Say Yes to Life

cooks river greenway birds freelance writer (28 of 31)I’ve enjoyed writing for local Ciao Magazine, because it gets me out seeing places and meeting people that I never would otherwise. Last week, I was working on a piece about bicycle paths in the Inner West. I needed to go take photos, but was really not motivated to do it. I had a cold, I’d recently hurt my back, and all I really wanted to do was curl up with an ice pack and a glass of bourbon. Instead, I grabbed my camera and hopped on the bus. I’m so glad I did.

cooks river greenway birds freelance writer (2 of 31)My first stop was at a section of the GreenWay, a green corridor from Iron Cove down to Cooks River, where there are some existing bike paths, and the local councils are working on putting in more. I didn’t see a single bike rider here, but I did see drunk Santa passed out under a tree! I never would have got to see that if I’d stayed home!

cooks river greenway birds freelance writer (14 of 31)My next stop was Cooks River.  I was wandering down the path waiting for cyclists to go by, when I spotted something up ahead in the distance. Birds! More specifically, Great Cormorants.

plastic covered cormorant (1 of 1)It wasn’t until I was home and looking at my photos, that I saw this poor guy covered in plastic. I had noticed an incredible amount of garbage floating in the river. I called the wildlife rescue for that area, and they said they’d send somebody over to look.  I hope they were able to help him. I never did hear anything back.

cooks river greenway birds freelance writer (6 of 8)Continuing my bicycle-turned-bird walk, I came across something that did make me squeal out loud. I’m glad there weren’t many people out that day. This is my first ever sighting of a Royal Spoonbill! I’m going back with my telephoto lens to get some better pics. Maybe I’ll drag the husband along, too.

cooks river greenway birds freelance writer (8 of 8)I stalked this Australian Pelican for quite a way down the river, until he got weary of me and flew off. I was fiddling with my camera settings and completely missed him swallowing a mouthful of fish.

cooks river greenway birds freelance writer (7 of 31)This is a Purple Swamphen. I never knew there was such a thing.

bike ride freelance writer (3 of 4)Later in the week, in the course of an interview, I was asked to go on a bike ride. I’ve been on a bike only once in the last 21 years, and that was two years ago when Salt Lake blocked off downtown streets for their Open Streets event. The thought of riding in Sydney scared the crap out of me, so at first I gave excuses of why I couldn’t do it. I don’t have a bike; I’m on deadline. Well, she had an extra bike. Something inside me sparked and said, “say yes to life!” I took her up on her offer.  That is definitely something I would not have done if not for that assignment. What started out as research for an article, turned out to be a chance for me to overcome fear, and I felt like superwoman afterwards!

Visiting the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney

RoyalBotanicGardens (3 of 23)September 1st is considered the first day of spring down here in Australia. In celebration, I wandered over to the Royal Botanic Gardens, where the new season was certainly putting on a show.  I’m making an effort to take myself on a field trip each week and write about it here. One of my biggest fears is that our time here will come to a close and we’ll not have really experienced the place.

RoyalBotanicGardens (18 of 23)I chose the gardens this week as I’m trying to connect physically with Australia, and understand the cycle of nature here. I’ve found in the past that I do form a better connection with a locality once I am familiar with the natural environment. I didn’t grow to love Utah until I read Terry Tempest Williams’ Refuge, and made that journey out to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge myself.

RoyalBotanicGardens (9 of 23)The seasons are still really confusing to me. I keep thinking it’s April.

RoyalBotanicGardens (5 of 23)I’m curious to learn about the native Australian plants, and what blooms when. At the Gardens, there is a mixture of native and imported plants, and not all of the plants have identifying markers. I did find it curious that I’m so focused on knowing which ones are natives, because most of the plants I’ve always associated with spring, were not native to the U.S., but rather Europe and Asia. I guess it’s part of wanting to understand the natural environment, the real Australia before Europeans showed up.

RoyalBotanicGardens (4 of 23)Prior to 1788 when the First Fleet arrived in Australia, the land where the Royal Botanic Gardens are now, was used as a ceremonial ground by the Cadigal people. They held initiation ceremonies to mark the coming of age of their young men. When the British arrived they cleared the land to make way for their social experiment, killed kangaroos, and by August had almost depleted fish from the harbor. Farm Cove was planted and houses built up around the area.

