Adventures living as expats.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road covers a ~150 mile stretch of road that hugs the coast just a few hours southwest of Melbourne and offers amazing views and cute beach towns.  A few of our friends claimed that you can see it in 1 day so considering our 6 month passenger, we opted to make it into a 3 day road trip.  This ended up feeling pretty rushed and a bit too much driving each day for our restless boy and we wished for more time in several of the towns that we passed through.

On our first day we drove to Port Fairy and checked into a well loved and historical B&B that reminded us how wonderful it is to stay in small boutique hotels.  The room, common areas, staff, and especially breakfast surpassed all expectations and our 1 night stay felt very restful and pampering.  It was ANZAC day so dinner options were a bit limited and we ended up at a fine dining restaurant with a cranky baby.  The staff was so kind and eased our embarrassment by telling a story of their 4 year old son coming down from the upstairs apartment in his underwear to help himself to the drinks cooler during dinner service.
Hux is happiest when he's standing and has Dad's attention
Stretching our legs and soaking in the incredibly fresh air
Such a yummy breakfast spread with homemade jams, bread, granola, fresh squeezed juice, and made to order omelettes
The following day we started our drive along the GOR and took in the stunning views while Hux slept through all the excitement.  We arrived to Apollo Bay, settled into our AirBnB, and discovered that there was no wifi and wow what a blessing in disguise!  We had to talk to each other, and play with the baby, and had to choose restaurants without reading reviews!  Seriously unplugging for 2 days was such a great finish to the trip.
Bay of Islands
Twelve Apostles
Postcard views
The next day we backtracked a short distance from Apollo Bay and visited the Cape Otway lighthouse which is the oldest working lighthouse in Australia and claims to be the most important.  We got stuck in a sudden rain storm and dropped into the cafe for some tea while the storm passed by as quickly as it came.  We rounded out the day with some wine tasting and a delicious and casual seafood dinner.
Little man sleeping through the action again!
Brings back memories of our first trip to Australia where we stayed for a few nights in the Hunter Valley wine region
Our final day started a bit rough as we had no plan and were all coming down with a cold.  It certainly improved once we got to Lorne and had a coffee, bought some adorable clothes and swimmers for Hux, grabbed a top notch burger, and relaxed on a knoll overlooking the ocean.  Not too bad ehh?  We capped off the trip with dinner at Mountain Goat Brewery in Melbourne and a frenzied search for a gas station by the airport as I refused to pay the exorbitant gas prices charged by the rental car company.   
Already missing the Land Down Undah

Wednesday, May 3, 2017


As we were driving to the airport for our trip to Melbourne, Jeff and I realized that in the last 5 years since we moved overseas we've been to Australia more times than America.  It certainly feels like a second home for us!  Our flights to Melbourne couldn't have gone any smoother, Hux slept the whole way and only woke up to nurse once.  We must have used up all of our good flight karma though because the way home was a tortuous combination of 2 sick parents, a feverish baby that needed continuous soothing, baby Tylenol sadly in the checked bag, and a very unhappy toddler next to us that kept waking Hux when he did manage to get to sleep.  Needless to say we were very happy once we arrived back home!
Ready for take-off
Our #1 learning point of the trip was that we packed too much stuff and vowed to condense our packing for the next trip
Bede, Susie, and Edgar flew in for the weekend and Hux got to meet Edgar, who is 6 weeks older than him, for the first time.   If only we had audio for these pictures as the grunting back and forth between the two babies was hilarious.

