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Our friends are the greatest. 

A Saturday evening out for burritos turned out to  be a ruse for a super sweet surprise party… All our friends were there, and Mel even made these awesome banners that were hung all over the bar!

(the organizing gang — Stuart, Matt (aka the Beard), Millie, Meaghan, Casey, Mel — and of course me and Steve)


What I’m listening to this week:  Angus & Julia Stone, A Book Like This (2007).  Man, how I love this folksy brother/sister Australian duo.  Simple melodies, acoustic guitar, the occasional harmonica.  Right up my alley, especially for a sleepy morning. 

No favorites on this album, I love them all.  (Plus, they kinda all sound the same so its hard to pick favorites…)

Will I ever tire of snapping photos of this adorable Australian teddy bear?

I think you know the answer to that… More pics of koalas and other Aussie animals at the Healesville Sanctuary on the pictures page.

It’s been awhile since I reported on odd Aussie lingo. In truth, it’s become a surprisingly normal part of our life here and we’ve each picked up a few favorite phrases (“pear-shaped” and “reckon” for Steve; “ta” and “I couldn’t be bothered” for me). But this one is just so wacko it had to be duly documented: over birthday cake yesterday in the office, the Aussies called a “spork” a “splade”.

That’s right, not only do they not know the function of a fork versus a knife, they apparently also have a medieval way of referring to cutting instruments. Despite protestations on all fronts from the Americans and Kiwis, the Aussies could not see any problem in referring to a spoon-like instrument that has no cutting edge whatsoever as a hybrid-blade.

Silly Australians….

We spent the 2011 NYE in Sydney, to see the greatest fireworks show on earth.  An estimated 2 million people flooded the harbour and 1 billion people watched on TVs around the world.

We had a perfect vantage point from the balcony of a friend’s apartment, with a direct line view of the harbour bridge (the main event) but also the coordinated displays over Darling Harbour, the office buildings of the CBD, and the northside of the harbour.  It was pretty freaking sweet.

Pictures of our memorable day in Sydney are on the out and about page.

Ah it’s that time of the year again.  One year ends, another begins, prompting contemplative thinking about what life (or at least the next year) has in store and/or excessive champagne consumption.

2011 was a pretty great year.  You might have noticed that we spent it in Melbourne, Australia.  As if that wasn’t enough, I learned to cook kangaroo, re-learned the piano, made it almost all the way through my reading list (Infinite Jest, in all its 500+ page glory, is still waiting in the wings on my bedside table), attempted to make pasta from scratch, blogged my heart out (and even earned a WP kudos for doing so), and did an awful lot of exploring in this beautiful country.

For 2012, I have a similar laundry list of potential personal achievements, a new reading queue, and some holdovers from 2011’s resolution list to finish off (hot air balloon ride and Tassie devil sighting). But after much contemplation, I have decided 2012 will be the year of Claire, the vicambulist.

So instead of professing my commitment to meet general goals for the year, below is my hiking wish list.  Since Australia is relatively flat, it is hard to characterize many of these as “hikes”, but walks, treks or tramps will suffice…

Some are day walks, others are overnight hikes.  And a full 1/3 of the list is already planned for the month of March when dad & donna visit, which is giving us a jump start to the year.  Let’s just say, I am excited to hit the trails in 2012 (ambulance ride optional).

Therefore, I hereby resolve that in 2012 I will hike…

1) in and around Wilson’s Prom (VIC)

2) a New Zealand glacier (South Island, NZ)

3) the misty eucalyptus forests of the Blue Mountains (NSW)

4) the highest peak in Australia, Mount Kosciuszko (NSW)

5) Snowy River National Park (VIC)

6) at least 2 days of the 9-day Great Ocean Walk (VIC)

7) a portion of the Overland Track, Cradle Mountain (TAS)

8) the Victorian Alps (VIC)

9) the Milford Sound Track (NZ)

10) among waterfalls, rainforests and killer crocodiles in Kakadu National Park (NT)

11) Grampians National Park (VIC); and

12) an international peak with the other members of the fantastic four, location TBD.

In addition to the specifically enumerated walks comes a general commitment to walking where possible in lieu of other forms of transportation.

These boots were made for walking, and in 2012, that’s just what they’ll do!

Looking for a new “hiking” venue within an hour of the city, we headed to Mount Macedon the day after Boxing Day (which was observed Christmas, or some otherwise sanctioned holiday).  Turns out, a lot of people had the same idea. 

Our little dachshund powered his way to the top, despite the constant clatter of “oh, a sausage dog!” from pretty much everyone we passed on the trail. 

It’s DACHSHUND people.

Steve could barely contain his audible teeth grinding by the time we descended.  Luck for us it was a short summit and there was not a soul on the base walk, so at least we enjoyed the second half of our walk without edible epithets.

As a break from the Aussie landscapes, a bit of portraiture. Laura and her Mia.

Last weekend we took Alex, our temporary associate from NYC, down the GOR to see all of Australia has to offer.  It was kinda cold, and less than abundantly sunny, but we had a great time nonetheless cruising down the coast and camping overnight at Apollo Bay.  Full pictures on the photos page.