Friday, February 8, 2013

Return to the Cell Block

Another year, another visit from the Jackson family, another Christmas in Canberra. This can only mean one thing- it's time for Cell Block 69's 12th Annual LAST SHOW EVER. For those of you who may not remember, Cell Block 69 is a college band from the Australian National University who reunite every year for one show around Christmas. Laurel's friend Robbie invited us last year, and we had an absolute blast. He had neglected to inform us that it was an 80's costume thing. Tthis time we made sure we fit right in.


Canberra has some epic weather. On the drive in we saw this gigantic cloud reflecting the sunset. How beautiful is that?

This guy was pretty incredible. He was the opening act, and he was a one man band. He sang while playing guitar and the drums AT THE SAME TIME. No idea how he did it. He's apparently a Canberra institution, and has been playing bars and clubs for years. Keep on rocking, buddy.

Greg thrashing some air leg guitar. Thanks for the photobomb, random dude.

We met up with Robbie. He made that shirt. We also have a new theory on Cell Block 69. It seemed that most everyone in costume knew Robbie. Everyone who was not in costume did not. It is entirely possible that it's not actually part of the concert to show up in 80's attire, but that Robbie just decided one year that it should be and has told everyone to dress up. As the years have gone by, more and more people have seen his friends dressing up and have started doing it themselves. Dude has charisma.

The band! Cell Block's gimmick is that they wrote every major song of the 80's, but for one reason or another the bands that we know and love stole the songs from them. Here they are performing "Girls on Film," which Duran Duran released while Cell Block was still cruising the Mediterranean with Italian models. Bastards.

Laurel enjoying a night out and some sister time with Olivia.

Oh, yeah, at one point one of the girls rocked a pole. I think it was to a Van Halen's "Jump."

Keep on rocking, guys, keep on rocking. Sorry we can't be there next year. We were impressed how many of their songs were different from last year. When do they find the time to rehearse!?

Moving on to something totally different. A couple weeks ago, Olivia found a recipe for a beetroot chocolate cake. Sounds weird, right? It also seemed pretty Aussie since beetroot goes on a lot here, so we decided to give it a go. Also, it's gluten free (a key factor for Olivia) which is what prompted the initial search. Here's Olivia modeling the key ingredient.

Now, beetroot turns everything it touches red, so it's important to protect yourself from having stained hands for the next week. Here's Laurel demonstrating proper beetroot protection.

Shredding a beetroot is a far more involved process then you would think. Sadly, the cling-wrap glove was not sufficing so Laurel had to switch to the heavy-duty rubber cleaning gloves. Take that beetroot!

In true Otey fashion, we started taking pictures at the beginning and then promptly forgot about the camera for the rest of the time. We don't actually have a picture of the finished product (spoiler alert- it looked like a cake), but it was surprisingly good. Highly recommend it. Seriously, go make one.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Filipino Festival

By this point, you have all probably figured out that nothing motivates us more than food. One of our favorite things about living in Canberra is going to the local embassy sponsored events. A lot of them offer education about the country and ways to embrace the cultural heritage. That is good and all, I guess, but the real highlight is they always have a ton of delicious food. Up this time was the Embassy of the Philippines, which was having a Christmas celebration. 

Jackpot. Look at all those food stands.

The first stand we stopped at was selling Filipino style spaghetti. Not what we were expecting to see at all, so we bought some. Surprisingly, it was probably the best thing we ate all day. They put some kind of sweet sausage in the sauce, which makes it much sweeter tasting overall. Pretty darn good. Based on this and everything else we tried, we think Filipinos must have big sweet-tooths.

 Greg chowing down on some lobster-ball skewers.

For dessert we had a halo-halo, a traditional Filipino summertime drink. It's ice, cream, jackfruit, coconut, plantain, and sweet preserved beans and yam. Sounds like a strange combination, and well it kind of is. But it's really good, and just the thing you want on an ultra-hot day. It's also insanely sweet, so we were glad we only got one for the two of us.

Too much fun, Mom. I'm done.

On the way out were a couple of highly decorated display cars. Overall, this probably wasn't our favorite one we've been to, but we had a nice afternoon and ate until we were stuffed. So, really, mission accomplished.

And now for something completely different. We were at Babies R Us the other day stocking up on baby supplies when we came across this display. Australians (or maybe everyone, we're still not up on all the baby lingo) call these Jolly Jumpers. You put your baby in there and they are free to bounce and have a great time. However, this display makes it look like something horrible has happened. How did anyone think that this would make you want to buy their product!? Poor sad baby.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Tidbinbilla and Deep Space Complex

No trip to Australia is complete without a visit to see some Kangaroos, so we took Greg's mom and stepfather out to Tidbinbilla. Tidbinbilla is a large nature reserve and is located about 30 minutes south of Canberra. Extreme cuteness alert coming up- look at that little guy!

While it's a nature reserve, and thus all the animals are wild, they are fairly used to people coming around and taking pictures of them. Just a regular part of the day, really. However, we got a little too close to this one and he hopped away.

There are tons of hikes you can do. All of the major ones we definitely weren't up for, since we had Immy with us who still less than a month old at that time. We did do a couple of the little ones, though. We were particularly interested in the hike over to the lake to see the platypuses that live there. Everyone who has ever been here tells us that it is a guaranteed place to see them, and yet, somehow every time we go there- no platypuses. We're beginning to think they don't like us.

After Tidbinbilla, we stopped at the Canberra Deep Space Listening Complex which is right down the road. It's pretty serious, check out this sign.

Yes. Greg can already tell this place is awesome. Any place with giant planet models hanging from the ceiling is alright in his book.

That is a huge 70-meter dish. It's the largest of several dishes they have here, and they are in the process of building two more. This is one of three sites in the world (the others are in Spain and California) responsible for communications with every satellite and probe we currently have in deep space- Voyager, Cassini, everything. This is the place flying them. Awesome.

Australia has several large space complexes that it runs in conjunction with both national and international programs. Australia's location in the southern hemisphere makes it an ideal location to complement sites in the US and Europe allowing for 24/7 coverage. Additionally, it's a pretty empty country, without a large population emitting radio signals to muck with the dishes' reception.

Immy doesn't know it yet, but she is going to be visiting a lot of space and rocketship related places. And she will love ever minute of it.

We were there! Go NASA!