31 December 2008

Settling In

We've been living in our new house since Saturday, December 27. If you look on a map, you'll see that MacMasters Beach is actually quite remote. It's located in the middle of a national forest/park.

Dave will have to buy a 2nd car sometime soon to be able to get to the train station. There is one located in Woy Woy and another located in Gosford.

The drive to Gosford is about 20 minutes. The roads are winding and have forest on either side. There is a little town called Kincumber just 5km up the road that has a grocery store, 2 fast food restaurants, Dominos pizza, thai restaurant, pharmacy, 2 estate agents, library, etc. There is also a Mitre 10 which is equal to Home Depot.

Once in Kincumber, the roads are wider, bigger and straighter. The distance to Gosford and Erina is about another 10-15 minutes. Erina has Erina Fair - a mall with every imaginable store inside. There's also a library. And movie theatres and an ice skating rink!

27 December 2008

Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and Beyond

Tristan "catching a wave"

Stick Wall on the way to MacMasters Beach

On Christmas morning, the kids woke up at the holiday house but didn't find any gifts. I asked them what happened and Zoe said it was because we didn't have a Christmas tree. Poor girl.

When we arrived at the MacMasters Beach house, Dave gave the keys to Tristan. Before we had even made our way up the driveway, we heard shouts of delight! They all found their gifts. We spent a few hours at the house, then went back to the Terrigal Holiday House. Later, I took Tristan to the beach at Terrigal so he could tryout his new boogie board. He did really well.

On Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, Dave called his sister, Jennifer. He was able to catch up with her and his mom, who was visiting Jennifer. Clara, Neo and I went out to the Boxing Day sales and bought most of the rest of the stuff we needed for the MacMaster Beach House. Namely, microwave, pots/pans, sheets, etc. We spent the afternoon packing our suitcases. Dave took them over to the house while I cleaned and made the house ready for our departure.

Saturday morning, we had breakfast, loaded the remaining items into the car, dropped the keys at the Estate Agent's office, then drove to our new home. We spent most of the morning putting things away. Later, Clara, Neo, and I went to return some items at the stores, then bought groceries. It had been a hot, muggy day in the city, but when we reached the rainforest here, it was much cooler. In the early evening, we were treated to the cockatoos flying overhead and playing in the trees. Later, I saw the kid's ball in the front garden. I hoped a flower bush to retrieve it and was immediately, and repeatedly stun by some type of wasp. Fortunately, they didn't follow me as I scurried away. I received about 10 bites in 30 seconds.

Today, Sunday 28 December, we woke up in our house for the first time. It was a little cool overnight. The morning was beautiful. I took Neo in the stroller and walked down to "Nina's Little Shop" to get the Sunday Sydney Newspaper. It was the first time I was in Nina's shop. It's a very small "store". It's about the size of our kitchen. They had some bread, milk, ice cream, etc. Neo was most impressed by the ducks. The slogan is "duck in" and there were ducks everywhere.

Along the way, we came upon a man who was picking blackberries. His name is Luke and he's a teacher at St Edwards Catholic School in Gosford. He walked with us and we talked about schools. He recommends Copacabana. I was leaning toward enrolling the children there, in part for the novelty of walking to school everyday via the beach! Wouldn't that be cool! His recommendation gives the school more weight in our consideration.

We got home to find that a Cockatoo had landed on our balcony railing. The family were quite excited. Later, the Rainbow Lorikeets were not phased by Dave's presence on the balcony - just 3 feet from where they were feeding in the Cheese Tree.

I was turning the car to get out of the driveway, when I heard a hissing from the tire. A roofing nail on the driveway had punctured the tire - or tyre as it's spelled here. It was flat before I had gotten down the driveway. Fortunately, I had transferred my AAA membership to Australia when I was still in Queensland. I called the emergency number. Road assistance was here to change the tire in less then 60 minutes.

We spent the day enjoying the cool of the house and gardens. At low tide, we walked down to Mac Masters Beach to allow Tristan to use his boogie board. The surf was very strong and Tristan couldn't really manage. Dave swam Tristan out and he caught a wave back to shore. Clara then took the board out but the lifeguard had to intervene to retrieve her, she had drifted out of into a dangerous area. Dave said the water was warmer then any he's experienced in California.

