Hiding from the Heat and Dreaming of the Sea

A heat wave has hit, and I’m cowering in the shadows with the shades drawn, grateful that our home tends toward the cool.  I dislike hot weather, although I do handle it better than I did back when I had actual hormones coursing through my body, heating things up. I have to go start closing windows here, shortly, to hold back the heat. Air-conditioning is something we left behind in the U.S. Mostly it’s unnecessary. Perhaps even more than heat, I hate being closed up, so I don’t miss the A.C. too much. Yet.

After reading about how we just had the hottest October on record, worldwide, and 2015 looking to be the hottest year, I’m actually quite frightened. I lean more toward The Day After Tomorrow version of the end. You can always put on another sweater, but there are only so many clothes you can take off in public before getting arrested. Besides, I hear that hypothermia is one of the more pleasant ways to expire.

Even without the excess heat, it’s odd to see Christmas decorations and hear Frosty the Snowman playing in the Queen Victoria Building. We’re joining some other American immigrants next week for Thanksgiving dinner. I really hope it’s not too hot to bake the pies I’m in charge of. In a “we’re not in Kansas anymore” moment, it finally occurred to me that my husband doesn’t automatically get next Thursday off.

~

I’ve fallen behind on beach photos, so here ya go!

Collins Flats (1 of 1)

Several weeks ago, we visited Collins Flat beach, over on the harbor side of Manly. I have to say, that while we did manage to have a relaxing afternoon, I wasn’t impressed. The beach was somewhat littered, and the water smelled like fuel from the boats. Hmmm.  Not what I want on my skin, thank you. There are also no restrooms here. I think that only encourages people to pee in the water, something else I don’t want on my skin.

Manly (6 of 56)It was fun to watch the ice cream boat come in! Perhaps it would have been even more fun to eat ice cream, but I think we were attempting to be healthy that day. It didn’t last long, if I remember right; I think we stopped for burgers and beer on our way back to the ferry.

Manly (5 of 56)It’s always fun to watch the little ones! They don’t have to worry about catastrophic climate change yet.

Manly (4 of 56)I couldn’t watch these guys, though. I was sure someone was going to break their neck.

Manly (3 of 56)Don’t you wonder what people’s stories are? I hope those bruises came from learning to surf or extreme tango.

Manly (1 of 56)I like rocks. Massive rocks that say, “I am the Earth! I am your mother! Why do you kids have to cause so much trouble? I brought you into this world and I’ll take you out.”

 

Warning: Some viewers may find the following post long and winding

Over the course of the past 9 months, I’ve gone back and forth about what I want this blog to be. Is it merely a travelogue? Is it about the everyday reality of ex-patting, a word one of my American friends used the other day? (I looked it up on Urban Dictionary. It’s a verb. “v: Expatting, to expat. The act of moving to another country for the purpose of building a better life or a more fulfilling career.”)

When writing a blog, there is a fine line between telling one’s truth and over-disclosing. I find I’ve been going in the far opposite direction, only choosing to show the pretty bits. But that is not an authentic representation of what this experience is. Living in Australia is not all beautiful beaches and interesting flora and fauna. There is a danger, I believe, in thinking that when you move to another country, everything is going to be wonderful. Logic mind may tell you otherwise, but that magical thinking part of the brain thinks logic mind is full of shit.

First there is the issue of “wherever you are, there you are”. Any personal issues you had in your home country are going to be part of the baggage you check. My own issues with depression, while they remained unpacked for awhile, have made an appearance. Being so far away from everything and everyone familiar has made dealing with the depression more of a challenge.

Aside from the personal baggage you bring, there are minor inconveniences and adjustments, things no one tells you about before you arrive. For instance, I really wish I’d gotten in better shape before coming. While I actually love not having to worry about a car or driving, the amount of walking I do in a day quadrupled upon arrival here. While the rest of my body adapted fairly quickly, my feet struggled with it, and still do occasionally. I had severe pain in my feet for the first couple months. I learned that a quality walking shoe was imperative, even if it wasn’t fashionable. As I watch the fashion plates that are young Aussie women running around the city center in their towering heels, I lament the probability that I’ll never again be able to wear heels. My feet have also increased in size since arriving. I don’t know if that’s all the walking made them spread, or they’re just always swollen.

