[New Zealand Fur Seal] [Overlooking Cape Bruny from just below Mt. Mangan Summit] [Australian Pelican] [Young female Tassie Devil on Bennett's Wallaby]

Australian Journal - November 2004 - January 2005

November 9-21, 2004 - Spring: Time continues to fly as we head into Christmas. This has been a busy week Tim at work, as well as the girls in school. Thursday was Clara's big saxophone solo at assembly, which went very well with many parents complimenting her performance. Friday night, we headed downtown on a few errands. Saturday morning was swimming, followed in turn by more swimming for Clara on Sunday morning - she went to a birthday party for one of her friends at a local Water World. Sunday arvo (as the Aussies call afternoon), there was a special thanksgiving service at the big St Peter's Cathedral in North Adelaide, celebrating Wilderness' 120th anniversary. Monday, the core of the ladies craft group had one last get-together, which contained a surprise for Sandy - each of the regulars half dozen mums received a gorgeous gift bag - filled with a personalized Wilderness apron, a bundle of Swiss chocolates, and a bottle of hand lotion. This treat was accompanied by champagne and strawberries, but as Sandy enjoyed the celebration, she wondered whether it was a bit early to celebrate--we still haven't made it through the fair yet!!

Friday afternoon was the final T-Ball game, against Seymour (located within a few blocks of where we used to live in Glenunga). Clara's team won, making it a 3 and 0 season for her team; unfortunately, the other Wildy team lost (again). Friday night was a Year 5 parents get-together at the home of the parents of one of the Year 5 girls. Here are some of the items Sandy made for the fair (from the top: apple Christmas ornaments, bell Christmas ornaments, magic needle cases); here she is at the fair standing in front of a display of Christmas stockings made with fabric she brought from the States on our last trip. Then Saturday came, with the big fair. Sandy left the house at 8:30 (to get ready for a 11:00 am start). Clara (and most of the other girls in her class) had been very disappointed to learn that the powers that be cancelled their Saturday evening disco party, because not enough boys had signed up! All the girls shared the same reaction: so what?! However, Clara and Lucy ended up spending most of the day at the fair, enjoying the chance to wander about with their friends, and watch the entertainment, sample the foods on offer, and browse the various sales stalls. The craft stall did well, and in fact it raised more than any other stall at the fair (well over $6000), but there were still many items left at the end of the day - some of them are destined for a charity shop in Port Adelaide, while the remaining Christmas items will be put on sale at the Christmas concert next week.

November 22-December 5, 2004 - Happy Thanksgiving The week was filled with rehearsals and practices leading up to the Christmas concert - and the heat rose steadily as well, reminding us that summer is almost here - up to 95 degrees on concert day! Fortunately, Wilderness decided to move the Christmas concert to the new gym - which, even though it is not air conditioned, at least is big enough and has enough airflow that it wasn't quite so sweltering for all the kids and parents.

As with last year, the concert was broken into two parts, with the Reception-Year 2 students performing from 6:00 to 6:45, and the older girls (Years 3-6) performing 7:15 to whenever, separated by the traditional sausage sizzle (which actually started before the first concert, and was still going when we left after the last concert at about 9 pm). This year, Lucy performed in both the Year 2 strings group and the play, called Cat in the Manger. She was quite cute playing the violin while dressed up as a mouse! Clara was even busier, playing in the string orchestra, the Year 5 band, and in the Year 5 rendition of The Nutcracker (where she played the part of Clara, of course!) The Year 5 girls largely developed this musical by themselves (organized their own costumes, wrote the dialog, gathered the props, and found their own background music from Tim's CD collection!), and it was quite impressive.

Saturday morning, we dove right into preparations for celebration of Thanksgiving (actually, Sandy had been working on it for a couple days prior, and had put the turkey into a large esky of ice and brine to soak overnight). Turkeys are not common around here, and always have to be special-ordered; the up side is that they are always fresh, coming with a little note that says when the turkey was killed. However, they are never packed with giblets or the neck, so making gravy - and getting an early taste of the neck - are more difficult! Sandy made turkey, stuffing (using her Jimmy Dean sausage stuffing recipe, but substituting the nearest local equivalent she's found), mushroom/ cauliflower/pea/lettuce salad, and cranberry sauce. We celebrated with friends from our old neighborhood: Shane and Katrina (and William and Franscesca) who provided onion-garlic mashed potatoes and a spinach salad and Donna and Tony (and daughter Sarah) who brought garlic string beans and two pies (pumpkin and apple). The pumpkin pie is a bit of a novelty downunder - Australians are far more likely to serve roast pumpkin chunks as part of the main course than think of it as a dessert. Since the day stayed hot (even for the Australians), we stayed indoors to give thanks and enjoy our feast in the luxury of air conditioning.