23 December 2008

Christmas Eve Day

Today is Christmas Eve Day. It was a very busy day for me. This morning I made calls to get the utilities converted to us. We discovered yesterday that there's a phone in the house that is run by Telstra. Our agent advised us that we could get faster internet installation service if we use Telstra and Big Pond. So I made a call to Telstra to get that installed. Later, I was out buying things necessary to set up house (and a few Christmas presents). I bought plates, silverware, cups, glasses, garbage can, dish drainer, etc. A lot of the stuff you need to "run a household". I didn't buy bedding or pots/pans because the day after Christmas - called Boxing Day here - there are some really good sales on those things.

Yesterday, we went down to Macmasters Beach for the first time. It's a lovely beach. It has one of the best rock pools in the area. We arrived at low tide. Clara said she saw a puffer fish in the rock pool. Tristan found a Japanese jellyfish....very small body with very long tentacles. There is no "downtown" like in other communities. It shares the cove with Copacabana. The beaches merge together, although there's no road between them due to Cochrane Lake. We found out that the lake is a natural lake. I've included a few photos of Macmasters Beach.

Right now it's 5:30pm. Dave is at the house to meet the furniture delivery. He just called to say the washer is a tad too large for the space in the laundry room, so a new washer will have to be delivered next week. Houses are not rented with refrigerators included here in Australia. Fortunately for us, the owner left a refrigerator in the garage and the estate agent said we could use it. Hopefully the delivery crew will be willing to help Dave get it into the house.

We plan to have our Christmas meal tonight. Tomorrow we'll go to the house for gift opening - Santa delivers to the correct address! On Friday, we'll do packing and moving. Maybe even stay in the house for the first time Friday night. If not then Saturday for sure, since we have to be out by Saturday here.

I hope all are enjoying a happy holiday season.

21 December 2008

Home for Christmas!!

Front of our MacMasters Beach House

It finally happened! We were accepted on not one but two applications that we had made. We had a difficult decision to make. Each of the properties had good and bad points. In the end, we went with the more beautiful, but more remote house.

Our new address is: MacMasters Beach, NSW 2251 I can provide the specific house address to individual inquires, as this is a public blog. We are very relieved and happy to be done with the property viewing phase of this process.

We will be moving in on Christmas Eve day! We have rented new furniture to be delivered on Wednesday. We'll sign the lease tomorrow (Tuesday). Talk about taking it down to the wire!

The house sits across the road from Cockrone Lake. Just down the road 300 meters is MacMasters Beach. We haven't seen this beach, yet. It will be a fun explore.

I was the only one to see the house on Sunday, so it will be interesting for everyone else to see it for the first time.

Looking forward to receiving mail, getting settled, finding out about the schools, etc. Here's where the adventure turns into normal living. We welcome the transition.

20 December 2008

Ocean Zone!!

The pictures are of the Terrigal Beach! Isn't it lovely. The color of the Ocean changes with the tides and the time of day.

Ocean Zone is an area that Arthur's Dad (from the Arthur! series) calls the Ocean with all it's tidal pools, animal life, surf, etc. Dave took Zoe and Tristan to an area here in Terrigal that they have now named "Ocean Zone". There's a rock pool, for swimming and wading. Very calm at the low tide. They were there at the high tide on Thursday. All said there were sea stars, anemones, small fishes and other sea life. There were some pools that were continuously refreshed by the ocean's swells. Truly amazing.

On Saturday, Dave took Clara (Zoe and Tristan) to the Ocean Zone. Neo and I went to another house viewing. While we were away, I received a call from Dave - "Do we have bandaids?" Zoe took a spill on the rocks at the Ocean Zone. When I got home, he showed me the Wisconsin t-shirt that he had shredded to wrap the wounds. She had a cut on her knee and foot. She's recovering nicely at this writing.

