April Fools Day

Oh has it ever been a while!  I have several half written posts that have languished.  It would be easy for me to just put it in the category of home sickness but that’s only part of the story.  I have been home sick for sure but even more I have reached that point in any of our big moves where I begin questioning exactly how Lawson talked me into this!  It usually happens about a year and a half in and sure enough it has happened again starting late last year.  I am in many ways an unlikely candidate for the expat life.  Sure we have talked about doing this for forever and I love to travel but the thing I love the most is home and nesting – that is what has always been my thing.  Somewhere near the end of 2018 as we were facing our third move of house in Brisbane, I began really missing home and questioning this whole thing.  But, where is home?  Home is most certainly 2108 Brookhill Rd even though I no longer own it.  Home is Seagrove Beach and our house there which is now leased for the next year and home is the United States.  It is true that you will find out just how American you are (or wherever your place of birth is) when you become an expat.   But, home is also where my little unit resides and Australia feels very much like home in some pretty important ways now as well!  Even though I am ready for a home to call my own again, I am equally as intent on pushing through this homesickness and doubt and enjoying this adventure and somehow finding my way back to blogging about it!

On to today’s short post.  This day of April 1 is significant in our family’s life due to an event that we can only wish was an April Fools joke and not real…the flash fire of 2017.  Yep, only a short while before we got on the plane to head Down Under.  I won’t bore you with the details but the fire, the burns almost derailed this whole adventure.  Although time has softened the memory, Eve’s screams of terror as she watched and the weeks of pain remain just at the edge of consciousness.  It is nothing short of a miracle that skin grafts weren’t necessary and that this adventure began at all.  I still have a very nice reminder of this day on my right arm just below the elbow.  My freckles are slowly returning though and the healing continues two years on.  I marked today with a visit to one of my favorite places in Brisbane – Jurlique Wintergarden!  Jurlique is one of our favorite Australian brands because of the purity of their products.  If you ever have the opportunity to use their products (they are sold in the US) or to have one of their facials do yourself a favor and do it!  Today I celebrated the fact that my face has healed from the fire with a visit there.  I am grateful for my healing.!  I am also grateful for life’s small pleasures in the form of healthy products.   For all the things I miss from back home, and there are many,  there are amazing Australian products that have enhanced our life tremendously..  Jurlique happens to be one.
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jurliqu wintergarden jurlique products
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Maybe this short post will jump start our blogging and I will actually finish that post about our most recent house move.  As always, we thank you for following along and we have so appreciated the notes checking in on us!  You can always follow along on our Instagram account as we keep that updated regularly.  We hope this first day of April finds you having a beautiful day with not a single April Fools Day surprise in sight!

 

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Behind the scenes

I recently had a friend suggest I include some less than flattering photos of this adventure to show that it’s not one big 24/7 party in the Kelley’s Aussie Adventure!  Well, I don’t think you really want to see those photos but before I write a post about our most recent American friend’s Aussie adventure with us, I did think I would share a bit about what has been going on behind the pretty pictures from instagram or here in the blog  I know for me, I see others beautiful photos and I imagine a life that flows perfectly all the while knowing that we are all human and all struggle.  Funny isn’t it how we all do this to some degree?  I always assume others have their act together far better than we do!

I think I have already written pretty honestly about the terrible start we got to this year with the loss of Lawson’s mom and his siblings planning the funeral before he could get there.  Grief and being sucker punched aren’t ideal ways to start the new year.  I think I have also shared that Lawson has had some health issues.  I have probably downplayed exactly how much all of this has impacted our year and this experience.  We have been so exceedingly blessed all our life with good health and have never taken that for granted but this year has been full of fear, confusion and seeking as we try to get to the bottom of why Lawson has felt so bad.  He has had intense abdominal pain the entire year.  Under normal circumstances this would be stressful but in another country it is all the more challenging.  We have been really lucky to find a GP who listens and comes along side as Lawson has gone through and continues to go through a battery of tests.  As we eliminate one major thing after the other we repeatedly come back to stress and its toll on our bodies.  As yogi’s, we are pretty darn in tune with our bodies but sometimes life throws you things that just leave you totally untethered and confused.  I have spoken a lot about grief as it has become this close friend over the past decade or so.  In spite of me being the “quiet one”, my grief process has been one of talking – a lot- about loss.  Lawson’s has been more internal, a quieter processing.  We all have our own ways of moving through grief but there is not doubt it does change us in ways we might not recognize at the time.  And, I do believe the more deeply we love the more intense the grief process no matter what shape it takes.  And, all that can impact our bodies in ways that can be totally unfamiliar and scary.  We await another appointment to go over a calcium heart scan but being able to eliminate certain things like colon cancer has allowed us to breathe a few sighs of relief!  We know from the results that were sent to us after the heart scan that Lawson’s numbers hold some concern.  What we have come to recognize even before that appointment is the number of things we need to change – stress and sugar reduction are at the top of that list.  Digging into what causes stress in our lives is not always easy.  There are the obvious things like living abroad of course, but then there are the more subtle things we just assume are how we are made – things like sensitivity, putting others first, people pleasing, the list goes on….This part will take a lot of focus, a lot of letting go of things that drain us and a lot of filling our empty cups back up!
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In addition to Lawson’s medical journey, we have been trying to get Eve the help she needs for attention related issues.  If you know our girl, you know she is a ray of joyful sunbeams.  If you know our girl, you might also know that school has been somewhat challenging.  She is smart as a whip but there are so many joyful rainbows going on inside her and emanating out of her that school details can be challenging.  We finally feel like we are getting the right kind of help for her here.  It seems to us that there is a gentler, more holistic approach to dealing with ADD here.  Eve’s school is providing lots of support and we have found a helpful doctor here too.  Don’t worry, I asked Eve if I could write about this and she said sure.  That’s our girl!  This illustration below makes me think of Eve and the extraordinary beauty radiating out from both her spirit and mind (illustration credit to one of my favorite illustrators, Aimee Sicuro).
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If there has been any part of doing this medical journey from abroad, it has been the reasonable medical bills we have incurred (at least by US standards).  I can’t even begin to tell you how that has helped with the stress we feel.  Our monthly insurance rates for private insurance here in Australia are maybe close to what we paid back in the early 1990’s in the US but with better benefits.  The amount we pay for private insurance here is staggering by most Australians standards because they have public medicare.  During Lawson’s corporate years, we certainly had excellent insurance, albeit far more expensive than here..  However, if you are self employed in the US or have had an aging parent with extreme medical costs, maybe you have a better understanding of exactly how expensive things are in the US.  Another thing we notice here is that in our doctor’s office there are no advertisements for pharmaceuticals, nor are there on television.  For us, this makes us trust our doctor just a little bit more.  I don’t think the Australian medical system is perfect at all but they are doing something right with keeping the cost of both insurance and medical procedures reasonably priced.  I don’t believe the number one reason for bankruptcy in Australia is from medical bills like it is in the US.  Maybe we could examine how other countries are doing things and integrate that into the really great parts of US health care?