Depending on public transport is, for the most part, a relief from driving and the costs and tedium involved in owning a car. It’s fairly dependable; still it’s always good to allow extra time for busses that never show up if you have an appointment. We can walk out our front door and get most anywhere we want to go. While it takes only a few minutes to get into the city center, whether by bus or ferry, it does take quite awhile to get to any other area. That’s mostly because of where we chose to live. If we were closer to a train station, it would be different. So that has been an adjustment. When I start to fret, I just remember that when I lived in Dallas a million years ago, it would take an hour to travel what should have taken twenty minutes without traffic. There are some places that public transport doesn’t go to, like the Ku-Ring-Gai National Park, and we can’t very well go looking for kangaroo from a bus.

The whole issue surrounding material objects has been a learning experience. Letting go of most of our belongings was hard. Still, now that I look around at what we brought, I wish we’d stored more of it at home. When we came, we didn’t have a good idea of how long we’d be here. Then, we were open to the idea of extending our visa, staying longer than three years, and so brought what we thought we might need. Now, when I contemplate replacing items we didn’t bring, I think of how I don’t want to pay to ship it back (because now I intend to go back sooner rather than later), and if it’s anything that runs on current, it will have to stay here.

Not having what I need at my fingertips has been a frustration. There are so many little things like gardening gloves or a box to mail something, that I used to have lying around. Now it’s not only an effort to go source these items, everything costs so much more than I expect. When we first arrived, and I had only had a quick look around, I thought prices were comparable. That was before I started trying to replace necessary items.

Quality is also hard to find. I went to the local craft store to find a plastic, compartmented box to hold my crafty supplies. They had one style and it cost $45 on sale. The lid wouldn’t stay on long enough to get to the bus stop. I debated taking it back, but knew that was about as good as I was going to find for less than $100, so decided to make do. That kind of sucks.

Language issues also pop up when I’m on the hunt for stuff. I went out the other day, looking for index cards. I’m in the process of writing a novel and want cards to keep track of notes and research. They aren’t called index cards here and I had no idea what they were called. Trying to explain what I wanted and why was an exercise in not losing my cool. You can’t just go to a grocery store and pick up a pack like you can in the U.S. The office supply store I went to didn’t even sell them. I had to go to a news agency, the place you buy magazines and newspapers.

Language can be fun, too. An electrician is a sparky. That just makes me happy for some reason. Tall, good looking sparkies make me happy too, but I can’t write that here in case my husband reads this.

Another adjustment comes in the form of customer service. The idea we have in the U.S. of “the customer is always right” doesn’t exist here. In most of the smaller shops I’ve had a wonderful experience; the people are lovely and so happy to have you in their shop. It’s in the bigger institutions that the trouble starts, specifically with rentals. Housing is so competitive here, that the property managers and owners pretty much have you over a barrel.

Since moving into our place, we’ve struggled with rain pouring down the walls, a horrific mold infestation, a random man that shows up in our locked courtyard once a week, and an ongoing, really frightening problem of experiencing an electric shock while showering. The property management’s response to all of this is, “it’s not happening. We’ve managed this property for twenty years and this has never been a problem before, therefore it must not be a problem now.”

When we first signed up for internet, the provider decided to change my husband’s name to Neil. They refused to change it to his correct name unless he brought his passport to the “customer service” department. After spending over an hour with them, trying to prove he was Craig, not Neil, they still didn’t change it. They kept mailing equipment to our house, but delivery required Neil’s signature and it had to be checked against his I.D.

