There's just something about it being over 90 degrees, hot, muggy, and sweaty the second you walk out the door in late November that doesn't make you get you in the spirit of Christmas. We are not use to freezing cold in November and December, but we are use to being cool. Josh and I have been talking about it doesn't feel like Thanksgiving or Christmas time at all with it being so hot. We decided to do something to get our house more in the Christmas spirit, and just call it Christmas in July.
We did what anyone would do, right?!?
Made a Christmas tree.
Well, our tree we used last year is sitting in storage half way around the world. We really couldn't justify buying a new one here, and cargo space was to precious to put a tree in. Josh and I thought and thought about how to make a Christmas tree that would help put us in the Christmas spirit yet be really cheap.
We bought butcher paper, paint, brushes, stencils, and a Merry Christmas banner. Total it cost around $20.00. I already had 3m strips so we hung the paper on the wall with 3m strips. We didn't want to damage for our Australian apartment. Next, we stenciled ornaments on the tree, and hung the banner.
We are already picking out random acts of kindness to do, any suggestions on that would be appreciated. Other than a tree and random acts of kindness, what is something you do to get in the Christmas spirit? Have you ever made an off the wall kind of tree?
Holidays are all about family, friends, and the traditions that keep the holidays alive. Holidays have always been different since Josh and I got married. We have only been together on the actual day of the Holiday two holidays in 3 1/2 years, one Easter and one 4th of July. Josh is usually off working. So actually celebrating on the exact day, has never really been a big deal. We always have our family traditions, just on a different day.
This year was no different, since we are in Australia and Thanksgiving is an American holiday, neither of us will be off for the actual day. So, we celebrated the weekend before. Since we have no family around, we chose friends. We decided to have a Thanksgiving dinner for the people Josh works with. In true Thanksgiving fashion we kept with all the Thanksgiving staples, and the age long tradition of going around the table to share what we are thankful for. We were going to have two dinners; one for Josh's work, then one for friends we have met out and about, but the friends one didn't work out with everyones schedule. We will have them over for a different tradition next week.
We needed to get cornbread mix for the dressing. Yeah! that is where we ran into our first issue. There is no Jiffy cornbread mix in Australia. SO...cornbread from scratch for dressing was a must.
Did you know you can make it from scratch? Yeah me the, "just microwave it," kind of cook had no clue. I thought Jiffy was the only way to have cornbread. It was quite comical seeing us in the grocery store trying to decode everything. Corn meal is called polenta, french onions are called chalets (which are found in the Asian food section of all places), and there were MANY others. I guess we looked helpless because we had a man come up to us and say, "I am enjoying watching you go around the grocery store, but I am a chief and would love to help you." He was our saving grace. He helped us decode the first part of our list. After he walked off we remembered one more thing. Don't worry, I ran through the store and found him though. He was so nice before he left he came and found us and said, "last shot, are you sure you got it all?" I kind of wish we would have invited him to Thanksgiving dinner, but we were not thinking straight at that moment. Maybe we will run into him again.
While trying to keep Thanksgiving as close to the traditional recipes we grew up with, we had family email us, and relied on our best friend Google.
The pan wouldn't fit in our oven. I fixed it quick, just smash the pan.
Every year when we cook Thanksgiving, I am shocked at how much butter you can fit into one meal. When I invited Australian's over for Thanksgiving dinner, I warned them, run extra, or workout harder before you come over. When it comes to traditional American food, it really is all about the butter and unhealthy. I found this video to help explain Thanksgiving nutrition to our Australian friends. I had to share the laugh.
Since we got married our tradition has been to cook for who ever wanted to come over and eat with us. Most years we have ended up cooking two meals. I would wake up early in the morning on Saturday, go run 20 miles, that was always on my running schedule when I would run St. Jude Marathon, come home, Josh and I would cook, and the first round of people would come over. On Sunday, we would go to church, come home, and get cooking for round two. Those were fun times.
Like our fine china? Hey, clean up was awesome, one trash bag and one dishwasher load. WINNNING!
This thanksgiving was for sure great memories. I loved sharing all the food and traditions with people who had never tasted any of the food, or heard the traditions. They made it fun here. One of our friends said it best, "This was fun, I really enjoyed getting together with friends and reflecting on the past year and being thankful." That my friend is what it is all about.
All our Thanksgivings have great memories. What are some good ones for you? What are you thankful for this year?
After doing paperwork for six months, I am finally teaching in Australia. Now, when I say teaching, I mean only subbing. Yes, you read that correctly, six months of paperwork just to sub. Their substitute teachers must be certified. Let me warn you, this is a wordy post, sorry!
