Thursday, December 17, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Reader poll

Yes, I have truly neglected this here blog of mine. Over two months with not a single update. Life has been hectic, but I won't give excuses.

The good news is that I have taken heaps of photos of the adventures I'm having here in Australia. Rather than continue to do massive pictures updates I decided to let those who may be checking my little place on the web choose what I will post next. Below you'll find a list of activities that I have pictures from, you simply have to make a comment (click the link below that says "Comments") to this post about which one you think I should elaborate. Here goes:

  • Ekka, you bet'ka
  • Tukka me in for some good grub
  • Daisy Hill Santuary
  • Binna Burra and flying foxes
  • Riverfire, oh how it burned
  • GenCon
  • Great Australian Sandstorm
  • A Queensland Aussie in President Obama's court
  • Italian festival
  • Halloween, Aussie style
  • Sea World, and hear it too
  • Bribie Island with fish and chips
  • The Costume Caper (see a preview on Facebook)
  • Moreton Island

Eeeh gad, I have neglected this thing. I'd be busy for the next 3 weeks trying to publish all of that on here. I doubt I'm funny enough to even keep you interested. We'll see which one is the most in demand. Vote now!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Fat Pics & Pregnancy Update

27 Weeks & 29 Weeks
Ok so not much is showing but you can tell I am getting fat. Especially in my face. I am pretty sure my face is the pregnancy and my stomach is just there for convenience.

30 Weeks. Not much changed except my hideous complexion and my new pooh bear cheeks.

33 Weeks. So you knew Avery could not go this whole time and resist taking naked pictures. I left out the porn shots. They are worth money and I don't need those porn companies knocking on my door making offers... seeings how I am so hot right now.

37 Weeks. Oh..there she is! She finally decided to show up mmmmbout 3 weeks before the due date. I was tempted to crop my face out of this one but I guess it can be recorded that pregnancy makes some people hideous for a second. I actually gave up trying to look remotely decent. I stopped looking in the mirror about a week ago. So hopefully these are the last pregnancy pics I will take. I am also hoping to deliver early as she has dropped completely into my pelvic girdle and is making it difficult to walk around. Doc said the baby's head is "one knuckle" in!!! Yikes. Does that mean she can just swim out with the breakage of my water? I've seen it on TV and TV never lies.
In all seriousness, we are getting pretty excited and nervous at the same time. I actually think the anxiety about labor has settled in. Is there a drug that makes it so you can leave your body and then be able to stand in the room and become one of the cheerleaders? Kinda like an out of body experience? Oh...that's right, its called CRACK. Ok, I guess I will settle for the epidural martini with a local skewer to garnish. This is not an after dinner party people! This is life in it's most gruesome beauty.
Wish us luck! (or at least me because we all know Avery will be in the corner with his DS volume muted and giving me the courteous "you're doing great baby, keep it up. Just let me know when I can cut the 'unbiblical' cord.") ;) I LOVE YOU MORE THAN YOU WILL EVER KNOW AVERY!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Bunya Mountains, no Bunyips around.

Early in August some mates and I went to a place in Queensland called the Bunya Mountains. This has been an annual trip for the last three years. I was fortunate to tag along this year. We ate, played games, hiked, played with parrots, wrote stories, and just relaxed for our time there. While we had hoped for some snow, we had a pleasant burst of weather that made the trip great. Well, the location and company made the trip great, but the weather helped.

Each of the meals for the trip was assigned to a team of chefs (usually 2 people). We ate like royalty. Well, we ate like what I think royalty would eat like... maybe with fancier dinnerware and stuff. We had tons of left over food. I must say the other blokes were very generous in their food offerings. This is the very first meal, which had two lasagnas, a shrimp pasta, and a vegetarian pasta. Yes, that's FOUR pastas for the SEVEN of us.

This was the view from the large porch of our cabin. We initially had two cabins, but consolidated to the one on Monday. Did I mention that we were there from Friday night until Wednesday? Yeah, it was 5 days of fun.

There are many plants and trees unique to Australia. I'm sure most people might recognise the bottletree, but I'm also pretty sure the Bunya pine (Araucaria bidwillii) is not as familiar. The tree is very large, with the branches only towards the upper portion. The tree is most known for the huge pine cones. The nuts in the cones are edible and very tastey. In fact, Aboriginal families used to claim trees and pass them down through the family. Every three years the local tribes would gather and forget past wrongs and disputes to harvest the nuts from the trees.

Another "tree" is the strangler fig (Ficus watkinsiana). This is a vine that produces seeds that the birds eat then poop out when they land in the trees. The seed sprouts and then becomes a vine that works its way back down to the ground, using the tree it began life on as support. Eventually the vine grows larger and chokes the tree until it dies. You can see in these pictures one tree that is still hanging on to life, and in the other where the inner tree has died and decayed away leaving a hollow tube.

