Sunday, February 26, 2006

Going to a new country - hardest thing to get used to

Let me first set the scene: it was 1974 when I migrated from California to Melbourne with my Aussie husband. In those days, Oz was wonderfully "behind" the U.S. although it took me a couple of years to realise that that was a good thing.

But one thing that really got to me in those days was the grocery shopping situation. Thankfully that has improved out of sight, but these are some of the things that brought me undone all those years ago:
  1. The shopping trolleys from hell: it was a constant struggle to steer them in the general desired direction, the only consolation being the hilarious sight of seeing other people, sometimes two per trolley, trying to navigate them around the aisles and to their cars. Australia must have bought up the world's supply of dysfunctional trolleys - the wheels just did not want to work.
  2. Shopping hours for the leisured class: those days a full time job was 9 - 5 and there was no such thing as flexitime and very little part time work. Shopping was a nightmare; opening hours were 9 - 6 Monday to Friday, and all shops closed at midday on Saturday, and remained firmly shut until Monday morning. Eventually, supermarkets stayed open until 8 or 9 p.m., but get this:
  3. Meat could not be bought after 6 p.m.! So there you'd be, after a day's work, trying to do the week's grocery shopping in less than an hour. After that, the meat would be covered up with a green cloth, off limits until the next morning.
  4. Saturday morning, welcome to shopping hell. That was the time when most working people had to shop, and we were all funnelled into the woefully inadequate carparks, forced to do battle with the reluctant trolleys in small supermarkets, all before everything closed at midday. I would sometimes be in tears beforehand, just imagining what lay before me, and exhausted afterwards. That has now all changed, mostly for the better. ( Things were quiet and relaxed for 1 ½ days of the week though)
  5. The last straw: the strange grouping of items. Flour and sugar, for example, would be aisles apart, and you'd find the same types of products in different places. But the best example of this strange shelving order was in 1976 when a friend came over from California to visit. I had been writing to him about the whole shopping catastrophe, and one day he experienced it for himself. First up was the usual trolley non-function. But what caused us to dissolve into laughter afterwards was this: needing to buy some paper plates for a picnic we were planning, we (naturally) looked carefully in the papergoods section. But no, not there. Upon asking a shop assistant where they might be kept, he said, and in a tone that implied of course they'd be there "in the frozen food compartment". And there they indeed were.
Kerri, I tag you with this one. I know you've just written about Aussie foods you miss, but I'd like to know: what was the hardest thing to get used to (besides missing family and friends) in your new country?

Saturday, February 25, 2006

I've been attacked!

As I type this (on resident techie's computer), said techie is reformatting my computer and reinstalling Windows. This morning some nasty spyware attacked my computer - I couldn't even shut down properly as the whole screen was filling up with email messages that were being dodged by my security software. So I just shut the machine down and waited impatiently for techie son to get home. He's been on my case to reformat my computer anyway ("It's just normal housekeeping, Mom!"), but I've always been a bit hesitant. There's no going back now. I remembered to transfer most of my stuff, but I forgot about email and the address book. Hopefully that can be retrieved. Sigh.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The bread nazi comes a cropper

Readers of this blog will know that I live with a bread nazi (also known as the man who cooks). No distance is too great, no inconvenience too inconvenient to thwart the bread nazi in his constant quest for a new/interesting/dare I say it-the perfect bread.

So you can imagine the excitement, as we are heading for the start of our bushwalk on Sunday, when we pass the Beechworth Bakery as we leave Bendigo. This bakery, in its native Beechworth in northeast Victoria, is well known for its quality products. The wheels have been set in motion: THIS will be where we pick up our well earned lunch after our two hour bushwalk. No matter that this would be retracing our steps, taking us back into Bendigo and away from the direction of home. (Note that this grates against the very being of she who navigates = me).

So, bushwalk finished, pleasantly tired, appetite whetted. She who navigates at this point would settle for your average sandwich as long as it's accompanied by a nice cold drink. But no. That will not do. We need to wend our way back to the Beechworth Bakery. I opt for an interesting looking Chinese spiced salad wrapped in flat bread. The BN goes for egg and salad on white bread, a strange choice I think at the time.

