Monday, July 29, 2013

dragon fruit, hype or not?

[Michele] Dragon fruit. The name evokes a fruit bursting with flavor.  A fruit to be nibbled or paired with yogurt to calm the explosion on the tongue.  A fruit that just might be an acquired taste.

Cut it open and the bright red interior of Dragon fruit screams "I'm too much for you to handle!".  Watch out! That sprinkling of seeds could be fiery in your mouth.

At the Mareeba market, the sales person shouts to passersby about the rewards of eating Dragon fruit.  You figure not to eat this fruit would be missing out on a life experience.

Girding yourself, you cut a small piece of the red fruit, avoiding the skin which is not to be eaten. The salesman at the market recommended serving Dragon fruit sprinkled with lime juice so you to dribble some onto the fruit.  Tentatively you bite, chew, swallow.

What happened?

All I tasted was lime.

I tried another piece of Dragon fruit this time without lime in order to have the unadulterated experience.

Bite, chew, swallow.

Same thing.


According to some web sites Dragon fruit (or Pitaya) is the fruit of a cactus and goes well in fruit salads.  Yeah, I suppose it would be good in fruit salads for some visual drama since it is more colorful than the air that it tastes like.

Some may like Dragon fruit but it seems like all hype to me.

The kids sampling Dragon fruit at the Mareeba Market.
I love the look that Robin is giving the salesman who handed her this fruit to try.
Meanwhile, Will claims to like the taste.
[Robin] I disagree! I think that Dragon fruit is not as flavorful as the name suggests but it isn't all bad.  if you put it on vanilla ice cream with a little bit of lime juice, it is yummy.

[Michele] How is it yummier than just putting lime juice on vanilla ice cream?

[Robin] Because dragon fruit does have a taste and it tastes good. It is just subtle.

[Gavin] I agree with Robin.

[Michele] Hmmm.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

the Tully Show delivers fun

[Michele]  This is the Tully Show weekend!  Right now!  The show is finally here!

This is a big event around here.  Equivalent to a county fair in the US, all shops and schools in the area were closed on Friday and most are still closed today (Saturday).  For weeks, people have been preparing their art, cakes, fruit, orchids etc for the competitions. We'd had a great time at the show four years ago and all went to Tully on Friday expecting fun.
Which is the best sugar cane?

Highlights of our visit include:

  • Watching daredevil horse riding 
  • Admiring the grand prizing winning sugar cane and speculating on the assessment criteria used for the judging. Straightest? sweetest? Greenest? Longest?
  • Eating freshly made donuts from the Mission Beach scouts. Yum!
  • Admiring the prize-winning poultry.  The chickens were amazingly beautiful!  I've actually been pining for backyard chickens for a while so Gavin was uneasy with my oo-ing and ah-ing over the hens.  He shuffled us over the budgie room.  They were nice but not as impressive as Uncle Larry's budgies.
  • Watching people scream on rides while coaxing Robin and Will to go on one.  Coaxing was unsuccessful in part due to the next item
  • Robin's name is to the right of her head
    in orange and yellow. Her name appears in
    English, hieroglyphics and Japanese.  Yes,
    that is her smiling-for-a-photo face.
  • Eating a mightily-hyped Dagwood Dog.  This turned out to be a corn dog with very high grease content that left us all a little queasy.
  • Finding Robin's entry for the Mission Beach State School exhibit.
  • Drinking over-priced slushies in crazy shaped bottles.
  • Seeing folks we know even though we've only been here a few weeks.
  • Listening to a singer with guitar cover Willie Nelson tunes.
  • Assessing the accent accuracy of the Aussie's singing. He really wasn't too bad at mimicking American country twang.
  • Watching a cassowary being carved from a log of Kauri Pine.  It smelled delightfully pumpkiny.  The cool aspect of this is that, no kidding, we saw two cassowaries on our way to the show, a dad with his chick.  I feel obliged to provide photo proof of the cassowary siting, but keep in mind that we respectfully kept our distance from the cassowary (we were far away) and it was overcast (low light).

actual cassowary chick
Cassowary emerging from Kauri Pine. Note: rainforest
wilderness ironically situated in the background.
So in summary, lots of money was spent on bad food and a good time was had.  Pretty much what you expect from a show/fair.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

meet Elvis

[Michele] After three long weeks of car searching and haggling, we have a car!  Elvis is a 2006 4-cylinder, manual transmission, Mitsubishi Lancer.  He is blue! [states the obvious]

This kids have named him Elvis.  I don't know why. Remember, that these are the same kids who named our black cat Yogurt.

