Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Second Time Around

There are a lot of fruit that I've had here for the first time and then there are the ones that I've had back home and didn't like because well, eating tropical fruit in a decidedly non-tropical location is a bit of a gamble.

I tried a real mango for the first time in 2007 after having one in 2000ish and thinking they were gross. One thing I will do is re-try foods and I'll try new foods especially at the urging of someone like Glen who knows my tastes so well. Guess what? Mangoes are actually my favourite fruit now! Funny how that happens!

Anyway, this post is actually about the mighty papaya or pawpaw as it's called here (after doing some research, papayas and pawpaws are actually different fruit all together. What makes things confusing -or fun- is that Australians actually call papayas pawpaw even though they aren't actually pawpaw. See what I mean?).

I've had papaya before back home and I've had dried papaya which I don't mind at all. Now that I think about it, I've also had papaya in canned tropical fruit mix. Yuck again. The "fresh" papaya I had back home was could probably be considered in the same category as my first mango tasting. Definitely inedible.

I went into this little experiment thinking it might be the case of the mango. You know what? Not so much. First off, papayas have a very distinct smell. I was trying to decide what it was and it almost smells... Sour? Like garbage? Baby vomit? Anyway, it has a gross smell to start with and it's actually one that is mixed with a nice smell so you think "Oh! That smells so nice... Wait! Ew! What's that other smell?!?!"

As for taste... It kind of has a plain taste with a hint of a taste that could be awesome. It's sort of firm yet soft like a banana with a little bit of juiciness thrown in... I almost thought while I was eating it that it was a lot like eating flavoured dessert tofu. The texture (and a bit of the taste) was quite similar once you chewed it a little. I did notice too that it started tasting better the more you ate.

I think the papaya might be one of those fruits that should be enjoyed with others - like in a fruit salad or maybe a smoothie... Maybe even used in a savory dish.

So now I'm wondering if I have the papaya's profile all wrong? Have I had the misfortune of always buying a terrible one or is it really just one of those "meh" fruits? Or maybe it's sort of like cilantro where certain people taste it differently and either love it or hate it?

(All this talk of trying new fruit - and actually getting around to photographing it as I'm trying it - reminds me a lot of Maggie Mason's Mighty List and trying 1,000 fruits)

Temperature: +10C
Sunrise: 6:01am
Sunset: 6:21pm

Friday, September 24, 2010

Hanging Rock

Glen and I took a trip to Hanging Rock yesterday. Like most people, I've heard about the movie and knew the basic premise of it so I wasn't really sure what to expect.

Picnics not included. Kind of ominous when the sign says "Experience the Mystery?, no?

It turns out that hanging rock (or "The Hanging Rock") is actually only one small part of the whole area. It turns out that the hanging rock is a large boulder that is suspended between two other boulders. It's kind of cool.

Hanging Rock (sorry for the bad picture of it)

There are all sorts of other interesting rock formations all around (all these rocks make up a small mountain - or well, a mountain by Australian standards). We climbed up to the summit, around through some of the formations and back down and then walked around the base of the whole thing.

Interesting rock formations

View from the summit

We had lunch at the cafe there (great food btw) and saw a bird we've never seen before - the Pied Currawong (unfortunately I wasn't quick enough with my camera to get a picture). The one we saw was likely a female as she had grey on her stomach (and she was pretty big & fluffy). There were tonnes of crimson rosellas around which was good to see since we don't get many of them in our area and we also saw a few kookaburras!

Immature Crimson Rosella

We had a great walk and even though the walk to the summit was a little intense at times, it wasn't too difficult (unlike the You-Yangs where we just gave up). The walk we took around the base of the mountain was great, it was mostly flat and we were the only ones on the trail.

Thankfully we didn't see any snakes!

We were walking along quietly, listening to the birds when we came across this:

I think that's the largest kangaroo I've seen outside the zoo.

There were SO many of them. We counted 24 and there were likely more (there were quite a few with joeys in their pouch).

We had a really great time and were really pleased with the whole area. We bought the Picnic at Hanging Rock DVD in the gift shop and then watched it when we got home.