On Friday, I had my first "missing home" break down. I think the stress of living out of a suitcase in holiday accommodations for 4 weeks straight is wearing on me. I've also been under enormous pressure to find a rental before Christmas. We made several applications last week. Some we were told won't be available by Christmas. Others went to other applicants. It's been very challenging finding rentals that are available, getting in contact with the agent, finding my way to the viewing, completing the application if it's something that will work (they don't all work), then contacting the agent again to follow up on the status of the application.

In addition, I'm missing my good friends from Madison. I have a wonderful support system in Madison - which is not readily available to me - especially with continued limited internet access.

Last night (Saturday) we watched via live feed, a Christmas Carols presentation that was taking place in Sydney. It is an annual event in this area. Many stars sang beautiful Christmas carols to a live audience. During that time, Tristan broke down stating that he missed home too. I asked him what he missed and he said "his friends". He went to get the friendship bracelet he had received from his friend Henry and felt better. We talked about how important friends and family are.

Today is Sunday. I decided I was going to go to a church service. So I went to a local Evangelical Church. God knew I was there because the message was just for me. It was on Acts 27 1-20. Luke provides a detailed account of Paul's journey on a boat. That along the way, the boat had gotten off course because of the winds. The crew had held up in an island that couldn't provide the vessel protection from the winter storms. The calendar was against them - if they were lucky, they would receive favorable winds and make their destination. They end up in a storm that lasts for days, but arrive with their lives to their destination.

I feel very much like I'm sitting on the island that will not sustain us because the calendar is against us - we have to be out of this holiday rental on Saturday 27 December. We are looking for "favorable winds" - a permanent rental. But if not, we'll have to leave Terrigal for another location during the big holiday time. We are very much in the middle of our "storm". In short, the message was just what I needed to hear.

Monday we have some calls to make and homes to see. Hopefully, we'll have someplace to call home before Christmas! It will be a lovely gift!

15 December 2008

Sydney's Northern Beaches

On Monday 15 December, we rent to see some rentals in Sydney's Northern Beaches suburbs.

We had a lunch of fish and chips and vegetarian pizza for Dave - the roasted pumpkin pizza wasn't as nice as the one from Il Forin in Sandgate. We sat in a park in Collaroy/Dee Why. The surf was amazing. I have included some pictures of the Rock Pool. And the foaming surf on that day. I asked a local if it was unusually high, and she confirmed that it was. Even still, we saw many surfers riding the waves.

The drive to Sydney from Terrigal on the 1 required us to go from the coast up the mountains. The climb was so steep, that our ears were popping. Dave calls the climb/descent "the chute". Tristan said he saw a waterfall on our way out.

We saw a beautifully furnished 3 bedroom 1st floor apartment in Dee Why. It was too small for our family. Some of the features included a glass wall that opened up to the balcony. Amazing! It also had a 2 car parking area where the first car was driven onto a hoist, then lifted and the 2nd car was driven into the stall below. Wild.

We also saw a 4 bedroom house in Freshwater - not impressed.

Over all, our time in Sydney's Northern Beaches proved to us that it's not our "cup of tea". We'll be spending the rest of the week actively looking for a home to rent in Terrigal and other suburbs of the Central Coast.

Please revisit some of the earlier posts about our trip to Sydney, I've added photos. The first entry are of Surfer's Paradise Beach. The 2nd day are pictures of Park Beach. There are also some pictures of the old growth RainForest that I took while we were driving. Overall, the trip was about 1000 km long, and much of the roads were winding, hilly, 2 lane highway.

14 December 2008

Port Macguarie to Terrigal

On Saturday morning, we found a holiday rental for 1 week in Terrigal. So we had about the same length of drive as Friday.

Fortunately, this stretch of road was much better - it was a divided 4 lane highway. The scenery included tall mountains with bits of cloud dropping down into the treetops. It was majestic and inspiring.

We made really good time and stopped for lunch just before the New Castle byway. We arrived in Terrigal about 2pm.

Terrigal is a wonderful little beach community. Fairly small and beach oriented. The ocean is clear, and blue.

We have a 3 storey townhouse. With 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. The main floor contains all the kitchen, living, dining. A bedroom on each level.