Elvis (aka The King) comes with a rear spoiler, tinted window and a musty smell that we've come to learn is common to cars of his vintage in the wet tropics.

Through the past three weeks, we've learned a lot about used cars in Queensland. Information from a Royal Automobile Club of Queensland (RACQ) certified inspection kept us from buying one car and in the end we bought Elvis from a dealer.  It turns out that used car salesmen in Australia are pretty much just like used car salesmen in the US.  Except the one here wore those long pointy shoes that I associate with Europeans with his jeans and smarmy grin.  But other than that, the same. Each and every car had been own by an older couple and meticulously cared for.  Apparently older couples like tinted windows and rear spoilers...

There weren't a lot of choices at the dealership so we went with the best fit for us, which happened to have manual transmission.  Just when we were keeping the indicator and windshield wipers straight (they are switched here), the manual transmission has given us a new round of feeling like doofuses.  Several times today I reached with my right hand for the shifter only to find the car door handle.  Doh!

If you see us driving down the road, you might want to give us some space till we sort out this left-handed manual transmission.

Monday, July 22, 2013

One little, two little, three dead wallabies

[Michele] Today was a three wallaby morning.  Three dead wallabies found along my morning run.

Just to clarify I'm talking about the marsupial and not the rugby team.  Not that I wouldn't mind seeing the jerseyed wallabies on my morning run --  certainly the jerseyed sort of wallabies would be better at avoiding cars than the marsupials.  But actually, the marsupials don't have much of a chance here in South Mission Beach.
Wallaby, the marsupial
Wallabies from the Aussie rugby team

Back in 2009 we would walk or ride bikes to the Hull river to see the big mobs of wallabies grazing in the ranch lands there.  This year the wallabies are all over South Mission Beach.  It isn't so much that the population has exploded.  We are told that they migrated last year into the residential part of South Mission Beach when the wet season arrived late.  Having run out of feed in the ranched areas they moved into the residential area and discovered the bounty of watered and fertilized lawns.  The wet came but the wallabies haven't moved back.

So there are now hundreds and hundreds of wallabies in South Mission Beach.  Wallaby poop is pretty much everywhere (at least they are herbivores). The poop is really just a minor nuisance as the big problem is that they are getting hit by cars every night.  Driving through South Mission Beach at night there are mobs of wallabies on every block grazing on the lawns.  They get dazed by the headlights so that you end up being an involuntary participant in wallaby-slalom.

The results of impatient driving are dead wallabies along the roads every morning.  A guy in Innisfail told Gavin that his friend who lives in South Mission Beach hit 8 wallabies within a month.  We're guessing that fellow is on the impatient end of the driving spectrum.

Each day (except Sunday) a patrol comes to pick up the road kill and I suppose that they are keeping a tally somewhere of the total killed each night.   As my runs get longer, I might start counting more but so far on every run I see 2 or more dead wallabies on my 2 miles out and back run.  Sunday mornings are grim because Saturday night drivers seem to be less patient than other nights.  However, Monday mornings are the worst.  Since there is no road kill pick up on Sundays, I might start forgoing Monday morning runs.

Everyone that we have talked to in South Mission Beach has an opinion on the wallabies.  Are they part of the natural ecosystem that we should adapt to?  If you don't like the poo, just install a fence around your lot.  I have to say I'm now appreciating the unfriendly fence around our lot.  Alternatively, are the wallabies a safety hazard that require culling of the mobs?  Hoon* or not, both sides lose in wallaby-slalom as a new bumper can be pricey.

