Flat Whites Take Manhattan

It was a sad day when I said goodbye to coffee in Melbourne.  I loved the cafes, the lattes and the flat whites.  The creaminess of a good cup of coffee is something I’ve been trying to achieve at home with my Breville espresso maker, french press and milk frother.

While in Australia, I heard of an Australian coffee influence taking hold in New York City.  We lived in NYC from 2000-2005 blind to any cafe other than those adorned with bright green letters S-T-A-R-B-U-C-K-S.  Things change quickly though and look what I found (excuse the phone pics):

Woo-hoo, a flat white.  And it was good, very good.

Cafes with Australian influence are popping up all over Manhattan and beyond.  See this article for more.  We found Cafe Grumpy, in Chelsea.

It was a bit of St. Kilda in New York City… minus the accents.  Unfortunately, we live in the Jersey ‘burbs but it’s only a matter of time until Starbucks offers a flat white.  Let’s hope it’s not offered in a venti size.

Posted in American Expat in Australia, Food and Wine | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Adventures in “Re-patriothood”: Part 1

Yes, it’s been some time since I’ve updated my space.  After being thrust into the holidays, new schools, and home improvements and repairs,  I am finally ready to recount our adventures returning stateside.  Thanks for reading.

“Welcome back,” the customs agent muttered, barely pausing from studying our passports.  Our half-hearted smiles were not noticed.  There was no excitement, no fireworks, no fanfare.

There’s nothing like the experience of being welcomed home at the Los Angeles Airport (LAX).  In New Zealand and Australian airports many people offered to help me.  It’s obvious that I need help with my 2 year old strapped to my back and my 4 old doing the best she could to keep up with my quick strides.  In Australia, people offered to help whether or not I was with my husband.  In LAX, while rushing to make our connection I was separated from my husband.  2 bags dropped from my rolling trolley.  2 people waiting for taxis, simply stood there and watched me bend over and retrieve them while I balanced Colin on my back and herded Claire away from oncoming traffic.  It was a slap in the face.  It was incredibly upsetting and continues to make my stomach turn.

Abroad, I felt a connection with fellow American citizens.  At home, I feel nothing.

Next, after removing every piece of bulky clothing, shoes and re-checking liquids, “female check!” was shouted across the security lines.  Fabulous.  A strange substance was found on my swabbed hands.  “Where have you been?” the TSA agent asked.  “On an airplane for the past 18 hours with my mini entourage… you?”  On my first day home in AmericaI became intimate with a TSA agent behind a black curtain while my kids sat looking dazed and confused.

Why do I feel less safe with more security?  The first thing we miss aboutAustralia:  the ease of travel.

A large sigh of relief was sounded when we finally arrived at our house in New Jersey.  Our home.  My bed couldn’t have been more comfortable.  My bed inMelbourne always felt temporary.  I stretched my arms and legs and fell into a deep sleep.

6 weeks home and my kids are asking when we are flying on an airplane again.  Ah, travel withdrawl.  We trained them well.  Me?  I move to plan our next summer vacation… that doesn’t involve an airplane.

Welcome home, Family In Oz.

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New Zealand, Period.

Gorgeous.  Simply breathtaking.  Period.

Our trip to Queenstown, New Zealand was just that (minus a couple of 2 year old tantrums, fines at customs and a trip to the emergency room.) 

After hauling 13 bags from Australia (we were on our way home to the States), we arrived in Queenstown, NZ.  After managing the loss and recovery of 1 bag left in Melbourne, we headed to customs.  After hastily rushing through the process and having customs agents dig out and wash the kids’ wellies, I was caught with honey, a prohibited item.  Crap.  After running through the last 48 hours in my brain, I honestly had no idea what I packed in baggage and what I shipped home.

Between being served a fine at customs, wondering if I have an international smuggling record and listening to my lecturing husband, I couldn’t wait to get to our hotel.  I hoped that New Zealand’s landscape would literally take me away.  It did.

