Parents’ Visit – Wrap Up

This post is a little late. It’s been just over a week since Ben’s parents took their leave from us to explore the Western side of Australia with their friends. We had a wonderful time hosting them and getting to show them some of the areas in and around Melbourne. Ben took some time off work and a friend generously loaned us his car for a few days so we were able to drive out to see some sights.

Some highlights of their visit…

We spent a nice day having lunch at St. Kilda beach and then made our way back into the city for afternoon desserts at Hopetoun Tea Room which has been operating since the 19th century.  The next day we had breakfast at one of our favorite spots – Chez Dre done properly with dessert – and took off for Mornington Peninsula. We stopped at a couple wineries, the strawberry farm (complete with jam purchases of course!) and then headed to Phillip Island for the penguin parade. Unfortunately, I did not come home with a new pet wallaby but it wasn’t for lack of effort!

No trip is complete without a drive down Great Ocean Road to see the 12 Apostles! Along the way we spotted some koalas and drove through Otway National Park to take a tour through the Rainforrest Treetop Walk. Once we got to Port Campbell, the wind had picked up quite a bit and it had gotten cold so we decided to leave viewing the Apostles and other stack formations for the next morning.

Thankfully, the temperatures picked up a little the next day but the wind was still pretty fierce and… “the sea was angry that day my friends!” I thought the experience might be a bit spoiled without the beautiful weather we had back in December but it was still just as spectacular. The storm-like weather conveyed the sheer power of the sea crashing into the formations and it took your breath away.

The final outing was a trip to Healesville Animal Sanctuary about an hour outside of Melbourne. Here, we got to see some of the same animals we had encountered throughout our travels – just closer up – as well as others native to Australia that you may not see – and may not want to see – on your average excursion. Admittedly, all of us were most excited about seeing the duck billed platypus which did not disappoint but was much smaller than we had imagined.

Alas, it was time for the parents to depart Melbourne for adventures out west. Fortuitously, the night before their departure, the skies lit up with fireworks which we all enjoyed from our apartment balcony. Ben and I have learned that there is no shortage of fireworks in Melbourne over the summer and it’s something we’ve come to enjoy. I think these in particular were for the Moomba Festival but we’ll all just say that they were arranged special for Ben’s parents 😉

Overall, it was a lovely visit. They brought a little bit of home to us and for that we are very grateful. I’m sure they are having an amazing time exploring Aussie’s Western coast – something Ben and I hope to be able to do soon!

Parents Arrive in Melbourne (+ Foo Fighters)

This past Friday, Ben’s parents touched down in Melbourne for their Aussie holiday. Our little city is their first stop on a month long itinerary. They are spending 10 days catching up with us and then are headed to the western side of Oz to meet up with some friends and tour a slightly different landscape.

Taking jet lag into consideration, we spent the weekend showing them around the city a bit and allowing them to rest up and adjust. We took them to Queen Vic Market, Shrine of Remembrance, Royal Botanical Gardens and gave them a peek at Ben’s office. Today we even ventured out to Brighton Beach to snap a few photos of the bathing boxes. It’s 4 days into their visit and they’ve already experienced the defining Melbourne weather – everything from sunshine to a storm that blew down many a branches from trees throughout the city.

On Saturday evening, Ben and I – somewhat guiltily – left the parents on their own to attend a Foo Fighters concert. Both of us individually have been listening to the Fighters of Foo for give or take 15 years. However, neither of us had seen them in concert. Every time they played near us something would come up and we’d have to miss it. We constantly lamented over missed opportunities in our youth to attend some of their epics tours. So, FINALLY, the time had come…. and it… was… AWESOME!!!

The concert was a typical stadium show at Ethiad. We opted for 4th row seats instead of general floor standing (because I am that short and we are that old). While I’m not sure I can give it the title number one best concert I’ve ever attended – that has been held by Clapton’s last world tour – it is a very close second.

