Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Lunar Eclipse

There was a lunar eclipse last night. We tried to take pictures from our balcony, but they didn't come out. This article has a good shot.

Was there an eclipse where you are? I have no idea if this was only visible in the southern hemisphere or if everyone could see it.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Water Cooler Conversation

I've never worked at a place where the water cooler conversation revolves around the best way to shoot various animals and how the animal reacts. This isn't for hunting, they are talking about shooting farm animals for food.

Friday, August 24, 2007


We had rented a car for our first weekend away and the return process turned out to be a bit of a hassle. The rental place closes in the early afternoon on Sunday. If you don’t have the car back by the time the office closes, you have to leave the car in the adjacent parking garage and pay the garage fees. We also forgot about refuelling, so we were hit with a refuelling fee. Long and short, we paid about an extra day of rental between the fuel fee and the garage charge.

To avoid all of this, we decided to join a car share called GoGet. We pay a monthly membership fee and we have access to a number of cars throughout the city. When we need a car we go online or call into an automated system and reserve it. We are charged by the hour and by the km for the time we use the car. If we need the car for a full day, we pay a flat day rate which includes 150 kms free. Overnight hours are free, so if we take the car for the weekend, we pay two day rates and we’re done. Gas cards are included with the car, so we don’t pay for fuel and each car has it's own dedicated parking space.

The cost might be about the same or slightly less than a car rental, but it’s so easy to use that it’s worth it. Here’s a picture of our little GoGet car…

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Queen's English?

Australians definitely speak English, but they’ve added their own touch. They like to shorten words and add "ie" and "o" to the end. Here are some words we’ve heard people use that we don’t use at home.

capsicum = pepper
lead = power cord
dodgy = not up to par… A dodgy neighbourhood
stock-take sale = clearance sale
take-away = To go
lay-By = Lay away
heaps = a lot… This phrase is even used on the news
massive = large… Also used on the news. “Massive amounts of rain”
pram = stroller
nappy = diaper
holiday = a vacation day… “vacation day” is not used here
on annual leave = also a vacation day
public holiday = what we would call a holiday in the US
have a think on it = think about it
give it a go = try it
how ya goin = how ya doin
good on you = good for you
have a whinge = complain/whine
check your diary = check your schedule
diarised = scheduled
petrol = gas for your car
lift = elevator
pegs = clothespins
cossie = a swimsuit
sunnies = sunglasses
zed = the letter Z
toilet = restroom…I asked someone where the restroom was and they had no idea what I was talking about. I believe they thought I wanted to lie down.
mate = pal, buddy…I’ve heard Mom’s call their children mate, co-workers call each other mate, interviewers call their subjects mate… it’s everywhere
g’day = yup, they really do say it
bloke = see mate, but bloke is a little less friendly and is usually used between men
cv = resume…short for curriculum vitae which is latin for course of life
scratchie = lottery scratch ticket
breakkie = breakfast
unie = university
doco = document
rego = registration
Jono = short nick-name for someone named Jonothan
chocos = box of chocolates
avo = avocado
Salvos = Salvation Army
brickie = a mason
truckie = truck driver
bikie = motorcycle driver
robes = closets
ensuite = a bathroom off a bedroom

They also don't repeat numbers. If someone were to give you the number "998555", they would say "double nine eight triple five".

While we’re talking about language, here are a few SPie translations.
peanut butter = any bread-like product
piecake = any dessert
milk = any liquid beverage
gum boots = rain boots. This is actually an Australian term she picked up on tv

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Oakvale Farm

The same day we did the Tomaree Head walk, we spent the morning at an animal farm called Oakvale Farm. This was our first experience at hand feeding kangaroos and it was great. We've been to a few other places where you can pet koalas and feed kangaroos, but so far Oakvale has been the best experience. The place was clean and well run and had swings and things for the kids. We have some great pictures of SPie with the animals. I’ll be sending an email out with the link to the snapfish album with the pictures (sorry, we’ve decided not to post pictures of SPie on the blog).

