Friday, September 16, 2011

Drive on left in Australia

Instead of writing this blog in chronological order like I normally do, I figured I would start with the most exciting news first - KELLY AND I BOUGHT A CAR!!!!
Earlier this year we decided that if we both were promoted to manager that we would buy a car, but we never did much about it as far as looking at what we could get within our budget, etc.  About two weeks ago we started talking about the different clients we were on that would have really long commutes on public transportation.  This led to a few hours of internet searches, one test drive, a few phone calls.......and now we are car owners!!

Here she is - a 1999 Hyundai Xcel (name is still pending)

Neither of us have ever had to share a car before, but so far there are been no arguments over who gets the car....I just make Kelly drive me to work :)

Our registration ("rego") sticker - how cute is that!
Theme Parties

Those of you that know me well know that I love my birthday.  And I also love any reason to not have to wear "normal" clothes to the bar.  So, this year for my birthday I decided to have an 80's themed party at my favorite bar in Melbourne - Bar 9T4 in Richmond.  It's the perfect place for a birthday party - $5 drinks until 9:00, free use of the back room (with its own bar) until 11, and lots of 80's tunes!

Kelly and I had so much fun shopping for costumes - Salvos, ValleyGirl, Retro Shop.  It's lucky that 80's is back in style and there are neon clothes everywhere.  And this gave me a reason to wear my favorite blue gloves (purchased for the EY Minneapolis staff/senior party in 2009).

Here are a few pictures of my favorite outfits:

Kelly and I with the token Australians of the party (Bennett, Trev, and Claire) and Liz - our fellow Minnesotan who recieved moved Down Under.  Claire definitely put the most thought into your outfit - throughout the night she pulled out an 80's phone, a floppy disk, and a manilla folder with articles about news from the 80's!  The phone was a crowd favorite for pictures.......and phone cord limbo a litle later in the night!

Who would wear a thong leotard to the bar...and not even be drinking?  Amy Bonner! Love the fanny pack also - I can't wait to see what other uses Amy finds for this outfit.
With the PwC crew - I love how colorful this picture is! (Check out my orange jellies....I'm going to wear these all summer!)
To anyone reading this who came to my party - thank you so much for making my first birthday in Australia so memorable.  I don't know how I will be able to top it next year! (I'm thinking party bus.....)

Kelly and I have new neighbors!  Louis and Janina recently moved into an apartment a block away and our first visit was for a housewarming party.  This party also had a theme - you had to dress up as something that begins with the letter of your first name.  I had lots of ideas about what to dress up as (T-Rex was a front runner except I couldn't figure out how to make a costume.  I do not have my mom's sewing skills - or a sewing machine).  True to form, I waited until the day of the party to get a costume.  The winner - Tomb Raider!

Tomb Raider and Kim Kardashian
With the hostess - Janina. (Check out Kelly new butt)

A few random thoughts before I sign off:
  • Australians say they are going to "the snow" like it is a destination, not a thing.  People asked me all winter if I was going to take a trip to "the snow" (about 3 hours of Melbourne).  I spent 27 years of my life with at least 5 months of snow......I didn't feel the need to go see it again!
  • When Australians tell a story about one of their family members they just said "mom" instead of "my mom" ("Mom is coming to visit this weekend).  If you are talking to someone who is not your  brother or sister you should say "My mom is coming to visit this weekend."  Otherwise I might get confused and think MY mom is coming back to Melbourne.  If that's the case I need to start cleaning!
  • Mexican restaurants in Melbourne would make so much more money if they gave out free chips and salsa
  • The best part about having a car is jamming out on the commute to/from work.  I forgot how much I sound like Taylor Swift.
I had a lot more "things that are different about Australia" to share, but its been so long since I've blogged that I have forgotten most of them.  I'll try to remember some of them and post soon.  They are probably more interesting than hearing about what I wore to my birthday party :)

Monday, August 22, 2011

More visitors to Melbourne

What a way to spend a Monday night - watching Farmer Wants a Wife (Australian-style) and getting caught up on the blog.  Actually - do they even have Farmer Wants a Wife in the US anymore?  People actually get married on this one though.....maybe its a little less scripted than the US :)

Mom stayed for an extra week after Dad, Cindy, and Tink went back to the US so I had to recruit Rachel to come to Melbourne to entertain her while I was at work.  I'm not sure what all they did while I was at work, but I did hear that Rachel should have been all caught up with sleep after her trip to Melbourne since she napped every afternoon!