They played a little of everything including a handful of covers – The Faces, AC/DC, Rush, Queen – and they even allowed some guy to propose to his unsuspecting girlfriend on stage. Normally, I am NOT a fan of public proposals but how epic is that???? Money and time absolutely well spent and of course the parents understood 🙂

Looking forward to the rest of the week touring around with the folks! Stay tuned…

Feast and Fashion: Mussels and Gaultier

Some of our Aussie friends have taken notice that I genuinely enjoy cooking and recently the requests have started coming forth. There was some debate as to the first selected meal – a few of the blokes wanted Southern Fried Chicken and the ladies wanted mussels – so the only fair thing was to put it to a vote. This past weekend, mussels and pasta won out.

On Saturday evening, our friends brought over 4 kilos of mussels and plenty of wine to please the cook. I made a version of mussels provencal (mussels in a white wine broth) as well as a pasta dish – a small feast that would please any mussel fan!

It was our original intention to take the meal down to the private dining area in our building but it seems we couldn’t be bothered once the prepared food started coming out of the kitchen. I couldn’t even get the mussel eaters off the floor of our apartment and onto the couch for the first course! I suppose I should just take it as a compliment if the food is good enough that people will eat it sitting on the floor without a table!?

Before any of the cooking and eating began, we actually spent a couple hours testing out the cinema room with our Wii console. Nothing brings out a little “healthy” competition among couples than some Nintendoland games. It’s a good test for those about to get married – sort of like creative couple counseling…or maybe the counseling is what’s needed after playing. We resumed the games post-dinner in our apartment but it’s not quite the same after projecting it in a theater room.


On Sunday, Ben took care of some things around the house while I spent a little time at the National Gallery of Victoria. For the past couple months, they have been showing The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit and I’ve been wanting to go since it opened – not that anything has been preventing me aside from simple absent-mindedness. Sunday was the last day before the exhibit shipped off to Paris, so I got in right under the wire.

The exhibit was great, just crowded – serves me right for leaving it to the last minute and having to go on a Sunday. The details and materials in the clothes were stunning and everything was set up in a very interesting manner. Several of the mannequins had pre-recorded faces projected onto them which spoke or sang and admittedly were a little creepy but certainly added an interesting sensory experience.

I’m not sure how many different countries the exhibit will be touring but if you find it in your city and you are a fan of fashion and couture, I’d recommend it. It was wild seeing the garments that were worn by varying celebrities for certain iconic moments and getting a glimpse into what the creative inspirations were for them – like Madonna’s famous cone bras.

Australian Open and Straya Day

We had many things to celebrate over the weekend. First and foremost, Ben returned from his trip to Hong Kong. I am super excited to have him back home. He took the redeye Friday night and arrived bright and early Saturday morning. Unfortunately for him, there was no time to rest as there was immediate fun to be had!

Australian Open

The Australian Open has been taking place here in Melbourne.  We had passes for Middle Saturday which marks the middle weekend in the two week tournament (no awards for creative naming). I went ahead with a group of friends so that we could ensure good seats and Ben rushed home from the airport to shower and meet us at the venue. I think he’ll tell you that it was worth powering through as it was a great day out!

We were able to watch several matches including women’s singles Muguruza (24) vs Bacsinszky, men’s singles Becker vs. Raonic (8), and Isner (19) vs. Muller along with a brief viewing of one of the men’s doubles. I’d have to say that the highlight was watching Raonic who served up to a 230km/h (143 mph) serve.

Isner in fact is a UGA alum who attended when Ben and I were undergrads. We were thrilled at the chance to see him play… then, the match went forth and Isner fell apart. By the score alone, the game was very tight but if you were watching, there was nothing close about it.

Isner mentally broke down. He let his frustrations set in after the first set and could be seen arguing with his coach in the stands throughout the entire painful match. He even broke one of his racquets in anger at one point. As a spectator, you knew you weren’t watching the match you should have been and if Isner’s head was in it, he would have smashed this opponent easily.

Nonetheless, for us the day was a joy. We had a great time admiring the tennis pros, having a few drinks and obsessively re-applying sunblock all afternoon.

International Food Festival

On Sunday we attended an International Food Festival with some friends. There were tons of food stalls and live music and even some carnival rides but the whole thing felt a bit random. We’ve come to learn that whenever anything is hyped up in Australia, the likely outcome is generally more lackluster.

