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Posts Tagged ‘Why We Love Oz’

This weekend we enjoyed a night out with friends watching the Melbourne Storm — currently first on the ladder — take on the 2nd place Brisbane Broncos.  It was our first live rugby match and we loved every minute of it.  The experience can be summed up as follows:

Learning the rules of the game

One small scuffle that was squashed before it could become an all-out brawl.

Very few hoaky mid-game marketing stunts…although there were cheerleaders and a mascot.

Ended after two seemingly short 45-minute halves.  The clock doesn’t stop except in rare occasions unlike NFL (Gridiron, as they call it here) where it seems there is a TV timeout after nearly every play.

Really solid, large-necked, big-legged, strong-armed men running at each other with ungodly amounts of force and speed.

Un-adulterated brutality.  Imagine NFL without the pads.  So Brutal. 

Great seats at a really cool venue, AAMI park, pronounced “Amy“.

Bundled up in our warm, hooded, winter jackets we felt like we were at a football game at home.

Yes, VICTORY for the Storm!

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As Christmas didn’t quite feel like Christmas to us we wanted to do something unique and memorable, something that we could say was perfect for our Australian Christmas.  If you ask Australians if there is something as a traditional Aussie Christmas you may hear of two different options; one, a day at the beach or two, Vision Australia’s Carols by Candlelight at Sidney Myer Music Bowl.  We opted for the latter.

In its 74th year, Carols by Candelight is put on in Melbourne by non-profit organization Vision Australia, who, according to their website, ‘are passionate that people who are blind or have low vision will have access to and fully participate in every part of life they choose’.  A Chrismas concert on steroids, this mega-event gets over 10,000 attendees and is broadcast all over Australia starting at 8PM Christmas eve.  As we found, the event is not only about the great music, for many it’s about the whole-day experience and we did it up in a-once-in-a-lifetime way.

We opted for the more cost-effective general admission tickets which gave us access to the big lawn on which to watch the concert.  Without assigned seats, however, we were told that people started queuing quite early to ensure good spots on the lawn.  Doors to the music bowl didn’t even open until 4:30PM but there was space for the queue at King’s Domain in the Royal Botanic Gardens.  This being our first time at the event, we arrived at King’s Domain to queue around 10:30 AM and surprisingly, we were not the first ones there.  Several people spent the night in tents to claim their spots as first in queue.  The queueing process as a mess and so disorganized and I hate to admit the bah-humbug came out in both of us when we remarked at how it would never be this disorganized in the US.  (But keep reading for our take on how what the Aussies do much better than us…)

Equipped with festival chairs, a blanket, two picnics (lunch and dinner), ipods, books, decks of cards, sunscreen, and plenty of water we set up camp waiting for the doors to open at 4:30PM.  We did enjoy a somewhat restful day reading and listening to music in the sun.

We were advised by some regulars that when the doors opened, one person should carry the bags and one person should run with the blanket to secure a good spot.  I was the runner, Ryan was the “pack-mule” as he likes to say.  Running, pushing and shoving aside, I managed to get a primo location right behind the assigned (read: expensive) seats.

The event began promptly at 8:00 with performances by the Australian Boys and Girls choir and the Carols by Candelight Choir.

We were serenaded all night with classic and contemporary Christmas songs sung by famous Australian artists including; Ricki-Lee Coulter, Marina Prior, John Foreman, James Morrison, Anthony Callea, Sylvie Palladino and many more.

As dusk settled upon Melbourne, people started to light their candles.

This was really something to see the darker it got.

The highlights for me were the Hallelujah Chorus and O Holy Night.

And both of our favorite part of the night was the last song, the Our Father.  A song like that would never be allowed to be the closer at a national event of this scale, at least not without a series of other politically correct songs accompanying it.  We were delighted and, quite frankly, admired the Aussies for ending the night with such a religious undertone and reminding us all what the night was about.  As Ameri-stralians, we were honored to have experienced Christmas in this Australian way.

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Now you know that I don’t often write long, drawn-out blog posts, as I much prefer to share our stories with you via pictures. They’re always so much better at communicating than I am. But this story is one that has to be told so I hope you’ll bear with me.

