First Night…New Home

Well, the Smiths have made another major move in our Australian adventure! We spent 13 months at West Street but found out a month ago the owner was keen to sell the unit. We played around with buying the unit and with some serious finagling, it could have been done. It was a different decision everyday it seemed…Yes, this is where we want to stay…No, what else is out there???? It took our Christmas trip to the Whitsunday Islands for us to make the final decision. You know how that works…move away from the problem and the problem solves itself. Stay in it, control it, wallow in it and you will never find the “natural decision.” The deciding factor was a helicopter ride over the Whitsunday Islands. We realised there was SO MUCH to do and see in Australia/New Zealand that we didn’t want to limit our financial capacity to do everything we wanted to do. We returned from vacation and immediately began looking for a new home. We had exactly 20 days to find another place to live and move. Our lease at West Street ends 16 January 2013. While we could have gone to month to month, we saw no reason to prolong the issue. Typical for me…whirlwind for MWH and MBD!

So we looked online, we contemplated leasing a newly built unti NEXT DOOR to our place, we found a possible solution on the rocks of Manly Beach but we hit a major roadblock. Australia completely shuts down from 25 December until 2 January…every year! And I mean SHUTS DOWN! If you aren’t an eatery or a retail store, you are closed and completely unavailable. We were going to have to wait almost 6 of our 20 days until we could even look at another place to live. Even if we found another place to live, there was no guarantee we would be the applicants the landlord selected…fun part of leasing and buying real estate in Australia. I was proactive and filled out applications online for places we thought might work. In what MWH and I like to term a “God Deal (for which we have had many on this adventure!),” one real estate agent (also the building manager) named Craig decided to work on New Year’s day and called concerning one of my online applications. He invited us to come look at the unit. This was a primo unit across the street from Manly Beach and it is unheard of for one to be available much less an active online listing for more than one day. The Australian shut down had worked in our favour! We went to look at it, fell in love with it, Craig fell in love with me, ready to sign on the dotted line….but wait, according to bylaws of the building, no pets (mainly worried about allowing dogs, hoping for Chihuahua size and someone moving in with a Great Dane) allowed. Well shit! Dream location down the drain. We went home and spoke with MBD about it and the prospect of giving away 2 more much loved pets was just too much to bear…at least for two of us it was!

Enter second “God Deal” of the day. Thirty minutes after our conversation with MBD, Craig called us saying he had spoken to a few people in the building and the bylaws had non-definative wording on the pet ownership. Since we have cats, would we be willing to sign a pet clause stating we would shampoo carpets and fix any damage when our lease was finished? Well, HELL YES we would! Craig said he would have to call the owner of the unit to clear it with him but felt it wouldn’t be a problem. The owner’s only stipulation was, No Children. HA! No Problem! Sssshhhhh! Don’t worry, Craig knew we had a 12 year old, more worried about a toddler causing stain damage. The Smiths were screaming and doing three versions of the happy dance! We received good news the next day that our application had been approved and we were good to go! WHOOHOO!!!!

Begin the moving madness…..no one has recovered yet, most of all MWH and the two cats. It was decided that I would stay at the new house last night with the crazed and stressed out cats…they had just been picked up from an over-night at the vet after being bathed, dipped, tummies shaved, claws clipped, yadda, yadda, yadda…but that’s a whole ‘nother story in itself. So I stayed at our new home last night and MBD and MWH went back to West Street. Following is a picture of my first night. It was an overcast evening but still a peaceful place. There will be many more pictures to follow! Most of you will receive a change of address card in the mail very soon. If you received our 2012 Christmas card, you will receive the CoA card. Toodles to all! SS

First night at Bonner

Susan’s Helicopter Photo Share

Here are some of my pictures direct from “Oprah’s seat” on the helicopter! Enjoy!

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20121228-094027.jpgThe famed Heart Reef – so small yet so amazing!

