W & A's Top 10 Aussie Moments... and a few really bad ones to boot.

Wozz & I lived in Australia for 2 years and it was awesome.  I loved Australia the most for it's people and it's lifestyle.  Australians lived a bit more carefree than us over here in America and I think we could learn to chill out a bit if we spent just a bit of time down under.  Australians still value a cup of tea with the neighbor and yes it's still possible to phone the cable company in Australia and speak to a real person that will help you!  Amazing.  Real people....unfortunately something I think we are beginning to lack over here in the US.  Australia is of course Wozz's homeland and it was utterly important to me to spend a couple years there learning about his roots, his culture, and getting to know his family.   We had a blast in OZ so here it is...our top 10 "best days ever" in Australia moments along with a few of our " I can't believe this is happening to us" disasters.        



1.  We got Married!! xoxo
Obviously the best day of all in Australia was our wedding day.  We kept it simple but elegant with close family and a few good friends.  Unfortunatley my family was unable to attend however they sent over some great readings and videos that made it feel like they were still a big part of the day.  We owe it to capers inn in Wollombi NSW...they provided us with a beautiful venue with a stunning Australian backdrop and great, i mean great, food.   It really was the perfect day.




2.  Show me the money!  Our first ever farmers market!!

Our first ever farmers market was the first day that Wozz and I looked at each other and said "yeah...I think we can actually do this."  "Wozz! Kitchen creations can be our reality".  Starting a business is always hard work and when you first start you get so bogged down with so many little details, the licensing, the paperwork, the legality of things that you just feel like you are never going to get there.  We knew that first thing first, we had to make our product and we had to try to sell it and if we wanted to have a good start we had to get going before Christmas!  

Now to highlight for a minute.  It is December 1st.  We arrived in Australia November 17th.  We are planning a wedding.  We are borrowing my inlaws car.  We haven't even memorized our phone number yet.  We really have no idea what we are doing but we know that we are going to start this business no matter what.

So, we start slaving at the stovetop, handmaking and designing our labels, cutting them out with scissors (omg...what were we thinking?) and we are searching for the farmers market that will give us a shot at their christmas market.  Low and behold Maitland Markets says sure you can come to ours.   WOOOHOOOO!  We got a spot.   We need a sign.  We need a gazebo.  We need a money box!  What are we going to tell people about our products?   How will we price them?  What kind of specials can we offer?  Buy 3 get one free?? Does that sound good?  Oh there were so many questions and we made alot of uneducated guesses.


We get to the big day.  Market day.  We have our aprons on.  Our stall is set up.  We wait patiently for our first customer.  A women strolls up to the stall...

Wozz:  Hi.  Would you like to taste our products??

Customer:  Sure. 

Wozz:  Really?! 

Customer:  Um....yeah....(tastes it)...that's lovely.

Wozz:  Really?!

Customer:  Um...yes.  Could I purchase that.

Wozz:  Really?!

Customer: Yes.  Actually I will take the buy 3 get one free deal.

Wozz:  Really? (in our heads...omg...they went for the buy 3 deal!..it worked..)

 Customer:  Yes.  How much do I owe you.

Wozz:  That's $24 dollars. 

Customer:  Here you go.  

(Money in hand.  I scramble to give them change so stunned I cannot do addition and Wozz has to say, ash give em back $6.00...oh okay...$6.00 that's right.  I hand the change to the customer...thank them like they just saved my life and the customers walks off.) 

Immediately this happens:

Wozz and Ashley start jumping up and down. jumping up and down. jumping up and down.


Our first sale.  We are in business!!!

Total sales our first day at Maitland Markets  $640.00.    The confidence to start a business:  Priceless. WOOOHOOOOO.


3.  Dingo stole my baby...

Okay now this one applys to my top 10 Australia moments...not Wozz's seeing that he is a native Australian so a kangaroo is just a daily encounter...but for me, seeing Australias wildlife was a big part of my adventure.  Of course the first time I saw a group of kangaroos I couldn't believe it...they really are cool...they just hang out....lay around leaning on their elbows..it's definitely a cool encounter.  But my two "did I really just see that?" moments were...