Now, while they have to be certified, they do reward for being certified. Australia schools pay more each hour for relief teaching (subbing) than most American subs make in a day. In the Brisbane area they pay around $71.00 per hour, with a cap for $370 a day. Before you get to happy though, remember Brisbane is ranked 13th most expensive places to live in the world.
I have had many people ask me what is different teaching in America and Australia. Other than the money, here is a short list of what I have noticed in my first four weeks inside schools. While you are reading this, keep in mind I have been working at State Schools. Most State schools I have been at have been really small schools, and most grades have no more than four classes per grade. From talking to people around the schools, small schools are very common in Australia. Their primary or our elementary schools go from Prep, which is our kindergarden, to year seven or as we say seventh grade.
Even though they are State Schools, every school I have been in teaches religion. Yes, pick your jaw off the floor. They teach about Paul, Silas, Jesus, God and other Bible characters in public schools. Now, if a parent does not want their kid to participate they can opt to sit in the hall, but in the classroom they are learning about the Bible. Not many kids sit in the hall.
All schools wear uniforms. Each school has their school plaid and school colors that all the students wear it everyday. Above is an example of some of the uniforms the school wears, the plaid and tall socks I have seen in most schools are missing from the picture. They have a dress outfit and sport outfit. The dress outfit most of the time is a dress for the girls and nice pants or shorts for the boys. The boys wear button up shirts and some even wear ties. Both boys and girls wear knee socks in most schools. The sports uniform is the same for boys and girls, a polo type shirt that is kind of what we would call soccer shirts. Both uniforms, no matter gender must always wear a hat when outside. A hat when in the sun is actually a state law. All uniforms are unique to the school, and must be bought in the school's uniform shop.
It is really hard to get on to a kid on the playground when you do not know their name and they are all dressed the same! But the uniforms really do level the playing field with their clothes. Everyone looks exactly the same.
The layout of the schools is something I am having to really get use to. The schools are SO OPEN. Most schools I have been to all are multi level with every classroom having their own opening/staircase to outside. I had never thought about how truly lock down our schools are, but wow it really does make me feel safer. School shootings are not something Australian schools worry about like American schools.
Most rooms I have been in have tons of windows, fans, and NO air conditioning. Yes, you read that correctly, NO air conditioning. Just this weekend we had two days over 100 degree days, and this is still spring. I will say I have not gotten overly hot, it really hasn't been bad. They build the schools with no air conditioning in mind as they have a Queenlander style of building. Some classrooms are even open classrooms with up to four classes going on in one room. With my loud mouth, open classroom has really been an adjustment for me.
They have many breaks to eat throughout the day. Most schools I have been to have a fruit break (around 10:00), morning tea (around 11:00), and lunch (around 1:00). The fruit break is around five minutes, morning tea and lunch are around thirty minutes. They have 15 minutes at the start of the break where they eat, and then the rest of the break to play. Now, while they eat, that is a huge difference.
The kids do not have tables, there is no cafeteria or cooks. They all go outside their classrooms and sit on the concrete in the shade. There are no free lunches. Most kids bring their lunch, there is a couple of kids that buy their concession stand style food from the tuck shop, but most bring very healthy lunches. Most lunch boxes I have seen have a piece of fruit, a fresh veggie, a sandwich and water. I have also noticed that most do not bring plastic bags and trash. Almost every kid has this plastic lunch box that has dividers that can be washed every night.
While talking about breaks, teachers do not get a planning period every day. Most teachers get two to three thirty minute planning periods a week. The activities the students do are almost the same as kids in the states, but every school does teach swimming during the school day. Every school has a pool. Somethings are different with their activity times though like every time I have taken kids to the library, I have to teach the lesson. I asked if this was because I was a sub, and was told no. The classroom teacher is in charge of library lesson.
Teachers do get extra breaks when a relief teacher (sub) is there. The entire school runs on the exact same schedule. Yes, kindergarten through seventh grade or in Aussie terms prep through year seven, all have recess, lunch, and so on at the same time. The do have different areas they play and eat in, but still it is all the same time. So, even if the teacher I am subbing for does not have duty, I have to go do other teacher's duties who are at school, to give them a break. Hey! I don't mind though, I am getting paid pretty well. Most days I have one 30 minute break. It works out really well though, their day is only 8:45-3:00. It's pretty good.
Some things I do not think I will ever get use to is the different words for things. An eraser is a rubber, a marker is a Texta (the brand of marker), Math is called Maths, and most classes start and end every day saying good morning to the teacher in unison. They also put all their work in a book they call their scrapbook. The teacher may handout a worksheet, but the students then glue it into a book and keep everything together. Each kid has a scrapbook for every subject to help keep them organized and help them learn how to take notes.
