Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Kangas, Koalas and Wombats, Oh My!

I am officially going to Tulane Law!!! After weeks of research and decision making, I finally decided that I think I will be happiest and most successful there. I am so excited to move to New Orleans and begin a new chapter of my life.

The last few weeks have been pretty uneventful. I have been babysitting heaps more, mainly because the five year old is on school holiday. I have also babysat for a different family, for Zay Zay's girlfriend's daughter and for the little bubba. Granny, the aunt and the bubba just went to Richmond, VA for a few weeks, and will be stopping in NYC for a few days, where Brooke will babysit for him! My girls want to skype with Brooke and bubba that night.

The rest of the days have been spent on very long walks, doing law school research, and exploring Perth. I have been trying to go on new and interesting walks each day, for about an hour, so I have been to King's Park a few times, Hyde Park a few times, down to the CBD, etc. My ipod died, so its been a bit difficult to last for an hour, so switching up the location is totally necessary.

Pesach was such a neat experience. I am so glad I got to be a part of a South African/Australian Passover. Shul was very interesting-its an Ortodox shul, so men and women are separated, but there is a bimah in the center and a choir sings all of the prayers instead of a cantor. Zayzay is the lead of the choir and it sounded almost like a barbershop quarter in the way it was all sung. I loved the sound of it.

The seder was very similar to ours: read the English around the table, and did approximately the same amount of Hebrew that we do at home. I helped Granny make some of the Pesach food, just to see how it differs from home. We made boiled and FRIED (weird!!) gefilte fish. I had never heard of fried gefilte, but they are basically just fried little fish ball thingies. We made the matzoh balls with her, but she made the soup herself.  I thought it was pretty awful soup (compared to mommy) but everyone else loved it. The soup had just shredded chicken in it (no veg) and was very very oily (I didnt eat any at all really). The matzoh balls were okay (I ate one small one to be kind) but were made with vegetable schmaltz and tasted pretty fatty. They weren't fluffy and airy and incredible like my mother, the amazing cook! The rest of dinner was delicious-yummy brisket/tsimmes, veg tsimmes, pickled veggies, a huge salad (that I made), and roasted potatoes. For dessert I made coconut macaroons, and granny made halvah ice cream, fruit salad, weird almond cookies and stewed apples. Overall, a yummy dinner, but a pretty noisy atmosphere. The kids (my girls, bubba, plus bubba's 3 cousins on his dad's side) were running everywhere, kids were being taken home periodically, some of the adults were a bit unattentive, etc. which made for a very disorganized seder (ironic, no? doesn't seder mean 'order'?). The only songs that sounded the same were dayenu and hadgadya. Anyway it was very nice to feel part of the family, though I missed home a lot.

The next night's seder was at Zay Zay's house. His food was MUCH better and I really enjoyed the more intimate seder that we had. I made matzoh crack for the family, and the uncle basically proposed marriage to it. He said it was the best thing he had ever tasted! (Melt 1 cup butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar in micro for 2 minutes, spread over 4 sheets of matzoh and bake until bubbly about 12 mins, let cool for 1 minute then spread 1 cup of chocolate chips over the top and refrigerate for an hour).

I had such a long week this week. I babysat several of the nights and most of the days, and went out with m friends to an Allied Health (all of the uni's medical students) social on Thursday night at Metro City night club. It was pretty fun! On Friday, the parents went to stay at a hotel for the dad's birthday this weekend, so I stayed home alone with the girls for 2 nights. It is hard work being a single mother! We did all kinds of SciTech activities (which we picked up last week at SciTech, before lunching at Wagamama and drinking hot chocolate at SanChurro Chocolateria...mmmm!). We made bouncy balls, had touchable bubbles, strawberry cream smelly bubbles, bath crayons, painted easter eggs, etc. We also made icing and then decorated a birthday cake for the dad. It was so much fun being with the girls non-stop and I love them even  more now. They behaved so well for me and even slept til nearly 8:30am one of the days!! That never happens when their parents are home, so I was very happy about that. On Sunday I took the girls to the hotel to swim with the parents, and I went home to go for a walk, go look for birthday presents for the dad, and straighten my newly short hair. I went back to their house in the arvo for my very first easter egg hunt. It was so cute and there was so much chocolate. The five year old was HOARDING it and then devoured a huge chocolate bunny. This shop, Chokeby Road, sells beautiful chocolates, and the mom went all out. The mom got me my own teeny tiny easter basket, and I had a lot of fun watching the girls hunt for the eggs. The parents even got me a lovely bracelet for taking such good care of the girls. Since it was the dad's birthday, he invited me to go for drinks at the Queens with a few of his mates. I knew them already and it was a lot of fun.

