Friday, December 31, 2010

top ten annual events in sydney

Sydney is an amazing city -- it's got the harbour, the bridge, gorgeous beaches, oh, and that Opera House they take all those pictures of.  But it's not just a pretty face.  Sydney's got character, too, and it hosts a ton of cool annual events.  Here's my pick for its top ten.  (And can I just mention that these are only my top ten?  As in, I had to leave lots of others out because they didn't make the cut.  Not bad, hey?)

1.  New Years' Eve.  This has to be number one for me.  I absolutely love New Years in Sydney.  Fireworks get me every time and the ones here are quite literally the best in the world.  I know you wouldn't think Cincinnati, Ohio would give it much competition, but Cincinnati's Labor Day fireworks are nothing to sneeze at and honestly the closest competition I've seen for Sydney.  The scale and vibe and Harbour Bridge, not to mention the fireworks themselves, just push Sydney right over the top, though.  I can't wait to see them again!

2.  Carols under the Bridge.  Perhaps it's a bit risky throwing in an event I've never actually been to and that isn't actually a Sydney city event, but I'm going to risk it and slot it in at number two.  It's my church's carols service and draws huge crowds (okay, not as big as NYE, but bigger than, say, the number of people reading my blog on any given day) for the free sing-a-long under the bridge.  It's got to be weird singing "Joy to the World" in the middle of summer (still getting used to this Christmas-in-winter thing), but I guess ye faithful o come despite the weather.

Sidenote:  maybe I've mentioned this before, but the fact remains:  Sydney (by which I mean any city located in the southern hemisphere), while odd to celebrate Christmas in (it really does seem most suited to a winter climate -- though I will admit to loving wearing summer dresses for Christmas parties! -- but how are you supposed to gorge yourself and then don swimwear?!), is really amazingly suited to New Years.  And Cincinnati, say (by which I mean any city located in the northern hemisphere), is really amazingly suited to Christmas (what with the snow and all), but could have such a better New Years if it were warm.  So it's rather impossible to get the best of both worlds (unless you do what I've been known to do and fly between them between the holidays), but each has something quite grand to offer.

3.  Sculpture by the Sea.  Always around Halloween and shortly thereafter.  It's fantastic -- intriguing sculptures situated along one of the most scenic walks in the city.  It spans from Bondi to Bronte (or Tamarama?) beaches and is an annual highlight.  What's even better is that, while the art is generally great, even if there's an off year, it's still okay because the scenery is still so beautiful.  It's a great way to make sure to do the lovely walk at least once a year, too.

4.  The Aroma Festival.  Held in the Rocks when it's on the chilly side, the Aroma Festival features tons of chocolate, tea, coffee and goodies (i.e., cupcakes).  It's also been known to include camel rides, which are a particular draw for me, as if the chocolate weren't enough.  It's gotten really huge and has not only free samples, but also clever names for various stalls.  What more do you want in an Aroma Festival?

5.  Cinema over the harbour.  This one's coming up, too -- I think maybe in January?  It's great, too:  you get to watch a movie outside (novelty right there!) but with the Opera House and harbour for a backdrop.  It reminds me of the question I had when touring the Greek theatre in Taormina, Sicily -- how did they tear themselves from the view long enough to actually watch the performance?  Here it's a bit easier because night falls and it's a bit hard to see.  Perhaps that's how they handled it, too.  You tend to get a few goodies, too -- Lindt chocolate among them.  And last year featured a free ride by a tuxed up young chauffeur in a new hybrid car.  If only there'd been roses.

6.  The Sydney Writers' Festival.  So this might be a bit esoteric, but it's my list and I happen to be a bit biased.  Writers' Festivals are cool.  Period.

7.  Shakespeare by the Sea.  Again, not technically a "Sydney" event, but it's close enough.  It's at Balmoral, which is just one of my favorite spots to begin with.  Though I tend to find the productions a bit blah, free outdoor Shakespeare at Balmoral is pretty hard to turn down.  Besides, you just end up feeling so darn cultured.

