. Its actually not that short, but in a ponytail it is so short and cute. I like it a lot!! Today I babysat for their business partner's daughter and it was the worst babysitting experience of my life. The two year old screamed for 5 hours straight and I wanted to pull my ears out of my head. I was never so excited to see a babysitter mother pull into a driveway as today. Then, I came home and my friend and I went to Grill'd for burgers. They were delicious as usual. Now we are watching Now and Then and relaxing before I go babysit for the bubba cousin tonight.

This was a very long post. I applaud you for making it through the whole thing! Does anyone have thoughts on Tulane versus UF law? Those are what I have pretty much narrowed it down to.





Kangaroo kissies and BHAPpy,
Dana xoxoxo

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A few pictures-didgeridoo, Little Creatures, Cottesloe Sunset, my babies, that giant swing from Busso, kangas, etc











visitors!

So last time I posted was 2 weeks ago, and things have been pretty fun since then!

I did end up going out on that Saturday night and had a really fun time. The next day was the 4 years old's birthday party at this fairy shop, The Pickled Fairy, in Fremantle. It was a pretty cute party with lots of little four and five year olds running around in face paint, tutus, wands and fairy wings. After the party we went to Little Creatures, a brewery on the water in Freo. They have such a refreshing pale ale (and many other good beers), but the atmosphere is just great. We ate lots of apps and drank beer and the girls played in the great kids sand pit.

The next week pretty much flew by with lots of working, but I was anxiously awaiting a few visitors on that Friday. We had a birthday Shabbat for Bella and it was a really intimate, lovely dinner. AND I ATE MEAT! Eeek, it was a decision I had been thinking about for about a month due to some stomach issues that I have had for a long time, and I decided that since Australia has really high quality, high standard, locally produced, grass-fed, sustainable beef, that there was no better place to attempt meat-eating than here. It was really yummy actually and to my surprise I had no stomach ache that night for the first time in ages.

After dinner, I picked up a six-pack of Little Creatures Pale Ale as a welcome back to civilization gift, and headed to the airport to pick up my friends. One of the girls is the girl I stayed with in Sydney back in December, plus one of her oldest friends and a girl that they met at the place they had been working. They had been at this hotel in Fitzroy Crossing, WA, which is like 90+% Aboriginal, and a 5 hour drive east of Broome. AKA it was in the middle of nowhere (Bugga Woop Woop, as they say in Oz), and they had not even seen a Mackers (McDonald's) in 3 months! (Mackers was their first requested stop). The Fitzroy River had flooded the week they were supposed to come, and they had to canoe to get their bags, and then were airlifted out of FC. They were legit refugees for a few days and were lucky to get out! Anyway, I picked them up and then I took them to the top of King's Park to see the Swan River and get a great view of Perth. We even saw fireworks!! It was great and then we headed home so they could get to bed.

On Saturday, we went to City Beach (the dog beach) with the two family goldens, and enjoyed a morning in the sand. Then, we headed home, went for coffee, and relaxed. Saturday night was full on-lots of bar hopping with my visitors and the dad and his group of guy friends from high school. Sunday we recovered, did a bit of shopping, then headed to Cottlesloe for a sunset picnic. We picked up delicious Thai food and sat and took a million pictures of the gorgeous Indian Ocean Western Australia sunset. UNBELIEVABLE!

On Monday morning I dropped the girls off in the CBD so they could go on a 5 day tour of down south (what I had done last month). I worked a lotttttt of hours this week, and babysat for another family (which I will do every Wednesday morning now). I also tried chicken, but I really did not like it at all, so I will not be trying it again. The week went by fast because I worked so much, and soon I was awaiting the girls return on Friday arvo (afternoon). They came in and we decided that it was high time for me to try a hamburger. So, we went to this place called Grill'd, Healthy Burgers. I had a deliciously spicy burger with harissa, tzaziki, onion, lettuce, pickle, etc. Very yum and we all shared the most amazing hot chips (french fries) with rosemary, olive oil, and other herbs. Again, no stomach ache that night! After dinner we wandered around Subiaco, a really fun suburb, and planned out the rest of our weekend.