RoyalBotanicGardens (20 of 23)In 1807, Governor Bligh had the houses removed, and then when Governor Macquarie and his wife came along, they began building walls and making a private English parkland type area, only available to what he referred to as the respectable class of inhabitants of the area. The Botanic Garden was established by 1816,

RoyalBotanicGardens (16 of 23)The botanist Charles Fraser was appointed Government Colonial Botanist in 1821. After Fraser’s death in 1831, it seems that there was a string of short lived Colonial Botanist assignments. Richard Cunningham was clubbed to death in 1835 after serving for two years. Allen Cunningham lasted less than a year, being appointed Colonial Botanist and Superintendent in February and resigning in December, and died soon after. Then came James Anderson as Superintendent in 1838, until he died in 1842. Nasmith Robertson was superintendent from 1842-1844 when he…wait for it!… died. Is it just me, or does this position seem cursed?

RoyalBotanicGardens (22 of 23)Charles Moore came on as director in 1848. He lasted several years. He also introduced regulations prohibiting, according to the RBG website, “all persons of reputed bad character…persons who are not cleanly and decently dressed…. and all young persons not accompanied by some respectable adult.” It sounds an awful lot like Temple Square in Salt Lake City.

RoyalBotanicGardens (23 of 23)Over the years, many varieties of plants were imported from Europe. The gardens saw an herbarium, an aviary, a zoo, and an insectarium all added to the grounds. The zoo and aviary are long gone. Many of these Moreton Bay Figs remain, which are over 100 years old.

RoyalBotanicGardens (2 of 5)When I saw this statue out of the corner of my eye, I had to laugh when I realized that the first thought that registered was that he was checking his phone.

RoyalBotanicGardens (7 of 23)I only touched on a portion of the gardens, completely missing the Cadi Jam Ora, or First Encounters garden walk, where I would have learned about those native species I was looking for. I also didn’t have time to view the herb garden. The Royal Botanic Gardens are free to visit and are open year-round. A variety of events take place in the gardens, and there are free and for-a-fee tours that you can join. There is a lovely gift shop where you can buy Australian native seeds. The park boasts a cafe and a restaurant, and the Growing Friends propagate plants for sale. I’ll be going back for sure!

Sunny Memories

We are in the death grip of winter down here, and while I am grateful that there is no snow on the ground (there was frost this week in some local areas) and it is not 104°F like I heard it was back in Utah last week, it is cold here.  And it is damp.  That’s the worst of it.  The damp breeds mold, which even after obtaining a dehumidifier I’m still cleaning off the ceilings and walls.  Apparently wicker is extra susceptible to mold.  I didn’t know this.  I do now, and have had to dispose of a favored straw tote, three perfectly good wicker baskets that I used for organizing my art and craft supplies, plus a large wicker clothes hamper.  I discovered them all yesterday looking like something forgotten in the nether regions of the refrigerator.

As the sky threatens more rain, I’m choosing to remember a warmer, sunnier day when we journeyed south to Bundeena.  Come on; let’s go!

Bundeena-(1-of-16)We took the train down to Cronulla, on the coast, and from there hopped a small ferry across the water to the village of Bundeena.

Bundeena-(2-of-16)How would you like to live there?

Bundeena-(4-of-16)We walked through the village, skipping the Sunday Art Trail this time around, on our way to the beach and coastal walk.  Along the way, we discovered this poinsettia tree.  Can you imagine those potted Christmas-time plants you buy getting this big?  I was always lucky if the leaves would even stay on.

Bundeena-(5-of-16)Royal National Park, established in 1879 is the second-oldest national park in the world.  Bundeena sits right up against the park, and the coastal walk cuts through the forest.

Bundeena-(8-of-16)It was exciting to view rock carvings created by the Dharawal people, the first inhabitants of the area.

Bundeena-(10-of-16)It was easy to imagine the Dharawal people looking out over a similar landscape.

Bundeena-(11-of-16)Peering back at the village.

Bundeena-(12-of-16)The views were food for the soul.

