Friday, January 27, 2012

What is Australia Day?

I understand the origins of Australia day or should I say invasion day? Is it the date to mark the day Europeans stole aboriginal land, massacred the natives, destroyed the land and was the beginning of racial discrimination? Or is it really just another excuse for skipping work, enforcing double demerit points, and drinking beers during the day with friends? We're just proud of our country and want to celebrate it, nothing wrong with that.

I had a lot of expectations for Australia Day in Perth.  Considering that there were no fireworks on New Years Eve because they had to "save them for Skyworks", I was under the impression that it would be a day of excitement for all.  All of the streets surrounding us were blocked off for the day and only residents could exit and return with proof of address.  No visitors were allowed unless you had applied to the council for special permits months prior. This meant that hubby was on taxi service to retrieve our friends, and the logistics of a gathering was all a bit of a nightmare.

This all seemed a bit extreme to me.  Barricades and wire fencing seemed to appear on every street, across bridges and along the Swan River.  There was so much of it I was highly confused if it was to keep people out or to keep them in.  It felt a bit like CHOGYM but on the wrong side of the river. We had decided to have some company for a BBQ and a quick swim before heading to the foreshore to the 'Celebration Zone' for some free fun for the kids young and old.  Hubby disappeared earlier in the morning to pick up some ice for the drinks.  The service station is at the end of our street.  200 meters away.  He was gone for over an hour.  Needless to say that the road closures had caused some confusion.  He purchased ice from a service station 2 suburbs away, and then panic really set in when he showed security his rental agreement, (as proof of residence) to re-enter our street.  "Sorry mate, you are a renter.  We are only letting property owners return to their properties today!"  He was joking of course but my husbands agitation did not quite comprehend this straight away.  Further jokes were made as they pretended my husband ran over there toes, giggles had by all.  This is 9am.  I wonder if they were still laughing at 2pm when the temperature reached over 40degrees and they had been standing in the sun all day?
With the temperatures so high, we made the most of the pool, and as word spread about our plunge of coolness, our quiet BBQ turned into an Australian day party with over 30 people! We were only briefly hindered by the note "BBQ not in use" hanging in the entertainment area, we decided to wheel down our own from upstairs.  How very Australian.  A BYO BBQ, where you have to BYO your own BBQ!
Australia Day is all about a good Barbie queue, (I mean BBQ)
Temperatures soared around 40 degrees for most of the day so we decided it would be best to stay here rather than suffer the heat of walking to Sir James Mitchell Park for the free rides, concerts and games. We had a great view of the air show that seemed to last for over an hour, and we were safe from the rain the rolled in about 6pm.

The fireworks were amazing, the best I had seen in a long time, the only thing that seemed to be missing was the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  They lasted for a full half hour and were released from jet skis, barges and buildings.  Lightning works were the back drop for the fireworks as a storm threatened to hit leaving quite an amazing sight.

Photo taken by Richard Huynh of the spectacular natural light show that was going on during the Australia Day Perth Skyworks.

View from kitchen window

What is Australia Day? It was an ace arvo where the ankle biter's can chuck on a cozzie for a splash.   Tunes were going off to Triple J's hottest 100 and we all bogged into a beuat Barbie and booze.  You little ripper!  Australia Day is about being able to understand what I just said!!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Big fat tick

This was definitelyy on my list of things to do.  Maybe even my bucket list; you know, what I want to do before I expire?  My list seems endless, it is all in my head, and I add to it daily.  I guess I should really script it before my memory starts to go?  Every time I tick something off my list I seem to add another two.  Anyway, for now, big fat tick next to Pinnacles.

I was not really sure what to expect. Something on a smaller scale to Stonehenge perhaps? Considering Stonehenge is man made dating back to 3000BC, and Pinnacles are nature made limestone pillars.  Yeh, not even close.  Should of done more research before arriving.  I actually enjoyed the element of surprise; this further explains why I love not knowing about a movie before I see it. I do not like to create expectations, (this is why I was not overly taken by the movie Avatar... also, the fact that the man sitting next to us in this epic movie had horrid body odour that couldn't even be masked by a cinema full of that glorious popcorn smell.)