My German friend is back in town now, so we had planned to go to Caversham Wildlife at Whiteman Park on Anzac Day. Caversham charges a single all-inclusive fee, and you get to cuddle and pet all of the animals that you want. (The rest of the zoos in Australia will charge an entrance fee plus cuddle and photo fees). We even got a free clip-on koala with our admission. Anyway, we high tailed it straight to the kangaroo pen, which was a massive area with maybe 100 kangaroos roaming about. We immediately started cudding the cute and friendly kangas and even found a mommy kanga with a bulging pouch. The joey wasn't visible yet, but the mommy loved us and followed us around. We held hands with another baby joey and just really loved being with all of the kangaroos. Since it was early, they were all hungry and wide-awake, so they were a lot of fun to be around. We heard that later in the day they are so full and tired that it just isn't as exciting. We were glad to have been one of the first visitors inside! We then headed to see some kookaburras (unfortunately, NOT sitting in an old gum tree, but instead in a large cage). The koala enclosure didn't open until 10:30, but we wanted to be first in line, so we headed over and lucked out by being let in early with just three other people. We got to play with the mommy koalas (all of whom had joeys in their pouches). We learned that all marsupials have pouches and their babies are all called joeys. The joeys are born and move straight into the pouches, where they grow for about 6 months. I learned a lot and loved petting the koalas, though they were much more interested in their fresh eucalyptus plants than us humans. After the koalas we decided to get in line for the wombat show. I didn't expect a wombat to be so large, but it was 30 kilos (~60 pounds)! It was so cute and looked like Phil, my pug. We were first in line, so we got to go on the stage for pictures first. We also got to touch some blue tongued lizard, a weird possum bushy tailed thing named Luna, and a wallaby joey. We got to look at this carnivorous owl wich a dead mouse hanging out of its beak and a large snake. After the show we headed back to the kangaroos to play some more. This time we actually saw a joey emerge from the pouch! It kept going back to nurse from the pouch and I got to look inside a kanga pouch. The joey kept trying to climb back inside, but the mommy kanga kept walking away. The joey then walked up to this large male kangaroo and it reminded me so much of the Dr. Suess story "Are You My Mother?". Anyway, I took a million videos and pictures of the joey and the mom, so if I can figure out a way to post them here, I definitely will. After another hour with the kangas, we headed to the farm area to pet some donkeys (one kept making silent heehaws!), llamas, rabbits, pigs, guinea pigs, ducks, turkeys, goats (one fell off a rock and onto my left foot), sheep, cows, camels, etc. I love animals, so this was another amazing morning in Australia.

After nearly five hours at Caversham, we decided to head to the nearby Swan Valley to check out a few wineries/breweries. On this one road are dozens of them, so we figured we would just stop at any that looked interesting. Well, being easter weekend (or maybe its always like this?), there were many places offering free tastings, so we decided to hit up as many as we could. We first went to the Margaret River chocolate factory, where we tasted delicious mini chocolate buttons (dark was my favorite, followed by the milk. The white was way too sweet). Then, we headed to Lancaster Wineries, where we got to sample at least half a dozen wines, as well as this incredible creamy spicy cheddar. We also walked through the vines and took pictures. This was a beautiful winery and I am so glad we stopped. We then headed to this brewery, but we weren't impressed, so we left without buying a beer. I did climb this incredibly large, gnarly tree outside though. I have never seen a tree like this, with one trunk, but each huge branch fanning out and touching ground, creating huge natural archways. It was so cool. After monkeying around, we headed to this coffee sampling place. We got to try 3 different coffees, each made in a French Press.The coffee (or koffee, as they called it) was so watered down from the French Press, it was barely drinkable. We did sample some yummy chocolate covered espresso beans, but even they were weak.The atmosphere at this place was kool though, and they roast their own beans on site. Not worth purchasing any koffee, but it was an interesting place to stop. Our last stop was at this honey farm. The owner couple was so sweet and attentive. I ended up purchasing a jar of honey and some lip balm. I liked supporting the locals, and also the honey in the super market here is horrendous, and this was delicious! We finally headed home, full of delicious samples, and very happy with such a lovely day. The weather was perfect, our timing at Caversham was perfect, the samples were all perfect-I'd call this day one of my top days in Australia so far!

I babysat last night for Zay Zay, uploaded my pics and named my videos. I came home and woke up this morning feeling totally exhausted. I guess this week was so go-go-go that I wiped myself out. I relaxed while my friend went to Freo Markets, and then mustered up the energy to go for a long walk to the CBD. I wandered in and out of some of the Asian Markets and some of the shops, but most were closed since it is a public holiday (which makes it a 5 day weekend-Good Friday kicked off the public holidays, Sunday was easter, Monday was Anzac Day and I have no clue why today was also one). I then came home so that my good friend could pick me up for a spontaneous arvo of lazing by the river. We picked up coffee (me) and ice cream (her) and then lounged in the grass by the Swan River. It was a gorgeous afternoon. I came home very ready to cook dinner (Pesach ended tonight!), so I first had a teeny taste of peanut butter (oh how I missed it for 8 days!) and then made this amazing pasta dish. I boiled 1.5 cups of orrechette spinach pasta, then drained it and mixed in 4 tbs of non-fat cream cheese, 1 can of artichoke hearts quartered, 1 can of cannelini beans, minced garlic, and then a few handful of spinach to wilt at the end. I then added a small sprinkling of garlic basil cheddar to finish it off. I also heated up a bit of a frozen seafood mix and stirred it into my portion of the pasta. I LOVED this meal (alongside some roasted asparagus) and cannot wait to eat the leftovers tomorrow.

Me and my friend have just been relaxing and watching the Harry Potter dvds that I have. Its been storming on and off this evening, so its nice to just sit inside watching movies and writing this post. She goes back to Germany this week, which makes me want to go home too. I am loving my time here and am very excited for the next few months, but I do miss a lot of things about home! I think I will end it here. Hope you all are well and thanks for reading such a long post!

Dana xoxo

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