[Australian Pelican] [Rainbow Lorikeet (Medindie Lane)] [Overlooking Cape Bruny from just below Mt. Mangan Summit] [Female Tassie Devil]

Australian Journal - May - July 2005

May 1-16, 2005 - Back to School: Sunday was another beautiful fall day, so we decided to take a trip down to the McLaren Vale, to see if there was any fall color in the vineyards. We stopped at the Driden Fine Arts Studio for a look around, then looped through the McLaren Flat. Along the way, we noticed the Aldinga Turkey Kitchen and realized this was where our Thanksgiving turkey came from (perhaps the only turkey farm in SA!) So - we stopped for a look and a couple samples, before heading north again. We stopped in Old Noarlunga, a very pretty little town, for a picnic along the Onkaparinga River. The Onkaparinga is the only sizeable river in South Australia other than the Murray.

Monday brought the last day of school holidays for the girl - and a visit by Isobel for Lucy. Then it was back into school routines, and evenings consumed with homework and practice. Friday brought Clara's first chess match, run by the South Australian Junior Chess League at the South Australian Chess Centre. Wilderness had three teams at the competition. Clara won her individual match - ending up with two queens and a rook to chase her opponent's king before finally cornering him. Her team (5 girls) had an overall draw with two wins, two losses and a draw. The chess excitement was followed by a sleepover with one of her chess teammates, Nicole (and Letitia came for a sleepover with Lucy.) Lucy and Letitia worked on building a marble raceway, and then holding races, with complex scoring rules, with the result that the Rainbow Team won. Meanwhile, Clara and Nicole got out the Lego Mindstorms Robotics kits, and began building a robot to throw balls. Saturday, after everyone went home, we went bike shopping for Lucy. It turns out she is just about ready for a bike the same size as Clara's (which shocked Clara!) Sunday brought Mother's Day, and the girls had made cards and gifts for Sandy at school - Lucy's class made chocolate chip cookies, while Clara's class made bookmarks and paper lilies made from paper cut in the shape of their hands. In the afternoon, we visited one of our local libraries in Prospect.

We picked up an interesting CD at the library - Zebra Crossing, by the Soweto Quartet. They are a classically trained African violin quartet who (with a little help from some drummers, etc.) really got the girls dancing. Clara even asked if they were still alive, and whether she could go to Africa to study with them! Their CD jacket cover says it all:

"String Quartet. Two words that conjure up a picture of four serious-faced people, sitting in evening dress, poised to saw on the bones of dead composers. Formal and elite. No sweat... No soul! In this modern world perceptions are too easily mistaken for reality and the resulting stereotypical images dull our imaginations.

Now meet the Soweto String Quartet! A musical explosion of four Africans playing eighteenth century European instruments, but with the rich pulse of Africa flowing through their veins and into these beautiful recordings... The Soweto String Quartet's classical qualifications are impeccable. But... the Soweto String Quartet portray the timeless spirit of Africa, where smiles and tears, joy and sorrow, life and death are only a song apart. This is real Africa, new and unique. This is SSQ...The Soweto String Quartet."

Nigel Kennedy, move over!

Another week passed quickly. Sandy had a get-together with the craft ladies, much more relaxed than the meetings leading up to the fair. Thursday brought another assembly "item" for Clara's class, which Sandy stayed to see, before heading off to the quilt group. The girls, especially Clara, were quite busy with homework. Friday brought the start of a long weekend, through which we mostly relaxed. Saturday was swimming for the girls, and Sunday afternoon was a birthday party at the Aquatic Centre for Clara's friend Melody. Monday was Adelaide Cup day, so we thought it safe to escape the city to enjoy the wonderful sunny and mild autumn weather we are having. We intended to go to Monarto (the "wilder" half of the Adelaide Zoo, located on a few thousand acres of bush about 45 minutes from the city) - but we arrived shortly after opening to find a huge line - and unanimously decided to go elsewhere. So we wandered through the Adelaide Hills, admiring the dusty green olive groves and the golden foliage on the hillside vineyards, stopping in Woodside and Lobethal for the Holiday Markets, and at Gumeracha to see the wild bird enclosure at the Giant Rocking Horse.