The Pinnacles are within the Namburg National Park.  They offer an interactive information centre that does not sell ice cream, (just in case you are wondering).  There is a 4km loop that you can drive with a 10km speed limit, that gives you plenty of opportunity to park and walk about.  The very cheery lady that took our $11 entry fee warned about the heat, ensuring that we had plenty of water, hats, and advised not to stay out in the sun for too long.  This is it!  I am as close to the desert as I will ever be, (or perhaps wish to be).

It was so hypnotizing.  It had an eerie feel, but was so beautiful at the same time.  Thousands of limestone pillars poked out of the ground, each was different, yet some appeared to be grouped together appropriately.  They were rough, smooth, pointy, rounded, ripply, holey, (yes these are my scientific words, similar to that of a true metamorphic petrologist).  To me, they were like clouds in the sky, each had its own unique shape representing something possibly I could only see. I saw elephants, hands, body poses and a kite.
Do you see a face or is it just me?

My daughter commented that there should be Indians and camels around because we were in the desert.  My son just said, "mummy, big rocks!" I guess his vocabulary has not advanced to the same stage as his sister's?  Hubby thought it was a bit like looking at tombstones, the place certainly had a spiritual feel to it.

I will let the pictures speak for themselves.  This should be listed with Australia's natural wonders, if not the worlds.  Big tick off my list, now time to think of two more things to add ... how about 'meet the Dalai Lama' and 'walk on fire'.  By the way, is my expiry on my bucket list negotiabledate... cna I get an extension of time?
By the way... if I had 'see a chubby man in a kilt dressed as a pirate with a vacuum on his back in the desert' on my bucket list... Big fat tick!

Hippy with foot hygiene

From Madrid to Jurien Bay.  This time last year we were living in Europe and holidays were always so easy to organise last minute.  Flights were cheap and short, and accommodation was inexpensive due to the quantity available in built up cities.  Now that we are residing in a place that seems so remote, popping on an hour flight to another country is not an option.  Last year my daughter was lucky enough to celebrate her 3rd birthday in Madrid Spain..  This year it is Jurien Bay, Western Australia.  Last year it was in an apartment in the midst of the hustle and bustle of a very hip city filled with wine and delicious tapas.  This year it is in a cabin at a caravan park with leftover food from the birthday BBQ we had the day prior.
Cake one

cake two

The cost ... pretty much the same!!!
The experience at both destinations ... priceless.

Jurien Bay is located 3 hours north of Perth.  It seemed like the logical destination to combine proximity to the beach and the park for the children, combined with a day trip to the Pinnacles.
Our cabin
Son trying to master the jumping pillow, not too successful!

I was only saying last week how I wanted  to go to the desert.  At this stage this is definitely the closest I have come to such a desolate landscape.

I am not turning into a hippy; but isn't nature wonderful.  The scenery on the drive changed continuously and altered from one side of the road to the other.  Plains of barren land, green shrubbery, fields of black boys, fire affected areas, salt lakes and large dunes the size of mountains sitting randomly away from the coastline. The surroundings were captivating.  Nature is bewildering.
Random sand mountains found away from the coastline

Actually, maybe I am turning into a hippy.  I was definitely moved by nature.  And, I didn't wash my hair the entire time that we were away.  I even dismissed my morning shower for a swim in the ocean.   Admittingly, I did have to shave my armpit and leg hair on the second day, and I continuously wiped my feet with baby wipes as I could not stand the sand on the cabin floor.  But that's okay isn't it? I am sure that 'hair-free' and 'foot hygiene' are high on the hippy list of priorities.
Anyway, back to the drive.  You know you are 'not in Kansas anymore Toto', when you start spotting signs warning of kangaroos.  Shortly followed by a sign with a kangaroo and emu.  Shorty followed by a sign with a kangaroo, emu and echidna.  Really?  Kind of cliche, 3 out of the 5 main Australian animals on one sign.  I commented that I would love to see a platypus on the next sign.  My husband is quick to point out that the platypus live near fresh water streams and lakes in Eastern Australia, therefore it would be highly unlikely for them to be found in this area.  Really honey?  I had to stop him before he started explaining the eating habits and reproduction cycle.  Obviously hubby does not understand the comedy acquainted with my new hippy holiday sense of humour.  Chill out babe, enjoy the nature, we are on a beach/ desert holiday.  (Doesn't sound right does it?)

Maybe my prior love of lemongrass incense and my awe of the scenery isn't enough to embody the role of a hippy, but I must say I doubtlessly have a new found respect for this part of the Australia, and as a matter of fact, this part of the world.