20121228-094054.jpgWhitehaven Beach – one of the top 10 beaches in the world. Purest white sand there is.

20121228-094124.jpgThis is Hardy Reef. Long ago a glacier flowed through and dug this 200 feet deep trench. Probably 10-15 feet deep on either side.

Merry Christmas to Our Blog Followers!

This has been an odd Christmas for the Smiths and one I believe Madelyne will not want to repeat. It’s her first Christmas “as an adult,” we opened presents on Thursday before we left and we’re not in our home. Live and learn but what a GREAT PLACE to learn!!!! This is my early morning Christmas shot to wish everyone a Merry Christmas from the Long Island Resort on Happy Bay in the Whitsundays, Queensland Australia!

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The Kookaburras Are Back!

I arrived home to a non-working airconditioner….so not fun! So this morning I have opened the windows to let the cool breeze flow through the house. Mads and I were watching Mythbusters: Shark Week when I mentioned to her that while I was gone, the Kookaburras have returned for the summer. I was so excited – they have quite chaotic bird calls but are fascinating to observe. Just then I heard one that was far closer than we have experienced at this house. Low and behold there was a Kookaburra on the fence around the spa FIVE FEET from our sliding glass door. I was able to walk to the window to take a picture but unfortunately one of the plants on our back deck was in the way. Following is a Wednesday good morning picture from one of the many Kookaburras in our backyard.

Kookaburra on the spa fence.

Kookaburra on the spa fence.

An Enjoyable Yet Sad Ending to the Last 2012 USA Trip

TCU vs OU 01 Dec 2012

TCU vs OU 01 Dec 2012

It was a respectable game for a tough fighting group of freshmen against the #11 BCS team. We had a field goal that was inaccurately called “no-good” and we had a freshman holding on the second to last play when he didn’t need to. If those 2 situations were their exact opposite, we would have beat OU 27 to 24. Oh well, there is always next year.
I’m heading back Down Under tomorrow on a 10:00PM flight and will commence the last twenty something days of Madelyne’s Year 6 school year. Then we are off to the Whitsundays for Christmas. Check it out here: http://www.longislandresort.com.au/
Enjoy the rest of your 2012; I know we will!

Life Without Bisquick

One of the many things we are not able to get here in Oz is Bisquick. We all know in the USA that Bisquick is the “quick” and easy way to pancakes, waffles, biscuits, etc. Well this is a country of very little processed food so I am learning to cook from scratch. Yep, you read that right. I am becoming good friends with baking powder, bi-carb soda, flour, eggs, oil and more! This morning I successfully made pancakes for M from scratch. The first one came out of the pan looking fabulous! I put it on a plate, poured another into the pan and went to butter the first one. No I don’t have a griddle (yet) so I am using the non stick frying pan. Anyway, I began to spread the butter on the pancake and the whole top layer “slid off” with shiny dough underneath. Yeah, well, it looked great on the outside but guess I didn’t leave it long enough for the inside. After the first one, the next 8 came out beautifully! M and I enjoyed some pancakes and maple syrup on this beautiful Sunday morning down under.
Toodles and peace to you and yours!

Community

Good glorious Sunday morning! I had an “Ah-ha” moment this morning. Should I credit Oprah with the “Ah-ha?” I remember at one time Paris Hilton wanted to or did trademark the phrase, “That’s hot.” Ah-ha was around long before Oprah, perhaps Albert Einstein? But I digress. This morning around 10 minutes to 8:00 there was a knock at the front door. It was a little knock and the shape of a small child occupied the tall frosted window on the side of the door. There is only one person who knocks on my door unannounced in the morning and that is Barb. She knows I am awake because either I have trucked out front to get the papers and dropped hers off at her front door or she has done the same for me. We actually met for the first time that way. Since then, it has become a joint effort.

