it's about life, my life, quilts, midwifery, and whatever else occurs to me.

08 December 2009

C is for ... Crocodile; Coffee; College

Once again, I couldn't decide which of the C words should go into this Aussie alphabet so I put all 3 in.


Fab facts for all ages about crocs:


This post pretty much explains the history of coffee in Oz and why it is a national obsession.

and this gives a sense of the intensity of the love affair --


"College" here has a few meanings. In general though, what it doesn't mean is an institution that offers bachelor's degrees and some graduate degrees. For that you have to go to university -- of course, it's called "uni" because this is Australia and no energy is wasted on unnecessary syllables. So "college" can be:

1. a branch of TAFE (Technical and Further Education), which is roughly equivalent to a US community college, where you can study things like watchmaking, beauty, meat retailing, ASL (Australian Sign Language), and practical nursing. However, these are usually called "TAFEs" and not "colleges."

2. a secondary school, generally private, corresponding to US grades 7-12. This makes it very confusing until you get used to "college" meaning something very like "high school." Many are at least nominally affiliated with a church, some have boarding options, Latin mottos, and so far they all seem to have uniforms. Most of the time when I have heard people talking about "college" they've been talking about this kind of place.

A few post-secondary colleges are specialized, for example art colleges, and can grant bachelor's degrees, but most give certificates. Sometimes the credits earned can be applied to advanced standing in a university. TAFEs and their ilk are supposed to be a way of getting into university for those who didn't do so well in high school, a similarity to US community college.

What happens when you put oil, then molasses, then an egg in a bowl

Title just says it all.

22 November 2009

The POOL is open!

Yep, about a month ago we had the official handover from the pool company to us. Note: It's less work than a boat, but still work. The good thing is that you can do the pool chores and then get right in and cool off. The weather has got much warmer since the handover, and the cold water feels awfully good on hot days. After initially declining a solar pool heater, we're now considering it to extend swimming season.

22 October 2009

A visitor

This very attractive chook wandered over from an adjoining property this morning.

10 October 2009

Moreton Island

A big ol' sand island about an hour-and-a-half ferry ride from Bris, where we went to celebrate my birthday. You have to have a 4WD vehicle to get anywhere you can't walk to, because the roads are just big sand tracks. We stayed overnight at the resort near the ferry landing (no dock, the ferry just drives right up onto the beach!). Don't really need to do that again; expensive, bad food, screaming kids everywhere. The island has this GIANT sand pit in the middle of it. People use sand toboggans to slide down the sides of the pit. They go pretty fast, it's pretty steep, but then they have to walk all the way back up again because at this sand pit there's no chairlift! Next time we'll do a day trip, bring food in the cooler and our snorkel gear, and snorkel around a wreck right by the ferry landing. This is me at the sand pit. Just above my head, you can see a tiny little dark spot. That is a person. Gives you an idea of the size of the pit.

09 October 2009

The Aussie alphabet: B is for ... beer? Bundy? -- baseball????

Ah, how to choose among these candidates to represent B? Beer was the obvious one, and by the way, America, NOBODY drinks Foster's here. Then there is Bundy, properly known as Bundaberg, rum produced right here in the midst of the canefields in Queensland. With, oddly enough, a polar bear as its logo. Finally, I happened to be in a sporting goods store this morning and was surprised by this display of gear that I recognized immediately as pertaining to the Great American Pastime. Very strange.

23 August 2009

Trent & Judy visit the Treehouse

We went on Show Day (a public holiday in Brisbane, 12 Aug) to the Ekka, a huge fair with rides, games, food, animals, and a lot of people. A few days later Trent walked with us to the summit of Mt Coot-tha, while Judy stayed back and nursed her sore feet.

The Aussie alphabet: A is for "ABC"

Right, the ABC. Like in the US, it's a television and radio network. Unlike in the US, it's public. Kind of like PBS and NPR rolled into one, but with no pledging, because it's actually government funded! Like, the government thinks that public broadcasting is a good idea! There is, unfortunately, no all-news FM station in Brisbane. So we listen to the news on AM, Radio National, which really is national. The traffic and weather updates start in Brisbane, and go clockwise right around the major cities. Very handy if we want to know where the traffic is stuffed up in Melbourne, or how cold it is in Hobart. The AM frequencies here are odd: instead of a 3 or 4 digit number ending in "0", they can be any even number. That Radio National frequency is 936, and the local Brisbane station is at 612. FM stations have the same frequencies as in the US. On TV, there are ABC1, ABC-HD and ABC2. Oh, right, there are ABC shops too, where you can buy books, games, DVDs, that sort of thing. Right now, on ABC2, I'm watching Ioan Gruffudd as Horatio Hornblower.

