The one about Melbourne

I’ve been remiss with my blogging over the last week and have really missed it! I had a draft of my post from last Tuesday all queued up to automatically post, and have been pretty out of pocket ahead of even that.  But I’m back in action. You see, I needed a full 5 days or so to recover from the trip that was Melbourne.

{Part of} Melbourne from our hotel

{Part of} Melbourne from our hotel

Hosier Lane

Hosier Lane

Cheesing at the Brighton Beach Boxes

Cheesing at the Brighton Beach Boxes

I. AM. OBSESSED. Dear Melbourne, you are one of my new favorite cities. Love, Abby. Fresh, funky, foodie, and fun. (Gotta love an alliteration.) {And I will also apologize for the fact that all my pictures are iPhone – the big girl camera didnt make it on this trip, sadly.}

Melbourne word cloud via TrulyDeeply.com.au

Barr and I had a solid 5 days of time in Melbourne, and it just wasnt enough! I have on my blog list to put together a few little travel itineraries and must see lists for tourists and visitors to places like Melbourne, Sydney, Dubai, Perth, etc, but for now: the low-down on this particular trip 🙂

  • Melbourne basics:
    • Public transportation is a breeze! Make sure you get a Myki card to traverse the tram (largest tram system in the world) and train systems.
    • Named the “World’s Most Livable City” by the Economic Intelligence Unit for the 4th year in a row – I can see why!
    • I loved popping down the little laneways and arcades throughout the city – some of them looked completely deserted, but harbored some of the best shops and cafes.
    • Many of the Victorian-era buildings are exceedingly well-preserved against a backdrop of some of the newer skyscrapers.
    • Layers, layers, layers! Weather in Melbourne changes at the drop of a hat (from what we could tell even over the course of 5 days!), so layers are essential.
  • Food: A foodie and coffee snob’s heaven!
    • Our first meal in Melbourne was at Rice, Paper, Scissors – amazing Vietnamese small plates and after the red eye from Perth, the coffee was a good boost too 😉
    • We grabbed drinks at Black Pearl and our bartender was Australian, but went to UNC! Small world. Oh, and the drinks were a treat too.
    • Melbourne is said to have the largest Greek-speaking population outside of Greece, so this fact, coupled with the fact that Masterchef (one of my favorite shows, you’ll remember) judge, George Calombaris owns (several) Greek eateries in Melbourne, I had to visit at least one. Gazi was it! Gazi was authentically Greek and their customer service was just the best – plus they could make everything gluten free! Masterchef sighting sold separately.
    • Coffee is sacred in Melbourne. I wouldn’t categorize the following as the “best”, but I though they were pretty good {skinny} flat whites! And trust me, there are shops on every corner (even a Starbucks or two), so you can easily pick your poison: Market Lane, Seven Seeds, Axil, Dukes Coffee Roasters, or just wander down Degraves St or Centre Place for plenty of options.

Via TheInteriorsAddict.com

  • I won’t list every single restaurant (only one more), but here are some of the super cute cards that I snagged from a few of the restaurants we stopped by:
Hihou (unique Japanese), Cumulus (out of this world breakfast), Borsch, Vodka & Tears (need I say more?), Rice Paper Scissors (aforementioned), and Movida (authentic Spanish tapas)

Hihou (unique Japanese), Cumulus (out of this world breakfast), Borsch, Vodka & Tears (need I say more?), Rice Paper Scissors (aforementioned), and Movida (authentic Spanish tapas)

  • Claypots. This was such a treat and one of our favorite spots. A local Melbournite (?) graciously brought us here for dinner in St Kilda. The seafood was so simple and flavorful and the atmosphere was really unique and funky – plus there’s a great bar next door.
Claypots decor in the outdoor seating area

Claypots decor in the outdoor seating area

  • Sights:
    • Melbourne has an extensive network of quaint laneways and arcades sprinkled throughout the city. Two of the more well known are Hosier Lane (“urban art” aka graffiti) and Degraves Street (tons of coffee shops and teeny cafes).
Hosier Lane urban art

