finch hatton FUN.

a couple of weekends ago, we met up with jo and keith for a bit of local flavor.  we went to the heritage festival in finch hatton gorge – about an hour west from where we live.

the heritage festival is basically a big carnival with all the carnie rides, but also a local competition.  there were first, second and third places for breeds of chickens (as the australian’s say – chooks), cows, photos, flowers, dogs and many many other things that i am failing to mention here, but will elaborate more later.   there is also a lumberjack and horse show jumping competition – separate events, of course.

the festival was one of the coolest local events i have been to in australia; i’m sure largely because i am a huge animal lover. 

so, get ready because there are lots and lots of photos here... enjoy!

how cute is this little baby chihauha puppy?  i love holding puppies (if you can't tell). 

and look at this FACE!!!  i mean, really??  who wouldn't love all those rolls?

there were zero, zip, nil, nada bella (japanese chin) dogs at the festival, but this one reminded me most of her.  this is a cavalier spaniel - which makes sense since japanese chins are from the spaniel and pug families.  i know, too much bella information.  what can i say?  i miss my little girl.

this picture is from the far side angle of the fair site.  i just thought it was kind of a cool photo with the horses and ferris wheel in the background.  pituresque, if you will.

now for the strangest part of the show, for me.  cows.  these cows were pampered, pampered, pampered.  never in my life have a seen a cow that wasn't just hanging out in a paddock, eating grass.  or, on it's way to, well... you know.  but these cows were actually really pretty and so well tamed!!  look at this cutey patooty!

and this one let jo and i pet it, but not without him rubbing his head on our legs (hence jo's stance).

here are the cows parading around while being judged - yes, there was a cow judge.  all very interesting.  my favorite one was the one in the back.

but, this is the cow that took first (see the blue ribbon on her head).

and my fave took second.  isn't she beautiful, though?  with that unique coloring... loved her.  oh by the way, i am a vegetarian now... just kidding, but i really did consider it...for about 5 seconds.

they even had itty bitty pig races... which were fun and the kids there loved it!

taking second to the cows, i was exceptionally fascinated by the hen house as well.  there were HUNDREDS of birds in here and all so unique and well manicured.

look at these two love birds.

and these frillbacks were so sweet.  i think they were a little frightened, but they had each other.  i don't know if you can tell in this picture as well, but their feathers are so romantic looking and all curly.  so neat.

couldnt' pass up taking a picture of this classic.  how statuesque, right?

and, i'm not positive (and i'm sure many of you just don't care), but i am pretty sure this is the chicken that tori and dean mcdermott-spelling have as a pet in their household.  i have seen it a couple of times and always wondered what it was.  well, they had them here!

believe it or not, this bird is not stuffed alive and kicking.  doesn't it look so nostalgic??

and this was the veiw of the fairgrounds from the ride we were on.  i just loved the classic fair feeling of everything.

this was more unbelievable than anything... this is the fruit vegetable stand that, you guessed it, was being judged for best fruits in each subcategory.

oh, and we can't forget the egg competition... BEST EGG!  it's the little things in life...

they had classic carnival food like this (i may or may not have had a corn dog)...

 but we were told we couldn't pass up the max baked potato stand.  i had ham, cheese and sour cream while jim had prawns (shrimp), cole slaw and sour cream.  both were delish!

the equestrian show was also really neat.  i had never seen anything, in person, like it before so I was particularly excited. 


the lumberjack competitions were pretty fascinating... i know i keep saying fascinating, neat, cool, but everything was fascinating, neat, cool so you will have to excuse my repetitiveness.  i think i could have just sat on the bleachers and watched this all day.  the participants were primarily seniors, but there were a few younger participants as well.  basically, the idea is to be the first one to chop through a large log of wood.  the order in which participants were able to begin chopping on their wood is based upon past scores.  in other words, the participants who have a good track record have a handicap that is sometimes as much as 30 seconds after the first chopper begins chopping on their log.  Here are a couple of pictures for your viewing pleasure.