Sunday was our day of rest. We didn't get in the car - except Clara and I to gather provisions from the local mall. There were many stores there. And there were many Christmas shoppers too. No sign of a recession at that mall.

In the morning, the whole family walked along the beach in Terrigal. Later, the kids swam in the pool.

12 December 2008

The Queenslander

I had promised to post some pictures of the Queenslander style of house. The story goes that in Queensland, the early settlers were looking for something that could get them away from the bugs and other crawlies while capturing the ocean breezes. So these houses are often high, even on a hill, with wide verandas and porches.

These pictures are of houses in walking distance of our holiday house. There are some better specimens in other locations - but I didn't think about photographing them until I realized I might not be seeing them again....because of our Sydney move.

I had to post the picture of the tree - isn't it amazing!

Ballina to Port Macquarie

WOW! Thanks so much for your prayers and good thoughts! It made all the difference on this stretch of road. The driving was EXHILARATING! The roads were curving 2 lane highways with many oversized and double cargo trucks coming at us, a few narrow bridges, oil on the road, and rain. A little rain at first to make things slippery, but more to cause a little flooding on the road and hydroplaning at one point. The lines on the roads are all painted white. In the US, the center lines would be yellow.

On the two lane highway, the passing was facilitated by creating an additional lane at varying points along the highway. All traffic was directed to remain left, unless overtaking another vehicle. There were also rest areas. A few kilometers prior to the rest area, a sign read: Stop Revive Survive. There were also several speed cameras on the highway. And a couple of cameras that assessed for fatigue. I don't know how that's done...or what they do if it's determined that the driver is fatigued.

We made reservations in the morning for Port Macquarie - calculating a distance about twice that of the previous day. We got started by 9am. Our first stop, for lunch was at Gosford.

After lunch, we took our mini caravan to Choff's Harbor for a little time on the beach. This beach was named Park Beach and had a small island. The tide was on the way out. We walked a fair piece of the beach.

We saw some beautiful scenery again today. There were sugar cane fields, cows - some with small horns, others that looked like beef cattle, horses, a couple of sheep, bananas, and a rose grower. We also saw signs for wild horses, an antlered animal, and kangaroo. I saw a kangaroo today - but it was road kill so probably doesn't count.

I have logged more then 600km so far in 2 days. Today was the most exhausting because of the conditions.

11 December 2008

Journey to Sydney

Thursday morning, we took Dave to the rental car place to pick up the luggage vehicle I had rented. Then bank, food for the road, lunch and the kids and I left. We stopped at Surfer's Paradise and played in the amazing surf!!! It was wild and beautiful.

We continued down the road to Byron Bay. Along the way we saw some exciting signs like watch for Koalas and kangaroos!! Thrilling!!! We didn't see any, though.

The kids and I stopped at Byron Bay to get supper. Then drove the back roads to our little trailer overnight here in Ballina - it's pronounced BELL ina. The Ocean Vistas were STUNNING!!!

Even along the Pacific Hwy, there were many amazing sights - mountains and glimpses of ocean.

Dave had to wait for the contract that was arriving by express mail. But he was on his way by 2:30 and actually beat us to Ballina - he didn't stop at all.

09 December 2008

South to Sydney!

We have been looking for accommodations here in Queensland to stay over for Christmas. We either cannot find anything OR it's extremely expensive - we're talking $2000/week!

So, given all that, we're going to begin our trip down to Sydney! The plan is that we'll arrive in about 1 week, find a permanent rental, then settle in and wait for Dave's start date - which has been moved back to 12 January. The biggest problem with this plan is that the rent in Sydney is MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE then in Brisbane. While we were looking at $450/WEEK here. Sydney is more like $800/WEEK. In addition, the companies require a 4 week bond PLUS 2 weeks rent in advance.

I rented a 2nd car for 8 days. That will be our "pack" car. It will have suitcases and room for 1 child, possibly. The rest of the stuff will be in the van along with most of the children.