And then there is the stress of our home in Florida.  We are trying to decide if switching to a long term lease might be a better choice for our home.  We knew this was going to be super challenging having our home open to others.  We knew others would not care for our property like we do.  The degree to which this is true has been harder to deal with than we expected.  People put any manner of things down the toilet because why?  Because it’s not theirs?  It is disheartening to say the least and expensive for us as well.  We, of course, learned a lot in our time living at the beach about how people seem to lose their minds when they go on holiday.  For the first time, I came to understand what people meant when they said “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”.  Yeah, what happens at the beach stays at the beach and the homeowners pay for it!  We know we are blessed to be able to keep our home and yet the stress is real in trying to do the right thing by our home from afar.
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So, no ugly pictures here but lots of words on how our life is not perfect.  Behind those beautiful pictures of Australia, behind those pics of us smiling, there is concern and worry just like everyone else.  There are days I just want to go home.  It would be easier in lots of ways but we press on knowing that even in the midst of life’s concerns we will never regret having this expat adventure with our daughters!  People have said we are courageous..  Maybe, we have courageous moments but most of the time we are shaking in our boots trying to figure things out as we go.  We are constantly rerouting this whole thing (illustration credit above again to Aimee Sicuro).  Thanks for joining our perfectly imperfect family as we continue on this expat journey!

 

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Adams Australian Adventure – Part Two

There is something about seeing where you live through the eyes of a first time visitor that reminds you how lucky you are!  This was certainly true for us during our adventuring with the Adams!  We tried to structure our outings in such a way that there was a balance of things we knew with a few new things, things in town balanced with day trips and free things with those that cost a bit.  We leaned a lot about what worked well and even more about how much we have to learn about being tour guides.  We pushed pretty hard to see as much as we could but there was so much more that we wanted to show them!  Sigh!  And, then there were the things that didn’t quite work out like we planned and we didn’t have a back up plan.  For instance, picking up where we left off…..Day 6 had us scheduled for a surf lesson in the mid afternoon on the Gold Coast which is an hour-hour and a half drive south of Brisbane.  We had an easy morning conserving our energy for the surfing to come and arrived at our lesson only to be informed the waves really weren’t good enough for us to go out.  Serious bummer!  We had initially scheduled the surf lesson for the afternoon thinking the weather might be a bit warmer – it is winter here – but now we know the chances of cancellation are higher in the afternoon. So we rescheduled.  We made the most of what was left of the afternoon walking a nearby trail with great ocean views and watching the sunset but it was disappointing and felt like a precious day lost a bit.
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Gold Coast trees rocks beach july 2018
Gold Coast rainbow beach?

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Eve and MAggie close up gold coast trip one
LAwson and Eve looking out on the gold coast
On Tuesday, we had scheduled one of the Brisbane’s excellent free services called the Brisbane Greeters.  We met at City Hall and took a three hour walking tour through some of the CBD into the City Botanical Gardens and ended up at Queensland University of Technology.  Our guide was a retired professor from QUT and an incredible wealth of information!
downtown with the metal kangaroos
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On Wednesday, we headed once more to the Gold Coast for an early morning surf lesson.  Just as we were pulling into the parking lot we received a call that our instructor could not find his keys.  He suggested we go get a cup of coffee while he looked.  We waited and waited and waited.  We watched the surfers from up on the bluff.  We discussed what might be plan B.  We finally got the call that he found them and could be there around 1.  We were frustrated but eventually decided to go with the lesson because we had already made the drive down and this was on Maggie’s bucket list of things to do in Australia.  In spite of all the irritation of waiting, our instructor was actually really good and patient with us.  Maggie already had mad surfing skills and led the way for us all.  Eve also was able to hop right up.  Lawson and I popped up ever so briefly and fell just as quickly but totally fell in love with the experience even if we weren’t up long.  We can’t wait to really learn to surf!  We were freezing by the end of our lesson and found a place to get some chai and coffee and watched the sunset once more!

dad meditating pre surfing

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Eve and Maggie pre surf

me, eve and Lawson pre surf

pre surf instruction

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Eve surfing

maggie surfing

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One of the most long awaited parts of their trip was our visit to the Australia Zoo and the koala encounter that Chastity, Maggie and Eve got to experience!  We arrived right as the zoo opened and wound our way through the wombats and were able to hand feed the kangaroo’s.  We found our way to our seats at the Crocoseum for the main show at noon which features the crocodiles.  We were really fortunate to be there when Terri, Bindi and Robert Irwin were all there for the show..  On this day it was a little harrowing because one of the birds didn’t get the memo about the croc and kept getting really close to the edge of the water.  It was not part of the script and everyone in the stadium was holding their breath that we wouldn’t watch nature in action.  Fortunately, the bird was spared as the Irwins and the other staff distracted the croc!  Whew!  From there, we took a tram to the Africa section of the zoo.   In addition, the Nature Channel was filming the Irwins so we got to see that process in action.  It was finally time for the Koala Encounter and what an adventure that was for our three explorers!  Look how cute these pics are!

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zoo bindi and mom croc feed

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small kangaroo July 2018

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the four of us at zoo Africa exhitib July 2018

maggie and Eve with koala july 2018

koala in eve's arms july 2018
The next morning we were up early once again as we headed south again toward the Gold Coast for a whale watching boat trip.  The whales are migrating north right now and while you can on occasion spot a whale from the shore, it is all the more likely going out on a boat.  We chose to go with one of the scuba diving charters because of the small size of the boat which meant everyone had a good seat!  Our only regret was not having our really good camera with us.  We did get  a couple of good pics, just not quite as many as we would like.  The whales were simply breathtaking!