Today we woke up and headed to the Subiaco Farmer's Market bright and early. We headed straight for this great, local coffee stand and then sampled our way around the market. We tried delicious breads, olives, jams, cheeses, etc. After spending a bit more than an hour there, we headed home to give the car back to the family. The dad dropped us at the train so that we could go to Freo today. It was my first time on the train here and I cannot believe I waited this long. It is cheap, clean and goes to great places, so I know I'll be back on it soon. The only problem is that the nearest station to me is a bit more than 2 miles away, so we did have to sprint back from the station today so I could be at babysitting on time. Anyway, in Freo we stepped off the train and headed in the direction of the Fremantle Markets. On the way we decided to stop in this didgeridoo shop. A didgeridoo is a wind instrument developed by Indigenous Australians at least 1,500 years ago. The shop keeper asked me if I wanted to learn how to play, so of course I jumped at the opportunity. My friends joined in, and he handed us all these 4 foot long Eucalyptus wood instruments. To play it, you blow your lips out like a horse (in a brrrrr sound) and then blow into one end. It was hilarious and much harder than it looked, but I was not horrible. We were laughing so hard though, so we mostly listened to the shop guys play. We decided that it was time to head to the markets, where we sampled heaps of delicious fruits and just enjoyed being in the shade. Next stop was Little Creatures for beer on the water. They almost didn't let us in because we didn't have our passports with us, but the guy eventually relented. We sat outside and enjoyed the atmosphere (and some beer) and then headed back to the train. Then I rushed home, changed, and headed to babsit. We swam and then I put the girls to bed. About an hour later, the 5 year old ran out of her room crying-she had gotten sick all over herself and her bed. Poor baby. All of us who were sick had a few intense days, then a week reprieve and then another 48 terrible hours. So now we are just cuddling while I type this, and waiting for her parents to get home (its almost 10pm and she is still awake and so ill feeling).

Anyway, I think this post is way too long as it is, so I will let you go. Tomorrow we head to Rottnest Island (!!!) and we get to take an hour long high-speed ferry. I am so excited to be back on a boat!!! Then, Tuesday we head to Uluru (Ayer's Rock) until Saturday, and then I split from my friends. I'll be back with some updates hopefully after Rotto, but definitely right after Uluru if I don't have time before Tuesday.

Oh yeah, I have started incorporating different Oz phrases into my vocabulary. I try to use 'good on ya' (way to go, good job), 'full on' (intense, lots of drinking planned, etc), 'cheers' (thanks), 'no worries' (no problem). There are many other little words and phrases that I use, but these are the ones I can think of that are really Ozzy that I made an effort to adopt.

Okay bye for now!
Tomorrow I am seeing Quokkas for the first time at Rottnest, so I will say 'Quokka Kissies!' to you all,
Dana xoxo

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Not nearly as exciting as the emus or kangaroos

Hi all!

This past 2 weeks have been really boring compared to the trip down south, but I mainly attribute that to being sick this week. We have all had some stomach issues, so I have just been taking it easy.

The Sunday we got back, I went to my friends 22nd birthday at this fun bar, but it was over 40 degrees Celcius inside (which is more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit), combined with exhaustion from my week down south, so I left after a few hours. We planned to meet up on Tuesday to go for lunch and the beach. The beach was unbelievably beautiful, but sooooo windy, so the water looked like a giant sand hurricane. We went up to Hillary's, which is a beach harbor with a ton of shops and restaurants. We swam there for a bit, because it is a protected harbor, and it was a really nice arvo (afternoon).

The rest of last week was mostly spent babysitting or at the gym. On Saturday, I took the 4 year old to SciTech again so that we could go to the planetarium. She always points out Florida when we can see it on Earth, and she yells thats Florida where Dana lives and Disney World is! (don't worry: you are allowed to call things out in the planetarium--sometimes its hilarious what little kids shout out. The 4 year old, for example, in response to "what is the hottest planet" yelled out "Venus penis!" All of the adults in the planetarium were cracking up) . On Sunday, I took the 4 year old to the Hyde Park Fair. They have heaps of fair rides and foods, booths with local vendors, animal rides, etc. We went on a bunch of rides, but the 4 year old wasn't allowed to have any more sweets, so I resisted eating fairy floss (cotton candy)!!! I wish I had. Oh well!

