Keep Austin Weird

“Keep Austin Weird”. That, dear readers, is the “unofficial” city motto. However, you see it everywhere. On T-shirts; signs in store windows; on bumper stickers, and it really is what Austin, Texas is all about.

There’s even a  small museum down town, open till midnight no less, dedicated to weirdness. Russ thinks this is dedicated to him and he’s waiting for the call to be offered the key to the city!!!!IMG_20160127_131623481_HDR

 

 

 

This is the funkiest town we’ve ever stayed in and we’re loving it. And the creativity extends right into the residential areas. Just around the corner from where we’re staying, a small, duplex apartment complex proves my point.

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The garage door

 

 

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The front entrance

The decorations on the fence and trees give us quite a chuckle too!

The weather, since we arrived, has been generally in the mid to high 20s (Celcius) and sunny. If fact, most of the time it’s been blue skies, with not a cloud to be seen. Perfect for golf and sightseeing. Last night was the first time we’ve had rain since we’ve been here, and that’s been 54 days!

Here are some of the things we’ve done since we arrived. We’ve been to San Antonio (an hour’s drive from Austin) and visited The Alamo.

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The church at The Alamo

It’s right slap bang in the middle of historic San Antonio, which surprised us. We expected it to be in the middle of nowhere. A large portion of the site (which is surprisingly small)  has been re-constructed, although the church building featured here is mostly original.

 

 

And while in San Antonio, you cannot leave without eating somewhere along the River Walk. A two minute stroll from The Alamo,  it’s “The Happening Place” to be, be seen and be cool!

And we’ve also been sightseeing in the Hill Country around Austin. Lockhart, Blanco, Dripping Springs – small towns  which really remind me of the towns featured in Westerns.

And Austin funkiness extends out that way too – in Wimberley they get a kick out of displaying cowboy boots as street decor!

Did you know there are a number of wineries in the Hill Country? And the number of local brewers in this part of Texas is astounding. Their beer is the best beer we’ve ever tasted in the USA (and possibly anywhere else) by far! Well, when a beer called Devil’s Backbone has 8.1% alcohol by volume, compared to, say,  Yuengling (USA)  or Heineken (Dutch) which have 5.4%, that would explain quite a bit!

We have been to the movies (saw Tarantino’s  The Hateful Eight, which is violent to the extreme (not surprising), but not very good!). We’ve been to the theatre (saw The Improvised Shakespeare Company – absolutely hilarious), and, yes, we’ve been to Austin City Limits to an awards show inducting Texas songwriters in to the Hall of Fame. Great music, great fun.

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And here’s Russ, with Willie Nelson.    wp-1456249395030.jpg

Now, of course, we can’t wait till March and the South by Southwest Music Festival. Over 2,000 bands from all over the world play here over a two week period. There is music in every bar, restaurant, and on the street corners. Here, the city really lives up to its official motto which is the “Live Music Capital of the World”.

However, we prefer KEEP AUSTIN WEIRD! And on that note, I’ll leave you, as I have to have lunch!!

I win a golf tournament, and other stories

I am sooooooo excited I can hardly contain myself. I won a golf competition at Horizons Golf Resort! 19 women played the Stableford, and I won with 37 points!!!!!!! Here’s proof! SONY DSCAnd here, too, were my witnesses although they don’t seem too impressed.SONY DSC

And then, a week later, I came second in yet another golf competition. Then Russ and I came first in a social golf event, and then we won the raffle and I pick up a meat tray!  Yum!!!

Talk about being lucky….

But let’s start at the beginning. We arrived in Australia on February 6, and spent a few days with Russ’s brother who lives in Coal Point on Lake Macquarie, just outside Toronto (in New South Wales, that is). Then, on February 12, our real vacation started. We moved into Robyn and Brian’s house.

Here’s a photo of the kitchen they renovated recently (we like to think they did it just for us!)

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Robyn and Brian were meant to be going away on a four month trip around South Australia, but that got put off for a month. Not to worry (as the Aussies say). They moved into Fay and Bob’s house. Fay and Bob are currently at their other home in Sydney. As you can see, we’ve just invented a new game called musical houses….

So, for the next two months, this is our home away from home and the views we have. Right on the 17th tee of Horizons Golf Resort.  SONY DSC

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SONY DSCIt was Brian’s birthday a few days ago. We invited Robyn and Brian back to their own home for a birthday dinner with friends, and a grand old time was had by all. Russ cooked up a spectacular seafood paella. Fresh Australian prawns (that’s what they call shrimp here), topped with the best pieces of blue-eyed cod. After the last guest left at 12:30am, we washed up, went to bed, only to leap out (bleary-eyed) a few hours later to go to coffee at Dave and Inga’s.