Lone rock wallaby in the bushes.

Temperature: +9C
Sunrise: 6:07am
Sunset: 6:18pm

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

One Year

Today is the one year anniversary of me moving to Australia! I can't believe it's been a year already! There are all sorts of new and interesting things I've done and places I've been to and I've definitely done more entertainment related things in the last year than I did in the whole 6.5 years I lived in the Arctic.

I've enjoyed going to events that I've only seen on TV (The Australian Open), seeing birds I've only read about in books (yellow-tailed black cockatoo) and going to concerts for bands I've only listened to on the radio (ok or CD, but that doesn't sound as good - Pearl Jam).

We've done grown-up things like buying a car, a new bed and a new tv as well as apartment hunting and going on mini-vacations.

I'm enjoying my time here so much and can't wait to see what we get up to in the next year!

A collage of pictures from the last year: Christmas in the summer time, yellow-tailed black cockatoo, Great Ocean Road/Twelve Apostles, papaya, football, apricots from Glen's parent's tree, interesting flora, red rumped parrot, rainbow lorikeets, venus fly trap, emu and kangaroo sign, football, homemade apricot jam, Great Ocean Road/Twelve Apostles, emu in the wild, starfish, kookaburra, feeding a sulfur crested cockatoo in the backyard, Woofer the Bulldogs mascot, homemade pumpkin pie, football, Great Ocean Road/Twelve Apostles, our car, football, us at squeaky beach, koala and baby, quilt for Glen's nephew, the Australian Open, Cape Otway lighthouse, our livingroom, Great Ocean Road, koala.

Temperature: +10C
Sunrise: 6:10am
Sunset: 6:16pm

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Difference # 6

Saving Water & Water Restrictions

Australia has a long history of drought. Because of the lack of available fresh water and the dependency on catchments/reservoirs there are water restrictions and huge media campaigns focused on saving water.

Depending on where you live will depend on how strict the restrictions are. Right now, metropolitan Melbourne is on Stage 2. Around Easter we eased from 3A restrictions to 3 because of the amount of water in the catchments and then while I was away we went to stage 2. When we were here in 2007 there was talk of some towns going as far as checking on each home's usage and if it was over a certain amount, the water flow to the home would be turned down to a point where you wouldn't really be able to use any water in your home (I heard around 2L/min when the typical is 9L/min I think?).
Because of these restrictions, there's no such thing as water fights/slip 'n slides/running through the sprinkler. It's something that "older" Australians (Glen's age and older) talk about with sadness and whimsy to the younger generation (ie: Glen's niece and nephew's age - 5 and 12 - have never had a water fight or used a slip and slide).

People are doing all sorts of things to try to save water and a lot of people (or at least the people I know) keep a close eye on how much water they're using. There's an initiative called Target 155 which has people aim to keep their daily water usage to under 155L/day.
Glen's parents for example have containers in their sink and buckets in their shower and tub. When you wash your hands you let the water flow into the little tub and when that gets full it gets emptied into one of the larger buckets. Once the larger buckets are full, the water either gets used to water plants or (more often) it gets poured into the back of the toilet and the main water to the toilet gets shut off. Another thing a lot of people do is direct the hose for their washing machine out into the garden and water the plants with the washing machine water (it seems most washing machines empty into a laundry sink rather than being permanently hooked up to the main plumbing). A lot of the detergents (all of them?) are marked as being grey water safe

On the news, they have regular catchment updates (especially after any large amount of rain). In June the catchments were up to 35% vs the 26.8% it was in June last year. When we were here in 2007 the catchments were around 17% and there was a serious concern about whether or not we would run out of water (at 17% that was approx. 2 weeks of water).
It seems the water storages are at 45% now and some parts of the state are experiencing flooding. Some catchments in NSW are actually full and overflowing!

It's one interesting thing to think about and something you definitely take for granted in a place like Canada.

Picture from our window of a crazy rainstorm we had in March.

Temperature: +11C
Sunrise: 6:20am
Sunset: 6:11pm

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Finals Fever

September is footy finals month and if your team happens to be one of the lucky ones to make it, it's a pretty exciting time.
Like I've mentioned before, pretty much everyone has a team they barrack for (even if they aren't major fans of the sport).