8.  The Sydney Summer Festival.  From the "this is our city in summer!" banners forward, it's hard to be anything but jubilant in Sydney's summer.  I have yet to come to the Festival First Night (on my list!), but I imagine it's pretty worth it.  The free events are my favorites (the pay-for theatre events I find to be a little too hit or miss to be entirely worth it) -- particularly in the Domain.  It's just such a fun, big crowd atmosphere.  And easy enough to blend in on your own if necessary ...

9.  Tropfest.  Speaking of the Domain, Tropfest is another of my yearly excitements.  I've only been once so far, but am keen (he he!  see how Australian I sound!) to go again.  It's a night of short films put forward for various awards, and generally lots of fun.  There's such diversity of films it's great because even if you don't like one, well, it's already almost over.

10.  The Noodle Markets.  Another annual event.  A bit more overpriced, but a fun night (or nights) out.  You can't deny Sydney's got its fair share of noodles, and Hyde Park's not a bad place to sample them in.

There you have it.  Sydney through the year.  And like I said -- these are just the beginning!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

photos: christmas

update: more bus bloopers

--When you think there's a seat free in the back and you're the only one standing and walk all the way to the back only to find that there isn't one.
--Vice versa:  there IS a seat free in the back but there's someone who won't go take it standing between you and the seat.  Even worse if you can't quite tell, but are pretty sure there is one.
--You push the button and nothing happens.  So you push it harder.  Nothing still happens.  You don't know if the button is broken or if the driver's got it turned off because he's already planning to stop.  Or what.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

quicko: out of town

The week between Christmas and New Years is similar in Australia to the U.S. -- nearly everyone is traveling somewhere.  I have Australian friends in New York, other parts of America, camping, Queensland, somewhere down the South Coast, somewhere up the North Coast, Inverell, Byron Bay, Foster, Melbourne, Ulla Dulla and probably a range of other places as well.  It's great to be in Sydney before Christmas and for New Years, but the time in between is ... well, relaxing.  And a wee bit tough on the extroverts.

quicko: further thoughts on boxing day

Did you know Boxing Day was also St. Stephen's Day?  Neither did I.  Turns out it was.  And you missed it.  Again.

In any event, I actually heard a very good sermon on Stephen -- the first Christian martyr -- on Boxing Day.  However, the only notes I seem to have taken revolve not around his sacrifice or even the ongoing martyrdom of Christians around the world (a huge number if you were unaware -- more Christians were martyred in the 21st century than all the preceding centuries added together*) but around Boxing Day.  Two further theories as to its origins were given:

--It was a day when leftovers were boxed up and given to charity.
--It was a day when boxed goodies were given to a family's butcher, baker, candlestick maker, etc.

*Check out Voice of the Martyrs -- particularly their section on how Christians are currently persecuted in countries (China, Laos, Vietnam, etc.) around the world -- for more information.

quicko: balmain bugs

I have a new favorite kind of seafood -- the Balmain bug.  Despite its unsavory name (and, I just realized here, appearance!), they're actually very good -- especially grilled.  I know it's cliche, but I'd say they taste like a seafood-y chicken.  Not quite as ... solid ... but very tasty.  Presumably healthy.  Possibly Christmas-y.  At any rate, I was served one on Christmas Day, and it was great!

quicko: further thoughts on christmas

--There are cars riding around with antlers and Rudolph noses.  This seems very American to me, but I'm in Australia.  I can only imagine it is a distinct effort to make me feel welcome.

--The pubs were packed on Christmas Eve -- absolutely pounding.  You could argue that had to do with the fact Christmas Eve was a major public holiday on a Friday, but you could also argue it had to do with the fact that Christmas Eve was a major public holiday in Australia.

christmas lack-of-cookies

Just hasn't got the same ring, has it?  The taste's a bit off, too.