After the fair, we got ready to go to the bubba (baby) cousin's first birthday! It was at a park and there were heaps of adorable kids and babies. I had sent a link to the cutest monkey cupcakes ever (http://bigflavors.blogspot.com/2010/09/baby-shower-monkey-cupcakes.html) to the mom and she made them! After the party, I left to go babysit for a new family with three cute kids.

Since Monday, we have all been sick with stomach issues, so my week has been pretty bleh. I have been mostly laying around trying to recouperate. I hope that today marks a turn around in how I feel because I am supposed to go out tomorrow night with some friends. I just don't want any of them to get sick, so I might not go.

Alright, this boring post has come to an end. I hope you have all had a better week than I have!

Love and kangaroo kisses,
Dana xoxo

P.S. Hi Grandma and Grandpa!!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

I can't believe I'm being paid for this..

Is this paradise or what? I considered calling this post: "Busselton-the time an emu snatched my ice cream! and finally, some KANGAROOS!", but I thought that the current title is more appropriate. I just can't believe that I was paid for last week.

Busselton is a beach town that is an approximate 2.5 hour drive south of Perth. The family shares a beach house there, but we had it to ourselves for the week. The house is maybe 1/10 of a mile from this gorgeous beach.

On Tuesday morning, we packed up the cars and drove south to Busso. Immediately, we threw on our bathers (bathing suits) and ran to the beach. It was unbelievably perfect seas and the sky was unreal. This was the pattern for the next 5 days-ridiculous weather and calm seas. They say there are usually zillions of flies down south, but this time there were very very few. (They said that I must be good luck, because the weather forecast for the week had been rainy, gray and generally yucky weather!)

After beaching for a while, we went back to the house to relax, unpack, grocery shop and cook dinner. We made leek risotto and grilled barrumundi (I think?) and called it an early night. Bella wanted to have a sleepover and a midnight feast, so we ate some smarties (which are like M&Ms) at 7pm and then she crawled into my bed and fell asleep. She was so cute and excited when she woke up the next morning and saw that we did have a sleepover. I love that little girl!

The plan for the day was beach and then for me to get to see my first kangaroos. We headed out to this place that they had gone to for years and found out that it had recently shut down! I was disappointed, but the parents were way more disappointed for me. They assured me that they would not leave Busso until I saw my first kanga. Anyway, we went to this famous ice cream farm called Simmo's, which makes fresh ice cream from local dairy. I had some white chocolate ice cream, but I'm really not an ice cream fan (unless it's Larrys!!!). The rest of the family loved it as usual. I was still eating my ice cream, when the family was reminded that there is an emu enclosure at the back of the property. Since everyone else was finished, we walked back there and a giant emu was standing by the fence. (FYI: it's e-myou, not e-moo) I walked up close to the fence to take a picture and all of a sudden, with a neck movement like wildfire, the emu SNATCHED MY ICE CREAM! The girls thought they had never seen anything more hysterical in their lives and we all had a great laugh. It actually just stretched its neck 2 feet through the fence and grabbed the cone! Unreal! When the mom gives me a disc of her photos, I'll add them on here. Anyway, by now it was later in the afternoon, so we played on the playground and then headed to Dunsborough to walk around. A tourism bureau told us of a different place to pet kangaroos, so we made plans to go there the next day. We cooked dinner again and had another early night (the girls wake up before 6am, so we are totally knackered by 9pm). The two year old, who looks and talks like an infant, learned to say "Poor Yaya" (which she thinks is her name). It is so adorable!

