This girl is exhausted since she had to wake up very early and drive to the city for her graduate school orientation (and she likes to talk in the third person), but she still wants to show you some photos that were taken in between the time that she went to California and got married. She hadn't seen her fiance since January, so it was pretty exciting to see him again in San Francisco!
Our first night (I'm so over third person), we met up with Al's best man Duncan and his girlfriend Claire for dinner. We then went to the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins after for a drink since they were staying there and we were staying next door to them. It was pretty neat seeing them in America, because the only other place I've seen them in is Australia!
They went up to Sonoma Valley a day early, and we hung around in San Francisco. We met up with all of the other Aussies on Tuesday night (July 31) and had a blast at an Irish pub off of Union Square.
I'm sure that we were all reluctant to get out of bed the next morning, but we still did and took a shuttle bus to Sonoma Valley. Al and I greeted our friends and family at the hotel, met briefly with our rabbi who officiated our ceremony, and then we went to Chateau St Jean for the rehearsal.
It was quick and painless. We were done in less than an hour, and we had plenty of time to go back to the hotel and change for the rehearsal dinner.
Our rehearsal dinner was at Johnny Garlic's in Santa Rosa. I got the volcano chicken, and I loved it. I think it was the most popular menu item for our group.
The Aussies discovered that they could order drinks that were three times the size of a normal portion. If you look in the back, you can see Anna and Fel drinking a mojito from a giant fish bowl! Other tables soon caught on and ordered similar massive drinks.
You can't really tell in the photo below, but I'm wearing 5-inch platforms. I wasn't able to wear them to the actual rehearsal since I would have been tripping all over the grass, but I figured it was safe to wear to dinner. I liked being a normal height for the night!
By the way, it's now Sunday and I started this post on Thursday. I start my grad school program tomorrow, and I can't WAIT! I'm looking forward to telling you all about it and being able to share useful info on nutrition. I can't promise that I'm going to be a consistent blogger, but I'm still here. Stay tuned for some post-wedding and honeymoon photos!
Al is now back in Australia, and I started school again! Wheeeee! Isn't it wonderful when fun things end? Lucky for me, my schedule is much more normal compared to my summer classes. I actually have free time. Lots of it. Besides, I'm happy to be back in class. Am I crazy?
I had Lazy Blogging Syndrome (something I just made up off the top of my head) while Al was here, so I wasn't great about taking photos and posting them and all that jazz. Maybe you noticed? Just before he left, I whipped out the camera again. We got a hotel room downtown (The Sheraton on the river that we managed to get for a very good price- I HIGHLY recommend it) and spent a bulk of a Friday afternoon at Navy Pier.
I love Navy Pier for what it is: a place to eat, drink, watch people and get some of most wonderful views of the city. Al liked that stuff too, but he was also overjoyed that the pilots were practicing for the Air and Water Show. The planes moved so fast that he could not get a good photo, so I had a lot of pictures of the sky.
We grabbed lunch in the food court, and then we bought tickets for a Seadog Speedboat Cruise. We actually only had to buy one ticket, because a lady approached us while we were standing in line and said that she had an extra Entertainment coupon that allowed to to buy one ticket and get another one free. Bargain! This was the second time that a stranger has given us free stuff during our vacation. Perhaps we are just a lucky couple.
We had time to kill before lining up, so we took advantage of the beer garden in the back of the boardwalk. No photos, but it was fun. We drank beer, and we met a woman who asked if Australia was near Switzerland.
We were so happy that we went on the Seadog boat tour. First, we went out into Lake Michigan. We did a few circles and got a little wet in the process. I made Al sit on the end just for that reason. Water= bad for the hair.
After the lake, we went through the locks into the river. It took a long time, because we had to wait for the gates to open, and then we had to stay inside of the locks until there enough of a difference between the height of the water in the lake and the locks. If nobody controlled this, then lake water would be spilling into the river.
I didn't take many photos, because the river part of the tour was very similar to the one that I took a few weeks ago. Actually, we saw much less of the river this time.
We still enjoyed the tour immensely and will probably bring the Aussie rellies (relatives) on it when they visit Chicago next year after the wedding.
It was after six by the time that the tour finished, so we walked back our hotel and freshened up. When we were ready, we walked into the River North area. On the way, we passed the new Marilyn Monroe statue.
After dinner, we went to our friends Jessie and David's apartment for a mini engagement party. They were away during the big one at my house (see previous post), but they still wanted to do something special for us while Al was still here.
Jessie's livelihood is baking, so she made us cookies.
They also put out a veggie plate with dip...
...and some other yummy munchies (including homemade guac!)
Al and Irene
Scott, Jordan, Alex
Pat, Jessie, David
It was such a fun night! Thank you Jessie and David!