The main event was the following day so we took it easy in the morning, just walking around a bit and exploring the park before dressing up and heading to the ceremony at a beautiful church close to the river.   The reception was cleverly held at the Melbourne Zoo so we got to see a tiger, elephants, orangutans, and giraffes before the party began.  Hux was the perfect wedding guest and managed to squeeze in eating, napping, dancing, and flirting with a few of the ladies.  We had a bit of a meltdown in the taxi back to our BnB, but a good friend and fellow mom informs me that it doesn't count if only 1 stranger witnesses it.  
Hux wasn't all that thrilled initially about his outfit, but he warmed up to it once we told him how handsome he looked.
The beautiful couple, Mike and Mary
Hux was mostly interested in chewing on his lip rather than seeing the elephants
Two hotties!
Jeff managed to sneak an extra piece of cake from one of the kind servers.
Quoting Jeff: Hux looking like a classic gentleman in bowtie and suspenders
Dance floor moves
The following day we woke up to a beautifully sunny day and a fantastic view of hot air balloons from our balcony.  We met Edgar and family for a late brunch, walk around the city, diaper blow out, and finished the day off with our first footy game.
I could get used to a view like this
Even with 2 experts to explain the rules, I had a bit of trouble following but apparently the home team won
On our final day, we enjoyed coffees at a highly recommended coffee shop and loved the Portland vibe without the hipster attitude.   We met up again with the Edgar clan and devoured a picnic lunch on the bank of the Yarra River where we pondered and judged a group of 20-somethings perfecting their razor scooter grinds and spins.   We capped off the day with drinks on a barge bar and brainstormed ways to get rich.  Our final goodbyes were a bit sad but fingers crossed we'll get a chance to meet again soon.
St Ali coffee shop
Cool mural close to the coffee shop
Thankfully parenthood hasn't subdued these two champs

6 months

Your big milestone this month is sitting on your own and you and love the freedom of being able to reach more toys.  We still need to put a pillow behind you since you tip over when you get tired or overly rambunctious while shaking a toy.  You seemed to really get the hang of sitting when Anaiyah and Arriana were here so you could watch their every move.
  • Size: You weigh 19 ½ pounds and are 27" tall.   You seem to be going through a continuous growth spurt and have gone from the 5th percentile when you were born to the 85th percentile in weight.  Your legs are adorably plump and so well padded that you didn't cry at all during your most recent shots, just a single grunt.  
  • Eating: You've got one big appetite and always finish your solids (except for a few days recently when you had a fever).  You're still eating just breakfast and dinner, but always look at me anxiously during lunch ready for a bite.  Your favorites are sweet potatoes and applesauce and you're not too impressed with green beans and peas.  I'd have to agree that pureed green vegetables are not so palatable without butter and salt!
  • Sleep: You are sleeping through the night!  Well done my darling Hux!!  Typically you go to sleep at around 7:30 and wake up around 6:00 give or take.  Mom and Dad are so well rested now and the zombie feeling every afternoon has let up.  Thank you and please keep sleeping like a champ.  
  • Play: You have so many more options now that your sitting and have figured out how to turn all the dials on your walker car toy.  You also like your little wooden animals on wheels and love to bang them around and make noise.  Your favorite activity this month has been sitting in Dad's lap while he plays fetch with Oolong and it often makes you giggle hysterically (see video).
  • Bath:  We've been busy this month with travel so you've started taking a lot of showers with Dad and love the warm water, snuggles, and chance to pull on Dad's chest hair that go along with shower time.  
Bill seems to be shrinking!

Practicing your standing
So many smiles and "mmmm" noises at meal time
Look at this huge boy of ours
So proud of your new sitting skills
All your playgroup friends
Weekend picnic time, can that smile be any cuter?
Sorry I can't help but document this moment!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Tane Family Visit

Last weekend Yan and Tane, who live in Hong Kong, came to visit with their two beautiful daughters and we had such a wonderful time hosting them.  Hux loved playing with the energetic girls and thrived with all the extra attention and snuggles from them.  Their visit passed way to quickly, but luckily we were able to squeeze in a great mix of activities and delicious meals.  We're already looking forward to our next reunion, hopefully in Hong Kong or Macau.