Friday after work Mom and Rachel met a few of the EY crowd for some drinks after work and fireworks at Docklands.
Rach and I at dinner at James Squire

Saturday we started the day with brunch at Mart 130 in Middle Park.  This restaurant is located at the tram stop in Middle Park.  I had heard several recommendations about this place so I was excited to try it out.  The corn fritters with bacon, sour cream, and coriander were delicious!  I highly recommend this place to anyone looking for a new brunch spot in Melbourne.

Consistent with the rest of the trip - I think most of the weekend revolved around food too!

Little Cupcakes on DeGraves
Taking a break from eating to look at some graffiti
Macaroons at South Melbourne Market
Popcorn and a movie (it takes two of us to make microwave popcorn)

Not long after saying goodbye to my family, I had two more visitors - Katie and Veronicka from Texas.  I know Katie through my friend Autumn and we became closer friends when we were both at UNI at the same time. 

Katie and Veronicka joined us for Val's birthday dinner at +39 - supposed to be the best piza in Melbourne.   Kelly, Veronicka and I shared the Crema di Zucca pizza (mozzarella, pumpkin, green beans, and parsley) and the Tartufata (truffle, mushrooms, rocket, and parmesans).  I love different pizza toppings!

Katie and I at +39
The following weekend Katie, Veronicka, and I rented a car and drove to Phillip Island - home of the penguin parade.  Sadly no pictures are allowed at the penguin parade so I don't have any pictures of the cute fairy penguins but we did see lots of them!!! 

Veronicka, Katie, and I on the way to Phillip Island

After only 9 months in Melbourne I have been blessed with so many visitors.  My schedule looks pretty wide open for the next 15 months so if anyone wants to come visit just let me know!!!!

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Iowans go to Sydney

Here it is.....the last post about my parents trip down under.  I apologise to everyone for taking so long to write it.  But in my defense, it is busy season.......

After seeing a lot of the sights in and around Melbourne we said goodbye to our rental car and headed for Sydney for some new scenery, and most importantly - to see Rachel!  We arrived in Sydney on Thursday morning to blue skies and lots of sunshine. 

Day 1
We met Rachel at Circular Quay and took the ferry to Manly.  Rachel and I took the group to the Manly Wharf Hotel for some of our favorite nachos.  So much guacamole and sour cream goodness :)
Afterwards we walked around Manly for some shopping.


Mom wanted a jumping picture like the ones that I take everytime I travel.  We tried several times but just couldn't get the picture.  I'm not sure if it was my camera skills or the fact that her air time was less than one second!  Trying to take these pictures was definitely one of the "laugh-til-you-cry" moments of the trip!

The best I could get - she is a little off the ground here at least!!

After Manly Beach we stopped at the Opera Bar for a view of the sunset behind the Harbor Bridge.  Having a drink at the Opera Bar is one of the "must-do's" while in Sydney in my book.  I don't think any of them were impressed - they thought it was cold sitting outside by the heaters and Dad and Tink didn't think they quit fit in with the guys in suits there!

Day 2
Day 2 of our time in Sydney was again a gorgeous day!  I had been hoping for a nice day so I could take them on the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk that I did with the MN crew over Easter.  I knew Mom would love it but I talked my dad into coming along as well.  He made the whole 6km trek - even though every time Rachel and I would stop to let everyone else catch up he thought that we were done and kept saying "I did it" and then I would have to tell him that we still had a ways to go.  He would want me to mention here that he finished 3rd just behind Rachel and I!  He definitely earned the burger, fries, and beer afterwards!  Since I've already blogged about the walk before here are a few pictures!!

Cindy loves Bondi

Where in the world do you read the Prairie City News?

Day 3
For our last day in Sydney we decided to venture out of the city on a day trip to the Blue Mountains.  I visited the Blue Mountains when I travlled around Australia in 2007 but it was good to see them again.  It was pretty cold up in the mountains but at least it was a sunny day and we still got to see the amazing views!  Dad and Tink especially liked the bus drivers commentary on house prices, utility bills, and how the Granny Smith apple got its name.  I'm sure it was much more informative than I was!

Before reaching the Blue Mountains we stopped at Featherdale Wildlife Park for some photos with koalas and kangaroos.  I'm glad we were able to do this since we didn't have very much luck with the wildlife on Great Ocean Road.

Mom with the 3 Sisters

For our last night in Sydney we had dinner at Blackbird Cafe in Darling Harbor - another repeat from the MN crew visit.  It was a little cold (okay really cold) sitting on the open air balcony with only a few tiny space heaters but the food was delicious.  Dad tried crocodile and Tink tried kangaroo.  After dinner we hung around for the fireworks over Darling Harbor.  They were so close and went on for so long.  I can't believe they do that every Saturday night!