Anyway, back to the knock on the door. Obviously it wasn’t Barb but it was the NEXT person I would expect to knock on the door unannounced early in the morning. It was Barb’s 5 year old granddaughter Ava. I knew Barb had told her it was ok but I also knew that it wouldn’t have mattered to Ava whether she had permission or not. You see, the world revolves around Ava. Or at least it does in Ava’s world and you are definitely IN Ava’s world when you are around her. Every single time she comes to her grandmother’s house she will turn every picture around towards the wall if she is not in said picture. It doesn’t matter if it is a picture of one person or 10 people. If she’s not in it, that picture gets turned around for the duration of her visit. Go figure! Don’t get me wrong, she is one of the most fascinating young children I have ever met. For those of you who really know me, that is saying a lot for Ava’s character. One of my favorite things about Ava is when she cannot understand something I have said to her. She will always respond in the most adorable Aussie accent, “Pardon?” It’s cute to hear but it is also displays the manners of this culture.

But I digress again. I opened the door to Ava holding a small ramekin. She promptly went into her spiel, “I’m wondering if I may have an egg. You see, I woke up at “Bob’s” house because I spent the night and I wanted scrambled eggs for breakfast. Bob said I could ask you for one.” Obviously there had been a discussion about the lack of eggs at Barb’s and Ava wanted a solution for her desire for scrambled eggs. I can only imagine said discussion – it is always fascinating to watch the communication between this grandmother and her 13th (“thirdeeenth” in Aussie speak) grandchild. Anyway, I gave her the egg and was extremely surprised she had no time for morning conversation. That’s never happened. Ava always wants to talk – the scrambled egg conversation with Barb must have taken some time and I suppose she was pretty hungry by then.

The Ah-ha moment came after Ava left when I realized that our social “communities” in the United States rarely come from our own neighborhood. It USED to be this way but not anymore. I remember growing up in a neighborhood with tons of families with tons of kids but there were also elderly couples and single individuals. You had cookouts at each other’s homes on the weekends. You never called before you randomly knocked on their door for a cup of sugar or perhaps an egg…. it seems as though the American society has moved their communities outside the neighborhood. Why is this? Is it because our children are so involved outside the home in extra-curricular activities? I haven’t thought much about this – it’s still in the Ah-ha moment. It DOES seem to confirm my thoughts that the Australian culture is now like the American culture was in the 1950’s and 1960’s. AND I LOVE IT!!!!!!

Money Issues

No, we’re ok financially. It’s learning to adjust to the cost of living here. At least things might be going in our favor. The American dollar is finally holding its own against the Australian dollar. The only familiar breakfast cereal available that MBD likes at our grocer is Fruit Loops. I should say the only familiar and edible in her opinion. It comes in one size: Large. At under 18 oz/box, it costs $7.79 AUD. The Australian produce is even expensive. I bought a normal size seedless watermelon the other day and it cost $25 AUD. The price broke down to 7.2 kg @ $3.48/kg AUD. A case of diet coke in cans costs $27 AUD. And please, don’t get me started on ironing boards. Pictures don’t lie. (Click the picture to enlarge)

No, you do not need glasses. Or at least I hope you don’t and can make out the prices in the picture: $92.96, $106 and $108. There is not a single thing different in these boards than those at your local WalMart. Oh and if you’re trying to be smart, the iron is NOT included! Ironically the boards in the picture were available from the Big W here in Manly which is the equivalent of the US Walmart. Go figure….

The kittens are now 6 months old and the loves of our lives! Hard to believe. They are the most lovable and affectionate animals I have come in contact with in my life. They also piss me off and sometimes barely make it through to see the light of the next day. They play in forgotten water cups spilling the contents on whatever is underneath. The last fiasco was tipping over the cat litter bag and peeing half in the bag and half on the floor. Thanks so much for that, Thumper. Here are some updated pictures. Mickie is the black one and Thumper is truly asleep on my chest – his favorite place to take a nap 10 times a day

Well, I hope all is well with everyone. I have an appointment with the ADHD specialist on Monday at 17:30. I’ll let you know how it goes.