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whale tail july 2018

all 6 of us on whale watch
After several day trips to the Sunny and Gold Coasts, we took Saturday and Sunday to chill in the city.  We took the free ferry down to South Bank and took in the art museums!  We then walked over to Fish Lane and had pizza and pasta at one of our favorite restaurants Julius Pizzeria!  From there, we had to introduce Chastity and Maggie to Messina gelato!  Yummy!  We wound our way back down to the Brisbane sign and attempted to get some photos of the girls without other people in the photo – impossible!  The sign is frequently swarming with people climbing all over it and this evening was no different.  The girls had great fun and we loved seeing the sun set over the city from this vantage point!  While at South Bank Chastity and Maggie rode the wheel of Brisbane and got to see the city from up high all lit up.  We walked from South Bank over the pedestrian bridge to QUT and the lighted trees where we attempted to get a few photos!  We spent Sunday morning exploring Roma Street Gardens and then headed home for a chilled afternoon spent playing games.  After a busy week, we all relished the down time learning a new game and just enjoying one another’s company, plus our dogs Felix and Dani and kitty Karo were thrilled to have us around for an extended period of time!

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Eve and Maggie glamour shot
We awoke early the next morning to prepare a picnic lunch and get packed up for the drive and ferry ride to Stradbroke Island (Straddie).  After the hour long ferry ride we made our way back to the little coffee shop we discovered on our first trip to the island.  A little warm chai and we were ready for some koala and kangaroo in the wild sightings!  We headed first to Amity Point.  If only we had a four wheel drive vehicle!  Alas, we do not so we parked and walked out onto the nearly deserted beach.  We then hopped back in the car to drive to the Gorge Walk.  It was Eve’s eagle eye that caught this sweet koala hanging out very near the road!  We got out and took some photos and our sighting caused others to stop and snap their own photos.  Sometimes it is nice to know that Australians get just as excited about seeing a koala in the wild as we do!  We walked around Amity and watched the pelicans and just enjoyed the natural beauty.  Then it was off to the beautiful North Gorge Walk.  Well, lunch first.  We appreciate how much Australia still has an abundance of picnic tables and public amenities available.  We began our walk and early on found these kangaroos just chillin just off the path!  The views from North Gorge Walk are simply fantastic!  At one point, we saw a couple of whales and a couple of sea turtles.  Unlike our first trip to Straddie when things were rainy and overcast, this day was perfectly clear!  Ahhh!  We live in a beautiful world!  We must be stewards of this world God has entrusted to us humans!

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Stradbroke July 2018 from walkway

Eve and Maggie Stradbroke

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We had planned one more trip up to the Sunshine Coast (Sunny Coast) but almost two weeks of constant exploration was starting to catch up with us.  One of the things we definitely learned is pacing is always kinda hard.  You want to fit in as much as you possibly can but not wear yourself and your guests out.  Hmmm.  We have a lot to learn.  I remember why I came home from our first trip to Australia with a stress fracture in my ankle!  We took the next day off and drove over to one of the neighborhoods near Eve’s school.  Eve loved showing off her school and Bulimba has a nice little downtown for window shopping.  On the Adams last day, Sophie scheduled a trip to the Cat Cafe for her, Maggie and Chastity.  After a quick lunch, we took the City Cat ferry to UQ (University of Queensland) and explored a bit of the city we had not made it to yet.  Sophie gave us a very quick tour of her school as we maneuvered around a multitude of new graduates taking photos all over the campus.  From there, we caught a bus back to West End and had one last stop at Messina for another gelato!  We walked off a few of those calories by heading back down to the Brisbane River and South Bank for one last Brisbane sign climb and then it was time to head home so Chastity and Maggie could get a few hours of sleep before our 3 am drop off at the airport.  And, just like that we were hugging them goodbye!  Massive sigh!

Lucky Cat Cafe sign

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I haven’t shared before how we met the Adams have I?  A series of somewhat traumatic events transpired that had us pull Eve out of the school she was in and begin home schooling her in 2015.  While we love the flexibility homeschooling provides a family, Lawson and I are not exactly the right profile for this job  We were using a school in Vermont that was a Waldorf based distance learning program with teachers but the distance aspect was challenging for Eve.  On a homeschool group outing, Lawson and Eve met Chastity, Maggie and Reese and a wonderful new friendship was formed and ultimately Eve was welcomed into Adams Academy that semester!  While the circumstances that led us to homeschooling for a time and to meeting the Adams was not optimal, it is a good reminder of how sometimes hard things in life can bring unexpected blessings – like the Adams!  We are thankful for their presence in our life and for their making the long journey to see us in Australia!  Here’s to more visits from them in the future and to more of our friends making this journey!  Thanks mate for joining us on this adventure!

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Adams Australian Adventure – Part One

On July 4th (US Independence Day), our friends Chastity and Maggie Adams arrived from Florida!  Yippee!!  Their timing was perfect because certain US only holidays can really make us nostalgic for home – 4th of July and Thanksgiving especially!  They arrived late morning and we headed home for what Aussie’s call a sausage sizzle or as we would say grilled hot dogs and other 4th of July type foods.  The goal on day one was just to keep them upright and have a relaxing day catching up and eventually taking a ride on the free ferry up and down the Brisbane River.  Mission accomplished!  We had planned to get up early the next morning to catch the sunrise at Mt Coot-tha thinking Chastity and Maggie would probably wake up in the wee hours of the morning but they did so great  adjusting to our time zone that we waited later in the day to head out..  It was raining on and off much of day two which helped us ease into our adventure schedule!.  The rain cleared off long enough for us to catch some great views of the city from Mt Coot-tha lookout about mid-day and to have a  picnic at the Botanical Gardens at Mt Coot-tha as well.  We also popped in to visit the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium when the rain picked back up.
July 4th arrive at airport
July 4th Eve, Chastity and Maggie
Eve and Maggie Mt Coot-tha
Mt Coot-tha lookout all of us
I must say, I wish I had this kind of energy and looked like this after I have flown half way around the world!
MAggie jumping at Mt Coot'tha
Chastity
On Friday, we continued to ease into things with a trip down to the CBD (Central Business District).  One of our fave Aussie companies is Jurlique so we had scheduled a facial for Chastity while the girls and I walked around the CBD for a bit.  Katie took great care of Chastity and hopefully helped with any dehydration that came from the long plane ride over!
Katie and Maggie at Jurlique
From there we headed to the Red Cross Cafe which is tucked under Brisbane City Hall.  While the food is simple, we love the good cause it is associated with!
Chastity and Maggie at REd Cross Cafe
After a lunch we explored the Brisbane Museum in City Hall.  It is a great introduction to Brisbane and her history.  Because it was school holidays the vintage elevator ride up to the Hall’s Clock Tower had a long wait.  We rather optimistically decided to catch one of the last trips up which was at 6:30 pm.  While it it a really cool thing to do and the views of the city at night are great, it is probably better to wait till jet lag has completely disappeared before pushing so hard in one day..  We were super glad the bus stop was just outside City Hall!.
Maggie and Bristopia sign
Maggie and art at Brisbane Museum