Bundeena-(14-of-16)We made our way to the point of Jibbon Head that looks out to sea.  Gazing out in the distance, I saw a patch of water that was behaving differently than the water around it.  Then I realized it was a whale tail!  Soon after we saw spouts.  Our first and only whale spotting was a spiritual experience for me.

[An aside – we went on a whale watching cruise a couple weeks ago.  It was a rainy, stormy day, but the boat was going out anyway, and we were game.  We didn’t see a single whale, but we did have a whale of a roller coaster ride in that boat, riding up and down the waves!  Some people didn’t enjoy the ride quite so much. The cruise company gave us vouchers to return again in hopes of seeing whales.  We’re going to try again this Friday. ]

Bundeena-(16-of-16)As the sun set on a beautiful day, we made our way back to the ferry.  While on the ride back, we were discussing options for eating dinner in Cronulla or back in Balmain.  A woman sitting beside us said, “oh we’re going to dinner in Cronulla; come with us!”  Australians are just so cool.

Downton Abbey Down Under

I admit, I’ve really been sucking at this whole blogging thing.  In an effort to get back on track, I’m going back several weeks in my photo inventory to bring you the Vaucluse House.  I’m pretty sure it was the sheer quantity of photos I took and then needed to process that has caused me to put this off for so long! My fascination with Australian history has urged me on, however.

Vaucluse House (66 of 69)The Vaucluse House is one of the original manor houses in Sydney.  It began life as a small, stone cottage in 1803, built for Sir Henry Brown Hayes.  In 1827, William Charles Wentworth purchased the property.

Vaucluse House (48 of 69)Wentworth was born in Australia in 1790, shortly after his mother who was convicted of theft arrived in Sydney aboard the Neptune.  His father, who escaped conviction for highway robbery in England, also traveled on the same ship.  While the senior Wentworth went on to become a prominent and wealthy member of the colony, the family was never accepted into the gentry because of their convict past.

Vaucluse House (61 of 69)Young Wentworth was bitter over this fact. Still, he went on to become an influential man.  He was a lawyer, politician, writer, and was part of the first European crossing of the Blue Mountains.

Vaucluse House (14 of 69)Vaucluse House was built for Wentworth’s wife, Sarah Cox, whose parents also arrived aboard a convict ship.  She kept a tight ship herself of the estate and their family.  Even with the big fancy house and lots of money, she, too, suffered isolation because of their past.  And, oh, apparently two of their children were born before she and Wentworth actually got married.

Vaucluse House (16 of 69)As I strolled through the rooms, they became peopled by my imagination.  I find it fascinating to think of the individuals who sat in these chairs, and the servants who leaned in to offer plates of food, while attempting to be invisible.

Vaucluse House (17 of 69)What letters were written at this table?  Love letters?  Mystery, intrigue, orders for more convict servants to work the estate?

Vaucluse House aprons (1 of 1)What maids scurried down this hall?  Is that a breeze that just ruffled the aprons or a ghost?

Vaucluse House (8 of 69)My dream table.

Vaucluse House (6 of 69)I whined for four months about not having my kitchen tools.  This makes me both appreciate my sharp knives and wonder what it was like to chop parsley in the late afternoon light with this tool.

Vaucluse House (5 of 69)I kept thinking of Downton Abbey as I walked through this grand house, especially when in the domains of the servants.  I find them more interesting.  Just imagine the stories that were witnessed by this majestic stove!

I do have a zillion more pics, some of questionable quality.  I’ve put them over on Flickr if you want to continue wandering the halls and gardens of this exquisite estate. Click here to see them:)

A Mother’s Day Excursion

Palm Beach(12 of 13)Continuing in my effort to visit every single beach in the Sydney area, and to document each and every wave, we set off on Mother’s Day to visit our primordial mother, the Sea.

bus tripOur adventure began with a ferry ride to Manly, where we picked up a bus going north, with one quick transfer.  It was about an hour’s ride along the coast, with gorgeous water views along the way, interspersed with woodsy areas and homes surrounded by trees and gardens.  I noticed the air change as we traveled north; it took on a woody aroma.

Palm Beach5 of 13)We took the bus as far as it would go and landed at Palm Beach.