When an Emu ran across the road....an EMU??  If you remember the bare naked ladies song.....he sings.."if I had a million dollars..I would buy you an exotic pet like a llama or an Emu"...and you would think to yourself "what's an EMU?"  Well I saw an EMU.  and as soon as I saw it I had this innate knowledge that yes it was an EMU.  It was kind of surreal.


When Wozz and I were driving way up in the snowy mountains and to the left there was a dingo and her pup.  OMG...dingo stole my baby?...you all remember that don't you???....I couldn't believe it. 
















And I have to give a shout out to the echidna....it's like a porcupine/ant eater...but its a bit more stoned. 

And to all the Australian birds....there is nothing better than to be walking into the dry wrangly eucalyptus dotted Australian bush ready to say, "Wozz,  I want to go back to the car" and then a pair of red, green and blue lorikeets land in a tree above you.  Ahhh...thank god for the birds....


4.  I'm bettin on Americana....run baby run.  

I had never been to the horse races prior to moving to Australia and if you've ever lived in Australia you know that Melbourne Cup is a big deal.  It's all about the horses, the betting, and of course the fashion.  We celebrated Melbourne Cup by going to the Royal Randwick Races in the heart of Sydney.  We met up with friends, placed some bets, drank champagne, and cheered a lot.   I bet on Americana of course...how could this good ole usa girl not?  It was such a fun day out and definitely one of my "best days ever!" in Australia moments.




5.   Our Mudgee Mansion....

Prior to moving back home to the states, we wanted to have one more weekend away in Australia so we decided to go inland a bit to check out the town of Mudgee.  It's a wine growing, farming region with a cute little downtown and we thought it would definitley be worth checking out.  We arrive on a Monday and hadn't made any reservations to stay the night because we figured we would just book when we got into town.   I mean it is Monday night and it is the winter season, how hard can it be to find accomodation?   Low and behold we find out real quick that all the hotels are booked.  We are spending the first few hours of our trip going from hotel to motel to campground just looking for a place to stay...."Why are the hotels all booked up it's Monday we ask?"....We find out a big mining boom just hit town and all the workers are coming in from afar and booking up all the hotels.  Great.  This is just great.  So we end up finding a room at the Starlight Motel in downtown Mudgee.  Yup..you guessed it...it was as good as it sounds.  The good ole starlight motel.  The office was just as you are probably picturing it...lady at the desk with a hoarse smokers voice, a wood panelled office in the background with an old dirty lampshade hanging from a chain, a faded yellowed sign that says "breakfast upstairs"...you get it...We then get the pleasure of being escorted to our amazing room.  and yes it is amazing.  It has fake brick on one wall...a fine yellow carpet..and the most beautiful 1980's floral and pilly bedspread I have ever seen.  The lady gives us the key and we quickly say, "lets just drop our bags...and find a wine bar...so we can sip away until we no longer care where we sleep tonight". 

On our way to finding a wine bar we walk by the tourist information center.  It's 5 minutes of 5.  We contemplate going in but figure they are closing...but we decide to just see if anyone can maybe help us.  We get to the counter and the women says  she can make a few phone calls for us...we wait almost nervously seeing if she can find a different hotel room for us...she calls a few places .but nothing is available.  At this point we think...we are going to spend 3 nights at the Starlight Motel...and we are sad...very very sad.  So much for a romantic weekend away in wine country.  The lady at the counter then says, let me just try one more place...she calls the Mudgee Getaway Cottages and we think yeah,  a nice little cottage would be great.  We hear her on the phone say, "all you have availabe is the Elington Manor?...okay...and you can do a deal on that...$200.00 a night (she then whispers out of the corner of her mouth away from the phone...omg...this is like a mansion.)  We light up...and say quietly..."tell her we'll take it".... She relays the message and as she is completing the details with the owner of the cottages...she whispers this place usually goes for $1200/night!  It's winter...it's Monday...so the owner figured why not let us rent it.  