Sunday morning we flew back to Melbourne.  This was my last day of playing tour guide because busy season started the next day!  Although it was a little rainy we headed into the city so I could show everyone where I worked.   First Dad, Tink, and I went up to the 88th floor of the Eureka Tower (the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere).  I had free passes to the "Edge" experience.  Basically you stand in a box with opaque windows with a group of about 8-10 other people.  The box then slides out, and you hear noises that sound like windows breaking and the glass suddenly becomes clear and you can see straight down (or out).  Cameras are not allowed in the Edge so there are no pictures of that!

Sporting our Southside shirts outside "Monroe's" bar in St. Kilda
And that pretty much sums up the adventures of the Hopkins and Kane's in Australia!  I could have added so many more pictures but this blog would have been 20 pages long!  These blogs always take longer than I expect so I'll have to save the blog of Rachel's visit to Melbourne for another day.  I should be able to get caught up soon because I have no more visitors in the near future.  Who wants to come visit next?!?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Iowans in Australia, Part 2

After our adventures around Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula, we took off for the Great Ocean Road.  I had been saving the Great Ocean Road for this visit so I was excited for this part of the trip too!
I'd heard from several people that the best way to experience GOR is to just go slow, make lots of stops, and just enjoy this scenery so that is just what we did. 

This part of the trip is best told through all of the great pictures!

Day 1
We set off from Melbourne and drove approx. 3 hours to Warnambool.  I think 2/3 of the conversation on this journey was Dad and Tink commenting on how few trucks (semis) they saw on the road.  They were pretty worried about how goods are transported around Australia.  Maybe the truckies here just take as much time off as my Dad and they had all decided to take the day off (see say I never mention you in these blogs - did you like that last comment!) :)

Logan's Beach at Warnambool is known for whale watching in the winter months so I wanted to start here to try to fulfill my mom's lifelong dream of seeing a whale.  Sadly.....we did not spot a whale :(

Logan's Beach - Warnambool
Another fun thing about Warnambol was that everything was named after us!  Hopkins River, Hopkins Bridge, Hopkins Milk Bar, etc.  We had to stop at the Hopkins Milk Bar for a snack (and a chat with the owner)
Hopkins fam

Dad should be glad I didn't post the picture of him wearing Mom's hat to keep warm!  (Sorry Uncle Van - he made me swear I wouldn't post it.  I'll have to keep looking for other embarassing pictures!)

The meeting of the Hopkins River and the Southern Ocean

Day 2
One of my favorite stories of the Great Ocean Road is Tink's new friendship with Edgar.  On the morning we were leaving Warnambool, Tink woke up early and wandered out to get a cup of coffee.  He was gone forever!  We figured he couldn't have gotten too lost as our hotel was on one of the main roads and there were a couple of places to get coffee nearby.  Turns out Tink struck up a conversation with the owner (or worker, I'm not entirely sure) at the gas station (petrol station) and ended up talking to him for about an hour.  The rest of the trip, we were entertained with facts that Tink learned from Edgar!

Day 2 of the trip was the actual start of the Great Ocean Road.  We ventured from Warrnambool to Apollo Bay taking in sites such as Thunder Cave, London Arch, the Grotto, and the Twelve Apostles.

It started raining just when we got to the 12 Apostles.  We ran to the viewing platform just to get a picture.

London Arch (the bridge that connected these collapsed in 1990 with two people stranded on the outer part - can you imagine?)
Even with a few heavy downpours we successfully made it to Apollo Bay.  And the stressful day called for some wine drinking in the hotel that night!  Dad and Tink loved the Yellowtail Chardonnay.  I kept trying to convince them that they needed to try something else (you can buy Yellowtail in the US) but even after the other kinds I made them buy, the Yellowtail was still their favorite.  I preferred the Jacob's Creek :)

By far my favorite day of the trip!  I think a lot of people who are short on time only do the Torquay to Twelve Apostles part of the trip (see Day 3) but the part between the Twelve Apostles and Warrnambool was by far my favorite.  Anyone who has the extra time should definitely do the whole journey!

Day 3 - Apollo Bay to Torquay
The drive today was closer to the coast which provided better views during the drive (not as much fun for me!) but there also weren't as many stopping points.

The first stop of the day was in the cute little town of Lorne for some shopping (I bought the cutest necklace and Mom and Cindy got matching hoodies).  We also drove out to the Erskine Falls and Tink, Mom, and I ventured down to the waterfall.