I don't know why, but for some reason Australians aren't big into Christmas cookies.  Possibly because they call them biscuits.

I had one friend who made some chocolate chip (which they dub "choc chip") cookies and something gingery the week before Christmas, but that was it.  And I kind of think it was a bit of a fluke he just happened to be baking around Christmas.

Not that I was doing any baking, either, but at least I noticed what was missing.  It took me a minute, though, when my Christmas hosts asked what I usually ate for Christmas dessert (they asked this just as I finished photographing every angle of their their Christmas pudding (which isn't actually pudding, pictured left) and Christmas cake (which is fruitcake, not pictured)).  I couldn't quite remember.

Umm, gingerbread, sometimes, I told them, but even then that didn't sound quite right.  Then it came to me:  Christmas cookies!  No one's baking special desserts on Christmas Day because there are so many uneaten cookies everyone's trying to get rid of.

Where do all the cookies come from?  It's a bit of a mystery in the vein of how socks go missing out of the dryer.  (A mystery Australians, incidentally, know precious little about seeing as they use dryers only as decor and selling points of rental units, if that.)

Although most American households make some cookies (gingersnaps, the ones I don't know the name of, the other ones I don't know the name of, lebkuchen (which I'm pretty sure I don't like) and of course sugar cookies being the most common in my house), the number of cookies that appears tends to be far above the number actually within concocted.

An extra dozen or so surely come from a mathematical mishap at the cookie exchange.  Most churches run cookie exchanges around Christmas where every woman bakes 12 dozen cookies and arrives at the church to trade twelfths of her hoard with 11 other women.  (12 being, of course, a very biblical number.)

Then, neighbors, friends and strangers tend to drop off cookies because they've got more than they know what to do with, too.

And then, Grandma comes.

Now for many children and storybook characters alike this is a truly blessed event.  Their grandmothers, however, were not ancestrally German.

I have no idea what the current state of German cooking is, but the Pennsylvania Dutch German variety seems to have jumped ship a bit more than necessary when it comes to Christmas cookies.  I could be wrong, but I think they opted to take out all recommended quantities of chocolate and insert jelly instead.  In my house, anything including chocolate cannot possibly be deemed a Christmas cookie.  Ginger, yes, raisins, yes, jelly, yes.  Chocolate, no.

The result is a dry, jelly-filled morsel squished between six other kinds of dry, occasionally powdered sugared pieces of chocolate-less dessert that are supposed to taste good, but instead do nothing but add to your already off-the-charts daily calorie intake.  With none of the oomph of deliciousness.

This wouldn't be so bad in and of itself -- you could fairly easily avoid such cookies with a few helpfully ambiguous niceties -- but they distinctly prevent you from eating other Christmas cookies -- the kind brought by friends whose shallow definition of Christmas cookies includes any cookie made at Christmastime.

The ongoing problem then is that the rock-hard German Kekse end up sitting around for days upon days, the mother of more complete Pennsylvania Dutch heritage being the only one in the house who actually likes them, well into the time when the normal calorie count has actually stabilized and all your other friends are devouring delicious orange slice cookies, which they've told you about for years but as of yet never actually offered you any of, despite having been your best friend for over a decade.  And, alas, they're all gone this year already, too.  Maybe next year.

Thankfully I also have a father who likes dessert, but is of British descent and, while by no means a culinary master, can very convincingly whip up a batch of chocolate chip cookies.  Naturally, having chocolate, these do not classify as Christmas cookies in my house, but it's usually nearly New Years by this point so my mother is too exhausted to argue.  We can even snatch fingerfuls of dough and not get in trouble.

This year, in a blatant effort to provoke what she believes are my very latent domestic cooking instincts, my mother sent me plastic baggies of every spice known in the McCormack spice rack and a recipe for gingerbread.  I am happy to report the bay leaves were the only substance actually seized by customs (evidently they should have been chopped up), and the gingerbread turned out, amazingly, perfectly.

