Monday, 30 April 2007

John Cleese's letter to America

Thanks Kel for pointing this out. A very funny letter!

Check it out at

Sunday, 29 April 2007

Weekend Excursion: NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher

Despite other plans, we decided to head south to Fort Fisher to visit the Aquarium. Our first stop was at Carolina Beach to visit Grind. Well almost, the cafe is called The Grind. In many ways similar to the Cronulla counterpart - it mainly serves coffee (minimal food options), has a good atmosphere and is near the beach. Just missing our good friends Dave & Kel! The staff loved the grind t-shirts and had already talked about doing their own so they were further inspired. Lots of space to spread out with a lounge room, indoor coffee area and outdoor verandah.

We then headed further south to the Aquarium. We saw lots of fish, turtles and alligators. Andrew went eyeball to eyeball with an alligator and was very pleased when it was the alligator that backed off rather than him. Lucy had a great time pointing at lots of animals and got a super cute tshirt as a souvenir.

Next stop was the beach at Fort Fisher. It was late in the afternoon so it was pretty windy but Andrew and Lucy still braved it for a swim. Lucy had an awesome time swimming and loved looking at the many dogs at the beach.

Saturday, 28 April 2007

Andrew's birthday

Andrew celebrated his birthday in fine style on Friday. First up was a pancake breakfast with Lucy and I. Toppings included strawberries and whipped cream (from a can!) maple syrup and his favourite of lemon juice and sugar. Even Lucy enjoyed some plain pancakes!

With Andrew at work for the day Lucy and I looked at some more houses before picking Andrew up from work in Castle Hayne (northern part of Wilmington). It certainly wasn't an easy place to find. We then headed off to Costco, a warehouse supermarket similar to Campbells cash and carry. Andrew had a great time cruising the electronics department (absolutely massive plasma tvs for US$2900) as well as the meat section for reasonably priced Australian lamb (10 thick lamb chops for US$15 vs the 3 for $17 we got at Harris Teeter).

Then we headed home for a special dinner of Australian lamb cutlets accompanied by a bottle of Robert Mondavi cab sav followed by a home-cooked pavlova with strawberries (yes they are in season over here) sprinkled with 100% vahlrona cocoa. Andrew was very full by the end of the night!

He got some cool presents... a kite surfing lesson from me and the Lambertons, a couple of t-shirts and a "how to be the best at everything" book from Katrina and a mountain of Reeses from Lucy. Check out the photo below of the Reeses.

All up he had a very good day. Thanks to everyone that sent emails through!

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Temporary accommodation photos

The front of our unit block. We are on the second floor in the middle of the photo

The view from our lounge room. We look out onto a small lake. The road in front leads to the Mayfaire shopping centre.

The lounge room. It is Lucy's domain

View from the lounge room into the dining room and kitchen. Bedrooms down the corridor on the left.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Folks Cafe

An independent cafe that serves fairtrade coffee! It's a rare find around here. They serve lots of good food like quiches and sandwiches and surprisingly even have a drive through! With doors for tables, a rooster logo and quirky yellow walls this offbeat cafe is a good place for lunch.

Location: 4023 Market St

Monday, 23 April 2007

Clear skies

Spring is finally here! After a horrible cold spell over the past few weeks, we had a 27 degree day yesterday. The nights are still cool around 7 degrees but the days are definitely warming up. The next 5 days should reach highs of 27-29 degrees (81-84 in farenheit) Bring on summer!

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Unexpected beginning

When you attend church membership classes what sort of things do you expect them to teach you? Think about it for a minute before reading on. We are attending classes for 2 weeks to find out about MGEPC. This week (the first week) was an hour long sermon on the Holy Spirit. Next week is about Presbyterianism. Then the week after there is a lunch when there is an induction. We are just attending to find out a bit more about the church and what they believe. It is an usual program of events. More next week.


In the spirit of trying new things we entered Arby's for lunch. We were disappointed to find it is just another burger joint ala McDonalds. Though it has real chicken, curly fries and orange cream shakes. It seemed to have some healthier options like salads and sandwiches as well as the option for grilled chicken rather than fried. A ok one-off experiment but given the wide array of fast food outlets (including one called the Goody Goodt Omlet house) we probably won't be going back.

