Friday, August 2, 2013

Laurel's 30th Birthday!

Laurel's birthday. 30 years. Laurel set a high bar with the awesome celebrations she had planned for him last year, so he was a little nervous about living up to it. Fortunately, he had an ace up his sleeve, a co-worker, Deb, who dabbles in professional cake making. So, he commissioned her to make the ultimate chocolate cake. She delivered.

Deb actually apologized to Greg when he picked it up. She said it didn't come out like she intended. I don't know what she had pictured in her head, but this is amazing. The gold dust flowers were made with amaretto. Oh Deb, you do not have anything to apologize for.

She also hand-dipped 30 strawberries in white, milk, and dark chocolate. Going above and beyond the call of duty Deb, but I am so glad you did because it is delicious. 

Since this was Laurel's 30th birthday, it demanded three different events, one for each decade. The first was a spa day with Olivia (not pictured), but the second was a big night out at the Kennedy Room with all of our friends. Haven't had one of those in a loooooooong time. Fortunately, one of Olivia's co-workers was on hand to babysit Imogen.  The theme was black and white, so everyone had to dress in those colors. So Laurel would really pop, she wore a simply stunning red dress. Most of the party attendees were confused.

Looking good!

There were Finland reunions with Alex and Tim (and Robbie not pictured)...

 Hot Mamas- Laurel, Anu (7 months pregnant), & Elissa (just had a daughter 2 months ago)...

Serious talks.....

 And dancing!

Kissy face!

If you were wondering what Laurel looks like at 1 am when she desperately wants cake ... this is it. Mmmmmmmmm, cake!!

Birthday breakfast, Australian style! Fried egg on toast with rocket (arugula) and baked beans. We are going to miss Australia's love affair with brunch.

The third part of Birthday Birthday Birthday was fancy dinner at Aubergine, Canberra's best restaurant. So we all got dolled up in our finest and prepared for Canberra's finest dining experience. You know it's quality when you make the reservation, and they ask you if there are any dietary restrictions; you tell them one person is gluten free, and they are like yep, not a problem at all.

This was Laurel's appetizer- a veal tartare. Such a bold order!

Greg had the octopus and squid soup. Unusual things from the sea in soup form? Yes, please! It does not get better than that.

We should do this more often.  Delicious dinner and a second bottle of wine- yes, let's make that happen. Happy 30th!! Such a great night.

Gold Coast

The original reason for this whole trip was that Greg was going to run the Gold Coast Marathon. Unfortunately, a year of little injuries had added up, and really prevented him from training. As such, he was in no condition to run a marathon. 15 km, maybe, but then there would have been another 27 after that.  This was doubly too bad, because the family we were staying with lived right along side the route. So Laurel, Imogen, and Olivia could have seen and cheered him on twice. Oh well, here's the lead group, the eventual winner was in this group of 9. Surprisingly, not the Kenyan.

Greg and Imogen headed up to the roof to get a better view. She brought her sunnies.

After the race finished up, we drove over to the Currumbin Wildlife Park to show Immy some critters. She was pretty excited.

She particularly liked this Tasmanian Devil. She just laughed and laughed, especially when he stopped and took a dump right in front of her. That was hilarious!

Hmm, I'm not sure about this one, Dad. This might be one of the things Mom is always calling a "crazy bird."

Look baby girl! It's the animal we name this blog after, the wombat! It only took us three years to see something other than his butt. He's even more adorable than we expected.

We took about a zillion photos in this hollow log. This is the best we got. You win some, you lose some.

The kangaroo area was open to the public and was petting zoo style. Imogen was pretty interested.

Pet him gently, baby girl, pet him gently. No grabbing.

This emu was just kind of strolling around. We got to pet him, too.

Baby person and baby kangaroo! Neither was super interested in the other.

Cuteness alert! Mama koala holding her baby.

Next we drove to downtown Gold Coast, known as Surfer's Paradise, and took the elevator up the tallest building in Queensland- the Q1 Tower! Standing at 78 stories it offers panoramic views that are pretty incredible. You can also feel it sway a little bit in the high winds, which is a bit unsettling. Completed in 2005 it was the world's tallest residential tower, a title it held until 2011 when Dubai built something 20 meters taller. Jerks.

Sunset over the Gold Coast.

The following day we drove west to Mount Tamborine to do a little hiking and see the sights. On a short trek to see a waterfall we came across this wild turkey, who quickly got into a feud with Olivia. They squawked at each other several times, and then the turkey ran at her. Although she escaped unscathed, I would still say the turkey won. The wild turkeys in this area are known for being extremely territorial, destructive pests. This one was actually in the wild, but many decide to make their homes in people's yards, which means they pile huge mounds of leaves, sticks and debris over the yard or even driveway for their nest. Any effort to clear off their nest, simply results in them remaking it the next day. The only way to get them to stop is to capture and then release them at least 20km away, otherwise they will find their way back and start the cycle all over again.

