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Monday, September 27, 2010

waterfalls... Water Falls.... WATERFALLS!

Waterfalls in Australia are more common than you'd think.  You're probably thinking about beaches and the outback and heat when you think of Australia but there's so much more.  Wish I could write a blog with just the smells of Australia... it'd be awesome!!

Last weekend we went up the mountain to Wentworth Falls (about 20 min drive from our house) and had a great day watching waterfalls and hiking around.  The rocks and formations and the beautiful "blue" haze that contrasts the green of the forrest and the dark sandstone rock was great.  The weather was perfect and it wasn't crowded so that made a perfect day for us on Saturday!

Here's a few pics but more on

Then, on Sunday we loaded up and drove about 1.5 hours down the mountain to Cronulla, south of Sydney.  It was a cool beach but super crowded.  We realized it was their spring break (12th year high school students are out of school so it's their party time). 

Getting warmer here in Australia... loving it.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Making Bread in Australia

Making bread in Australia might not be that special to you, but I am so proud of myself for making the best bread of my entire life today!

Maybe it's just being somewhere different and quiet.   Although I miss my friends, my tennis in Wyoming, my garden, my kids (and their friends) and our extended family, there is something about being on the other side of the world from your "life" and finding a place for yourself while you're there. 

I'm not getting sidetracked and don't worry, you'll get to hear all about the bread adventure, but as I'm writing I realize that something as simple as making a good loaf of bread, making basil butter or trying to find out what bird is tweeting so sweetly have all been things I haven't had time to enjoy for a while.  It's my fault for sure!  I get caught up in everything and everyone and love having people over and doing everything "big".    I won't change that about my life, but I think this sabbatical this is good for me. I'm fortunate to have married someone that knew I needed this sabbatical every 7 years:)

Now, back to the exciting part... the BREAD!  While hitting garage sales a couple of weekends ago,  trying to find plates and forks and other basic household goods, we found an entire food processor, chopper, mincer, juicer etc for $20.  Considering everything here in Australia is expensive, garage sales are good deals and I couldn't pass up this deal... it was an adventure calling us.

I also found an "All about growing, storing and cooking with herbs" book at a used bookstore.  I decided that I had everything I needed to make a loaf of bread so after finding the perfect recipe I started with the goal of having fresh bread to go with the pasta we were having for dinner.

Never using a food processor, it took me a while to find the right attachment... not sure if I ever did really use the correct attachment but it did get mixed up pretty good.

not sure if it's supposed to look like this...

I worked it over and really don't know how to knead very well, but my brother taught me some moves and then I've done pottery before so I just worked it like clay.  It started getting better but not sure that it was as "elastic" as the recipe wanted.

getting better
I worked it over another 5 minutes and then put it in a REALLY big bowl since it is supposed to double in size.  It looks pretty good if you ask me.

This special recipe called for a really long rising period, which is part of the reason I chose this recipe.  I needed to get some work done and wanted it ready for dinner, so 6 hours later, it looked pretty darn doubled!

Punching it down was really fun.   Rise more, punch more, rise more roll it out, roll it up, rise more... I did all of that very well.  David and Cullen decided to go for a hike before dinner and when they returned I was just hoping that when I cut open the bread it would not be like a brick... or maybe even hollow (I've had both of those results in the past).

ta da!

Now I'm excited so grabbed my new 2nd hand recipe book and decided to make some special butter.  Again my new garage sale processor came in handy when I made.... BASIL BUTTER!  It was quick and delicious!  See what you can do when you relax and listen to life! 

and it's not hollow... yay!

That processor has give us hours of entertainment, and since going to the movie is apparently $25 here in Australia, that is good news for us. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mega Blog Wednesday

Getting behind on the blogs.... they're having a traffic jam in my head so today might be Mega Blog Wednesday before it's all over:)

Exploring David's campus at University of Western Sydney and Richmond

Last Friday I decided to visit David at work, take him to lunch and see Richmond for the first time.  Getting to Richmond from Springwood was a nice 20 minute drive.  We live on the mountain but in 20 minutes I drove down a steep windy road (with hairpin curves) and ended up on some beautiful farmland crossing a few rivers and seeing 7km of "watch for kangaroo" signs.  The university was on the edge of town and when I pulled onto campus I could see the trees and flowers blooming in white, pinks and these cool purple bunches of color hanging in the trees!  What a beautiful campus!
Can you see the purple blooms?

The road to David's office

We found downtown Richmond and it was so cute! Lots of shops and old houses with Victorian architecture, a big park with an old cricket field in the middle and all kinds of little restaurants. 