The drive down to the waterfall was very steep and I wasn't really excited about driving back up to the main road so I made my dad do it......his only driving experience of the whole trip!  He did a great job although I felt like he was a little too close to the edge most of the way!

Continuing along the GOR from Lorne we tried (unsuccessfully) to spot koalas at Kennett River.  By the time we reached Angelsea we still hadn't seen any wildlife but I had read that kangaroos could often be seen at the golf coast.  We stopped at a general store and Mom ran in to ask for directions.  She must not have looked much like a golfer because the lady who gave her directions specifically to where the kangaroos normally congregate.  They were fantastic directions - we spotted tons of kangaroos right away - standing just feet away from the golfers!

We spent the night in Torquay and then headed back to Melbourne with a quick stop in Williamstown for the BEST hot chocolate!

And that pretty much sums up our Great Ocean Road adventure!  Its so hard for me to leave out details/pictures so I will have to save the Sydney part of the trip for another day!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Iowans in Australia

As usual, it has taken lots of people asking when I am going to write my next blog before I actually find the motivation to sit down and provide you all with what you want - a play by play of my Oz adventures :)  This blog is all about my parents and Tink and Cindy's recent visit to Australia.  I'm not sure if I can fit everything into one blog this may turn into a trilogy instead of a single entry.  In case you haven't figured it out yet, I don't really plan out my blogs before I write them.  I just start writing and posting pictures until I get bored and then I hit "publish post."  So I apologise for all the grammatical errors and incomplete thoughts! Alright, let's get started!

Mom, Dad, Tink, and Cindy arrived in Melbourne on June 30.  For those of you who don't know, neither one of my parents were very excited for the 13 hour plane ride, but the fact that they both got on the plane (and didn't kill each other or someone else on board) proves how much they really love me!  Luckily both of them had medication to calm their nerves, and from what I have heard the plane ride really wasn't that bad.  I'm still glad I didn't have to be there to witness it though!

Their flight was due to arrive at 5:15 a.m. on the 30th and being the good daughter that I am, I rented a car the day before so I could pick them up at the airport (which meant I had to wake up at 4 a.m.)  I have driven a few times now on the other side of the road but it is still always a little stressful.  Its just not as natural as driving on the right side of the road - plus I was driving a mini-van so that we could fit everyone and the luggage.  Before leaving for the airport I looked at the flight status which said the plane was going to be about 10 minutes late.  I timed it so that I got to the airport right as the plane was going to land.  I knew they would have still have to go through customs but I wanted to make sure I secured a spot by the doors to welcome them.  As soon as I walked in the estimated arrival time changed to 5:55 a.m.....this was the start to a very stressful morning.  I got a coffee and sat down to read a book while I waited until the arrivals board said their plane had actually landed around 6:15. I then made my way to the arrival area and tried to stand between the two doors that people were coming through so I would be able to spot them right away when they came out.  And I waited.  and waited. and waited.  By now the arrivals hall was getting very busy because 4 international flights landed at once and I was having a hard time watching both doors so I was getting worried that I had missed them.  All the people around me kept spotting their visitors and were replaced by new people waiting to greet their guests.  But I was still waiting.  I was beginning to think they had already come out and I had just missed them but I didn't really want to start walking around because I figured if we were all walking around looking for each other we might just keep missing each other.  So I just kept waiting.  Finally at a little after 8:00 (2 hours of just standing watching people walk out of the customs area), I spotted them!!  I was beginning to think that one of them had refused to get on the plane in LA and they were still sitting in the US!  Turns out customs was really busy and Cindy's bag didn't arrive from LA so they had to wait to file a claim for that.
It had been 8 months since I saw my parents but it didn't seem like it had been that long at all - thank god for Skpe :)

Because it took a lot longer for us to get home from the airport than I thought, I had to run off to work pretty much right after I dropped them off at my apartment.  They spent the day just lounging around the apartment and walking down to the beach (one of mom's favorite things).  By the time I got home from work around 6:00 they all looked like they were minutes from falling asleep (well Cindy already was asleep).  We headed over to the serviced apartment they were staying in and had a very fancy meal of lunchmeat sandwiches, chips, and pasta salad before they turned in early for the night.

The next day I worked half a day so the 4 of them had to get on the tram and get into the city by themselves.  Before I met up with them, they walked around Federation Square, Southbank, and went to St. Paul's cathedral.  We then headed to the Carlton brewery for a brewery tour.  I'd never been before but I found a Scoopon for it so of course I had to check it out!  I didn't learn too much on the tour that I hadn't already heard on other brewery tours before but it was still fun.  We weren't allowed to take pictures during the tour but during the beer tasting (everyone's favourite part of the tour), the guide brought out costumes from previous Carlton commercials that people could try on and take pictures with.

