Monday, September 16, 2013

A Taste of America

I first learned that there was a Costco in Melbourne just a few weeks after we arrived in Australia. However, at that time, we did not own a car, so having a membership to a warehouse for bulk shopping did not make much sense. Shortly after we purchased our car, my mom actually sent us a gift membership to Costco so that we could do some "American-like" shopping!

For my American friends reading the blog wondering "what's the big deal about Costco?," there are only 3 locations in Australia (compared with 451 in the States!). Australians seem to either love or hate Costco.  People I have spoken to like the concept of being able to buy in bulk, but because "things" (houses, cars, etc.) are generally smaller here, it is not always practical to transport and/or store the sizes/quantities that are sold at Costco. Some Aussies who have traveled in the States like being able to buy American products/brands there. Then there are those who loathe all things American and do not like watching their home country be slowly converted into a mini-America! Needless to say, those people are not thrilled about Costco.
It takes about 15 minutes to get to this Costco from our house.
It is easy to get out of control at a warehouse, buying things that you really don't need. However, I try to stick to my list (though I have been known to buy something that is out for sampling because it's delicious!), so that I can remain within a reasonable budget. Below are a few of my favorite American buys from Costco.
Hard-to-find corn tortilla chips and tasty salsa!
Straight from Canada, eh?!
No, I do not buy Vegemite (yuck!). I do buy Skippy PB! 
Yellow cheese!! A rarity in Australia.
Also, the only place I've found Jack cheese!
As far as things being a good "deal" at Costco, some things are and some aren't. I have found that some of the best deals are on eggs, frozen fruit, frozen veggies, and cheese. Some other American things that I am super-psyched to get at Costco are TIDE (Aussie detergents just don't would die to know what I pay for TIDE though), Bounty paper towels (again, ridiculously expensive but totally worth having paper towels that are actually absorbent), and Mrs. May's (they sell small packets in a few grocery stores but they are a much better deal at Costco). They also sometimes randomly have name brand clothes that must not have sold well in America (NorthFace, Nike, Adidas, Under Armour) and the prices for those items are very reasonable. I find it funny that the clothes are advertised in US sizes and the women standing around the table are never sure which size to pick. Booze can also be bought at Costco for more reasonable prices than at some bottle shops, though I will probably never consider $42 for a case (that's a slab for my Australian readers) of Corona a good "deal" having grown up in America.

On my most recent trip to Costco, I learned that one of my favorite buys, Ghirardelli baking chips, are no longer being carried by the store. It was a sad day in the Hanson household, as we hold great affection for freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. I am currently in search of an alternate supplier or perhaps a different baking chip, so please offer suggestions if you have any ideas! :)

Sunday, September 8, 2013


This week we have experienced the "end" of a few things in our lives. Winter has certainly come to an end with the bloom of trees in our neighborhood accompanied by blue skies.

The footy season has come to an end, as our club made it to the Grand Final again this year, unfortunately coming out as the #2 team in the league for the second year in a row.
Trophy and medal presentation for the winning team
The biggest news this week in Australia is that of a new Prime Minister. The reign of the Labor Party has ended and the Liberal Party will be taking over. I do not pretend to know much about government in Oz, but I do know that the election runs quite differently than in the States. Unlike in America, there is no "set" election date, though I'm not exactly sure how the date is determined. Votes are still cast on paper, not electronically like most of the US of A. Voting is compulsory (mandatory) if you are an Australian citizen and if you do not vote, you will be fined. The political parties have different names, but from what I gather, the Labor Party resembles the Democratic Party in American while the Liberal Party is more like the Republican side of government in the States. I have heard a few Australians compare the new prime minister, Tony Abbott, to George W. Bush. Apparently he has had quite a few interesting speeches, though I'm not sure they rival some of these beauties by GW! At any rate, it will be interesting to see how the change in leadership affects life in our current "home" country.
Screen shot of Australia's Google page on Election Day.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Helloooooooooo Spring!

Today, September 1st, is the first official day of spring in Australia (it is also Father's Day in Oz, for anyone that is interested!). However, we have been lucky enough that it has been feeling like spring for the last week or so. The sun has been out with temperatures ranging from about 65-75 degrees F, and if our luck continues, the cold, rainy days of winter are behind us! We cannot complain too much, though, as the winter of 2013 set records for being warm (average winter temp of about 60 degrees F), albeit rainy. Trees are blossoming, the smell of freshly cut grass is in the air, and we don't have to "rug up" for our morning bike rides to work for the next 8 or 9 months.

With the change in seasons, we do start to see insects and other animals come out of their winter hiding places, which is always an interesting experience. This week we caught a spider in our hallway:
Not nearly as big as the one in our bedroom last summer, but still scary-looking!
Friday night we had some rain that lead to the exposure of about 30 snails in our backyard. 
Not sure what is going on here?!
Tiny snail!
Checking out our back door. Sort of looks like he is suspended in the air!
This week we also enjoyed an outside lunch at a barbecue joint in the city. Aimed to mimic American BBQ, this place offers several different kinds of BBQ sauce including our favorite, a vinegar-based Carolina style.
Carolina style pulled pork with 'slaw, of course!
The "Zee Man" beef brisket with crispy onions.
Also this week, Melbourne was named the world's most liveable city for the third year in a row. Kind of exciting news as we begin our third spring in "Melbs". The video below is a couple of years old but shows a few highlights of our awesome city!