One of the many cafes

David thinking about shopping... or not
After walking the downtown area, we found a little deli off the main street and saw the most amazing gourmet meat pies and such a great price.  Since eating out is expensive here, we don't really eat out much, but have learned that lunch and some real searching it is possible to find a treat now and then.  We enjoyed chicken and leek gourmet pie and roasted veggie fritatta (like a thick quiche).  Fantastic!  And the side salad made with Australian's version of raisin and some peanuts with balsamic/olive oil and some cheese was awesome.  This is our new favorite homemade salad.   Tomorrow night I'm making my first gourmet meat pie!  I love learning about new foods:)


I'm going to learn how to do that!
After lunch we drove back to David's office through a new entrance and stumbled on a Koala Food Plantation where they grow food for the Taronga Zoo/Koala bears.  Just at the end of the road was a little sign "Secret Garden open today".  We found a secret and since our goal is growing herbs and cooking with herbs, this was a fantastic find!  We bought tomato plants, lavender, oregano, thyme, and more herbs from all over.  I tried to get pictures of all of the birds we saw, but they're too quick.  Blue, green, red, white, turquoise birds of all sizes and sounds. 

Before leaving campus, David wanted to show me the orange grove.  We picked a box of oranges in 5 minutes and ate some along the way.  yum yum!!!  Later, David made the best fresh squeezed OJ from our new fancy garage sale squeezer.

After crawling back up the mountainside, we stopped at an overlook.  We were back in the bush but looked down on where we just were in Richmond.  Very beautiful farmlands and rivers just 20 min away from our mountain top.  The flowers blooming and the temperature change reminded us a little of the difference in Laramie and Ft. Collins.  Will be interesting to see how our summers compare.

The view

Picnic table art

David has a good time riding to work with new friends.  Many people work in Richmond but live in Springwood so he enjoys hitching rides with different people.  Some days I like to pick him up early so he gets home in time to cook on the grill or go play some tennis with me:)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Why is eating out expensive in Australia?

Why is eating out expensive in Australia?  Our first meal in Australia was a nice breakfast, not huge, but a few people had eggs and some toasted turkish bread, some cofffee.  For 5 of us the bill was $65.   As we explore Australia, we watch for restaurants to try out, but we have yet to get out of a restaurant for less that $50!  We're not ordering anything fancy. We're talking a sandwich and a drink for 3 of us. 

We've learned that what is more common, and what we can afford, is to stop by a little street cafe after a hike or for a break and have some hot tea and a scone or biscuit.  We can afford that but it's still $6 for a scone.... but we can save up for this treat:)

When shopping at the grocery store, the food prices and products are very similar to our American stores.   Some new items, like more thai, indian and other asian spices are available at the regular shopping store, but just like in the USA, to get the best spices and products you need to shop at the specialty stores.  Some of the vegetables are huge like fennel and lettuce heads.  Blueberries are still expensive, but we eat avacados every day.  Oranges grow on our tree but we have to grab them before the birds and possums get them;)

So why is eating out so expensive???  We've been asking around and getting some responses and here's what we've learned.  The minimum wage in Australia is $15!!  Since restaurants must hire wait personnel, cashiers, cleaning staff etc at this rate, a friend said that wages are at least 40% of their expenses.  Rent for commercial building is very high and then there is the taxes too.  You would think that they'd not hire kids or less experienced workers, but kids as young as 13 work and we see them often at the grocery stores and other shops. The classified ads are filled with job openings. 

It appears that most people don't eat out here as often as we do in the USA.  Our family really loves to eat out while travelling to experience new adventures and learn about their culinary culture, so we've figured out that we need to "do what the Australians do"! 

We're looking for local recipes for meat pie and other unique Australian foods.  We've also starting growing some herbs and bought an herb recipe book about growing, storing and preparing herbs in every meal... so that's our new "food focus".

When we go to Sydney or other places that have outdoor cafes, we just can't walk by and not enjoy that part of the experience, but we've figured out how to enjoy it more...  we order some "nibblies" and then most places allow "byow... bring your own wine" so that will save us a bit. 

We're figuring it out:)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tennis and Music... universal languages I like!

Tennis, music and food connect people together I've realized.

Today was my first attemp to find some tennis women friends that I can play tennis with during the day.  It was just perfect!  I went to the courts just as the sun was warming up everything and there were about 7 women waiting for 1 more person to show up for their "Wed Social Tennis".  It was a fun round robin and very casual (just like I like it).  It was just fine to talk in the middle of the point about lunch, your garden or anything else that suited you.  We laughed and made fun of each other and blamed all of the shots we missed on the sun.... just like we do at home!  Oh if only my Laramie sisters were here!  These women would love Jan's pirate tatoos that we wear, or the plastic jewelry we like from the dollar store, or Cathy and Deb's collection of stolen road construction cones, or Cheryl's influence on us to wear skull apparel.

Another part that was great ...... it was only $5 to play!  We took a break after about an hour of playing and had coffee/tea and some cookies/cake and chatted outside.  $5 for 2 1/2 hours of fun tennis was just great.

Here's a couple of pics of the courts.  You can see them on Google Earth if you do a search for Springwood Tennis Courts (put postal code 2777).

til next time!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Springwood NSW and our daily life

We’ve been showing you all around Sydney and the other areas of New South Wales but realized you don’t know about where we live yet. We’re settled in and love our house, backyard and the birds and animals that come visit. Yesterday we decided to bring the camera around with us.

Go to our album to see all of the pics, but here’s a little background about what you’ll see.