May 17 - July 3, 2005 - The Top End, Birthday Prep and the Routine: Six weeks since the last update!! What are our excuses? A trip to the Top End, Clara's birthday, Tim off to Seattle on business for a couple weeks, etc. - plus the usual routine of life. So what follows captures the essence of that month and a half - but perhaps not in perfect chronological order. A highlight for the girls during May was the cross-country race through the parklands that all the girls participated in (the younger girls went a shorter distance). Lucy finished third amongst the Year 3 girls and was quite proud. Friday night brought another chess match, this one against Walford, a girls' school in southern Adelaide. Clara drew her match (pinning her opponent's king where it couldn't move without moving into check). The weekend passed quickly, as did another week of school. This week also marked the start of Sandy's project with Lucy's Year 3 class. Back when Clara was in Year 3, Sandy did some cross stitch and a small quilting project with the girls - however, there were only 15 girls in the class, and several moms to help - this time, there are 24 girls in Lucy's class, so Sandy chose a simpler project. This one involves sewing a patch in the shape of a cat, flower, etc., onto a colorful tea towel, then embroidering a name into the shape.

The pace picked up even more, with another week of school, practice, preparations for Clara's birthday party - and packing for our latest trip, to the Top End of Australia. Clara had another chess match (losing this time, to the best team in the league, from Linden Park) on Friday, then it was home to pack. We just got back, taking our usual large amount of pictures, so it will take us a while to get details online - however, the placeholders on the website are in place, check back occasionally for progress. The text page is here, and the picture page is here. (As you will see from the report, our "heat shock" in the top end was accentuated by what was Adelaide's coldest/driest May in many years.) Clara also got to take along the Year 6 class mascot, Polly, one of her teacher's stuffed giraffes, who is going on trips with the girls this year to see how many different places she can go, and how many kilometers she can rack up - with Clara, she added on another 8500 in just 10 days! Along with Polly comes her journal, so on this trip, Clara was keeping Polly's journal instead of her own, and stuck in a few pictures from the trip as well when we got home. All in all, an interesting project - and one that intrigued many people on the trip who noticed Polly, and/or saw us posing her for special pictures!

We also arrived back from our trip and immediately dove into the last minute arrangements for Clara's Love Letter Mystery birthday party for her and 13 other girls! The plot involved the demise of an eligible batchelor (Lord Mazzing), and the unaddressed love letter found in his hand. We arranged a "body" in the guest room made from Clara's school blazer and a balloon head (one of the girls reported afterwards to her Mom that "Sandy had a corpse and everything!" - starting who knows what thoughts going through the other mom's head!) The girls were all assigned a character and given costume suggestions in advance, and they mostly dove into the characters - most of them wore long dresses, some carried puzzles or books of favorite poetry to round out their character. After everyone arrived and all the "introductions" were done, they read through scene one of the play - then broke for a lasagna dinner (Sandy & Tim were quite busy trying to serve and clear up after 14 girls sitting down to a formal dinner.) Then it was time for scene two - when one of the young ladies takes a glass of water to Lord Mazzing, who wasn't feeling well enough to join them - and finds his body, with a love letter in his hand - he had apparently written the letter, but not addressed it - so the mysteries to solve included both who killed him, and for whom the letter was intended. The girls completed the scene with great acting and melodramatics and much laughter and hilarity, then we broke long enough to bring in the cake - during which the girls sang several different renditions of Happy Birthday to Clara in both English and French (at their own instigation - Tim and Sandy just stood back and watched!) Then it was time for scene three. This scene contained lots of dialog involving accusations and counter-accusations, background facts, etc. - enough, in theory, to allow deduction of the most likely murder suspect and the target of the love letter. Afterwards, the girls mulled things over while having cake and ice cream, then got to fill out ballots with their answers and also their nominations for best actress and best costume. And then the moment of truth - each girl was handed a slip of paper which she read, which revealed why she couldn't be the murderer - the tension built as the first 12 girls turned out to be innocent - and then the last two - until finally the murderer was revealed. An interesting side note is that it turned out to be a girl who had told Clara she hoped she WOULD be the murderer - and Clara, while assigning characters, had done just that - but without knowing who the murderer was! Only Sandy and Tim knew until the very end! Katerina and Melody (the murderer) correctly guessed who the murderer was and who the letter was for (and it was actually for Katerina!), while Katarina (note the "a" instead of the "e") was voted both best actress and best costume - but many of the girls did lovely costumes, and the evening was a great success - although Sandy and Tim felt the play was a bit long, the feedback from the girls was that they had a great time. Now it's time to plan Lucy's last Australian birthday party - good thing we have a little time to recover first!

