Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Garden Sculpture

One of my favorite quilt-supply shops is attached to a local tile shop (both stores are apparently owned and run by the same family). The area around the door that joins the two stores has little garden knick-knacks and giftware. Among them were metal flamingo sculptures with metal legs, wings, necks and head - but brightly-coloured ceramic bodies. The flamingo's feet weren't terribly large, and so the sculptures were a little unsteady. Two had fallen over and their ceramic bodies shattered.

The tile shop owner wouldn't have been pleased with this, of course, but wasn't about to send those birds back to the manufacturer/artist. Instead, he reduced the price and hung a little paper sign on one. The sculptures, honestly, looked a little sad - but when I saw the sign that clever shopkeeper put on them, well, I had to have them.

Here they are, standing in the Secret Garden:

And here's the sign that sold them:

  • What I’m listening to: "You Have to Be There" by Susan Boyle
  • What’s for tea: Lean Cuisine (poor Stephen....)
  • What I’m reading: "What Einstein Told His Cook" by Robert L. Wolke (ironic, isn't it?)
  • Wine recommendation: uh... if we're eating Lean Cuisine.. seems a bit indulgent to have wine...
  • What's the season?: spring in Oz, fall in the U.S.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Spodder (Spider) Watch

Now that the weather is warming up here, we've had a few evenings when the windows have been open at night. Naturally, the light from the loungeroom (after dark) attracts loads of bugs, and the other night, we had an eight-legged visitor, as well.

Stephen spotted her just about the door in the loungeroom - a Delena Cancerides. I'd seen only one before, the one I mentioned in the book, but I recognized the species immediately because of the reddish-brown legs. I don't have a photograph of one, but you can get a look at photos here, on my favorite "spider identification" website. The website describes the species as light brown, but the photos look reddish to me, and the spider in the loungeroom had a definite reddish tone on her legs (very much like the one in the photo on the website marked "with spiderlings").

She wasn't all that big - maybe 3 1/2" (leg span), but still - that's a good sized "spodder".

Well, Ms. Delena was a girl on the move. She quickly walked along the top of the wall, just below the ceiling, moving from the door over to the adjoining wall, then moving downward behind the chimney of our woodburner, and finally dropping down onto the small stack of firewood next to it. I didn't think much of it, figuring there was probably something on the wood that attracted her.

A few minutes later, I saw her wander over under the TV, and then turn and start walking at a steady pace straight for me! This is unusual, in my experience. Only once before have I seen a huntsman walking toward me (an incident I mentioned in the book). I'm no longer terrified by these creatures, but I'm not terribly tolerant of the idea of one of them coming at me - so I jumped off the couch and while Stephen ran for the flyswatter, I stomped my foot a few inches ahead of her to stop her. She froze and stood still, then obligingly climbed up on the end of the flyswatter when I put it in front of her.

I scolded her mightily for her "bad manners" and took her outside, gently tapping her onto the deck just outside the door. She quickly squeezed between the decking slats, moving safely out of sight.

It's a shame we had to eject her. I haven't seen any huntsmen in the house for quite some time, and I depend on them to keep the house bug-free, esp. in the warmer months.

  • What I’m listening to: "Deadly Animals (Come to Australia)" by The Scared Weird Little Guys (it's HILAROUS!)
  • What’s for tea: Curry Pumpkin Soup (homemade) and dill-feta rolls (also homemade)
  • What I’m reading: "What Einstein Told His Cook" by Robert L. Wolke
  • Wine recommendation: shiraz - a cleanskin from Dan Murphy's
  • What's the season?: spring in Oz, fall in the U.S.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I've been struggling with how (and when) to announce some very sad news.

About ten weeks ago, when I was working to finish the book, Blue (our canary, who is mentioned in the book) fell ill with what we thought was a respiratory infection. We took him to the vet right away and the doctor put him on medication. As part of her examination, the vet noticed a mass in his abdomen. It turned out to be a tumor, and although little Blue did perk up once on the antibiotics she prescribed, it was clear that he wasn't going to be with us long.

His appetite was good and, although there were days when it was clear he wasn't feeling well, for the most part he was perky and enjoyed playing with his toys and bossing me in the kitchen.

It came to an end on Oct. 21, when he left us. He was quite young, only five years old.

It's been three weeks now, and we still miss him dreadfully. The house has seemed too quiet, even with an eclectus and a large macaw bellowing in the lounge room. He was our smallest avian family member, but was certainly a significant part of the household. There will never be another "Blue". He was one of a kind, and we loved him dearly.

Although we are still mourning for Blue, this past weekend we decided it was time to look at canaries. As I type this, I'm listening to a familiar twitter coming from downstairs and the sound of a pair of canaries bounding from their perch to the bottom of the cage, throwing their weight onto the grate and making it clang (something Blue loved to do, too). Over time these two will assert their personalities, they'll figure out the family routine and they'll have me and Stephen trained to fetch fruit, egg, and fresh greens for them. I know they will be beloved members of the family, just as I know we will never forget our dear Blue.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

...and THAT, my friends, is Australia

It's Saturday, November 12 and although my next post isn't actually due until next Wednesday, there's something I have to share. Today is the 5th anniversary of the day I arrived as an immigrant to Australia. It's a very happy day for me, a day of great significance.

