Sunday, February 26, 2006

Prior to departure

A summer thunder and lightning storm has been going while I pack, and while I take lots of breaks from packing. Need to figure out all the different cords/chargers/adapters etc that I need to bring back. Too confusing.

Nothing confusing about what a great weekend I had here, packed with loads of "new" friends who have become simply and wonderfully friends. Big Day Out par-tay Friday night, haircut in Leesa's backyard Saturday, tapas with Joeley and Natalie Saturday night, breakfast/beach/Bondi Markets/Beach Road Hotel with Rachel, Morgan, Emilie, Jimmy...a whole cast of characters!

And true to form no matter what country I am in, there was Thai food ordered in and an episode of Entourage tonight.

Tomorrow is the looooong flight back and I will have February 27th twice...but chunkytoast will forge ahead even in the land of toasted sourdough, bagels, and pop tarts. The first stop on the US Visa Tour 2006 is San Francisco!


Friday, February 24, 2006

The bureaucracy of summer

Oh the lovely summer days in Bondi. My days here are dwindling as many of you are aware of and I set off for the US of A on Monday the 27th. This last week has been a whirlwind of putting the visa application to bed. Rather nervewracking, but it will be sent off shortly after my departure. I can't be in Australia to apply for my residency, so I shall make my triumphant and tanned return to the shores of California to visit Rosa in SFO and then Sara in the greater Reno/Tahoe area before getting back to Wisconsin. To those who got anything notarized for us, I salute ye!

A couple of nights ago we had a wonderful summer dinner over at Langer's, hosted by Tom (aka Langers) and the lovely Cass. Her sister Melana also joined, and Elvis the dog kept us all entertained and in good spirits. The menu was guac and artichoke dip, followed by an amazing salad of grilled lamb, feta and mangoes on lettuce. It was accompanied by Tom's very special au gratin/creamy/cheesy/yummy potatoes. And perhaps a glass or two of vino. Topped off with this very pretty dessert of fruit and cream.

And today was just a classic beachy Bondi day for me with yoga and then a couple of hours laying out in the sun. And perhaps a stop of Oporto for a chicken burger. I took a pic to sorta capture the day at the beach, with all beach accountrement and the sort of lazy, sandy, peacefulness that goes with it...

I don't want to say this will be the last post form this side of the International Dateline, so will make sure to get another in before I leave...


Monday, February 20, 2006

A little spotlight

So, it was delicately brought to my attention that perhaps culinary creations by Haydn haven't been spotlighted much lately on the ol' chunkytoast. Well, I think it's been awhile since there have been creations by Haydn around here, we've slipped into a take-away habit since Big Day Out. However, with Joeley's birthday yesterday, Haydn was up early and out to our good friend Sam the Organic Butcher for bacon and to procure other items for the big celebratory breakfast.

The real piece de resistance, though, was the bruschetta he made with fresh basil and about 4 cloves of garlic. Delicious and not strange at all to have at brunch because it involved 1)toast and 2)a fresh topping of sorts.

It was a pretty hot weekend in Bondi, so I was at the beach Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for a quick swim in the cold water. Let's not mention Sunday's swim and my getting completely tossed. Haydn told me he waited for us to get to shore to laugh at me. He is a much more seasoned ocean swimmer than me, that's for sure. Altho, I have to wonder how well he would do in a pair of ice skates on Lake Wingra...

It was over to Jimmy and Michelle's for a BBQ last night. There was even another American in the house! And the menu was a bit American in spirit, one could say, with hamburgers, sausages, potatoes. Haydn manned the grilled, Michelle manned all sides and condiments, and Jimmy played Gomez, and then some more Gomez. Good times, per always!

Friday, February 17, 2006

The rainbow connection

Just thought I'd post this pic I took with my camera phone, not bad, eh? It's a Nokia. I was out and about with Emilie -- how cool to hang out outside the confines of the Big Day Out? -- and really dark, ominous skies rolled in over the beach. The lifeguards announced a big storm, including hail, coming our way. So we went back to her place for Idle Hands wine (her dad's vineyard) and to watch the storm. Lots of bolts of lightning followed by a very special rainbow so perfectly arched over the Pacific Ocean.

I took in the Camille Pissaro exhibit at the Art Gallery of New South Wales today -- just a stone's throw away from the Opera House where Kerry Packer's funeral was taking place (richest man in Australia...til he died, I suppose) and that none other than TomKat were attending! I could almost feel the crazy coming from that direction.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Go West, young woman! Part II

After the Big Day Out came to a close, it was time to move on to a bit of WA (Western Aust) tourism. Haydn and I headed to Fremantle, which is a suburb of Perth but really a pretty unique city in its own right. It's a 20 min drive from our Perth hotel and it is not so much frozen in time as it is just preserved so well. The buildings are very circa mid-1800s and Fremantle is a shipping town on the Indian Ocean. There are still places of business with signs like Pearson & Sons Customs Brokers Pty Ltd. I love that stuff -- esp bc that's what they really are still.