At certain times each day, the farm provides baby bottles of milk for the kids to feed the baby animals. SPie wasn’t into that. Every time she got hold of a bottle she tried to drink it herself!

Most animals roamed around freely which was great for SPie. She loved following the goats around. She was also fascinated by the kangaroo tails. She kept picking them up! Fortunately these were all mild mannered kangaroos and they didn’t seem to mind. Even when she stepped on the tails, the kangaroos didn’t seem to care. I was impressed that she got right in there with animals and wasn't afraid of them.

Although, she wasn't entirely happy with the cow. SAHF lifted her up so she could see the big cow and give it a pat. SPie had fun tickling it behind the ear, but when she stopped tickling, the cow rubbed it’s head up against her to ask for more. The push was a little too much for her liking. After that she was happy to look at the cow from a distance, but didn't want to be too close.

If you are ever in the Salt Ash area, I highly recommend checking it out!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Can't We All Get Along?

On our trip to Newcastle, we stopped in the town of Stockton, which is right across the water from Newcastle, and took a ferry to the city. On the ferry back to our car, some guy started hassling SAHF about being American. He was saying random things like “Americans go home” and “We don’t want Americans in Australia.” I'm not really sure what else he had to say since I was fairly oblivious to the whole thing. SAHF did his best, "you talking to me?" and the guy settled down and that was the end of it. However, it was an unfortunate incident in an otherwise really great weekend.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Tilligery and Tomaree

Day 2 we started towards Tomaree National Park in Port Stephens to hike up Tomaree Head. On the way we saw an interesting looking flight of stairs built into the side of a hill called Tilligery Lookout. Curiosity got the best of me and we stopped for a walk up. When we reached the top there were a few trails leading in different directions, but it wasn't a great lookout.

I read somewhere that Tilligery means “pelican”. We didn't see any pelicans at (or from) the lookout, but we did meet a few when we stopped for lunch. We ate outside at a beach at Lemon Tree Passage and within minutes of setting the food down we were surrounded by 4 - 5 pelicans. Pelicans are big birds. It was a little creepy, so we didn't stay too long.

Finally we made it to Tomaree and did the walk up Tomaree Head. There were great views of Port Stephens and some outlying wildlife preserve islands. We could also see down to Zenith beach at the bottom and saw dolphins swimming! Half way down the hill, we took a detour to check out some World War II gun emplacements. One of the emplacements had a bunk area attached to it where the soldiers stayed between lookouts.

After the hike down we went to Zenith Beach to have a look. By the time we got there the dolphins were gone, but SPie had fun playing in the sand and chasing the water off the beach back out to sea.

Some of the pictures in the random flicker set at the top of the blog are from Tomaree and Tilligery Lookout, so I haven't added pictures to this post.

Our First Weekend Away

The trip to see the Pasha Bulker was a weekend event that included animals, hiking and our first try at driving on the “wrong side” of the road.

Friday night we rented a car and SAHF drove us up to Anna Bay which is about 3 hours North of Sydney. I left work a little early, but we still got stuck in gridlock trying to cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge. After a stop for dinner and several phone calls to the farm manager for directions (I had left the directions sitting on my desk at work), we made it to our destination in about 5 hours. SAHF did well driving even with my helpful “look out!” and “slow down!” interjections.

It a funny thing… we’ve noticed that when driving, we say left when we mean right and vice-versa. Also, the wind shield wiper control is on the opposite side. We keep turning on the wipers when we mean to turn on the directional. Another thing that was confusing me was the speed limit signs. On the highway the sign says “100” which I immediately think of as 100 mph, but it's really 100 km/h. 100 km/hour is only about 62 mph.

We stayed at a farmstay called Sahara Trails. This is a working horse farm with a few self contained units and one dorm/backpacker type of room. In our unit, we had two bedrooms (one queen bed, and one with bunk beds), a living room, a kitchen area, a full bathroom and a front porch. Outside our door was a community picnic area with a grill and beyond that was a horse paddock. I thought it was great, but it’s definitely rustic and not where you want to go if you are looking for luxury.