We arrive at the manor.  The housekeeper greets us and gives us a tour...are you kidding me?  This place has 7 bedroom suites...of which we can pick whichever one we like or sleep in a different one each night if we want to.  It has a massive kitchen and dining area....a golf course, a heated pool, a family room with fireplace, it's own petting zoo (no joke)...and outdoor entertainment area...a small museum (for real)...it goes on.  We are in shock.  The housekeeper tells us the fridge is stocked with fresh eggs, and juice, and milk...and if we want we can go pick fresh veggies from the garden for dinner.  Did I mention we are in shock.  This is like rags to riches.  Where are our friends right now???  We want to throw a massive party.

The housekeeper leaves and of course we are like Macully Caulkin in home alone....let's just say it turned out to be a "I will never forget this time when"....moment. 




6.  Fish & Chips at Potonga

Patonga is a little fishing village on the central coast of New South Wales.  There is not much there but that's what makes it all the more special.  There are only a few things you can do in Patonga...sit on the dock watching the fisherman in their little boats,  be mesmerized by the fascinating cartoon like pelicans, drink, and eat fish and chips. (and all that makes for a pretty good day out in my book :)

The town has a nice boutique hotel on the water and it's perfect for a few bevies before heading to the little fish and chips shop about 2 doors down.  The fish is just off the boat...the fries are handcut...and it's served in newspaper with a nice big lemon wedge.  It was handsdown the best fish and chips I have ever had.  It was the record breaker, they'll never be another, gold medal champion of fish and chips.

We sat on the little beach eating our lunch and it was one of those days that every minute you were "in the moment"...you felt it in the air...it was simple yet magical.  As the sun went down that night, I didn't want the day to end.

....and that my friends is why I love Australia.




7.  What?  We won?...
Okay so this is not really a big deal...it's kind of lame actually for our top 10 aussie moments....but it was the first time Wozz and I ever won something.  We put our names into a drawing and we actually won!!  We won a whole lot of wine!!!  We love wine!  It was good wine!!   We were so happy we even took pictures in the backyard..please disregard my sweatpants....it was a loungy kind of day.  We just kept looking at each other and saying..."I've never won anything like this, have you?" and the other would say, "no, I never win anything!  I can't believe it" and the other would say, "mean neither! I've never won anything! I can't believe it"...it went in circles for a few minutes then we got over it and started drinking our newly won wine!!




8.  Road Trip!

We drive out in this old van..travel right across this land...just me and you....

Wozz and I took a lot of road trips in Australia...We had the best van to do it in.  The Mercedes Sprinter.   It had a mattress in the back, a fridge (it didn't work but at least we could store our condiments and bread in it), the floor was carpeted (which was nice until I spilt rice milk on it on a hot summers day...ewwww), it had built in cabinets and coat hooks.  It was pretty kitted out.  It even had a bit of panelling action and The best thing our Mercedes Sprinter had:  Drum roll please....two big Australian flags painted on each side of it.   No joke.  We were driving in style.  Other than the occasional headlight out and it taking us about 10 minutes to drive up a big hill because it ran on about 3 cylinders...it was great and it was perfect for camping. 



Everytime our inlaws drove us to the breaking point (we lived with them for 6 months when we arrived in Australia) we just hopped in the van and drove far far away...we drove up to Byron Bay...to Noosa...down to Kiama...over to the snowy mountains...heck we even drove to Griffith (that was a long drive).  I loved Road Trips in Australia.  We had no A/C which made it all the more Australian.  It was hot...it

was dusty....and for one time in my life I was kind of a hippy.           