Hosier Lane urban art

Hosier Lane artist at work

Hosier Lane artist at work

Centre Place

Centre Place

  • The Brighton Beach Boxes are well worth a visit. They’re privately owned beach sheds that the owners paint in a colorfully fun manner – and we were told they can go for up to $500k!
The beach boxes on Brighton Beach

The beach boxes on Brighton Beach

Melbourne from Brighton Beach

Melbourne from Brighton Beach

Hanging out in the red, white, and blue beach box

Hanging out in the red, white, and blue beach box

Barr doing a little boxing

Barr doing a little ‘roo boxing

Barr captured this hilarious shot of a ocean kayaker photobombing some wedding shots :)

Barr captured this hilarious shot of a ocean kayaker photobombing some wedding shots 🙂 Would love to know how those bad boys turn out!

Botanic Gardens in Melbourne

Botanic Gardens in Melbourne

Botanic Gardens in Melbourne

Botanic Gardens in Melbourne

  • Being the huge book nerd that I am, visiting the State Library of Victoria was such a treat. Not only were there a seemingly endless number of rooms of books, but the architecture of the library itself would distract even the most studious individual.
Loved the library's carrells!

Loved the library’s carrels!

Barr taking it all in at the State Library of Victoria

Barr taking it all in at the State Library of Victoria

  • I stopped by the National Gallery of Victoria for the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit – that particular exhibit was so-so, but the permanent exhibits made up for that! (That, and the costume on display below):
A JPG number worn by none other than Beyonce!

A JPG number worn by none other than Beyonce!

Case in point – neat to see IRL!

So there you have it! We’ve heard folks say that Sydney is like your one night stand and Melbourne is like your girlfriend, and in a weird way, I have to agree – Melbourne has wooed me, hook, line and sinker. 🙂 Until next time…

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Raindrops on Roses…

I am really excited about a link up with some of my favorite blog/bloggers! This holiday theme of “These Are a Few of My Favorite Things” is brought to you by AprilElise, and Zelle (definitely check out their sweet blogs…they’re all worth a look!)
My_Favorite_Things_Linkup_2014

This week’s link up post is for my favorite things – check out a few of them below: a bit eclectic, but I think there’s some fun ideas in there.

These are a few of my favorite things...

1 / Kangaroo Christmas Ornament
Our Christmas tree last year was a little bare (being in Dubai), but I did have a great Burj Khalifa ornament, which was a great way to commemorate our time there. I’d love to find a great Aussie ornament to remember our time down under for years to come! This one at Etsy was adorable, and at $24, affordable to boot.
2 / Black & White Photograph 
Barr and I love the idea of having some simple, black and white shots of cities in which we’ve lived in our home one day in Charlotte (Inshallah, y’all – we hope to be home owners in 2015!), and I’ve admired this photograph from Gulf Photo Plus in Dubai since I took a photography class at this studio last December.
3 / Rag & Bone Newbury Boots
A bit of a splurge (okay a big splurge), but these boots are a classic (and so comfy)! A camel color or deep brown would be ideal for returning back to the chilly North Carolina winter.
4 / 2015 Hymn Calendar
A friend of mine sent me this gorgeous calendar from a cute Etsy shop: Little Things Studio. I love paper products, calendars, and hymns so you can’t really go wrong with this little gift!
5 / Nespresso Inissia Machine
I’ve mentioned my love affair with Australian coffee before, and I think that espresso based coffee drinks have forever ruined my old coffee machine for me. Being able to make delicious espresso at home (this Nespresso machine is SO easy to use), combined with a milk frother, and I’ve got an at home flat white, long mac, or cappuccino – no flight to Perth necessary!
6 / Phaidon Cookbook
I’m a sucker for a good cookbook, and yes, I know you can look up recipes online quickly (and cheaply), but in addition to a good basic cookbook, Phaidon makes gorgeous texts for the kitchen.
7 / Poppy Lissiman Clutch
Straight out of Perth, Poppy Lissiman is a fab designer making international waves. Her clutches are colorful, fun, and a bit irreverent – I’m digging the “Eye Heart You” bag.
8 / Book Bag
I love to read. I love fun bags. Need I say more?
So what do y’all think of the choices? What are some of your favorite things? Feel free to link up in the fun as well 🙂 Until next time…