With that introduction... here's the story:

Stephen and I decided to have a quiet little celebration here at home this evening. We bought steaks (and a fresh tank of gas for the BBQ), and this afternoon headed to Dan Murphy's (a chain store that sells beer, wine, and liquor) to find something special to drink with dinner. Coming out of the store, Stephen realized that the left rear tire had gone flat - VERY flat.

He managed to get the spare out, and get the rear jacked up, but the bolts on the tire were so tight that he couldn't budge them. I was thinking we'd be stuck and have to ring the RACV for roadside assistance.

Just then, two men walked by and stopped. One said "Oh, now THAT is interesting..." and commented on the design of the jack. They saw Stephen was struggling with the lugs, and asked if they might help.

The elder of the two men (possibly mid-fifties?) knelt down and picked up the wrench, tried it and said "ah, yeah, these have been put on with one of those air-gun things. I hate 'em!" Then he leaned in on the wrench and gave it a powerful crank to loosen the lug. The two men chatted with Stephen about the jack and the car - talking as if they were great old friends who'd known each other for ages. Their remarks made it clear that they work with cars a lot (possibly professional mechanics), AND that they were clearly pleased to be able to assist us.

"Thank you," Stephen said, and I added, "This was very nice of you!"

"Nah," the younger man replied, "we didn't have anything better to do".

Stephen is perfectly capable at changing a tire - and I'm sure would completed the task unassisted. But it would have been very hard and probably taken quite a while to get those four lugs loosened. We weren't in any distress, and certainly not in any danger there in the car park outside Dan Murphy's. But the kind, neighborly offer of assistance from strangers, well, it's very, very "Australian" - esp. since it was carried out in a way that would not embarrass the person being helped. In less than 15 minutes the tire was changed, our two helpers were strolling into the store, we were on our way.

It's a lesson for me, a reminder of the spirit that makes Australia a great nation.

So if, some dark and stormy night, you are stranded on a dark highway with car trouble, when you see headlights coming in the distance, pray to God that it's an Australian at the wheel. If it is, "she'll be right, mate! No worries. No dramas."

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Gus & Company (Kookaburras)

We hear the kookaburras every morning at dawn. They don't always visit us in large numbers, but on the day this video was taken, we had a family of 6 show up. In the video you can hear cockatoos screeching in the background, but also the low growly purr of the kookaburras, with some magpie carolling thrown in for good measure.

Notice how close I am to them!

My neighbor Ian tells me that he's managed to pet one! I don't think I'm brave enough to try that; those beaks could do a lot of damage if the bird wants to bite (and Ian confessed he's been nipped a couple of times).

  • What I’m listening to: "Choose You" by Stan Walker
  • What’s for tea: Chicken breast strips marinated in Char Sui (chinese BBQ sauce) and cooked on the BBQ; steamed basmati rice, bok choy lightly stir-fried.
  • What I’m reading: "Mary Boleyn: The Great and Infamous Whore" by Alison Weir
  • Wine recommendation: chardonnay - Hardy's (a very nice Aussie wine available in the US)
  • What's the season?: spring in Oz, fall in the U.S.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My Battle With Elvis over the Hanging Basket

(FIRST - an update on last week's Melbourne Cup posting: Dunaden - my horse - was the winner. It was a fantastic race, loads of drama and a photo finish at the end, so close it took the judges something like four minutes to decide who'd won! The 2011 race will be on Facebook at some point, I'm sure, and it will DEFINITELY be worth watching. George wasn't phased by it all but Laka was mesmerized. She stared at the TV from the moment we turned it on and was clearly excited by the voice of the announcer.)

The hanging planter just outside my office window is one of Elvis's favorite hangouts. He likes to pounce on it and make it spin, and sitting there gives him an excellent view of my office.

When it was new, I planted some petunias in it, but didn't get to enjoy them long. Elvis and his pals had a ball pulling the flowers off as soon as they opened. They didn't actually eat the flowers, just pulled them off and flung them to the ground.

The day after the video was taken, Elvis returned, pulled off the remaining flowers and started ripping the plants out, as well. I put the plants back in only to find them ripped out again a day or so later.

I gave up on the petunias and replaced them with spider plants. Those fared well, for a while, but one afternoon I found a female King Parrot perched on the pot happily gnawing on one! She pulled the plant right out of the pot, chewed away and discarded the leaves, and was munching away on the white root. I chased her off and replanted what she'd ripped out. Of course she returned and we went through it all again, but eventually I won out. The spider plant recovered and although the King Parrots attack any "babies" it sprouts, they leave the plants themselves alone, at least for now.

  • What I’m listening to: "Black and Gold" by Sam Sparro
  • What’s for tea: Tassie smoked salmon steaks (cooked on the BBQ) topped with yogurt/dill sauce, spinach/feta/walnut salad
  • What I’m reading: "Mary Boleyn: The Great and Infamous Whore" by Alison Weir
  • Wine recommendation: Diet Lemon Lift (a soft drink - it's fabulous)
  • What's the season?: spring in Oz, fall in the U.S.