11 July 2009


What happens when a 4-year-old eats cherries.

Karen & Suzanne (& Willie) & me

On the way back to Cville from greater Corning (actually miles and miles out of the way but sometimes you just want to do these things) I stopped overnight in NJ at the home of my midwifery school classmate Karen. My friend & former colleague Suzanne drove out from Brooklyn that afternoon so we could have dinner and a sleepover together. The next morning after breakfast we all went to meet Karen's grandsons at her daughter's house. Willie wanted to be in the photo.

Dad & Anne

I did a long weekend road trip from Cville to Greater Corning where several family members live, including my father who will be 91 in 10 days ("If I make it that long"). Mom died early in 2004 and after a tough year, Dad met Anne and they really hit it off.

escape from (Oz) winter trip

Been in the US since 17 June. Of course, the time has flown by, and I leave for home in 3 days. Most of the time I've been in Cville with Jo, Wes and Zara, who turned 4 on 27 June.

09 June 2009


I wish I had a photo of dusk this evening. I went up to the reservoir to run (did about 5K at my usual snail's pace) and rewarded myself with a breather at the viewing platform before walking back down to the Treehouse. The sky was simply amazing with colours in layers. The bottom layer was a band of robin's egg blue; just above that a deep lavender, that gradually faded to a light pink in a sort of ombre stripe arrangement. The natural beauty of this place can't be overstated. Phil and I spent the long weekend just past at a little resort north of here called Agnes Water. Pretty off the beaten path. We chose to drive and see some countryside; long drive but rewarding. I lost count of the number of times one of us said "it's pretty here, isn't it?" Reminds us both of parts of California, if a bit greener overall.

I don't know if I'll really live here for the rest of my life, but if I don't, it will surely be hard to leave.

02 June 2009

Poinsettias on the hoof

On the vine? the branch? stalking the wild poinsettia? So, it's June and it's winter here, or so said the news reader on the radio Monday, even though some people might say it's not winter until 21 June. Anyway here are the quintessential winter flowers, blooming away in someone's front garden a few streets over from the Treehouse.

My city view

This is a shot of the city from just up the hill from our house, taken while out walking. At the end of the walk it was dusk and the view is even cooler at dusk but I'm not equipped for low light photography. Maybe with Phil's big-ass camera I can get a dusk shot.

29 May 2009

First BMid cohort finishes!

Today, 29 May, was the last day of school for our first graduating cohort of BMid students. Nearly all of them have jobs already. Once the school signs off on them, they only have to take their paperwork down to the Queensland Nursing Council along with the $143 fee, and voila! they'll be licensed to practice. No comps, no boards...

Biostats class

No doubt you are all wondering about what school is like for me. I'm nearly done with an intro to biostatistics course, which I must say has been a valuable review for me. Here we see the course coordinator, Gail, waiting anxiously for the PC to decide whether it will show her lecture slides. The topic was Complex Sampling.

the Blue Room Cinebar

Let's see: how to optimize the movie-going experience? Build small theatres with really cushy seats and small tables between each pair of seats. Give moviegoers assigned seats. Offer them coffee, a full bar, and snacks or light meals, and serve these items at the seats during the film. That, friends, is the Blue Room Cinebar's claim to well-deserved fame.

Who says there's no fall in Queensland?

Here are 2 photos proving that we DO have seasons here. It's just that fall means the temp goes down to the upper 50s/low 60s at night but during the day it's in the 70s and sunny.

Goat at the Royal

So how often do you walk outside a major tertiary health care facility in a major city and find a collection of farm animals in pens on the lawn? There were a cow, a pig, 2 goats, a few sheep, some chickens, geese and a pair of alpacas. This guy had just happily eaten my apple core.

10 May 2009

Moon over campus

Taken on a Friday dusk stroll around the UQ campus.

