Sunday, November 27, 2011

Giving Thanks

We have been away from the States for nearly 16 weeks now, and this week was the first time I've actually felt homesick. Thanksgiving is such a wonderful time of year at home, with the crisp weather, leaves changing and falling, time spent with family and friends, delicious fall foods, and Christmas on the horizon. Of course the 2.5 days off work are really nice too. :)  A few weeks ago I RSVP'd us to a Thanksgiving picnic for Americans living in the area, held in the Botanical Gardens of Melbourne, thinking it would be nice to meet some new people and to share some traditional Thanksgiving foods. However, as last week progressed, the weather forecast looked terrible for Saturday, the day of the picnic. I had been in touch with the organizer of the other American "Meetup" that we attended a few weeks ago, and she decided that after looking at the forecast she would host a small Thanksgiving at her place and we were invited!

Saturday rolled around and indeed it rained the entire day (which is a shame because just about every day during the week last week was beautiful), so the decision to opt out of the outdoor picnic looked like a good one. Kristen, the Thanksgiving dinner hostess, did a fantastic job with the turkey, stuffing, green beans, and an amazingly yummy pumpkin pie. We contributed mashed potatoes (my Uncle Bill's famous family recipe made by Erik) and these apple pie cookies that I had seen earlier this week and thought would be a fun addition to the feast.
These were tasty but they needed more filling and less crust in my opinion!
We were thankful to be able to celebrate one of our favorite American holidays while living "Down Under", and perhaps next year we will host a Thanksgiving dinner ourselves.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Wasn't I just blogging about how much I love being able to commute to work via the bike?! On Monday I was having a great start to the morning...beautiful day, good lift at the gym to start the week...then it all came crashing down on my ride to work. I was only about a half mile from our house where I was building up speed to get through the green light at an intersection when a cyclist came from the sidewalk (riding on the sidewalk is illegal, by the way) into the road in front of me. He was riding significantly slower than I was and he basically pulled right into the middle of the lane. So I frustratingly moved towards the outside of the lane, but not too far out because I am aware that there are tram tracks towards the outside and if you get stuck in a tram track on a bike you are in big trouble. What I was not so aware of was a big metal plate that I presume is screwed into the ground, but in looking at this picture it looks like it's out of place.
This is kind of a crazy intersection, and I was making a right turn (basically following the tram tracks) onto the left side of the road where you see the red light, but trying to keep to the left due to cars and trying not to be TOO far to the left because of the tram tracks. Are you confused yet? Anyway, all I remember is losing control of the bike and sliding along the pavement. My helmet has a good little dent in it and right pedal ripped my shoe and tore into the skin on my right foot pretty good. The worst part was that my knee got twisted into a horrible position I had excruciating knee pain, so much that I could not get up without assistance. So I was in the middle of the intersection screaming in pain and yelling for help and when the light turned green cars just started driving around me. Lovely. After what seemed like an eternity but was probably only a minute or two, a few very nice people came over to help me up and get me and my bike to the sidewalk. At that point I was running on pure adrenaline and thinking that I would just hop on my bike and ride to work. Ha! Then I started to get dizzy and feel sick to my stomach, so like the good athletic trainer that I am, I propped my feet up on my backpack while lying on the sidewalk. At this point the nicest man came to help me! He had been in the car in front of me, had seen the cyclist pull out in front of me (ummm, that cyclist just kept on biking after I crashed), and came back to check on me. Gave me some fluids and some stuff to clean up my cuts, put my bike in his boot (aka the trunk), and drove me home. Even called me later that day to check on me. There are still good people in this world. :)

So I spent Monday doing what I've told so many young athletes to do over the years...RICE. I was seriously worried about my ACL because I had so much instability, though I didn't have a massive amount of swelling like is usually (but not always), the case with an ACL tear. So on Tuesday I got in with a physiotherapist (similar to a physical therapist, but also similar to an athletic trainer), who was able to rule out an ACL injury but confirmed what I already knew...a grade 2 MCL sprain. Over the last 7 years of working in the high school setting I have had almost 10 athletes with grade 2 MCL sprains, and now I know exactly how they were feeling. At this point I'm almost a week post injury and while I can walk, I do not have full range of motion and I certainly don't have full strength. It will probably be about 4 to 6 weeks before I can resume normal activity, though I might be able to bike sooner once I'm mentally healed from this crash.

Erik and I had planned to do a long bike ride to Bells Beach this weekend, but that was out of the question. Saturday it rained all day anyway, so it was one of those days that you love to hang out and just do nothing. Today was spent similarly, though I did get out for a short walk around the neighborhood. Hopefully I'll be getting a bit better each day, though I really need someone to force me to do rehab because it's much easier to tell someone what exercises to do than to actually do them yourself. :)

Lessons learned from the crash:

  1. Do not come remotely close to anything metal while on a bike.
  2. Always wear a helmet (definitely saved me from a concussion and potentially worse head injuries).
  3. Do not be afraid to lend a helping hand to someone who looks like they are in trouble. I am very thankful for the strangers who helped me and it definitely made me think about what I would do if I was on the "other side" looking at the person who was in the middle of the intersection. Don't be the person who keeps the person that offers assistance!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Life in the Slow Lane

On one of my early morning runs this week I came across literally hundreds of snails. It was the morning after a big rain and they were out in full force. I can remember seeing lots of slugs after rainstorms at home, but never snails. I was sort of fascinated by them and during my cool down walk, I decided to document a few of the little guys.

