Monday, September 27, 2010

Australia Facts

In advance of our trip, I've been reading In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson. It's a recollection of Bryson's travels all throughout Australia, with lots of history and humor woven throughout.

I thought I'd share some of the fun Australia facts I've learned so far:
  • Australia is the world's sixth largest country and its largest island. It is the only island that is also a continent, and the only continent that is also a country.
  • It is the only nation that began as a prison.
  • Australia is home to the largest living thing on earth, the Great Barrier Reef.
  • It has more things that will kill you than anywhere else. Of the world's ten most poisonous snakes, all are Australian. Five of its creatures -- the funnel web spider, box jellyfish, blue-ringed octopus, paralysis tick, and stonefish -- are the most lethal of their type in the world.
  • Eighty percent of all that lives in Australia, plant and animal, exists nowhere else.

And here are some interesting facts about our trip:
  • Total hours in flight: 50.5. Are we crazy? This doesn't even include time spent waiting around in airports. (This is where my Kindle hopefully comes in handy.)
  • We are flying to four different cities within Australia. This is the same number of US cities I have flown to in my lifetime (aside from layovers). (If you're interested, those four cities are Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York and New Orleans.)
  • When we fly from Los Angeles to Australia, we cross the International Date Line. Australia is a day ahead of the U.S., so this means that we essentially lose an entire day of our lives. Not to worry though, we gain it back on the return flight. We leave Australia at 11:00am on a Tuesday morning and arrive in LA (after a 14 hour flight) at 7:00am on that same Tuesday morning. Confusing much?
  • We're spending three days on a small private island called Heron Island, located on the Great Barrier Reef and only accessible via boat and helicopter. I'm extremely excited about this part of the trip, but the catch is that it's not called Heron Island for nothing -- it is known for its abundance of bird life. If you know me, you know that I have an irrational fear of birds. Anyone have any suggestions of how I can get over this phobia, and quick? Lee made me go to Petsmart and visit the birds in order to try and get used to them. It was not fun, but I think it helped a little.
Now that I'm writing this I'm thinking, "so why in the world are we going there?" Just kidding. We're super excited and can't wait for what is sure to be an adventure!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Weekend Recap

Our weekend in bullet points:
  • Started the weekend off early on Thursday night with a fabulous Lady Antebellum concert with my fabulous sister.
  • Had Friday off, and spent it watching trashy television and catching up with my sis.
  • Dinner with Erin and Lee on the patio of J&S Pizza in Fuquay on Friday night.
  • Took Sugar to the Dog Days festival in Holly Springs on Saturday morning. More on that later.
  • Spent Saturday afternoon whipping our garage into shape (after buying and installing yet another heavy duty shelf in there) so my car finally fits again.
  • Wonderful dinner with Chrissy and Mike Saturday night at Tribeca Tavern in Cary. We had the best seat in the house (front and center on the top balcony), the drinks and food were delicious, and the company was great, as usual.
  • Spent a lazy Sunday reading, catching up on TV and getting some things done around the house. Lee fixed an awesome dinner of barbecue beef, red potatoes and cabbage.
So, back to Dog Days on Saturday. There were lots of dog related vendors there, along with food and kids' stuff, but what we really went to see was the Carolina DockDogs. Lee had been wanting to go to an event for a while, after seeing a national event on ESPN (must have been a slow sports day that day). Basically, dogs compete by jumping off a platform into a pool to fetch a "bumper". The object is to be the dog that jumps the furthest out into the pool before hitting the water.

As soon as Sugar saw the other dogs jumping into the pool, she was out of control. She said "Hello? I need to be doing that":


We found out that between the competitive heats, you could make a donation and have your dog take some practice jumps off the dock. So we signed her up to see what she could do.

As Lee was waiting in line with Sugar for their turn, lots of other dogs and owners were trying it out. The majority of the dogs would NOT jump in the water. The owner would throw the bumper, the dog would run after it and then freeze when it got to the end of the dock. I'm pretty sure most of the dogs had never even been in water before, so of course they weren't going to jump off a high dock into it, no matter how badly they wanted the toy.

When it was time for Sugar and Lee's turn, I was a wreck. My heart was beating so fast and the camera was shaking. I kept thinking, this is nuts, can you imagine what it's going to be like when we have a CHILD that's about to do some sort of performance? And mind you, the audience of people watching was not big, and most people were only half paying attention anyway.

But of course, Sugar did her thing. Here are her first two runs:

Although she was so wound up from all of the excitement that she didn't want to mind Lee very well, there was NO WAY she was not going in that water. In fact, on two later runs she jumped in BEFORE Lee even threw the dummy in the water. That got a lot of laughs from the audience.