Our team (The Bulldogs) made it into the finals again this year so we went to the September 5th game (first game of the finals) against Collingwood where we unfortunately lost. Luckily we finished in the top 4 this year, so we have two chances. If you lose the first week, you can come back in the second week to play another game (it's an elimination game from then on).

Western Bulldogs vs Collingwood Sept. 5th 2010
66,545 people in attendance

We also went to the September 11th semi-final game against Sydney where we won!!

Western Bulldogs vs Sydney Swans Sept. 11th, 2010 39,596 people in attendance

There's a very interesting dynamic between supporters and certain team's supporters have certain reputations (I won't go too much into this because it's of course all subjective but if you ask people, they'll have an opinion about which supporters are considered the worst/most intimidating). When you're at a game with 66,000 people and your team is losing (especially if you're playing Collingwood), it's a pretty lonely place. Even yesterday at the Sydney game, when they were winning they were LOUD and it didn't sound like there were a lot of Bulldogs supporters there at all\.

The atmosphere at these finals games is incredible. This is my first time going to finals games (we went to the pre-season NAB cup final earlier in the year which was awesome too but this is even crazier) and you can definitely tell that there's something different about these games. Every time we go to a big game I'm amazed at how many people are there, hearing the roar of the crowd from the other side of the grounds. Incredible. The fact that 66 thousand people all turn up to watch something (there's usually 25 thousand plus at regular season games -- and there's more than one game on per week!) amazes me.

The opening bounce
Western Bulldogs vs Sydney Swans Sept. 11th, 2010

Last night was a real nail-biter so if we play well next week, I'm sure there will be a lot of excitement!

Temperature: +13C
Sunrise: 6:26am
Sunset: 6:08pm

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sneaky Glen and the Awesome Surprises

Sorry this post is so late. I have no good excuse as to why I've been a bad blogger!

Glen and I have been looking at getting a new bed for a few months now. We've been into the stores and sat on our fair share of beds. We finally picked out the bed we liked and the only thing we had to do was order it. The closer it got to me leaving, it was obvious I wouldn't have a bed before I left on my trip so I hinted to Glen that it would be awesome if he ordered the bed and it was here when I got home. Glen didn't seem to be in a huge hurry to order the bed (he's very practical so he doesn't make decisions like this quickly) and told me more than once not to get my hopes up about a new bed being here and that there wasn't a new bed waiting for me. At one point on my trip he even took the webcam into the bedroom to prove to me that he wasn't fibbing and hiding the bed.

A few days before I flew home, he hinted that he had a surprise for me - not a bed. I couldn't figure out what it would be and asked him if it was a GPS (since he'd hinted at getting one) he cracked up and I assumed the big surprise would be along those lines. I thought that maybe our TV had arrived (our big TV came with a second, smaller TV) or that he'd gone ahead and switched our cell phones over. He had pretty much convinced me that there wasn't a bed here even though my SIL said that he'd better have the bed if he was smart haha.

So I get home, put my bags down and in the kitchen is the island I've been wanting for ages. He made the trip to ikea all by himself - incredible considering he hates going to Ikea. I was stoked because we have practically zero counter space and doing any sort of prep work is annoying. Glen said to me "sorry it's not a bed but it's a good substitute". I totally agreed and then walked towards the back of the apartment to the bathroom. As I walked passed the bedroom I looked in and saw... My brand new bed!!!!
He apparently ordered it the day after I left and it's been here since Monday. Awesome, awesome, awesome. I picked up some king sized pillows while I was away (you can't get them here) so sleeping in a brand new incredibly soft, comfy bed with new pillows is pretty much like heaven.
I've been trying to find a link online for the bed but I can't. It's a King Koil mattress (with box spring) with a pillow top. All I know is that it's soft and awesome.

What a sneaky guy! He was pretty disappointed that I clued in to my birthday present (video camera) so he was pretty proud of himself for being able to keep two surprises top secret.

Temperature: +11C
Sunrise: 6:28am
Sunset: 6:07pm