Saturday, October 8, 2016

Caroline and Lalie's Trip to Australia

Featuring interesting animals and lots of good food!

Whew, finally got this post out there. As you guys know, I'm dating a lovely lady who happens to live in Australia. I wouldn't change anything... except how far away Australia actually is. Before I moved and got started on this crazy grad school adventure, I got to sneak away to visit her for about two weeks and brought one of my dolls with me... and a second one I'd bought (and customized!) for Jessi!

I've been wanting to share some pictures from my trip basically since I got home, but as you can imagine, there are a lot of them. Like, a lot.

Don't worry, this isn't all of them! But here are some highlights from our adventure. Hopefully you'll get an update about Lalie and Caroline's trip around DC in a couple months!

So, I'm sure some of you are at least vaguely curious who these dolls are. Briefly, they're loosely based on some characters Jessi and I had toyed around with writing a book or script or something about. The redhead is Caroline, the dark haired girl is Eulalie called Lalie, and they both borrowed their last names from some historical people we are fans of. Here they are sitting on a couch in our hotel room in Sydney!

They didn't tag along on most of our adventures, but there will be some fun doll photography later on.

As you may have guessed, Sydney was our first stop. The trip got off to a great start with me losing my glasses on the plane (still not sure how that happened!), but fortunately, United found them and we were reunited just in time to go to the zoo.

Sydney's zoo is called Taronga Zoo and is across the harbor from most of the other touristy things you do in Sydney. It's also probably the best zoo I've ever been to, although Australia generally seems to do an awesome, awesome job with zoos. All the ones we went to (and we went to three...) were really well designed with the animal's comfort and safety in mind, and were really beating the conservation/environmentalism drum, which was nice to see!

Also Australian animals are just generally pretty awesome. As are red pandas and fishing cats.

We also visited the Australian National Maritime Museum to see the replica of Captain Cook's ship, the ANZAC War Memorial, and of course, the Sydney Harbor Bridge and the Sydney Opera house!

The Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney were celebrating their 200th anniversary and had lots of things in bloom, even though it was winter in the southern hemisphere when I was visiting.

And of course, we visited a couple other museums while we were in the neighborhood.

And this Finding Nemo fan couldn't not stop by the aquarium!

Our next stop was Canberra, the capital of Australia and Jessi's home! We got to do a lot of fun stuff while we were there, including trips to an adorable teddy bear shop, eating at a weird almost Outback Steakhouse restaurant as well as a pancake place which is probably owned by Scientologists, and (arguably my favorite!) visiting the Australian War Memorial, which is right across from the Australian Parliament House!

This was definitely one of the best museums I've ever been to. The World War I galleries were recently given a major overhaul in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings, so everything is fresh, super up to date and very interactive. It's also got two really tasty restaurants on property!

The last two pictures up there have to do with one of the coolest artifacts in the collection: a uniform that's still covered in authentic WWI trench mud!

Also, I had to eat an ANZAC biscuit while I was there, because of course. I can't say they were better than the ones I made, but it was pretty delicious.

The memorial covers every military engagement Australia has been involved with, and is also the home of the Australian tomb of the unknown soldier. Most of the above ground structure is more memorial than museum, with the exhibit space under ground. Every day at close, there is a ceremony where the Last Post is played. It's very respectful and moving, even if it gets kind of crowded trying to find a place to watch.

We also went to the zoo, which also had a small aquarium attached to it. They had a lot of big cats, although I was disappointed they apparently relocated their servals. Watching a tiger eat lunch while his enclosure was being cleaned was pretty fun, though!

And I got to spend some quality time with my favorite animal back at the house! Isn't Scamp cute?

I've mentioned in the past that Jessi is also into baking and cooking. She's given me a lot of advice and suggestions for the blog, and it was a lot of fun getting to be in the kitchen together. Jessi made homemade pizza for dinner one night, which was super tasty. I'd love to have her ability to work with yeast, because mine always dies... as you guys know.

