Thursday, 29 May 2008

Travel Moment 4 - Driving from Las Vegas to Yosemite

We drove 8 hours from Las Vegas to Yosemite via Death Valley and Mono Lake. It was an amazing day with so many changes in scenery that were simply breath taking. Here we are driving out of Las Vegas ready to drive on the wrong side of the road!

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Travel Moment 3 - Lake Mead

Our tour guide was taking us to the Grand Canyon but on the way we stopped to glimpse Lake Mead. In the town of Boulder, a herd of Barbary sheep live in a park with this amazing view of the lake.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Travel Moment 1 - Architectural cruise in Chicago

Chicago is one of my favourite cities. Let me qualify that. Chicago is one of my favourite cities in summer (in winter my great aunt got frostbite on her ear going to the supermarket). Today's travel moment is about an architectural cruise through the waterways to marvel at the skyscrapers. It is always a risk to join a cruise - they are either awesome (Sydney, Paris) or dead boring (Vienna, Perth). In this case it was awesome! We sat back, drank Starbucks coffee and enjoyed the sunshine whilst our announcer explained various building styles and techniques. From the Wrigley, to the corn cobs, to the John Hancock, to the Sun Times we enjoyed our cruise and recommend it to you. We also recommend seeing the Wrigley up close as built into its outer walls are stones from other famous buildings (great wall of China, Notre Dame, and the Parthenon to name a few)

Friday, 23 May 2008


We're heading off on vacation tomorrow. It seems a long time since our Seattle Odyssey and what a contrast in weather! We are driving north to the Outer Banks, North Carolina's most famous stretch of sand. The Outer Banks is a series of relatively undeveloped barrier islands which change shape with the fierce hurricanes. We are staying in the aptly named town of Waves, south of Rodanthe made famous by the Nicolas Sparks novel 'Nights in Rodanthe'. Incidentally Richard Gere and Diane Lane were here in Wilmington filming the movie last year and I was in an art gallery when the call came in for paintings to be sent to the set ASAP. [Film to be released 3 October 2008]

It is the Outer Banks where the Wright Brothers first made flight, where Black Beard the pirate reigned and is the location of the 2007 beach of the year as judged by "Mr Beach" (Ocracoke beach) It is also home of the Cape Hatteras lighthouse, the international symbol of North Carolina. In short it is a jewel in the crown for our state and many many tourists venture here each year. This was the number one place on our travel list whilst here in the US as we would be kicking ourselves if we moved back to Australia without experiencing this place at least once.

We are staying at a house (above) almost on the beach. Given that is not school holidays yet we managed to get this house for a good price and we're looking forward to falling asleep to the sound of the waves. Blogging will continue next week so keep checking in. To keep with the traveling theme I'm going to post some photos showing some awesome holiday spots around the US.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Garden project 5: Pizza oven

Okay all the other garden projects are completed but this one is still in planning, design and approval. Here is the marked out spot in our yard for the entertaining area (far right corner you can see a couple of orange flags). Dream big and you'll see what we have planned.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Garden project 4: Flower garden

This project unlike the first three is in the front yard. We have 5 large garden beds and whilst most are planted with evergreen shrubs there are quite a few 'holes'. One of the beds (left) was a blank canvas except for the large ornamental pear tree in the middle.

You'll have to wait for late summer for some better photos as there isn't much to see yet (though there is nice promising growth especially with the ice plants at the front flowering) We do have a red hot poker that has grown in another bed and it is gradually changing from green to orange to red.

Here is the planting list:
  • black eyed susans

  • pink coneflowers

  • green rudbeckias

  • ice plants

  • butterfly bushes

  • red hot pokers

  • purple liatris

  • diamond grass

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Product of the week - Iron Chef General Tso's sauce

We saw this Iron Chef product at Costco the other week and had to blog it (though we did not purchase it). Here is the blurb from the website, and by the way if you haven't watched the original Iron Chef series you should!

