Sunday, December 31, 2006

Mexican Food- Yum!

One of the things I love that I can't get in Australia is decent Mexican food. I have had two days of yummy goodness, starting last night with dinner at Simi's apartment. Her mother brought homemade tamales up with her, so my family and I got to enjoy those along with beans and rice. It was fantastic. Today I met Angie for lunch at Chevys restaurant, which has the best chips and salsa (in my humble opinion). This time I had spinach and artichoke enchiladas and they were tasty as always. If only someone would open a good Mexican restaurant in Melbourne- I would be there weekly.

Happy New Year to my Australian friends! We still have a few hours to go here on the West Coast. I plan to watch Anderson Cooper on CNN ring in the new year from Times Square in New York. He also shows the Drag Queen Drop in Key West, Florida, which is very entertaining to watch.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

A Mellow Week

After all the Christmas excitement I have had a fairly relaxing week. My mom has been off work so we have been hanging out. On Thursday I was on a mission to spend my gift cards. Our first stop was Northgate where we hit Macy's, Bath and Body Works, and the Gap. The Gap was having major sales, and I got a pair of pants for $9.99. Next we traveled up to Vintage Oaks in Novato. I exchanged a couple sweaters at Ann Taylor Loft for pants, and got a few more things at Old Navy (I had done some pre-purchasing from there before I arrived in the US). We also went to Costco, which for those of you in Australia is a large warehouse store where you can buy things in bulk.

Yesterday I went with my mom to Pt. Richmond when she got her haircut so I could say hello to Keith (who also used to cut my hair). He was very surprised to see me, so that was fun. I have also signed up for a 10 day trial pass at 24 Hour Fitness so that I can exercise for free. I did a spin and kickboxing class and the spin instructor even remembered me. I plan to motivate myself to attend more classes next week. The kickboxing class is so much better than the one at the YMCA.

I have really enjoyed being able to sleep in (I didn't realize how burnt out I was) and drive around! Thankfully I have had no issues with driving on the other side of the road. I plan to try and catch up with people next week, and also see more of Lynne and Angie, who have been out of town on vacation this week.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

Tonight we had our annual Christmas dinner at my parents' house. I finally got some mulled cider (yay) and my cousin Leilani led us through a wine tasting exercise. She started by having us smell different things that we might find in the wine (50 possible scents!) and then we tasted a variety of red wines. I couldn't really decipher the exact things I was smelling/tasting, which I chalk up to the fact that I'm not a big red wine fan.

Dinner was very delicious, and as you can see we had a wide variety of things to eat. I was happy to have some turkey and stuffing, and the sweet yams with pecans served in an orange were great. After dinner we opened presents and I now have some new gift cards to spend. Then we ate dessert, which included a pumpkin pie and snowball cookies that I had made. Overall it was a top night and one of the main reasons why I wanted to come home for the holidays.

A White Christmas- in Australia?

I guess I didn't have to come home for a wintery Christmas after all. I'm glad some rain is finally falling in Victoria to help with the drought and the bushfires.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Visits and the Hills of San Francisco

On Saturday I headed up to visit Angie at her coffee shop. Lucky for me Katie was there and it was great to see how big she is (18 months old now). She's walking and starting to talk, and is as cute as a button. I brought them their Christmas gifts- various Australiana for the whole family. It was a short visit as the girls had to go get their hair cut, but we will definitely catch up after the holidays.

I went shopping with my mom in the afternoon and ran into Joanne at United Market. We had a quick chat in the aisle about what's been happening at Wilson School and I plan to go see Joanne's new house sometime next week. That night Lynne came over and picked me up to head into San Francisco for dinner and a movie. We ate at Pluto's and I had turkey, stuffing, and butternut squash in an attempt to capture a Thanksgiving style meal. It was quite delicious. We met up with her husband Jeremy and his brother Josh to see We Are Marshall, mostly because the boys wanted to go. It was your typical sports movie- tragedy to triumph, etc. Matthew McConaughey has some very strange acting quirks, and it was distracting seeing Matthew Fox with poorly dyed red hair. I'd only recommend you see it if you really like football.

In the morning Lynne thought it would be good to take me on her new walking route. After bundling up for the cold we headed out towards the Presidio and up a large amount of stairs to Pacific Heights. It's good that I walk so many stairs during the day at work (train station and my building), so it wasn't horrible. Once we were up at the top we wandered around the neighborhood and checked out all the expensive homes. There are some great views of the Bay, and we were out for about an hour. Lynne had me try her latest drink at Starbucks- the green tea latte. It's good- they put a bit of melon syrup in it which gives the drink a unique taste.

After showering we headed back to Marin to meet up with our friend Dominic for lunch at Crepevine on Fourth Street. Ironically, none of us ordered crepes to eat. I hadn't seen Dominic since Lynne's wedding so it was nice to catch up. He's currently living in Utah doing real estate and mortgage lending.

In the evening the Glisson clan kindly invited me over for Christmas Eve dinner. Josh was there as well. It was nice to see Lynne's parents and brother again. We had a great meal and dessert, as well as lots of laughs. We got out Lynne's yearbooks and Lynne and I came to the conclusion that we were dorks in high school. ;-) I also got to look at an album of pictures from senior prom that I hadn't seen before. My hair was very long back then. It was a fun night, and thanks again to the Glissons for including me in your holiday celebrations.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Shopping and Baking

Today my lovely friend Lynne came over to Marin for a visit. We stopped for lunch at High Tech Burrito, and my Ya-hoo! BBQ burrito was delicious as always. We then headed down to The Village for some last minute Christmas shopping. It wasn't overwhelmingly crowded, and I was able to buy those last few gifts I was missing. They have opened an Anthropologie store there, so that was very exciting. I bought a couple tops for myself.