I also want to say that Libby has been staying at our house for two weeks! I don't want her to leave. She sleeps on my bed all the time, and it's so cute. Jon is taking her back in two days :(
With Al here, I was basically in a vegetative state and didn't really exercise at all unless we were walking somewhere. I also didn't stuff my face, but I certainly could have been making healthier eating choices.
Now that I am back on a somewhat normal schedule, I want to get back into being active and eating a healthy diet. I decided that I want to make next Monday through Thursday (and possibly Friday) a salad week! That means that I am going to find 4 to 5 creative and yummy salad recipes and post them on my blog. It's about time that I start making food again!
Have a great day!
Inside of the box
Outside of the box
Asian Noodle Salad
My dad's Cowboy Caviar
No caviar included
Chips and Mexican Dip
Plenty of wine, and plenty of beer (not pictured)
The screen room
What a great time! Thanks to my parents for planning a wonderful party!
Before going to the airport to go to Disney World. July 2008.
I spend a lot of time blogging on my day-to-day life, but I also realize that I haven't covered some of the important details in my life. For instance, how did I meet this Aussie bloke that recently put a ring on my finger? Where and when will this wedding take place? I'm actually surprised that I never wrote a post on how we met, because I love telling stories. I have no doubt that I will answer these questions in depth one day. For now, though, I want to cover how I have been able to stay in Australia for almost two years without getting deported!
Australia is a very desireable place to live, so it makes sense that the government needs to limit who can stay and who needs to go. There are certain visas, and if you meet the criteria, then you can stay for an allotted amount of time. If you're lucky, you can stay longer. Let me take you through my journey with my Australian visas.
The Work and Holiday Visa (NOT to be confused with the Working Holiday Visa for Commonwealth and a few other countries)
As an American between the ages of 18 and 30, I was able to travel to Australia and stay there for up to 12 months. While I was allowed to work, I was not allowed to have a job for more than 6 months at a time. This was how I started with temp work. I also couldn't study for more than 4 months, but it wasn't anything I wanted to do at the time anyway.
To be eligible for the Work and Holiday Visa, I needed to:
You also have to pay for it, but it's not very expensive compared to some of the other visas. I believe that I paid about $100 USD at the time.
I applied for the visa online, and the immigration department approved it a few days later. After that, I knew it was okay to buy my plane tickets and get ready to head over there. That visa was a piece of cake. Even better, my passport info was stored in their system. I never had to bring around documentation with me showing that I had the visa.
The De Facto Visa (also known as the Partner Visa)
Around May 2010, I had a choice: leave the country or apply for a new visa. I didn't have high hopes for a work visa, so I decided to let my man sponsor me instead of a company. With the De Facto Visa, I could stay in the country for two years as a semi-permanent resident. After two more years, I could easily become a permanent resident. Good deal. This visa, however, was not nearly as easy as the first one. There were many more requirements. First, my sponsor needed to be:
Alastair, my sponsor, was born and raised in Australia. Check.
Here were my requirements (including requirements for our relationship):
The evidence we had to present for our relationship was overwhelming. To prove that we had been living together for over 12 months, we saved tons of envelopes and bills with our names and addresses on it. We even got our old gym in Vernon Hills, Illinois to print off bills from when Al belonged there in 2008-9.
To show that our relationship was genuine, we turned in old correspondence between the two of us when we first met and every time that we were apart. We printed many, many pictures of the two of us, including photos with each other's families (all of the photos on this post are ones we used for our application, plus many more). All needed to be dated and captioned. We also needed friends and family to fill out forms saying that we were in a loving relationship. In otherwords, I wasn't using Al to stay in Australia. In addition, ALL official documents needed to be notarized. They had to be signed by an "important" and honest person, such a doctor, teacher, lawyer, and they had to give all of their details in case the goverment wanted to check on our source. Yikes! I'm sure I'm missing a lot things that we had to do, but I hope you get the idea that it was a lot of work.
Regardless, we got everything done ourselves. We could have hired an immigration lawyer to look over all of our paperwork, but we instead chose to save the money and do everything right. We had been researching for months before we turned in my application, so we felt confident that we knew what we were doing.
Also, applying for this was not cheap. I won't say exactly how much it was (you can find out on the website), but Al and I split the cost down the middle. He paid for the whole thing, and then I sent weeks paying him back. I could have flown home and back with that money.
Bridging Visas A and B
I applied for my De Facto visa in April of 2010. My Work and Holiday Visa expired the following month, so I got Bridging Visa A. This meant that the conditions of my first visa (W&H) still applied to me. I could still work, and I didn't have to leave the country. As a matter of fact, I could NOT leave the country while they were still making a decision on the De Facto Visa (if I applied for the visa outside of Australia, I would not be able to enter the country until it was approved). If I left, I would not be able to get back in the country.
