Monday, September 29, 2014

Only in Australia?

This post is for the September expat blog challenge.  It's still September.  I haven't run out of time.

Our prompt is:  "Only in ...".  We're supposed to take a store from the news or current events in our country and explain why it makes me say, "Only in (x country) ...".

The only problem with this prompt is that I don't really watch the news and I never know the current events anywhere.  Maybe some people would think this is embarrassing, but not me.  I think that most of the things that happen in this world are depressing and I'm depressed enough without help.  LOL!

But I have some things I can contribute to this topic.  I'm just not sure these things happen "only in Australia."  I can tell you this, though ... these things DO NOT happen in the States.

When you start a job in Australia, you automatically get 10 minimum entitlements.
  • You are only supposed to work 38 hours in a week before you start earning overtime.  Employers can also offer you TOIL (time off in lieu).  Here's the thing.  Most full time roles are paid a salary and I don't know anyone who only works 38 hours a week or get TOIL that means anything.  But the thing is ... you are only supposed to have to work 38 hours a week instead of 40.
  • After working for the same employer for 12 months (ha!), you can request flexible working arrangements.  You can ask to change your start and finish times, split shifts or job sharing and/or working from home.  You have to put the request in writing and explain why you need this arrangement.  Your employer has 21 days to reply.  They can refuse, but they have to make a good case for why it's not feasible.
  • Once you have worked for the same employer for 12 months, you are entitled to 12 months of unpaid parental leave.  You can also request another 12 months of unpaid leave.  At the end of this time, your employer has to give you your same job back.  Therefore, there are lots of contract jobs in Australia.  The employer has to find someone to cover the job until the parent comes back to work.
  • Vacation aka Annual Leave:  All full- and part-time employees are entitled to 4 weeks of annual leave per year on a pro-rata basis.  And speaking of annual leave ... you can get approval pretty easily for taking unpaid annual leave.  I've known several people who have taken off 3+ months off.  The company will just take in a temp while you are away.  It's unbelievable.
  • There is paid and unpaid sick and carers' leave.  Full-time employees get 10 days of paid leave; part-timers earn leave on a pro-rata basis.  If someone in your household gets sick or needs care, you can use paid or unpaid carers' leave.  You also get compassionate leave.  Two days each time you need it for immediate family.
  • Employees get paid jury duty and unpaid emergency management leave.  I don't know how often this is used.
  • In New South Wales, after 5 years an employee is entitled to long service leave.  There's a whole calculator and everything.  Obviously, I've never qualified for something like this, but this leave is on top of any regular annual leave accumulated and is paid out when an employee leaves the company if it's not used.
  • There are 9 public holidays in New South Wales: New Year's Day, Australia Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Anzac Day, the Queen's Birthday, Labour Day, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
  • There are rules about how much notice an employer needs to give their employee if they terminate their employment.  They can opt to pay it out instead of having the employee work it out.  Employers have to give the same notice if they make an employee redundant, as well.  Redundancy is similar to lay offs.
  • Lastly, the employer has to provide a copy of the Fair Work Information Statement.  :)

Another thing Australians have is a fair minimum wage of $16.87/hour.  I could start talking about the miserable minimum wage in America right now, but honestly ... I'm tired of typing and I just don't want to.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Travel Bug

I've never had the travel bug.  Not really.  I like seeing new places, but I love going home.  I'm a homebody at heart.

This month's blog prompt is, "Tell us about the first time you were bitten by the 'travel bug.'"

So let me think.  Perhaps I can tell you about some places I've been.  The first time I was on an airplane was just after I graduated from high school in 1990.  I was 17 years old and I flew from Lafayette, Louisiana to Phoenix, Arizona.  Then I took a shuttle van down to Tucson to meet my best friend.  I'm pretty sure that's correct!  I ended up staying with her in Arizona until I met my husband, Mr. Smith.

He and I moved to Long Beach, California just a few months after we married in 1994.  We spent almost 8 years moving around California before heading to the east coast in 2001 ... Connecticut, to be exact.

My aforementioned best friend's dad generously treated us to a Caribbean cruise in 2002.  That's the only cruise I've ever been on (so far).  It was a lot of fun with no queasy stomachs or viral diseases.