Unfortunately many of the snails moved too slow to survive the feet of other early morning joggers or commuters, and I saw quite a few smashed shells on my run. It's strange how when you move to a new place, you tend to take in your surroundings much more than you do in a familiar place. As I become more comfortable with life in Oz, I try to remember to notice the little things and not let things become so familiar that I don't appreciate them anymore.

Yesterday was a beautiful day in Melbourne and Erik and I took advantage of the weather by heading on a long bike ride down the Eastern side of the Port Phillip Bay. We live on the West side of the bay, which is less developed and more industrial, so going over to the East involves seeing an entirely different part of the city. After we watched the Carrier Classic live in the morning (Go Heels!!), we took off on what turned out to be a 35 mile bike ride. Nearly the entire ride was completed on bike paths! Our destination was Brighton, because I had seen a picture somewhere of the Brighton Beach Boxes and wanted to see them in person.
58c is up for auction. Starting price between $160k and $180k. Anyone want to buy a Beach Box with me?!

Apparently these are used as shelters from the sun or places to change or even cook with a camping-type stove, and they are all individually owned, though I get the impression that friends and/or families often go in on them together. They sell for around $200,000 each. From the Brighton Bathing Box Association,  "The 82 Brighton bathing boxes are unique because of their uniform scale and proportion, building materials, sentry order alignment and a Planning Scheme Heritage Overlay on a beach owned by Bayside City Council. As simple structures, all retain classic Victorian architectural features with timber framing, weatherboards and corrugated iron roofs. They remain as they did over one hundred years ago, as licensed bathing boxes. No service amenities such as electricity or water are connected.  Licensees choose to differentiate their bathing boxes with minor structural, artistic and colour variations. When viewed together they turn the beachscape into a collective work of art that can change by the hour according to season, light and colours. ". They really make for cool beach decor just a few miles from the CBD. I found this picture on Wikipedia that captures the Beach Boxes with the city in the background. If you enlarge the pictures you can see a bride and groom having their picture taken on the beach. :)

Today we attended our first "Meetup" of Americans living in Melbourne. I joined this group a few weeks after we arrived here, but this was the first event that was close to our house. It was at an Ethiopian restaurant called Africa Town, and it was a small group of  friendly Americans (and a few of their Aussie partners, too). The food was very different, but good, especially the lentils! It was a great chance to meet people who have experienced similar frustrations and challenges of moving from the US to Oz, and I'm really glad that we went. The group is having a big picnic in a park for Thanksgiving, so we are thinking about attending that as our next "Meetup". Hmmm, do you think I can find Stovetop stuffing at the USA Foods store? I hope so!!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Cup Week

Cup week is a week of big horse races, and actually starts on a Saturday with the Victoria Derby, followed by the "big " Melbourne Cup on Tuesday, then Oaks Day (ladies' day) on Thursday, and finally Stakes Day (family day) on Saturday. Melbourne Cup day is a public holiday, so no school is held and no one goes to work. Many people don't go to work on Monday either, and some people don't go to work for the entire week! We spent Cup day at an Aussie BBQ, enjoying great company, food, and beverage. On the way home from our party we saw many race attendees dressed up in their fancy dresses, hats, and/or fascinators. It seems that everyone dresses up for races here, which is a bit different from the way people dress for Preakness in Baltimore! Hopefully we'll attend the Cup once while we are here so that I can enjoy picking out my "race day" outfit.

Friday night we headed out to dinner on Lygon Street with a big group of people from Victoria University. Lygon Street is filled with many fabulous restaurants and bars, so it's quite a lively place on a weekend night. We enjoyed our second Thai meal since arriving in Oz, though we stuffed ourselves full because there is a new restaurant rule in Melbourne about not being able to take home your leftovers! Apparently someone got sick after re-heating the rest of their meal and proceeded to sue, ruining leftovers for all of us. After dinner we went to a bar down the street to preserve the enjoyable night a bit longer.

The highlight of our weekend for me was a trip to the Melbourne Zoo. I have been dying to see a kangaroo since we arrived in Oz and since seeing one in the wild requires a car to get "out" of the city, we took our bikes and headed to the zoo. I was really impressed with the quality of the zoo and it was surprisingly not crowded for a nice, sunny, 85 degree day. The place where the 'roos are located is actually an "open" area, so they can roam around and could come up to you if they wanted to (emus were freely wandering close to us in the same area). However, it was so warm that the kangaroos wanted nothing more than to lie in the shade (though Erik says this is what they do most of the time anyway!), so no great interactions with the 'roos this time, but I was still excited to see them. :)

The Melbourne Zoo has an impressive display of African animals. One of the highlights was watching the elephants. We witnessed an elephant go to the bathroom and then proceeded to watch other elephants "clean up" the mess. Apparently the elephants only partially digest their food, so what comes out still has a lot of nutritional value in it. I could not believe the amount of liquid that came out of that elephant's bladder! 

We also watched a male elephant eat two entire watermelons in a span of about five minutes.
Reaching for it...
Got it!
Watermelon #2. These watermelons size-wise were larger than basketballs.
The orangutans were also fun to watch! Because it is Spring here quite a few animals had babies, and it was amazing to watch the mother orangutan swing around with her child attached to her.

Can you spot baby holding onto mom while she swings around?
Another orangutan was solving a difficult puzzle.
If you click on this picture to enlarge it I'm sure you will see the determination in this guy's eyes!
And I'll leave you with a few more of my favorite shots from the zoo. :)