*Hoon = someone who drives recklessly

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Celebrities for a week

Robin in her school uniform
Robin and Will have now completed two weeks at Mission Beach State School.  This is the public prep (kindergarden) though grade 7 primary school in Mission Beach. When we lived here four years ago the kids attended this same school so this time around we all knew what to expect; for example, two lunches (little and big), uniforms (see pic at left), religion class in public school, saying good afternoon to the teachers, barefoot students, out loud whole class response to questions, having to buy our own supplies etc.

Since Robin and Will have finished two weeks this is a good time to check in with them on how things are going.  Since neither wants to write a blog about this we are going to do this one as a group interview.

Michele: Were you nervous about coming back to Mission Beach State School?

Will: Not really because I already knew some people but a little bit because I didn't know the teachers.

Robin: I was nervous because it is a new school. How can you not be nervous?

Michele: But it isn't a new school because you've already been there.

Robin: But it has still changed  a little bit

Michele: What are some ways that MBSS is different than four years ago?

Robin: Fewer people go barefoot now.

Michele: Why is that you think?

Robin: Right After cyclone Yasi (2011) they weren't allowed to go barefoot because there was too much debris. Now, kids can go barefoot again but some kids are used to wearing shoes.

Michele: Your mom makes you wear shoes to the bus stop.

Will: Because there are so many wallabies in our neighborhood and there is lots of wallaby poop on the ground. So once I get to school I just take off my shoes and go barefoot like my friends.

Michele: All day long?

Will: Yeah.  I put my shoes back on for the school bus.

Michele: Are there other ways that MBSS is different than 4 years ago.

Robin: The lychee tree is gone. It got knocked down in Yasi.

Michele: What are some ways that MBSS is different than Wildwood Elementary School in Amherst?

Robin: MBSS is mostly outside.  There are separate buildings for each classroom and to get from room to room you have to walk on sidewalks.

Will: The walkways are covered and there are lots of plants everywhere.

Robin: The landscaping at MSBB is really, really cool because they have lots of flowers and tropical plants that we don't have in the US.  But it is also cool that MBSS has gardener who takes care of the plants and does a really good job. At Wildwood there aren't gardens because you only spend time outside at recess.

Michele: I remember meeting the gardener, he takes such pride in his work and the result is awesome.  Another limit to gardening at Wildwood is that the growing season is the summer when school isn't in session.

Michele: What were you looking forward to the most about coming back to MBSS?

Will: Meeting my old friends and that you can go barefoot and the fact that MBSS is outside with the cool plants and stuff.

Michele: The title of this post is "a celebrity for a week". Will, can you explain why this title?

Will: Because one of my new friends moved here from South Africa a while back and said that for about a week everyone treated him like a celebrity and asked him lots of questions and then after week he was just a normal kid.

Michele: So you were you guys treated like celebrities?

Will: Yes, there is a group of 5th year kids who kept asking me a lot of questions. But they stopped this week.

Robin: My friends would not stop asking me to say say 'water'. They also asked if I have ever seen any famous people or if I went to disney world or anything. They were disappointed when I said no.

Michele So you are you both just regular kids now?

Robin: We are still the 'American kids' but people aren't pestering us with questions.

Will: I agree.

Michele:  When we go around town, it seems like lots of kids shout out greetings to you both.  So you are pretty well known for sure.

Michele: How is going with your accents?

Will: The kids don't think much of it now but when the group is saying things together, like in class, I pull out my Aussie accent so my voice doesn't sound different.

Michele: Robin, are you also developing an Aussie accent?

Robin: I'm not developing an Aussie accent. But after hearing my friends talk and other people talk at school for a while I think that my own accent sounds weird and they sound normal.  Then when I come home I hear American accents and my voice doesn't sound strange anymore.

Michele: Do you feel excluded at all because you are American?

Robin: Not usually but sometimes my friends talk about things that I don't understand.

Will: I feel like I fit right in.