Since then I've only been to Las Vegas, Chicago, Singapore, Malaysia, New Zealand and, of course, Australia.  Sure ... a bit of traveling, but always back home until now.

I vaguely remember when Mr. Smith suggested that we accept an offer to take a 3 year assignment in Sydney.  It was exciting to think about and I'd never lived outside the US.  We took a trip to visit Sydney to see if I'd like it.  But if you've ever lived in a different country other than your native one, you know that it's one thing to visit a place and quite another to live there.

Sydney is great on the whole, but so very far away from family.  I've only recently suffered yet another death in the family.  It's quite stressful.  If you haven't been through it, you couldn't possibly understand.  I know that it was our decision to take on this challenge, but sometimes you just want to scream how unfair it all is.

How on earth did I get to that???  LOL!  Anyhoo, that's my "travel bug" story.  Thanks for staying awake.  :)

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Oh, How I've Changed

Our blog prompt for June is to talk about how we've changed since moving abroad.  I, myself, moved to Sydney at the very end of February in 2012.  I had friends whom I left behind.  When I got to Sydney, I tried to keep in touch with everyone, but it never seemed to be enough.  It took quite a long time for me to come to terms with the fact that even though I wasn't there, everyone else sure moved on pretty quick.  It didn't seem like I was missed much.

Again, this isn't a post to try to get sympathy.  It's fine.  I'm fine.

But it's changed me.  I still make friends.  But I don't get attached.  I enjoy meeting new people.  I enjoy spending time with my friends.  But I also don't share all of myself anymore.  I'm hoping it'll help me to not be so hurt when I leave again.

I'm learning to be more self-sufficient.  I don't need anyone else.  I'm enough.  Reading, shopping, quilting, etc ... all activities that only require that I'm there.

Birds outside our balcony entertain me occasionally.

I'll admit that I get jealous of people who have been besties since grade school.  I don't have relationships like that.  It would be nice, but that ship has sailed.  I find that I'm sometimes too sensitive about whether people like me or not.  This sort of thing never concerned me before, but in the past few years it's always on my mind.

As it stands today, my best friend is still my mom.  And there's nothing wrong with that.  :)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Coming Clean ...

I took this quiz on Facebook a few days ago.  It was about identifying your mental disorder.  So, yes, I took the silly quiz.  I say "silly" because I feel that while we shouldn't make light of this sort of thing, it's human nature to be inquisitive.  At least it is for me.  So I take these silly little quizzes with a grain of salt and just have fun with them.

So mine said that I had OCD.  Just to be sure (wink wink, nudge nudge), I looked up OCD on the internet.  I realize after reading a bit about it that I probably do have  a couple of little weird habits, but they don't bring me too much stress or anxiety so I doubt I really have true OCD.

I admit to not liking some numbers.  Now, I won't freak out or anything, but I generally don't like my radio dial to have the volume set on anything not in 5's.  For instance, the volume can be on 5 or 10 or 15, but nothing in-between.  Usually.  When 5 is too soft and 10 is too loud, then I try to look the other way when setting the volume so that I just won't know.  But I will definitely not leave it on anything with a 6.  I loathe the number 6.  For some reason, the number 6 means the devil to me.

I like everything to be in its place.  Cans should be facing you so that you know what's in them.  Similar things should be stored together.  I'm not going to insist that all the towels are the same level, but it sure would be nice for symmetry's sake.  But like I said, I don't freak out about this stuff.  Usually.

Also, I have an obsession with bags.  Not handbags.  Regular paper bags that you get at all the best stores.  If you give me my purchases in a plastic bag, chances are I won't be back unless something you sell REALLY impresses me.  Here are some of my favourite bags:

Crabtree & Evelyn
They set the standard high in bags.

This is the inside of the Crabtree & Evelyn bag.
Not only are their bags top notch, 

but their products are superb, as well.
This is my fav place to shop for lotions and the like.

Magnolia has very nice bags and boxes.
Their jewellery is delicate and beautiful.

L'Occitane ... I have no idea how to pronounce it properly,
but they have very nice products, too.

Hobbysew has nice paper bags, too.  
The only problem with theirs is that if you are 
not careful, the string will pull out of the hole.
It's got these hooks on the inside that don't always stay put.