Eve and Chastity at vintage elevator City Hall
We awoke to a perfect day on Saturday!  We walked down to New Farm Park and the weekly farmers market that is held there.  On the way to the market, we stopped at one of our favorite places for coffee, the Coffee Hut, which is situated right inside New Farm Park!  We then wandered along the walkway that leads from New Farm to Teneriffe.
eve, maggie and chastity at new farm park coffee hut
Chastity and Maggie teneriffe boardwalk
maggie and chasttity walk to teneriffe
eve and maggie bubble girl teneriffe
From Teneriffe, we caught the ferry down to South Bank to the French Festival!
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Eve at French Festival\
After exploring all the French Festival had to offer, we walked down to the South Bank pool and beach.  Can you believe this is free?

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We relaxed by the pool and enjoyed the sun and people watching!  We finally headed home via the ferry and upon disembarking at Sydney Street we noticed the Story Bridge was lit up in Red, White and Blue!  It, of course, had nothing to do with our holiday back home but it sure made us think of home!
eve and maggie day 4 sydney street stop
On Sunday, we ventured to quirky, cool Byron Bay.  We have heard of Byron Bay for years but this was our first trip there and boy did it not disappoint – well, other than that we were just there for the day!  It’s hard to describe the beauty and character of Byron Bay so I will just let the photos do the talking.
Eve and Maggie Byron Bay colorful wall
donald trump taco sign
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adams and us byron bay july 2018
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So, we made it through day 5 of Adams Australian Adventure in this post….I will save part two and three for another couple of posts!  Don’t Maggie and Chastity look happy in these photos at Byron Bay?!  We think they should just move here!  Well, after the rest of their unit (Chad and Reese) comes for a visit that is!
Chastity and MAggie at Byron Bay
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Eight Days in Tasmania

This past semester was my most challenging. University, internships, and work proved to be a taxing trio, yet I held my determination and enthusiasm, knowing I would jet off to Tasmania when it was all over.

I am writing this by request of my mama and my friends, yet before the details of my travels, I would like to say thank you to Huai-Yuan Change AKA Peggy, one of my closest most dear friends who accompanied me to Tasmania. More than anything this was a trip to be with my friend; her time in Australia is coming to an end (for now), and I will very much cherish the time we spent driving, singing, hiking, eating, and exploring.

Day One: Monday was a travel day. Peggy and I landed in Launceston at 8pm and were very happy to know it was one degree Celsius outside. I have always preferred winter because it demands layers and hot drinks. Launceston is a river city in Northern Tasmania. And while driving to our Airbnb, it didn’t take me long to realize that all of the homes were colonial. This was easily my favorite part about the town. The homes were so well preserved with their charming stain-glass windows, brick, red-doors, and double chimneys. Many were heritage listed as well.

After dropping off our luggage, we walked to Geronimo Aperitivo Bar. Here, I confirm once again I am not a fan of cocktails even though I so desperately try to convince myself otherwise. The food was great though, but to be fair all the food we ate on our trip was great.

Day Two: We drove North to Bridestowe Lavender Farm, the world’s largest commercial lavender farm with over 650,000 plants. Here, I found a love for lavender lattes and lavender ice cream. Although the lavender was not in bloom, Peggy and I enjoyed a peaceful walk along the endless rows. The gift shop was excellent, and I walked away with bundles of dried lavender and a bottle of their lavender syrup. I’ve been having it in my morning coffee, and it’s excellent. The remainder of the day we drove around Northern Tasmania, stopping many times for scenic pictures and cattle. I have never seen so many cows and sheep in one place.
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Day Three: Wednesday was by far one of my favorite days. Peggy and I drove west to the famous Cradle Mountain, primarily to see the mountain and the wombats. The trip up was steep, but it was well worth it. Every time we drove around another bend, it seemed as though the landscape changed into something entirely different. Once inside the park, we hiked from Dove Lake to Ronny Creek, and toward the end we saw about fifteen wombats feeding. This day was spectacular, and I recommend making a whole day of it.
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Day Four: Following our lovely breakfast and pink lattes from Alps and Amici, Launceston’s gourmet food-store, we said goodbye to Launceston and headed down the Midland Highway to Hobart, making several stops along the way. We first came into Campbell Town. Here, we visited the Book Cellar at the Foxhunter’s Return. The Foxhunter’s Return has a beautiful stonemason front and is heritage listed as a coach inn which provided shelter for those traveling between Launceston and Hobart during the 1800s. The bookshop is located in the cellar, hence the name, which was used to house the convicts who built the Red Bridge alongside the inn. We weren’t supposed to take pictures, but I snapped one of Peggy! The Book Cellar has one of the largest collections of Tasmanian books, and I picked up a few monographs including diary entries of convicts and primary resources on the history of Van Diemen’s Land and slavery and famine. I would definitely suggest stopping here for reading material and coffee!
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Our next destination was Freycinet National Park, a peninsula off the East coast, famous for the Wineglass Bay. This was a bit of a haul, but we made it with enough time to hike to the bay. It was beautiful and completely different than Cradle Mountain. Here we didn’t see wild wombats, but we did see wild wallabies in the car park. Fish and chips and a lot of driving and Disney songs later, we made it to Hobart. Our Airbnb was at the center of everything cool. I feel we got lucky! To end our night, we walked two minutes to T-Bone Brewing Co. where we had hot cider and played arcade games.
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Day Five: Friday was another one of my favorite days because we took a cruise to Tasman Island! This was three hours of rain and rough sea, but it was totally worth it because we saw many Australian and New Zealand seals and pups playing! We also sailed into Port Arthur, a historic site, home to the ruins of the convict church and penal colony for second offenders as well as the famous, Isle of the Dead Cemetery. Unfortunately, we opted not to take a tour of the site which is my only regret of the trip! It is definitely a must-see.
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The day ended with Japanese food, beer, and an exclusive tour of Hobart’s town hall. Alderman Bill Harvey spotted Peggy and I snooping around and offered to show us around; he even let us sit in the Lord Mayor’s chair.