Fremantle had quite a sizable prison for the convicts who did things like steal a loaf of bread and whatnot in England. In fact, my quaint and well-appointed accommodation, Fremantle Colonial Accommodation was in a beautiful old terraced house that was built by the convicts and was nearly in the prison's backyard. As I was there both nights on my own, I must admit I didn't sleep all that well knowing the prison was in such close proximity.

Haydn was with me on Tuesday when we went down there and wandered through town and had lunch on the cappucino strip. We dined at Little Creatures Brewery that night, a very hip microbrewery in an old building to do with shipping of some sort. I was going to order some fancy pizza, but I simply couldn't resist the wondrous nachos coming out of the kitchen. Haydn, being a man's man, went for steak.

My Wednesday was the daytrip to Rottnest Island, which...was not a leper colony (but thanks for playing at home!), but an aboriginal prison the colonists put into place around the 1880s. It was a POW camp following WWI, and part of the Fremantle coastal barrier during WWII. Today, it is a pristine, preserved holiday island. I know this because I went on the historical walking tour of the island.

I took a ferry over there and then rented a bike. Only a few commercial vehicles and the local bus are allowed on the island, so everyone is on bike or foot. I took a 4 hour, 26 kilometer ride around one of the quietest places I have been in sometime. Even though there were many bikers, for a good deal of it I was on big stretches of road on my own. The interior of the island is dry scrub and brush, but the Indian Ocean is as blue as anything you can imagine. Startling blue. And there are many quokas, a little marsupial unique to the island, running around.

At one point, I got very very hungry, but then had a Eureka! moment when I remembered the half of the Butterfinger bar in my backpack that Joeley gave me before I left Sydney. She saved me.

It was a beautiful, tiring ride. I took my tour later that day, and even the accommodation there is for the most part old prisons, former warden's cottages, and a former boys reform school. I think I would have not been able to grab a wink of sleep in that place.

But it was back to the Colonial for me that night, and I had a big, huge dinner at the aptly named Mexican Kitchen in Fremantle. It was listed in my Lonely Planet book and I have not been to a Mexican restaurant since my arrival here, so I was very much looking forward to this meal. And I must say, it was pretty darn good. Now, if I was doing a Rachael Ray $40 a Day in Fremantle, I would have failed miserably (unless perhaps converted into American $) because I spent about $20 on food at Rottnest and then my bill at MK was $35. The wonderful, no messin' around margarita was $12.50, and the chips and salsa was$9! ( I wanted to say, "In my country, the chips and salsa are complimentary..." but resisted), and then the fajitas -- the Weds special -- were $14. Fajitas were plentiful and with all the fixins. I walked back through the quiet, dark streets of Fremantle with a very full belly.

And that concludes my sojourn west. I will spare the details of the travel day that included a 3+ hour layover in Adelaide, where the airport is even smaller than Dane County Regional. However, I made friends with the very friendly Joan from Perth, so we passed the time together.

Now it is the weekend and the Winter Olympics opening ceremony (Australia is a day ahead, but we get the opening ceremony a day later, explain that). Trying to figure out if I will miss Bob Costas and the sentimental athlete-who-overcame-adversity backstories, I'm sure I will to some extent. But Haydn told me that Australia has Bruce McIlvaney, "Mackers", so in true Olympic spirit I'm feeling pretty open-minded to it.

happy weekend,

Go West, young woman!

So, the burning question? Do they have the internet in Western Australia? Yes, they do. They even had wifi in the hotel lobby, but I didn't bring my computer and Haydn's was on the fritz and there was lots of other stuff to do, so here with a bit of backlog are the highlights from Perth, Fremantle, and Rottnest Island, in two parts.

I arrived in Perth Saturday and it was totally hot, but totally friendly, and about 3 minutes from the airport, the shuttle bus hit another car. I was off for an exciting trip, and a bit of a headache. After that hiccup, it was full steam ahead. Perth seems to have some major contrasts going on, you gotta love that. I think this pic sums it up.