The one about FIFO

When we first learned of a potential move to Perth, being the planner that I am, started looking at the rental market in town – I was immediately struck (and perplexed) by the excessive use of the abbreviation F.I.F.O. in many of the listings. Obviously I Googled: “fly in, fly out” indicating that an employment whereby the employee works in a remote area and instead of relocating them (and their families) to the worksite, the employee flies out for a period of time, returns for a similar stretch of time, before returning back to the remote site.

Obviously this was a prevalent way of life (and employment) in Perth given the number of times it was referenced in real estate, but I didn’t realize there was such a culture around this type of employment in Perth until we moved here. The mining industry in Western Australia is primarily what drives FIFO.

Here you can see how FIFO workers across the country fly in (and fly out) of northwestern WA, where most of the mines operate:

Image via The Australian

Given that many of the mines/ports in Western Australia are far from (or in smaller) towns, the FIFO lifestyle is utilized. It is estimated that by 2015, there will be over 63,000 FIFO workers in Western Australia.

A common sight at the Perth Airport (or just Perth in general)  – the “orange collar boom” (image via PerthNow.com.au)

I’ve typically heard that FIFO work is about 2 weeks on, 2 weeks back in Perth. And of course, just like with any type of work, there are benefits and drawbacks, but given the importance of mining to Western Australia, there is never a shortage of news stories on FIFO work and workers. No matter where you stand, however, there is no denying the importance and sacrifice of FIFO workers here in Australia.

And lastly, as a demonstration as to how deeply ingrained and commonplace the FIFO culture and lifestyle is in Australia, below is my new favorite commercial (I literally turn into a blubbering mess any time it comes on TV here) – it features 5 Aussie travelers (flying Qantas of course!), coming home to their families (Qantas’ new slogan is “Welcome Home”), and one of those travelers is none other than a miner, presumably FIFO.

Until next time…

The one with Melbourne Cup

Another week in Australia, another horse race! Last Tuesday was the illustrious Melbourne Cup, dubbed “the race that stops the nation”. For those that are interested in thoroughbred horse racing (Kentucky folks, I’m talking to you!), here are some quick facts about the race:

  • The race is 3,200 meters or just shy of 2 miles (for a basis of comparison, the Kentucky Derby is 2,012 meters or 1 and 1/4 mile), so these horses are running a ways!
  • The cup is held at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, Victoria and is always held on the first Tuesday in November (Election Day in the states).

Flemington Racecourse

  •  It is the richest “two-mile” handicap in the world, and one of the richest turf races. Horse qualification is 3 years old and over.
    • I was a bit confused on the handicap thing, so Wikipedia helped clear it up a bit: “The Melbourne Cup race is a handicap contest in which the weight of the jockey and riding gear is adjusted with ballast to a nominated figure. Older horses carry more weight than younger ones, and weights are adjusted further according to the horse’s previous results. Minimum jockey weight is 49kg (108lbs).”
  • Attendance to the Melbourne Cup typically hovers around 100,000 spectators at the Flemington Racecourse.
  • Melbourne Cup day is a public holiday for all working within metropolitan Melbourne and some parts of regional Victoria. And while we didn’t have a public holiday in Perth, there were plenty of events, parties, lunches, betting, and spectating around the city.

Which brings me to how I spent Melbourne Cup 2014! In hindsight, Barr and I wished we had gone to Melbourne for the big day, but since it was a random Tuesday, it makes things a bit tricky!

