Happy Birthday, Mom--We Love You!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Today we celebrated my Australian mom's 64th birthday at Samaras in Woonona. There were many family members there, and the Lebanese/Mediterranean food was top-notch. Definitely a place to return to (in fact, I think she celebrated her birthday there last year, now that I think about it). After lunch, we headed over to Granddad's house to share cake, then had another cake at home (gluten-free, ordered from a special cake shop near Dapto). It was a beautiful day spent with loving family. We were thrilled to get to celebrate with Mom in person this year! x o, Karli

Happy 34th Birthday to My Dear Husband, Adam

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Adam is a ray of light to all who meet him.  We are all so lucky to have him here with us, and the world is a better place because he was born.  I feel grateful every day for him, and lucky to call him my husband.

We started the morning off with coffee at Lou & Bobby's in Thirroul, as Adam shares his birthday with his maternal Granddad.  It was the best coffee, as they serve Rush coffee, which I always stop for when we visit The Robertson Cheese Factory on our way to Canberra.  Another one of Charlie Piatt's mugs has made its way to Australia, as we gave one to Granddad for his 88th birthday. 

In the evening, we celebrated over diner and drinks with family and friends at a special place to Adam and his family: The Illawarra Yacht Club. Adam's Nonna lived nearby in a little house overlooking Lake Illawarra, and used to walk by the Yacht Club during her morning walks.  It was a lovely evening, and we got to see the other side of the family (the Italian side), as well as a few of Adam's close friends.  Happy birthday to Adam and Neville . . . may this year be your best yet!

On Self-Esteem

Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Emily Schuman of Cupcakes and Cashmere wrote a blog post yesterday about self-esteem that is beautifully written.  Many of us have exceptionally high standards for ourselves, and her post highlights the importance of recognizing that mistakes are okay--not everything will meet those standards, but those experiences have value as we are able to learn and grow from them.  Hope you are all having a fabulous week.  We are catching up with a few more friends today, then packing this evening for our trip to Coffs Harbour in the morning.

Dinner in Camden with Friends and Visiting Adam's Zio

Monday, May 21, 2018

Tonight we met friends in Camden for Chinese--Eddy and Maria are long-time friends of the family, and we try to meet up with them when we're in Australia.

Maria's Mom, Palmina, speaks Italian primarily, but we have many people who can translate for us, including Adam, his parents, and Eddy and Maria.  She took to Amelia right away, and I love this photo of them at dinner.

Earlier that day, we visited Adam's Zio, who also primarily speaks Italian.  His sons and daughter were there, also, so we got to catch up with the whole family.  Zio lives on a large lot with many fruit trees and garden areas.  His house has been mostly untouched over the years, and it always feels like stepping back in time.  At 94, he does pretty well, doing most of the gardening himself.

Adam, Zio, Karli, and Amelia

As you can see, he even grows bananas in his backyard--in his garage, he has many seeds he is in the process of drying out for his gardens.  We always love visiting him!

Here we have Adam, his Dad George, Zio's son Mario, and Zio.  They are talking about making pizzelles.  You can see he made us a batch, and they taste very nice with espresso.  It's the Italian way!

Old tiles still in Zio's kitchen--I love them!

All in all, it was another beautiful day in Australia.  We have many loving friends and family here, and I love seeing them each year.  I always treasure these times together, as you never know what life might bring.  There will be many family members joining us for Adam's birthday next week, which he shares with his granddad, Neville.  His Mom's birthday is the day after (May 31st), and we are looking forward to celebrating those birthdays together next week.  For now, it's time for bed.
x o, Karli

A BBQ with Friends

Sunday, May 20, 2018
Part of our vacations to Australia include time spent catching up with friends and family.  Today was a treat as long-time friends of Adam's invited us over for lunch.  In the past, we've met up at Collegians in Wollongong or Oscar's in Towradgi Beach.  It was so great to get to see their house and garden, not to mention their beautiful new covered porch, complete with a mounted big-screen television. Amelia got along well with their kids, and we had a great time.  They leave for Hawaii next Monday--have a great time, guys!   