We drive to the so-called Botanical Gardens at Kangaroo Flat (not true to its name, but pleasant enough) where we have our lunch. My Chinese spice wrap tastes as good as it looks. The BN is oddly quiet - normally I would be treated to a full analysis of texture, flavor, freshness, regardless of quality. Finally I ask how the bread was. In funereal tones he informs me that it was as bad as the worst bread he has ever eaten. Oh dear.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Those boots gone walkin'

I could walk this kind of track non stop.
We went to Bendigo (largish country town in Central Victoria) for the weekend. Had to wear my newly refurbished boots on a walk in the forest south of Bendigo. Being in the gold rush country, we wound up of course in landscapes full of mineshafts and mullock heaps.

Off the track up the hill I saw lots of evidence of mining, and there was a red mark painted on one of the trees which I took as a warning. No falling
into mineshafts for me, thank you. But sometimes we do venture closer to the edge and try to peer in. To judge how deep the shaft goes we throw stones up in the air so they drop into the centre of the hole and listen to see how long they keep bouncing down.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

These boots were made for walkin'

In June 1969, when I should have been taking part in my graduation ceremony at UC Berkeley, I was instead on a rubber raft going down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. I was with my dad and young brother in a group, there were 2 or 3 rafts. It was a memorable trip: exciting whitewater rafting, serene contemplation of magnificent scenery in the quieter stretches of the river, camping out under the stars on sandy beaches. At the end of that 4-day trip was another experience awaiting us: the walk out of the canyon takes hours, and you ascend a mile. I was fit (and young!), but good hiking boots were essential. These boots that you see here, bought for that trip in 1969, have been my walking companions for all those years, on many hikes in different countries, continents, hemispheres! In the early 70s they were even my street shoes, part of the fashion of the Berkeley youth population in those days.

Eventually those soles needed replacement, and in 2000 I got that done. They're still like new. This week I had those cuffs (or collars) replaced, they had disintegrated to almost nothing. Now they are new, but the basic boots are still there, still fitting my feet like a second skin, still in superb condition. They will see me out, and I aim to keep walking for as long as I can. If someone asked me what I'd like to have in the coffin with me when I'm buried, I would not hesitate to say: my hiking boots.

By the way, the place where I have these repairs done is the wonderfully named Walkalong.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

I've been tagged (what mean??)

Tanya over at the Purple Giraffe has tagged me, and I think I'm supposed to answer these questions. Here goes!

What were three things when you were little you wanted to be when you grew up?
1. A concert pianist
2. A ballerina
3. A member of the Women's Air Force

You can live one day over again from your childhood. What day will it be?
In the 1950s I used to stay over with my grandparents in Glendale, N.Y. Those times were very special for me, but one day in particular, Grandma and I went to New York City to the Radio City Music Hall. We saw the film Green Mansions and saw the Rockettes dance. We spent the whole day in the city, and of course part of the excitement was getting around on the subway. I also remember us keeping an eye out for Grandpa, who drove a taxi. As if we'd be lucky enough to cross his path in the Big Smoke!

You have two minutes (and a mover with you if you need heavy lifting help!) to grab 5 things from your home before it morphs into a polka dotted hobgoblin and hops away. What will you take? (Food/drink/family/friends excluded!)
1. My multifocal glasses (without these I might as well stay home and take my chances with the hobgoblins)
2. My hiking boots
3. My computer
4. My DVD player and DVDs of 16 Carlton premierships
5. My French casserole

You have to paint one quote on your kitchen wall. What is it going to be?
"Dinner is ready when the smoke alarm goes off"

What is the one thing you want to have accomplished by the end of this year?
Finally get all our photos sorted out and slides scanned.

You are moving to the moon for one year and can only bring one flower with you. What kind will you bring? too easy!
A bearded iris

You just received word that aside from one flower, you can also bring five books with you too! Your choices? impossible to choose
1. Patrick White: The Tree of Man (a secular bible)
2. Elisabeth Jolley: Mr. Scobie's Riddle (to make you laugh AND cry)
3. Carrie Tiffany: Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living (unlikely title for an amazing story)
4. Pierre Loti: Madame Chrysanthemum (to take you to another time, culture and country)
5. Ruth Jhabvala: Heat and Dust (ditto)
etc etc etc etc etc etc etc

Now for revenge: You are tagged, the "other Val"

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

My funny Valentine

I am so lucky to have met my soulmate, he can still make me laugh, which is why he is my funny Valentine. We have so much in common, especially food and eating. Speaking of which, we are going out tonight to a local restaurant that we've always wanted to try, so will finish this post later...