9.   A weekend with Dulcie Pink.

Wozz' grandmother's name is Dulcie Pink.  She has got a pretty cool name and she is just that...cool.  Everytime we went to Sydney we stayed at Dulce's apartment in Manly (which is sweet beachside suburb of Sydney)....let's just say it was a perk to visiting Dulce...but besides Manly being a great place to visit...Dulcie was a blast to hang out with.  She drank scotch...went to dinner parties..played croquet everyday...she was like 80 going on 55.  She was kind of posh.  Everytime we arrived at Dulces should would have us sit down and she would pour us a glass of wine...and give us some canapes...cheese and crackers...sliced sausage..stuffed little peppers...  We would all sit down in the living room and chat...we would talk a lot about current events and of politics...Dulce loved to talk politics...she still participated in active protests with her friends in downtown Sydney...she was passionate...that she was.   As we were finishing up our canapes she would refill our wine glasses and would start to cook us dinner...we would always volunteer our help in the kitchen but you think that was going to happen.  Nope.  Dulce had it under control.  The dinner table was always set nicely and we always started with a small garden salad with oil and vinegar on the table in fine crystal pourers.   After dinner...we would head back into the living room and Dulce would always give me a snuggly warm blanket and a hot water bottle to lay on the couch with.  We would usually sit down together and watch an old movie...Alfred Hitchcock the Birds...The Color Purple...lots of classics.   We just loved going to Dulcies.  She was the quintessential grandma.  Wozz and I had a hard time saying our goodbyes before we left to come back to the states.  We just adore Dulcie Pink and we will always cherish those memories.  They were our favorite "let's stay in" nights in Australia.

10.  Accidentally finding the birth place of the Australian Kelpie. 

 I adopted my dog Henry when he was 7 months old at a shelter in the lakes region of New Hampshire.  He was supposedly a street dog down in Memphis Tennessee and was picked up and sent to a kill shelter.  A lovely woman who finds adoptable dogs in kill shelters adopted him and placed him in a no kill shelter and then independently attempted to find a good home for him.  I arrived at the shelter took one look at Henry, the little brown cute dog sitting in his pen, and said...I want that one.  and after I solemnly swear and pledged that I would forever take good care of Henry the woman let me adopt him. 

Now Henry doesn't look like a lot of dogs in America and at the shelter they were unable to tell me his breed.  Over the years I became so fond of Henry (aren't we all so fond of our dogs of course) that I had to know what kind of breed he was...I knew he was a mutt but what were his mixes??  I searched and searched dog book after dog book, asked my vet, etc but noone and nothing really showed me what kind of dog he was.  I do remember one dog that looked a bit like him and that was Steve Irwin the crocodile hunters dog...lol  Anyway,  6 years go by and Henry is going on 7 years old and I still don't know his breed.  I am thinking of doing a DNA lab test...I am desperate!  This same year I meet my Australian husband...he takes one look at my dog and says....He is an Australian Kelpie.  I said, how do you know that, I have been searching for years?  He says, they are everywhere in Australia...they are farm dogs...they heard sheep.   OMG!!  What is with me and Australians?! LOL.  Anyway it all came to me as I looked up pictures of kelpies and there characteristics....Ahhhh that's why as a pup he used to calmly run behind someone and  just barely nip their calves...without being annoyed or growling....now I know it was his instincts....he was trying to herd....thank god he grew out of that!  Anyway, now i will go on.

















So Wozz and I are driving in Australia to a town called Griffith, we are heading there for an agricultural field day to sell our products.  Now this town is in the country and we are kind of in the middle of nowhere..The landscape was like the Oklahoma plains with a few scattered eucalypus dotting the land...it was pretty basic...pretty brown...and the towns located few and far between were small farming towns.... as we are driving down the road we go past a sign that points to a turn off that brings you into Casterton, NSW.  Just below the sign it says...."birthplace of the Australian Kelpie".  I said, "I don't care if we are in the middle of banjo playing, one eye crazy, once you come in you never come out, freakish country town we are going in...and I am going to see the birthplace of the Australian Kelpie".  This is Henrys ancestors, in the middle of nowhere Australia and I am here.  Unbelievable!  So we journey in and I arrive at the statue and pay my respects to the original breeders of the kelpie.  They bred one fantastic smart little dog!!  So, I know this is a random story...but what were the chances it would end up coming full circle!  Life is crazy.




Now for the disasters....


1.  RIP White Smoke

Wozz and I knew that we probably wouldn't settle in Australia for the long term so while living there we managed to get by driving some pretty cheap cars.  My first car in Australia was proudly named White Smoke, due to the wonderful thick cloud of smoke it would create every morning I started her up.  In all seriousness I would drive down the street as fast as possible trying to outrun the smoke so noone would know it was me.  I used to think people were going to take down my license plate number and report me to the Australian Environmental Emissions Control Team...if one did exist.  It was quite embarrassing to say the least.