Since arriving we’ve played tennis every Sunday morning with the usual suspects; played a lot of golf; had golf lessons; had dinner parties with more to come. I’ve played mahjong. Russ goes to the driving range. We can hardly find the time to relax!

It’s Russ’s birthday on Wednesday. We’re recreating his party from two years ago. A barbeque at Sunset Beach with all our friends. Not too late in the evening though. That’s when the mosquitoes come out to play and they’re not nice!

It’s a hot one today. And, as most mad dogs and Englishmen (or Australians), Russ decided it would be a good idea to let the lawnmower take him for a walk in the midday heat. He was so engrossed I thought he might head across the cart path and continue on the 17th fairway!SONY DSC

So, it’s lunch time now, and I’ll close with a photo of a koala I saw on Saturday on the 5th fairway! Till later! SONY DSC

Wrapping up the year

Wrapping up the year? That sounds like a gift that will need to be unwrapped again. Since that’s not possible, we shall move ever onwards and upwards and will look back on 2014 as a wonderful, event-filled year. I like the ring of that. Kind of profound. If you know what I mean.

Now, a number of friends reading this are not on Facebook. For those who are, some of this will be repetitious. Skip those bits, if you must.

We moved into our new home in Kingston in April. A lovely condo, with spectacular views.

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A guest bedroom, also with view, is ready and waiting. Please check ahead of time with management for availability as we seem to be rather popular with friends who like to stay over.

We were hard at work, getting settled. imageRuss renovated both bathrooms (he’s the odd-job specialist – and I don’t mean odd, as in strange, although now that you mention it..) …

…and I painted the dining room.image

Ceiling fans were installed, a range hood was put up as well as the back splash behind the stove. All electrical outlets were modernized with new plates and switches. The old doors (really ugly) in the condo were replaced. All this handled most professionally by Russ (the odd guy, in case you’ve forgotten)!!!!!

And with all that going on, we had numerous visits from friends, even found time to play golf, and had a very busy social life. Oh. Let’s not forget those amazing, fun-filled dinner parties!
imageWhat else happened in 2014? Russ went on his annual old-guys golfing trip to Malone in New York State with the usual suspects in July. I had carpal tunnel surgery on my right hand in October.

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Federer is Betterer

Oh – I once again managed the Chairman’s Lounge during the week of the Canadian Open Tennis in August.

Federer even dropped in to say Hi during our staff barbeque.

So,after a busy summer we finally drove south to Florida in November. We left behind this….image

…and arrived to see this…

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Yes. I kid you not! A Floridian Christmas tree! You should see the bikes at night. All lit up and quite dazzling, if you ask me.

Then, if course, there’s Charlotte’s Christmas tree. A proper one. Beautifully decorated. A wine theme this year as you can see.

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imageWe’re leaving Florida in 10 days, after another incredibly busy social time here, with wine bars, dinner parties, golf, more wine bars, dinner parties and so on…. Back to Canada for three weeks then off to Australia. So 2015 is already promising to be an amazing year too. You’ll get the kangaroo and koala postings, so keep checking in for your “Too Cute” fix.

I’m not sure if this note will get posted before I actually preview it for typos and content (I seem to press the wrong buttons sometimes). If so, a very, very happy New Year to all from Russell and me. Chocolat, of course, in her very best French, wishes you a TRÈS BONNE ANNÉE!

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MEOW!

I am most pleased!

First, before I get going on what’s happening in our Floridian life, I have to brag. I broke 100 on the Calusa Lakes Golf Course this week. WAY TO GO!!!!!!!   I ROCK!!!! Now, I have to do it consistently, and then break 90. I have to beat Russell. I just gotta. Just gotta!!!!! Really. Yes. (For my Aussie friends, with my handicap, in a Stableford, that would have been 55 on that course. Not bad, huh? Huh? Yeah.).

And, check out this wildlife on the golf course.  SONY DSC

Compared to kangaroos and koalas, not terribly exotic, but he was certainly curious!

Talking about golf in the USA, look at this. You know those monster trucks you see on TV? They do exist.

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Well – look at this golf cart to match! That’s enough to make anyone want to take up the game.ImageOur social life continues to be extremely busy, although we did have a rather embarrassing moment. Invited to a pool party by Mike and Pam, we pitched up last Sunday with our booze and swimsuits, only to find that everyone had already left (we thought). Gracious as ever, Pam and Mike made us feel most welcome. We swam, chatted, drank (of course), and then, when Pam asked if we’d received the invitation for February 16, realized we had the date wrong!!!!! Oops. Russ, of course, apologized profusely and fired his social secretary on the spot! We’re looking forward to the real party this Sunday. I hope we’re still invited.