The American Women’s Club organized a big group of us to get a table at the Subiaco Hotel for lunch, drinks, dress up, and race watching. The Subi Hotel put on a nice luncheon and we had a ball (even though my horse didn’t win! We did have a “big” winner at our table, which was fun 🙂 ).

Melbourne Cup lunch at the Subi Hotel

The wonderful ladies of the American Women's Club of Perth in our Melbourne Cup finery

The wonderful ladies of the American Women’s Club of Perth in our Melbourne Cup finery

Getting ready for the big race!

The winner of the 2014 Melbourne Cup was Protectionist, who finished the 2 mile race in 3 minutes and 17 seconds, beating the second place horse by 4 lengths – a pretty significant margin!

This year’s race was a tad marred, however, by the deaths of two of the horses: Admire Rakti and Araldo. Admire Rakti was the favorite horse going into the Melbourne Cup and sadly ended up finishing last when his jockey felt something was amiss after the first turn and pulled up on him; after the race, he was led to his stable and suffered from cardiac arrest. Araldo broke on of his hind legs following the race, after being spooked by a spectator and an errant flag waved in his face (as a result, flags are now banned from the Melbourne Cup).

Protectionist just prior to running the Melbourne Cup (image via Wikipedia)

I don’t want to end on a Debbie Downer note though! So here is one last picture of us enjoying the fun that the Melbourne Cup does offer – cheers to Susie for helping to organize a great afternoon watching the ponies 🙂 Until next time…

MelbourneCupAbbysRoads1

The one comparing expat Dubai vs. Perth

I hesitated using the “vs.” in the title of this post because I don’t want to make it sound like these two fine cities are competing (in this case, for the affection of the expat Blantons)…because in my mind, they are not. There is no “winner” or “loser” in this little post/exercise, but rather just something I’ve been ruminating over for a few months now. I don’t know how many people make this jump from one of these cities to another, but as a summation of the two, I thought it would be an interesting view. So without further ado….

  • Dubai
    • Significant and established expat community: Only 10% of the population in the UAE is Emirati, leaving 90% to the expats (and Americans are few and far between).
    • Cultural diversity: Dubai is the biggest melting pot of cultures that I have ever had to privilege to experience. The vast number of different languages, religions, foods, home cities, and traditions in this city is mind boggling and humbling. I loved that aspect. The downside to this, however, would be that there are some significant communication barriers that ensue. If you’ve ever had to direct a cabbie around or ordered takeout in Dubai, you know what I am talking about.
    • Muslim country: Islam is the official religion of the UAE and the religion permeates into the civic laws and practices. While I didn’t have to cover my hair, there are certain rules citizens must abide by and of which to be cognizant.
    • Haves” and “have nots“: I have never before seen more wealth displayed by material objects than I did in Dubai (cars, villas and apartments, jewelry, clothes, shoes, food, etc). I have also never before seen such a marked discrepancy between the rich and the poor. Dubai was (and still is) being built upon the backs of tens of thousands of laborers, who work all hours in the heat for very little pay.
    • The lack of seasonality: The best way to describe the “seasons” of Dubai are hot, hotter, and “don’t go outside or you’ll melt”.
    • Ease of travel: I forgot the exact stat, but there is a ridiculous percentage of the world’s population that lives within an 8 hour flight of Dubai – that, coupled with the fact that DXB is the Emirates airline hub, means that there is continual easy, quick, and lovely travel all within a quick (single) flight.
    • Hotel and restaurant scene: I love Charlotte, NC, Houston, TX, Louisville, KY and yes, even Durham, NC, but I wouldn’t say that any of these cities are hugely “trendy”; if a hot new hotel or restaurant opens in the states, it typically is in LA or NYC. Globally, you could probably include London and Dubai to that list. And even though I am the furthest thing from trendy, it was fun to go to a new restaurant or hot spot in Dubai that could only boast other locations in London, LA, NYC, etc.