I did not know this at the time, and I had reservations to come home for a month in June. I probably would have cancelled my reservations or begged the government to free me for just a little while, but then my grandma got really sick. She had to have surgery during the time that I was supposed to be home. After a signed note from my grandma's doctor along with details of her sickness and leaving endless contact information so that the immigration office could get answers to urgent questions regarding my application, Australia gave me ANOTHER bridging visa that allowed me to leave and come back. I got Bridging Visa B. Whew.
I had a great time at home, and they let me back in. In October, my De Facto Visa was approved.
The advantages of my new visa
For more information on visas in Australia, visit the website immi.gov.au.
Also, please feel free to ask me questions about Aussie visas if you have any. I'll answer them the best that I can (and then will probably direct you to the website).
Yesterday after we finished some home shoppin' at Ikea, I nearly jumped out of the car to get a picture of the excitement going on outside of the church. I tried to make the photo super big (it looks very blurry if I try to crop it), but you can probably make out the horses and the enormous crowd of people behind it. There were bells going and a gorgeous bride and several photographers. It was quite exhilarating. There was a little girl standing on the balcony above me who was clearly much more electrified than me, though.
Later on, we decided to go on a date for dinner. We have an Entertainment Book (=AMAZING!!! Get one and you will save so much money), and there are numbers of coupons for restaurants around us. We finally decided on Outback Jacks, because they have a huge menu (and Alastair wanted to find out why their chicken parmi was $23 as opposed to normal chicki parmies which are more like $17-18).
We expected the experience to be so-so. It's a chain restaurant with a tacky name, so I didn't think that I would get any mind-blowing food. I was anticipating a dinner with too-large portions, mediocre food and screaming kids running around the dining room.
I wasn't surprised to be greeted by a crocodile on the way in (please only look at the croc and not my awkward hand placement on my leg). There were also fake crocs dangling from the ceiling.
We sat down and ordered our beverages. I got the house savignon blanc, and Al ordered a beer on tap. After we got our drinks, our server told us that we had to go to the front to order our food. I'm used to doing that at pubs, but I thought it was strange that we had a server take our drinks but not food orders. It was also a proper restaurant; not a pub. In the end, though, it wasn't a big deal.
It wasn't a big deal, because the food blew us away! I ordered the Atlantic salmon with bearnaise sauce, and it was just fantastic. Al got a chicken parmi. He ate it so fast that he didn't offer to let me try it or take a picture. He said it was the best parmi he ever had in his life, and he would go back to Outback Jacks in a second just to get it. Apparently, it was the quality of the chicken that made it so expensive and delicious. Many places pound their chicken patties too thin to appear larger on the plate or use chicken that isn't good quality. This, I guess, was perfect. Two great meals! Thank you, Outback Jacks!
We also picked up ice cream at Dairy Bell on our walk home. The ice cream was fantastic, but I was really surprised when they told me that they don't give out samples. I thought that was a bit stingy, given that almost all places let you try the ice cream before buying it. Either way, it was worth the money.
When we got home, we collapsed on the couch and watched the Adelaide Crows beat the Hawthorn Hawks. GO CROWS!
Now, here are our home fixins that we did over the weekend! We got a table runner and chair cushions from Ikea. I finally pulled out our rug to put under the table, and I put out the place mats. The eating area looks so much better!
Now that we moved the rug, I have a little area of the family room to put my home exercise equipment.
We also bought more storage from Ikea. Now, we don't have to put everything on the kitchen bench/counter.
Today, we finally bought a new welcome mat from Bunnings Warehouse. The one that the old tenants left was gross.
We also bought patio furniture! The whole thing cost us $50. Bargain! We can now take in the nice views while sitting outside.
You only have to look beyond the tables and chairs to see what our next project is.
We have a few small tress, but we'll probably find some cheap grass. Mondo grass seems like a reasonable option. Even when we move out, I'm sure the tenants will like having that over lots of dirt.
I also want to introduce you to my new garden friends. Al bought them a few weeks ago to keep me happy and also to keep Chippity Hippity company. I haven't named them yet, but suggestions are welcome!
I am now snacking on a Picnic Bar from a bag that I bought to bring home for the fam and friends. I guess I'll have to replace them before I go. For the record, it's hard to avoid those when they're in the house!
Where have I been for four days? On a blog hiatus? Usually, when I'm away for a few days, it means I'm out having fun. But I always miss my blogging! I need to learn to have fun AND blog at the same time.
The soon-to-be Mr. and I had a great weekend. Highlights include:
While driving up the main road, I saw a Ferrari that said "broke" on the license plate. I thought it was amusing, so I took a picture. I wish the photo turned out better.