I finally (after almost a year), got to play Mahjong again last Monday night with Jane, Jean and Irene. Well, I lost $0.60 that night. Russell is horrified at my ruinous gambling addiction, but I promise I’ll make it up next Monday. He, Tim and Derek got to hang out at Tim’s house and watch TV, and this will probably be the standard Monday night ritual till we leave at the end of March.

Venice, Florida has gone funky since we were here two years ago. SONY DSC

The main drag has many creative sculptures dotting the sidewalks, and as you can see, Russ has now found his real porpoise in life.

Only in Venice

(I had to get that pun in, sorry!).

I have just had a well-needed mani-pedi done. Feel great, and will look good for our evening with wine bar buddies at La Dolce Vita. Sam is playing there tonight. Should be fun!

I’ll be back again soon with our updates. Don’t hold your breath, though – it may be a few weeks!

Checking in (not out)

It’s me again, with nothing to report, so I’ll just update you with what Russ and I have been up to this past month.

We’re over on the East Coast of Florida, in Hallandale Beach. As in the past, Karen and Dan (friends who also live in Kingston, Ontario but spend the winter in Florida), are on vacation in Costa Rica for the month of January. We house-sit and dog-sit for them. I was a bit nervous this year, as we had to travel with Chocolat (CAT) this year, but…
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after two days, DOG and CAT got on famously. Chocolat rules, Willie obeys, and peace (or is that CAT?) reigns in the animal kingdom.

And, here’s the view from their condo, which overlooks the Intra-coastal waterway. You should see some of the private yachts that sail by. Very impressive indeed. It’s lovely sitting on the balcony watching the world cruise by…
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We’ve played some golf, and some tennis. We’re not yet ready to compete on the PGA or LPGA tour, nor at Roland Garros or Wimbledon, but we’ll leave that to those who are!

Oh, for those who aren’t on Facebook, I had an upright MRI scan done here in Fort Lauderdale. (Sitting up, instead of the traditional lying down). Had to pay out of my own pocket, but the results came back with rather encouraging news…… I’ll see my doc when we’re back in Canada in April, but I got information that there were a number of issues that might explain the pain I’ve been dealing with for the last 8 years. YAY. It felt like Christmas when I got the news!!!! (There is only one of this particular type of machine in Canada, a four hour flight from Toronto, so it made no sense to do it there).

As usual, we continue to eat like kings. Just recently we’ve cooked mussels in a tomato and fennel broth. Mussels in a Thai coconut curry sauce. Delicious rib-eye steak with caramelised onions and red bell peppers. wpid-20140108_192551.jpg

Baked fish a creamy sauce with roast grape tomatoes and fresh basil. Gosh, it’s only just past breakfast time and my mouth is watering already!

We leave Hallandale on February 2 and drive to Englewood on the West Coast of Florida for two months. We’re actually looking forward to being back there. We’ve got loads of friends, there is so much more to do, we have a wonderfully busy social life with visits to wine bars three times a week, cocktails in the courtyard every afternoon, and it’s so much more laid back. Suits us to a T.

And, February 2 is Superbowl. That, for readers who don’t know anything about American Football, is the day North America stops in its track. Fans throw rowdy Superbowl parties where one devours chips, popcorn, chicken wings, pizza, Kentucky Fried Chicken and any other unhealthy food one can lay one’s hands on. You watch the game on big-screen, high definition TV sets, cheer boisterously for one of the teams, (hopefully yours made it to the finals, but if not, who cares), and drink copious amounts of beer. I usually like to stay home and read a good book. But Russ needs to get to Englewood and to one of those parties with friends, so that’s what we’ll do. I am The Good Wife, yes I am! (Didn’t they make a TV series about me?).

Enough said. Chocolat is waiting for me to get off the chair so she can use it to hop onto the dining room table. She needs her afternoon snack, and the dining room table is the only place we can keep her food without DOG getting to it! Off I go. Till later…. with hopefully more interesting stuff to talk about!

Goodbye Australia

Well, we all knew our stay in Australia would come to an end. We’re back in Canada now, and are still in denial. Our time at Horizons in Salamander Bay was everything we had hoped for, and then more.
As a send off, during our last game of golf, the wildlife was out in full force. We saw a spectacular, and very funny kangaroo chase. When a female doesn’t want to be caught, (by two males, no less!) she certainly leads them on a merry goose chase. In and out of the bush, around and around in circles, until you didn’t know who was chasing who!! And then we saw three koalas, no less. What luck.