HAT SHOW!!!!  he's silly...

overall, we had a great time with great friends.  it was so great to experience some of the local culture and all there is to offer. 

favorite pic of the day


now that's what i call a wide load.

in the states you may see wide loads with 18 wheelers that dabble over one lane, but i have never seen a wide load quite like THIS:

we were stuck behind this baby for a good 30 minutes the other day before we got a third lane to pass him (by the way, this is a 2-LANE road).  

in times like this, oncoming traffic has to literally pull into the grass and wait for this baby to pass.  it's pretty nuts.

and speaking of wide loads, check out this little guy that i stumbled across the other day.  YIKES!

to give you something to compare it to, that is my foot.

believe it or not, this is not the largest spider i have seen here.  it's definitely a close 2nd, though.

and just in case you forgot what we look like...


scuba'ing - part I

we are 50% scuba certified!!  a couple of weekends back was part one of a two weekend course jim and myself took with our friends jo and keith - of whom we FINALLY have pictures to show you all.

jo was such a blessing as she planned it all!  starting with our accommodations; jo booked us at this super cool resort that felt a lot like a big family adventure playground.  we stayed in a condo with 2 bedrooms and a full kitchen/living room area.  it was so nice and perfect for what we were doing.

we met these guys there:

at first there were just a couple...

then there were more...

and then there were a lot more... (i think they liked the bread we were feeding them)

we even had a visit from this turkey... gobble, gobble!!

our first day of scuba training consisted of 1/2 a day of classroom work and 1/2 a  day in the pool for practice.  the pool time went pretty well aside from the fact that it was FREEZING!!  i think we were all shaking and i had blue lips by the time we got out.  the training went fairly well, though.. i had a freak out moment when i realized i wasn't going to be able to wipe my eyes after flooding and emptying our masks like i would have liked, but in the end i was able to do it without bolting to the surface.  all in all, though, we did good!

we celebrated our successes that night with a few drinks and dinner out on the town.  we went to a tapas place that was delish.

and here are our friends jo and keith!!!  aren't they lovely... we love them.

group pic!

our second day was supposed to be more time in the classroom and pool, but our instructor decided to give us our first open water dive instead.  so, out we went.  unbeknownst to us we were with a larger group of people who paid for a tour to whitsunday island and the great barrier reef.

the only thing was that, again, it was FREEZING!!

since we were with a tour our first stop was at whitsunday island, which was similar to whitehaven in that they have the silica sand that's super fine and soft.  the only problem was we literally got DUMPED on with rain.  and, i mean it POURED.   did I mention that it wasn't warm?

this is whitsunday island before it started raining.

the actual scuba training took place after the island tour and a really nice lunch.  we put on two wetsuits (since it wasn't warm) and got in the water.  we did all of our exercises; including, flooding our masks, removing our regulators from our mouths and replacing it, rescue breathing where you use your buddy's spare regulator, equalizing and buoyancy control.   we took two trips out from the boat so we got two dives in.  poor jim had to put on a third wetsuit for the second dive because he was so cold.

overall, it was really good.  it was hard to fully enjoy all the beautiful fish around us because we were so focused on what we were doing, but i kind of expected that for our first time out.  we can't wait to do more and more dives so we get more comfortable.

then, it was time to head back to the harbor, which was a 2 hour boat ride away.  by this time the water had gotten pretty rough.... oh yea... and it was still really cold.   the picture below doesn't really do it justice, but it was crazy.  oxygen tanks were rolling around and i believe there were a few people with sea sickness... thank the Lord we took an equivalent of dramamine before starting the day.  

by the time we got back we were so beat and ready to get home!!  we changed into warm clothes (sweat pants never felt so good) and headed home.  but not before we got a flat tire!!!  thankfully, jo and keith were behind us and helped us out because it was pitch black and in the middle of no where.  not to mention, the rental that we have didn't have all the necessary tire components so we had to borrow some from jo and keith.

i know it sounds like a crazy weekend, but we had a lot of fun and can't wait to do it again in a few weeks for scuba training - part dos (minus the flat).


it's a GIRL!

making an early arrival, drew olivia menz was born on sunday, june 3rd!  that's right, jake {brother} and lyndsay {SIL} had their sweet little baby and it's a GIRL!!  isn't she precious??

stats:  full head of hair, 5 lbs and 2 oz, 18 inches and absolutely adorable!  we are looking so forward to coming home in july to meet her.

congratulations to jake and lyndsay!!!  drew is very lucky to have such wonderful parents.