Sunday was another birthday party for Clara (this one also at the local water world) - she had missed one on Saturday as well because of our Thanksgiving celebration! Then the school week started up again with no letup in the lessons or homework - both girls have been quite busy. Lucy has been counting down the few remaining school days with regret, as she has had a truly wonderful year with her fabulous teacher Kath, and is going to miss her tremendously next year.

This past week has seen a 5 day test cricket match between Australia and New Zealand in Adelaide. We listened a little on the radio, and wondered how the players (and fans) coped with this 90-95 F weather. The answer is - take a lot of breaks, drink lots of fluids, and only run when you have to! Perhaps the heat explains also why Australia trounced New Zealand so severely, since the Kiwis are from a cooler country. The weather finally broke on Tuesday, and we are quite pleased that the highs are back in the 20s (70s F) and hope they stay there for a while! We've started noticing Christmas decorations in stores, but the long (and hot) days still seem a bit odd for the Christmas season.

The colors of summer continue all around us - while the frangipani have gone by, the purple jacarandas are peaking, along with some varieties of wattles and gums - and, since it is Adelaide, roses by the millions, literally (one of Adelaide's nicknames is City of Roses). We've continued to have rain, so the landscape has yet to take on the parched look of late summer, and is still very green by South Australian standards. Cherries are also coming into season, and just as North Americans think of egg nog and gingerbread in the Christmas season, Australians think of cherries!

Another Christmas event came on Friday for Lucy. The lower junior school girls held their annual Red and Green day with, of course, the "red and green" picnic lunch featuring all the red and green foods that you could ever think of. The girls also wear red and green clothes and tie shiny red and green ribbons in their hair for the occasion. That night was a sleepover birthday party, this one for Lucy's friend Jessica - who has an older sister Allanah who is one of Clara's close friends, so Sandy headed off to Chris and Jacquie's house after school with a carload of 5 girls (2 little girls and 3 big girls). A total of 17 girls slept over! The girls had a good time and got some sleep, but caught up on some more in the car as we did some Saturday morning Christmas shopping and errands.

December 6, 2004 - January 8, 2005: End of School, Christmas Holidays and Tassie Trip: It's been a long time between updates, because other activities just caught up with us over the last month. First of all, Tim was off to the States for one last business trip. While Tim was gone, the girls enjoyed their last few days of school, with a "thank you and good bye" party for Lucy's Year 2 teacher Kath, organized by Sandy and Mary, the other class parent rep. While the girls will miss school and seeing their school friends every day, they have been looking forward to having more time to play together. However on Thursday, the first day of their holidays, they went to vacation care at school because Sandy was off on a bus trip through the Adelaide Hills with her quilt group for their annual end-of-the-year celebration. First the quilters went to morning tea at the home of Barb. She and her husband, Des, own a beautiful old mansion built by a Scottish businessman. They use the upstairs for their residence and the ground floor for their family funeral business. But on Thursday, the place was filled with Christmas decorations, and the tables were piled with scones topped with cream and jam, fresh fruit, "Christmas cake" (i.e. fruit cake, and coffee and tea.) Des even had a musician playing on the keyboard during the morning as all the quilters wandered about and enjoyed the beautiful gardens, the antiques tucked in every corner, and the lovely refreshments. Then they boarded the bus and rode to small town of Blackwood where they visited a quilt shop, antique shop, wine and cheese shop, and so on. After lunch, the quilters drove on the Lenswood where they visited another quilt shop that Sandy had been wanting to go to for a long time - The Patchwork Apple! It was a fun shop in an old house high on a hillside with a gorgeous view of the surrounding farms, vineyards. Right next to the quilt shop was the warehouse for a family-run orchard, so all the quilters were able to buy some fresh picked cherries as well. All in all, a delightful day for everyone.

The next morning, we had our final tennis lesson of the year with Libby and then headed off to get haircuts for Clara and Lucy. That afternoon we came home and all just relaxed at last! Saturday brought swimming in the morning and Nikola's birthday party at a disco place in Prospect for Lucy from 1-3pm. While Lucy was at the party, Clara and Sandy worked on a stocking for Clara's doll Kirsten. Over the weekend, Clara and Lucy also continued work on their plans for the big "doll birthday party" involving Katarina and Zof (and their dolls as well as Clara's and Lucy's dolls). This includes, of course, presents, which they made and wrapped. Sunday was the end-of-year celebration picnic for the Year 5 girls and their families and teachers at Rymill Park in the parklands east of the city. It was a cool, cloudy day, but the girls still had a wonderful time playing together and renting the small row boats to take around the small lake. Clara and her friend, Shana, took off in one boat, while Shana's little sister, Alisa, and Lucy went in another boat. That left Sandy on the shore wondering how they would all do - and of course they did wonderfully and had a great time.