Michele: It looked like you guys fit right in for the school's "Feeling Groovy" show on Friday night (see pictures). Each class performed a skit or dance. How did you find the show?
Will as dog to the left of the couch

Will: I thought it was fun but at first I was going to be prop person. Then it turns out that a lot of people couldn't make it to the show. So I ended up playing a dog.

Michele: And you played a very convincing dog (see picture at right:).

Robin: It was OK. It was kind of fun to be performing but it was kind of a dumb show and it was not that entertaining sometimes.

Robin is on the left end of the dancing
ladies of Surfin' USA
Michele: But it is still  remarkable that within two weeks of starting school they had you up on the stage and acting and dancing along with your class. (Robin dances to 'Surfin USA' with her class in the picture at left. BTW: the mermaid was played by boy.).

Robin: They didn't want anyone to be left out so even though we are new, they still gave us parts.

Michele: It sounds like folks have been very friendly and welcoming to you both.

Robin: My friends remembered me and were glad to see me.
stingers in their amazing costumes,
blue streamers from blue hats,
giving just desserts to the feral pigs

Will: Everyone has been warm and friendly.

Postscript [Michele]: My favorite performance was the year 1 skit which featured various animals of the region (cassowary, wallabies, feral pigs, crocodiles and stingers). The best scene that stole the show was when the evil mean feral pigs went into the ocean and were killed by the stingers.  That there is awesome theater with a deep moral message!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

State of Origin

"State of Origin is the annual best-of-three series of rugby league football matches between the Blues and the Maroons, who represent the Australian states of New South Wales and Queensland, respectively" (Wikipedia)

Why is it called that? It is called State of Origin because the players play not for the state where they currently  live but for the state where they played their first senior rugby game. 

What is it?  According to wikipedia "Touted as Australian sport's greatest rivalry, the State of Origin series is one of the country's and the region's premier sporting events."

Why do we keep hearing about it?  They are tied and the third game is tonight!!! Tonight! And they are tied!

To gain more insight into this phenomenon now we turn to our in the trenches reporter, Will, who gives us the scoop.

Michele: So what is the big deal about State of Origin?

Will: It is all the best players in Queensland,versus all the best players in New South Wales

Michele: More people live in New South Wales so they must win alot, yeah?

WIll: No. Queensland has won every series since 2006. And hopefully they will win this one.

Michele: Are your friends routing for Queensland?

Will: Yes!

Michele: Was there talk of the game at school?

WIll: There was a lot of talk because it is big game. And even the teachers were talking about it. At both lunches (little and big), Ms. Jackson, the principal game and said "All right.  When I count to three everyone who is for Queensland shout "Queenslander!" and then everyone who is routing for New South Wales shout "New South Wales!". Ms Jackson counted the three and then the room erupted with "QUEENSLANDER!"  followed by a soft "New South Wales!". Then again "QUEENSLANDER!"  then "New South Wales!".  They went on until the bell rung and then everyone went out to play.

Michele: When does the game start?

WIll: 7:30 pm

Michele: Uh oh, Masterchef Australia starts then too.

Will: We do have two TVs.

Say 'waw-tah'! Say 'waw tah' again!

[Michele] Our American accents certainly draw a lot of attention these days.  A lot of Aussies will ask me where I'm from.  My responses alternate between US (duh), Massachusetts (where the heck is that?) or New England (No, you aren't New England is in New South Wales, Australia and you don't sound like you are from there).

The kids have been getting a lot of attention at school for their accents.  The popular requests seem to be a question to Will "What is your sister's name?" and to Robin "Say water again!".  Of course Americans pronounce water pretty much as it is spelled wah-ter.  Note that the 'r' is present and accounted for and the short 'a' sound does its job.  Aussies embellish their pronunciation a fair bit by adding some extra 'w's and removing the 'r' for good luck (waw-tah).  Robin's school friends had fun the first day trying to pronounce water like Americans.  It came out something like WAHH-TERR, which Robin found hysterical.