We woke up and had breakfast at this really cool outdoor gallery, Goana Galleries, and played around there for a while. Such a delicious breakfast of amazing toast, poached eggs, roasted tomatoes and mushrooms, and served with pesto. So so so yummy. Then, it was time for the dad to head home with the 2 year old, and we went on a Mommy, baby, Dana day (which we do every other week or so). We were off to some wineries in the region, which are gorgeous and plentiful. There are probably a few hundred wineries off these 2 winding roads. But first, before the wineries, it was KANGAROO TIME!!!! We went to this cute farm, where we met goats, horses, cows, ponies, llamas, emus, alpacas, bunnies, birds, chickens, AND KANGAS! We first met a wallaroo (wallaby/kanga mix) who was so sweet. We fed all the animals carrots, lettuce, bread and seeds. We also saw a joey and its mom, as well as a bunch of other kangaroos. We rounded the corner, and a little kangaroo was just sitting on the path-not in an enclosure!! I cuddled it for a while and we took a million pictures, and then it was time to go. I loved the kangaroos, but I was pretty excited for wine tasting and for the Berry Farm. The Berry farm cultivates its own jams, chutneys, relishes, pickles, ports, wines, olive oil, vinegars, etc. We got to try everything and also shared a tasting plate of olives, Turkish bread, feta and amazing olive oil with balsamic. Everything was phenomenal! It was such a great day, but of course, we had to head back to the baby and the dad. The parents got ready to go on a date. I watched the girls and went to bed pretty early.

We woke early to go to the beach and then out to brekkie at this place called the Goose, which overlooks the longest pier in the southern hemisphere. We then went to the park next door, which was AMAZING! They had this awesome tireswing that is probably 6 feet off the ground and spins so fast and swings you really high. Me and the 4 year old were dying of laughter the whole time, but then I was super nauseus for a few hours. After we relaxed for a bit, we went down to the beach. Then, the dad wanted to take me to all these breweries, which Margaret River and down south are famous for. We did a bit of a pub crawl and tried some really interesting beers at some beautiful breweries. We came home after a few hours and it was time for me and the mom to go get manicures. We got the gel-ish ones that are supposed to last 4 weeks, but mine had something wrong with them, so I have a voucher for a free mani when we come back to Busso in March. The manis were like 70 each, but the mom wanted to treat me! Then, we picked up fish and chips, then scooped the girls and the dad, and went for an evening picnic on the beach. It was gorgeous and fun and we swam in the ocean until nearly sunset.

Saturday we went to the beach and then met up with Granny, who was down for the weekend with her boyfriend and his friend (they are both vice presidents of Yankee Candle!!!). They were staying at this gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous resort. I watched the girls and swam in the incredible infinity pool while the parents and granny went to a winery for lunch. When they came back we went back to the pool and then had cheese, jams, wine and crackers before heading home with the girls. Another good day.

On Sunday we woke up and packed, then headed back to the Goose for brekkie. The two year old woke us all up by saying "Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness!" She must have learned that phrase from me, because people don't say that here. Adorable! Then we hit the road!

Every day I was going on great beach runs, which I loved. I wish my house in Perth was a bit closer to the water so I could do that more often. Overall, an incredible week. I still can't believe that I was paid for all the fun I had. I am really living a hard knock life down here. Poor Dana..

Friday, February 18, 2011

Hi!

Hi! So life has been so busy and fun lately, but I haven't done anything so out of the ordinary (hence the lack of posts).

This past week or so I have been babysitting a lot at night, so they let me sleep in in the morning which is nice of them. They treat me so much better than I would expect to be treated. They ask "if its okay" that I come at 7am for example, even though that is what my roster says and what I would expect as the nanny. Its pretty funny and we always joke about how easy I have it. For example, last Sunday we went to an engagement party (for one of the daughters that we do Shabbat with each week), and the girls needed to go home at like 6:30, so instead of me taking them home, the dad took them home and I stayed at the party. Or, if the girls aren't feeling well, he will stay home from work and help me play with them because he doesn't think its fair that I, the nanny, should have to take care of them alone. I think this is hilarious, but I also appreciate how considerate they are!

