Sunday, 28 November 2010

The Social Network

Weekends in Melbourne have been jam-packed of late. As Christmas draws closer and summer (supposedly) dawns, the party invitations seem to have multiplied and all of a sudden there is no time for blogging! Our busy social schedule has been a much-needed distraction after the downtime that inevitably hits in the wake of visitors from home. After Kate, Chris and Simon left us in early November, the flat felt empty and the wet and windy weather did little to inspire us back to life. Things have looked up since then however, and we are now in full swing for the festive season.

Last weekend kicked off with a 5.30am wake up call on the Friday, as I had been invited to the annual fundraising breakfast of an Australian charity, Reach. The charity runs support programs for troubled young Australians, the 'Breakfast with the Stars' was a moving and inspirational insight into the stories of some of their members. The breakfast was held at Crown Palladium, Melbourne's flashiest and largest hotel emporium, and the theme was 'It's your birthday party!'. We were transported back to our childhoods - the tables were decorated with balloons and sweets, we all wore party hats and I even won pass the parcel!

At breakfast I sat next to the President of one of the Australian breast cancer charities, Think Pink. Talking to her, as well as the impact of the breakfast as a whole, made me reconsider the option of running The Big Pink Ticket in Australia next October. The success of The Big Pink Ticket in the UK was almost entirely down to our network of family, friend and colleagues, and our ability to lean on them heavily to open their wallets for prizes and donations. We don't have the same network here in Australia, making the challenge a bigger hill to climb, but with a year to plan I am starting to ponder whether or not it could be a possibility.

Moving on at a slightly faster pace.. the Reach Breakfast was promptly followed with the annual 'Jazz at the Museum' event at my work (which partners could come to), and the following night Tom and I went to a 90s themed fancy dress party! Hosted by Tom's colleague Al, it was a hilarious walk back down memory lane with some classic costumes and great tunes! The most popular costume by far was Pamela Anderson in her Baywatch get-up, but also in the mix was Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky (complete with *that* blue dress!), Teletubbies, Optimus Prime, Eminem and even Sadaam Hussien! Tom went as Neo from the Matrix, and I was a blue M&M, because the blue colour M&M was introduced in 1995.

The next day (we have now reached Sunday) we went to a Mad Hatters Tea Party, in the garden of one of Tom's old work colleagues, Bridget. Bridget's husband is a landscape gardener, and there was some serious style going on at there house! We felt like we were in a spread for House Beautiful magazine. The conservatory doors folded back onto the deck, with a two tier swimming pool framed by a stage (which played host to a jazz band!) and complete with floating in flatable flamingos. This was all topped off by a built-in trampoline for Bridget's kids. Amazing. I didn't take my camera unfortunately, so you'll just have to believe me on this one!

This weekend we were back to the Crown Palladium on Friday night for the Myer Supplier of the Year ball. Myer is the John Lewis of Australia, and this annual event rewards their most deserved suppliers with a plaque and a night out. I was a guest of Tom's work, and once again the room was lavishly decorating - this time with fairy wings and lots of glitter, plus free Benefit gift bags for the ladies and the men! Tom isn't really into mascara and lip gloss (thank god), so I got double the gifts. After a three course meal and 30 awards (which was a bit tedious, but I won't complain because I got a free meal), the party really kicked off with a concert by Guy Sebastian. I'm not sure if you'll know who he is, because before we moved to Australia my Guy-awareness level was rather low - but Guy won Australian Idol in 2003 and has since become a very successful recording artist. He was also a judge on Australian X Factor which just ended last week, and as avid X Factor fans, Tom and I were delighted to have a virtually private concert with Guy:

Such an angel..

Onwards to Saturday (that's yesterday, so we are nearly up to date), which was the first birthday party for Ben, son to our friends Sam and Lou. We had never been to a first birthday party with so much wine and beer on tap, so Sam and Lou have set the bar high for future children's parties that we might attend! I had photographed Ben a few weeks ago in a local park, and so our gift for his birthday was an album of photos (which I'll blog separately). Needless to say, I couldn't resist getting my camera out again on the day and taking a few more shots of the action:

Today is supposed to involve an American Thanksgiving picnic in the park, but right now I can hear the rain hammering against the window and the wind howling through the railings on the balcony, so I think the plan might change. Mabye I should come back down to reality and get with the jobs that face me in the real world.... time for some ironing? nah... maybe next weekend.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

October Part III - Visitors from Home!