"I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror
The wide brown land for me!"

Blah, blah, blah... you know what I mean.
Jurien Bay

Perfect for the younger children

Our little helper

We only had 2 nights and 3 days to explore, but in that time we managed to see Green Head, Jurien Bay, Cervantes, Lancelin, Ledge Point, Sea Bird, Two Rocks and Yanchep.  These little coastal towns truly bought meaning to there location of the Turquoise Coastline.  We also stopped to see Stromatolites, Hanson Bay Lookout, Moolah Hill lookout, Grigson's Lookout, and of course the Pinnacles.
Moolah lookout

The only thing that hampered this trip was knowing that we were not to witness any of the wild flowers that are usually in this area... we missed them by a few months.  If I thought it was amazing now, then I will have to search hard in the thesaurus to describe it when the flowers are out!  We will be back.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Snow angels on the bed

Since the move to Perth, I have been pretty lucky that my husband has not been working away overnight.  At least twice mid week he gets to see the kids for a story before bed, and he is usually on 'the morning shift' before leaving for work between 7.30 and 8am.  The children definitley know who there father is, (apart from that time our son confused  a bald man in Gloria Jeans Cafe last month for dad and gave him a running tackle towards his groin for a cuddle), and I am proud to say that all time spent together is quality. 

My husband heads off to Karratha for a 3 night stay; he feels quite anxious about the trip as there are warnings of cyclone Heidi popping in for a visit, and also the conditions are extremely remote to what he is used to.  Mental note for myself, pay more attention when husband is speaking, and don't just nod   thinking about what is going on the grocery list for tomorrow.  Are we seriously low on toilet paper already?  Turns out hubby, was not actually staying in Karratha, but in Marandoo, which is 100km from Paraburdoo where he flew into, 350 km away from the coast line.

Vegetarian away, the carnivore comes out to play; apart from that, my routine stays the same.  (Apart from sleeping like a child making snow angels on a queen size bed, minus the snow of course.)  Even the children adapt. Usually waking dad at 6am for a strawberry or chocolate milk can be exhausting, so they too take the opportunity to sleep until 7am each morning while dad is away.  Secretly I think that they know mummies response would be, "Sure help yourself, you can reach the water in the fridge", so probably best to wait for her to wake in a good mood?

The point of my rant?  I do care when he has gone.  Although it may not seem so.  I received a call 6.30am on the last morning he was away.  I lay in bed listening to it ring.  You know when you get a phone call early in the morning, or really late at night, you automatically presume that something is wrong, or that there is bad news, or that you have one a lotto?  Well, turns out I do not presume.  I think at that point, I may have blinked, then flipped my pillow to escape my wet drool mark, but there was definitely no presuming about good or extrodinary news.  By the second phone call, I presume.  I presume that my sister in law has forgotton to convert time once again, but she will realise on the fifth ring and then I will tease her about it when I call her back in a few hours.  But the phone rings on... so I answer.  "Is he okay?  Is everything alright?"  (Mum is on a weeks holiday from work, and has obviously already done her morning walk and put on 3 loads of washing.) Apparently cyclone Heidi has hit the coast of Karratha, it is all over the news and is quite serious.  As I talk my mum down off the ledge and reassure her that my hubby is just fine, I slowly start to crawl the ladder to the ledge myself.  Now I am worrying as to why he did not call me to tell me he was safely under a heavy based table with a months supply of canned beans and water.

I will call him.  So after breakfast for 3, an inattentive vaccum of the house, a short run on the treadmill and a quick visit to the grocery store with the kids, I ponder on what hubby would like for dinner.  Oh, shoot, thats right, he is under a table hiding from a cyclone with beans.  I call, as any loving wife would, (only 4 hours later), only to be rest assured that he is fine, just a spot of rain, and he will be on his flight home tonight.  After all Karratha is 350km away from  Paraburdoo .