Day Six: Saturday was a full day of shopping, eating, and exploring. After a lovely breakfast from Daci and Daci Bakers, Peggy and I walked to the Salamanca Market, a Saturday ritual for the people of Hobart. Here, you will find over 300 stalls of artisan crafts, foods, and clothing. There was even a music stall where I picked up a CD of the 60s greatest hits which I have unfortunately already misplaced. Next, we stopped at the TMAG, Tasmania Museum and Art Gallery, where I discovered the Thylacine. This species solely resides in Tasmania, found in no other place and is often referred to as a Tasmanian Tiger. It was the largest, carnivorous marsupial in existence before they declared officially extinct in 1982. In the late 1800s, the Tasmanian government issued a bounty for Thylacines since they were a nuisance to livestock, yet this ultimately ended in their extinction.

Before a dinner of oysters, fish, and scallops, we visited Hobart’s Convict penitentiary which is also a must-see. In just under an hour our tour guide brought us through the building’s evolution as a penitentiary, chapel, jail, and court.

Day Seven: Day before we leave, and we are so tired. We spent three hours at the Farm Gate Market mainly because we just wanted to sit and relax. This was the perfect place to get breakfast and check out the locals. Also, there was a live jazz band in front of the Playhouse Theater which is always a good thing. Mount Wellington was our next journey. Pinnacle Point overlooks the Hobart and is just so beautiful, but the temps were bone chilling at negative seven degrees Celsius, so we didn’t stay very long.
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We were in bed pretty earlier this night. After a little shopping, champagne, and Italian from Amici, we were home packing.

Day Eight: We had our last breakfast in Hobart’s historical center, Battery Point, at a place called Jackman and McRoss Bakeries. This is an absolute must. The food was delicious, and the location was perfect. For a moment, I could picture myself as a resident.

After breakfast, we had to say goodbye to Hobart. Peggy and I flew out of Launceston. It was about a 2-and-a-half-hour drive back, but of course, we made a couple more stops. If you are in Tasmania, you must stop in Richmond. Here, we walked the Richmond Australia’s oldest stone bridge, erected by convicts in 1823. Not only does the bridge attract humans, but it is also home to many birds including a black swan! We also toured Richmond’s gaol. This gaol is Australia’s oldest gaol that still remains, dating back to 1825. It was meager in size compared to Hobart’s penitentiary; nevertheless, the stories of the people who passed through were just as stirring.
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Our last stop before the Launceston airport was another small, historical town called Ross. Here, Peggy was hoping to visit the famous bakery that inspired the imagery for the Japanese anime, Kiki’s Delivery Service. It is common for this bakery to welcome up to 50 Japanese visitors a day, many in cosplay, yet today the owners were on holiday! We were both upset, but I am hoping it will motivate Peggy to come again!

I will never forget my eight days in Tasmania, and I am so thankful that I had such a wonderful travel partner. I am looking forward to taking my family back for their first time!

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Our beloved Dalai

Today, our beautiful 16 year old Tibetan Terrier Dalia had a stroke and joined her brother Deano in heaven.  Our 16 year old daughter Eve was home with the dogs while Lawson and I had run to the farmers market when Dalai had her stroke.  Eve did an amazing job of maintaining her composure while caring for Dalai as best she could while we rushed home.  We then rushed to the nearest emergency vet but there was no hope for recovery.  They gave us time to say goodbye, to be with her till the very end.  We were sobbing.  The vet was crying.  We are numb and already miss her so much!  I can’t even believe I am writing this.  Just this morning she barked at me to get up and get out of bed.  She walked down two flights of steps this morning.  She ate her food with gusto this morning.  She was running around the house life crazy just a day or so ago.  Life can change in an instant.

We were so fortunate to find Dalai in 2002.  She (and her brother Deano) came into our life while we were waiting to bring our daughter Eve home from India.  India had shut down adoptions (even for those of us who had met all the qualifications and who had our baby waiting for us) for a period of time.  We were a mess because we had no idea how long we would have to wait and we desperately needed babies to love on…..enter little puppies Dalai and Deano!  Deano and Dalai were such wonderful diversions.  All of the cute baby Dalai pictures are in storage in the United States because photos weren’t digital back then.  Here are a few photos we do have digital copies of the two of them together!
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From the very beginning, Dalai was headstrong and opinionated!  She has always been the alpha dog in our family!  She ran the show when it was just her and Deano and then later when we inherited Dani and brought little puppy Felix home!  Dalai was always great about expressing her opinions to us.  We always knew when it was 8 am and 5 pm because Dalai would remind us it was time for her to eat.  During her time in quarantine entering Australia from the USA, she lost her voice because she barked so much trying to let those at the quarantine center know how unhappy she was with the circumstances!  Dalai was such a great teacher to us.  Some found Dalai aloof but we learned to meet her where she was.  Deano and Felix, our boy Tibetan Terriers, were/are huge love bugs but Dalai was the kind of girl who wants to be in the room with you but doesn’t need to be touching you all the time.   In fact, she needed space.  When she did come give you love, it felt so special!  She was really a daddy’s girl but she loved the rest of us too!
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Eve and Dalai
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We named Dalai after the Dalai Llama in part because of the Tibet connection and partly because she seemed to just be so settled in herself.  Our boy dogs are/have been a little neurotic and nervous…not Dalai!  Self assured, calm, assertive at times, chilled at other times….always so grounded.  It sounds silly but there have been times that Lawson and I wish we could just put Dalai in charge of things because she seemed more mature than either of us!  What ever are we going to do without her?
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Dalai was such a strong little girl.  She was a fierce little spirit in a small package!  She was too small for her breeder to show and maybe because of her small size she had tons of issues with her ears for a very long time before we finally had her ear canal removed.  She bounced back from the surgery with no problem and was still able to hear us (although she was selective in her hearing).  She lived in 6 different cities and 2 countries.  She took countless roadtrips between Alabama and Atlanta and Florida and Atlanta and Little Rock and Florida and finally a cross country trip with her siblings in a minivan!  She lost her beloved companion Deano at the age of 12.  She accepted Dani and Felix into our unit.  She even welcomed Karo cat into our family.  She helped love on me as I was recovering from my burns and she has helped us both grieve losing our parents.  She survived quarantine and at our last vet visit she looked to be beating cancer  She was such an amazing little spirit!
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Among Dalai’s favorite things were greenies (one every morning or we heard about it), Buddha hedgehog chew toys, food, walks, playing with her brother, sleeping (especially half on/half off the bed) and having her family at her beck and call!
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Dalai half on half off bed
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Our hearts are completely broken but we are so grateful for every moment we have had with our Dalai Baba.  Tibetan Terriers are called “little people” for their human like qualities.  Dalai was a beautiful example of that!   We are officially sick of death and its constant presence in our life.  If there is any good that comes from this all too frequent guest in our life, it is a reminder to love with your heart wide open!  Dalai did that!  Dalai helped us be better human beings just by being herself.  I hope we are that for others in some small way,.  Hug your puppy or kitty or kiddo or parent or partner a little tighter today!  I’m off to cry myself to sleep…or so I hope.  Here’s what our daughter Eve wrote as a tribute to our sweet girl.  We will miss you our beautiful Dalai!  Thank you for loving us so well!
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Sydney

