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My Blog

August 2010

Justice Crew

Today at school people from a company named Rising Generations taught us about leadership. And to show us what teamwork can look like, they showed a youtube video of the winners of the TV show Australia’s Got Talent. It is truly amazing what this group of guys can do; they go by the name of Justice Crew. Here is the link so you can check it out…
See ya,
J:} ;}

EwingFive Stud-Poker Tournament

The EwingFive stud-poker tournament is not what you think, or maybe it is.  Perhaps I should explain and offer a couple pictures. 
First the context.  We had another beautiful Sydney weekend.  The temperature range went from a low of about 10 to a high of about 22 (that’s a range of about 50 to 70 degrees for those of you on the much less efficient Fahrenheit scale).  Match those crisp temperatures with dry crystal-clear blue skies and you have an idea what winter is like in Sydney.  To be fair, even though it is still technically winter here, spring is definitely in the air.
Each new weekend gives us the chance to get to know our surroundings a bit more, and even explore new places and new restaurants.  On Saturday, after a day of fun activities with the boys, we met another American family at a restaurant called Montezuma’s.  I question the wisdom of this restaurant’s name given “the revenge” named after this Aztec ruler.  But they offered serviceable Mexican food, which is a very rare thing indeed in Sydney. With the exception of the margarita’s, which were a miss, all eleven of us enjoyed our Mexican fiesta, and I’m sure we’ll be back.  We’ll be sure to skip the revenge part.       
With Spring in the air, all five of us are enjoying the chance to spend as much time as possible outdoors.  We’ve been to the beach quite a bit, and even though we usually get an odd look or two because we’re the only people in shorts, we keep going back.  We went on a bushwalk Sunday that took us down to Grotto Point Lighthouse.  This interesting hike took us past ancient aboriginal carvings and offered incredible views of the full expanse of Sydney Harbour.  We were able to see from North-head protecting Manly’s esplanade all the way to South-head and much of Middle Harbour too.  We were able to walk right up to the edge of the cliffs with no barriers between us and a 50-80 meter drop to the rocks below.  That’ll make a parent’s blood pressure jump.  But we got there and back safely, enjoyed the view and got some great pictures along the way. 
So when we arrived home after an afternoon in the bush, and a wonderful dinner, all five of us settled down to play a game; only one problem, all our toys and games are still on a container ship somewhere on the Pacific ocean between the US and Australia.  So we had to make due with a deck of cards and some lego studs as poker chips – which should explain the name of our stud-poker tournament – we play for studs.  The tournament started out simply enough, Max is a pretty conservative player, he only bets when he has the cards.  Alex on the other hand is the master of the all-in move even when he doesn’t have the cards.  In many of our games Alex’s approach serves him well, but not on this night where he lost his stack pretty early. 
So the final hand of our tournament comes down to Dad and Jake teamed up against Mom and Max.  The cards are dealt, bets are placed and when the flop falls on the table I said, “and Bob’s your uncle.”
The boys all looked at me funny and said, “we know Bob’s our uncle, duh, he’s your brother.  What does that have to do with poker?”
My response, “No, Bob’s your uncle… it’s an Australian expression.  It means something like, ‘and there you have it,’ or ‘it’s that simple,’ or ‘we’re good.’” 
With some absent head-nodding my explanation of the expression Bob’s your uncle quickly ground to an unsuccessful halt.  Wendy and Max won the hand and the tournament and took all the lego studs as well as the bragging rights.  Next stop, the World Series of poker.
Until next time – cuddles. 
Lego studs serve as poker chips
Lego studs serve as poker chips
Four of the Ewing five prepare for the tournament
Four of the EwingFive prepare for the tournament

Less Work, More Adventure

Max and I have been blessed with a couple opportunities to be at home on the weekends while the rest of the gang is off running errands.  Last Saturday morning, after completing his Skeletal System poster for his PDH (personal development & health?) class, we were sitting in the family room, looking at the gorgeous view when I asked a question that I really wasn’t sure I wanted to know the answer to.  Here’s how it went…
Wendy - “So what do you think so far of our time in Australia?” 
Max - “Pretty good.”  Then adds, “But not exactly what I expected.” 
Wendy - “What’s different than you expected?”
Max (with tears) - “I thought it would be less work and more adventure.” 
Naturally, I felt incredibly guilty.  Immediately I start making plans.  I’ll ask everyone and anyone what there is to do in Australia that the children will love.  Make a schedule so that every weekend we are off to the bush or driving to the mountains or seeing another part of Australia.  That’s what I’ll do!!
Before I got too far with the plan, Mike and the others arrived home and we headed down to Balmoral Beach which is less than 2 km from our house (picture below).  We spent hours climbing on the rocks at one end of the beach (2nd picture below).  It turns out these rock formations are the perfect spot for finding sea glass.  But that wasn’t even the best part.  The best was when we found a tide pool with sea anemones, star fish, minnows, etc.  One of the boys yelled “This is better than the touch tank at the aquarium.  And it’s free!”
Shortly after that, Max turned to me and said, “This is our greatest Australian adventure yet.” This was his way of reminding me that we don’t need long car drives or expensive excursions to have an adventure.  Daily life can be an adventure; you just have to have your eyes open to the beauty and the opportunities that surround you.  Still, a little balance would be nice. 
So my newest motto (right after “Say Yes to Every Invitation”) is “Less Work, More Adventure.”  We hope we’ll get a chance to share some of our adventures with you when you visit!
View of Balmoral Beach from across the Harbor
Sea glass haven (aka the rocks at one end of Balmoral)