Saturday, 21 April 2007

Artifical flavours vs natural beauty

Yesterday we spent looking at houses and getting a social security number so today was about fun! We started out with breakfast at the Causeway Cafe. (We had meant to go to Artisan but it doesn't open until 9am!) Located on Harbour Island at Wrightsville Beach the Causeway Cafe is a popular place to go (including for movie stars). Last time we didn't have the greatest of experiences with the food so we thought we would give it the benefit of the doubt and try again. I had the Shrimp and cheese omlet with hollandaise sauce and grits on the side, Andrew had 3 malted pancakes with strawberries and Lucy had a bowl of grits. Issues: the 'butter' was a soybean partially hydrogenated substance, they ran out of english breakfast teabags (and Andrew was shocked when there was no saucer for the teamugs), the cup of water for Lucy had a hair in it, the pancakes and strawberries weren't sweet, the syrup was well syrup not real maple syrup etc etc. My omlet was pretty good and Lucy loved the grits. However healthy eating it was not and we probably won't go back. And they don't take cards, just cash or cheque. So given that we never have cash we paid by cheque. How weird is that!

We then headed over to Hugh McRae Park for Earth Day. It was a disappointing turnout with just one big tent with lots of little stalls in it. Given the minimal level of recycling around here we shouldn't have been surprised but it was nice to have a Tidal Creek takeaway lunch under the pine trees.

Airlie Gardens was our next stop. A world of wonder far from the madding crowd. It is gorgeous at the moment with tulips and azaleas in bloom (though apparently looked even better 3 weeks ago). We wandered around and found a beautiful spot for Lucy's birthday picnic. There is a lovely man-made lake where the swans have 6 new baby cygnets (which we saw from distance). It's a beautiful place so we signed up for membership giving us unlimited access to the gardens and free tickets to concerts for a year.

Friday, 20 April 2007

Sweet & Savory Bake Shop and Cafe

Sweet & Savory (or SnS) is a great cafe for breakfast, lunch or dinner. We were here for dinner in November and have made it back for lunch today. It serves fresh, normal sized food servings for a reasonable price. I had a cup of she crab soup with a half sandwich of ham and pineapple while Andrew had an 'our burger' with freshly made potato chips (made from using the vegetable peeler the whole length and width of the potato). Lucy had her regular almond butter sandwich but did enjoy a couple of chips. SnS has a wide menu with options for every taste. They bake lots of different breads and cakes including a red velvet cake. It's a pretty relaxed atmosphere where kids are welcome. Lots of staff mean great service. The decor is somewhat lacking but with good food it can be ignored.

Location: 1611 Pavilion Place, near Wrightsville Beach

Thursday, 19 April 2007

The Fresh Market

AMAZING supermarket/deli!! This place has the best meat and seafood selection we've seen for a while. We've tried out the lamb cutlets ($17 for 3!) and the salmon Toyko style. Lots of fresh bread, cheeses and vegies. That being said the fruit and dessert sections are a little disappointing. The fruit is just not very good quality and everything in the dessert section of the bakery is covered in fake cream. Overlooking these two issues, everything else is pretty amazing. Whilst expensive, the meat on offer is of excellent quality and great variety. I am pretty excited by the seafood section and despite Andrew's disgust Lucy and I are going to eat seafood twice a week for our Omega 3 intake. Shrimp seems to be very popular. Still trying to track down some good Balsamic vinegar.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Tidal Creek Co-op

We have joined the local co-op. It is a great health store full of good stuff that you can't get at the supermarket like flax oil, tapioca bread, cashew butter and organic hot chocolate. Tidal Creek belongs to The Coop Advantage (Julie this is the association which Greenstar Coop in Ithaca is also a member). The farmers markets are starting up again next week so we will be able to get extremely fresh fruit, vegies and hopefully eggs. This year for the first time the co-op was able to return profits to its members. But one of the best things about the co-op is that it has a fresh salad and juice bar in store. Amazing salads including 'endame and arame' which was quite sweet. Andrew loved the fresh tomato and basil soup (so did Lulu). In fact we almost had a fight at the shop because both of us wanted to wander around and check things out while the other minded and fed Lucy. In the end I got to wander around when I asked Andrew when he became so interested in health food! They also sell bread fron the Stoneground Baking Company which seem to make some amazing breads (check out their specialty bread list).