Meanwhile, Will was getting challenged with another vowel, the short 'o'.   Aussies just can't seem to master our short 'o' and found Will's pronunciation of Robin's name delightfully entertaining. Apparently the first day a group of 3rd year girls kept bringing different friends back to Will to ask his sister's name over and over again at recess. The next day he resorted to steering clear of them part way through recess.  Robin's friends had similar fun trying to pronounce 'mom'.  She reports that they just couldn't do it.  Their version comes out sounding like 'mome' to us.  Likewise, we have a hard mastering the delightfully nasal aussie long 'o', such as in 'no'.  I've noticed that Queenslanders have a particularly impressive 'no'.  I wish I pull it off, but Robin rolls her eyes at me and shakes her head every time I try my hand at a Queensland 'no'.

For whatever reason, American accents seem to interest a lot of the Australians that we meet. One of Robin's friend said that she could listen to American accents all day long.  Hmm.  I even had one person remark to me that I have a wonderful sounding accent.  Because of my hearing loss, I've had years of speech therapy and I have never had anyone ever say that my voice/accent was pleasing.  So yeah, I was shocked that she said that.  Maybe it was because I was asking Robin if she had her water bottle.  I will try to come up with a sentence with maximum number of short 'o's for when I next see the lady who complimented me.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Getting brekkie right

[Michele]  One of our family's traditions is Sunday morning blueberry sourdough pancakes.  Making this in Australia presented some challenges so last Sunday's breakfast didn't come out quite right.  No, the challenge wasn't the sourdough. I planned ahead for that and brought some with me from the US.  I actually spent a couple days trying to dry my sourdough out into a powder, thinking that this would be safer than a paste. Then I realized that an off-white powder might appear more contraband than a stinky paste.  In the end I brought a little of each and although both were inspected (notes next to them in my luggage confirmed this) they both made it through.

The other sourdough blueberry pancake ingredients were found on Aussie soil.  Blueberries and proper maple syrup (from trees and not from sugar cane) were procured.  Since sugar cane is a major crop around here, finding maple syrup is tricky but Woolies had some imported from Canada.  One of the things that went wrong last week when we made sourdough blueberry pancakes was a belated realization that the rental house did not include a fry pan.  Who offers pots and pans, colanders and the like, and doesn't offer a fry pan with their rental house?  Apparently the same people who decorate with brown walls and white couches (but that is a subject for another post.  But seriously, check out the white couch in the photo behind will.  White couches.  Outside too!   Right, right, more on that later...). So anyways, in an effort to save breakfast last week we bravely attempted to grill the pancakes outside.  Since we still hadn't figured out the grill, the pancakes worked out only moderately well.

Over the past week, we went to KMart and stocked up on lots of missing household good including.... a fry pan. Ah ha!  Now that our kitchen kit includes a fry pan (as well as measuring cup, plates that weight less than 5 pounds each and other items), today's blueberry pancakes came out very nicely and provided for us a familiar taste of home.  Note: in the photo above you can see some of the very nice art referred to in the earlier fancy house, empty pantry posting.  You can also see the cheerful KMart plastic plates that we bought to use in our uber-fancy house to substitute for the heavy black ones, such as the small rectangular bowls in the center of the table. Yes, heavy rectangular black plates and bowls are more artful and cosmopolitan... but I guess we ain't.  Polkadot plastic FTW!

After a first round of familiar sourdough blueberry pancakes, we did add some Aussie by topping them with passionfruit that Uncle  Larry bought Will at the Mareeba market yesterday.  Passionfruit on pancakes (in addition to maple syrup) got rave reviews all around (see photo at right).   BTW: We had a great time with the Aussies Andresens at the Mareeba market followed by a birthday picnic.  It is wonderful to be able to spend time with them.

PS. The house does have cutlery, Will was just being goofy for this photo.  You can see that Robin and Gavin are used to these sort of antics and are ignoring him.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Stranded on a tropical beach

[Michele]  I experienced my own version of "What would you take with you if you were stranded on a desert island".  Being away from my office for 6 months, what books and materials should I take with me?  I also didn't consider this question until the day before I left and had minimal time to consider.  The internet is, of course, an amazing resource but there are still times when reading a lucid description in a book gets you where you need to be.