Boj, Suz, Karli, and Adam (Left to Right)
Boj and Suz's outdoor patio

Boj, Suz, Tony, Christina, Adam, Karli, Amelia, and Sofia
Suz and Karli

Boj and Adam

Dean, Amelia, and Sofia

Amelia with pelicans near Lake Illawarra
We had a wonderful afternoon, then stopped to see the pelicans on Lake Illawarra on our way home.  They are the funniest looking cartoon characters, but they are real, and these ones you can get pretty close to as they're used to being fed fish from the local fish house.  Another beautiful day in Australia spent making memories.  Did I mention it's been 70s and sunny every day?  Bliss!

x o, Karli

Short Bush Walk on Black Mountain

Saturday, May 19, 2018
Amelia on Black Mountain with Telstra Tower
On our way out of Canberra today, we stopped on Black Mountain to have a look at Telstra Tower, then pulled over for a short bush walk, as they call hikes here in Australia.

Canberra is Ngunnawal Country, and we learned more about the indigenous people of the area while on our bush walk.  Here is Amelia in front of an information board about the Ngunnawal people of Canberra.

Adam and I love Canberra, and it was a beautiful late fall afternoon for a short walk through the Australian bush. 

The sun was setting, and the light coming through the trees reflected off the white bark of the eucalyptus trees.

Yellow Wattle
I'm a bit lost when looking at Australian flora, but I take pictures and attempt to identify plants later through my app or by asking the locals (my Australian Mom and Dad).

Unable to identify this Australian perennial found growing beneath the eucalyptus trees.
I'm not sure what the perennial pictured above is, but it reminds me of my goldenrod ferns at home.  Some of them had old stalks from the former season that would have been in bloom at one point, but I was unable to find information about them.

Our time in Canberra came to a close after our short bush walk, and before we knew it, it was time to pack up in the car and start on the road for the drive home to Dapto.  We saw some kangaroos this time, but from a great distance.  When Juniper came with us last year, we saw hundreds in a field right next to the road heading out of Canberra, as well as a few hopping around atop Mt. Ainsley. 

Next week, we are heading up to Coffs Harbour for five days, and will finish our trip with three days in Sydney before we fly home.  Our trip is flying by, but has so far been a lovely time visiting our home away from home in Australia.

Visiting National Arboretum Canberra

Friday, May 18, 2018
Last year when we visited Canberra, I discovered the National Arboretum Canberra, and I fell in love with the place immediately.  Located six kilometers from the western end of Lake Burley Griffin, the views are spectacular.  There is a lovely Pod Playground near the Village Centre, and both Juniper and Amelia were delighted with their time there.  The playground has structures designed from Australian flora.  For example, you can play in banksia pods.  From their website:
The National Arboretum is home to over 44,000 trees growing in 94 forests across the huge 250 hectare (617 acres) site. While many of the forests are still young, two are almost 100 years old – the Himalayan cedar and Cork oak forests.
One of the largest tree conservation projects in the world, the National Arboretum focuses on the conservation, display and study of rare, endangered and significant trees from Australia and around the world.

Hiking up Dairy Farmers Hill overlooking Canberra

Path to Dairy Farmers Hill (Karli and Susan pictured)

Looking NE towards a developing suburb of Canberra
Karli atop Dairy Farmers Hill with Telstra Tower and The Margaret Whitlam Pavillion to the West

Amelia and I found time to journal while on Dairy Farmers Hill.  It was the perfect place to sit and journal.  The weather couldn't have been more pleasant with the sun shining and a light, gentle breeze.

Looking directly North at Lake Burley Griffin and Canberra.  This tree in the forefront is one of the few on this property that did not burn in the bush fires.  I think it is an Aleppo pine.

Canberra Discovery Garden

Amelia and Karli journaling atop Dairy Farmers Hill with Telstra Tower in the distance.

Adam is a top donor (joking)

Margaret Whitlam Pavillion, Canbera, and Telstra Tower from Dairy Farmers Hill Lookout

While we were on Dairy Farmers Hill we met a couple who live in Canberra and were having a picnic lunch. They said even though they live here, they make a point of visiting the Arboretum and bringing a picnic lunch to enjoy an afternoon. I think if I lived here, I would do the same. We haven't packed a picnic lunch when we've visited, usually grabbing a sandwich or coffee in the Village Centre, but I've always thought it would be lovely to have lunch and wine at one of the lookout points. I absolutely love this place--I am looking forward to seeing the young forests mature over the years. The city of Canberra is certainly a special place, and we already have many memories of time spent here together.