My dad says I never mention him in his blog so.....I've decided to put in this picture.  He better appreciate this  :)
Dad and Tink at the Carlton Brewhouse
After the brewery tour we headed back to the city and Queen Victoria Market.  The market has areas for all types of goods from cheap t-shirts to shoes to luggage to tacky souvenirs.  But the best part about the market is the food.  You can find about anything you want here - pickled octupus, chilli stuffed olives, and even bologna if you really want to (they call it something different though and I can't remember what it is now....I should have written it down!)

I love all the dips at the market!
After the market I gave the group a very brief tour of some of the laneways and shopping arcades around the city. This is the point in the trip where they realized that my sense of how far away things are might be slightly skewed.  My idea of a 5 minute walk did not match theirs (I guess I walk a little faster now that I'm used to walking around everywhere).  They also called me out frequently for saying "oh that's only 2 blocks away....when it MAY have been 4-5 blocks).  I think they were expecting Monroe-size blocks instead of normal city blocks. 

This is a picture of a sign that Mom thought was funny in Hardware Lane.  Its winter and the rooftop area is still open - they just give you blankets to keep warm!

The colorful tram to St. Kilda
We finished the night with dinner at the Nixon Hotel in Docklands.  The restaurant really did have a huge picture of Richard Nixon but we never did figure out why a restaurant in Australia is named after Richard Nixon.  Who knows.

Saturday we did a day trip to the Mornington Peninsula.  On the way there we stopped in Brighton to see the famous bathing boxes that line the beach.  People pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for these small boxes on the beach.  The are al uniquely painted and they are so cute - but I still can't understand why people would spend that much money to buy one - there are lots pretty beaches around!

Mom was in heaven at Brighton beach - it was FULL of shells.  She even found a starfish (which later lost a leg) that she brought home.

Mom got a picture while all the legs were still intact

Next up:  Cape Schnack Lighthouse. I had heard that this lighthouse was pretty cool so we decided to check it out. was a pretty cool lighthouse but the lighthouse isn't what makes this place great  its the amazing scenery!
The lighthouse as we started our walk at Cape Schnack
Group picture - we still haven't even gotten to the best part yet
sooo pretty
After seeing this boardwalk Dad said he was absolutely not walkin the whole way (it goes clear to the end of the rock).  He kept saying this as he was walking until he made it all the way down to the beach.  What a trooper!  I think this was our highest step count day on the pedometer

After the lighthouse we headed up to Arthur's Seat for lunch at Arthur's Hotel.  My friend Emma had recommended this place for the great views but I didn't realize just how much you could see from up here.  It was a great spot to have lunch!

Hanging out at Arthur's Seat
The view (picture does not do it justice)
I was pretty sick of driving by the end of the day so we headed back to the serviced apartment for some tacos (I never get sick of tacos!)  We walked down to Acland Street to get some of the ingredients and I had to show them all the cake shops on Acland Street.  We bought a variety of sweets for dessert.  I think the Vanilla Slice was the best!

 One of the cake shop windows on Acland Street in St. Kilda
Well - its taken me an hour and a half and I've only gotten through 3 days of the trip!!  I think I deserve a little TV break now so you will have to wait patiently for another blog about Great Ocean Road and Sydney.  It was really hard deciding what pictures to put in here - we have so many good ones.

A few other important facts to share before the next blog:
1.  I've booked a plane ticket home for Christmas!!!  I will be home from Dec. 8-Jan. 5 so there will be plenty of time to catch up with everyone and to eat everything I want to.  So far on the list: Chipotle, Casey's Pizza, Legends Wings, sushi in Uptown, and a few Bloody Mary's.  I'm sure there are lots of other things as well.  I am still deciding when I will be in Minneapolis and when I will be in Des Moines but I'll keep everyone posted!
2.  I've been promoted to manager!!  Actually all of us from the newbie group who were going for manager were promoted (Graham, Emma, and Charlotte).  And Kelly was promoted too!!!  I can't believe I am actually going to be a manager of a big 4 accounting firm.  If I had stayed in the US I would have been promoted to manager as well, but getting promoted in Australia feels like a much bigger accomplishment.  Although the work is the same, I am working with all new people and had only about 6 months to prove that I had the capabilities to be promoted to manager.  And I did it.  I am in Australia AND I've been promoted to manager.  Life is VERY good! :)

Will try to post about the rest of the parents trip soon!