We returned to my house and baked some gingerbread cookies, which turned out well. Lynne stuck around for dinner and we went through some of the wedding stuff she had brought over for my mom. It was a nice night- and also the first time I had seen my mom since arriving home.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Going Back To Cali

I have made it in one piece to a rainy San Francisco Bay Area. After celebrating Michelle's birthday on Wednesday night, I was up late packing and strategizing how much to bring home (I plan to do a lot of shopping while here). The whole flight day was a bit rushed because the taxi took forever to arrive, and I had extensive security screenings in Melbourne- metal detector, customs, thorough carry-on bag inspection, and then a pat down search! The flight up to Sydney was short and sweet and we deplaned right into the gate area for the San Francisco flight. I couldn't leave the gate since I would face a repeat of the security checks listed above.

About a half hour later I was back on the plane for the 12 1/2 hour flight to SF. As expected at this time of year, the flight was full. We had some potentially bad turbulent patches (you tend to get a bit nervous when the pilot asks the flight attendants to strap in), but the pilot flew around the severe thunderstorms over the Pacific the best he could. We arrived early and I made it through customs without being searched. Unfortunately, I forgot to exchange my Aussie dollars for US money and didn't realize until after I was on the Airporter. Thankfully, my Dad came to pick me up and was able to pay for me. ;-) I'm tired and ready for bed as it has been a really long day. It doesn't feel that weird to be home, but I am finding hearing all the American accents to be a bit jarring.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christmas Parties

The Christmas season is upon us, and that means parties! On Thursday after our Branch planning day, we all headed to The Yak Bar for drinks. Friday afternoon was the Department of Education Christmas party. We paid $10 and had unlimited drinks and food. I got a bit sunburned as I was standing in the sun too long. Nothing scandalous happened except for a creepy Santa.

Saturday it was off to Kalorama for Peter and Mark's annual Christmas gathering. I met Fran at her house in Preston and then we headed to the mountains. I hadn't seen Fran in a few months, so it was good to finally catch up in person. Peter did a very colorful decorating job on the deck- using prayer flags and other items he got in Nepal. We had a wide variety of foods to choose from. I finally had Mark's famous sausage rolls and ate pavlova for dessert. It was a fun time.

After we returned to the city I ended up tagging along with Fran and her boyfriend Pete for drinks at The Brunswick Green. It was a gathering of Pete's friends, who were nice to meet and chat with. Fran and I tried to avoid the smokers in the beer garden (not very successfully). The temperature dropped fairly quickly, so I ended up inside by the end of the night. We lasted until the place closed at 1:00 am, and then I headed for home. I was good and even made it to the gym this morning!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Suzuki Night Market

It was a very smoky day in Melbourne as all the smoke from the bushfires in Eastern Victoria descended onto the city. The smoke even entered my building through the air conditioning system. It wasn't a very pleasant day outside, but the air quality got better in the afternoon.

After work I wandered down Bourke Street for some Christmas shopping, and then headed up to the Vic Market for the Suzuki Night Market. I was meeting Julie for dinner, but beforehand I wandered around checking out all the booths. It was better than the average stuff you would find in the stalls during the day. I did pick up a great ceramic sake set for Peter and Mark (I was at a loss as to what to get them for Christmas). The Market was packed by the time Julie made it from work. We got some food from the large selection of vendors and managed to find a table to sit down and eat at. It was nice to catch up as I hadn't seen Julie for a while. I would definitely recommend you check out the Night Market if you are in Melbourne- there are bands, food, and goodies to purchase.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


I have been a bit slack in updating the blog on what is happening in my life. Work is going well. We just had an election here in Victoria and Labor retained power, although we now have a new Minister for Education. It will be interesting to see if there are any big changes in policy or direction. My division should be fine, but the "training" side of things will be leaving the Department so all the post-compulsory people may be moving elsewhere.

I have been participating where I can in projects. I volunteered to work on the speaking and listening portion of the English Continuum. The previous parts of the continuum were done over a couple months- we had about 2 weeks to do the speaking and listening one. Amazingly, it did get finished pretty much on time. I'm also involved with the website team, and that work should be picking up. We are updating and transferring our old sites onto the new student learning portion of the Department website.

Although I have learned a lot in my current position over the past 5 months, I am on the lookout for opportunities to advance, so I have applied for a couple senior policy officer positions. I'm not sure how much of a chance I will have, but there is nothing to lose since my job is still good for another year. Both the positions I'm applying for are ongoing- one is in my current branch, and the other is in the research branch downstairs. We'll see what happens.

The big family news is that my brother is engaged to be married. The wedding is scheduled for October 27, 2007 at St. Raphael's Church (well the Mission part). The day James proposed it was Simi's birthday. He took her out for a picnic lunch at Blackie's Pasture in Tiburon, and had a large "gift" which included two of my five pound weights in the box to fool her. As she opened each box there was a smaller one inside, until she got to the ring box. James took that, got down on one knee and asked her to marry him. She excitedly said yes. The wedding planning has already begun, and they have secured Deer Park Villa in Fairfax for the reception. I can't believe my little brother is getting married. I now know when I will be home next, after this trip home for Christmas in a few weeks.
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