Dave's contract didn't arrive today, as hoped - it was sent express mail. So he'll have to wait for it to arrive tomorrow. In the morning, we'll get the car from the airport. Pack it full. Then the kids and I will head out in advance of Dave. The mail arrives around 3:30pm. He said he doesn't mind traveling without a break - and we'll probably need to take many.

It could be tricky coming up with reservations along the way - even for 1 night in hotels. I just spent 20 minutes searching for something about 120 miles down the coast....many required multiple days. Most don't accommodate the entire family. I finally found a little cabin in Ballina. Hopefully it will be nice.

Considering that this is our last night in Queensland, we'll get our favorite pizza. Also, I went around and took pictures of the lovely Queenslander Houses in Shorncliffe. I'll have to post the pictures later.

It's a really hot and muggy day today - 32 degrees - which is over 90. I've heard more then 1 radio commentator call these kind of days: "Stinkers".

Got to get packing!

07 December 2008


On Friday, when we had returned from the library (when I last posted), Dave had returned from Sydney. He was glad to be back - and we were happy he was "home". Friday night it rained hard most of the night.

Saturday was HOT and MUGGY!! It was all of 35 degrees C! Which means it was 90 or above and humid. By 2pm we couldn't take it anymore so walked down to our Moora Beach park and walked out to the pier. On our way, a family asked me what to do for their daughter that was bitten by a Blue Bottle Jelly Fish! Her abdomen was welted and black/blue. It didn't look good. I later found out the answer was ice and/or vinegar. By the time we had returned home, it was overcast and then rained again, so cooled everything off.

Sunday we decided to go to Colundra - which is the most southern city of the Sunshine Coast. It's about 1-1/2 hours north of our Shorncliffe location. It was wonderful! The tidal pools were some of the best Dave has ever seen! He was really delighted with it. Clara found a blue ringed octopus in one of the pools. And we all saw a sea cucumber. Neo didn't like the slimy rocks - but everyone was happy with the tidal pools. Many conche shells were collected.

Monday, Dave received a phone call from the recruiter - HE GOT THE JOB IN SYDNEY!!! He starts 5 January! Now we have to figure out what to do next!!!

Things are especially difficult to find rentals at the moment....with Christmas and all the holiday rentals all booked out....I made many calls today trying to pull something together. I just received a phone call about a short term rental possibility that will get us through....we'll get things confirmed in the morning!

04 December 2008


I finally realized how I can upload pictures at the library. I saw the person next to me using a thumb drive. So I uploaded the pictures from my camera to my laptop at home then moved them onto the thumb drive. So go back through the posts and see the pictures from around Australia.

These pictures are from the South Beach Parklands. It's chlorinated water. It sits right along the Brisbane River on the South Bank of Brisbane. It's actually well photographed. There's also a water sprinkler nearby, I'm told, but we didn't get that far.

03 December 2008

Our Shorncliffe Holiday House

Just thought I'd take a moment to describe our Holiday House here in Shorncliffe. It's all on one level - with 3 bedrooms. The house is across from the ocean - Moora Park - and there's an "upper" and "lower" playground, as we've come to call them. There's a wrap around deck the takes in the back and side of the house. There's a small porch that's a stand alone that comes off the living room on the other side of the house. There are no screens on the windows. There are ceiling fans in most of the rooms - but there are some days when it's hot and steamy - and we could use the relief of air conditioning. The good news is, there's always a breeze off the water. And generally when it gets hot, that means that it will storm and cool things off again. The bathtub is the bottom of the shower. It can fit each of the 3little kids if they sit on diagonial. The toilet has a 2 button flush. If it's a regular flush - it's a 1/2 water flush. If you need more power, you push the other button for full flush. Quite a good idea, I think. Almost every house has signs that indicate that tank water is in use. Which means they have cisterns. Most of the roofs are metal. A few are tile. There are solar panels - but generally to heat water. Our rental also has a washer - with a solar dryer - aka a clothesline.

Dave did fly out to Sydney yesterday.