Except that, never having used the measuring cups before I put them back in the wrong drawer and proceeded to get it so stuck that I required the aid of three male friends simultaneously pulling with all of their weight to get it out again.

And then I proceeded to break the sugar bowl.

But otherwise, I can't imagine why I don't cook.  I guess the Australian Christmas spirit's rubbed off on me.  Bah humbug.

update: yet another bus blooper

It is not necessary, when on a crowded bus full of standing passengers pulling into Neutral Bay, to push your way from the back past several other standing passengers to the door before the bus reaches its first stop.  Wait until it stops and a quarter of the bus will exit anyway.  You certainly won't end up a stranded mess a stop too far north on the mean streets of Neutral Bay.  Really.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

quicko: closed

Christmas Day I can understand.  Boxing Day I can understand.  Even the 27th as a public holiday makes a bit of sense.  But the day after the day after the day after Christmas??  Really??  How do they get away with that?

Perhaps I should back up.   I'm talking about the post office.  Not the restaurants or department stores or retail outlets or any other such luxuries, but the post office.  My little Australian calendar informs me that today is the "Boxing Day Public Holiday (except Qld, NSW)."  I can only imagine that the post offices are closed nation-wide, despite the fact I went to a post office demonstrably in NSW.  Okay, the concept is nice -- "lose" a public holiday on a weekend, make it up later -- but really!  Where do you draw the line?  And how does a governmental institution like a post office get off being closed 4 days straight with no one except tourists batting an eye?

I'd hate to think what the banks have thought to done.  Presumably they'll be open before Easter.

quicko: shrapnel

Slang for silver coins.  (Distinguished from "gold coins" in that they are less valuable, though occasionally colloquially Australians will refer to any coins as shrapnel, even if moments previously they have just told you it only refers to silver coins.)

Monday, December 27, 2010

quicko: teddy "bears"

Australians, it would seem, like the British, refer most incorrectly to any stuffed animal as a "teddy" or "teddy bear" or even "bear" regardless of species.  I don't have enough italics to express how very appalled I am!

Case in point:  Aslan is demonstrably a lion, NOT a teddy bear!  He has a mane, for goodness' sake!  And a lion-style tail!  And a Band-Aid on his foot!  I suppose that last one doesn't necessarily imply lionness, but I can assure you, he is most definitely a lion.  Rrrrrroarr!!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

quicko: boxing day

So today is Boxing Day.  You know, it's that little thing that shows up on our calendars on December 26 and nobody knows what it is or why it's there.  Ages ago I heard it was a British thing from olden days that, after Christmas, the family would give small boxes to their servants on the day after the day.  I have no idea how true it is, but it's the idea I've been thoroughly convinced by for a large number of years.

Regardless, Australians celebrate Boxing Day, if by celebrate you mean "call the day Boxing Day and not do much of anything."  It's really more a title for a day than anything, from what I can tell.  Nothing significant happens on it, but it accomplishes basically the same thing as The Day After Christmas.  Movies are released, plans are made and fun is had.  The end.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

quicko: "candles" and christmas eve

So we've known Australians are a bit on the casual side, but we didn't know they use glowsticks instead of candles for the Christmas Eve service.  The rest of the service was great and normal and joyful and all that, except I can't entirely vouch for the first 20 minutes because I was spending the time staring into a stream of cold water in the bathroom after my glowstick broke and squirt me in the eye.  It turns out they're probably reasonably harmless (google when I got home), but I didn't know that at the time.  Thankfully I was with my friend who's a nurse and also managed to reach my optometrist friend on the phone.  They both concurred lots of water was a good idea, so that's what I found.  I got a little nervous when I could see rainbows around lights that other people couldn't, but by the end of the service, things were pretty much back to normal.  Except that they still weren't using candles.

quicko: further thoughts on suburbs

Today I had occasion to visit the post office twice.  I'm not all that fond of the post office -- I mean, it's nice and everything, but I don't have any huge attachment -- but they sent me a little postcard this morning that said they had A Box for me.  So I went and got The Box.  (There's a two hour lesson on articles in those two sentences, but thank goodness you've mastered your English already.  It's really a rather dull lesson.)