Recently, we made a very brief (less than 24 hours) trip to Sydney. The particulars of the trip involved us driving rather than flying which was a big frustration as the roads between Brisbane and Sydney were not what we would ever have anticipated between two of Australia’s biggest cities nor did we have the time to explore places along the way.  We had planned to return to Sydney in December for a portion of the girls summer break but that is not looking very likely at this point in time so I will share what we did see, let the pictures do most of the talking and dream of taking the girls back some day.

We arrived in Darling Harbour early afternoon and our hotel was really great about letting us check in early!  We would highly recommend the hotel we stayed at (the Ovolo) and the location if you have limited time in Sydney.  It was an easy walk to the ferry stop so once we were settled in we quickly made our way to the ferry so we could see the Sydney Harbor Bridge and the Sydney Opera House from the water during the day  We got super lucky that it was a perfectly crisp and sunny winters day!
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Our hotel in Sydney…
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Darling Harbor Ferry Stop...
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Ferry ride to the Opera House stop…
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It really is hard to put into words how extraordinary this piece of architecture is..  We have always been moved by photographs of the Opera House but to see it in person was next level.  It truly took our breath away!  It is hard to believe there was so much controversy over it’s construction.  I think it shows how shortsighted politicians can be when it comes to art, architecture, and beauty.  Can you imagine Sydney without the Opera House?
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From the Opera House, we walked through the city a bit to get back to our hotel.  It was a slightly further walk than we realized but also gave us a chance to see what we might someday want to come back and check out!  I don’t have photos but driving into the northern suburbs of Sydney felt like driving into a neighborhood in our former city of Atlanta, GA.  It is probably not fair to say on such a short visit but I felt like I was back in the US more than I have at any point in time this past year and it was really nice!  Some days I really miss home…certain things about home anyway!
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We were thrilled to find out upon checking into our hotel that Vivid was going on in the evenings in Sydney!  We booked spaces on one of the boats taking people out into the harbor for the evening show.  Again, it did not disappoint.  It was crowded for sure but nothing could dull the experience of the lightshow. It is said that Vivid is best experienced on both boat and by foot so someday we hope to be able to do just that!  It is impossible to capture how very cool Vivd is with an iphone camera but hopefully this will give you a taste and inspire you to come visit!
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opera house vivid green leaf
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And, my very favorite…
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The drive from Brisbane to Sydney is no longer than the regular trips we used to make in a single day from Florida to Arkansas in the States but  the roads here were unknown and the driving more stressful so we stopped for the night both ways to break the trip up a bit.  On the drive down it rained heavily much of the day.which made it seem much longer than it really was. We spent the night on the way down in Newcastle, NSW and would really like to go back and explore it a bit more one of these days.  It had history and it felt like it is in a bit of a renaissance phase as well.
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On the drive back home we went up the north beaches to see Manly Beach and a place called Pittswater that Lawson had read a lot about as it is a popular sailing community.  It was a cold, overcast day so the photos are a bit meh but the beauty still comes through.  We stopped for the night in the coastal town of Port Macquarie on the trip back home.

Manly Beach…
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bondhi beach swimmer
Pittswater...
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pittswater sailing
The trip seemed extra long  because a huge portion was two lane roads and there was road work with the speed changing constantly between 30 to 80 to 110 kilometers per hour and signs everywhere that your speed was being monitored.  We were stressed out, worrying constantly that we might have missed a speed change sign.  It was the most I have driven in one shot since we have been here so it was good practice.  In spite of the two lanes, we passed some lovely sugar cane fields and caught this lovely rainbow on the way down to Sydney!
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rainbow over sugar cane fields nsw

As always, thanks for joining us (somewhere over the rainbow) on this expat adventure!  We hope our journey is inspiring you to come visit us and this beautiful country!

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It’s been a while

So, it really has been a while.  I originally wrote the post below a couple of weeks ago just to get my thoughts on paper not at all planning on posting it.  Then this past week happened.  The suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain hit me hard.  They were both inspirations in living a life and having work they loved.  Lawson and I had just listened to an interview of Kate and Andy Spade about building their business together.  I don’t own a single Kate Spade bag but her story inspires me.  While we will probably never know the particulars of why they felt like this was the choice they needed to make, what is clear is that depression does not discriminate based on economics, career or anything else.  Lawson has often said he feels like I inherited the Kelley melancholy.  I think part of what he means by that is that I inherited a deep sensitivity, particularly around injustice,  that can sometimes trip me up.  I can barely get on Facebook these days without it unsettling me.  The language that is used to describe other human beings with a different viewpoint than one’s own has become dehumanizing,  Whether you like Trumps politics or not, I think it is fair to say that how he speaks to and about other human beings is not something we have ever before tolerated in a president and that is trickling down to the rest of society.  Civility and decency are on the decline.  For those of us who are empaths and who are highly sensitive, I can tell you this has a profound impact..  I can only imagine for those who feel desperate.  I share this much personal information because it is more important than where we visited in Australia this week (even though we got a very brief first taste of Sydney and boy was she brilliant)..  That is cool, maybe even inspiring for those who want an expat experience but what’s really important is that we can be vulnerable emotionally.  Our blog’s readership is mostly just our friends as a way to stay connected and a few fellow expats so being vulnerable here is slightly easier.  With the suicide rate increasing dramatically in the US in the past 20 years it seems all the more important to dialogue about it, to bring it out of the shadows.  There have been lots of posts since the news broke this week about depression.  Some have been helpful, some not as much  It is wonderful to offer a sofa as a safe place for someone but only if they really feel safe on the offered sofa.  If I feel judged, and many of us as parents, as one example, feel judged by what we are or are not doing, then I don’t feel safe and would not sit on that couch even if I was struggling  Words matter.  Kindness matters.  I particularly like this quote by Anthony Bourdain which encourages us to open our minds and attempt to step in another’s shoes and by so doing we can’t help but become more compassionate.  My parents prioritized travel as a way for me to learn and grow and I will be forever grateful for that!  It’s not just travel though that allows us to expand our minds.  New foods, music, books, listening with an open mind to another perspective…so many options to allow us to step into another person’s shoes!