Another interesting fact is parents are required to pay things. I have seen field trip notices that cost $18.00 per kid. Also, the kids have to put money on their account if they want to use the school printers.
This has been a great opportunity to see a different school culture. I have seen many things that I want to bring into my classroom, one day. It has also really made me think about the reason behind everything I knew in schools and what I have learned in Australia schools.
The best part, on most days I walk to school, I leave my house around 8:15 and home by 3:15. I would say pretty good day, while still feeling like I am making a difference in the world. While I love teaching, relief teaching or subbing is so different than teaching. I am so happy to be back in the classroom, but I really miss having "my kids" to help make a difference in their life and create a bond with them of trust and learning. What is a memory you have of a bond with your teacher or student?
"Twas the night before the G20
And all through Brisbane
The only creature a stirring was armed and ready
The roads were bare with all trash cans checked
In hopes the leaders would soon be here......"
Just kidding, but no really....
A couple of weeks ago we had the race that stopped the nation, last weekend we had the meeting that shutdown a town. The official meeting of The Group of twenty, also known as the G20 met in Brisbane this weekend. This group is made up of the big economic players in the world.
This group has only been an official group since 1999. If you are like me, you had no clue what counties would attend a meeting like this. Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, and the European Union are the countries that make up the G20. Here is what I found kind of funny, the group is twenty countries/groups, but there are ten groups that have permeant invitations and the hosting country can invite who ever they want. Australia invited 21 other countries. So really this year it should have been G51.
Who ever the leader of the G20 is for the year, has to host the official meeting. Now, as you can expect police were everywhere this weekend. 6,000 police and 900 soldiers, worked this weekend, most working 15 hour work days all weekend. I talked to a couple, they told us police were flown in from all over Australia.
This weekend was expected to cost Australia a whopping $470,000,000. They completely shut down the city. We had an official holiday Friday, and Josh could not go to his office Thursday since it was close to Obama's hotel (OBAMA DIDN'T GET HERE UNTIL SATURDAY.) On Friday we wanted to go see what Brisbane looked like as a ghost town. All we really saw was a ghost town, a lot of motorcades, one protester, and tons of cops. The pictures are some of the busiest streets and bus stations in Brisbane.
Want to know a crazy fact about the weekend? Saudi Arabia came to Brisbane two years ago to pick out their hotel. They didn't like any hotels, so they did what anyone would do, bought one. Yes, bought it, gutted it, and made it perfect for their operation just for this one weekend. Yes! All that for one weekend. Can you imagine having that kind of money? Wonder what they will do with it after the weekend is over.
Obama stayed at the Marriott. People around the CBD (downtown) were calling the Marriott, American soil for 48 hours. They completely shut down everywhere around it. His motorcade arrived two days early and practiced all his routes.
We told one of the cops on Friday, our car was in the shop and after much deliberation with our government, they thought since our car was in the shop we didn't really need a motorcade, we could just walk around the city like the commoners.
All joking aside, the week before the G20 was very tense. The Australian Prime Minister, Abbott, had harsh words with the Russian President, Putin, about the down MH17 flight that killed 34 Australians. As soon as their meeting was over the Russian President activated three war ships and had them heading on a course to Australia. During the G20 meeting other people had words had harsh words for Putin over Ukraine and Putin left the meeting early. Both sides said the meetings were very civil and Putin didn't get mad, he just had to get back to work. I am very glad that nothing happened in our town this weekend, this post could have been a lot different.
Now back to the poem....
"They drove to their planes, the security was loosened
And away they all went, like they all were a listening.
But I heard them exclaim as they flew out of Brisbane.
"Cheers to the G20, we did no dissing"."
Have you ever been to a city when they shut it down for some reason? What was it for? What was it like?
After moving to Australia, I have had more time on my hands l am discovering my camera again. I have always loved messing with it, but never really had time to just play. The other day I got a chance to take pictures of this wonderful family. Tell me what you think.
I love this picture, but can not figure out how to remove the shadow.
We took these at New Farm Park in Brisbane. Isn't the setting just beautiful. I am so happy this family let me play and were patient with me. I have a lot of growing to do in the picture world. I hope I captured this families joy and love for each other. It took one hour to pick places at New Farm, two hours to take pictures (not snapping the entire time-gave kids many breaks), and five hours to edit. Glad I am not doing this for money or I would starve. Anyone have any suggestions or pointers to get better pictures? Anyone else in Brisbane area want to let me play?