Still, we stuck around, sampled the food and mostly lazed about on the big lawn while listening for whichever music genre was to perform next – it ranged from 90’s covers to reggae and beyond. We were all waiting to see the headliner performance The Cat Empire and were determined since we had stuck around all day. However, the evening brought low temps and chilly wind. So, while we did manage to see the beginning of the act, we all called it quits early on because of the cold.

Australia Day

Monday was Australia Day (Straya Day) which marks the arrival of the first fleet of British ships in Port Jackson. Lots of people have barbies and celebrate outdoors and of course, there are festivals and events in town. There is also a bit of conflict that comes with the national holiday. Some Indigenous Aboriginals view this as a day commemorating the loss of Indigenous culture and have coined it ‘Invasion Day’. There are always a few protests in the major cities but we did not see any.

In fact, we spent most of Straya Day being lazy and watching Netflix. Ben was recovering from his trip along with the weekend festivities so we stayed low. We did feel a slight obligation to observe the holiday somehow so for dessert we bought some lamingtons and made fairy bread.

Lamington is an Australian dessert made up of sponge cake which is dipped in a chocolate sauce and then coated with coconut flakes. We just bought some store bought cakes but they were still pretty delicious.

Fairy bread on the other hand is something we learned about from our Aussie friends. Apparently, it is something you grow up eating as a kid. You take cheap white bread (like wonder bread), spread some butter on it and then top it with rainbow sprinkles. I guess this is what you give kids here instead of Lucky Charms 😉 So, we gave it a go. The store was out of traditional rainbow sprinkles so we went with stars. It tastes just like it sounds… I suppose I could see how anyone under the age of 10 might be pleased.

Summer…. ???

Considering the weather for the past week, I’m not sure what season it’s supposed to be. The weather here in Melbourne changes often and changes fast – before your eyes, it will go from sunny and hot to a downpour in a matter of seconds.

Last week, I was at the beach with a friend enjoying clear blue skies and 37 C ( 99 F) temperature. We were looking forward to a long afternoon of cooling off in the water and relaxing in the sun when a single dark cloud brought a monsoon down on us. We ran to the tram stop where we were soaked for lack of cover. What was more frustrating was that we could still see endless blue skies on one side of the beach while we were getting drenched.  Our significant others had a good laugh at us as they were both stuck at work and had no sympathy that our beach day was cut short. (The meme below was circulating on FB from several people in Melbourne that day)


Every day since, the weather has been unpredictable. Temps change daily from close to 40 C down to 18 C and back up again and rain clouds move in as quickly as they move out. It’s a bit like SF but more extreme! Thankfully we did get another nice hot day this week and were able to return to the beach – where we both proceeded to get sun burnt.

The sun here is SO STRONG! In general, I rarely burn and on top of it, with my added age and wisdom I’ve made it a point to prioritize sunblock over the past few years. I wish I could say that it was for the health of my skin but really it’s vanity driven – I don’t want to wake up as a 50-something-year old hand bag one day.

Apparently, there is a hole in the ozone layer above Australia which makes it that much easier to get burnt. Even if the temp isn’t super high, you can very much feel the strength of the sun. So, despite my precautions, I have the faint resemblance to a raccoon. Thankfully, the burn is quickly healing and fading. We’ll have to be extra vigilant about applying sunblock generously and frequently while we are here.

In other news, Ben is in Hong Kong this week for some client work. He’s gone for two weeks. I’ll be spending the time begrudgingly beginning the process of job hunting and hoping for more sunny days to get to the beaches (so that I can further avoid the dreaded job hunt)… but if Ben asks, I’m inside tirelessly sending out my resume! 😉 It’s not necessarily the job but the job hunt that is so tedious and tiresome.

As a note, the attached pictures were taken within days of each other. I will say that the changing skies do create some beautiful skyscapes.

Goodbye 2014, Hello 2015!

It’s officially 2015. Actually, it’s been 2015 here in Melbourne for two days now. I would have posted yesterday but we had a little too much fun on New Year’s Eve… so, much of New Year’s Day was spent recovering.

We met a group of our friends at a restaurant/deck bar nearby where we had booked a table. The booking was for an outdoor table and we got to enjoy a view of the city’s fireworks at midnight.

It was a wonderful way to bring in the new year with new friends. Ben and I toasted to our adventures in Australia and I have to say that I got a rush of gratitude and joy thinking about the fact that we had taken this big step together.