Turns out the work trip was great.  Beautiful pictures of the land. I presume most tourists would imagine all of Australia to be like this, but I am sure that not many Australians would of had the pleasure to actually experience it.  Can not believe I am saying this, but I am officially adding desert to my list of things to do.  And yes, I am spelling it correctly I do not want to dive into a huge creme brulee, (well I do but not what I am reffering to at this moment), and yes I am well aware, that not all deserts have a mirage involving palm trees and a crystal clear lagoon.  I guess I too want to experience the red dirt that reappears until the 3rd shower after leaving.  I hate to miss out on experiences!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Wine at our door step

We resided in Newcastle, NSW (Australia) for 4 years, and  I am pretty sure this is when I acquired my love for wine.  Actually, maybe 'appreciation' is more appropriate, I think the 'love' happened way before then? The most notable of Australia's wine regions, the Hunter Valley, was 40 minutes drive from our house so it was frequented often as it was the number one place to go when we had visitors, or if the weather was sunny... or windy... or rainy.

Ugly Duckling Winery
And since we are also hoping for some visitors when we are in Perth, (oh, and because Perth also has weather that will have nothing to do with the fact that we like wineries), it only makes sense that we become familiar with the Swan Valley region.  25 minutes away.  Good start!

Grapes at John Kosovich winery

Husband making sure he gets his money worth
Swan Valley is charming and is filled with many boutique breweries. Among the big international players, such as Houghton and Sandalford, are many smaller wineries – places where the people who make the wine are the ones who greet and serve you at the cellar door. Ugly Duckling, John Kosovich and Harris Organic were in our favourites, so much so, that wine was purchased in each.  In all truthfulness, entering a winery is sort of like going to a Tupperware party; you know that you do not have to buy anything, but you always feel obliged to.  I guess most of their money is made out of customer guilt.  Bright side; I am leaving with a nice bottle of wine, not a beetroot strainer.

Organic wine, (for those health conscious consumers)?
We stopped at Houghton for a lovely lunch and a bottle of wine and enjoyed the ambiance eating under the vines and looking out to the parkland on site.  Houghton has been producing wine for 175 years. That is 50 years after Australia was founded.  I gather this is where Australian drinking culture began to take form.

Children have apple juice, we have grape juice

Nice to be with family

Well worth the wait
Swan Valley is reliable for a warm and dry climate, and in turn it is renowned for providing some of the country’s best Verdelho, Shiraz and Cabernet varieties.  A little secret, I did not even know this region existed because all you here about in Perth is Margaret River, (which is still on my to do list). Swan Valley is now on my 'to do again' list.


Doggy bag needed for free chocolate tasting

My parents arrived bringing us Christmas cheer and holiday spirit to ignite some Perth sight seeing.  My mum masqueraded happiness as she sat with her knees around her ankles in the smaller seat in the boot of the car, (Pilates has proven to have improved her flexibility). Regardless of sqishiness, we all had smiles as we piled into the car for a trip to Swan Valley.

In just 30 minutes we had reached winery district.  Considering it was only 10:30am, some would argue that it may be an inappropriate time to start wine tasting, so the next best option?  Chocolate!  I had heard rave reviews about the Swan Valley Chocolate Factory, but to be honest I was a little bit disappointed.  Children learn via interest and curiosity, and my children are definietly interested in chocolate so I thought this would be a good experience. There was a viewing window where the children could look at the back of a girl who was pouring chocolate, not quite the educational show I was expecting my children to witness.  Not that I was expecting to see someone picking cacao beans out the back of the factory in a West African setting, but a smile from the worker as my children drooled over the window would of been nice. 

A large range of chocolate bars, chocolate coated products, chocolate sauces, chocolate body oils even shirts with chocolate slogans, are all on offer.  Swan Valley Chocolate Factory is worth a visit if you would like to spoil a friend or a client with a gift.  My parents managed to spend over $70 combined on little chocolate pieces! I had to laugh when they both said, "That is what you pay for good chocolate nowdays".  "No it isn't!  Where do you shop!"  I screamed inside "I can get Cadbury Top Deck 220g on sale at Cole's for $2.50!!!  And that is 2 sort of chocolates!"

Don't get me wrong, the chocolate tastes amazing and there is definitely a glass and a half of goodness thrown in there, but over $2 each for a single chocolate truffle ball!!  Why are people paying this sort of money for a ball of chocolate?  Didn't you see the 3 huge tubs of chocolate for free tasting?  The line at the free chocolate line was longer than the queue to purchase.  I must admit I had a giggle when I heard an older patron ask the worker who was sweeping up the chocolate droppings surrounding the free chocolate pig trough, "What happens with the leftovers that fall on the floor?"  It was almost said in hope that they would be donated like day old bread from a bakery.  Would of loved to hear him reply, "We recycle".