But even better were these awesome scones! They're super light and fluffy, and made with lemonade! Not the lemonade we have in the US, but the awesome lemon soda I always get hooked on when I've had access to it. I guess I'm going to have to try this with Sprite and just accept that it'll taste a little lime-y.

While the scones were cooking, I got to sample golden syrup and Australian treacle, which is essentially just molasses. Golden syrup is a little more difficult for me to describe flavor wise, but treacle is definitely just molasses.

Scamp decided she wanted to help with these taste tests.

I was also instructed on the proper way to eat vegemite. First, and most importantly, a direct quote from Jessi: When you look at the vegemite, don't think of Nutella because you will get a horrible surprise.

Second, you need to butter a piece of toast and then spread a very thin layer of vegemite on top, and then you can enjoy a buttery, salty, yeasty piece of toast without assuming all Australians are insane for liking this stuff. Trust me, it's actually pretty good. I brought a jar home with me and have had it for breakfast a couple times.

Now if only I could get off my butt and make some of these scones!

Our next stop was Melbourne, which meant another zoo! This time, Caroline and Lalie tagged along.

The Melbourne Zoo was really cool, and actually reminded me of Animal Kingdom in Disney World. There were a lot of immersive exhibits that made you feel like you were actually in Southeast Asia.

But the best part was definitely the baby wombat!! He was smaller than Caroline and Lalie and shivering because it was a little chilly! Go snuggle your mom, little guy.

Wombats are my favorite marsupial, so this was really exciting. Jessi got me a stuffed wombat when we started dating, and this little guy was seriously his twin.

Caroline is a big fan of birds, so there were a lot of good moments to snap pictures with kookaburras and other colorful birds. Lalie was more excited about the lions and African wild dogs. Also, looking for corroboree frogs was a lot of fun, even if they were fake. Great way to get kids caring about preserving the species.

Our other exciting animal encounter was actually at the Melbourne Museum, where we got up close and personal with a bower bird! I grew up watching Henry's Amazing Animals on Disney Channel, and one of my favorite segments was about this bird. The males build a bower and decorate it with blue things to attract females. This one was hopping around building his bower and had a lot of blue trinkets to impress his future girlfriend!

But if I'm being honest, the best part of the trip (besides being with my girlfriend, obviously!) was our random encounter with Leon Ford, an Australian actor who has been in every Australian TV show I've seen, and (more importantly to me) he was also Lt. Edward "Hillbilly" Jones in The Pacific! Jessi and I often joke that we started dating because of that show, so it was pretty crazy to see him in real life just riding the metro.

We didn't bother him because he was with his daughter and I always feel weird talking to celebrities, but Jessi did take a quick picture to prove it happened.

And because we like plants as well as animals, we went to another botanic garden! Which was huge and a lot of fun, especially because this was a great place for a doll photo shoot.

Caroline and Lalie had a lot of fun exploring and getting an up close and personal look all the native Australian plants, including an awesome knocked over tree.

Unfortunately the tropical plant green house was closed for the day, and the volcano was a "volcano", but at least it had a nice view up top!

There were a lot of ferns and interesting little houses you could bring picnics to if you were so inclined, plus an awesome bamboo grove and flowers that would make Caroline's mom super jealous.

There was one last place we wanted to see before we left, and it involved some stairs.

Some of us were less excited about the stairs than others, but the view at the top was worth it!

It was called the Temple of the Winds, and from it, you could see the Melbourne Cricket Ground, which was mostly exciting to me because it's where the 1st Marines were billeted after Guadalcanal. Someday, I'd like to visit! But I don't really care about cricket, so I think most of the tour would be kind of lost on me.

I think we all had a really good time, even though we thought we were locked in when we tried to leave.

But I bet there's one thing a lot of you guys have been waiting for! And maybe some of you have been wondering where Caroline and Lalie got their snazzy new clothes...

We went to Florrie! Florrie Girls are an 18 inch Australian doll line clearly heavily inspired by American Girl, and Jessi and I have been very interested to check them out in person. They're located in a suburb of Melbourne which is easy to get to on the metro, and are on a street with a bunch of other cute toy stores and like eighteen different bridal shops.