David and I headed out to the library to do some work and email for the morning so you’ll see pics of our house, car and front garden. Our house was owned by a gardener so the flowers are so unique and gorgeous. We’ve heard that there is always something blooming here and that some trees we have in the front and back yards will be blooming soon. The trees without leaves are great for us now to see our little possums running around. They go from the tree in the frontyard, hop on the roof and run around and then leap to the tree by the deck in the backyard and sit.

After the library we walked around downtown Springwood and took a few pics of the the turnabout, the church and just a few shops. We didn’t get down to all of the stores or the post office, train station or the cool hippie shop, but so there is a lot more to see than what we’ve taken pics of.

David and I then headed to pick up Cullen from his new school… St. Columba’s. We got a couple of nice shots from the parking lot but someday we’ll take more of the interior courtyard and the rest of campus (400 acres). He is enjoying his school and has met a lot of friends and is taking a few new classes like Japanese. Most of the classes are similar to what he’s taking in the USA.

Next we went to our Winmalee Shopping Center to get some seasoned sausage from the Mountain Meat butchery for our homemade pizzas. The center here reminds me of the shops in Europe. They have carts in the parking lot that you bring in for all of the stores. Inside, there is a donut shop, 3 coffee/bakery shops, a butcher, a wine store, the post office, Coles which is a grocery store, and Chemist (pharmacy) and a fresh fruit/veggie market. There are more shops, but this gives you an idea. There’s also a Target Country that has a limited version. There is a big Target similar to the ones in the USA in the main big shopping mall.

When we got home we were all hanging out and relaxing. From the front room I saw the kookaburras in the tree. Right after that, Cullen saw a parrot in the back tree so we all headed to the backyard and saw bird after bird after bird. Red parrots and then more kookaburras, some with blue wings and some with white on them. They were pretty calm and very pretty.

We put some videos on fotki of the birds and our backyard. We’re lucky that our backyard goes back very far and has levels of grass, plants, bushes, herbs and orange trees. We have to get the oranges before the rest of the animal neighborhood gets them though.

(our backyard)

At the end of the day, we made homemade pizzas with BBQ sauce (they put that on everything here and it’s actually pretty good) . David had to drive to a friend’s house at midnight to be part of a skype meeting at 8am Monday so that was a bummer. Still no internet at our house!

Hope you’re all doing well and are happy and healthy. Miss you!


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Visiting Manly

Manly beach... surfer class
Sunday we enjoyed our discount to all trains, ferries, busses to and around Sydney.  We drove to the train station and rode the train right down into the heart of Sydney.  Musicians and entertainers and out, the outdoor cafes are filled up, the sunshine was perfect and it was a perfect day!  We got right onto the Manly ferry that goes from Sydney up to Manly which takes you to a thin strip of land on the edge of the ocean/harbor where there are miles and miles of bike riding trails, surfer classes, BBQ grills out for the public to use, snorkelers and scuba divers, joggers, bikers, skaters, jazz on the main plaza area.  It was a nice mix of San Diego and Hawaii.

While hiking around we saw a super cool Eastern Water Dragon (cool lizard).   He just loved sitting on the rocks while we're all walking by and taking pics of him. 

Sail boats were everywhere and along the ferry ride you can see that each little beach and cove of the harbor was full of their own little event.  Everyone here is excited that spring has arrived so that makes it really fun to enjoy the outdoors with everyone here!

We took the train back to our quiet little town and picked up some fresh naan bread from the local Indian Restraurant and made our own excellent version of Tikki Masala:)  Yum!!!  Watched the Final Women's Singles at the US Open and was glad Kim Clijsters won... but sorry it wasn't much of a match. 

Miss you all and more to come! Enjoy the pics.  More photos online at

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Still having fun in Australia

Our list of what we like about Australia so far is growing.... 
1. I like when I wake up at 6am it's prime in the USA for US Open tennis watching
2. David likes the really large mean ants
3. Cullen likes his school, finding new birds,   food... bakeries and the new variety of sports around here
4. We love hearing our possum(s) running around the roof and jumping from tree to tree at night and trying to find them with our flashlight
5. Hiking and looking for kangaroos
6. Playing tennis while cockatoos fly around overhead
7. Plants that only Dr Seuss could imagine
8. Knowing we almost have a car and internet at home!

check out the pics when you have time... putting them up now...

Friday, September 3, 2010

52 Suburbs

I've got alot to catch up on, but for now this is a GREAT introduction to Sydney.  We're enjoying it and learning about which neighborhood to explore next.

Our friends have a beach house in Cronulla (sp?) and we hope to take everyone there in December. 

The Blue Mountains and Springwood/Winmalee where we live is amazing.  Tropical and cool so very different from Wyoming, but we are enjoying the cockatoos squawking every morning like dinosaurs and the little possums that come crawling around our rooftop at night while we sleep.  The flowers are amazing and since spring is arriving here, it's great fun to garage sale and visit garden shops.  The home and garden shops are packed and everyone is giving our free sausage sandwiches from the grill:)

We are settled into our house but just need to find a car so that's our mission this weekend.  More to come but all is well in Australia so far!