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Brisbane – my new home =)

October 20, 2014

There is much to like about Brisbane. I really do love it here. It’s beautiful, fun, and right on the river! (I love river-side cities)

My only complaint about this city? I think the person who laid out the roads (and who thought it was a good idea to NOT put street signs on half the streets????) must have been completely drunk when he did so. They make no sense and are hands down THE most confusing roads I have ever been on. Even with GPS I guarantee you 100% that you will get lost at least once while driving here. Each day. Seriously. For the life of me I can’t figure out why they laid out the roads the way they did. Ask anyone who lives here or who has been here. I bet they will wholeheartedly agree with me. Such a pity for such a great city to have such a huge drawback. (The buses are super confusing too)

Oh well, not every city can be perfect. ;) Here are some shots from around town. I have dozens more. =)

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The river-side beach at Southbank

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View of downtown at night from the ferry

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The bridge is so pretty lit up at night

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Daytime shot

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The trees here are so awesome and have so much character!

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View of Kangaroo Point from the City Botanic Gardens

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I thought these Eastern Water Dragons were so cool when I first got here. Now I realize they are everywhere and slightly annoying.

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With some of the German au pairs

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I think these white roads are really pretty

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Roma Street Parklands

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Ok so I officially hate these myna birds now, since they try and attack people on a regular basis. But I still like this shot of this one drinking nectar. He flew down right in front of us.

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A kangaroo topiary, naturally =)

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An insanely huge poinsettia plant in the Roma Street Parklands

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View of Brisbane from the Mt. Cootha lookout

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This little Kookaburra flew down in front of our table and just sat there

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North Stradbroke Island [a.k.a, the place where I first saw wild kangaroos!]

October 13, 2014

I have always been a fan of islands. Whether big or small, tropical or Alaskan, they are always so unique and have so much charm!

Last Friday  a new friend and I set out for an island off the coast of Queensland, near Brisbane, called North Stradbroke Island. There are several ferries that run daily to and from different ports over to the island. We left from Cleveland on one of the vehicle ferries, since the walk-on price is half that of the passenger ferry.

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Boarding the ferry

While the passenger ferry is about 25 minutes faster, the vehicle ferry only takes 50 minutes, and only costs $5.00 each way! We didn’t mind spending the extra time on the ferry to save a few bucks, and we enjoyed relaxing and seeing the views on the way over.

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Views along the way

After you get to the island you need to catch a bus to take you wherever you want to go. [The bus is $5.00 each trip.]  We took the bus to Point Lookout to do the North Gorge Walk which is a stunning walk along the cliffside on a new-looking boardwalk. The views at every turn are truly impressive and we often stopped to spend more time at different lookouts.IMG_8372
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We chatted with a couple who was whale-watching with binoculars. We’d never have seen the whales had they not pointed them out to us. We would have also missed the dolphins were it not for them!

Dolphins

Dolphins

After the whales and dolphins headed out away from shore, we walked on, stopping to climb down a rocky cliffside for better views of the surf.

Waves crashing against the rocks

Waves crashing against the rocks

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The waves crashed high against the rocks we were on, and the sea spray felt so good since it was a hot day. We spent a while there, and could have spent longer, had we not wanted to see more around the island. At one point we thought we heard a whale so we walked down to a high ledge that overlooked a rock outcropping and then a small inlet surrounded by rocks. We heard the sound several times (sounded like a whale spouting water) but never saw a whale, so we concluded it must be a small blow hole in the rocks, although it sounded nothing like any blow hole I have ever heard. Strange.

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It was a tiny bit scary standing up here to get pics.

We wandered on and decided to walk down to the gorgeous Main Beach that we saw below us.

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LOTS of surfers

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I am pretty sure it doesn’t get any prettier than this. Ok, I know, I haven’t made it to the Whitsundays yet, but I plan to. =) But for now, it doesn’t get any prettier than this. This country is stunning.

We wandered down to one side of the rock outcropping, to the secluded side of the beach, and looked around for a bit. It was pretty, but the sign warned of strong rip tides, and said not to swim, so we made sure to not venture in very far.

=( The beaches are so dangerous here. Gorgeous though.

=( The beaches are so dangerous here. Gorgeous though.

Curious tracks =)

Curious tracks =)

Shells in the rocks

Shells in the rocks

The rocks were full of shells imbedded in them!