Last weekend was really social and a great weekend. I went out with that bike riding girl to an Indian restaurant with 6 of her friends. It was good (not as good as Royal India!) and the friends were all so nice. My friend had to leave after dinner, but her friends insisted that I go to a bar with them-so I did. It was a really fun night! I have since hung out with one of the girls that I met at dinner, and we clicked really well. Its so nice to have people to call to hang out/go out with.

Last Sunday morning, I went out with this guy that Granny set me up with. He took me to Swan Valley, which has tons of breweries and wineries. We went to his friends birthday lunch at this German brewery and it was broiling out. The sun is SO INTENSE! Its not awful since there is no humidity, but the intensity can really wear you out. Anyway, it was a nice arvo (afternoon, in Oz speak).

We are going down to Busselton on Tuesday for a week. I am so excited!!! Margaret River is nearby, and there are so many wineries, berry farms, etc. down there that they are taking me to. The four year old is thrilled that I am going with them, and she says we are having sleepovers every night and even a midnight feast (she is basing this on her favorite TV show, Charlie and Lola-which is actually a really cute British cartoon). She is such a little cutie and last week the mom straightened her hair and she looked like she was 7. Every day she greets me with a huge flying leap and a cuddle (hug). The two year old is naughty as ever, but she is so cute that its hard to reprimand her. The other day she was so knackered (exhausted) that she snuggled on my lap for 4 hours while I was watching her. She is the best cuddler in the whole world.

Last Wednesday a sleep magician came over to their house because the girls haven't been sleeping through the night basically since New Year's. The lady came in and psychoanalyzed the 4 year old for an hour and then came and spoke to me and the parents. She told us that the girls are exhausted and should be fed by 5pm, bathed at 5:30 and going to sleep by 6pm. She said to draw the line and be very firm about giving in to the girls, and to not tolerate tantrums, pleading, etc. For example, they now get 2 bedtime stories each, no exceptions, and if they complain they get none. Saying "but I'll be good now" doesn't redeem them anything, you just have to explain that they have choices and they can either have good or bad choices. It was pretty interesting; I thought it was really hoak-y and I was very skeptical, but the girls have literally slept the whole night through, every single night since then. It is so weird how quickly and amazingly the girls have picked up on the good choice/bad choice option!

Okay, I think I have written enough. I have been good about drinking water, but obviously really bad about updating! It's so much more interesting to write a long post, then a short post about each day. I'm getting nervous about making the big law school decisions, but hopefully some scholarships will come through and it'll make my decisions a bit easier. Anyway, hope all is well and everyone had a happy Valentine's Day and a lovely week.

Kangaroo kisses (I'll be seeing kangaroos in Busselton!!!!!!!),
Dana xoxoxo

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I am the worst at updating!

Hiiii! Happy February! I am so sorry for slacking on the blog. My New Years resolution is to update more often! And to drink more water..Better late than never on the resolutions, I guess!

Anyway, life here is great. Time is FLYING by. I can't believe I flew out 45 days ago; it feels like only a week.

The weather is gorgeous. Today I was riding my bike to the gym and actually was astonished at how blue the sky was. It startled me and I removed my sunglasses to see if it was actually that intensely blue. It was! I need to start carrying my camera everywhere with me so I can show you the sky. I am probably so annoying to everyone around me, because it is pretty much a guarantee that I will comment on the color of the sky and lack of clouds. K, enough about the weather-I know a lot of you are miserably cold right now!

I have been learning my way around Perth, mostly by wandering around and biking up and down the streets. I am finally getting a feel for where things are in relation to my house. I am so happy that I am walking distance to so many things. It makes it so easy to get around and explore. I always try to walk down this one street, because there is this one house that grows FRESH FIGS!!! Every time I pass it, I snatch a fig or two and eat them on the spot. The owners apparently don't mind, and I often see these elderly Italian women wandering through people's gardens, picking their lemons, tomatoes, figs, olives, grapes, etc. I often use the lemons from my tree in my cooking, and yesterday we realized that there is a massive grape tree dangling next to the family's dining room window. We picked off a few bunches and enjoyed delicious grapes straight from the tree! I promise to take pictures of all the fruit trees-I love searching for them!