Looking back, 2014 was a fantastic year. Ben and I celebrated monumental birthdays, our 3rd year of marriage and we took a big leap in moving to Australia. We’ve accomplished something that we’ve talked about for almost a decade and it is better than I ever imagined it could be.

Neither of us are big on New Year’s resolutions. We tend to set goals regardless of the time of year. However, there is something nice about the beginning of a new year – as if you almost get a clean slate. If pushed to list any resolutions they would be as follows:

  • Ben: Keep the weight lost in 2014 off and steady
  • May: Take advantage of every moment and opportunity we have here in Australia so that none of it is taken for granted – specifically to travel, see and do as much as possible

2014 was an exciting year and I can’t wait to see what 2015 brings about!

An American Thanksgiving in Oz

During the holidays, it is easy to start missing all our friends and family even more than usual. It’s a wonderful time of year shared with people you love. Ben and I are big fans of the holiday season – all the parties, food and decorations… and cold weather that allows for the type of clothing that will hide away the extra pounds kilos resulting from the aforementioned indulgences.

Swimsuit weather doesn’t exactly pair well with stuffing your face full of all things cooked in butter. However, in the spirit of the holidays, we brought Thanksgiving to Oz!

This past Sunday we hosted Friendsgiving at our apartment. We booked the private dining hall and kitchen within the building and prepared a traditional turkey day feast. Most of the attendees were Ben’s work mates along with their significant others. We had 18 people in total so it turned out to be a pretty decent affair.

Gathering up all the ingredients proved to be a task. I spent all last week running from store to store in search of provisions. Ben and I even trekked out to a specialty USA food store – one hour away via tram and bus. We managed to find everything (or close enough substitutes) and I started prepping and making desserts through the weekend. Thankfully, a couple of friends came early on the day of to help out with the cooking – I would not have gotten it all done in time without them!

Sunday’s menu consisted of the traditional spread:

  • Turkey – of course!
  • Italian bread and chorizo dressing
  • Mashed potatoes and gravy
  • Broccoli casserole
  • Corn muffins
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Desserts: Pumpkin cheesecake, Pecan pie, and Chocolate cake

It didn’t quite have the same flare of my usual seasonal decor and place settings and Ben refused to let me go purchase additional glass and serve ware… But despite the plastic utensils and paper cups, it was a success. We stuffed ourselves silly and had a great time. Everyone even humored me in going around the table and naming something they were thankful for.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for an amazing and loving husband who works with me to do crazy things like move across the world and for the wonderful and welcoming people we’ve met here in Australia who are making this experience so great. I am also thankful for the technology that allows us to stay connected to our loved ones back in the states.

Since Thanksgiving isn’t actually until Thursday, perhaps Ben and I will celebrate again with a more local menu – seafood maybe?  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!

Night Noodle Market

It’s been a while since our last post but we should be picking things up as the next couple months will bring holidays and summer and hopefully a little travel!

In the meantime, we’ve settled into a normal rhythm of daily life. Sometimes people forget that we are here to live and work [for Ben] – it’s not a study abroad or an extended vacation holiday. So while we are trying to take advantage of exploring Australia and doing as many amazing things here as possible, our daily and weekly lives are often still consumed with the normal “boring” things. With that said, we try to throw in a little fun during the week if there’s something going on in the city.

This past weekend kicked off the Night Noodle Market in Melbourne. It’s basically a giant Asian food festival downtown. There are over 60 stalls of food set up by different restaurants and it will be going on every night until the end of the month. The scene is pretty massive and since it’s centrally located, tons of pleople to flock over for food and drinks.

We went with a couple from Ben’s office and sampled a few different stalls. Towards the end of the night, the guys tasted “victory” at one pad thai stand where they stood in front defiantly for 30 minutes until the workers slashed the prices down (since they were about to close). As they happily chowed down on their noodles we asked if it was all worth it. Ben’s co-conspirator claimed he didn’t even like pad thai but that it tasted like success!

We were all happy we went to see the madness but decided a one off experience was sufficient to check it off the ‘to do’ list.