Welcome to the home of Iron Chef Food. We are the exclusive licensees for all food and beverages for the Iron Chef, we are licensed by FujiTV in Japan and work closely with them to maintain the integrity of the Iron Chef name in our products and flavorings. Our Iron Chef products include an extensive line of sauces, a line of gourmet soup mixes, our line of exotic rice crisps and our new line of flavored Panko (Japanese bread crumbs). Four years ago, we realized that there was no brand that was offering authentic Asian sauces that was appealing to the American palate. There were a few sauces with Asian names, but these sauces used artificial flavor enhances and preservatives, or were sticky-thick sauces, that still needed to be refined by the customer. Iron Chef Foods developed a line that combined the authentic ingredients (like real brewed soy sauce) to create authentic Asian sauces that were exciting and credible to the American palate. At the same time it was important to us that all our flavors remain faithful to the original sauces that bear their names. In the words of the Iron Chef Chairman, "Allez Cusine! Let your cuisine reign supreme!”

Monday, 19 May 2008

Rose garden

Continuing the garden theme of last week here is an update on our roses. Our now famous yellow rosebush has yielded 67 roses in just five weeks. We moved into this house in June so we missed this initial crop last year. However the bush blooms until September so we are looking forward to many more sweet smelling flowers. I have given these roses to lots of people and each time people are amazed at their wonderful scent. They also look so perfect that people think they aren't real until they smell them (or a bug flies out).

We also have a couple of other rosebushes including the white ones on the trellises (the technical botanical name), the red one and the pink one (transplanted from the back and doing extremely well). Our dianthus plants bloomed (and died) over the past month with pink and purple flowers which made our garden smell very sweet.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Garden project 3: Shady garden

We have a shady garden along the side of the house where the airconditioning unit is located. Nothing much grew there and we pulled out about 25 roofing tiles that had been dumped and were rotting. In their place we have planted five red 'cardinal' hydrangeas and four 'loyalist' hostas.

I didn't think any of them had grown much until I looked at this original planting photo and compared them to the photo from today. The hydrangeas look great with many more leaves and have flower heads that are beginning to form. The hostas have sprouted their glossy varigated leaves and are beginning to take the form of a plant (having been planted as bare rooted bulbs) This garden is looking surprisingly good for an area receiving no sunlight.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Grandad, we got the Hawthorn DVD!

Garden project 2: Herb garden

Our herb garden is very unique. Not only did we design it ourselves but we completed the project from start to finish in 7 days! This is unusual as our projects usually drag on for a long time but Andrew was so motivated he worked on the pavers until 10pm one night. It is fairly large with a 14 foot diameter.

After discovering this lovely bird bath at Stone Garden whilst looking at pizza oven stones I immediately imagined a circular herb garden. One week later I am picking fresh herbs to saute veal in olive oil with crispy sage leaves. The herb garden includes sage, rosemary, coriander (cilantro), parsley, oregano, basil, mint (some regular mint, some chocolate mint), and thyme. Now you know why I was posting earlier about translating herb names into Amlish!

Project construction

25 April - Marked out the circular garden bed

27 April - Dug out the grass and bought the bird bath

29 April - Filled bed with cow manure and soil

30 April - Bought herbs at Pender Pines

2 May - Bought pavers at Adams products, laid pavers

3 May - Planted herbs and a single circle of red dahlias

Someone remarked at Lucy's party that it looks like a pizza which is very ironic as the primary purpose of the herbs is to make great pizza! Photo 1: you can see the orange flags marking out the circle, Photo 2: cow manure and soil in situ, Photo 3: completed herb garden (without mulch)

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Garden project 1: White cedar border

We have a very tall 6 foot fence across our backyard. It is not pretty but we are very thankful for the fence given the 'beach' backyard behind us. (Not many houses in Wilmington have fences so most backyards are conjoined and it is not unusual to come face to face with neighbours eating their dinner) So to hide the fence we decided to plant a row of white cedars. We decided on white cedars as 1. they are evergreen, 2. they grow fast to make a great screen and 3. they don't mind boggy soil. Our neighbour Jim told us that they are native to the area so they should do fine. So my lovely husband dug 28 holes during March in anticipation of our trees arriving in April. He then planted them all after clearing out much bamboo and other mess. The trees arrived in large boxes via UPS from MI and so far they seem to be doing well. We are looking forward to a lovely green screen.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Product of the week - Strawberry Fanta

At Subway the other week (I promise we only went there once but there are so many stories to come out of it!) we had the regular choice of sodas (soft drinks) with the addition of strawberry fanta. It seemed an unusual choice so I got Andrew to taste it so I could blog about it. It is extremely red in colour and it tastes like strawberry Aeroplane Jelly crystals! It is very sickly sweet and not something you can drink a lot of at once. I imagine that Lucy would take one look at the drink and start running around in circles singing happy birthday! The other downside is corn cyrup but don't get me started on that old chestnut.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Happy birthday mothers day

With so many celebrations in such a short time frame Lucy was very confused and kept saying 'happy birthday' to me! After explaining it was Mothers Day she decided that it was appropriate to say 'happy birthday mothers day' to me. She still thinks it is her birthday and often breaks out in song singing happy birthday to herself.