In other news, I FINALLY DROVE!!!! On the wrong side of the street! And the wrong side of the car! It is so weird and the first day I totally kept drifting left and nearly hitting the curb. It is such an odd sensation being on the other side of the car-not so much the side of the road. Anyway, since then I have gotten loads better. The day after I first drove, they let me drive the BMW to take the 4 year old to circus (mcgurkus) school. Personally, I wouldn't have let myself, but the parents thought I was ready. It is so much fun to drive!

I went for a really amazing bike ride the other day with that girl I met a few weeks ago. There is an incredible path that follows the Swan River, so we looped around for about 16K and then stopped for "morning tea" aka french pastries and a cappacino. It was a really nice morning and its fun to have a good friend here. I also went with this girl out on Australia Day on January 26. We went to a bar with some of her friends and watched the fireworks.

Last weekend I went to a 30th birthday party with the aunt  (the one who I babysit for) and uncle. It was at another cool bar and I had such a fun night. Of course, this was the only day of humidity in Perth ever, so I was sweaty and gross, but it was still a great time. All the bars I have been to here so far have been fun and trendy and really much nicer than any I have been to in the states. They all have huge outdoor sections so you can enjoy the weather-which is a plus except for the random once-in-a-year humid nights!

The other day I met up for lunch with this girl from Georgia. It was funny to hear an American accent again and we talked about all the differences we notice between Oz and US. I didnt even realize that I was noticing these things until she pointed some of them out. For example, people here don't really say "excuse me" or move aside if you are walking toward each other. They kind of just bump into you and grumble as they push you aside. It's so weird, because I find the people to be really polite and friendly otherwise! Also, people don't like to stop for pedestrians, allow people to cross in front of them or cut in their lane with traffic. Its a bit weird, really. It was a good brunch and another new friend to hang out with-though she lives about 40 minutes north of me.

The family is still amazing. I have such a good time being with them. The girls are precious and the 4 year old calls me her big sister/magical nanny. They both say "love you" to me when they go to sleep and it just warms me up that they like me so much after only a month. The other day the 4 year old tells me that she is planning a going away party for me for when I leave in 6 months. It was funny and she is just a really clever girl with the best memory ever. She literally remembers every single thing anyone says. The 2 year old is such a little nugget-she could pass for 16 months, she is so teeny tiny! They call her "buggy" or "the menace" because she is SO NAUGHTY! But she is also so freaking cute, so you can't really scold her. She loves "lippy" and paints it all over her face and arms and everything around her. She would happily be covered in lipgloss all day every day. And, she happily tells you exactly what naughty things she has done, with the most coy smile on her face. I can't get enough of the girls!

I've finally been cooking a bit. The ingredients are really fresh here, so its enjoyable to make food. They have incredible dairy products from Margaret River, which is about 2 hours south of here. I will be going to Busselton, which is near Margaret River, in 13 days! I am so excited for my first trip down south. I discovered this bulk food store near the CBD (central business district-about 30 minute walk from my house) and it has a vast array of grains, flours, nuts, dried fruits, spices, etc. I bought dry roasted peanuts, and have been experimenting with different peanut butter flavors. They really only have 1 brand of peanut butter here, which is depressing compared to the US. So, I figured I would just have to make my own gourmet PB! I also made carrot cake granola a few times-it is amazing. You actually add freshly grated carrots into it, and it so works! Very healthy and delish:

-1 1/2 cup oats
-11/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
-1/4 cup walnut or pecan or nut of choice pieces
-1/3 cup honey or agave nectar
-diced dried apricots, raisins, or dried fruit of choice
-1/2 cup or more shredded carrots
-1 tbsp milk of choice
-2 tbsp flax seed or chia seeds or wheat germ or omit entirely
-heaps of cinnamon
-1 egg white

What to do:
1. Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl (all except egg and milk)
2. Whisk egg white and add it and milk to the dry ingredients.
3. Bake at 350 until desired level of done-ness (30ish minutes)
We all have been sick this week-starts out with a tickle in the throat, next day sore throat, next day slight congestion, and then a few days of all out sniffles and no sore throat. We've all been sluggish, but the girls are extra-cuddly when they are sick. It's not too bad actually.