The biggest issue I’ve faced in coming here has been isolation. Being a writer means I spend a lot of time alone, without the benefit of workmates, and making Aussie friends has proven to be difficult. When we first came, I purposely did not join any ex-pat groups. I didn’t want to isolate myself within the American ex-pat community; I wanted to assimilate. That’s a lot harder to do than you’d think. From what I’ve observed and from what I hear from the ex-pats I have gravitated to, it seems to be an issue of both culture and my age group.

Culturally, Australians tend toward a very friendly, gregarious personality, and socializing is a major past-time. They’ll strike up a conversation at the bus stop, and when we see familiar faces at the farmers market, they’re keen to chat, but more formal socializing is generally kept within an established group that they’ve known all their lives, and seems to be centered around family groups.

Age-wise, I’ve looked into various meet-up groups and they tend to be geared to or dominated by young people. There is a local community center that I thought might be an option. All the programming is for senior citizens. I feel lost and invisible in the middle of all this. I think it’s important to associate with people of all age groups, but I do want all the age groups represented. I think the young people would be just as uncomfortable with me there as I would be, and I don’t have the proper card yet to join the senior citizen groups.

The cost of everything adds to the isolation. It makes it hard to go places and see things. I end up feeling trapped at home, which in turn contributes to the depression. If I go back to that Urban dictionary definition – “The act of moving to another country for the purpose of building a better life” – from a financial aspect, our quality of life has decreased, especially since the Aussie dollar has dropped 30% since we came (it’s not our fault!)

If I look at life quality from a non-material point of view, it’s improved. I’m more active, partly out of necessity (no car) and also because there is so much to see and do. In the U.S. I didn’t feel an urgency to do touristy things, and as a result, I left there not ever having seen the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone Park, even though each were less than a nine hour drive away. Because I have a timeline here, I’m out exploring as much as I can on the budget. When we do go out to eat, there is more ready access to good food, and we have quick and easy access to natural places.

The second part of the definition, about building a more fulfilling career, definitely rings true. If not for this complete upset of the status quo, I don’t know if I would have been able to focus enough to build my writing career. Back in Utah, I was too distracted by my zillions of craft projects and the upkeep of house and garden; add in the bone deep inertia I’d cultivated, and I wasn’t ever going to succeed. Since being here, I’ve made great strides forward in both my freelance business and in my fiction writing.

Even through the tough parts, I do not regret coming here, and I am definitely not ready to go back just yet. Friend and family connections will eventually take me back to the U.S. and when I go, I’ll miss Australia and the friends I’ve made here. This place, for all its frustrating bits, is a beautiful and wild country, full of beautiful people, and I’m told there are even kangaroos.

Wandering Sydney CBD

rockpool bar and grill and cbd (10 of 11)Often on a Friday afternoon, I like to journey into the city for a shot of vitality. Sydney’s personality is vivacious; you can feel the energy flow up and down the sidewalks with the rush of people. It’s a bit of caffeine for my soul. And the tall buildings give me the same grounded feeling that I got from mountains in the western U.S.

rockpool bar and grill and cbd (4 of 11)I met up with a photographer friend. She had some specific shots she needed, so we headed over to the Rockpool Bar & Grill for a glass of wine. I thought, bar and grill, ok, that probably fits my budget.

rockpool bar and grill and cbd (3 of 11)Upon entering, it was immediately obvious that I was not in my element. I felt really out of place in my $3 off-the-sale-rack Kohl’s dress, as all the other women were wearing the Sydney uniform of black dress with black high heeled ankle booties.

rockpool bar and grill and cbd (1 of 11)They have rules for behavior in the front of the menu book. Luckily, since I’m not a gentleman, I didn’t feel the need to behave.

rockpool bar and grill and cbd (2 of 11)These chicken wings were icky, but I don’t like chicken wings, so my opinion doesn’t count there. The ginger sauce on them smelled good. The wine was $16 for the cheapest glass. I checked, and that’s about what a bottle of the same wine would have cost at the bottle shop. I guess I’m just not an uptown girl!

rockpool bar and grill and cbd (1 of 2)The building itself and the decor was exquisite.

rockpool bar and grill and cbd (6 of 11)The restaurant is housed in the City Mutual Building, built in 1936, and designed by architect Emil Sodersten. It is heritage listed because of it’s art deco style, and when constructed, was the city’s tallest skyscraper.