When I picked up The Box I mentioned that, maybe, possibly, there might be another for me but I might not have gotten the corresponding postcard yet.  The nice woman assured me that I had the only box they had for me.  So I took it and chirped merrily home.  (It had been, incidentally, a particularly good mail day.  Not only had I received the postcard of boxiness, I had also received a Christmas card, a real letter and a wedding invitation for my favorite engaged couple.  And then I had gone to work, where I only had to teach 90 minutes, then got to have a picnic!  And then went for coffee with the teachers!  And get to wear my new dress tonight!  To a party!  And a Christmas Eve service!  With candlelight!  It was really more than just a good mail day, actually, it was an all-around good day!)

However, when I got home, I found at my door another postcard of boxiness.  Normally I'd have been content just to have left it for another day, but today is Christmas Eve and the first box came from Santa and was full of my stocking stuffers, while the second box came from Mom and was full of my Christmas presents.  I knew she'd want me to have my box on Christmas day (that's why she'd spent exorbitant amounts mailing it over seven seas, six deserts, three plains and two oceans) so leaving it on its own for the holiday was out of the question.  I traipsed back to get it.

And that was when it hit me:  it would take me roughly the same amount of time to get my from home in America to my post office in America as it would take for me to get from my home in Australia to my post office in Australia -- the only difference being that in America I'd be driving and in Australia I'd be walking.  And therein lies the difference:  the size of suburbs!  American suburbs are huge -- ten minutes driving inside one is perfectly typical, and I'm not just talking 25 mph -- certainly up to 40 (49 if you speed), if not 65 (74 if you speed) on the highway.  Mine has no fewer than 4 (4!) exits off a major highway.  If I drove that far in Sydney, I'd be four suburbs over, at least.

But who's counting?  It's Christmas Eve and I have my presents.  To all a goodnight.

quicko: 'twas the night before christmas

... and Kim suddenly decided to share all the rest of her Christmas thoughts before it was too late!

--There have been, contrary to previous posts, some signs of festive cheer around town.  For example, there have been buskers in the train station most days over the last week or two.  Christmas music has also been playing in stores for ages.

--Christmas music includes all the same snowy sorts of wonders as it does back home -- ones about jingling bells and sleigh rides and bedecked out halls, etc.  No one seems to be particularly familiar with the movie White Christmas, though.

--It's a Wonderful Life is known here.  In fact, my Australian friends insisted I watch it with them.  The biggest question:  what does "hot dog!" mean as an exclamation?  (Particularly as George says it at a time where an "oh drat!" seems more appropriate?  I fear I failed in my American duties.)

--I'm wearing shorts and a t-shirt today.  Today is Christmas Eve.

--Oddly enough, while I usually wear a little black dress on Christmas, I've got a long blue one for this year.  Note the irony:  my dress is longer in the warmer environment.  Very strange fluke.

--And finally, it doesn't feel like Christmas Eve really at all.  There's hardly any of that "oh gosh!  hello!  and do have a very merry Christmas!" feeling about on the streets.

--However, we do have a Christmas Eve candlelight service.  Thankfully the most important things are the same everywhere.

The joy of the birth of our Savio(u)r to you tonight and always!

quicko: awaaaaay in a manager

So the other day I tried to find a Christmas card with something -- anything -- about Jesus.  Turns out the absolute closest I could get to the real Christmas story were jokes about "gee, if only I had three kings I could have a full house" or some take-off on no room in the inn.  I was appalled.  Eventually, the best I could come up with was some generic tidings of peace and joy.