There are some majorly tall skyscrapers alongside the friendly Main Street of yore. It's a pretty quiet place, things shut early, but very green, and open, and pretty. Here are some other highlights. I like the friendly kangaroos taking a little sip from a fountain, the ambassadors of Perth if you will. That same Sunday morning, day of show at the Big Day Out, I wandered into the city center and happened upon an old-timey car show. Shortly after taking the pic, everyone climbed into their respective cars -- some of them in period garb -- and toodled off, probably to a fairground to drink some sassparella, I imagine. And, I lounged and ate some breakfast, along with Reese Witherspoon featured on the Sunday newspaper magazine.

Then after a dip in the pool alongside punk rock legend Iggy Pop (who gave me his sunchair after he left -- everyone in Perth is nice!) it was on to the Big Day Out to take in the music and the scene. This show was about half the size of the Sydney show in terms of crowd. 25,000 is much more manageable than 55,000 punters on Australia Day. I took a prelimiary wander and was quite delighted to see rival Bratwurst stands in the food area! I opted for the one with the big German flag on its sign. And the guy fixed up the brat nicely with onions, ketchup, and brown mustard. I spied the sauerkrat and asked for some of that as well -- much to his suprise. Little did he know he was dealing with a Wisconsin native.

From there it was bands, bands, bands. Caught some Sarah Blasko, Magic Numbers (great harmonies, jangly fun, and a woman on bass to reckon with), Kings of Leon at the Main Stage (pictured with Haydn on stage, heh), Franz Ferdinand, and the incredible noise/art/rock of the Mars Volta. 8 song set list for an hour and a half time slot. A great day of wandering, tho the kids start to get a bit unruly and gross by dark. Festivals are so much better with an all access pass!

And that wraps it up for part I of my Western Australia sojourn. Up next Fremantle and Rottnest Island...


Friday, February 03, 2006

a return to the words

Wow, it's been ages. I hope I haven't lost dedicated readership due to the hiatus that was the Big Day Out. I hope I can still string together a few sentences after being immersed in Excel Spreadsheets for the last 3 weeks. It is sorta nerdy to get excited about finding a formula for calculating hours & minutes accumulated on time sheets, right? However, it does use the MIN and MAX, and really that is kind of exciting to revisit 8th grade math.

But on with it.

Being part of the esteemed BDO Sydney Site Crew was great fun and great long hours out at Homebush, the site of the Sydney Olympics. A Madonna-fueled soundtrack helped the office girls keep a sense of humor, Madge probably helps office girls the world over to keep going.

However, as Haydn, my dear substitute blogger, mentioned, part of my Day of Show duties was the Silent Disco. AKA the 4th circle of hell.

So what is the Silent Disco? Well, it is a sort of communal dance party with headphones on. Everyone gets a pair of headphones and can listen to two different djs. They all dance on a stage and generally stomp and flop around. The venue of the Silent Disco was in a big tented dome thing. No air conditioning. The duties of me and my colleagues there were basically collecting and handing out the sweaty Phillips headphones from the sweaty, boozy kids. I seriously feared that I would acquire some sort of fungus from those things. I must say tho, that the kids were having a blast, and it was pretty funny when Blur's Song 2 came on and everyone is dancing and shouting out Whoo Hoo! whilst dancing to the music on the headphones.

Of course, the good thing about being on site all the time is all the catering! And, mind you, the meals were really catered to the crew working outside all day. Lots of curries, stews, pastas, etc. Really good salads, too.

On Wednesday, when I turned 29 (yow!), Haydn flew me to Melbourne to meet up with him. It was like visiting little junior London. While some of you may have seen stifling hot Melbourne on tv during the Australian Open, the weather changes fast there (re: Crowded House's song "Four Seasons in One Day"), and I was there on a grey, drizzy, cool day, which was a nice change of pace, actually. The architecture is very British and old and stately. There are lots more nooks and crannies and little alleys and winding lanes.

For dinner, we went to Pellegrini's, a very old school Italian restaurant. There are two counters running alongside the long, narrow room, and another big table literally in the kitchen. They bring your pasta out in about 10 minutes after ordering it. I opted for Spaghetti Salati (?) -- basically pan fried spag bolognese. And Haydn had a really nice ravioli in a sweet tomato sauce.

Then it was off for a Subways/Mess Hall/Kings of Leon show. Those Kings of Leon guys simply defy some sort of law of physiology with the tight, tight, tight jeans they wear. Very rock n roll.

Now, with the payroll books officially closed, it's back to a bit of the leisure I've become so good at. I head to Perth tomorrow to actually see a Big Day Out concert (and maybe to be one of the sweaty kids at the Silent Disco!) and then to do a bit of Western Australia exploration. Hello, Indian Ocean?! It is a 5 hour plane ride, sort of like going from NYC to LA, except being as far West as I have ever been.