Location: 5329 Oleander Drive Wilmington NC 28403

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Artisan Market & Cafe

We have had takeaway from this cafe a couple of times and I ate here when we were visting in November 2006. It is mostly a cafe but also has some deli like things to buy including lots of gift hampers. Cool things we have eaten include the Greek lamb burger, the Turkey, bacon and swiss croissant and the Proscuitto and Provolone cafe sandwich. Andrew very much enjoyed the lamb burger. [Lamb is very expensive over here at $33US for a rack of 9 cutlets] All items are served with salad, potatoes or chips. Chips meaning potato chips not fries. They have real English scones for sale. They have Australian wine. They have a patio lit by fairy lights. It is a very good place to eat or get take away from.

Location: Mayfaire town centre

Monday, 16 April 2007

Orton Plantation Gardens

We visited the Orton Plantation on the weekend. Now that its spring and the Azalea festival has just finished its the perfect time to check out a few gardens. We stocked up with drinks and food so that we could have a nice picnic lunch in the gardens (also I didn't want to get stuck way out on the plantation with a hungry baby and thirsty husband). We shouldn't have worried as the gardens are a very easy walk and not as extensive as the name plantation may suggest. The house is off limits as it is a private residence. This is a pity as it a great old Southern mansion spared destruction during the civil war as it was used as a Union hospital. We heard a choir sing in Luola's chapel and gazed at the many colourful azaleas, camellias and pansies. A pleasant lunch time venue.

Sunday, 15 April 2007

Myrtle Grove Evangelical Presbyterian Church

We attended MGEPC this morning. We got there at 10am for morning tea which included dunkin’ donuts! People were friendly and invited us to various things going on during the week. After morning tea Lucy went into the well-appointed nursery and we got a pager in case we were needed. The service itself was interesting with lots of singing (about 7 songs all up) with a great youth band (3 guitars + drums + piano) led by 5 singers. Everyone clapped and a couple of people put their hands in the air. The words were on the screen but behind them they had moving pictures of clouds, a thorn crown, a cross with a swinging bandage etc. A little strange compared to HPC! The sermon was on God being a jealous God. It was hard to tell if they are doing a series on Exodus or a topic or just random! It may have been random as the 'Azalea princess' and her court were attending church this week as part of the Azalea festival. Next week they have a mission team going to Spain to work with drug addicts. They have a signpost out the front of the church with a sign for each missionary saying how far away they are and in which direction. So all up it is an interesting place. We are going to do new member classes (starting next Sunday) to check them out a bit more.

Saturday, 14 April 2007

Don't call me mom

Just wanted to let you know that Andrew and I have decided to speak American English (Amlish). This doesn't mean that we will be speaking with a Southern drawl, more that we will modify the words that we use. Already Andrew has been speaking in miles and I asked for cookies on the plane. Obviously we will still know about kilometres and biscuits but to ease assimilation we are going to use the American version of words. Though I'm not sure what we are going to do about spelling whether we will drop the silent 'u' in lots of words and whether kilometres is kilometers. We are looking forward to having a bi-lingual child. As long as she calls me mum!

American = Australian
backing = reversing
traffic circle = roundabout
squash = pumpkin
trunk = boot

Friday, 13 April 2007

Gold class

We have our own car! It is a brand new Subaru Tribeca. Andrew was hoping for a metallic blue colour but the dealer only had gold in stock. So instead of waiting 8 weeks for a custom built model we went with the gold (which was my first choice anyway, yay!!!) It has lots and lots of gadgets (and I mean lots) including a rear view camera, a dvd player, sunroof, navigation system etc. Check it out here at the subaru website.

By the way we got the seven seater model so that we can easily transport our visitors around when they come over to see us (hint hint!)