One fine HOT summers day we were driving on the F3 highway to Sydney to do a delivery of our Wozz! products to a retailer and stupid me forgot to check the oil level.  Doh!  As we are chugging down the highway, I hear some pretty horrible sounds...and feel some bad vibrations...this is Australia in summer....this is not good.  This is going to be a bad day.

Yup...as we pulled over there was smoke coming from the engine....and of course I was getting the "I told you to check the oil every few days"  from Wozz.  I tried to defend myself but I knew that my negligence is what killed White Smoke.  So as we waited for over an hour in 100 degree heat on the side of the highway, I said my goodbyes and gave my sincerest apology.  It was fun White Smoke while it lasted....and the tow truck came and we buried her at the wreckers.  So long my friend.    

RIP White Smoke   1998-2011 
500,000 kilometers



2.  OMG...the inlaws....



3. Attack of the Bees...

Now moving on to another eventful day thanks to my "I think I am clever" father in law...
So Wozz has to go out of town for an event to sell and promote our products...he has just left and will be gone for about 3-4 days down to Henty, NSW.  I am happy to have a few days to myself just hanging out at home, working, cleaning...the usual.  I noticed as I was cleaning downstairs that there were a few dead bees scattered around the house...2 dead in the living room....3 dead in the bathroom...1 even floating in the toilet?? I'm thinking what is going on?  but I just continue cleaning and vacuuming them up...thinking to myself...well you are in Australia!...as I start to go upstairs to vacuum I hear a buzz coming from the spare bedroom...I start to get a bit nervous and slowly push my ear against the door. The buzzing is loud...it sounds like a swarm.  I slowly open the door, my heart is racing...I see bees...a lot of bees all over the window sill.  I quickly shut the door, run down stairs, and start to panic.  OMG...There is a swarm of bees in my bedroom...how can this be?....there are no windows open??  It's just like The Amityville Horror.  The house is possessed.  I call Wozz freaking out....What am I supposed to do?  I can't believe he is gone out of town for 3 days...this is a man's job! Wozz tells me that I have to find out where they are coming from and to call an exterminator.  Okay...I must enter the room and find out where they are coming from.  I suit up.  I cover my body head to toe and slowly open the door...I am praying that I don't get attacked.  I am scared.  They are congregating near the window so I have a little space to observe the situation.  I see that a few are running out from beneath a picture on the wall....that's funny I think to myself.  I need to see what is beneath that picture.  I take a minute to find the courage within.  I dig deep.  I go for the lift the picture off the wall movement...and I succeed without fail....and then there it is...there it is....

A massive hole in the wall that my father in law covered up with a picture. 

I can see through the hole the outside brick of the house and I can see my neighbors house...I can also see a bee hive....

I quickly shut the door, ran downstairs and called the exterminator.  $250 dollars later....the bees died. 




4. New Years Eve at the RSL club.

I think we should have just stayed at the hotel....



5.  I think Buddy just got bit by a snake.  

I loved babysitting my brother in laws two very large dogs, Kobe & Buddy.  Wozz on the other hand, not so much....lol.  They are big.  They are a bit OTT...and yes they kind of stink... but I am a dog lover so I usually twisted Wozz's arm a bit and got him to give in to babysitting the dogs for a couple days.  


On one of our nights with the dogs we decided to take them out for a run...we brought them to a 4 wheel track out in the bush and let them run around like they usually do.  As we attempt to go back to the car...we call for both Bud and Kobe and Kobe of course comes gallavanting along with her usually goofy look but behind her there is no Buddy to be seen.  After about 15 minutes of calling out (by this time we are thinking WTH?  Buddy always comes to us.  Always.)  we see buddy stumbling out the bush...he's confused...walking sideways...and getting caught up in the prickly bushes...we are calling for him but it's like he can't see us even though we are right in front of him.  He finally comes out of the bushes onto the path and just sits down.  He looks dazed...and I look closely and he has 2 fang like bite marks ontop of his left eye.  OMG.  Buddy got bit by a snake...and Cam (our brother in law and owner of the dogs who is obsessed with his dogs) is in JAPAN.  We are about a 10 minute walk to the car on a rocky path that can't be driven on.  Buddy weighs over 100 pounds...he is an Irish Wolfhound.  Buddy isn't walking.  Carrying him is out of the question. 