Tiffany & Co.
'Nuff said.

Who doesn't love the Victoria's Secret bag?
I love pink.

Stationery store in Sydney

My stash of bags that I cannot part with.

So now you know some of my "dirty little secrets."  What are yours?

Saturday, May 24, 2014

A Few of My Favorite Things

A long time ago ...

In a land quite close to me ...

We were given the monthly prompt for our blog.  Needless to say, I'm a bit tardy.  I apologize, C. in Oz...  I wish I could say it wouldn't happen again, but I tend to procrastinate.  Also, I was suffering a bit from the "don't wants."

So the topic was our favourite things.  I have quite a few favs and my tastes have changed over the years.  I'm sure they will continue to do so.

Right now I'm loving pork and prawn dumplings.  And roti with beef curry.  And pepperoni pizza.

I can't seem to give up my hot pink Doony & Bourke bag.

Still infatuated with 2Cellos, as I just saw them play at the Seymour Centre and I felt like electricity was coursing through my body the entire night.

Loving that Mr. Smith is home at the moment, but not for long.  But he'll be back.

Thoroughly enjoying a couple of quilts that I'm in the processing of making.  One is a sock monkey quilt and the other is a work in progress.  I know that it's going to be composed of a lot of triangles, but not sure about the entire composition yet.

I love when it's cold outside and the sun is on your face, warming you up.

Smelling freshly laundered clothes makes me smile.

Michael Jackson's new song, Slave to the Rhythm, makes me want to dance.  I like dancing.  I miss Michael Jackson.

I love pink.  My pink hair is fading.  Everyone keeps asking if I'm going to do it again.

I'm finding lots of time to read lately.  I've always been a bookworm, so naturally it makes me happy.

Squishy stuffed animals attract my attention in any situation.

And finally, sleep is one of my most favourite things EVER.  :)

Friday, April 25, 2014

Making Plans

Mr. Smith and I have been busy making plans to see more of Australia.  In a couple of weeks we are going to Kangaroo Valley for a long weekend.  It's only a couple of hours from Sydney and it looks gorgeous!  We are staying at Cedar Cottages in their Yurt.  Hopefully we will get plenty of opportunities to commune with the local wildlife.  There are miles of trails to walk.  Can't wait!

We also have a trip planned to Uluru in July.  You may have just seen the footage of the Royals in the area.  Uluru, aka Ayers Rock, is basically a tourist attraction and that's it.  The whole area is dedicated to tourism (so I've heard).  We are staying in a Deluxe room at Desert Gardens.  Here's what I've discovered about the accommodation and restaurants in the area.  They are mostly owned by the same company... a monopoly, if you will.  Everything is quite expensive and they know they've got you.  There's nothing else around.  You are in the middle of the desert.

We've read that you should avoid wearing white, as the flies really like light coloured clothing.  You should also make sure you have head netting to keep the flies from your face.  They don't bite, but are numerous and annoying.

There is a bit of controversy over climbing the rock.  Obviously, telling people that they can't do something makes them want to do it more.  It's a bit of a steep climb for an hour and chains have been installed to help you get to the top.  Mr. Smith and I have not decided if we are going to climb the rock yet.  We'll wait until we get there and get a lay of the land.  The locals request that you not climb because they consider it to be sacred.  Anyhoo.  We'll see.

So that's what we have so far.

I would also like to spend a weekend at Jenolan Caves and maybe a few days on Kangaroo Island.  I have heard rumours that I don't get the two weeks off at Christmas at my new job, so not sure what we'll do for a holiday.

Do you have any plans coming up that you're excited about?  Tell me in comments!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Seasons Change

My favourite thing about the weather is that it changes.  And in some places, these changes are more prevalent than in others.

It's time again for our monthly blogger's challenge.  And thank goodness for the challenge!  Otherwise, I may never blog.  :)

Our topic this month is a photo challenge involving our changing seasons.  I was meant to have posted this on Wednesday, but that was never going to happen so I apologize to C. for turning in my homework late.

I loved living in Connecticut for the changing seasons.  My only complaint to Mother Nature is that she never gives us enough of the good stuff, which for me is Spring and Fall.  There is entirely too much Summer and Winter!  