In between all the terrific food prepared by the other guys I managed to introduce these Aussies to the wonder that is a smore. Thanks to my sister I was able to bring some real American graham crackers. We used Aussie marshmallows, which are much better than the ones in the US. We also found some chocolate that seemed to work okay. Not much in the way of Hershey bars around these parts.

The cabin was in a gated community where heaps of wallabies lived. They were everywhere. Some of them had little joeys in their pouches like this little jill. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get any good pictures of the joeys, they turned out rather blurry. There was quite a bit of wildlife around in addition to the wallabies, like large worms (think of a hot dog wiggling across a path through the forest), an antechinus, and especially birds.

I think a highlight of the trip for me was the chance to see very colorful birds. They sell bird seed to visitors who didn't happen to pack some for the trip. Somehow the birds show up within about 5 minutes after setting it out for them. Not just one bird, mind you, but flocks of them. We had all sorts showing up for some chow, and they were tame enough to actually hop onto your arm and eat out of your hand. They even pose for pictures sometimes.

The Crimson Rosella (Platycercus elegans) were the most common. They'd come in groups of a dozen or more, and there'd be one or two "alpha" birds that would push the others out of the way. We were fascinated by the hierarchy of birds that came to eat the seeds, not only between species but among birds of the same species as well. The bright red and blue guys were all males, as the females have a greenish tinge.

The Red-browed finch (Neochmia temporalis) was a bit harder to photograph. These little guys are so jumpy and skittish around the larger parrot birds. For a much better photograph check out this website. They went for the smaller seeds, and actually gathered underneath the deck to pick up the seeds the larger birds dropped through the cracks.

We also had a visit from a mating pair of King parrots (Alisterus scapularis). They were the largest birds to come eat our seeds, but we only had the one pair stop by. You will note that the male has a red head, and the female is all green. I wonder why the females are more green than the males. Hmm, things to ponder.

We ended on this meal. I mean, seriously, how can I feel like a student when this is what I'm eating? For my family reading this, you have no need to worry about whether or not I'm being fed. I can't actually remember what the dishes were, but one them is vegetarian. I'll have to seek some reminder help from those who made these wonderful meals.

There were heaps of plants around that were endemic to the area. Besides the Bunya Pine, ones that were particularly distinctive were the grass trees (Xanthorrhoea glauca). These plants grew from about 4 to 10 feet tall. You could tell that they had been around for a while, because the base is just the stumps of the grass that grows on the top kinda like the way coral grows. Thanks to Monica Pawlan for explaining the following on her website:
"Xanthorrhoea plants are also known as balga grass to the Australian aborigines, which is their word for black boy. The Aborigines probably called these plants balga because after a wild fire, the bottom leaves burn away revealing a singed black trunk with long green reed like leaves extending from the top of the trunk giving the appearance of child like black figures."

I'm not sure that the wallabies can actually read, but I thought it was nice of the folks to put a sign up so they would know where to cross the road. They even considered the poor, little, illiterate wallabys by putting a picture of their kind on the sign. Since I'm just a "tourist" in Australia, I decided not to break any laws and steal the sign, but if I ever get my residency...

What a wonderful weekend we all had. Definitely something I will always remember. Ta to all the guys who were a part of it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Love Creek, the epic-est hike so far in Australia

I've been in Australia for about 6 months now. So far I have been on almost a dozen hikes to various parts of Queensland. Not all of them would be considered serious hikes, being maybe a couple of kilometers at best. Fortunately I have made friends with some serious outdoors types. I had only to exercise a measure of patience before I was called upon to join them on something worthy of an excursion into the wilds. That time had come, and the hike was called Love Creek Falls.

This is the trail head to the hike we were about to undertake. In all the hike would be about 9-10 kilometers, but required scrambling up rocks, steep slopes, and navigating dangerous trickling creek beds. The first part of the hike, Greene's Falls was much drier than the last time we had hiked this portion of the trail.

Greene's Falls, was about 1.1km into our hike along Cedar Creek (caution - this link is a PDF file). Part of the hike is on this cool boardwalk. At the end of the boardwalk is a viewing area for those casual hikers that aren't into serious adventure. Alas, our fearless group was bound for greater glories. We hopped the railing of the viewing area to commence the manly portion of our hike this day. However, the falls you see in this picture didn't have quite so much water running over them during this particular hike. I grabbed a picture from a previous hike where we weren't so manly to show you what the falls look like.

Would you like to see my impression of what a drop-bear looks like just before it falls out of a tree? Luckily we didn't run across any of them during our hike. I guess they aren't very active during the winter months.

We selected this spot for our first major break, or "morning tea." None of us had any tea so I'm a bit confused why we called it that. I actually had a banana that I remembered to open like a monkey, some mango-flavoured macadamia nuts, and some water. This was about 1.5 hours into the hike, just after Cedar Creek joins into Love Creek.