Yesterday was a rather breathless morning for me. I took Neo before 8 to get to our mailbox to see if the bank cards were there so Dave would have them for Sydney. By the time I arrived there, it was after 9. Then Dave wanted me to have my own cell phone so I went across to a store - but they didn't open until 10. The frustrating thing about the cell phone was that I couldn't get it registered and use it because the system was down. It took me over 4 hours to get that straightened out. When I got home at 12 noon, Dave was waiting at the window because he had to jump on the train to get to the airport. As it turned out, the plane was delayed.

Dave called from Sydney to say that he thought his interview went well. He also said that Sydney is BIG!!! Everyone we have spoken with say that it's expensive and that the North Beaches are the most liveable. He told me he's not sure about it in general....and he thinks there might still be a possibility with Brisbane. He did like the cooler weather - about 70 - 23 according to the weather report while we had hot and steamy - about 90 (32) and humid because we had a wild storm overnight.

Since Dave wasn't sounding very sure, I ran to get the application for the house that I wanted to rent turned in. I called first to ask about it - and they assured me I should come to Redcliffe right away to turn it in. In the end, they didn't accept it because I didn't have Dave's passport. He has it in Sydney. They did tell me that there are no other applicants. So that makes things easier for us.

We have another week at the Holiday House - so we'll see what develops next week....

01 December 2008

NewsFlash - Could be SYDNEY!!!!

WOW! Dave is going for a job interview in SYDNEY for Thursday 4 December, morning. They want him to start right away!!!

It's very exciting and a real change because I've been looking at permanent rentals. But we'll make due. We have to go where the jobs are...and Dave is very uncomfortable with the hot days here in Brisbane - even with the lovely breezes off the beach.

We went to Sutton's Beach in Redcliffe on Sunday as a family and the kids and I again today, Tuesday. On Monday, I took the children to Brisbane to complete our Centrelink applications. So that's done. As a treat, we went to the South Bank Parklands Beach! It was a lot of fun.

We'll have to make a point of going to Lone Pine Koala sanctuary before we go to Sydney. The children and I will be driving. We might just send Dave ahead, especially if they want him to start right away....which is what it sounds like.

Zoe said again yesterday that she really likes Australia. We're all enjoying the wildlife. There is zero pollution. The stars in the sky are amazing! Last night there was a smiling face - made up of the moon (smile) and two eyes - planets Mars and Jupiter. It was lovely.

I'll write again when I get more of a chance.

28 November 2008

Saturday 29 November

Friday was a very hot day! Neo and I again went on an adventure. This time to Cleveland. I wanted to see what kind of housing they have there - the area had been recommended to us. We took the train and went to every rental office in the area. The response was similiar - nothing available at the moment. There were a couple of houses that looked interesting and one woman was willing to drive Neo and I to see 2 houses. I was very disappointed. It was a typical cookie cutter type house in a typical suburb. Not what we're interested in. It only goes to show that we have the best area. We got off the train at Wellington point to walk past another potential rental but found it was further from the train then we had been told, so gave up looking. But did see another rental that was lovely - but taken.

Dave took the kids to Redcliffe using the car! That's further up the "Sunshine Coast" about 1 hour from Brisbane. We can see the point of Redcliffe from our side of the beach. The children were all excited about their adventure. The water was clear - unlike our little bay area that is cloudy.

Unfortunately, I brought a therometer from the states so we could know the "real temp" But Dave was depressed by it because he could know how hot it was in the house. We don't have air conditioning...there are several ceiling fans - and the breeze off the ocean helps...but it's tough - especially for Dave.

A little bit about where we're staying. We live in a little village called Shorncliffe. It's a very small town with a train stop, a school, 1 restraunt, 1 B&B, and beautiful coastline. Just up the road 2 km, there's Sandgate. Sandgate reminds me of Mayberry. It's very quaint with wonderful shops. There's just about everything you need here. We run to Woolworth's for groceries. It's the grocery store here. There are chemists for medicines, etc. That's where I bought hats for everyone on the first day we had arrived.

Today, Saturday, it was shaping up to be another hot one....80 before 7am. We decided to take the car to see what The Gap was like. It was an area that we had identified as a potential place to live. It was nice - although not like here in Sandgate. Another confirmation that we are in the right place.