We drove the 4 hours to Milford Sound, past the southern tip of Lake Wakatipu, past thousands of sheep and Lake Te Anau, and up, around and, quite literally, through mountains.  It was an incredible drive.  Our cruise, while it rained a bit and some clouds inhibited our views of the incredible peaks, was amazing.  The seals and underwater observatory were highlights for the kids.  Waterfalls poured down the cliffs.  Fog and mist nestled between the peaks.

We drove an hours drive to Glenorchy, northwest of Queenstown.  The Lord of the Rings was filmed in the environs.  The northern tip of Lake Wakatipu and the drive were incredible.  Think of The Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia but with inland lakes and mountains.  Bright blue lakes and blue rivers mirrored the landscape.

We explored Queenstown. 

The kids decided against this.

Instead, we luged.

And we found a perfect spot, somewhere I’d return to relax and soak in the 75 degree summer sun.  It had a playground at the water’s edge for the kids, a cafe next door with local beers and Otago Valley Pinot Noir, and the lake at our feet.

As usual, drama ensues when travelling with young children.  My 4 year old daughter, Claire, was running around the hotel room and fell into the corner of a perfectly round glass table.  A corner?  Yes, apparently she found one.  She always does.

Hours later, Claire returns happy as a clam, with a hotel kids’ pack, a superglued wound, and a story about “greedy” ducks from an ems worker.  Dad returns without a hospital bill and an emergency room visit 100% covered by the government.  Thank you, New Zealand.

Thank you, New Zealand, for your kindness as well.  Our hotel was more than obliging and the airport workers were extremely helpful both in Queenstown and Auckland, where a woman helped us push 3 trolleys in the pouring rain (and helped retrieve fallen luggage in giant puddles.)  Also, Air New Zealand is my new, FAVORITE airline.  The flight attendants were helpful, friendly and even involved the children.  My daughter donned a scarf and handed out candies to the passengers… after she completed her Air New Zealand kids’ pack, of course.

Those Kiwis are the friendliest people on earth.  Perhaps it’s because they live within one of the world’s most beautiful places.

Go.  Period.

We stayed:

Hilton, Queenstown

We ate:

The Cow, Queenstown

Skyline Restaurant, Queenstown

The Fat Duck, Te Anau

Gibbston Valley Cheesery,  Gibbston

We saw:

Gondola and Luge, Queenstown

Southern Discoveries Milford Sound cruise

Kiwi Birdlife Park, Queenstown

Woo-hoo!  You made it through New Zealand with us.  Hopefully, the pictures do it justice.  Revisit them and they continue to amaze.

Posted in Beach, Children, Food and Wine, New Zealand, Travel, Uncategorized, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Bits of Aussie Influence for Christmas

While we celebrated Christmas in Jersey, Australian influence was seen in the details.

From reindeer sightings, or wait… are those kangaroos?

to a glass ornament hanging on our tree,

to Aussie Jingle Bells by Colin Buchanan,

“Oh, jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way!

Christmas in Australia on a scorching summer’s day, hey!

Jingle bells, jingle bells, Christmas time is beaut!

Oh what fun it is to ride in a rusty Holden Ute.”

to Ina Garten’s brownie pudding as an homage to traditional, Aussie Christmas pudding and to playing with Colin’s new caaahs Australia has left its mark.  Colin will also learn to ride a bike the Aussie way, with a balance bike found online in the States.

We wish you and yours a delightful holiday season.

Posted in American Expat in Australia, Children, Food and Wine, Holidays | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Our Final Aussie Days

Donning heavy coats and gloves before going out has me reminiscing our final days in Australia. 

We took our final trip down the Mornington Peninsula.  Alone on gorgeous beaches in Portsea (barely warm enough for swimsuits) we took our last steps in rock pools and shallow bays.

We wished we had discovered The Portsea Hotel earlier.  With great bay views, grassy area for kids to run around and local beers and wines it was a perfect place to unwind after a day at the beach on the peninsula.

I might have visited my favorite cafe too many times.  My favorite cafe in Melbourne is… (drumroll please) Nineteen Squares in St. Kilda.  I can’t be the only one who thinks their flat whites are fabulous as they are expanding. 

The kids finally dragged me to the St. Kilda Adventure Playground.  This is a great place for older children.  My 2 year old had trouble getting his footing but bounced forever on the trampolines.