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Now, to the original post which i thought was too much personal information originally – Ha!  It is fairly easy to write a post after a new adventure discovering some great place or event in Australia but more challenging to write about the ongoing adventure that is our expat life in Australia.  Don’t get me wrong – it is an adventure; it’s just sometimes more of an adventure than I signed up for.  I recently read a post on the brilliant blog Wait but Why by Tim Urban about there being two kinds of people (with a large continuum between these two ends of the spectrum of course) – cooks and chefs.  Well, I am a cook who follows a detailed recipe and Lawson is a chef who invents his own recipes!  This, of course, is part of what drew us to each other!  He is magnificent except when _______ (you know what I mean because you too are probably a cook or a chef who can fill in that blank for your partner).  For me and Lawson the fill in the blank often has to do with risk taking or lack there of and I bet you can guess which of us is which!  We simply have different thresholds for risk taking.  The thing is, right about a year ago I took what I believe to be a massive risk and moved to Australia.  I get that this isn’t a risk for just everyone but take my word for it when I say that it is for a cook.  As the one year anniversary comes near, my anxiety (because I am a cook who also experiences anxiety) has sky rocketed.  This adventure has been amazing but I am missing some things that help me feel grounded, namely a home to nest in and my own stuff to nest with.  I seriously miscalculated how difficult this would be for me.  Strangers are coming and going from my house in Florida which is now a vacation rental and all my things are in storage units.  I kept telling myself it would be freeing and to just treat this like a long adventure but a year in I am struggling.  The selling of my childhood home in April plus reaching the year mark seem to be taking a toll…and that is why I haven’t felt like blogging.  We have three more years on our visa and then we can file for permanent residency and by then our youngest daughter will have finished high school and our oldest will have graduated university.  We can then more easily split our time between Australia and the US which is our ultimate goal.  Three years seems like a long time from right here, right now even though I know it will pass in the blink of an eye!  A year in, things have not unfolded as we expected in many ways but others have unfolded beautifully.  Our girls are happier in school than they have ever been which is wonderful!  While we miss living at the beach, we love having access to all that living in a city can offer plus we can still be at the beach in less than an hour.  We love having affordable health care.  On my really hard, missing home days, I have to say having good health care at an affordable price is an important reminder of things we love about Australia!  Learning to navigate another culture with our children has not disappointed either.  It’s not always easy but we have always wanted to have this experience as a family and it has been a wonderful bonding experience.  Learning to drive on the left hand side of the road has been ridiculously hard which is somewhat embarrassing to admit but there it is!  While so much is similar to America, lots of things are different – very different!  And, sometimes taking a big risk into a world so incredibly different than the one you are used to can leave you anxious (well, if you are a cook it can anyway) and when that happens blogging doesn’t really flow!
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Yesterday, we went to a presentation of the musical South Pacific by the Queensland Musical Theatre.  This musical has special significance to me personally as it was one of the few albums my parents had while I was growing up and although it was totally warped from my parents storing it in the attic, it is one of the prized possessions I saved of theirs!  My dad served in WW 2 in Europe, not the South Pacific but it still makes me think of him and hearing my mom sing these songs around the house!  One of the songs, I had forgotten however was You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught.  The lyrics seem incredibly applicable to our world today
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You’ve got to be taught to be afraid of those who are different than you is the general theme.  Do you know there are people who have been afraid, not approved of our family?  Yep!  Uniformity of skin color in a family matters to lots of people still.  This is the stuff that can derail me.  And, worse when I have shared this with others they question the experiences we have had..  This is not safety.  Let’s be gentle with one another.  Let’s listen to another’s story, especially if they seem to be in pain.  Let’s not judge one another quite so harshly.

This is the album that my parents used to listen to!  I especially remember my mom’s rendition of “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair”!  My mom was the optimist in our home and was always singing!  She would never have washed my dad outta her hair though!
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Our next blog will be coming soon with lots of photos of our day in Sydney and will be extra light on the emotional stuff!  Here’s to a more gentle week ahead for us all!  As always, thanks for your friendship and for following us on this journey!

 

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Mum’s Day Weekend

Happy Mum’s Day to all!  This is our first Mum’s Day in Australia and it didn’t disappoint!  I am especially thankful that we were all able to spend the day together!  Our 16 year old Dalai dog was diagnosed with malignant melanoma a few weeks ago so every day with her is special….we never know how many special holidays we have so we celebrate them all!  The dogs gave me a special gift this year from The Dog Mum!  Aren’t these shirts awesome?!  I love them!
Dog Mum

me and felix dog mum

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The weekend actually started with attending our first event at the Brisbane Powerhouse.  It was called A Quiet Faith by award-winning documentary theatre maker David Williams.  It was an interesting window into and an immersive experience into Australia and faith.  The immersive nature of it had us talking and processing long after we left the theatre.  I wanted to attend because of the title – A Quite Faith – and how it made me think of my dad whom I admired so very much.  He had such a profound impact on so many people but in a very quiet way.  As I have grown older, I have grown quieter and more contemplative in my own journey not because my faith is less but because it has hopefully deepened.  I am less interested in spending time with people who are always talking about what they believe and spending more with people who inspire me in how they live their lives!  It’s funny because the other day Lawson and I were at a cafe having a conversation and we were seated right next to a gentleman for probably 30 minutes when he leaned over and asked if we were Canadian or American.  We, of course, answered American and he said “I thought so at first but you aren’t as loud as most Americans”!  No, we weren’t insulted because we kinda knew what he was getting at.  Part of being an expat is getting to view your home country from a distance and well, there’s a lot of yelling going on in America right now when you view it from a distance.   I wonder what would happen if we got a little quieter and listened a little more?