The rocks were full of shells imbedded in them!

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Such clear water

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While wandering down to the beach, I stopped to put on my flip flops.  When I  looked up into the clearing we had stopped by, I was shocked to see a kangaroo family! I excitedly told Janina about them and then frantically tried to get my camera out, sure they would run away as soon as they saw us. Their ears perked up and they stood up and looked at us, but that was it.

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First look at the kangaroos

 

 

Slowly we crept forward, a little at at time, closer and closer. I was so surprised at how close we were able to get. At first I thought it was a mama and baby, since one was noticeably smaller than the other. Then I saw the smaller one had a baby in her pouch! It was a whole family, a daddy, mama, and baby! I couldn’t believe our good fortune!

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Is this not the cutest thing ever???

They continued eating, stopping to look at us whenever we moved. Finally I got a little too close and they hopped off. It was so funny to see them hop!

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Daddy hopping away, following mama.

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After spotting our kangaroos, we headed down to the other side of the beach.

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Love these shallow clear ripples

After spending some time wandering around here, we walked back up to the town, got some gelato, rested, and then headed down to Frenchman’s Beach. You gotta love a gorgeous place that is totally deserted on a Friday, giving you run of the entire place! So easy to get pictures with no one around to mess them up, ha.

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Peeking out at the tiny white sailboat in the distance

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I didn’t realize *how* many stairs we had walked down until we had to climb them all to head home! (This is just one small part of them)

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See the weird patterns in the water? I don’t understand how those waves were going sideways.

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Most amazing day EVER. Seriously.

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I think this jellyfish (btw these blue jellyfish are EVERYWHERE. Another reason not to swim here.) looks like a turtle who lost his shell.

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At the end of the day we took the bus back down to Dunwich where the ferry is, walked up to the little strip of shops, found the only open restaurant and ordered a surprisingly delicious pizza to share while we waited for our ferry. Janina had it timed perfectly so we could see the sunset and that was a nice touch to the end of an amazing day!

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I’ve been a lot of places, and had more than my share of those picture perfect days where you can’t believe you are really doing what you are doing, and that you are blessed enough to really be there, but this one climbs the charts to near the top of all those days. It truly was a perfect day and I feel like the luckiest girl in the world to get to live here and experience things like this.
If you are ever in Brisbane (which, if you visit AU, you must visit Queensland!), you MUST put North Stradbroke Island on your list of must-see places! You can thank me later. =)

 

 

Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast

October 7, 2014

As I mentioned last time, I spent last Saturday at Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast of Australia and it was amazing. I couldn’t stop taking pictures. [not that that is anything new] I posted this picture last time, but it’s one of my favorites so I am posting it again. =)

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I just love the colors and how peaceful it looks.

Surprisingly, the prices along the beaches here were cheaper than the prices of things up in Brisbane.  That made me happy, seeing as things are so expensive here. And…I even found CURLY SHAMPOO down there! [I don’t know why curly shampoo/conditioner is so hard to find outside the US. It was about double the price I’d normally pay, but I bought it anyways since I haven’t seen any up here in Brisbane.

A few pictures of my gorgeous day at the Gold Coast (which, is only one hour away from us here in Brisbane!!!):

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I forked over the $22 AUD to go to the top of Q1 to see the views. A bit pricey, but I enjoyed it. =)

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I kinda love the lifeguard stations here

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Do you see the moon?

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There’s more to this adventure than a bunch of pretty pictures

October 6, 2014

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I spent my first week in Australia seeing the sights in Sydney and Canberra, and just having a great time in general. Then I came up here to Brisbane and worked two days before having Thursday-Sunday to myself. I spent those free days seeing Brisbane, meeting new friends, visiting a new church and meeting everyone there, and also just hanging out at Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast [I still think there should be an apostrophe after the "s" in Surfers, but whatever.] The Gold Coast is absolutely fabulous, and puts our California beaches to shame. No surprise there, unfortunately. I’d love to say Cali has the best beaches, but let’s be honest, we really don’t. Not by a long shot. [We do have the best weather though. Hands down on that one.]

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But I digress.

In general the first few weeks were sheer bliss and I was head over heels in love.