The morning after the party, Tim got on a 6 am flight to Melbourne, to start his trip to the US. Two more weeks passed while he was in Seattle. Things continued pretty much as normal. A high point for Clara was working on the environmental committee. They got to go to a nursery to buy plants, using money they earned at a raffle they put together; then the committee members worked with the various classes of the junior school to plant the flowers and bushes around the school to beautify it. Lucy, meanwhile, has been working very hard on her India project - and was able in fact to call on some of our discoveries back when Clara had the same project! Lucy built a diorama with a beautiful little house made of modeling clay and straw, and also made Mango Lassi for her class - which was pretty much a hit (Lucy reported that 2-3 girls didn't care for it - out of a class of 22). Here's the recipe again in case anyone wants to try it:

Mango Lassi

1 ripe mango, peeled and cut in chunks
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cups cold water
4 -6 teaspoons sugar
pinch of salt

1. Freeze chunks of mango.
2. Process mango in food processor until smooth.
3. Add yogurt and mix briefly.
4. Add water, sugar and salt. Mix.
5. Taste and adjust sweetness as needed.
6. Serve chilled. Garnish with a mint leaf if desired.

(One of our plans for our Top End trip had been to visit a mango plantation - but, when we got there, we realized mangoes were out of season, so touring an orchard and looking at bare trees didn't seem that interesting - especially since we drove by several during our trip and could see them from the road. So we gave it a miss, but did stop in at Mayse's, the "Hard Rock Cafe" in Pine Creek, for a mango smoothie...)

Clara also got to go to a "Meet the Writers" festival, where she could hear some favorite children's authors talk, and get to meet some one-on-one. She came back excited, and wanting to check out some new books; she also got a book signed for Lucy by one of Lucy's favorite authors. The girls continued their routine of musical practice, homework, birthday parties for friends, Friday chess matches for Clara; and Sandy continued working with the Year 3 class on their sewing projects, as well as her Thursday quilting group, and occasional non-craft Mondays with the craft ladies! All three girls started to come down sick, with Lucy and Clara recovering quickly, but Sandy remained a bit under the weather. The girls were most solicitous of her health, reminding her to drink a lot, offering to make tea, etc! Finally, Tim arrived home early Friday afternoon - only an hour late after a detour to New Zealand (Clara and Lucy were envious, even if he only got to see the airport!) since all the eastern Australian airports were closed by bad weather after his flight left the US, and they didn't have enough fuel to wait in the air. We spent the weekend relaxing, updating this journal, and having our family celebration of Clara's birthday with a trip to the movies (Madagascar) and opening presents. And that's about it - now we'll focus on getting the Top End trip pictures and text online.

July 4-10, 2005 - End of Term: The second school term has wound down into the July holidays. Lucy spent the last week working fast and furiously to complete her Indian project (including preparing a speech about India to her class). The Year 3 girls have also been taking turns bringing in Indian foods for each other to sample (frequently meaning that Lucy is so full and her sack lunches come home half-uneaten!) - and on Thursday, Lucy got to go on an excursion to the restaurant run by the father of one of her classmates, who was making a special Indian lunch for them. Meanwhile, Clara worked to finish up her Goldfields project (about life in the Australian gold fields during the gold rush days in the 19th century.) The Zephyr String Quartet also visited the Junior School on Wednesday, entertaining all the girls with music and "loops" (sort of like singing rounds, but for instruments) and participation by the girls - Lucy was particularly taken by a huge bass recorder they brought along and played.