That should be better.
We drove to Beerenberg Farm on the edge of town. It was just as cute as I imagined.
Beerenberg sells heaps of different jams, honeys and sauces. You can buy their products all over Adelaide.
We paid $3 each at the front. That got us a wristband and two plastic baskets for our strawberries. We crossed the street and then walked a little more.
I think non-ripe strawberries look interesting.
Does this make anybody want a strawberry?
We easily filled two of these. All together, the strawberries cost us about $20 ($9/kilo). We liked it so much better than going to the grocery stores, because all of the strawberries you pick are good ones. You don't have to worry about getting moldy ones in your basket.
After the farm, we walked around the town.
I want to move here.
We ate lunch at The Haus. If you go to Hahndorf, I strongly recommend it. I ordered roasted pumpkin and feta pizza with pine nuts, baby spinach, pesto and rocket. It was one of the best pizzas I have ever had in my life. Unfortunately, my half-sun-half-shade lighting didn't help with the photo.
Al ordered a pie from the specials list. He liked it a lot.
I took half of my pizza home and ate it for lunch today with some strawberries. Yum!
We had some other exciting adventures yesterday, including drinking a mammoth-sized iced coffee with Penny and Jamie and seeing our first Fringe show of the season. I'll tell you all about the Adelaide Fringe Festival when we get more time! I also have to remember to blog about iced coffee in Australia, because it makes me laugh every time that I order one.
I hope I'll have time to blog a lot this week, because we're moving tomorrow! We have to cross our fingers that we have our internet and electricity hooked up ASAP. I'm getting so excited. I'm also looking forward to my day off of work on Wednesday.
Have a wonderful Valentine's Day!
Our landlord is selling the tiny apartment, so our new realtor (NOT that lady who comes by to inspect our place every few months) came by to take pictures for the ads today. We cleaned up a lot last night, but she still managed to move things around to make it look even neater.
The shirt wasn't there when she was taking pictures...
There's my adorable little Grid roller :)
Since they're selling the place, we might have to move out soon. We'll have to get out ASAP if the buyer chooses to live in it (rather than just use it for an investment and rent it out). It's not a very big deal, though. It's our own cute little place, but I would love to have something bigger. Our apartment is so small, we can't even have people over! We can't fit a real table either, so we eat at our coffee table on our couch every night. Really, getting a new place would not be the worst thing!
I also drove on a semi-main road today with Al's manual car. My driving is getting better every time. Al's going to Melbourne for work next week, so I need to be able to drive by then!
Ahhh having a clean place is so nice.
This post is a big deal, because I know that people have been asking for pictures for quite a while. Well...now you can see them and hear all about the night I got engaged.
First, I'll give you some background. As you may or may not know, Adelaide has vineyards sprawling out from every direction. The only exception is the west, because you can't grow grapes in the ocean.
South Australia makes arguably some of the best wine in the world. I've been to the Barossa Valley before, which is a very well-known wine region north of us. There's another wine region north of there called the Clare Valley. I've wanted to go there for a while, because there's a long walking/biking trail called the Riesling Trail. Basically, you can rent bikes and stop off at wineries as you cycle up and down the trail. Plus, I love romantic and cozy getaway weekends.
Now, the story. Alastair's parents gave us a gift voucher to use towards accommodation for lodging of our choice in South Australia. We had to use it up. I begged Al to take me to the Clare. He took me. He asked me to marry him. I said yes. THE END!!!!
Was that satisfactory? Well, why would you want to hear me babble on when I can show you the pictures?? Let me say first that I was not a blogger at the time, and I wasn't so great about taking lots of photos!
Below, Al is standing in front of our cottage. It's a four-person house, but we were the only people in it. It was amazing!
The front of the cottage with a nice patio in front
This is what we saw when we looked across the street. We were literally surrounded by wineries.
The side of our garage and our water tank
This was one of my favorite parts of the house. This was the bathroom with a spa that looked over this Japanese garden.
Even our backyard was a winery
I loved the rustic look on the outside of the house
Here are some more details to our story. We got there on a Friday night, went to dinner and came back here. After relaxing for a bit, he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. On this couch. I couldn't think of a better way for it to happen. It was perfect for us.
We got engaged in this room
Annnnd here is the picture of my left hand. All of the pictures I have of my ring look very over-exposed, so I promise I'll post another one soon!
As for the rest of the weekend, we never experienced the Riesling Trail. It poured down with rain the rest of the time that we were there, so we curled up inside with a roaring fireplace and massive selection of DVDs. We talked on the phone with our families and friends. We intended to stop at tons of wineries, but we only made it to one on the way home. Regardless, it didn't matter that our weekend didn't go as planned. As you can imagine, nothing could have made it better. It was the perfect weekend.