I have to admit that most of the pictures from this hike were of the creek, waterfalls, or rocks. I was particularly fascinated by this waterfall because of the reflection on the pool at the bottom. Not quite a mirrored surface, but still effective. Nothing else special other than a pretty picture.

Love Creek falls were the highlight of the trip, and took us about two hours to get there. Half way done! Woo hoo! You can see the largest waterfall tucked away in the back. Unfortunately the lighting was horrible for pictures, either too bright or too dark. I think you can get the idea in this picture though. The falls were pretty large, but I can't tell you how tall they were exactly. I tried to find the information on the internet, but apparently this is more obscure a location than I thought. I'll send a reward to anyone who can find the height of the falls (with reliable source information.)

I was fascinated by this rock formation that we scrambled up on the way to the base of the falls. An almost perfectly square passageway framed by plants. You'd think it was a movie set or something. I was expecting Indiana Jones to come hopping back down being chased by savages, but that type of adventure remained only in my head. Well now it exists for you reading this in cyberspace. Ha ha, I infected you. Moving on...

There were quite a bunch of rocks that had a deep red color to them. When they were submerged in the creek they looked almost like a raw piece of meat sitting in the water. I couldn't get a good picture of the red rocks in the creek. This rock was obviously not submerged, but I was intrigued by the colors and textures. My geologist friends would probably tell me that the red color comes from iron deposits, but I'm by no means a geologist.

So after about 4-5 hours we finished our hike, the longest one I've done since I've arrived here. Lots of scrambling up rocks, but mostly just hiking along a creek. Beautiful country here in Australia. I'm just glad this time there were no leeches. Eep!

Note: This little guy chose me the last time we hiked in the area.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Queensland's Ren Fest

Last month some mates and I went to check out Queensland's answer to the Renaissance festival in the States. The Abbey Medieval festival was something cool to experience here because everyone already comes with an accent! They didn't have many fixed facilities, which I'll talk about later, except for a castle that looked like the one from Role Models.

One of the booths close to the entrance had this cool chance to make a coin. You take a round piece of metal, probably tin, and place it in a tube that sandwiches it between two stamps. Swing the hammer a couple of times and ... BAM! You got yourself a coin, buddy. I even got to do the work for a coin that is worth only the value of the metal. The guy made a dollar off me. Talk about having a license to print your own money.

We walked around looking at all the tents with stuff people had either made or brought to sell. They had heaps of food. My mate and I got this concoction, which ended up being just okay. Should have got the paella. What I liked most is the "environmentally friendly" cutlery and plates. Sure they were disposable forks, but they were made of some wood product. Fortunately I didn't get any splinters in my mouth.

We decided to check out the Turkish oil wrestling. They basically take some kind of oil (vegetable, olive, baby, motor) and pour it all over themselves. The object is to make yourself as slippery as you can so your opponent can't get a good hold of you. They wear a standard pair of shorts and end up jamming their arms into their opponents shorts and holding on to whatever they can get a grip on. The game is played a lot like wrestling where you try to pin your opponent, but you also get points for picking them up and walking three steps with them. Neither of these blokes won the day, although the guy on the left won the match.

After watching the male version of female jell-o wrestling, we wandered around to see the rest of the festival. Who'd have thought they'd have weapons at a medieval festival?

...and a big lady with a cannon. I'd post the picture I took just after she fired it, but I jumped like a morgue attendant seeing one of his customers sit up and ask for a light when I took it, and it came out all blurry.

Of course, you can't have a Medieval festival without jousting. They had balsa wood type lance, and got points depending on how many pieces their lance had shattered after ramming the opponents shield. Apparently getting three pieces is hard. This competition was unique in that half of the competitors were women. Let it not be said that Australian womens aren't tough.

The cool thing about this festival was that pretty much everything was little tents set up to show off peoples' wares. Unlike Maryland, the festival in Queensland has much more of a temporary, nomad feel to it. I liked how it seemed less commercial (although the whole festival is a commercial effort.) You had the sense people just decided to get together one weekend to relive a medieval lifestyle.

As we were walking out of the festival there was a fruit stand set up in the front of someone's home. I paid $6 (Australian) for this huge box of lovely strawberries. They had a good flavor and were pretty decently sized, a bit larger than walnuts. After a nice warm, sunny, winter day at the Medevial festival a few strawberries hit the spot.

I ended up using them to make this nice cheesecake with graham cracker crust. The blokes here loved it.

Easy No-Bake Cheesecake

1 graham cracker crust (graham crackers, sugar, butter)
1 pkg. of cream cheese (8 oz.)
1/2 cup sugar
1 pkg. of Cool Whip (8 oz.), or just whip some up using cream like I did for this.
1 tsp vanilla extract

Blend cream cheese and sugar together until smooth. Fold in Cool Whip. Again, blend until smooth. Pour mixture into ready made crust. Chill at least 2 hours. I also added some pre-made strawberry topping to the strawberries.