Friday, 24 December 2010

Festive Cheer, Christmas is Here!

Our tree decorations!

Merry Christmas from Melbourne! It’s now Christmas Eve and I am finally getting into the Christmas spirit.... we have a Christmas tree that is up and decorated (thanks Sarah and Neil), a fridge full of food (thanks Coles), and two very delayed English friends on a plane from Heathrow as we speak (thanks Virgin Atlantic, no thanks to the weatherman). It’s hard to feel festive in the summer, and this certainly helps on the home-sickness front. This morning we woke up to bright sunshine and two cruise ships docked at nearby Station Pier. When the cruise ships begin to double-park in Port Melbourne, it means summer has really begun!

Our visitors for Christmas are friends and newly-weds Tush and Andy. Tush and I lived next door to each other in University Halls, and Andy is the lucky guy who gets to spend the rest of his life with her! We usually like to make a bit of effort when visitors arrive, given the investment of time and expense that anyone coming to see us has to make. Often this means preparing lots of food or planning lots of things to do, but this time Tom has cleaned the windows! Lucky Tush and Andy. Did I mention that this trip is their honeymoon? No honeymoon is complete without sparkly windows!

Not to disappoint on the food front, we’ve also been preparing food for Christmas day. Having no family here this year, we are spending the day with our ex-pat gang, and we call it ‘Waifs and Strays Christmas’. Everyone is bringing a contribution to the meal – Tom is making a fish starter and stuffing to accompany the meats (which will be BBQ’d, of course), and I’m making pavlova and a flourless chocolate and pear cake. The latter is currently in the oven and looking like a borderline disaster. Stay tuned for future news updates on pudding-gate.

The Canadians open their first ever Christmas gift (we shared a night of Chanukah with them a couple of weeks ago, so thought it was only fair to return the favour)

Nab Nab is the Star on the top of our tree!

Decorating our free - another first for Richard and Tamara

As if this wasn’t enough, I managed to fit in completing both Tom’s and my UK tax return today! Now, before you think that this should be a doddle for me because I’m an accountant, let me explain that my job has nothing to do with tax returns, tax years or anything involving the ‘t’ word. If I knew more then perhaps I would have avoided the temporarily-paralysing situation of learning that I owe HMRC £155,000 in additional tax by 31 January 2011! Some quick investigating revealed that I’d included one too many zero on my income for the year....

In other news, last weekend we made a long weekend trip to Adelaide. I’d be interested to know what you first think of when you hear the word Adelaide – cricket perhaps? Maybe wine? If it’s anything else, please do email me, because I might learn something new and discover that there is more to Adelaide than it managed to display to us in three days of average-to-dull weather and activities. Thank goodness the company, food and drink was riveting (quick save). Oh, and for Peter I must also mention that their O-Bahn travel system is indeed extraordinary, and now that I’ve been to Adelaide I understand why you found this the most memorable part of the city!

Tom and Katie at Wolf Blass Winery

Wine tasting for Dummies

mmmmm wine

At the Wolf Blass cellar door (Tom with Richard & Tamara - the Canadians)

Not content with the free wine tasting, Rich was still looking for a good deal. Would you pay $1 for this shirt?!

Soon to be, 'The Belfers' (they are getting married in Sept 2011)

This was the periphery of the plague of locusts. It was disgusting when they hit the windscreen at speed!

One of the little blighters!

Where's the free food?

Oh, there isn't any. But there's more free wine!

.. and more!

The free Vegemite didn't go down so well...

I’ve been taking my photography very seriously recently, and have a number of shoots to share with you in a future blog, as I reveal my new photography website – stay tuned in 2011!

I’ll sign off for now, and leave you all with best wishes from Tom and I for a merry Christmas and a happy and healthy 2011. Thank you for reading our blog and sticking with me as a type away. Here’s a Christmas card from us both:

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!]