The beauty of the architecture helped me to forget my discomfort at being under-dressed. I enjoyed the wine and the company. All in all, it was a good visit to the city.

 

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!

Festival of the Winds – Let’s Go Fly a Kite at the Beach

Festival of the Winds (1 of 13)The sun is out, the days are warm, and the time has come to shed the shackles of winter. Sydney turned out in droves – droves I say! – for the Festival of the Winds at Bondi Beach on Sunday. We traveled to Bondi Junction by bus and train.  At the train station, the line for the bus on to the beach was an hour or more wait, so we gave up and took a taxi.  With all the traffic, it still took over 30 minutes to drive 4 kilometers.

Festival of the Winds (9 of 13)It was worth it though, because the primary reason for our excursion, aside from serious cabin fever, was to meet our new friends from the U.S., Tami, Jeff, Lexy, and Austin.  They arrived in Sydney just a few days ago, to make Australia their home.

Festival of the Winds (7 of 13)The kites were fantastic.

Festival of the Winds (11 of 13) I’ve never in my life seen so many kites in one place.

Festival of the Winds (4 of 13)There were dragons, sea animals, a pirate ship, and endless more variety. This appears to be a rite of spring here in Sydney; it’s been going on for over 35 years.

Festival of the Winds (2 of 2)Some people would have been better off watching the kites instead of sleeping!

Festival of the Winds (13 of 13)When’s the last time you flew a kite?

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!

Freelance Article on Fermentation

freelancewriterarticleonfermentation (1 of 2)Kombucha sampling at Wild Kombucha in Leichhardt

I am so thrilled to have published my article covering the local fermentation scene in the Sydney Inner West’s Ciao Magazine. Fermented foods and beverages have been a big part of my own diet and quest for health for a few years now. Upon arriving in Sydney, I was pleased to discover that there is a good size community of fermentos (people who ferment) here.  And although I set out simply to write about fermentation and the people who were doing it in the area, what I discovered is that it is very much about community building and nurturing. It further strengthened my own belief that our journey to a healthy society is going to be a group effort.

Read the full article, Fermenting a Community, here!

freelancewriterarticleonfermentation (2 of 2)Massive kombucha SCOBYs at Egg of the Universe in Rozelle

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:)

At Long Last

shipment arrival (1 of 5)I was awake this morning before the sun. As I opened my eyes and adjusted to consciousness, I was filled with the absolute joy of a child who knows that this day really is Christmas. You know that magic feeling, as you slowly start to remember your name and where you exist in the world. Then, the realization dawns that downstairs there is an evergreen tree covered in tiny, twinkling colored lights.

shipment arrival (5 of 5)Beneath that tree are presents wrapped in gorgeous paper. Surprises! Because you have no idea what’s inside.

shipment arrival (3 of 5)Being reunited with familiar friends brings me a feeling of home that I have not felt in so very long.  It was fun to see what was in those boxes.  There are many things that I’d forgotten about.  And to be completely honest, as I unwrapped handful after handful of cutlery and serving utensils, I realized it’s more than I need.  But hey!  Next time I need a big spoon or a spatula, I have one!

shipment arrival (4 of 5)The house back in Salt Lake had a very particular musty odor that we only noticed upon returning from travels.  As I dig through these boxes, that smell comes wafting out.  While not the most pleasant of aromas, it does bring back many fond memories.  Also, it occurs to me that if the stuff in these boxes smells like that house, then we probably smelled like that too when we lived there!  Our clothes, anyway.

I’m exhausted after unpacking and washing a kitchen full of dishes (and caressing and speaking to each piece).  I know it’s time to quit, if not for the night, at least long enough to eat some dinner, but there are still boxes to open!  Treasures to discover.  I still need to find the bathroom scales and my boots and……