This is not happening to us right now.

Finally Buddy stands up and begins to follow us to the car with constant direction.  He at times walks sideways.  This is just weird.  Is that bleeding area above his eye a snake bite??  I can't really tell...but being a nurse I think something is affecting his central nervous system.  This is not good.

We finally get back to the car and I am thanking the good ole lord above that we made it there.  We get him in the car and rush home.  Of course it's the weekend and of course it's late.  The only Vet I can call is the after hours Newcastle Emergency Animal Hospital.  Great.  I call them up and explain what is happening.  At this point Buddy is looking better starting to come around back to normal so I think that we may not have to go in.   The Vet tech says you must bring him in immediately because sometimes with a Red Belly Black Snake Bite they can get bit...act funny...then come around back to normal...and then in a few hours go into shock and die.  They say there is a window period where they are lucid and seem fine.  OMG.   

Buddy get in the car...Wozz let's go!...Don't speed too much...dodge that car....watch the red light....We have to save Buddy!!!

We arrive at the Animal Emergency Room and it's busy...there's a cat that's not moving in this persons arms...a bird that fell out of a tree in anothers...we get sent to a room to wait to see the vet.  In the meantime, I look to my right and there is a handout on Dogs and Snakebites..an awareness pamphlet.  It says too keep your dogs out of the long grasses in the summertime...what had I done?  Could I be so stupid as to let them run on that track in the long grass...it then says the symptoms of a bite...I look over at Buddy and I am about to cry.  The vet comes in and says we need to check for venom in his urine....but because this is an after hours clinic it will cost you $500.00 for the urine test and if it comes back positive he will need antivenom.  He tells us Antivenom is $900.00 per vile and a dog his size would probably need about 2 1/2 viles....and he goes on saying and that doesn't include the blood transfusions he may need if he's been bitten by a red belly black snake.  

In head calculator quickly adds this up to about....$4000.00

The vet says if he is positive for a snake bit treatment it would probably be more like $5000-$10000 dollars.  

Did I mention Buddy is 10 years old.  Did I mention his owner is in Japan with no way of contacting him.  


This is NOT happening to us right now.

We go outside and get buddy to pea in a cup (now that's a good time).  I bring it in to the tech and we wait for the results.  

This is NOT happening to us right now.  Dear god...Dear god...Dear god...please..pacing...pacing....please...let this test be negative.

The Vet comes outside...and says...."the test is negative".  Hallelujah sweet jesus!  There are tears of joy...this is dramatic...my heart finally lifts from the pits of my stomach...Buddy you are not going to die!  I am hugging Buddy telling him how much I love him.  Wozz on the other hand...not so much.   

We go up to the counter...to get our oh so dreaded bill....$564.00.   

What do you think Wozz said the next time I asked if we could babysit the dogs??  

Skip forward to Christmas that year....the only thing Cam got from us was a singing dog card and a receipt in the middle.  Happy Holidays it said...from Buddy.  woof woof. 


6.  Pea Soup Smoke Out...This is just simply put.  Never ever forget and leave pea soup cooking on the stove all night long...especially when you have gone away for the night.  I blame Wozz.  The smell of burnt pea soup is repulsive...I can still taste it.   There was so much smoke in our house when we walked through our door the next day it's lucky the fire department wasn't there.  We had to wash the walls...every bit of clothes in all the upstairs closets...it saturated the carpets...our bedding....omg...I bet to this day if you take a big deep sniff in that house you will be forever reminded of the pea soup smoke out. 



and there you have it...the good, the bad, and the thank god everything turned out alright moments.....thanks for reading!


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