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

On the map

A few people have asked "where the bloody hell are you?". Here are the co-ordinates for Google Earth so you can check out where we are staying - latitude 34°14'1.27"N and longitude 77°50'7.70"W. Unfortunately the Google earth photo is older than the place we are staying in and there is just bush land in the photo. It's quite well developed now and there is lots of shopping close by.
Interestingly Sydney is very similar with latitude 33°52'1.70"S and longitude 151°12'25.61"E

American Odyssey

We travelled for 42 hours to get to Wilmington consisting of:
  • 25 minute car trip from Cronulla to SYD international terminal
  • 5 minute check-in through the Qantas club
  • 1 hour breakfast farewell with family and friends
  • 30 minutes through customs and security
  • 1 hour wait on the plane before take off
  • 12.5 hour flight from SYD to LAX
  • 2 hour trudge through immigration, customs and security
  • 2 hour reorganisation of our journey with US Airways staff
  • 10 hours at the Westin LAX
  • 2 hours through extra security and waiting for the next flight
  • 4.5 hour red eye flight from LAX to Philadelphia PA
  • 4 hour wait at PHL
  • 1 hour flight from PHL to ILM
  • 1 hour sorting out luggage, rental cars and driving to apartment
And when we got here the apartment was not as we expected. No study, no laundry room and no cot! After a lot of discussion we have sorted everything out and we will be moving to a different apartment tomorrow. Needless to say I was not happy jan! This is on top of not having any sleep for the past 2 nights.

The reason for our odyssey is simple - US Airways overbooked the flight from LAX to CLT and we were the unlucky bunnies to check in last and therefore got bumped. We were at the terminal, could see our plane, they called for passengers but we weren't allowed on. One lady tried to swap with us (ie give up her seats) but they couldn't offer her alternative arrangements as the computer system was down so they made her get on.

Thankfully they put us up at the Westin for the day so we got some sleep. There beds are truly heavenly. They gave us food vouchers ($5 per person for lunch and $10 per person for dinner) But strangely Lucy did not count as a person. If you know the Westin you will know that the voucher did not go far especially when Andrew had to get a taxi to a supermarket to get extra food and formula for Lucy. But we got a few hours sleep.

US Airways flew us 'first class' to PHL. I put first class in inverted commas because its not really what you would call first class, more a very poor Qantas business class. The seats weren't even comfortable! Lucy slept for 4 of the 4.5 hours in daddy's arms.

During our travels we met some nice people and some rude people. Lucy was angelic as usual. I've listed the eventful and horrible aspects but most of it was actually fine - just not interesting enough to blog about. At least we have a new PHL magnet to add to our collection!

So much more to tell you but you'll have to wait until tomorrow for the next update!

On American soil

We've made it to Wilmington NC! A long and not very exciting trip saw us spend 14 hours in LA and then we were re-routed through Philadelphia. I'll fill in the details at a more appropriate time (currently its 4:30am!) but just wanted to let you know that we are safe. A little sick with colds but we're excited about the prospects of being here. Lots to report about Amlish, supermarkets and other strange occurrences. Stay posted!

Friday, 6 April 2007

In limbo

We are still here in Sydney (just!) and we are running around doing lots of last minute things. We haven't spent much time in Cronulla nor have we had time to walk across the Harbour Bridge but time marches on. Dreading the plane trip but looking forward to the destination. Here we go...

Sunday, 1 April 2007

Moving Eve

It's the night before the removalists arrive. It is 11:14pm and the fact that I am blogging means that the computers are still online and therefore not ready to move! The simple fact is that we have too much stuff and it is not very well organised (particularly by one member of our family!)

We have found several interesting/unusual things whilst cleaning out including 8 empty bottles of algae killer in the pool shed (apparently it is standard practice to just throw them back into the shed instead of recycling them), a blue plastic lizard which was Andrew's first geocaching discovery, several bottles of Noble One (2000 vintage) which incidently were excellent and many many negatives and photos. Thankfully digital images are a lot easier to manage than photo albums so we shouldn't have this problem going forward

We are looking forward to putting all of this behind us but its important to remember that life is lived in the details. As I've quoted before "Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it." [Bueller, Ferris Bueller]