Then on Wednesday came the day that Clara and Lucy (and Katarina and Zof) had been waiting for - the great doll birthday party! First Clara and Katarina went to work on the birthday cakes - miniature chocolate cakes for each doll/girl to decorate later in the morning. Then all the girls/dolls had the greatest time playing the games that Clara and Lucy had planned. For lunch the girls loved making their own mini-pizzas and eating them. It took the dolls forever to open all the presents that had been lovingly made and wrapped. The craft project for the afternoon was decorating a little brightly-colored canvas bag for each doll. The girls had a lot of fun designing their bags and sewing on the decorations and were thrilled with their creations. Then it was time to light the candles on the little cakes. The girls played "Happy Birthday" on the violin and piano and sang four times (once for each doll). The afternoon was topped off with a bit of tennis outside since the weather was beautiful. All in all, it was a "full on" day as the Aussies would say, but everything seemed to go really well, and as Sandy, Anj and the girls were carrying things out to Anj's car, Sandy heard Zof saying to Lucy that it had been "the best day!" And Lucy kept saying that as well all evening long.

Thursday, Jacquie picked up the girls at 11 am for a day of fun visiting the Museum of South Australia, a picnic, and then a sleepover with Allanah and Jessica. Sandy took advantage of this to go to the movies with Katrina in the evening and then out for a late dinner at an Indian restaurant. Then, on Friday, Tim got home. The weekend was then filled with Christmas wrapping, preparing for our Tassie trip, another visit with Katarina for Clara, and a brief evening out for Sandy and Tim at a "thank you" get-together at the school principal's home (to thank Sandy and the other core people who worked on the 120th anniversary fair.)

And at this point, we shifted into high gear packing mode, since we were leaving for Tassie on the 21st, for two weeks. This meant we had to pack "Christmas" as well - this meant stockings, presents and even a little tree! We were packing, then taking things out, then adding more things - even with the rooftop rack, it was hard to get what seemed the minimum of things in. But eventually we made it, and took off on the morning on Dec 21, as you can read about in more detail on the new Tassie trip pages; here is the text page, and here is the picture page. It will take us quite a while to finish them, but a start is in place.

January 9, 2005: More Tassie Trip: We've just been unpacking, finishing Christmas (remaining presents and setting off the Christmas Crackers that got left behind) and recovering - plus adding some more to the Tassie trip pages. The girls were quite busy working on their "museum" (made up of all the shells, rocks, feathers and other things they found on the trip), cleaning, arranging and documenting the exhibits. Then they decided to try out the computer game that Tim got them for Christmas - The Myst Trilogy (the 10th anniversary edition - boy, are we feeling old!) and they got drawn in completely, and don't want to leave the computer.

January 10-16, 2005: Brushfires, Sharks and Tassie Trip: The weather has been quite hot (guess we didn't miss it all) - nearly 42 degrees C (107 F) on Tuesday. With this heat has come bushfires, since the combination of heat and strong winds from the Outback create conditions that are horrific if a fire gets started - one fire which is still being cleaned up on the Eyre peninsula killed 9 people, with 3 still missing. The fire front was moving at 100 kilometers an hour at one point - faster than fire trucks could move. The toll in livestock and buildings is still being assessed, but it looks to be the worst bush fire in South Australia since Ash Wednesday, and is being called Black Tuesday. Another fire started in the Adelaide Hills, destroying several houses and closing the Southeastern Freeway, and prompting fears of another Ash Wednesday (which decimated the hills around Mt Lofty in 1983) before it was brought under control.

Sidenote: The Ash Wednesday fires were a series of over 100 separate fires which broke out across SA and Victoria on 16 February 1983. It was a day of 40+ degree temperatures and 60-70 mph hot winds off the Outback. This was essentially a fire system that stretched 1500 kilometers from SA to the NSW border. Thousands of homes burned and more than 70 people died. Locally, when people talk of Ash Wednesday, they are referring to that subset of fires which roared through the Adelaide Hills in 1983, killing 26 people and 200,000 livestock, as well as the "first" Ash Wednesday fires in 1980, which caused 40 injuries and burned 35 homes.