Once we returned, Dave went into town to find an internet hook up for his computer. He'll begin looking for work next week. He'll have to go into "the Bunker" or another internet cafe as we don't have access at home. I finally secured access through the library - at 1 hour/day.

The kids and I took a short spin to the beach. Then met the estate agent to view a 4bedroom house in Brighton - which is near Sandgate. It was one of the nicer houses we've seen. We're still looking, however.

I think I'll need to get a 2nd mobile phone. The one Dave has, he really needs to field calls for his job search.

Got to go - Neo is beginning to meltdown.

The pictures are of us enjoying the beach near our Holiday House. This is at the Moora Park beach front at low tide. There's also a picture of a Lorakeet and an Ibis - which the kids call "baldy"

26 November 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Technically we've been here 3 days - if you count the day we arrived.

Yesterday Neo and I went down to Queen Street then walked across the Melbourne St bridge to the South Bank. We visited Centrelink to get things set up for us with the government. Still have more to do but it's a start. I filled in some of the forms - but I have to do Medicare yet, and more forms still. I have this vision that it's very organized - almost like a sci fi novel/movie. We didn't get home until after 4pm.

Dave and the older children spent the day at home and going over to Moora park. It's right across the street from our house. Clara is allowed to wander around on short walk abouts. Tristan and Zoe and go together to the "upper" playground. There's a lower playground by the water as well.

For Thanksgiving "dinner" Dave and I had Veggie Pizza - it had artichokes, italian olives and roasted pumpkin for toppings. DELICIOUS!! And the owner was born and raised in New Orleans. He's Italian so it's "authentic" Italian pizza.

25 November 2008

Arrived in Brisbane

Today is Wednesday 26 November (Tuesday in US).

The children and I arrived a little before 8 am on Wednesday. The flight went much better then I had anticipated. Neo broke down and cried with 1 1/2 hours to go. I slept a lot. So did Zoe. I woke up hungry - but we had saved Neo's food from the night before and nibbled on that.

Once we landed, we were befriended by a flight attendant who took us around all the lines and helped us get our luggage. We are forever grateful for the wonderful assistance. People in line were coming around to see if they could get through too.

When we made it through, we changed into shorts, converted US dollars for Aussie dollars and found a taxi large enough for all of us.

Shorncliffe is very nice. The holiday rental we're in is all on one level and right across from the park. There's not much beach. But the kids are happy to explore. I took the car to Sandgate with Neo and we did some exploring there. We found the library and 3 real estate agents - so we'll find a permanent rental relatively soon.

Everywhere I go, I ask people about school. Turns out Shorncliffe is highly rated.
We might just stick to this area for our rental. We'll see.

This morning, the kids and I were up at 3am - except Clara. She didn't sleep much on the plane. Neo and I went on another explore...this time on the train. We're on the Famous Queen Street Mall. Neo's asleep and I'm at an internet kiosk. The rate is quite expensive and I cannot access our email for some reason...

I'll write again when I can.

23 November 2008

Last Day in the USA

I woke up at 4am with Solmanila poisoning. What a way to start the day. I had a salad last night for supper...

Neo woke up about 5am. Zoe and Tristan around 6. We had our big bags delivered from storage. We went off for the hotel breakfast with Grandma and Grandpa. We came back to the room to get the luggage arranged for the night flight.

I needed to take the rental van back to Hertz. At 10am, I left the older kids with Grandma and Grandpa Smith. Then I took the van back to Hertz. I didn't know where it was exactly so I drove around the airport looking for the rental cars sign. I finally found it by following the Hertz bus. By the time I arrived at Hertz, Neo had fallen asleep in his car seat. The people asked me where I was going. When I told them back to the hotel, they drove us. Isn't that sweet!

Grandpa took Tristan and Zoe down to the hotel pool for a little time to splash and play.

After lunch, we walked down to a neighborhood playground a couple of blocks from the hotel. It's a beautiful neighborhood - and a nice playground. While there, I missed the best picture of the day - Grandma and Grandpa on either end of the see saw with the kids on either side. It was very fun!