The drop bears were, however, nowhere to be seen. It must have been the whiff of Vegemite that put them off. For those who don’t know what a drop bear is, there’s a short, but fascinating piece written by Dr. Volker Janssen http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/journal/drop-bears-prefer-travellers-says-study.htm.

We must have had at least 10 goodbye lunches and dinners. Here’s the one at Jo and Tom’s house, put on by the golf and mahjong ladies. wpid-20130505_232355.jpg
Russ, Tom, Rod and Brian were roped in as our waiters and actually did quite a good job, appearing miraculously when we clapped for them before disappearing discreetly till they were called upon again.

This, however, lasted only until we found them deep in conversation with empty wine glasses and beer bottles in front of them.
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They were fired on the spot. This gave Russ the wonderful excuse to relax, with another glass of wine, on the patio with Jo. twinsDon’t they look like twins? Just a coincidence, I promise!

Then we had a goodbye lunch at Fran and Max’s home, and by now we were definitely starting to put on weight!. Loads of fun was had by all as usual, as you can see.
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Our last and final dinner was at our home with Di and Rod, Robyn and Brian, and Lesley. A raucous and fun evening, with the Ozzies bursting into remembered television jingles about Aeroplane jello. To be experienced, I can tell you. Both the jingle and the jello!

Then it was time to leave. To pack up, lock up and go. We were both pretty choked up about that. But, the countdown has started till we return in 18 months. That’s the plan, and without a plan, nothing happens. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

ClownSo, to our friends down under, stay safe, stay well, and see you soon!

Our time in Australia is almost over

Oh, I’m sorry, I have been rather lazy, and not too much has happened since the last post, which is why you’ve not heard from me.

However, we’ve been dolphin watching in the bay (Nelson Bay), and we did see about 10 of them! It was a beautiful day about a month ago, and we’d been given this short cruise as a Christmas gift.
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I’d say the only unfortunate thing was that the water was quite murky. Red, in fact. You see, with all the torrential rains we’ve had, the rivers emptied a lot of silt into the bay that had not yet settled, and the red colour is apparently the tannin from the tea trees in the Myall Lakes area.

We’ve also taken the ferry from Stockton to Newcastle. It only takes 5 minutes, and used to be the only way to get across the harbour before the bridge was built in the 70s. It was quite a trip down memory lane for Russ. Stockton FerryStockton born and bred, those ferry rides were part of his childhood and the only way he could get to high school! And this picture of Nobby’s is what he’d see every day, whether on the beach; or surfing and trying to catch the local sheilas’ eye; or from the ferry. It used to be about 4 meters higher (it was rounded), but was levelled so a lighthouse could be built on it.
Nobby's

Since the last post, I been eaten alive by sand flies (well, sort of. My lower legs, if you really want to know). Boy, did it itch. So it was anti-histamines and cortizone cream for about a week. It really worked, thank heavens. I have a friend in Canada (who shall remain nameless) who can relate to this. Two years later she still bears the scars from some of those bites!

It’s officially autumn here. I guess they don’t call it fall since the leaves don’t change colour and fall to the ground. Makes sense, doesn’t it? There’s a lot more dew on the ground in the morning, and a slight nip in the air, although during the day it’s still rather warm. But yesterday was only 19C and we had to have the heating on. Oh yes, go on, you know you want to say it. YESSSSS – we are wimps!

It’s hard to believe that in a month we’ll be back in Canada. This has become a second home to us. We’ll miss it a lot, especially the friends we’ve made, most of whom live on the resort and overlook the golf course. Fran and Max on the 2nd, just across the lake, who wave to us as we walk by.

The view of the second hole from Fran and Max's home

The view of the second hole from Fran and Max’s home

Laurie and Val on the pond between the 14th and 15th. Di and Rod, and Robyn and Brian on the 17th hole where a koala can be found in the ghost gum some days. It’s nice to have a short break with a glass of wine and nuts before we tee off again. Chris and Rob on the 18th, where we often feel like jumping into their infinity pool to cool off at the end of our round. I could go on, and on, but won’t.

Another reason we’ll miss this place are the incredible sunsets.
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Sunsets apart, we’ll also miss the wildlife. You have seen the kangaroos and koalas we’ve encountered, but the bird life is also something else.

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Here is Murgatroyd the Magificent, the visiting egret who stops by on Fran and Max’s garden for food, together with the local ibis and lorikeets.Lorikeet

So, we are slowly winding things down here. Finishing off the jam and peanut butter. Finishing off what’s in the freezer and pantry. Finishing off the minutes left on our cell phones and internet hotspot. But, we will soon be back in Canada, and look forward to seeing all our friends there. And, of course, Chocolat, my cat, who can’t wait to throw up hairballs in Russell’s slippers again! I’ll keep you posted….