Leaving for Canberra

Thursday, May 17, 2018
Adam and Karli on Mount Ainsley overlooking Canberra
For the third year in a row, we have traveled to Canberra for a few days, and I never tire of Australia's capital city.  Located in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), the city was created from scratch in the early to mid-1900s as a central location between Melbourne and Sydney.  It is unlike any city I've been to before, and always a pleasure to visit.  It is a peaceful and serene city, with the beautiful Lake Burley Griffin at the center of the city and beautiful mountains surrounding.  Hot air balloons descend in the early morning hours over the lake, with many beautiful institutions lining its shores.  My favorite place to visit is the National Arboretum Canberra.  I can't get enough of this beautiful place, and am excited to visit it tomorrow with family. 

70s and Sunny in Australia

Wednesday, May 16, 2018
Banksia robur at the Wollongong Botanic Garden
We are having a great time here in Ausralia, and the weather couldn't be better.  70s and sunny, my favorite.  It is autumn here, but other than the days being shorter, I haven't noticed the other aspects to fall.  Adam's parents live in the Illawarra; there are few deciduous trees and the weather remains quite warm, even at night.  Canberra, however, will be much cooler, with temperatures dropping to freezing or below freezing at night.  We leave for Canberra in the morning!  Today we took it easy; Amelia and I aren't quite over our jet lag, though we're getting there.

My Little Girl

Tuesday, May 15, 2018
Portland, Oregon from the air heading N to Vancouver, B.C.
I might have mentioned that each time we travel to Australia, we take one of the kids with us.  This time, it was Amelia's turn, and just as I'd hoped, the two of us have bonded more closely during our long trip together.  It is a special time where we get to spend a lot of one-on-one time with her.  She has taken it all in, and blossomed.  She surprised me with how well she traveled and powered through the hard times where we were both so tired.  I love her so.

Amelia at Wollongong Botanic Garden
The day after we arrived, we walked around the Wollongong Botanic Garden with Adam and his parents.  It was a beautiful day.

On the way home, we stopped at Raw Energy for smoothies in Wollongong, then near the beach for a quick picture.  Next week, we're heading north to Coffs Harbour to see Adam's Aunt Mandy for a few days, so we'll be spending lots of time on the beach.  For today, it was just a quick stop for a pic.

I love her little Australia t-shirt with the koalas.  It used to be Juniper's, and it's been handed down to her along with a couple of others.  She's been wearing them proudly.

My little Amelia in Australia.  I am loving these days here with her.  x o, Karli

Mother's Day in Australia

Monday, May 14, 2018

Last night, Amelia crashed hard around 5:30PM, but just before then, we walked across the street from Adam's parents' house to a park, where I realized for the first time that it is fall here, so the sun is going down around 5PM.  We saw a beautiful sunset, and Amelia played on the playground.

Here I am, walking back with the fam, and as you can see, I'm still going strong, but very tired from a long trip.

Adam with his Mom, Susan, on Mother's Day
When we got back, Amelia fell sound asleep and Adam surprised both his Mom and me with beautiful bouquets of flowers for Mother's Day.  What a guy.

I loved the Australian flora in my arrangement.  Even birds of paradise and a banksia pod.  A very special treat, and he included a very special card, just for me, which I've tucked away in my journal.  

Adam has brought such happiness to my life.  Loving him and being loved by him has been significant to me; I treasure the love we have found together.  x o , Karli

We Made It to Sydney!

Sunday, May 13, 2018
After nearly 30 hours of travel time, Amelia and I made it through customs and into the welcoming arms of Adam and his parents, George and Susan.  We all stopped in Brighton-Le-Sands for smoothies and salads (so healthy, I know) at a favorite stop called Mootch and Me.  I remember we stopped there last March with Juniper.

Amelia and George (Adam's Father) at Mootch and Me in Brighton-Le-Sands
It's the best feeling in the world to finally arrive after such a long journey.  Here I can already see Adam, and can't wait to hug him tightly.  Amelia beat me to it!

Exiting customs with Amelia at Sydney Airport

But I got my turn shortly after, and what a guy--he had a hot caramel latte waiting in hand for me. I love him so much.

 Ahhh, together again! x o , Karli
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