They have a small cafe that makes drinks and sells little pastries which is very cute, and the store is full of all the products available on their website, including matching outfits for girls and dolls. The display in the middle is supposed to represent an oak tree, as the symbol of the company is an acorn. It's supposed to represent how every girl starts out small and becomes something big, which is very cute!

They have about three of each doll available for purchase, and yes, I did come home with one. You're going to see more of Florence Wilson on A Peek into the Pantry at some point hopefully soon, but if you're interested to see what she looks like, check out my Instagram! I posted a detailed comparison of her right out of the box to an American Girl Doll a couple months ago.

The cafe is open for tea, much the same way AG is, and even has a box of conversation starters on the table much like American Girl does! I've always loved the tea at AG Place, and was really pleased they decided to adopt this model. It's a fun experience to have and not every Australian kid can get over to the States to have it.

I got tea and a scone with jam and cream, and Jessi got a gingerbread man and a cappuccino. They have really cute china, and everything was quite tasty. Everything looked quite tasty too, so making a choice was really tough!

Fortunately, Lalie was not allowed to drink this entire cappuccino by herself.

One thing that's unique to Florrie is these cute post cards you can color while you eat. We helped Caroline and Lalie decorate post cards to their friends back home.

Florrie was adorable and the staff was really friendly. I would absolutely recommend dropping by if you're ever in the neighborhood, and can't wait to see what's to come for this super cute new company. My wallet is going to cry if they ever come out with a line of historical dolls!

When we got home, Jessi made her super famous cinnamon rolls to thank her sister for letting us stay with her. I have been hearing about these for a long time, and it was a lot of fun to watch her make them, and torture smelling them baking in the oven! I'd happily eat a whole tray of these if given the opportunity.

Jessi makes her glaze with vanilla bean paste, and it's absolutely delicious. I definitely need to learn how to make these.

We often joke that Caroline is a cinnamon roll, so it was amusing to take pictures of a cinnamon roll with our cinnamon roll.

Maybe it's just funny for us. I don't know.

Either way, doesn't this look amazing?

Speaking of food, we enjoyed a lot of really, really tasty meals on our adventures. Australia is the land of the meat pie, sausage roll, fish and chips, and hands down the best french fries I've ever eaten in my entire life. I feel like I've been ruined for other fries because they were all crispy, delicious and fluffy on the inside.

And don't get me started on how good the sourdough toast with mascarpone, Nutella and strawberries at the toast bar in Melbourne, Doughnut Time doughnuts, or the delicious food at the cafe at the Australian War Memorial. Here's just a small selection of all the tasty food Jessi and I got to try:

So that's a brief rundown of my trip to Australia! I had an amazing time and would love to go back. Honestly, it's one of the few places I think I'd like to live that isn't within the United States, even though my degree kind of makes it difficult for me to find a job outside of the US. It was a lot of fun to see where my girlfriend lives, works and bakes, and I'm really excited to get the chance to do the same thing in a couple months! Hopefully we'll have some fun adventures to share with you then, too.

Until next time!


  1. What a fun trip!! So many cool things to see. I do have one question though--if you are here and she is there, how did you guys meet?! And what did you do about your glasses? I'm always afraid of losing things when I travel, luckily the most I've lost was a Chapstick and a pair of sunglasses.

    1. We met online! We were members of a writing community together for about four years and then started dating. :)

      Luckily I was only without them for the first day, and I ended up going to sleep super early so I didn't miss out on too much. Luckily United was pretty speedy with letting us know they'd been found!

  2. You are SO LUCKY!!!!!! I wish I was there! ;) The wombat is SO cute! Hehe! :P Thanks for sharing your trip with us! <3

  3. Welcome back and nice to see your pictures from Australia again! I hope I get to go there someday. The sights (and treats) look amazing. Another one for the bucket list!

    1. Start marketing it as a graduation trip to a certain person! ;D

  4. Perhaps in place of the lemonade you could use lemon flavored seltzer or sparkling water?

    1. Possibly, but you really need the sugar in the soda, so working out the correct balance there might be tricky if you're using an unsweetened carbonated drink!