  • Perth
    • Western similarities: I did love the cultural diversity in Dubai, but it was nice to move to a city where English was most everyone’s first language, we could easily find a church to attend (note: there are churches in Dubai!!! We were never religiously persecuted, but Protestant churches in Dubai were few and far between, that’s all), we could hold hands in public, and I could purchase wine with ease.
    • Aussie slang: This is a positive and a negative. On the plus side, I’ve loved learning that while Australians do speak English, they have their own twist with different words and phrases that are completely uniquely Australian – it’s fun! On the (kinda) downside, initially I did have trouble understanding certain faster clipped accents or aforementioned terms. Not really a “downside” I suppose – it’s all part of the adventure 🙂
    • Wine and coffee: The wine and coffee in Perth (and basically Australia at large, from what I have experienced) are heads and shoulders above anything I’ve ever had before – perfection.
    • Isolated: I’ve written to this point before, but it can’t be overstated enough (especially if you’re considering a move to Perth), the city is isolated. There are some great spots within driving distance and Bali is only a 4 hour flight (not to mention all the smaller perhaps less well known WA locales that are within a faster flight such as the Kimberley’s, Exmouth, Albany), but even getting to the east coast of Australia is a long(ish) flight – not just a hop, skip and a jump to be sure. You’ve just got to be ready for long flights (but the perk of that is racking up those frequent flyer miles!)
    • Weather changes: Our first few weeks here gave me a bit of a pause when I thought about my prayers for rain in Dubai because it felt that all we had in terms of weather was rain, rain, and more rain. A friend (and fellow expat) asked the question of “Do we live in Perth or Seattle?” Completely valid query. That being said, the temperatures were mild (for winter!) and we did get some sunny days. And then once winter started to wrap up and spring began, you’d be crazy to complain. The season changes are more subtle than I experienced in the states, but it exists, and for the most part, the weather here that Ive seen is excellent.
    • Gorgeous natural green spaces, walking paths, and waterfronts: Dubai had a handful of green spaces and waterfronts, but most were completely manmade. Perth has some of the loveliest parks, hiking trails, vineyards, lakes, riverside running paths, and beaches (no artificial islands in sight).
Image via Emirates

Image via Emirates

  • Dubai and Perth
    • Expensive: Dubai and Perth are pricey. Period. End of subject. Groceries, rent, cars, eating out. That being said, Dubai’s taxis and petrol are super cheap!
    • Beaches: Ask me if I would choose between the beach and the mountains and Ill choose the beach every single time. Dubai and Perth have fabulous, free beaches in abundance. I will really miss living within either walking distance or a ten minute drive when we eventually head back to the states.
    • Safety: While I didn’t ever feel that Charlotte was “dangerous”, Perth and Dubai are exceedingly safe cities. Of course one always has to be aware of their surroundings and the neighborhood (and not be unnecessarily reckless), but the crime rates in Dubai and Perth is minute and that helped me rest easy.
    • Fabulous local/drivable opportunities: We have been blessed to do a lot of local travel near to Perth (Margaret River, Swan Valley, Lancelin Beach) and Dubai (Fujairah, Abu Dhabi, camel riding in the desert) – these quick weekend or day road trips have been some of our favorites.
    • Dream fulfilling: This is a bit of a personal one (and cheesy), but as our time abroad draws to a close, I can’t help but reflect on these last 18 months as some of the most fulfilling, fun, and humbling of my life. There have been ups and downs (nothing is perfect, y’all!), but Barr and I have wanderlust and have a tendency for itchy feet and choosing the “harder” path sometimes, and our times in Perth and Dubai have filled our desire to live abroad and be citizens of the world to a “t”.

The one to understand daylight savings in Perth

How misleading of a blog title. Why? Well, Perth does not go through the biannual tradition of “springing forward” and “falling back” an hour. I remember asking some Australian friends if they did DST here and was met with incredulity and scorn – “What’s the point?” was their anthem.