But back to where I currently reside.  We are technically in Fall, but I would just call it our rainy season.  I don't remember it ever raining so much in the past two years we've been here.  It feels to me like it's been raining for months and months and months.  I usually don't mind the rain too much, but this is overkill.  Here are some pics during our lunch/shopping trip in Crows Nest yesterday:

My initial idea was to take photos of ladies in scarves or whatnot, but it's been too rainy.  Every time I'm outdoors, I'm carrying my purse and my umbrella and sometimes bags and such.  It would be awkward trying to take photos.

These photos weren't that easy to get and I finally just had to take any ole pics.

I'm so looking forward to winter.  I'm ready for layering and scarves!

Please let the rain stop...

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Music in My Soul

I remember listening to a variety of music as I grew up.  My mom and cousin were the biggest influences that I can recall early on.  The first musical mediums for me were 8 track tapes.  I had an 8 track player in my room and I'm pretty sure our car had an 8 track player in it as well.  I'm sure if I'm wrong about that my mom will tell me.  And while I know I had many 8 track tapes, I don't remember which albums we had.

But I do remember singing and dancing in the living room with my mom to Nancy Sinatra.

I also remember our Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band album.  Here's my favourite song from that album:

But as I mentioned, my cousin Tricia also influenced the music I listened to as a kid.  She liked country music and when I was young she came to live with us for a few years.  We listened to nothing but country music for a while.  Who can forget "Islands in the Stream?"

I loved George Strait.  Actually, still do.  I don't seek out new music on a regular basis or anything, but country music still holds a special place in my heart.  Here's a good one:

I also love Randy Travis.  I still have this song on my iPod:

But then I hit puberty and got into this kind of music:

And then I met Stacey and we got into this music:

Then one day my little brother, Stephen, came home with some music that I fell in love with (sorry only video I could find that was ACTUALLY him):

There's not a single song I've heard Garth sing that I don't absolutely love.  Not a single one.  And if anyone wants to give me his box set of "Blame It All on My Roots," I wouldn't turn it down.  :)

So I could go on and on through every few years of my life, but I won't.  Let's just say that I happily let others influence me on a regular basis when it comes to music.  This one is from my good friend, Declan:

And he also got me into this:

And this song has caught my attention of late:

And for those who know me well... you're probably wondering where my Madonna music is in all this?  Well, Madge will always be awesome to me.  I've loved all her albums.  Every incarnation.  But if I could only pick one song, I would choose this one for the beat and danceability:

Truth is... music will always be a huge part of my life.  I listen to my iPod walking to and from work every day.  I lip sync most of the way and I'm sure people think I'm nuts.  I don't care.  I love music.  It makes the world go round.  Pretty much anything that has a beat and makes you want to move your feet... I like.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Calf Injury

I recently injured my left calf.  Just thought I'd put down some notes for posterity.  So on Thursday night I went out for dinner with Bee, Feebs and Declan.  We went to have Korean BBQ at Arisun in Chinatown.  We selected one of the set menus based on the food we wanted to eat.  The funny part is that two bottles of vodka came with it.  We asked if we could exchange the two bottles of vodka for one bottle of raspberry wine (they would have come out ahead), but they wouldn't let us do it.  We had to take the set menu as it comes.  So we got the set menu and added a bottle of raspberry wine on top of it.  The menu also came with fried chicken, sausage and a sausage hot pot.  Oh my goodness!  All the food was really good.

So here's the funny part.  I poured everyone a glass of vodka.  I figured if it was there, then we should all try it.  It tasted to me like rubbing alcohol and I felt as though I could have breathed fire.  But we each only had one glass and right now it was filled with vodka.  There was no getting raspberry wine in it if it was full of vodka.  So I made everyone pick up there glass so that we could all "down" the vodka in one go.

1... 2... 3...

Holy crap!

But now we could drink the lovely raspberry wine.  :)

So after dinner was over, we talked for a while before leaving to go home.  Feebs and I were on the same train.  We talked until I had to get off.  We had been sitting on the top level.  I ran off the train... down the stairs and a turn to the right.  As I turned, I heard a very loud POP! and at the same time it felt as though someone had thrown a baseball into my left calf.  At first, I really thought someone had thrown something at me, but there was only one person on the train that I could see and why would anyone throw a baseball at me anyway?