We all scream for ICE CREAM!
Not wanting to be bigger than a bus, we have had to make a rule. Ice cream only on days you go to the beach. This weekend, we really wanted ice cream, and couldn't break the rule.
So, we went to the street beach in South Bank which is in the middle of Brisbane. This is a man-made beach complete with sand, water, life guards, and ice cream shops. South Bank will probably be on the news some this week, no matter where you live. South Bank is where the G20 meeting will take place on Friday. I found this video online to show this amazing beach in the middle of the city.
Living in a postcard, we have ice cream options on most street corner. Which means we can't have boring ice cream.
Soooooo... we found an ice cream shop that makes their ice cream while you wait with liquid nitrogen. It is called Nitrogenie. Pretty neat place.
They pour the liquid into a mixer with the nitrogen, and within two minutes you have ice cream.
If you ever see a shop like this around you stop, go in to watch, and eat. Here is a video I found on YouTube, explaining the process.
I would say we liked it.
What is a off the wall kind of place you like to go for new experiences?
Some call it the race that stops the nation.... Most picture the man blowing the horn or watching the jockeys warm up from afar when thinking about horse racing, but this is all about one city's day to stop the country, runway fashion, and spending money.
This week we had a national event, The Melbourne Cup. Personally it is an event that makes the betting agencies a lot of money and an excuse to dress up! In 2010 they brought in over $110 Million in bets just on race day. This is not just any race, it attracts over 100,000 people at the actual races in Melbourne. Take a look at my pictures though, you don't have to be at the races to enjoy the party.
Just like any event, you have some who enjoy it responsibly, some who spend their life savings, and others who are just there to people watch (this would be ME).
I was really relieved that I did not have to substitute teach on Melbourne Cup day. I had seen the announcements the week before, teachers were to dress like they were going to the cup, dress, heels, and, fascinator all day. Can't you just see me wearing that all day? "Uh, excuse me, are Chacos considered heels, in this part of the world?" Josh called me the morning of cup day, and told me to get downtown because this had to be the best day of people watching ever!
People were everywhere dressed like they were at the race. Nice hat, right? Mind you, we live a two hour plane ride from the race, and or downtown is not by a race track. The picture below and above are from a pop up party in a park in the city.
There was pop up betting stations ALL over town. It was quite comical. Most business declared a holiday from after lunch on. Most Aussies take off no matter. So, I guess they think declare a holiday, and close the office, or close the office because there are no workers.
And YES, don't worry, there was a retired jockey in town, he was racing folks on a stick horse! Like I said the people watching was worth it all. I rode into town and took some pictures, but I had to leave early, and had to miss the race. I am watching two kids for a few weeks, and I had to be home before they got out of school. Race time was 2:00, and to get their house it is an hour bus ride from downtown....so I missed out. There will always be next year.
Yes, I did miss the race, but let's talk about what I did see. It is true though, it does stop the nation. I was riding in the bus during the race, and EVERY place we passed had everyone standing around the tv. It was funny.
This was just in the middle of walking paths. Like I said, all about the betting. I was waiting for the guy with the mega phone to say "Step Right Up and place your bets," like in old movies at sideshows.
I would like to know how much money they took in this year, and how much they paid out. The one favored to win got last, and then fell over dead. Yes, you read that correctly. This race actually had two horses die, right after the race. Talk about pressure!
I feel like they are always having events around here. It is so fun learning about their culture.
These are just random people, I stopped for a picture. I can't wait for the next cultural experience.
Don't worry, I did place a small bet. $2.00 on the long shot, and $2.00 on the second most favored, just to get 1st, 2nd, or 3rd. I didn't win a penny, but hey my horses didn't die, and this race that is WINNING!
The other day I was missing home a bit. Josh rented a car and we went hiking at Noosa, and just be in nature, no concrete. While driving around, Josh came up with doing something that would make anyone happy. While normally we are eating pumpkin recipes (click link, I found some awesome looking pumpkin recipes) in October, this year I was picking strawberries. Having the seasons flipped is so weird. My brain still wants to bundle up, drink warm drinks, eat pumpkin, and wear boots. Our reality at the moment is around 90 degree days at the moment though, and moving into summer.
We went to a PYO strawberry patch.
I had never picked strawberries...
"I know, I know,"
After we got home, I made a version of strawberry shortcake. We didn't get to have any cream with it. The grocery stores around here close at 5:00 on Saturday. So, we just improvised. I would say we didn't miss the cream. It was still good.
What is something you like to do when you are a bit home sick for family?