Our final brekkie at Jerry’s in Elwood was bittersweet.  I’m going to miss my poached eggs and chai latte.  My daughter, Claire, will miss the best pancakes in Melbourne.  Colin will miss the “choo-choo” in the kids’ play area but will not miss fighting off other children to play with it.


We said our goodbyes.  I met a lot of women who live the same daily life as myself.  Their partners/husbands work 80 hour weeks and travel.  We were there for each other.  The only things I left them was an email, facebook page and extra children’s items we didn’t pack for America.  I hope to see them again someday.

Claire and her bestie said goodbye.  She misses her and mentioned her just as she went down to sleep this evening.  Post is being imagined and created as we speak.  Claire also graduated from her yabbie swim class and became a turtle 3 days before we boarded a plane.  My daughter learned to swim in Australia.

 Oh, and yes, I look back to 2 weeks ago, wearing shorts and t-shirts and spreading my toes in the sand.  Now, I am ordering a winter coat for my son, fitting my daughter into last year’s coat and searching for my knit hat. 

Our final Aussie days were appropriately warm, sunny and unforgettable.

Posted in American Expat in Australia, Beach, Children, Food and Wine, Melbourne, Mornington Peninsula | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Goodbye Australia

It took 10 months to make a home on the other side of the world. It really was our home and I will miss it.

Sadly I say goodbye from the Southern Hemisphere. Goodbye to my new friends. Goodbye to our favorite beaches, cafes and perfectly ripe avocados. Goodbye summer.

It has been a joy to blog our experience. Thank you readers for making my itty bitty blog just a bit bigger. There will be more to come of our final Australian days.

Hello winter. Catch you on the flip side.

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Packing up over cricket… 4 days and counting

Yes, it’s just 4 days until we leave Australia and head home to the balmy winters of New Jersey (after a quick stop over in new Zealand, of course.)  Just 4 days.  Where have my final weeks gone?

This very minute, I am watching a cricket test match between Australia and New Zealand.  Both the game and commercials have me puzzled.  Advertisements asking, “who wouldn’t love a seafood BBQ for Christmas?” or stating, “How to whip up a Christmas pudding the day of” have me upset that this summer, Aussie Christmas is completely off our radar.

Woah, they catch the ball with their hands??? 

These days have been a whirlwind.  It all began 2 weeks ago when I gathered clothing and other items for donation.  “Op Shops” or Opportunity Shops litter every main street of every suburb.  There is no shortage of secondhand shopping in Melbourne.  Now our family’s items have become part of the offerings.

How could he possibly hit the ball when it’s hurled at him like that???

Next, I examined our empty wine bottles.  Since we like keeping a history of our drinking habits (perhaps this is not a good thing when your eyes widden to the size of tennis ball while looking inside the large cupboard overloaded with heaps of empties – and those were the ones you saved) we save wine labels and keep a journal.  It’s not just a journal of how a wine tasted but notes on the winery, a trip or special event.  I highly recommend purchasing wine label savers like these.

Is it really necessary to have 5 replay videos after every hit?

Next, since we didn’t bring that many things with us and didn’t need a container I found the most reasonable place to ship a few large boxes back home.  I said good-bye to those boxes a short while ago and wished them a safe journey across the Pacific and continental US.

Those cricketers are really quite thin and svelte in their white outfits.

Luckily, our home rental came fully furnished but we rented a few small household items for a weekly fee.  I also just said goodbye to those items including our Aussie barbie and the current love of my life, our espresso machine.  While I have an espresso machine at home, this one stole my heart. 

The man loading up the BBQ asked, “any redbacks?”

Me, “No… at least not by the BBQ.  But there could be a few snails.”

The man, “That’s au-right… at least they don’t bloody kill me.”

I’m glad I didn’t mention the redback in our house.

So here I am, still watching cricket zero wickets later, still staring outside at the hot sun, still wondering where these final days have gone.  4 days and counting.

*Sorry for the lack of pictures.  If I could just find that dodgy USB cord…

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Our Bunyip

“Can you please tell me what bunyips look like?”

“Yes.  Bunyips don’t look like anything.” 