I just know that the pain was instantaneous and I'm amazed I made it off the train before the doors closed on me.  My first thought was that I could just sit down and massage my leg and maybe everything would be okay.  It was immediately evident that it was NOT going to be okay.  I did massage my leg for a minute, but I knew it wasn't going to matter.  So I hobbled home.  A walk that usually took me about 5 minutes turned into about 15 minutes or so.  It was agony.

As soon as I got home, I rubbed heat gel on the area and massaged it more.  I kept my leg up on the ottoman and ended up falling asleep in my chair.  I woke up at midnight and went to bed.  So I wake up the next morning to go to work and it's not better.  Worse still ... it was my day to shave.  So I had to figure out how to manuever in the shower.  Walking to the train and then to work from Town Hall was not exactly a bowl of laughs either.

Now, I know that I should have gone to the physio on Friday, but honestly the only place I could find was at least a 15 minute walk on a good day and it was all uphill.  Like, a steep uphill.  And with the injury being so new, I wasn't looking forward to that walk.  And I suppose I could have taken a taxi, but I still had not been paid at my new job and it had been a couple of months since I'd had a job so I didn't want to spend the money.  I know... cry me a river.

So I've been nursing it over the weekend and I've found a different physio that is between work and Town Hall, so I'll see if they'll see me on Monday arvo.  It's Sunday and it does feel a little better.  I'm certainly not going to be running any marathons anytime soon and I still don't have a full stride, but I'm managing.

Tim Tams

Usually when I go for a snack, I grab something salty and crunchy.  But I like sweet snacks every now and again.

Anyhoo ...

This is just leading up to what I found at Cole's today.  NEW Tim Tam flavours!

I don't know who Adriano Zumbo is, but I love him.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Opinions are Like . . .

. . .  assholes.  Everybody's got one.

I ask for advice a lot.  I don't trust myself to make life decisions without advice from those whose opinion I care about.  I haven't always felt this way.  But lately I don't feel like I make good choices on my own.  Honestly, I'm not sure why.  Even when so-called "bad" decisions are made, nothing is all black or white.  I find that everything has shades of grey.

For instance, in hindsight, I think I made a rash decision when accepting my first job in Sydney.  It turned out to be the worst job I've ever had in my life.  However, I've made some really great friends there.  So I can't say that I completely regret that choice.  And at that time, I had no doubt about it.  I was not afraid to make a move on my own.

Fast forward two years later and I'm again searching for work.  This time I wasn't so sure of myself.  I tried to ask Mr. Smith for his opinion, but he had a lot on his mind at the time.  So I asked Bee for some advice.  Bee is good at giving advice.  She doesn't just tell you what you want to hear.  She always considers everything and articulates each point clearly.  I can't express how helpful this was to me.  And the good news is that the decision I made about my job this time around seems right on the money.

But I would never take someone's advice straight away.  Ultimately, it is my decision.

I've, on occasion, been asked for my advice.  If I think I actually have something valuable to contribute, then I'll give my opinion.  But honestly, no one should ever let someone else make life decisions for him/her.  Never give yourself that kind of "out."

It's not a good idea to let someone suggest that you should marry someone.  If you get divorced a few years later, you may want to blame that person for your mistake.  Perhaps that's an extreme example, but you catch my drift.

So that would be my advice.  Ask others for their opinions, but it's your decision.  If you are going to ask for advice, try to speak with a few different people so that you can put together a good pros/cons list to help you along.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Story of a Girl

One beautiful December day God saw fit to send us a gift.  A sweet little girl.  With an upset tummy.  Boy, she'll never live that one down!

Tee had colic.  She cried a lot.  Of course she did.  Her tummy hurt.  Why???  Who knows?  But she persevered and now she has an iron stomach.  Well, except in the backseat of a car.  She gets carsick.

And so here are a few of my favorite memories.