I joined a gym that is like an 8 minute bike ride from my house. I did BodyPump today and am going to be so sore in the morning. It's hard to get on a bike after a tough workout, but I am too lazy to not bike there, so I suck it up on the return trip. Yesterday it was so so so windy on my ride that I was going downhill and actually pedaling so hard to keep moving. The wind was refreshing, but it was a tough ride.

So yeah, I think I am all caught up. I will update more often, put some pictures online, and talk to you all soon!

BHAPpy and heaps of kangaroo kissies!
Dana xoxo

Friday, January 21, 2011

Where did I leave off?

G'day!

So rather than try to come back with an accent, I have been accumulating a list of phrases that are commonly used in the land of Oz. Sometimes I unknowingly use them and it makes me laugh. One thing that I notice Ozzies do is make every comment into a question. Some examples:

Me: WOW! The sky is so gorgeous, I can't believe there are never any clouds in Perth!
Oz: It is gorgeous, isn't it?

(sorry to any of you experiencing winter right now!)

Me: Wow, this beer is so much better than American beer.
Oz: It is good, isn't it?

(Little Creatures, a Western Australia beer..yummmm)

Okay, back to what I've been doing..

The last few days have been mostly relaxing and fun, though we haven't gone on any real excursions lately. I took the 4 year old to SciTech-a kind of Museum of Discovery and Science, which I obviously loved more than the little girl. I dragged her into the Planetarium against her will and she LOVED IT! The next two days she kept reciting all the things she learned to anyone who would (half) listen. She kept asking me if we were seeing "real" outer space/stars/planets, so I said yes. I'm not sure why I said yes, but I figured it was easier than explaining that since it was noon, it was highly unlikely that the sun would just shut off to show us the stars/planets.  She was very cute and is such a clever little girl. And she is so so so silly. She makes up jingles and dances and goofs around a lot, so I am always very entertained by her. At SciTech, she kept singing "lavender's purple, just like me". We don't know where it came from, but there is a very cute dance that goes with it. She also tells everyone that will (half) listen that my favorite color is purple. Soon all of Perth will know!

I saw Sarah's Key at this small theater the other night with Granny, her friend, and the aunt that I babysit for on Mondays. It was AMAZING and everyone in the theater was crying. Its based on a book that I read last year and could not put down. I highly recommend you all reading the book immediately and then going to see the movie. It is truly an unforgettable story. READ IT. NOW.

Granny and Zay Zay separately want to adopt me. I love this extended family. I feel so comfortable with them all and they honestly treat me like one of their own. I am really excited for Shabbat tonight at Granny's house. She asked me to make Mommy's kugel. I just hope its as delicious as usual-we kinda burned the top while watching a puppet show put on by the kids. We also used "egg noodles" which somehow ended up being tagliatelle noodles. We'll see! I'll probably preface the serving of the kugel with a warning, just so people don't think this is how it usually tastes (if its awful). Most of you can attest to the amazingness of my mom's kugel.

I think the last blog post had me about to go to a meetup with some random Perth girls. It was interesting to say the least. The best part was the great beer at the great bar it was held at. Otherwise, the girls were SO WEIRD. The night was truly a waste of an outfit I'd been wanting to wear for a long time. Boooo.

Today I met up with one of Granny's best friend's, best friend's daughter (are you still following me?). She was so nice and her friend also came along. I loved them and spent a few hours eating and walking around with them. I will definitely be seeing them again soon. Every single Jewish person I meet here is from South Africa. There is a huge community here and its so interesting to hear why they came over and when. The accent is also really nice.

I think that's pretty much it. I've just been cooking with the mom (made roasted Pumpkin risotto the other night!!!), swimming in the pool, walking around Perth, playing with the family, and loving life.

The family, every single day, suggests that I invite all of you to come visit me in Perth. DO IT.

That's all!

Kangaroo kisses,
Dana xoxo