What’s interesting (which I guess is in the eye of the beholder) about daylight savings time in Australia is that some  states do change their clocks, while others (like WA, the Northern Territory and Queensland) refrain. So on the first week in October, Sydney, Melbourne, and the rest of the DST-practing Aussie cities sprung forward (it is spring here after all).

The Australian states, for your reference

After doing a bit of research, I can see why some native Perth folk get heated and opinionated on the subject of DST here: the issue of whether or not Western Australia should engage in daylight savings has come up in referendum and put to a vote multiple times in recent memory (most recently 2009, but similar experiments and subsequent votes took place in 1974, 1985, and 1992). In 2006, the Western Australian government put forth a 3 year trial period whereby Western Australia would practice daylight savings for 3 years and after that period, would vote on the referendum.

In the weeks leading up to the vote in 2009, apparently the campaigning was relentless (timely given upcoming election day in the states – stay strong, North Carolinians who I am sure are sick and tired of hearing campaign ads!). Those in favor of DST were primarily business people, who maintained that it would make dealing with businesses from the east of Australia easier during the summer as it would reduce the time difference. On the other side, those opposed were farmers and many in rural areas of WA, as well as a good chunk of people who just thought it wasn’t relevant in this day and age.

Finally, in what I can call Western Australia’s “hanging chad moment“, the vote was upon them – it was such a big deal that non-voters were fined $20-$50 and the government ending up making a cool $622,000 on said fines. Anyhoo, the referendum to maintain daylight savings in Western Australia was ultimately struck down with 55% of votes against, and that, dear readers, is why Perth does not practice daylight savings.

So to friends and family in the states who recently “fell back” an hour, I am sorry you lost an hour of daylight and I am also sorry that we are now even further in time difference from you (however please bear this new time difference in mind when you decide to Skype/FaceTime/call) 😉 Until next time…

The one with the Perth International (and another move…)

If there are two things Barr and I have extensive experience in it’s:

  1. Clearing our weekends to attend (or just watch) golf tournaments
  2. Moving

We’re exciting people. Clearly. But the two aforemetioned items were a major part of our weekend last week (aside from Halloween partying of course).

First up: a  new house in Perth. To give you some background, we initially moved to Perth thinking we’d be here for three months, return to Dubai in August, and back to the states in September or so. Well, life takes funny and unanticipated turns, and after a whirlwind trip back to Dubai in August (where we packed, cleared out furniture, and officially left the UAE), our time in Australia was lengthened from 3 months to more like 9. Unfortunately, our lovely AirBnB case in South Perth was only ours until the end of October, when it’s owners returned from a 6 month trip, so when we decided to stay in Perth through the end of 2014, we subsequently had to scramble to find accommodation for 3 more months. And while we’d have loved to rack up some much needed hotel points, the hotel situation in Perth is a bit…shall we say, lacking, so back to the housing drawing board. Nothing on AirBnB really fit the bill (or timeframe) this time around, so we found a perfectly adequate townhouse for the next few weeks. And while it’s a tad “tired”, what it lacks in homeyness, it makes up for in location and the fact that it has a DRYER. Y’all, I have been without a clothes dryer since we moved to Dubai, and boy, do you not fully appreciate one until it’s gone!! (Side note: I also miss garbage disposals. Desperately.)

Anyway, last week (and weekend) was full of packing up clothes, deciding what would be sent back to the states vs. staying with us, organizing a new house, etc etc. Each move gets a little easier as we continue to whittle down our belongings…the Blantons officially have “stuff” scattered across the world (thank you to our parents who generously house said items until we return…)

After this lovely transition (I am soooo good with change *sarcasm*), we decided to hop on over to the Perth International golf tournament (co-sanctioned by the European Tour and the PGA Tour of Australasia), which was right up the road from us. The week before, Barr actually ran into Jason Dufner (an American PGA Tour professional) who played in the tournament, on a flight from Sydney to Perth. Unfortunately, Dufner didn’t play too well, but there were a handful of notable players in the field at the Perth International (and some perhaps lesser known European Tour players that we had enjoyed watching at the Dubai Desert Classic and the Race to Dubai).