Two more action shots:



After Sugar was done, one of the DockDogs people came up and said that she was a natural and we needed to start training her to compete. *heartswells* *proudparentmoment*

So, all in all we had a great weekend. Especially Sugar.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Preparations are Underway

After months of waiting, our Australia trip is finally starting to get close. Here's a peek into what we've been doing to prepare, and what's still on the list:

1. Our passports are up-to-date (I had to update mine with my new last name) and our Australian visas have been processed.

2. We've been up in the gym, workin' on our fitness. We'll arrive in Australia around 65 lbs lighter than when we booked our trip back in February (and we're making one last push before the trip gets here).

3. We opened a Cash Points Global account, which is sort of like modern day traveller's checks. Instead of paper checks, it's in the form of a Visa debit card.

4. I check the exchange rate every day. Even though it won't make a huge difference in the long run, it's still fun to keep tabs.

5. We've been stocking up on clothes for our trip. While other people are gearing up for fall, we've been scouting out shorts, tank tops and swimsuits on clearance (Australia's seasons are opposite from the U.S., so it will be spring there, but where we're going will likely be HOT). Total tally of North Face items purchased is currently at 11. Not because we're North Face snobs, but because we've scored some good deals at REI and elsewhere.

Our lightweight Venture rainjackets and Padda water shoes
6. My OCD is in full force. We're talking a 3 page list of questions for our travel agent, a detailed packing spreadsheet, and I already know what movies are going to be played on our flight.

7. In an attempt to avoid plane cooties, I got my flu shot early this year. One of the many advantages of having pharamacist friends = flu shot house calls.

To Do:
1. Let our bank know we're travelling abroad, so they don't shut us down for fraudulent activity.

2. Keep practicing with my camera and new lens. (Just ordered a spare battery and memory cards.)

3. Do our "practice pack." Even though this is a long trip, we have to pack light, not only because of airline restrictions, but who wants to be schelpping a 100 lb suitcase all over Australia? We're going to pack up to make sure everything fits and is within the weight limit...and then unpack it all again.

4. Buy travel sized toiletries!

5. Line up a kind neighbor to collect our mail for us ;-)

I'll be back later in the week for some fun facts about Australia and our trip.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


The biggest spiders I have ever seen live at my sister's house.




Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Saturday was my 25th birthday. We had a "party at the pond" at my sister's house Saturday afternoon/evening to celebrate.

There was wading in the creek:


And riding in the back of trucks:


And lots and lots of good food and good company. It was a super laid back affair, which was right up my alley.

What did I get for my birthday?

Cash, some gift cards (they always fit!), a Kindle and leather cover from my mom and dad, and a zoom lens from Lee. And a few things I bought for myself.




All in all, it was a great birthday. Here's to a great 25th year of life!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mountain Camping

For a variety of reasons, Lee and I decided to forgo the beach and the river on Labor Day. We were planning a quiet weekend at home with our dog who has a broken toe (long story).

But, at the last minute, Lee talked me into going camping in the mountains for a night. So we loaded up on hotdogs and ingredients for s'mores on Friday night and then set out west at 6am Saturday morning.

In an effort to keep it real on this here blog, I'll share with you the good and the bad highlights from our trip.


The BAD:
I am a born planner. I like to have everything planned to a tee. This trip was not planned at all. Therefore, we drove 4 hours to Mortimer campground only to find they were full. (Labor Day weekend and all, duh.) We went to a nearby private campground which was run by a group of mountain hippies. They were clearly full, but offered to squeeze us in anyway. As we scanned the area, we realized there were nothing but men and horses and the strong smell of weed (it's 11am at this point mind you). We decided to pass. Then we drove another hour west to the Linville Falls area only to find those campgrounds full.

We finally found a private campground full of quiet old people in RVs. We fit in perfectly.

Gem Mining

The BAD:
We went to Gem Mountain tourist trap gem mine and paid $25 for a bucket of rocks.

Although hokey, it was actually pretty fun. And we scored a humongo raw emerald, among other pretty stones (although we were too cheap to have any of them cut into jewelry).

Crabtree Falls

The BAD:
It was a mile hike into the falls, which is definitely doable but the terrain was REALLY rocky and I was gingerly picking my way through the rocks so as not to break my dang ankle. Lee said I was embarrassing him because I was going so slow.

The hike was beautiful, the falls were beautiful, I got a lot of great pictures and Sugar loved it too.


The BAD:
Although our campground was quiet, there was a dog somewhere in the distance that howled all. night. long. I honestly did not know dogs could bark that long.

It was actually kind of fun being snuggled in the tent with Lee and Sugar. And did I mention nighttime temps were in the 50s? A very nice change from the 90 degree weather recently.

All in all the trip turned out pretty well but it will be another year before I'm ready to go camping again. Once a year is about my limit.

And now for some pics.










P.S. - S'mores are good for breakfast. I absolutely refuse to even consider going camping unless there are s'mores involved.
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