Palm Beach13 of 13)Our original plan had been to hike up to Barren Joey Lighthouse,

Palm Beach(11 of 13)but there were no waves up there!

Palm Beach (9 of 13)I’m pretty sure between the two of us, we took about seventy-five million photos.

Palm Beach(7 of 13)Don’t get your camera wet!

Palm Beach (2 of 13)While a little chilly for swimming, it was still a beautiful day for the beach.  In contrast to Bondi and other more popular beaches, this one was mostly deserted.  There were a few families there picnicking and playing in the sand.  I got overly nervous about little kiddos too close to that surf.

Palm Beach(3 of 13)This sneaky fellow was pretending he wasn’t just snooping through our bags!

Palm Beach (10 of 13)It was one of those perfect, peaceful days when you can just feel the serotonin whooshing through your brain and you thank the Universe for putting you here.

Are you tired of beaches yet?

Three Month Mile-marker and Another Beach

It’s hard to believe, but we have been in Sydney for just over three months.  It feels both like we just got here and like we’ve been here forever.  Our shipment has still not arrived.  Well, let me rephrase that; it hasn’t been delivered to us.  Our bed and my kitchen is in Sydney.  In quarantine.  They do that.  It should be released soon and I’ll be doing a happy Christmas-in-May dance while I unpack the boxes and discover just what I put in there besides a bed and cooking utensils.

It’s been weeks since I’ve posted here, I know.  I’ve been up to something I’m sure.  Let me see…. we’ve been visiting and been visited by fun friends.  We had our first American sort-of-guests.  Our Utah friends’ son and his girlfriend borrowed our floor.  Unfortunately for them, they arrived the week of the worst storm in a decade here.  For three days we had gale force winds and rain falling in sheets from the sky.  I’ve seen Texas rainstorms, Iowa rainstorms, and blizzards from Utah to Wisconsin, but I’ve never seen a storm like this one.  We are still trying to dry out in here.  I had to wipe the walls down, it was that wet.  Thankfully the sun came out again.  At last.

I’ve been in a really good writing zone, finished two short stories.  The rain helped with that!  Nothing like being shut up for days to get you in the writing mood.

It’s been over a month now since I’ve been to a beach!  This Sunday is looking promising.  I do hope so, because I’m having withdrawals something fierce.  So, on that note, I’ll share more of March’s beach visits with you!

Coogee and Wylie's Baths (9 of 13)I set out one day to visit the McIver’s Baths at Coogee (I love the names of places here!), the only remaining women and children only ocean pool.  Wouldn’t you know, I went on the day they were revamping the pool.  So, I trekked on down a ways to Wylie’s Baths.  I did have to pay $4.80 to get in, but it was worth it.

Coogee and Wylie's Baths (7 of 13)The pool is located just south of Coogee beach in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.  It sits in the rocks overlooking the open sea.  There is plenty of room to sun yourself, and there are also shady spots with rocks, benches, and even chairs to lounge upon.

Coogee and Wylie's Baths (1 of 13)It was a warm day and the water was perfect.

Coogee and Wylie's Baths (5 of 13)It fit my specifications because I could swim laps (ha ha!) and watch the waves.

Coogee and Wylie's Baths (4 of 13)The bottom of the pool was a bit rough.  I discovered I’d drifted into more shallow water when I scraped the top of my foot across the rocks.  Oh and apparently a sea urchin.  I found the tiny tip of a spine sticking out of my toe when I got home.

Coogee and Wylie's Baths (11 of 13)You can’t deny it’s a beautiful setting, though.  As I was walking back to the bus, I kept having to stop for one more peek at the views.

Coogee and Wylie's Baths (12 of 13)A smaller ocean bath is situated just off of Coogee Beach.  This one appears to be free admission.  It is a lot smaller.

Coogee and Wylie's Baths (13 of 13)Having a tough time tearing myself away from the water, I stopped to watch the surfers and swimmers at Coogee Beach before I left.  (Shh!  Don’t tell anyone, but I have a secret fantasy of being an old lady surfer one day.)