Race to Dubai

Dubai Desert Classic

Dubai Desert Classic

The Perth International was a great little afternoon activity, and I do love the smaller galleries and more manageable crowds/lines at the European Tour events! And no matter what, you always see a handful of little kids dressed in their orange Puma gear as little Rickie Fowler’s. 😉

Congratulations to Thorbjørn Olesen on winning the 2014 Perth International, and enjoy some shots I grabbed this past Sunday at the tournament. Until next time….

Nice little Perth/Emirates combo - we cover all the bases, y'all! :)

Nice little Perth/Emirates combo – we cover all the bases, y’all! 🙂

You can (kind of) see Perth CBD peeking out in the distance.

You can (kind of) see Perth CBD peeking out in the distance.

Peter Uihlein (U-S-A!) hitting one of his many tricky shots of the day

Peter Uihlein (U-S-A!) hitting one of his many tricky shots of the day

The Perth International

The Perth International

 

The one where it was Halloween in Perth

With October almost over (what?!), in addition to the lack of pumpkins in Perth, I’ve also noted a general missing Halloween vibe. Yes, there may be a bit of an overload of said “vibe” in the states, with entire grocery store aisles loaded with candy and specific Halloween costume pop-up stores, but the other extreme that I’ve noted here in Perth is a bit sad as well. (Side note: check out Lynda’s post on her blog, Longhorns and Camels, discussing the same topic as it relates to Dubai vs. the states)

Candy aisle in a Houston area grocery store. Image via Longhornsandcamels.com

I’m not sure if it’s the seasonal difference here insofar that October falls in spring and that harvest time that is associated with Halloween is lacking or if (per Wikipedia) Halloween is seen to be “too American” and not really relevant to Australian culture, but  something tells me we won’t be seeing too many trick-or-treaters on Friday. So to bring a little of our American influence and Halloween fun and frivolity to Western Australia, Ashlie and I threw a Halloween costume party this past weekend for some of our expat friends. Dress up was encouraged and we had a great time prepping some festive foods. And while the party was supposed to be held in a local park, Perth weather had other plans, but we didn’t let it rain on our parade 😉

Ole!

The pumpkin wasn’t a fan of guac 😉

Rice krispy treat pumpkins

A little Aussie flair with a round of cricket!

The kinda sorta Village People 🙂

Say PRUNE

A gaggle of pirates

Two Halloween beauties

The kidlets taking refuge inside

I hope all my American readers have a great week leading up to the 31st, and eat some candy for me 🙂 Until next time…

The one with the horse racing in Perth

Having a husband who hails from Louisville, Kentucky, the importance, drama, and overall sport of horse racing has been deeply ingrained upon me since pretty much day one of our relationship. Though it looks like I was ready for the races well before I met Barr…

PerthRacesAbbysRoads

The Kentucky Derby (and Churchill Downs in general) is held in great reverence by the Blantons – my first Derby was a magical one, where I learned (sort of) to place bets (I still pick based on the name and/or the jockey’s silks’ color) and wear big hats:

What babies we were!

While we haven’t been able to make it to the Kentucky Derby over the last few years, we have been blessed to watch the ponies run around in the track in Dubai, and now Perth!

Last weekend I attended the Crown Perth Opening Day at Perth Ascot. The crowds were more manageable, the betting a bit different, and the hats a tad smaller, but nothing beats a day at the track.

PerthAscotAbbysRoads4

I only placed one bet the entire afternoon, but didn’t lose any money, which is always a plus!

Those storm clouds managed to hold off until the end of the day

Those storm clouds managed to hold off until the end of the day

And the races and horses aside, the focus was the fascinators and ensembles – WOW! The money, thought, creativity, and time that women put into their outfits and teeny little hats (which are more akin to works of art in my opinion), is mind-boggling.