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And then reality set in. Today. Let’s just say that 6 year old triplets are a WHOLE lot more of a handful than I naively thought possible. Especially when one of them has autism. We could also just say that I seriously considered just heading straight to bed when I got off today. At 6:30 pm. [it doesn't help that it gets dark at 6 pm here.]

Backing up a bit…Today started off like normal. Except that it’s a public holiday, which meant the kids wouldn’t be going to school today. So I headed upstairs at 7 am and started the girls’ breakfast. “L” [the autistic boy] has an issue with eating around others, so he had already started eating toast. [always toast] After making them breakfast and sitting to eat with them, I did the dishes while the kids’ mom headed off to get caught up on some work. After a lot of random things like a long, involved treasure hunt, drawing and writing some Hello Kitty stories with the Hello Kitty stickers we’d found as a treasure, watching some cartoons so Jen could clean up the messy house, and doing some reading to the girls, I made us lunch and then we made some jewelry before cleaning up and setting off for our first trip to the park.

I had been worried about L running off while we were walking to the park, so the girls used that against me to get me to change my mind about riding their bikes to the park. “If we ride bikes, L will come with us.” So I agreed. That was a mistake. While L is a pro at bike riding, with no training wheels, the girls are another story. They still use training wheels and were constantly calling for me to pull them over cracks and up slight inclines. Meanwhile L is riding off way in front of us, nearly giving me a heart attack with each intersection he approached. I was running back and forth between him way ahead of us and the girls way behind. Partway there, the girls got off their bikes to walk them up a hill, and one of them ran the pedal or something into her leg and started crying. After dealing with that, they all got back on their bikes and then freaked out as they started down a hill out of control. One crashed gently into a wall just as I got to her and got her off. The other was walking her bike and ran it into a pole and started crying that she’d hurt herself. I managed to somehow get them all, along with their bikes, safely to the park (that’s the extremely short version). By the time the girls and I caught up to L, he had dumped his bike somewhere and was playing on the playground equipment. I searched all over for his bike, afraid it would disappear, before I finally found it. I had just settled down onto a bench next to a mom and her baby, when L decided to grab his bike from inside the gated playground, open the gate, and ride out towards the street! I jumped up and followed him. After a slight meltdown, I got him back inside.

Thankfully their mom decided to stop by and drive us all home with the bikes, so we didn’t need a repeat of the bike drama on the way home.

[insert several hours of kid-entertaining and house cleaning here].

Around 4 pm I decided to start dinner since the kids eat at 5. Other than an extremely annoying stove that gets way too hot even on low and burns EVERYTHING, ugh, (I have no idea how I will cook here), dinner was drama-free. Except for the fact that L would not eat anything, but that’s nothing new.

Oh, I should mention here that earlier L had opened the fridge and taken out an entire container of strawberries while I was downstairs for a minute and had eaten them ALL. I had already told him no when he tried it earlier, but he wanted to eat them and not the lunch I made him. Then when we were at the park later on,  their mom came by with a container of strawberries which he proceeded to consume, along with a little help from the girls. This will be important later in our story.

So we finished dinner and I washed the dishes while S tried to “help” me dry the dishes, ha, and E was drawing or something. Next thing I know, E is coming and telling me she pooped her pants and needs help. Her pants are down, her fingers are brown, and so are her legs. Gag.

I go into the bathroom [which STINKS] and see brown marks smeared on the WALLS and all over the toilet. Keep in mind these girls are SIX. I didn’t know six year olds did things like this. Literally gagging, I wipe her bum as best as I can and then I decide that she just needs a bath. So off comes the shirt and into the tub she goes. S wants to take a bath too so of course, brilliant idea! Into the bath they both go while I wipe off the walls and clean the toilet, shaking my head that this is really happening, and rethinking this whole au pair idea.

Mercifully, the girls were happy to play in the tub while I sat down for a few minutes and rested my tired legs and feet. Then I cleaned up all the messes I hadn’t been able to get to earlier. After a while the girls decided they wanted to get out of the tub so I toss a towel to the first one who wraps herself in it and who then decides to follow me into her room to help me get her pjs. As I am getting something out of a drawer, E says in a surprised voice, “what is THAT?”  I turned around and was stunned to see red everywhere. Everywhere! On both of the girls’ beds, and all over the floor in between the beds. I stared at it in shock. Where had it come from? Why hadn’t I noticed it when we first walked in? What was it, blood? Then I noticed it looked like someone had dumped a huge, strawberry smoothie. Strawberries! L had eaten ALL THOSE STRAWBERRIES. He must have come in and barfed all over and then gone back out to the couch to lie down. Because last I saw him, he was on the couch. In fact, he’d been on the couch the entire time. Or so I had thought. Why had he thought it would be a good idea to get up, go in his sisters’ room, barf everywhere, and then go back to the couch?