Now it's almost 2pm and we need to get our check luggage to Qantas. Grandma and Grandpa need to catch the shuttle back home. We find out as we board the hotel shuttle that Qantas has 2 desks - one at the international area and one on level 4. Fortunatly they are next door to each other. I asked at the door if the international area was correct and was told yes. When I arrived at the desk, they told me I had to go to Level 4 next door. So we loaded some of the luggage onto the luggage cart. Grandpa was a huge help here! I'm so glad we did this with Grandma and Grandpa's help.

We got checked in and the bags clear inspection. Then we went out where Grandma and Grandpa will meet their shuttle. Neo is exhausted and wants to nap. After waiting with them for a while, we decide to head back to the hotel. We said good bye to Grandma & Grandpa.

Neo didn't nap right away, unfortunately - not for lack of trying. So after supper of left overs and a fruit and cheese plate, we try again. This time he does rest. So now Clara, Tristan and I are waiting for 9 pm shuttle to go back to the airport for our 11:05 flight to Brisbane!

We're excited and impatient for things to start!

22 November 2008

Carlsbad CA = 22 Nov

I woke up at 5 am and Neo was awake by 5:30. Tristan and Zoe woke shortly after. They were all relieved to find that California had similar Saturday morning cartoons as Madison.

After breakfast, Neo took his nap and so did I. By 10:30, we were awake and ready to hit the road. First stop the beach!

It was a cool morning - low 60s with fog and a cool wind. Even still, all the children wanted their shoes off and into the water! By the time we left, everyone was wet - but especially Tristan.

We arrived at Legoland at noon. First thing, Clara went on a roller coaster that she didn't get to yesterday. We met up again at the Knights BBQ for lunch. Delicious!

We went round the park in the opposite direction today to catch all the attractions we had missed the day before. Another wonderful day touring. The crowds were thicker but not bad. The weather was cooler. I wore my jacket most of the day. Even though they were all happy to continue to closing, I wanted to go by 4 so we wouldn't be arriving in LA in the dark - trying to find our way around.

We returned to our Los Angeles hotel - Embassy Suites LAX - South, by 6pm. When we arrived, there was a wonderful surprise waiting for us.....GRANDMA AND GRANDPA SMITH!!

It was great to see them! We joined them for the manager's reception and then dinner. Neo was done by 8pm so we all retired to our rooms, and bed.

Tomorrow we'll spend the day in LA. Our flight for Australia leaves at midnight.

21 November 2008

Legoland 21 Nov - Friday

As predicted, Neo woke up early! 4:45 CA time (6:45 WI time). So I didn't get much rest. He was content to sit with me with the TV on while I continued to rest for a short while. Then wanted to go view the fishes downstairs. They were serving breakfast by that time and Tristan and Zoe were both up (6am CA time). So we dressed and went down.

The breakfast was AWESOME!!! They had cooked to order eggs, bacon, sausage, omelets, hashbrowns and pancakes. There was also cereal, fruit, coffee, juices, pastries. WOW. The kids and I were amazed.

After breakfast, we worked the contents of the bags some more. We left about 40 lbs of clothing and shoes that we decided we won't need in Australia. Then we moved the 6 large bags onto the luggage cart and left those in the hotel storage. The carseats, stroller and carryon luggage came with us back to LAX to get the rental car.

While at the rental car place, the children were given balloon animals to play with while I did the paperwork and received directions, etc. They really had a good time playing with the sword balloons. We also had a snack while we waited. Finally the van was ready. We were finally on the road by 11am.

It took over an hour to get to Legoland. We received our AAA discount and an unexpected discount. Legoland is offering a free 2nd day for each 1 day ticket purchased. So we bought 1 day passes and received 2nd day free. That's nice since we only had 3 hours to go through Legoland today.

It was a perfect day for touring. Not hot at all. Crowds were light. Here are some photos.

After Legoland closed at 5, we found our hotel. Then went to the nearby subway for supper. When we returned to the hotel, I set the kids up with TinkerBell. Neo and I went right to bed. It was 6:30. The kids came to bed at 8:30 and I woke up then. Later, the phone rang - I found out this AM was Dave but I couldn't wake up enough to look for it in the night.