The girls also spent some spare minutes in the last week or so of school preparing for the holidays, and the inevitable doll party with Katarina and Zof and their dolls - they've been working on musical arrangements involving all the girls and dolls (Kirtsten has her own doll-size violin she got for Christmas, while one of the other dolls will be using a 3/4 size violin as a bass!) They've also been working on school-work for the dolls to accomplish. Otherwise, we've just been relaxing, getting ready for Lucy's birthday party, and adding a bit more to the Top End trip pages - here are the text page and the picture page. Plus we added a couple pictures from Clara's birthday party - see here and here.

July 11-19, 2005 - Quilt Camp: The girls continued to unwind and relax after a busy term. Preparations continued for Lucy's upcoming sleepover birthday party, and the girls grew steadily more excited about their cooking class. On Wednesday, Sandy took off for Roseworthy once again, in the annual trek to Quilt Camp. Thursday and Friday she participated in "Sit and Sew" sessions, where there are no classes; instead, the students get to work on projects of their choice, socialize, and generally enjoy the quilting atmosphere with no outside interruptions.

Tim and the girls kept themselves busy with setting up the LGB train around Clara and Lucy's bedroom and the playroom, a bike ride, reading, and other activities. On Friday, Clara and Lucy went over to Katerina and Zof's for the morning, followed by a trip to Regency TAFE where the four of them took cooking classes - Clara and Katarina took "Tantalizing Thai," making fried rice, red curry and vegetables in coconut milk, while Lucy and Zof took the Chocoholics class, making a chocolate pound cake and fondue. Needless to say, we had an excellent dinner and dessert Friday night!

We also finished a first draft of the Top End trip pages - here are the text page and the picture page. We'll be updating and adding more pictures as we get time. We've also started to add some recommended Top End references to our Australian References page.

July 20-31, 2005 - Yorke Peninsula and Back to School: We haven't even finished the Top End trip report and pictures, and here's yet another one to do! We decided to take a long weekend while the girls were on school holiday, and head over to the Yorke Peninsula (the boot-shaped body of land across the Gulf of St. Vincent from Adelaide). We had saved this as a quick little trip to fit in when we had time. It was only four days, but we saw a lot, and will have details on line soon. The start of the text page is here and the picture page is here.

And then - immediately back from vacation, and back to school for the girls - hard to believe it is already Term 3! Lucy was quite excited to discover there was a new girl in her class, while Clara lost a girl from her class. Wednesday was a belated Bastille Day celebration (since the primary language taught at the school is French, the girls learn a fair bit of French history and culture as well). They got to go down to the boarding house in class groups for a croissant and cup of hot chocolate to celebrate. Also on this week were the Junior School elections - unfortunately, there was some confusions about dates, so many girls were caught unawares on speech day - resulting in the election being rescheduled for next week. Friday after school Clara had another chess match at the chess center in the city. Only two more matches to go in the season.

Friday, the girls got all the shells that they had collected on the Yorke Peninsula cleaned and sorted - quite a haul they made - we marvelled at just how different all the shells are. Saturday, Lucy went off to Chloe's house for a play, while Katarina came to our house for a play with Clara. Sunday, the girls had the stuffed animals gathering for band practice, so the house was filled with music - plus Clara taught Lucy how to play the recorder, which kept Lucy happy (now she has a portable instrument to play!) In addition, Lucy's birthday party is fast approaching, so she is very excited and counting the days. She is also a very organized little party planner, and has been making lists of games, food, crafts, party bag contents, and so on. She is having a sleepover party, but she didn't want to invite lots of people. She is just having four of her best friends, so it should be very manageable.

Sidenote: writing about the Yorke Peninsula trip brought back memories of our Christmass Tassie trip - in particular, the Great Ocean Road, whose sights were very similar in places. And this brings up a recent event that occurred along the Great Ocean Road - one of the well-known Twelve Apostles collapsed (as have several in the past - now there are only 8!), as had the London Bridge arch a few years ago (and as had the Old Man of the Mountains in New Hampshire when we were last there - if the Apostle had fallen while we were there, we might have started to feel jinxed). So sometimes even events on geological time scales catch up with us, and remind us that nothing is permanent, no matter how solid it looks.

We also managed to pretty well finish the Top End trip pages (or at least all we intend to do besides minor tweaking in the short term) - here are the text page and the picture page. Now we've just got to finish the Yorke Peninsula trip and we'll be caught up.

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