Ok, back now (10.30). The restaurant specialises in the most incredible steaks, which are arrayed in an impressive display case. Also impressive is the fact that the chef cooks all the steaks and sausages right there for everyone to see, but a very powerful exhaust system let not one bit of smoke escape into the dining area. Didn't seem to make any noise either, but then it was a full house and conversation level was pretty high. Everyone seemed to be happy campers. The steaks were cooked perfectly, soft as butter. We couldn't decide on which cut to go for so we got a mixed grill. No fear of going home hungry, and VEGETARIANS NEED NOT APPLY! As if that weren't enough, we both had dessert: walnut crepes with cream or ice cream. Burp.

No, we didn't get home by 6.46, that's when I posted the first bit, just added to it later. Melbourne people DO go out of an evening!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Something terrible happened to me this summer...

All these years, living in Australia, I scoffed at the game of cricket. Games that take whole days, and sometimes a week, to get a result? And then what do all those numbers mean when they give the score? What about strange terms such as ducks, silly legs, yorkers and the like?

Well, the terrible thing is that I have been hooked, and by none other than my son (the techie one), who likes to watch the cricket on television. This summer I started looking at a few minutes of a game, and asking dumb questions which were more or less patiently answered. But I was learning. Those few minutes gradually grew to quarter hours, half hours, and then before I knew it, I wanted to watch almost the whole game (for you from non-cricketing countries, watching a whole game is a serious time commitment - they go for 8 hours or so and even take breaks for tea and dinner, and that's just for one-day cricket!). I can now look at a screen of statistics and know what most of them mean.

I am really impressed with the ball handling skills, especially catches taken at close range and high speed. And as the balls usually bounce before the batter can hit it, unlike in baseball, the unpredictability of where the ball is going to go is increased enormously. So this is the sport I can watch when the Australian footy season is not on.

One thing though: I've been told I'm NOT to "barrack", or groan at missed catches or shout at close calls during a possible run out. I guess that's still too much like being a footy fan for my son's tastes (Val checks banner at top of screen to see how long it is until footy season starts)

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Last day of my annual leave

It was a beautiful day, 27 degrees, and we decided to go for a walk along the Yarra River a short drive from where we live. The goal was to walk to Heide, the Museum of Modern Art which is in the middle of parklands, and have lunch at the cafe there before walking back to where we parked the car. Unfortunately the museum and cafe were closed for renovations. Time for Plan B! A slight detour on the way back would bring us to Bamboo Terrace, in time for Sunday Yum Cha, and that's what we did. Hardly had time to unfold our napkins and the first trolley of goodies was rolled up to our table just before our cold beers arrived. Bliss!

At Heide we did have a stroll around the gardens, and rested in this intriguing gazebo.
Unusual gazebo

"Sculpture cows" grazing on the lawn

Saturday, February 11, 2006

New technology-toy

Here's the new printer-fax-copier-scanner thingie being installed by our resident techie. What do people call these machines anyway?
Now we'll have to get out the old photographs and see if we can figure out how to use the scanner. Instructions are strangely minimal and vague in print and CD-ROM manual...

When all else fails, read the manual...

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Hedgely Dene Gardens

This is a collage I made of photos I took at a nearby public garden, right in the middle of suburbia. I used the collage feature that comes with Picasa2 (a freebie!). Posted by Picasa

Just discovered that after you've clicked on the photo to enlarge it, THAT photo will have a square icon with arrows pointing outwards. If you click on that icon the photo will be enlarged again, and I am rather impressed with the detail that comes up, given my shaky camera work. I guess you all knew about that already though...