As hard as it might be to believe, this little innocent gal is a law-breaker. It happened one bright, sunny, afternoon in the Melbourne CBD (Central Business District, for this reading this from Home).

Lil’ ol’ me – as I’ll refer to myself this entire post – went to volunteer at an organization that offers many helpful services like family counseling, refugee services, foster-care and adoption assistance, and on and on. I parked in a one-hour parking bay, fed the ticket machine, and went on my way to do good in this world.

When I emerged (with a couple of minutes to spare, mind you) my heart sank when I saw the obnoxious white paper fluttering in the breeze on my windshield. My disappointment quickly turned to outrage when I realized I still had a few minutes remaining on the ticket bay and when I saw that the city was GOUGING me for $61! It was an atrocity. I wanted to shout at the nearest passerby that it never pays to do good, but I didn’t…at least I won’t admit to.

I collected my ticket and marched over to the ticket bay. Indeed, I was right, bay 7 still had several minutes remaining. Knowing that this wrong had to be “right-ed”, I summoned my inner Sherlock Holmes, Mary Tyler Moore (who always does the right thing), and Olivia from Law & Order:SVU, I collected important evidence, aka: took mobile pics of the ticket bay screen, and then proceeded to dial the number located on the ticket.

I spoke to a lovely gal from the city of Melbourne. I explained to her that ‘lil ol’ me was volunteering and when I came out I had this unjust ticket. She informed me that many of the meters were having issues so that I should go online to contest my ticket. “Yes, I will right away,” I declared, positively certain that I had been wronged by a faulty meter or incompetent policeman.

So I went home and speedily submitted the form. I was reviewing the pics I had taken and my ticket number and it was then that I cracked the case. Prepare yourself for the twist in the story. I realized that I had paid Bay 7 of the wrong ticket meter. I went to the one behind my car when, in all likelihood, the correct ticket meter was in front of me! DOH!

I could no longer blame a faulty meter or incompetent policeman and, in fact, I felt all the more terrible that I had done so. I still proceeded to contest the ticket but the tone of the case changed from, “Lil’ ol’ me was just volunteering when your big bad policeman/meter incorrectly issued me a ticket,” to “Lil’ ol’ me is new to Melbourne from out of the country, and was volunteering, and I really really thought I was doing right by paying the meter and returning before it had expired…” I wrote my mea-culpa to the City of Melbourne, maybe this time to atone for the curses muttered in my head instead of the actual offense.

Not more than a few weeks later, I received this “beaut” in the mail.

Sorry for the poor quality pic. If you can’t read it, it says, “A check of the parking machine in question was conducted and the results indicate that it may not have been in full working order on the day of the infringement. Therefore the infringement has withdrawn.” {INSERT SQUEALS OF DELIGHT!}

It goes on to say, “The parking machine at which your vehicle incurred the infringement is a multi-bay meter[…]When you park at one of these machines in the future, please read the instructions displayed on the machine to ensure you have paid for the correct bar.”

Touche, City of Melbourne, touche. Good on ya’.

Part of me is embarrassed to admit that I went to all of this trouble to get out of a $61 ticket but it was the principal of it all really; that I tried to do something good, made an honest mistake, and got charged for it. This isn’t my “woe is me” post. Thanks to the City of Melbourne, I learned my lesson, to check the meters more carefully. I think Mary Tyler Moore would be proud. Case closed.

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Meat pies, beer, 101,000 crazed fans and the Hawthorn Hawks are all key ingredients for a great weekend at the G – short for MCG – short for Melbourne Cricket Ground.  Ahh, the great Melbournians and their love of shortening words until they are just a letter.  The G is the largest gaming ground in Melbourne, a city that prides itself in being a sports capital of the world.  It can house, from what I have been told, 101,000 fans and it hosts an array of sports from a rare rugby game, to a beloved multi-day cricket match, and, of course, the Melbourne favorite – Australian Rules Football games (footy).

Footy is a game born in Melbourne and enjoyed in their winter season.