Well worth the hike. Greg would have stayed here all day and been perfectly happy.

The view of Gold Coast from the mountain top.

The day we flew to Queensland was the Fourth of July. We celebrated a couple days late on the beach, but for the first time since we've been in Australia, the climate felt right for the holiday. Happy Birthday America!

Thursday, August 1, 2013


While we didn't know this at the time, we took our last holiday in Australia the first week of July to Brisbane and it's surrounds. Our first stop was the Sunshine Coast, which is about an hour north of Brisbane. It is perhaps most famous for being Olivia's old stomping grounds in 2009 when she studied abroad at the University of the Sunshine Coast. Really pretty area. Sunshine Coast is kind of the name for the region, not any actual town, so we were staying in the difficult to spell but incredibly fun to say Mooloolaba.

We drove to an old French town to get some food, and take in the sights as it sits at the top of a mountain. Or we tried to. We came across a road closed sign. But it was Australia, and figuring that it might not actually mean anything, we ignored it and kept going. 15 minutes down the road, we hit the road construction that had closed traffic in both directions. Turns out, the road really was closed. Oh well, we get a pretty nice picture of Greg and Imogen in the forest.

Next we hit up the Sunshine Coast's "greatest" tourist attraction- the Big Pineapple! Another of Australia's Big Things (see Merino, Big), it's a fairly kitschy, but endearing, tribute to the local industry. That is a big pineapple. Inside are all sorts of facts about the local pineapple industry. It was actually pretty interesting.

Greetings from the top of the pineapple!

Later on, we hit the beach. Imogen loved it.

Run, baby girl, run!

This sand is pretty interesting, Aunt Wib.

Laurel and Immy, being "soooooooooooo big!" together.

Sunset on the beach. Not bad Mooloolaba, not bad.

The following day we drove back to Brisbane for lunch with Laurel's old co-worker Katrina. They missed each other!

After a delicious, delicious brunch, Katrina and Greg renewed their old rivalry on the Super Nintendo classic Dr. Mario. Baby girl had a front row seat for the action.

Then she decided that wasn't close enough, and unbeknownst to the participants crawled over to the SNES to check out what that crazy contraption was. Just as Greg was about to win, she hit the reset button. Curses! Katrina says this proved that Imogen was on her side, since she bailed her out from a loss. 

It was great seeing Katrina one last time, and we're really sad we won't be seeing her again any time soon. Come visit us in DC, Katrina! Next stop, Gold Coast.

Random bits around Canberra

Now, since our time is growing short, we're going to zoom through what's been going on in Canberra over the last couple of months. Get ready... and here we go!

Laurel's good friend Alex came to town, so we had brunch, the best meal of the day. Laurel and Alex studied abroad together in Finland while they were both in university. Amazingly, Alex studied at University of Canberra. Not so amazingly, she got a job in Sydney about six months after we moved here so we don't get to see her nearly as much as we'd like, but any time we can, it's great!

Olivia had her 23rd brithday! We made her a delicious gluten free chocolate cake to celebrate! Also, we had a Mexican themed fajita night complete with margaritas. Mmmm...

Her work (Keith!) threw her a birthday barbecue. It was cold but a lot of fun!

Greg's mom sent us some plastic goblets, which we took to Olivia's birthday barbeque. Immy was super excited to have new toys to play with.

One of the benefits of having Olivia live with us is that we had opportunities to go on date nights.  Well, six months after she got here, we finally took advantage of it. We went to probably our favorite restaurant, and previous blog participant, Banana Leaf. It's Sri Lankan and so delicious. Here's Greg enjoying his rotti with fish curry.

Laurel looking beautiful in her red dress enjoys a selection of curries. It's her favorite kind of meal, one with lots of different things on one plate.

We should do this more often.

Imogen is so big now. She just wants to run everywhere all the time. If we'd let her, she'd just hold on to our fingers and run from end of the house and back again all day. Go baby go!

Greg loves dinosaurs. This is known. When we discovered that Canberra was home to the National Dinosaur Museum, Greg earmarked it as a must-do father-daughter activity. Never mind she's probably still years away from truly embracing the dinosaur loving lifestyle (which she will, because they are awesome), we made sure to hit it up before we left. Best. Day. Ever. This, baby girl, is a stegosaurus. He eats plants, and needs the spiky tail and armor plates on his back to keep him safe from roving carnivores. He is also awesome.

Easily the greatest rubbish bin of all time.

Oh no baby girl! That dinosaur is going to eat you!

Diplodocus, this is Imogen. Imogen, meet Diplodocus.

She had a pretty great time, almost as great of a time as her dad. Father-daughter days are the best.

So, that's a real quick run down of some of the things we've been up to. Next stop is our last vacation in Australia. Can't believe it's almost over!