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

My blogspace

I've loved reading about and seeing photos of my blogger friends' blogspaces, so of course I have to retaliate.
Here is my computer desk, bought years ago and absolutely junky. The "veneer" started peeling off as soon as we got it home. Nevertheless, it does the trick. My wallpaper is of the Japanese Gardens at San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. That came from a digital postcard of SF that my dad sent me. He also gave me the slim monitor and Logitech mouse - Dad's a bit of a computer freak as mentioned in a previous post.
There's the obligatory printer, soon to be augmented by scanner-printer-fax-copier thingie, and you might also notice what looks like two CPUs. Yes, the horizontal one is my old one (have techie son's cast off as current one), and still haven't got around to disposing of old one. Mind you, it still works, stable Windows 95 installed, Microsoft Works which is really all the home user needs for word processing, etc. But I digress.
To the right is my bulletin board with current Carlton Blues calendar. You might notice some post it notes scattered on it. That's to cover up the player and his name, the one who defected to another team at the end of last year. Grrr. To the far right is my desk, an ancient discard from my husband's work. It too still works.

This photo was taken a few months ago. It's in the afternoon, when I get the afternoon sun. Good for sitting with my cup of tea, reading or dozing, or for more agro times, checking the credit card statement. Agro not because of what's spent, but because the man who cooks forgets to give me the slips (invariably from Bunnings - mega hardware store for you non-Aussies). Not content with that, he will then find it weeks later scrunched up and put it in the credit card slip envelope - stored in the wicker basket to the right - so that I again waste time sorting it out. Grrrr.

This is looking from the doorway. My window, which is the entire wall, looks out onto the courtyard with pond that has featured in previous posts. The kimono is one that my mother-in-law bought many years ago and she was so happy that I love such things. It hangs in front of a shojii paper blind - a perfect match!

The sliding doors hide a wardrobe and built in drawers. On the other side of that wall is the mirror image of my study which my husband has as his study. This house was built for a big family and these were originally small bedrooms but very effective use of space. Recently we found out from the original owner that these two rooms were designed so that eventually they could be made into one if we wanted to.

To see what other blogspaces look like (no fair making comparisons) see:

Have I left anyone out??

Monday, February 06, 2006

Off to the country - cool at last

Me at the start of our bushwalk.

This post was supposed to go up on Saturday morning before we left home, but Blogger was having one of its down times. However, now I can post, update and put in photos all in one:

Saturday a.m.
We haven't been out to the country since New Year's Day. Missed out on the annual Fryerstown Antique Fair because of the heat. But now that it's cooled down a bit we are off. The boys love having the house to themselves, but I always leave a list of chores for them to get through before we get back. Mom's a meanie!

Will catch up with Blogworld when we get back on Monday.

Monday p.m.
Got back from the country in time for lunch. Chores had NOT been done ("didn't expect you back so early!!"), and Mom is in a filthy mood.

Still, the weekend was fantastic, the weather was absolutely superb, and we had lots of time to read and go for a bushwalk. As per usual, the maps and signage were pathetic, and after I post this I'm going to fire off an email to the local ranger. Someone could have got into serious trouble, getting lost and without water on even a moderately warm day. We are used to this however, so turned back and retraced our steps. That's always a bit of defeat though...

Remains of afternoon tea, now for a good read.

Reading or gawking at scenery?

From our campsite, towards the setting sun. If you enlarge this photo you can see our shower enclosure and, ahem, other amenity further to the right. Taking a shower using a solar bag, and warmed by the afternoon sun is one of the real pleasures in life.

More photos in the gallery.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Giraffe melting moments

Recently we went to the African Fusion shop in Geelong, looking for African related items (ok, I was looking for giraffe stuff).

I found this beautiful candle which doesn't melt down completely (otherwise I wouldn't think of lighting it). It leaves a hollowed out center eventually and you can then put a tealight in it. The light showing through shows up the giraffe figures on the outside beautifully.


Giraffes are my favorite animal. I love their long eyelashes and rather superior way of looking out over their world.

We have a wooden giraffe made in Zimbabwe, and he guards our front door. He sometimes does duty as doorstop when we have the door propped open.

These are two giraffe sites I visit for photos and other giraffe-related stuff: (no longer maintained, but still lots of great links)