I only have one more beach up my sleeve to share with you.  I should do that before Sunday, because I have every intention of taking advantage of the $2.50 travel cap and adding another beach to my collection.  I seriously doubt we’ll be swimming!

A Trip to Shelly Beach

manly and shelly beach (1 of 12)Our journey to Shelly Beach began with a ferry ride, another perk of visiting the northern beaches.  I fully support adding as much water to the day as possible and the views from Sydney Harbour are enchanting.

sailboats (1 of 1)Does this look like work or fun to you?

manly and shelly beach (3 of 12)Shelly Beach is a short walk south of Manly Beach, with some interesting views along the way.  This fellow was doing push ups.

manly and shelly beach (4 of 12)I was curious and concerned about these padlocks and especially the pacifiers we saw attached to the fence along the way.  A Google search after returning home allayed my fears.  The locks are love locks, a tradition, according to Wikipedia, dating back to WWI in Serbia.  Today, young lovers (or old, I suppose) attach the padlocks as both a proclamation of and a talisman to protect their love.  The pacifiers seem to be from couples hoping for babies.

manly and shelly beach (5 of 12)All kinds of folk visit Shelly Beach.   Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve is there along the walk.

manly and shelly beach (7 of 12)While Manly Beach has its surf, Shelly’s waters are more calm.  It’s a protected cove with mellow waves.  (Lisa, it’s good for families and others who don’t want to drown.)

manly and shelly beach (6 of 12)There is a lot of interesting stuff going on at both Shelly and Manly beaches.  This guy and his mate were showing off for their female companions.  They raised their bodies into the air using only their upper body muscles.  They didn’t jump into this position; they slowly lifted themselves up.

manly and shelly beach (9 of 12)This area is popular with scuba divers and snorkelers.

manly and shelly beach (8 of 12)The Fairy Bower pool is situated between Manly and Shelly beaches.  We didn’t go in here, but it looked fun.

manly and shelly beach (10 of 12)These young naturalists were having an exploration.

manly and shelly beach (11 of 12)Now I have to say, this fellow wasn’t displaying very manly behavior to those cold waves.  Ok, I’m just mean, but really, if you’re gonna wear a suit like that (excuse me, bathing costume) you need to live up to the hype.

manly and shelly beach (12 of 12)Another one to be filed under “only in Australia”.  This lady managed to completely change out of her clothes and into her swimming costume all underneath that blue wrap, without flashing anyone.  I was impressed.

manly and shelly beach (2 of 12)I still have photos from Bondi Beach and Coogee, and there are so many more beaches to visit!  It’s starting to get a bit cool for swimming, but whale watching season is coming and we have our whale cruise tickets ready.

More Sydney Beaches – Bronte Beach

Bronte Beach (15 of 20)After being landlocked for so many years, I find I cannot get enough of the sea. Craig calls me obsessed as the weekend rolls around and I say, “oh guess where we’re going, honey!”  You can travel all over the damn place here on a Sunday for no more than $2.50 for the entire day. That’s a lot of beaches to visit, and I’m working on seeing them all.

Bronte Beach (13 of 20)A few weeks ago, we went to Bronte Beach, one of the beaches of the eastern suburbs.

Bronte Beach (19 of 20)It was a windy day, with lots of surf.  We thought we’d just dip our toes in.  After being slammed into the sand a few times, I insisted I’d had enough!  As much as I wanted to swim, I knew that was beyond my abilities.

Bronte Beach (10 of 20)Those waves belonged to the surfers.

bronte calm (1 of 1)After getting ourselves settled in the sand, we noticed that further south down the beach was this more sheltered area.  There is a rock break that helps create the larger waves to the north of it, while holding back the surf to the south end of the beach.  It was perfect for floating and bobbing in smaller, more manageable waves, great for families with children and others who would rather not drown.

Just on the other side of this is a salt water lap pool built into the rocks.  We didn’t swim there, and for some odd reason I didn’t even take a photo of it.  I was too busy watching the waves from a safe vantage point!

Up next – Shelly Beach:)

 

 

Checking In

Balmain (4 of 12)I seem to have gone missing from the page.  It’s amazing how time can slip away when you’re not looking.  It’s a good thing though.  I’ve been busy writing, getting to know our new home, and nesting as best one can do in an empty space.