Rock fracture nerds might appreciate the books that I ended up bringing. Other readers can just skip to the next paragraph.  (This list is in no way sponsored by any particular publisher or authors)

1. Fracture Mechanics of Rock (Atkinson) rock fracture bible
2. Notebook with various notes from talks and discussions
3. Rock Mechanics (Jeager and Cook, oh and Zimmerman) rock mechanics bible
4. Mechanics of Earthquakes and Faulting (Scholz) Parts of this book drive me crazy but it is a wonderful resource
5. Mechanics in the Earth and Environmental Sciences (Middleton)  I really like the rheology descriptions in this book
6. Parameter Estimation and Inverse Problems (Aster et al).  I struggle to understand statistics and maybe by bringing this book all the way to Australia, statistics will have sympathy for me and jump into my head.

The box with my books arrived a couple days ago and reflecting my choices now I think that I grabbed good ones in my hurried packing.  Are there others that you would bring?

Non-rock mechanics nerds can pick up the text here -->  So my office is in the game/bar room of the house.  A huge benefit of this house is that it is gigantic and Gavin and I need not be working right on top of each other and pester each other all day. Note: this is most certainly me pestering Gavin;  once he starts working he zones everything out.  So I, the easily distracted one, get to work in the game/bar room with the billard table, roulette table and the bar.  Ah ha, the bar!  Another benefit of working in this room is that we can use the bar for a standing desk.

I've been intrigued about the ergonomics of standing desks.  Isla and Sueann swear by them and since I've got an inflamed ulna nerve in my left elbow, standing might help me work more ergonomically as well as using my core muscles while I work.  In this house, I can use the bar as my standing desk so that when I work I can do all those things and look cool (?) at the same time.  I look cool, right? Also, there is something poetic and right about my geology books resting on the bar to one side of me with bongos on the other side.

As Megan said: "Bar. It is Australian for standing desk."

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Rainy weather here in paradise

[Michele] Well, I'm starting to see that we had really lucked out with the dry weather we experienced during our stay in Mission Beach back in 2009.  That year there was a record of two months with no rain.  The past week has brought nearly more clouds and showers than we saw in 5 months of 2009. The forecast shows more of the same.

On the positive side, the rain and wind make it easier for us to turn our attention to getting work done and sitting indoors at computers.  After all, this is the wet tropics and even though July and August are the driest months, the mean precipitation for each of those months is still ~30 mm.

So I will nod to the grey skies, rain and wind and appreciate their role in keeping the rainforest going.  At least, until my mosquito bites from Sunday's rainforest hike and sunburn from the beach are all healed up; then I'm going to start whining for more sun.

The birds are back in town: Addendum

[Michele] The Cassowaries are indeed still rockin' the Cassowary coast. Robin and I saw a Cassowary on our wet drive back from Innisfail this evening!

Robin did a great job taking this photo from a moving car in low light and zoomed in with a iphone camera that has a smudgy lens.

Robin and I were actually driving back from a dance class that she was trying out. Robin really enjoys dancing ballet but the nearest ballet school (RAD) is 45 minutes away in Innisfail. On the drive back, she and I were trying to find silver linings to driving 1.5 hours round trip for each class. We came up with a few but now at the top of our list is: the chance to spot more Cassowaries!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The birds are back in town

[Michele] Two years ago we had the chance to spend a week in Mission Beach and this was only 6 months after cyclone Yasi.  The region was changed by the cyclone in just about every way, but one of the most startling (except for the stripped vegetation) was the lack of bird song ( In 2009 we were woken every morning by raucous the cries of cockatoos and lorikeets.  At night, the kids would hide under the covers from the creepy calls of the curlews.  In 2011, we didn't hear or see any birds in Mission Beach.

in 2013, we are happy to report that forest is greening up and the birds are back.  The calls aren't as loud for us as they were in 2009 because our house this year is in a new housing track that had been a ranch;. so there aren't mature fruit trees here for the birds.  But we are only a couple blocks away from our 2009 place and I've seen the cockatoos over those trees.