19 April 2009

walk to Mt Coot-tha

Friday was a beautiful, sunny, and not humid day. I decide to take a walk up to the top of Mt Coot-tha. There's a trailhead just up the road from our house. (Emphasis on UP.) So off I go at about a quarter to noon. By this time it's quite warm, even without the humidity. It's not too taxing a walk over the first half or so of the 1450 metres. I start to wish I was more of a morning person, because then I could get up early and do this walk before breakfast and, more importantly, before it gets hot. No problem! I could do this! Then I notice the trail starts to incline more severely upwards. Still no problem; have a hiking pole with me. Slog along, but now it gets even steeper...
Some considerate person has arranged the trail so that about every 10-15 metres, it flattens out a bit, so I stop, catch my breath, look back at what I've just climbed, and look ahead to --- oh geez, how the hell am I going to get up this next bit?? Climb, stop, breathe, look around, repeat.
On I climb, ever so slowly. All thoughts of daily morning ascents are now entirely gone from my head. I start to hear children's voices. This is good because it means I'm nearly at the top. I stop one last time to see where I've been and realize that NO WAY am I going to hike back down this hill, by myself, with these knees. After a brief stop at the summit to document my climb (see photo of sign with hiking pole leaning against it) and admire the view, it's the long way home for me: down the access road, past the botanic gardens, over the new pedestrian bridge, and along the bike path until I have to leave it and take surface streets. A short hike ends as a 2 1/2 hour trek, and I decide I can blow off an afternoon run around the reservoir.

06 April 2009

the iPhone is back!

Sometimes things really do work out. Someone found my phone in the bathroom Friday afternoon. When I picked it up yesterday, it seemed unrepentant for having jumped out of my backpack. I don't know what sort of wild weekend it was expecting, but what it got was a quiet one, locked safely away in the School of Nursing & Midwifery office. I suspect I'll have to be on the lookout for more signs of incipient rebellion and keep a firmer grip on it in future...

05 April 2009

Oh where, oh where has my iPhone gone?

Sad to relate that sometime this past Friday, my iPhone went bush. I last saw it in Susannah's office at the School of Nursing & Midwifery in Ipswich. A search of the vicinity by campus security turned up nothing. I'm hoping that some kindly person found it and turned it in to the School office, but I'm not too optimistic about that. I feel almost like I've lost a body part. Stay tuned for updates.

28 March 2009

Ducks on the Avon

Whole extended families of ducks live on the Avon. This fellow came looking for a handout but soon left, disappointed.

Punting on the Avon

The rather shallow River Avon winds through Christchurch. You can't operate a boat with any sort of keel on it, hence the punts, apparently hired largely by middle-aged (and older) tourists. Wait, I was a middle-aged tourist! Damn!

Flowers at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens

The rose looks pink, but it is in fact white, Anne. Fabulous gardens -- I must have spent 4 hours there, and as can be seen, it was a beautiful sunny day.

NZ: altar cloth at Christchurch Cathedral

Here you go, Marylou. I had to take a picture of this. I love visiting churches, especially big old cathedrals. And this altar cloth is patchwork.

The Oz series #2: food/morning tea

Ah...morning tea. Now this is a custom we should import to the US. It seems like wherever you are, be it at a conference, in class, weekday or weekend, around 10 AM there will be a break in the action and you'll have the opportunity to go get coffee or tea and a bite to eat. If you're in some sort of gathering of any size, it's likely the food and beverages will be provided by the host. The best thing is when someone invites you to their home for morning tea because you often get homemade goodies.
Even though it's called morning TEA, this is such an insane coffee culture that almost everyone gets coffee, but at least tea is available. The bites to eat tend to be sweet: little chunks of Danish, brownies, carrot cake, this horrible stuff called lamingtons (see photo, courtesy of, that sort of thing. Sometimes there is fruit. It's great as long as you avoid the lamingtons. Unless you like them, of course. That white stuff sticking to the outside is coconut.

New Zealand

Marylou just pointed out to me that I've neglected to post any photos of our trip to New Zealand last month. Let me rectify that straightaway. Phil shot this while we were hiking part of the Queen Charlotte track near Picton on the South Island. A good half-day's hiking, 14 km, with stunning views like this around nearly every bend in the trail (or 'track' as it's known locally).

22 March 2009

My favorite restaurant

Back in November I posted a photo of me with my peeps having lunch out at the Hundred Acre Bar. It is (so far) my favorite expensive restaurant in Brisbane. It's located on a public golf course in St. Lucia, about 2 miles from our house and a mile or so from campus. The menu is creative, focuses on seasonal foods, the wine list is broad and mostly reasonable, and the surroundings couldn't be better. And except for around the holiday season, you hardly ever need to book ahead.