All I could do was laugh. Really? Poop AND barf in ONE day? Not to mention the bike meltdowns and the approximately 7 meltdowns L had had earlier for a myriad of random, trivial things.

I got the girls back out of their room so we didn’t get barf all over us, went and cleaned my shoes since I had stepped in it all without even seeing it, got the girls into their pjs, and then thankfully at 6:15 mom walked in the door just as we were getting ready to tackle the barf and she got to help me clean it up [she did most of it and I was more than happy to hand over her mom duties after more than 11 hours with her kids].

If I wasn’t so thoroughly exhausted, I might be able to write that all a bit more eloquently. But at least it’s written down so I won’t ever forget it.

As if I could.

And people have the gall to think I’m crazy for not wanting kids. Ha. You all can keep your kids. After this, I am spending the rest of my life at the beach. Or in Europe. Or someplace off the grid. Having kids is for the birds.

Australia though? It still rocks.

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Q1 from the bottom

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Sydney…is not the capital of Australia.

October 2, 2014

…just thought I’d throw that out there since everyone always thinks that. A little freebie for you. Can’t say my blog isn’t educational. ;)

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Beautiful day out on the water

There is SO much to say. Australia is amazing. I really, really love it. They might have to push me kicking and screaming onto the plane when it’s time to leave, ha. ;) Or I guess they could just set up a skype session with my nephew to remind me of all the things I am missing out on by being here. Either way.

After spending the first week in Sydney and Caberra, I flew up to Brisbane Monday night and got settled into my place here. I love it! The location is great, my space is huge, the family is nice, and the girls adore me. [I hope that lasts!]

There is SO much I want to see in Australia, and not enough time, so it will be interesting to see how this year plays out and how much time I end up spending working vs sightseeing. =) I still haven’t decided where I want to go after Brisbane. But there’s still time for that. =)

Here are a few pics from my time in Sydney.

 

Can you see the little people doing the bridge climb?

Can you see the little people doing the bridge climb?

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Cruise port =) Can't wait to cruise from here sometime!

Cruise port =) Can’t wait to cruise from here sometime!

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Creepy-looking Luna park

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Chinese gardens

Chinese gardens

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The tall ship from Denmark that we cruised on

The tall ship from Denmark that we cruised on

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Ibis birds surrounding a family eating lunch =)

Ibis birds surrounding a family eating lunch =)

I was afraid this bird would accidentally bite my finger with that long beak!

I was afraid this bird would accidentally bite my finger with that long beak!

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Darling Harbour

Darling Harbour

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Funky tree

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These birds are everywhere!

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The didgeridoo sounds so cool!

The didgeridoo sounds so cool!

Swarovski + Uggs =)

Swarovski + Uggs =)

The pedestrian signs look different here

The pedestrian signs look different here

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Opera House at night

Opera House at night

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The fifth continent

September 29, 2014

…and Australia makes 37!

Made it to Australia a week ago and have been sightseeing and learning stuff ever since! (Learning new words, slang, how things work here and how to drive on the other side of the road!)

I will write more later as I get settled in. (Spend this past week in Sydney and Canberra – pronounced “Canbrah,” I learned – but am heading up to Brisbane today to get settled in to where I will spend the next few months).

This place is amazing and it really does live up to all the hype!

Cheers =)

 

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St. Petersburg pt 4 (Peterhoef)

September 17, 2014

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One of the most interesting things we did while in St. Petersburg was take the bus over to the Peterhoef estate and then take the ferry back when we were finished. It was a cold, windy walk down to the ferry dock, but we survived. I guess the day wore me out because halfway back to shore, I fell asleep and slept until we docked!

Peterhoef was a fun excursion though. We didn’t go inside, but wandered around and enjoyed all the greenery and fountains.

In no particular order are some pics from the day:

 

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