On our first jet-lagged morning Will and I went for a run along the beach around sunrise and we were startled by a kookaburra. Come to think of it the kookaburra might have been calling out because we startled it -- the hadn't yet risen at that point.

The kids report hearing curlews just about every night though they claim not to be frightened anymore by their strange call.  We've also seen some of those maniacal Connecticut-driver like fliers, the starlings.  Seriously, compare starlings in flight to drivers on the Merritt parkway!  I know,  right.  No lorikeets sitings yet but we are keeping our eyes open for them.

I didn't grab any photos of the birds so here is a nice pic from another morning run after the sun had already come up.  This is really just a gratuitous pretty picture to go along with this blog entry.

By the way, the title of this post should be sung along to that notoriously earwormy Thin Lizzy tune.  You got it stuck in your head now didn't you?  See!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Fancy House Empty Pantry

[Michele] Furnished rentals are fantastic for holidays.  They can provide everything you need and can often be nicely decorated.  Our new place in South Mission Beach is gorgeous.  This is by far the nicest house I’ve ever stayed in.  It has a large main kitchen/dining/living area with 7 other rooms, outdoor kitchen/living/dining areas and beautiful furnishings.  Aside from the couch set in the living room and the second couch set in the home theatre, there are 7 more couches (5 outside near the pool).  Clearly the owners take their lounging seriously.   The house also has many beautiful objet d’art, some in lit recesses within custom-built structures. 

So if you are on holiday here, you are surrounded by beauty, and able to migrate comfortably out to the pool and back by lounging from couch to couch throughout your day.  You could even stand up and play pool in the gaming room until lounging urges overtook you again. Pretty sweet holiday!  We are really going to enjoy our 5 months here and sharing the house with our visitors.

OK, but here’s the thing.  The kitchen and pantry are nearly empty. We have got some basics but the miles of kitchen drawers are empty and the vast walk in pantry is bare.  When you are on holiday, you can get by with preparing quick meals, getting take away food and eating in restaurants.   When you are here for six months, you need more stuff.  You need things like flour, scissors, spices, garlic press (see blog from 2009), sticky tape, measuring cups, sugar, spatulas and wine stoppers (yeah, I know that one can just finish the bottle but I want the option of not doing so).   However, since discovering something in the pantry I now know that we will endure this time of sparse kitchen paraphernalia.  The saving grace of this house, the light in the darkness, the appliance that I found in the pantry, which establishes my faith that we can and will thrive in this house, is…. a rice steamer.  Ahhh - civilization.  

She’ll be right.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Jet Lag Haze

[Michele] We all know the pitfalls of jet lag; wide awake at 3 am and can’t keep eyes open at 3 pm.   Everyone who has traveled between the east coast of the US and east coast of Australia (14 hour time difference) has experienced this jet lag.  I am no exception. Since it is currently 3 am and I am wide awake after arriving in Australia yesterday, I thought I would try and focus on a benefit of jet lag.

Arriving in a different land, you are bombarded with a myriad of small and large ways that the locals do things differently than you and your friends at home.  Differences may be as mundane as turns of phrase the locals use and as critically important to adjust to as driving on the opposite side of the road.  The sleep deprived haze of jet lag provides a filter for all of these differences so that each one seems simultaneously fascinating and absurd.  When a friendly dog visited us on the beach yesterday its owner declared “She’ll always con a pat”.   Of course we smiled and chuckled at the charming Aussie.  Then, we turned to each other to figure out what the heck he had just said.  It was a straight-forward phrase but not one that Gavin and I had ever heard before.  Now you non jet-lagged people reading this probably don’t see any absurdity in this at all but through the haze of jet lag we found this phrase really funny.  con a pat  Bah ha ha!  Jet lag can do that to you.  Revel in the punchiness, and everything Australian will seem absurd.  But do keep to the left on the roadways, that one is important.