~ Halloween was always an exciting time for kids.  When I was in my senior year of high school, I looked forward to that night.  I had been planning on taking my little brother and sister out trick-or-treating so that we could have tons of candy!  Jorge wanted to be a rock star.  I don't think Tee wanted to be a hobo, but we didn't have a whole lot of choice.  LOL!  As soon as we walked in the door, I started pulling out all my makeup.  Jorge was first since he knew exactly what he wanted to be.  Next was Tee.  Not sure she really ended up looking like a hobo though.  The Cleopatra costume I wore was actually my mom's.

I was Cleopatra and Tee was a Hobo

~ When she was still a little girl, I left home.  I was the oldest and the first to leave, you see.  I still remember the first time I went home for a visit.  I went with mom to pick her up from school.  She was so shy.  It was like she didn't remember who I was at first.  But then she came around.

~ She was my flower girl when Mr. Smith and I got married.  The most beautiful flower girl in the world (at least until her daughter was flower girl at Jorge's wedding).

Wedding Rehearsal
Handing out flowers

~ Her first ever time in an airplane she was alone.  What a trooper!  She came to spend a few weeks with me and Mr. Smith when we lived in Long Beach, California.  Many days she had to come with me to work.  She drew pictures and hung them in the conference room.  We took her to Disneyland, Universal Studios and Knott's Berry Farm.  She was very good about completing chores and helping around the house.  We had so much fun together.  Later mom and Jorge came out and we spent days swimming the pool and walking down to the beach.

We got hair wraps at Knott's Berry Farm
A little beauty in the park
With Minnie Mouse
At Griffith Observatory
Tee's Artwork
Jorge & Tee at Minnie's House

~ A couple of years later she came back to spend a few weeks with us when we lived in Oceanside.  By this time she was a full-blown teenager.  We wanted to take her to the beach.  "I don't like the beach."  I took her to Sea World and wanted her to put on some sunscreen.  "I never burn."  I'll never forget the dirty looks from all the mothers as I paraded her out of the park with a sunburn that was so bad it had blisters.  She couldn't wait to go home and spend the summer with her friends.  Yep.  She was officially a teenager.  Although, she did enjoy herself when I took her to Britney Spears' concert.

~ Tee came to spend New Year's with me and ring in 2007!  We went to the Empire State Building and looked at the Statue of Liberty.  I took her to see Wicked and my wallet got jacked on the way out.  So we spent an hour or so at the police station filing a report.  LOL!  Then we got in an enormous crowd of revellers in a line that snaked around and through Times Square.  In the meantime, Mr. Smith was making his way to NYC to pick us up since our train tickets and all my money and credit cards were in my wallet.  I'm glad to say I've done it, but I have no desire to ever do it again.

~ Not long after graduating from high school, my little sister got married.  Married!  I made the sash for her wedding dress.  I was so proud of her.  So happy that she found happiness.

Our mom at Tee's wedding

Todd 'n' Tee gettin' hitched

Tee with her two flower girls
... our nieces, Victoria and Lauren

Isn't she a beauty?  Inside and out ... 

I applied mom's makeup  :)

Tee and Jorge

Todd and Tee dancing!
~ I remember when she told me that she was pregnant for the first time.  I'll admit it.  I thought she was too young.  I thought wrong.  She's such a good mommy.  Loving and firm.  Caring and sensitive to others' needs.

I was lucky enough to be there when Riley was born.  I've never felt closer to Tee.  She has always been special to me.  My little sister.  My best friend.  It's interesting how our relationship has evolved into something I could never articulate.

I love you, Tee.

Enjoy these photos I have found of you (since you think there aren't enough ... although you are probably right ... there could never be enough)

Tee, Jorge and Me

Not Tee, but her first two babies
Riley and Abigail

Tee with Riley
Riley had just gotten sand in her eyes.
Needed mommy's special love.

Abigail and Riley on their new swing set

Jorge and Kristen's wedding
Tee is the bridesmaid in the middle with Riley in front of her.
Another flower girl  :)



The newest addition - Charlie

Charlie's sleeping ... shhhh!

Abby, Todd, Charlie and Riley

Jorge holding Charlie with Kristen on the right

Charlie going home

Abby's helping out with Charlie

Back to Tee - teenager

Making fun of Jorge's jeans -- 90s style

Jorge and Theresa being silly

A lil jumpin' bean

She's a geek and proud of it!  LOL