I was given a lovely pancake breakfast in bed! All three of us crawled into bed together for breakfast and whilst there were a few pancake crumbs in the sheets everything worked out surprisingly well and there wasn't maple syrup dripping from the ceiling! We did lots of gardening, mostly weeding and mulching before heading off for dinner at Kornerstone pizza (a wood fired pizza restaurant)

While at Kornerstone there was a tornado warning for our area of New Hanover! The skies were black. I mean really really black. There were loads of lightning strikes and menacing thunder rumbles. Suddenly there was sideways rain. Two minutes later the rain had stopped, the clouds had cleared and there was blue sky and sunshine! It was totally weird but fascinating. Andrew took a photo of the clouds when we got home. Look at the amazing light show we had!

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Den of snakes

I went to Toys R Us a couple of weeks ago to check out presents for Lucy. I was particularly interested in getting some plastic food for her kitchen. To my horror all the food assortments available were sponsored by various food conglomerates including McDonalds, Betty Crocker and Subway. There was no plain normal food items, just branded items. She has plain food items purchased from other stores but it was interesting to see that the choices at Toys R Us were indeed limited to food chains wanting to get their product out.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Product of the week - Australian wines

Going to a boutique wine shop opened my eyes to a different range of Australian wines. Maybe they're not bad wines but the focus in definitely on the marketing of the label. I was cringing to see names like Bitch, Boarding Pass, and Ball breaker. Often there was no specific wine district on the label just something vague like South Eastern Australia. The staff at the shop were enthusing about what a great marketing genius the guy behind these labels is but to me these labels were a turn off. What do you think?

Thankfully this same wine shop is able to supply us with the amber coloured 2003 Noble One botrytis so not all is lost!

Monday, 5 May 2008

An AWESOME weekend!!

Our 'big girl' is now 2 years old. We had an AWESOME birthday weekend spent at the beach, gardening, at church and having a pool party in the backyard. It was so fun and so easy! God kept the thunderstorms at bay until Monday afternoon (and now our backyard is totally flooded). We ate home-made strawberry ice cream, drank wine and soaked in the 30 degree heat (85F). As I mentioned earlier the theme of the party was butterflies. So there was a butterfly sign out the front, a butterfly wreath on the door, butterfly napkins(!) and plates, and of course a butterfly cake. The party favors (lolly bags) were butterfly handbags with butterfly stamps and paraphenalia for the girls and bug boxes for the boys. Lucy spent most of the party eating! She says hi to Gabriel, Julian, Caleb, Rachel, Ava, Samantha, Baxter, Abigail, Aidan, and Rory. Also happy birthday to Mr Dave!

Friday, 2 May 2008

2 more days until 2 years old

The countdown is now on, the upstairs room is filled with presents and party paraphenalia and muffins are baking in the kitchen. Lucy is practising singing 'Happy Birthday' and blowing out candles. The party favors (lolly bags) are assembled, the lawn has been mowed and we've made the strawberry ice cream. We're getting ready for a 2 year old's birthday!!

Thursday, 1 May 2008

More Amlish

Here are some new words for you:

bangs = fringe

bathing suit = swimming costume

Here are some new pronounications:

oregano is pronounced oreg-a-no not ore-gano

baton is pronounced ba-ton not bat-on

basil is pronounced bay-sil not bas-il

herbs is pronounced erbs

Barossa was pronounced Ba-row-sa not Ba-ross-a (I corrected this at the wine shop!)

And in other news when we were at Subway Andrew said 'tomaytoes' not tomatoes. I was so embarrassed! He claimed it was so that the person could understand him more easily. I quickly countered with the fact that I said tomatoes and was perfectly understood. However I had to say oreg-a-no after saying oreg-ano twice did not work. Aaaahhhhhh! I thought flashing lights would turn on and someone would jump out and say 'You're on candid camera' but the reality was far more tame and no one else noticed my mortification.