Classic Queenslander

This photo shows a typical, nicely preserved house built in the style known as Queenslander. Qlder houses tend to share certain characteristics: generally they are built up off the ground (to catch cooling breezes and make it harder for critters to enter); they have verandahs on 3 sides; when restored they often have multi-colored paint jobs to highlight quaint architectural detail, like the swinging doors at the top of the steps on this one.

A sunny Saturday afternoon in the fall

In many respects, just like in the USA. Boys are playing sports. In this case, cricket (top photo) and rugby.

19 March 2009

I'm back; late summer flora

Wow, I see it's been over 2 months since my last post. What's my excuse? Well, I was traveling in the US for 3 weeks back in Jan/Feb. Then we spent a week in NZ ("En Zed", that is) so that we could get our permanent residency visas granted -- don't ask -- En Zed was lovely and I'm eager to go back.

As soon as that was done, school started for me, both as teacher and student, so I've been busy.

My other excuse is Facebook -- I've been spending my online energy there instead of here.

But here's a photo of a cool bush I saw the other day: it has both flowers and berries at the same time. The flowers are purple and the berries are yellow, a really nice color combination with the green leaves. No idea what it's called, of course.

Now that the semester is under way, and I'm a little calmer, I'll pay more attention. I promise.

13 January 2009

I said Do you speak-a my language?

In my recent post discussing brekky in Oz, I neglected the most important breakfast item of all: Vegemite. It's not just for breakfast, of course, but it's frequently offered with toast. And just to be clear: I have NOT tried it.

11 January 2009

Time to shop

Since we're moving into our new and unfurnished house on Thursday, it was time to buy a few necessary items. I did my homework ( and off I went to The Good Guys, our local Best Buy equivalent. Ordered our washer & dryer, and came home with our new microwave, toaster, electric kettle, iron and hand mixer. The coffee machine, vacuum cleaner and possibly food processor are yet to be acquired. Prices are well below retail; these good guys do deals!

I also found Homemaker City, a wonderland of big-box stores selling sleep sets, furniture, BBQs (yes, there are whole stores devoted to the BBQ), lighting, curtains, carpeting, housewares, etc. And this shangri-la is right down the road from DFO -- Direct Factory Outlets -- that looks like it will take another whole day to discover thoroughly...

The Oz series, #1: food/breakfast

I've been giving some thought to what people might actually want to know about life here in Oz, from the warped perspective of a Yank of a certain age. I've decided to do a series of posts on everyday items or experiences, starting with food.

Let's take it meal by meal and then we'll do snacks, perhaps with a trip to the supermarket.

Breakfast: anyone who knew me well enough in Cambridge knew I was a big, big fan of maple oatmeal scones from Darwin's Ltd. I'd have bite-size shredded wheat, Grape-Nuts, or granola some mornings, but I had a serious 4 to 5 scone a week habit. Sometimes, it would be bagels on a Sunday morning, or cinnamon rolls at Carberry's.

Here, you can get a pretty decent croissant and pain au raisin (French boulangerie style) in some of the local bakeries. Scones, however, are limited to the English/Bisquick style with raisins or sometimes dates & raisins. Muffins exist but are not very appealing visually. Donuts -- worse than Dunkin. As for bagels, I'm told you can get decent ones in Melbourne but they haven't made it to Brisbane yet.

I recently discovered unsweetened big (not bite size) shredded wheat -- all the minis have sugar added (go Kellogg's) -- at the supermarket. My vote for favorite breakfast item is cafe-style raisin toast. The cafes all serve this fluffy (not Wonder-fluffy, more like Arnolds or Pepperidge Farm) raisin bread sliced thick (about 1" per slice) and toasted. You can buy this bread in the supermarket under the brand name "Mighty Soft." Toasted at home and topped with some butter & cinnamon sugar, or pb & jam (you can get Bonne Maman jam!) it's about as good as it gets. For company, I make buttermilk pancakes using a very good recipe from, accompanied by real maple syrup imported from Canada, naturally.

For breakfast ("brekky") out, beyond the aforementioned raisin toast, there will usually be muesli with yoghurt & fruit, oatmeal, and plain toast on offer. Those who want the classic Brit greasy fry-up can get it: eggs, bacon (American-style is called "streaky bacon"), hash browns, beans, tomatoes, mushrooms and toast are the building blocks of this artery-clogger.


That could describe what I've been doing vis-a-vis this blog for the past 4 weeks. But I personally have been busy, of course. Phil & I were busy for a week on holiday at Byron Bay!