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A Quiet Faith
Saturday night brought an extra special event to Brisbane – Chat 10 Looks 3 Live!  Lawson discovered the Chat 10 podcast about two years ago when we first began thinking that this Aussie adventure might actually happen.  Knowing we needed to be able to understand the Aussie accent meant listening to lots of Australian podcasts, radio and watching lots of Australian tv shows!  Chat 10 with Leigh Sales and Annabel Crabb was by far our favorite podcast!  They discuss what they are reading, watching, cooking and listening to on their podcast.  Both Crabb  and Sales are journalists with ABC News here in Australia.  Part of the live show last night featured Leigh’s recent interview with former FBI Director James Comey and Hillary Clinton and a funny story by Annabel on accidentally drinking Hillary Clinton’s water while MCing an event earlier in the week where former Secretary of State Clinton was the guest speaker.  It was so strange to be in the audience listening to people talk about American politicians and not be in America.  It was nice to hear from their perspective what it was like to interact with these two leaders.  There was a neutrality that we have lost in the US.  Lawson and I are like so many Americans – disgusted by the lot of our pollie”s (Australian for politicians….just learned that one recently) – we had to fight our own propensity for an eye roll when Clinton or Comey was mentioned.  We actually learned quite a bit more about them last night than we have by watching news coverage from back home.  Of course, this was not the best part of the evening but certainly a part two American expats in the audience were extra interested in.   When we got to Australia last year we joined the local Chat 10 book club here in Brisbane.  It is filled with interesting people and we have read some Australian authors we would never have been exposed to in the US!  So much coolness from one podcast!

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A couple of treats we picked up at the podcast last night!  We would have stayed to have our book autographed but….

Chat 10 Loot
Mum’s Day began bright and early with a club volleyball game for our daughter Eve and her team the Brisbane Bears!

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From there, we headed to a showing of Mamma Mia that was also a sing along….such fun!  They had all the lyrics displayed at the bottom of the screen so we didn’t miss a word to any of the songs!  Even though we have seen the movie multiple times and the play as well, there is something about being given permission to belt it out  in a theatre that makes it all the more fun!
Mama Mia singalong
“Mamma mia, here I go again  My my, how can I resist you?  Mamma mia, does it show again  My my, does it show how much I’ve missed you.”

mama mia dancing queen sing along
“You are the dancing queen ….You can dance  You can jive  Having the time of your life  Ooh, see that girl  Watch that scene Dig in the dancing queen!”
mothers day gift package
We headed home to feast on Lawson’s black bean burgers – one of my favorite dishes and my sweet family showered me with lots of Mum love!  I only wish my mum and Lawson’s mum were here with us to celebrate!

love you Mum

Mothers Day gifts

Mum's Day card Sophie

Mum's Day card Eve
We hope you all had a wonderful weekend as well!  As always, thanks for sharing this adventure with us!

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Straddie for the day

Yesterday, our house was buzzing before 5 am as we prepared to spend our Saturday on Stradbroke Island (or Straddie as they call it here.).  The trip to Straddie requires a bit of planning as there is an almost hour long ferry ride to and from the island.  In addition, the entrance and exit for the ferry ride is in Cleveland a 45 minute drive from our house.  All our packing occurred the night before except some of our picnic dishes that had to be prepped early that morning. We were able to leave on schedule so we arrived right on time for our ferry.  The efficiency of the ferry terminal was impressive.  We pulled up to the gate with all our paperwork at the ready only to be greeted with “Hello Kelley’s” no paperwork required!  Ours was one of the first ferries of the day over to the island.and it was quite a pleasant ride.
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ferry ride to straddie april 2018
Once on the island, we headed to the Island Fruit Barn Cafe for a little nourishment!  It was the first cool morning we have had this autumn (yep, April is autumn here not spring….still so weird) so a little breakfast chai was in order!
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Afterwards, we began our driving exploration of the island.  We headed to Amity Point to check it out!  It was the perfect place to take your 4 wheel drive vehicle….if only we had one!
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We found some beautiful beaches there and met some new friends!  Actually, we kept a nice, comfortable distance from these enormous kangaroos.  These two male kangaroos really looked like guards ready to give us a quick punch should we try to enter.



We headed from Amity Point over to Point Lookout where we enjoyed spectacular views and then walked along the beach and watched the surfers!

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We had packed all our beach gear thinking we would be sitting out on the beach, reading and romping in the waves but the cool, rainy weather forced us to focus more on exploring the multitude of walking paths available on the island.  The change of plans was really quite good though as we realized our visits to Straddie would be much more about enjoying nature!  Think we will save sitting out on the beach for the Sunny and Gold Coast beaches!  We headed to Straddie’s pride and joy the North Gorge Walk and boy did it not disappoint!  During whale migration this is the spot to watch the whales!  We plan on making the trip back for this in a couple of months. The views were simply breathtaking!  This 1.2 km walk is truly spectacular and if you come visit us it will be one of our recommended places to visit while you are here.  There is a deeply spiritual quality to this island that we really loved.

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After our picnic, we had a few minutes to spare before catching the ferry back to the mainland.  We just happened upon the store Made on Minijerribah featuring textiles and ceramics.  We were immediately taken with the beautiful designs!  Delvene Cockatoo-Collins is the artist.  She is a storyteller as her pieces express the stories of her family, her ancestors.  Delvene is also the official designer of the medals awarded at the 2018 Commonwealth Games which have just ended.    Migaloo, the well known white humpback whale here in Australia, is a key inspiration for her pieces and was incorporated into the Commonwealth Games medals.  Our time talking with Delvene was cut short by our need to catch the ferry but she shared this inspiration with us and we wanted to share a couple of her quotes that we sourced from the Commonwealth Games website.  “What I saw that day was that Migaloo brought joy to all the people there on the beach waiting for him.  So, I thought, he’s reaching a broad range of people and my design would be another way of sharing joy.  The image of Migaloo on the commemorative medal, I see is a way to bring joy to every athlete who will receive one.”  How beautiful is that?
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We were lucky enough to be able to purchase a couple of pieces of Delvene’s work – a whale runner for our table, a lovely ceramic pendant and bookmark!  Come visit us and we will make a stop by Made on Minjeribah when we visit Straddie and you too can take a piece of joy home with you too!
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