Due to the flooding the week before, the paddock looked more like a lake. I woke up early the first morning as the sun was coming up and was greeted with a peaceful scene of horses ambling along the fence of the paddock. I tried to get a picture of it, but it came out too dark. I’ve posted it below anyway.

Sahara Trails is run by a very nice family. They told us about a great hike at Tomaree National Park in Port Stephens. More about that tomorrow!

The first set of stairs was our unit - the one at the end of my shadow.

A horse at dawn. It's bending down eating something on the ground.
You'll just have to believe me that it was a great scene to wake up to!

One of the farm dogs that SPie LOVED:

Friday, August 17, 2007


The weekend of June 8th a 40,000 tonne ship ran aground on Nobby's Beach, a public beach about 2 hours north of Sydney in the city of Newcastle. This was the story of the hour for weeks. There is a great article on wikipedia that describes how it all unfolded. Thousands of people went to Newcastle to check out the sight… and we were 3 of them!

It was amazing to see. The ship is absolutely huge and it was sitting right there on the beach. I mean RIGHT THERE... it was ridiculous how close it was to the shore. The side of the ship that faced the beach was fairly protected from the waves, but the other side was taking a beating.

After a couple of attempts, rescue crews were able to move the ship out to sea again, but when we visited no one knew if it would be possible. Many people expected the ship to be part of the permanent landscape. That would have been horrible; it would have completely ruined a great looking beach!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Extreme Weather

When you think "Australia", what do you think of? Maybe kangaroos? Koalas? The Great Barrier Reef? Whatever it is, I would guess the image includes sunshine; yes? Me too!

Well, when we arrived in May, Sydney was in the last official month of autumn and the weather was perfect. The sun was shining and the days were in the high 60’s. As we headed into June the air turned a bit cooler, but the sun was still beaming. Then things changed.

It started to rain sometime in early June and it's still raining! According to my co-workers, this is one of the coldest winters anyone remembers. If you ask them when the rain will end, they don't know because they haven't had weather like this before. There was even frost! At 3.7°C (about 39°F), July 17th was the coldest day recorded in Sydney in 21 years!

Most of the country has been in a multi-year drought, so I really shouldn't be complaining. This is winter and we are from New England. Watching rain fall is always easier than shovelling 3 feet of snow. Plus, even though playground time has been limited, this has been a great opportunity to teach SPie to sing "rain rain go away".

On the positive side, August seems to be improving a bit. We've had at least one good day each weekend and some beautiful weekdays. This week there were a few days that rained for just half the day. This is good, but not ideal since everything is still wet. SPie had a quick swim in a big puddle during an outing on Wednesday. Fortunately Dad had her in a long raincoat, so only half the outfit needed to be changed.

I'm hoping August showers bring clear skies along with September flowers!

Monday, August 13, 2007

G'Day Mate!

Here we are 3 1/2 months into our 8 month stay in Sydney and I'm already forgetting some of things that we did when we arrived! So, Piecake is here for us to save and share our trip.

The name comes from SPie. It's what she calls dessert and she made it up all on her own. It's generally said in 3's while jumping up and down. If that doesn't work, she'll throw a please on the end. "Piecake, piecake, piecake? Piecake PEAS!" It's a little dramatic but very cute.

As you may have noticed, I'm trying to be vague about our names and exact locations. This is a public space and not everyone is nice, etc, etc. So, if you are friend or family, please try not to leave comments with our names or any specifics; but, please do leave comments so we know you stopped by!

In the very near future, I'm hoping to figure out how to do this blog thing and start regularly posting about our excursions. I've received a few emails with generic questions about Australia and Sydney, so I'll try to post some of that information too and we'll add whatever else we think of.

Please stay tuned and enjoy!