Monday, April 25, 2011

Inventive Australians

I saw these adorable stamps for the first time the other day:

Hanging your clothes on the line while wearing Speedos and drinking wine from a box.  All made possible by those inventive Australians.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

An American's Guide to Easter in Australia

Brown eggs made pretty

Shortly after we arrived in Australia 2 years ago the room mom in my daughter's class organised an Easter Egg hunt for all the kids.  Her email invited us all down to the beach after school and asked each parent to bring a bag of Easter eggs for the hunt.

I searched high and low for Easter baskets (and finally found one style at the fake Aussie Target).  But the big plastic Easter eggs were elusive.  I emailed the room mom to ask where to get the eggs.  Her reply was something like this, "Each parent should bring a bag of chocolate eggs.  They are available at all the shops."  Duh.

Easter eggs=chocolate eggs.  And they are everywhere.  The shops are packed with choco eggs, along with choco bunnies and the occasional choco bilby.  But good luck finding any other Easter candy.  No peeps (gasp!), no jelly bellies, no reese's eggs, no pastel M&Ms. 

When we showed up for the egg hunt my kids were ready, armed with their bright green cheap-o Easter baskets.  (I was really wishing I had brought our cute personalized Pottery Barn ones).  To my surprise they were the ONLY kids there with baskets.  A few kids had plastic grocery bags.  Some used paper lunch sacks.  Others just used their pockets to hold their loot.  I got several comments about our "American" Easter Baskets and it was painfully obvious that I was missing the nuances of Easter- one of the biggest Aussie holidays.

So here are a few tips for Americans celebrating Easter in Australia.

*Easter is a long weekend here.  Everything is closed on Good Friday.  And for good measure  Aussies take Monday off too.  This year, Anzac day is on Monday.  So Tuesday is a public holiday, too.

*Little kids (generally Kindy and Year 1) will have Easter hat parades at school.  You will be expected to supply a variety of arts and crafts items to decorate the crazy hats.  After the Little Princess' parade they sang a few songs, including "Aussie Easter Oi Oi Oi" and "Disco Inferno".  (The musical selections at these school functions always baffle me).

*The Easter Show has nothing to do with Easter, other than they both come at the same time of year.

*Little girls will not be dressed up in fancy new dresses on Easter Sunday.  In fact the whole "Easter Dress" concept is unheard of here.  We got lots of strange looks that first year when we went out to breakfast.

*Aussies don't dye hard boiled eggs.  If you want one of those PAAS kits with the little coloured tablets you better have someone send one from the US.  And, there are no white eggs to speak of here.  But fortunately, brown eggs work just fine.

*Sadly, Easter is a secular holiday here.  Everyone celebrates Easter, but there is hardly a mention of Jesus. 

Two hard at work.  One supervising.
So tonight, on this night before Easter, we dyed our brown eggs and watched the Veggie Tales Easter Carol.  We talked about the true meaning of Easter and left a carrot out for the Easter Bunny.  Tomorrow there will be a treasure hunt and lots of choco eggs too.  We'll go to church and the Easter Show.  We're a little bit Aussie, and American too.

Happy Easter, Oi Oi Oi!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Defying Death on Holiday

Did you know there are a ridiculous number of things in Australia that can kill you?  Six of the ten deadliest snakes in the world are found here.  If the great white sharks don't get you, the box jellyfish might.  Look out for the giant salt water crocs, too.  Even the humble little platypus produces one of the most excruciating venoms known to man.  But perhaps the most frightening of all are the deadly spiders.

The problem with spiders is they can sneak up on you- any time, any place.   No warning, no sounds, no notice. 

This is scary enough when the sneaky arachnid is a (relatively) harmless huntsman.  We've had our share of those to deal with over the past 2 years.  But last week, in the midst of our farmstay holiday, I had an encounter with a real honest to goodness deadly Australian icon- the dreaded Sydney Funnel Web Spider.

I was in the lodge, minding my own business early in the morning.  I opened the curtains near the exterior door and that's when I spotted him.   I ran out to find a broom or something to shoo him away- leaving my frightened four year old whimpering on his bunk (bad mommy)!

My dear friend raced in with some bug spray and zapped him with a 30 second spray that gave her a raging headache for the day but barely stunned the creepy killer.