Fictional Friends

I had a surreal moment a couple weekends ago when I read the passage below in “The Girl Who Played with Fire” where Lisabeth Salander describes buying furniture for her new apartment…
“…She drove to IKEA at Kungens Kurva and spent three hours browsing through the merchandise, writing down the item numbers she needed.  She made a few quick decisions.
     She bought two Karlanda sofas with sand-colored upholstery, five Poang armchairs, two round side tables of clear-lacquered birch, a Svansbo coffee table, and several Lack occasional tables.  From the storage department she ordered two Ivar combination storage units and two Bonde bookshelves, a TV stand and a Magiker unit with doors.  She settled on a Pax Nexus three-door wardrobe and tow small Malm bureaus.
     She spent a long time selecting a bed, and decided on a Hemnes bed frame with mattress and bedside tables...”
Most normal people read IKEA and immediately skim the next couple paragraphs with all the boring details. Thanks to the many, many, many hours spent at IKEA in the States and here, I read this passage and immediately conjure up detailed images of Salander’s apartment.  We bought many of the same pieces of furniture for our Australian home.  In fact, she and I sleep in the same bed!  She didn’t say exactly which duvet cover she bought but I’m willing to bet it’s the Alpine Ljuv! 
Needless to say, I immediately got on the computer to see if I’d like the couple of pieces of furniture she mentioned that I wasn’t familiar with.  We clearly have similar tastes and I still need to furnish the “guest quarters” in the lower level. 
I’m beginning to think that Lisabeth Salander and I, as unlikely a pair as we may be, could become great friends!  Or at least shopping buddies. Have I been spending so much time by myself that I’m starting to befriend fictional characters?  No.  I’ve just come to realize that I can find something in common with just about anyone.  It's a pleasant reminder to be open minded as I try to establish friendships in this new and wonderful country.

Ribs and Rumps

Solidified by a couple experiences here in Australia, I now have a firm philosophy that when you go to a restaurant with the name of a food in it, you should get that kind of food.  If you’re going to take your life into your own hands and visit the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company in the Mall of America for example, get the shrimp… unless you want a limp salad or an overcooked burger.  I remember a time when I was a kid and we went to an Arthur Treacher’s Fish and Chips where you should get what?  I did not get the fish and chips and for a long time after that wasn’t able to stomach the smell of Arthur Treacher’s.  (They’re still around you know, thankfully we have much more authentic fish and chips here in Sydney.  Thanks to British colonial history, we can still get greasy fish and a cone full of fries served rolled up in brown butcher paper.  It tastes better than it sounds.)
The other place we went on special occasions when I was growing up was a place called York Steak House.  Anyone remember this place?  Sadly there is only one York Steak House left in the United States (It’s in Columbus, Ohio – I’d be up for a road trip if I thought this place would hold up, anyone been there in the last five years?)  York Steak House was this fantastic mall based steak restaurant concept that served everything cafeteria style.  Imagine the entire family entering a maze of cafeteria switch-backs by first passing a walk-up drive through window where a cashier took your steak order and then barked it into a microphone in Cajun (presumably to the kitchen, but who knows).  For my juvenile siblings and me who were raised on spoonfuls of wheat germ, army surplus shredded cheese and Mexican Spinach casserole, the next step in the York Steak house process always blew my mind.  You could pick from any of the cellophane-covered extras you wanted!  There were monkey dishes filled with red or orange jell-o; or a kid could go crazy and pick up the tapioca, or even crazier the pistachio pudding…perhaps a baked potato or fries…some oranges sections suspended in green jell-o.  Ahhhh yes, the memories are as fresh as that cute little side-salad covered in saran wrap.  But the point is, at York Steak House, you get the steak… not the fish (on reflection, the quality of the meat in a mall based restaurant was probably dubious, but I do sincerely thank my mom and dad for making me appreciate my wonderful adolescent adventures including the York Steak House.) 
Flashback over and now back to our adventure in real time. 
Along with sea-glass banking, the boys and I have for years been developing a restaurant concept called Mrs. Pancake (you’re going to absolutely love it… the pancake recipes are unique and delicious, you can get them any time of the day in a dizzying set of flavour combinations and Mrs. Pancake is married to Mr. Burger who takes over the kitchen at night), and don’t try to steal the concept because it’s patent pending, trademarked, copy-written and all that stuff.  So the other day we’re doing some international research here in Sydney and we went to a place called Pancakes on the Rocks.  It’s not quite what the name implies in that The Rocks is a place in Sydney, so the pancakes aren’t really cooked or served on rocks.  Anyway, the boys are smart, they ordered the pancakes (is ice–cream really an appropriate pancake topping?  Yes!).  I ordered something else… like a quesadilla or something, it was after all dinner time.  I was disappointed with my choice and I missed out on the chance to order vegemite pancakes.  Lesson re-learned.
So with new support for our food named restaurant philosophy we headed to a place called Ribs and Rumps.  I hope many of you come visit so we’ll have a chance to go back.  It’s this fabulous place that overlooks Manly beach.  We went at just about sundown and were able to watch the surfers ride their last waves in for the night, a very nice night indeed.  When it came time to order, the boys went a little off the path.  Max and Alex ordered burgers, I guess that’s close enough to the speciality of the house.  Jake ordered chicken schnitzel, which is not only Jake’s newest favorite food, it’s just plain fun to say, and by the way it is one of the all time best hang-man words.  I’m happy to report that all the boys offered two thumbs up on their food from Ribs and Rumps.  Wendy ordered the ribs, smart.  Me, I ordered both the ribs and a rump, super smart.  All is right with the world. 
Now I just need to figure out what to order the next time I go to Applebee’s, did you know they have neither apples nor bees on their menu – go figure.
Until next time – Bob’s you’re uncle… Oh, actually he is... forget it, it’s an Australian expression I’ll try to explain another time.          
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