Mexi-can’t in Melbourne

I promised that I would let you know how the Mexican Festival went and so I shall!…. Eh. It was pretty anti-climactic. Ben would tell you that I had let my cravings get the best of me and my hopes were unrealistic. Perhaps that is true but what can I say? I like to hope for the best, even if I don’t necessarily expect it.

Let me start with a little background info so you fully understand the situation. We’ve been in Melbourne for just over a month and a half now. So that is 6-7 weeks it’s been since my last helping of Mexican food or anything resembling it. You may think ‘that’s no big deal!’ … but in fact if you’ve ever lived in California for any extended period of time then you know it is a very big deal.

Please don’t misunderstand me. The food in Melbourne is EXCELLENT. And I’m well acquainted with studying and living abroad in countries where dietary restrictions and simple access to variety is very limited – try 2 months in India. However, when you have such food of such quality so easily available to you that you eat it on a weekly basis or more, then it’s hard not to miss. Melbourne has many choices in wonderful dining options but Mexican food is NOT one of them.

Not that they are to blame. It seems there is a slow and steady movement trending for Mexican cuisine but you can only imagine that with the geographic distance from Mexico and few Mexican immigrants, it’s more slow than steady. This is heartbreaking to me. Oh, I could make do and cook some of my favorite items myself but the ingredients are not so easy to find either!

We’ve finally located a vendor at South Melbourne Market that sells fresh jalapenos and one vendor in Queen Victoria Market that sells black beans. However, I’m still on the hunt for some decent corn tortillas and cilantro coriander that doesn’t taste more like parsley and don’t get me started on finding the right type of chili peppers.

So yes, my hopes for the festival were high. There was a very large turn out of people and food stands – all of the Mexican restaurants that give it a go in and around the city. Ben and I sampled a few different stand. The fish tacos at Mamacitas were bland. A carnitas burrito from Mad Mex left a lot to be desired, though Ben claims that it would do the job if he were badly in need of a fix. We did finally stumble on some authentic and flavorful fair at Los Amantes where we gobbled down the chilaquiles de pollo.  We’ll have to find their restaurant location and do some further reviews.

In and Around – Enjoying More Local Spots

This week wasn’t too eventful. Perhaps one small thing to note is I did some bookstore exploring. It seems that Melbourne has an amazing array of bookstores. I came across a list on Buzzfeed (yes, I’m a Buzzfeed addict) and had to investigate for myself. True enough there are a plethora of amazing bookstores all within a very short distance of each other – everything from discount chains, to independent bookstores to second hand books and even small specialty shops.

I don’t know how they all stay in business but it seems the written word is still alive and well here in this city. I didn’t hit up every store on the list but got to about 5 of them including the adorable children’s bookstore The Little Bookroom and Kay Craddock which houses first editions worth thousands of dollars per book. Though I have surrendered to the convenience of downloading books which can be accessed on any of my electronic mobile devices, I have to say that I am still a big fan of physically being able to turn a page so I may be making some literary purchases in the near future.

Today we kicked off the weekend with some lovely weather. Ben and I headed to Queen Victoria Market to do our grocery shopping and to indulge on some fresh made doughnuts. Queen Victoria Market is much larger than South Melbourne Market and we tend to alternate between the two for groceries. Picture an old time Bizarre with endless rows of stands selling everything you can think of. Both markets are fantastic and we are starting to distinguish preferences among the vendors at each.

In the afternoon, we noticed a bunch of booths set up near our apartment along the river. They were holding a small Lantern Festival with a bunch of different Asian food stalls. We wandered over and picked up some lunch. Then we decided to enjoy the day by walking to Queen Victoria Garden.

Spring is definitely creeping up and it was apparent on our walk through the garden. The trees are just starting to bud leaves and flowers are starting to add color. We made our way through the park to the War Memorial which we spent some time appreciating. On the walk back, we stopped and had a quick drink before calling it a day.

It may not seem too exciting to others to be in on a Saturday night but we need to be up very early tomorrow to watch the UGA game. Go Dawgs!!! Tomorrow afternoon, we are headed to the Mexican Festival! I cannot express how excited I am about the Mexican Festival – I might be persuaded to punch a stranger in the face right now if it meant I could get some decent Mexican food. I’ll let you know how it all turns out!