We are enjoying our little village where we live, right across the harbor from the city center.  A couple weekends ago, Balmain had two events scheduled that we wanted to attend.  One was an open artist studio tour, and the other was Second Hand Saturday, a group of garage sales all over town.  We looked at the maps for both the events and plotted out where we wanted to go: a few art studios, and along the way maybe we’d find a couple more dining room chairs to carry home.

Balmain (1 of 12)The open studio tour was aptly named LOST (Leichhardt Open Studio Tour) because get lost is pretty much what we did.  Not exactly lost, but distracted like we do.  We did have a great time wandering around, discovering gorgeous parks just steps away from where we live.

Balmain (2 of 12)I was having a grand time exploring all the plant life.

Balmain (5 of 12)I was trying to get artistic with this fern when Craig said, “um..Bobbi…um…step away slowly.” So of course I whipped around to see….

Balmain (6 of 12)this monster.

Balmain (7 of 12)He’s actually quite pretty.  And that web was ginormous.

Balmain  (1 of 1)We kept walking and pretty soon we found this one.  I couldn’t get it to show up in the photo, but he looked like he had a golden clasp right there in the middle of him.  He resembled an expensive gold and enamel brooch.

Balmain (10 of 12)This is where we want to live next.  Or not.  I can just imagine how many spiders are in there!

Balmain (11 of 12)We saw the most insane dog ever in the world.

Balmain (12 of 12)The only thing on the L.O.S.T. list we got to was this demonstration of street art in the making.  I’m sure these three are future spray can enthusiasts.  We never did find a garage sale.  We spent too much time with the spiders!

our shipMore good news; our ship finally sailed, and I figured out how to track it.  This was its last recorded position yesterday.  Our bed and my kitchen are headed to Taiwan, apparently.  That’s progress!

Top Ten Things I Miss (that are still in a port in California)

These are the objects I find myself missing the most:

1. My cookbooks
2. My salad spinner
3. My bed

Oh! Wait! No, bed is #1.

Start over.

1. My bed
2. Salad spinner
3. Cookbooks

Oh, no. Hold on. I miss my cookbooks more than I miss the salad spinner, but I NEED the salad spinner more than the cookbooks.

I’ll try again.

bed1. A really comfortable bed

cookbooks12. All my cookbooks, even the ones I left at my son’s house, and the ones I gave away or sold in the yard sale. I want to sit and look at pictures of pretty pastries and cakes and other things I shouldn’t be eating.

3. My salad spinner. Wow, I just realized that I was imagining in my head my old red and white salad spinner instead of my newer, bright green, and better salad spinner. It’s been so long, I am forgetting what I own.

4. The rest of my knitting needles so I can start more WIPs. I brought my best yarn with me.

bowls5. Pretty bowls, so I can make giant salads, mix bread, and even set one on the counter with fruit in it. Oh yes! That really pretty blue pottery bowl that Craig bought for me at the SLC farmers market!  I miss that one!

6. All the books I was in the middle of reading, since I am incapable of reading one book at a time or actually finishing a book before I start another.

linens7. Kitchen, bath, and bed linens. I really need more than one hand towel, and some placemats would be fabulous. Here they have a store called Bed, Bath, and Table. They forgot the Beyond.

vase

typewriter8. umm…. well…. oh I know! That pretty turquoise vase, and my Underwood typewriter, because I like to look at it. The ribbon needs re-inked, then I could use it.

9. I guess that’s it. Eight things.

The top eight things I miss, that are still in a port in California (and tentatively scheduled to sail on March 14. Of this year.  I hope. God, I hope they meant this year!)

****

This blog post was a bad idea.  As I was searching through my photo archives for appropriate pics, I realized that what I miss isn’t these things, (well sorta) but what I really miss is my home and my family and my friends, my friends who are my family, and Utah, yes, I even miss Utah.

This act of giving up so much to get some other thing you really want is hard.  The conflicting emotions stretch me across the world.  I want to be here in Sydney; I love it here.  AND I miss everything and everybody I left behind.  AND I love the new people we’ve found here.  And the sea, and the shops, and the coffee, and the birds, and the cafes.