On the first day we headed to the National Art Musuem which is always impressive and amazingly FREE to everyone.  We checked out the main floor exhibits while Ariana and Hux napped in their strollers.  Next we had a fantastic lunch including bubble tea at the famous tea house, Chun Shui Tang.  After some confusion around the queuing system at the children's play area of the museum, we determined that it was a long wait and opted to head to a nearby park instead so the kids could blow off some steam.
First trip to the play ground
Anaiyah shows Hux the ropes while Arianna runs laps
Hux really wants to join the fun!
Almost had all three of them looking at the camera
The following day (Monday) Jeff had to go into work so Hux and I had a relaxing day while the Tane family explored around our neighborhood.  They kept the kids entertained with art classes, parks, shopping, and lunch at our favorite vegetarian friendly resto.  That evening we went out for a fantastic hot pot dinner coached along by Yan who kindly customized dipping sauces for each of us and not surprisingly picked the best broth of the night - miso milk.
Say hot pot!
On our last day together we headed out for brunch at Next Door Cafe so that everyone could have a break from my chia seed breakfast pudding experiments.  Afterwards we loaded up the mini van and headed to the Nike employee store where we certainly did some damage and Tane won the award for best new gear.  Afterwards we stuffed ourselves full of xiao long bao at Din Tai Fung and then headed back to the apartment for naps all around.   For the finale that evening Yan spoiled us with a delicious and healthy home cooked meal that far surpassed anything that has come out of our kitchen to date.
Brunch crew
Six dishes including chicken, fish, and lots of veggies
Ready to dig in - where is Anaiyah???

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Weekend Getaway to Yangmingshan

Jeff had a 4 day weekend so we loaded up the van and headed out on our first road trip with baby Hux.  Yangmingshan is a national park in the Northeast of Taiwan with beautiful forests and mountain peaks.  We booked a "family friendly" hotel close to the park that had onsite hot springs and a few restaurants to make evenings more convenient.  Jeff saved the weekend by remembering the crib as we were about to leave the parking garage and ran back to our apartment to grab it.  The drive went smoothly and Hux managed to sleep almost the entire way.  On our first night we relaxed, walked around the hotel grounds, and took a dip in the hot springs - our first time in Taiwan!

Thank you Hux for napping nearby while Mom and Dad soaked in the springs
Beautiful sunset and cherry blossoms from the deck at the hotel
Loved the robes the hotel provided! 
View from our hotel room
The next day we stuffed ourselves to capacity at the breakfast buffet - so many choices and of course we had to try them all.   We then headed into the park where we opted for a stroller friendly walk with beautiful views and lots of greenery for Hux to look at along the way.  
Views along the Erzihping Trail
Picnic area at the end of Erzihping Trail 
So happy to find a stroller friendly path
By the time we were done with our walk, we were starving so Jeff found us a local eatery where we managed to order enough food to feed a large family.  It was worth the wait and holiday traffic as the food was delicious!  We observed some regulars expertly bagging up a huge pot of soup in what looked like supermarket fruit bags hanging on the wall.  Afterwards we followed suit with our leftovers and had a lovely picnic for dinner later on.
Anxiously waiting for our smoked chicken and pork belly
Chicken foot 
Part of our spread 
Bag your own!
After our outing, we excitedly headed to the indoor swimming pool for Hux's first swim lesson.  He's turning into such a water baby and loved splashing around in the pool.
Is it possible to love this little cutie any more?
Everyone (even bald babies) must wear swim caps in Taiwan
On our way out of town the next morning we stopped at Yehliu Geopark which hosts unique geological formations.  It was a quick but fun stop and Jeff hit another dining home run on the way out with a local restaurant where we ordered a fish cooked in sea salt and seasoned with lots of garlic, ginger, and Chinese black beans.  It reminded me of my Dad's famous steamed fish which has very similar flavors.  
Tired but loving our getaway
Yehliu Geopark 
Handsome Gagatko boys
My best hairdo EVER!
Our trip finale was a stop at Fi and Dan's in Taipei.  They are always amazing hosts and spoiled us with French cheese, Australian BBQ, Fi-gronis, bubbles, wine, and lots of baby soothing for little Hux who caught a cold and was uncharacteristically cranky.