A bunyip (pronounced bun-eep) is a legendary creature from Aboriginal folklore.  A bunyip is said to lurk around the Bunyip River, water holes and other areas of the bush and outback.  There a many descriptions of its appearance from glowing eyes to feathers to a haunting ghostly figure.

We picture our bunyip to look like this:

The children’s book, The Bunyip of Berkeley’s Creek by Jenny Wagner is a story of a friendly bunyip who emerges from a billabong and questions his existence by asking other Australian animals about his appearance.

However, as a young child I remember the movie Dot and the Kangaroo and being extremely frightened of the bunyip that appears in the movie. 

Bunyip from Dot and The Kangaroo, 1977

I was so frightened of it and its eerie music (check it out on youtube) that I am still scared today.  Honest.  My children have not seen the movie or read the book.  We will look into it when we return stateside as a reminder of our animal adventures. 

Bunyip postage stamp

Looking for more?   The National Library of Australia has a fun, interactive website for children.  For the adventurous, you can trek into Bunyip State Park outside Melbourne, camp overnight and try your luck at spotting your very own bunyip.  Torches (flashlights) optional.

Posted in Children, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Giving Thanks and Going Home

Thanksgiving has come and gone. 

Thanksgiving came and went without a whole turkey (I roasted a $65 turkey breast from our local butcher over the weekend), without family football, without stuffing, without pumpkin pie, without a parade and almost without turkey-hand tracings.  The funny thing is that instead of missing the whole to-do I’m not sure if I really missed anything.

Life without Thanksgiving is just life.  No one worries about what to cook, about who is going to show up or about which platter to use for the sliced turkey.  Popular culture and Williams Sonoma don’t dictate what it should or should not look like at a traditional or non-traditional Thanksgiving meal.  However, Thanksgiving is part of Americana and that’s the part I miss.

It won’t be long before we get to experience our Americana again.  Our time in Australia is coming to an abrupt close.  In 2 weeks my husband rolls off his case and we return stateside (but not before a mini-holiday on the south island of New Zealand.)

There will be much to blog about in the coming weeks; what we will miss, our don’t miss Australia to-do’s, what we look forward to, our last minute adventures and our fears returning home (plus all those posts built up in my queue.)  To all those bloggers out there I’ve come to read, follow, like and comment I send my thanks for giving me a new place to explore and be myself.

Through my expat experience I’ve learned an incredible amount about myself, the people who surround me and what I want to be.  It only took me 33 years… 10 months of which I spent living in Australia.

Posted in American Expat in Australia, Holidays, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

The Weather

What’s with the weather around here?  It comes, it goes, it comes back, and goes again.  The weather is incredibly indecisive and the forecasts are terrible about predicting inclement weather.

Australians often complain about the weather in Melbourne because it simply gets too cold in winter.  News flash for all Americans: winter does exist in Australia and it gets downright cold in Victoria.  I’ve broken out my long quilted jacket a few times and those palm trees they’ve planted along Beaconsfield Parade (beside the bay) cannot be local.

An Aussie mum said to me the other day, “the weather is so strange this time of year, it changes so quickly.”  I thought to myself, did you just miss the past 6 months?  Or did it change so quickly one might not even notice?

One day it’s 90 degrees (32 degrees celsius).  The next day it’s a chilly 65 degrees (19 degrees celsius).  It goes so far as to change 10 degrees farenheit an hour.  I took note of one particular week day where the weather went something like this:

  • 12 noon: sunny, 72 degrees
  • 1pm: cloudy, windy, drizzle, 62 degrees
  • 2pm: sunny, 75 degrees
  • 3pm: heavy rain, 60 degrees
  • 4pm: sunny, 72 degrees
  • 5pm: partly cloudy, rain, sun, rain and sun, who knows what temp it was at that point?

The sky over Melbourne brews with interesting patterns and colors.  Rainbows are a common occurrence.  The pictures are from our back garden looking northwest

Rain and sun equal fire:


Doomsday looms:


If only I had my camera for this shot over Elwood Canal (please excuse the phone pic):


Think it’s going to rain this weekend?  I’d check again if I were you.

Posted in American Expat in Australia, Melbourne | Tagged | 2 Comments