PerthAscotAbbysRoads

Our little group snagged a table next to the Myer Fashion on the Field fashion show. Y’all: these women aren’t messing around with this – the preparation and rules that go into this competition is hardcore. The winner gets a cash prize and is also awarded an all expenses paid trip to the Melbourne Cup in November to compete in the Australia-wide competition. Suffice it to say that it’s kind of a big deal. Here were the top 3 outfits of the Perth grouping:

PerthAscotAbbysRoads1Personally, I think our group looked just as good 🙂

PerthAscotAbbysRoads2

And just to show you that there were indeed horses there, here is Andi’s Boy, the horse I bid upon (and won!)

PerthAscotAbbysRoads5

A full day of fascinators, races, and fun company – you can’t beat it! Ill have to go back next time with my Kentucky boy (though I don’t think he’ll have the same appreciation for the fashion that the ladies did). Until next time…

 

The one where I picked strawberries in October

Words I never thought I’d say (or type), and yet here we are. After seeing innumerable pictures of folks back in the states picking out that perfect pumpkin, decked out in their fall finest, set against a backdrop of crisp autumn weather and falling leaves, I decided something must be done: I could pine for pumpkins, college football, puffy vests and boots, and the changing leaves of North Carolina or I could make my own fruit picking adventure. (Spoiler alert: I ultimately chose the latter.)

Sad but true

I mean obviously I came to Australia knowing that their seasons were opposite from those in the Northern Hemisphere, but it’s a really odd thing to wrap your head around when you have forever been programmed to associate certain weather/clothes/activities/holidays/food, etc with seasons and months and then it’s all turned on its head. Even Dubai would “cool off” a bit as October, November, December approached. And while I certainly am not complaining about the burgeoning spring and summer weather here in Perth, one can’t help but feel a tug of nostalgia.

But I digress.

So given that pumpkins are a fall harvest food, Perth isn’t exactly a hub of pumpkin patches in the middle of October (spring to them). (Side note: they do sell imported pumpkins in the grocery stores for wistful expat suckers like me…just with a hefty price tag.) So given that it’s spring here, WA does have strawberry picking in full bloom – a good substitute in my opinion!

strawberrypickingperth3

My fellow expat blogger friend, Becca, had gone to a strawberry patch the week prior and returned with a huge haul of gorgeous berries…as many as you could pick and carry for $10! (The price is a key point here given this – a small carton of strawberries in the store here will set you back at least $6).

I was curious as to why the farm/patch (?) would let ordinary folks pay such a reasonable price to pick their own berries when they could sell them at a “better” price to local grocery stores. So after a bit of research, it turns out that these plants have reached the end of their commercial life, meaning that the strawberries are “too red” to be sold to the groceries – the stores need the berries to be less ripe (green) to increase shelf life. Bonus: if you go berry picking, you’re (in theory) getting the strawberries at their peak!

The strawberry plants went on and on and onAshlie, Keller, and I were game. Maybe we wouldn’t get a jack-o-lantern out of the deal, but we could pop over there in our t-shirts and shorts (don’t forget the bug spray and “sun cream”!) and make ourselves some strawberry shortcake in no time. We opted to split a tray and got to work…little K had a great time picking out the strawberries with us. 🙂

Nice little morning picking berries

Nice little morning picking berries

Fresh from the vine

Fresh from the vine

Our haul by the end of the morning - almost too many!

Our haul by the end of the morning – almost too many! (And please forgive K’s cap…) 😉

Cheap labor

Cheap labor

As you can see, we walked away with an impressive stash of strawberries. I can’t imagine having my own box of them!

Washed and ready for eating

Washed and ready for eating

If you’re in the Perth area, the patch we visited was at 263 Old West Road in Bullsbrook, WA, which was about 30-45 minutes outside of the CBD. You can just park on the verge and it’s open 7 days a week from 9AM-5PM until mid-December.

In the meantime, Ill be in the kitchen dicing, freezing, cooking, and baking strawberries – it may not be a jack-o-lantern, but having spring in October isn’t a bad deal 🙂 Until next time…