In the final installment from the month of October, here are some photos from the fun times that we had with my uni-housemates Kate and Simon, plus Kate's husband Chris. As pilots, it's cheaper and easier for them to visit Australia than it is for the rest of us, so it was wonderful to have the three of them around for Spring Racing Carnival week. We had an action packed 6 days, of which here is the story told in pictures:

Only day of sunshine - walking on our favourite pier in Sorrento (this is the pier in the title image of the blog)

Simon is not camp. He just acts up for the camera ;-)

Kate & Si

Kate came unprepared. She thought she was visiting Ustrali.

Aruthur's Seat, Sorrento

BBQ on our balcony

Chris was obsessed with the comings and goings of the Spirit of Tasmania

Uni pals together again

Squeaky Beach, Wilsons Promontory

Picnicing at Squeaky Beach

Central Deborah Gold Mine, Bendigo

Of course we had to take them to see the parrots!

Chris loves to jump!

Wisky Bay

The Famous Five do Hanging Rock

Derby Day at the races! Less than an hour after we took this picture it starting raining and didn't stop all day. It was a disaster....

So we went home to play Tim Tam Slam - can you suck tea through a Tim Tam biscuit? Points available for artistic impression!

Chris got extra artistry points for having 'wings' during his Slam!

OBLIGATORY visit to Ramsay St!

Cakes on St Kilda beach, Luna Park in the background

Watching the Melbourne Cup in Fed Square - more rain!

Thanks for coming guys - more visitors are welcome and we will endevour to provide better weather!

Friday, 26 November 2010

October Part II.. spider alert

Oh my gosh, it happened again. The huntsman strikes back!

It was the start of a girls weekend in rural-Daylesford, and after a two hour drive from the city on a Friday night after a hectic-work week, the last thing that seven girls wanted to face was an eight legged hairy intruder. I called Tom who suggested the hoover, but it was too large for the nozzle, so plan B involved some bug spray, a broom, a cardboard box and two very brave volunteers from our group. I was nearly sick just trying to photograph the event! Luckily the rest of the weekend went rather more smoothly:

We stayed in a really pretty house, shame it was invested with evil spiders!

It might look small from here, but I promise it was enormous!

I rushed back from Daylesford early to celebrate with American-friend Amanda at the baby shower that Tamara and I had arranged. We had a lovely lunch in the spring sunshine as everyone tried to guess the sex of the baby using every old wives tale in the book.

Shower invitation.. I'm practising designs for our wedding invite!

Amanda gets in some practise with baby Amelie

Tamara and I

The girls!

As I write this blog Amanda is now 4 days overdue and we are all crossing fingers that the baby makes a move soon! [Subsequent edit.. it later turned out that Amanda was in labour as I wrote this blog entry, and Charlie Patrick arrived not long after - Congratulations Amanda and Pat!]

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Busy times.. October Part I

October was a busy month in our down under househaold - a month full of travel, friends and photos. Blogging fell by the wayside as Tom and I hopped from work to slep to train to plane, all in aid of living our Australian life to the full.

The fun times kicked off with a long weekend in Queensland, devoted to Australia's premier wildlife and marine life. Our first stop was Australia Zoo, the legacy of world famous crocodile hunter Steve Iriwin. He was tragically and perhaps ironically killed in a freak stingray attack in 2006, aged 44. Steve's passion lives on through his widow and children, and the Irwin empire includes an ever-expanding wildlife park and a contraversial media career for his 12 year old daughter (think Hannah Montana meets The Really Wild Show).

The highlights of Australia Zoo were the crocodile show, tiger play time and elephant bath time. The focus is on visitor interaction and convenying the conservation message, which was heavily played at all opportunities. Many Australian's object to the commercialism of Australia Zoo, but there is no denying the fact that the animals on show looked healthy and happy. Obviuosly I'm no Dr Dolittle, but we had a fun day none the less.

Tom and Katie join the Irwin family

Tiger playtime

More tiger playtime

We can never get enough of feeding kangaroos

Can tyou spot the sausage?!

A three hour roadtrip in the driving rain too us to Surfers Paridise. A place that we have now visited twice and will most likely never return to! Surfers is the Benidorm of Australia, which might prompt you to tell me that two vists is two too many. The attraction for us was Sea World, where we loved the dolphin show so much that we watched it twice!

Look who joined us on our trip!

Dolphin mania!

Watching the polar bears fighting was incredible

I'm sure they love each other really

Always time for ice cream!

Shark feeding

I took hundreds of these photos, you are lucky I've only posted two!

Discovery Cove

We rounded out the weekend with a whale watching trip in which we spotted.... virtually nothing! Below is the best photo that I have, and even that is zoomed in far more than I care to declare. I consoled myself by buying a pair of shoes in a nearby branch of Nine West, and I think the fact that there was even a shopping centre so close to the 'nature' of the Gold Coast probably sums up Surfers Paridise for you!

More stories to follow in Part II....