In addition to the bushfires, there have also been more shark sightings along the Adelaide beaches than have been seen in many years. Before Christmas, a young man was killed by two great white sharks, and at the moment, many of the beaches are largely empty due to shark concerns.

One other little bit from the news - its the time of year when all the recent high school graduates hear if they've been accepted to their desired university or vocational program. The results for all students are published in the local paper - so everyone knows how everyone else did! So even though the students will receive a letter in the post within a day or so, it becomes something of a party in downtown Adelaide (Victoria Square) on Monday night when a special early edition of the paper is published, and everyone gathers to see the results and celebrate/commiserate with each other.

We are still recovering from the trip; all three girls had to go to the doctor before we left with sinus/ear infections, which unfortunately didn't clear up (necessitating a trip to the doctor for Lucy during the trip). They seem to be on the mend now, and it has become Tim's turn to come down with the same crud! So, the week has been quiet. We have managed to make a few more additions to the Tassie pages (primarily text - still a lot of pictures to go.)

January 17-30, 2005: Australia Day And Still More Tassie Trip: Another quiet week. The girls have worked on a major sorting and cleaning of their bedrooms, and after several bags to donate and several for the rubbish, both Clara and Lucy are delighted with their pristine rooms. On Wednesday, after Clara finished her room, she went to Katarina's for a sleepover, followed by a cooking class the next day at the local TAFE (a vocational college with a world class cooking/chef training facility!) Unfortunately, their first two choices, Tanalizing Thai and Fantastic French, were cancelled due to insufficient numbers, and they ended up in a pastry class instead - they still had a good time. Clara and Katarina came our beaming and displaying the chocolate eclairs and quiche for everyone. After Clara turns 11, they will be able to join the class for older students (11-16), so in the July holidays, they plan to try again for the Tantalizing Thai.

Summer sport is in full swing, with cricket, tennis and bicycling fighting for center stage at the moment. Over in Melbourne, two local tennis heroes (Lleyton Hewitt and Alicia Molik) have been wowing the crowds in the Australian Open. This has quite captured Clara's and Lucy's attention, both because they play and because the Hewitt and Molik are doing very well. Molik was eliminated in the quarterfinals, but it is clear Australia now has a world-class woman tennis player. Hewitt showed tremendous heart, surviving two 5 set matches in spite of injuries, and beating world #2 Andy Roddick to end up in the finals. Simultaneously, the Jacobs Creek Downunder multistage bicycle race through Adelaide and the wine country finished up over last weekend. Wednesday brought Australia Day, and with it a one day international cricket match between Australia and West Indies, which had a sell-out crowd, in spite of the heat and humidity and threat of thunderstorms. Australia lost five wickets very quickly, and it looked to be a disaster in the making, but they pulled themselves together, and ended up beating the West Indies quite handily.

After the big room cleanout, Sandy started in on the long-promised sewing of doll clothes for Samantha and Kirsten. Even though Sandy doesn't have much experience with garment sewing, she is chugging along and has so far made new "knickers" (panties) for the dolls and has nearly finished a nightgown trimmed in lace for each doll. A set of play clothes is the next project for their wardrobe... Other chores have included filling out forms and going to get passport photos of the girls to renew their passports, and we were just signing off the Australian taxes when the package arrived to start on the US taxes...

The weather finally broke on Friday night - just in time for the girls' Saturday swimming lessons, and Lucy's swimming birthday party at friend Tali's house - much to the girls disappointment - they were looking forward to getting into the pools to cool off after the hot and humid days this past week! Saturday night was the 21st annual Sky Show - a traditional party with music and fireworks over at Bonython Park to celebrate the weekend after Australia Day. We watched the spectacular fireworks from our balcony (except for Lucy, who slept through them.) Sunday, Clara got up early with a bad headache, high fever and sore throat. She had been looking a bit under, and we were planning to call the doctor on Monday - but this seemed more urgent. So around 7 am, Sandy called the clinic which is open Sunday expecting to get a recording with the office hours. Instead of a recording, she was put through to the after hours doctor service, and they said they would have a doctor out to our house by 8am! It seems that several of the clinics work together to provide an after-hours house-call service for their patients - we were quite surprised. The doctor showed up a bit after 8, looked Clara over, and prescribed some medicine. So Clara is taking the day easy (or is supposed to be - hard to keep her down once the medicine starts kicking in - she spent much of the morning flying around Egypt in Microsoft Flight Simulator.)

The Tassie text is pretty well done, now we're slowly sorting through the pictures, and have put up a few more on the pictures page. However, it's slow going, and is going to take a while to complete the pictures.

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