Finally, we located a broom and I whacked him and brushed him out of the room.  Even after all that, he was still moving around!  In the end, I had to stomp him.  It wasn't pretty- but a mother will do almost anything to save her child.

Everyone got a good look at him and we all agreed it was definitely a funnel web.  Surprisingly, I was too frightened and freaked out to grab my camera and take his picture, but he looked exactly like this:

After the whole incident was over I felt I had made it through some sort of Aussie rite of passage.  I survived an encounter with one of the world's deadliest creatures and went on with enjoying our holiday.  I feel almost as Australian as the crocodile hunter.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Jervis Bay

Last weekend we took a family road trip down the south coast of NSW to a beautiful area known as Jervis Bay.  It's about 200 km (125 miles) from Sydney.  All the brochures state it is an easy 2.5 hour drive.  I guess they mean it is 2.5 hours if you have only adults in the car and you leave at 11:15 am on a Tuesday.  Friday afternoon with three kids makes the trip a lot longer.  About twice as long in fact.  But, after 5 hours in the car, we arrived at this lovely holiday apartment in the town of Vincentia.

There is always a flurry of excitement when we arrive at our destination.  The kids run around, check out their room, open all the cupboards, explore the place and, in general, send me into a panic that something will be broken before we even unload the car. 

Luckily, no knick-knacks were harmed on this holiday!

We were up bright and early Saturday morning and set off to explore the town of Huskisson.  We had an uninspired breakfast at the Husky Bakery- which is only worth mentioning because they had an actual McDonald's playplace in the back of the cafe.

We had just enough time to book a dolphin watch cruise on The Extreme.  We thought the fast 1.5 hour trip would be perfect for the kids.  So we headed to the dock, armed with motion sickness tablets and armbands for the Little Princess.  We were all amazed to see large pods of dolphins jumping and swimming right next to the boat.  Of course, the dolphin watching was overshadowed a bit by the melt down and near panic attack suffered by the Little Princess.  She completely lost the plot (as they say here) and was terrified by the boat ride.  Afterward I asked her if it was all worth it to see the dolphins up close.  Her reply was a resounding, "NO!"  Oh well, I thought it was thrilling.

Jervis Bay is known for it's gorgeous beaches.  Hyams Beach claims to have the whitest sand in the world.  It is nearly pure silica and squeaks when you walk on it. 

The next day we took some time to explore Booderee National Park.  We bushwalked to Green Patch via the Rock Platform and saw lots of Neptune's Necklace in the tide pools.  The views were stunning (Would you expect anything else?  This is Australia!)

We also spent some time at beautiful Murray's Beach.  We saw more dolphins and even a stingray swimming very close to shore.  The water was absolutely crystal clear and still warm even though it is early Autumn.  It was a perfect place to spend the afternoon.  None of us wanted to leave.

But, as the weekend drew to a close we had to load up and head back to Sydney.  I wish we could go back during whale watching season, but I'm afraid that won't happen.  Too many places to see and, sadly, not enough time.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Mufti Day

We had a mini-crisis this morning in the school drop off lane.  As soon as we pulled up I realized what I'd done.  I completely forgot it was Mufti-Day.  When the Little Princess realized it, the tears started to flow.  She didn't want to get out of the car.  I felt horrible.

Any decent mother would have put this date in her diary (that's calendar for you Americans) weeks ago.  The memo would have been slapped on the fridge and the outfit laid out carefully the night before.

But we were away all weekend in gorgeous Jervis Bay (more on that later) and I just completely forgot. 

Mufti-Day is the term used here for a "free-dress" day at school.  And I guess when you wear a school uniform every day you DO NOT want to show up in your uniform on Mufti-Day.

So I did what any guilt ridden mum would do.  I raced home and gathered up some clothes and darted back to the school.  When I went up to her classroom I saw that the Little Princess had stuck a stringy red feather in the back of her pony tail.  She said she found it on the playground and stuck it in her hair so she wouldn't be left out of Mulfti-Day even for the 20 minutes it took me to go home and get her clothes. 

She had a big smile on her face when she saw that I stuck her glittery purple Converse in the bag for her.  Because the outfit just would not have been the same with her black uniform shoes. 

You better believe the next time a Mufti-Day memo comes home I'll be setting up a reminder on the iphone, writing it on the calendar, posting it on the fridge and writing it on my arm in Sharpie.  We won't miss the next one Princess. 
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