I barrack for the Hawthorn Hawks, meaning I am a fan of that team and when you are a fan of a team you are destined to become a member, paid supporter, of that team.  I went to this weekend’s game and it was the Hawks vs. the Bulldogs.  The Hawks are 3rd on the ladder and if I am right, which I usually am, they will be in the grand final this year versus the Magpies and we will WIN!!!!!

And in case you were wondering how the game of footy is played…imagine a mix of rugby, soccer, and American football where the players don’t wear pads, run nearly half marathons every game, and tackle each other at full speed.  Injuries such as broken legs, arms, jaws, and even fractured pelvises regularly.

Click here to see a quick sample of footy in action.

It is a brutal sport and it is a sport every American can grow to love – I have!

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It’s the end of August and we’ve had a week of 70 degree weather.  So after a very mild and short winter,  Spring is officially on its way.  It feels weird to say that at this time of year but it’s unmistakable.  The days are lighter longer, prices dropped  on both red peppers and cucumbers, and the birds are waking me up before my alarm.

Spring is finally upon us and we deserve it, if I may say so.  Two winters in a row– even with the mild Melbourne winter– is just not fair.

You can imagine our excitement, then, to spend our Sunday afternoon lounging and reading in Jel’s park.

We’ve also recently seen the vibrant colors from buds and beautiful flowers throughout our neighborhood.

These lovely blooms are indicators that summer is on it’s way and EVERYBODY says that there is nothing like a Melbourne summer.  The whole city comes alive.  We can’t wait!

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Why We Love Oz: New Sweets

We indulge our sweet tooth (teeth?) every night after dinner, whether it be a piece of fruit or (more realistically) a piece of chocolate.  It has taken us some time to find some chocolate that is palatable to our Americanized tastebuds but we’ve recently discovered two heavenly sweets that more than satisfy.  

Image Courtesy of Lakeyboy on Wikipedia

Ryan first discovered Tim Tams before I even arrived.  Known as “Australians favorite cookie”, these delicious chocolate biscuits come in many different flavors including Chocolate Creme,  White, Black Forest, Crushed Honeycomb, Caramel, Dark Chocolate Rum and Raisin,  and our favorite,  Dark Chocolate Mint.  Imagine a Thin Mint on steroids. 

According to Wikipedia, nearly 400 million biscuits are sold each year which equates to 1.7 packs per Australian.  We’ve already taken care of our quota for the year.

Our other new favorite discovery is the Kinder Bueno Bar.  These are not native to Australia, in fact, they’re made by Italian candy maker, Ferrerro.  I’ve seen them all over throughout my travels in Europe but I haven’t seen them in the US.  This candy bar is a delectable mix of hazelnut cream, wafer, and chocolate.  Perfect for Nutella lovers like myself.   

 And in case you were wondering, yes, this is an empty wrapper.

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There is something about Australia that makes everybody jovial.  Maybe it’s that famous water I was talking about.

Everyone in Australia is so positive and effusive.  Everytime you see someone they look so happy to see you.  They say, “Hello Gorgeous” or other names like “Lovely” and “Beautiful”.  Not only are YOU gorgeous, so are the dishes you prepare and the things you say.  EVERYTHING about you immediately becomes beautiful when you come to Oz.

One could get a big head with all this but we, of Generation Y, are quite used to positive reinforcement.  So much so that we’ve been dubbed “The Gold-Star Generation” since our parents and teachers were all about giving us rewards for making our beds, or getting good grades, or eating all our vegetables or really just being wonderful us.

Researches are saying that the praise may have been a bit excessive but in all honesty, most of the time we think we’re entitled to it and in most cases, we are 🙂  (C’mon fellow Millenials, you know what I’m talking about.)  But in any case, it’s pretty certain that all the positive reinforcement and compliments have led to some of the characteristics of our generation.

My only complaint is that little hint of doubt that creeps up in the corner of your mind.  Was this dinner really “beautiful” or are they just saying that?  And how do you rate your outfit if every outfit is beautiful?  It’s hard to really tell since everything you ever do is “beautiful.”  For now I’m taking it at face value.  I’m sure the meal really was beautiful.  In fact, I know it was. 🙂

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