The whole holiday is really secularized -- although it definitely is in America, too, if people aren't Christians here, they're loathe to even admit the celebration stems from one of the most important Christian memories of all time.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

quicko: tis the season

... or not.  Christmas here feels much more like a day, and much less like a season.  I'm not sure exactly what it is, but I think it's a combination of no snow, no Thanksgiving, no Christmas cookies, no carols (except at specifically designated carol services), etc.  Christmas cards aren't as big; neither are, say, wreaths.  The decorations in homes are really just plain pitiful -- a small, fake tree, if that.  Not even Charlie Brown trees -- those I could live -- but just wimpy little artificial affairs.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

quicko: silly season

Slang for Christmas time.  My least favorite phrase of the year -- can't stand it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

quicko: whatchamacallems

Although they don't really call them "bathing suits," Australians have more than enough words to refer to such attire.  Their words include, but are not limited to:

--a cozzie
--a swimming costume

Or, of course, more specific options such as:

--a bikini
--budgie smugglers

Monday, December 20, 2010

quicko: the day delay

It's a hazard of living so close to the international date line, but it's been known to happen:  you get wished a happy birthday, Thanksgiving, Valentine's Day, Easter, etc. a day late.  Your friends remember and want to wish you appropriate greetings, but forget they have to be on the ball about a day in advance.  Ah well.  At least they tried, hey?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

photos: carols under the bridge

invite: carols by the bridge!!!

I'm sorry it's such late notice, but if you're in the Kirribilli area today (as Kirribilli Kim will naturally be!), do come to CAROLS by the bridge.  There's jazz and kids' stuff from 5:30 pm and the Christmas carols themselves start at 7:30.  It's going to be an absolutely amazing night -- hope to see you there!!

quicko: bus update

Another handy bus tip:  there is no need to run for a bus when you can see that there are still people boarding it.  It will take them time to put their little tickets through, and you will be just fine if you wait it out and let them do so.  If you can see the last person's getting on and you're still a good ways back, that's the time to hustle along.  No need to be premature about it, though.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

update: "sleeps"

I learned tonight that the use of the word "sleeps" as a noun -- as in, only six more sleeps until Christmas -- is actually more of a kids' thing.  I had no clue, as everyone I've heard use it is well over 20.  Turns out they may just be hearkening back to their childhoods and I completely missed the sentimentality in their comments.  Obtuse American.

Friday, December 17, 2010

quicko: further thoughts brownies

Besides not finding brownies very frequently in Australia (and, did I mention, they tend to be entirely too rich when I do find them?  even Max Brenner makes them too exquisite for me), I've been told recently that Australians perceive Americans as all coming with their own, somewhat different brownie recipe.  I happen to favor Betty Crocker in a box, but have the utmost respect for others who choose differently.  Furthermore, I've decided I'm taking brownies to Brennan's Thanksgiving next year.  There just wasn't quite enough chocolate to go around and, gosh, if there's any food I'm most thankful for it's got to be brownies.  Hands down fantastic chocolate.  Brownies just can't be beat.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

quicko: weddings

Differences between American and Australian bridal festivities:

--the signing of the register takes place during Australian weddings, but before American ones
--the speeches are a bigger deal at Australian receptions
--there tend to be more Australians present at Australian weddings, go figure

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

quicko: nickels and dimes

Unknown to Australians.  Pennies they'd have a pretty good guess at, but even quarters remain slightly elusive.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

quicko: GPAs or other such nonesense

Australians don't really work so much with GPAs (grade point averages) as Americans.  What's really important to them is this number they get after they take a big test near the end of high school.  This national index number gives them a relative ranking against their classmates and various numbers open the doors to various degree programs.  It's all a bit complicated and I'm pretty fuzzy on the details, but basically it's very important.  High numbers (I'm pretty sure we're on a 100 point scale -- so, say, a 95 maybe) let you do things like become a doctor; lower numbers let you rethink your options.  If you don't do up to snuff but still want to go to university, never fear!  You can still go (Americans, sit down) as a "fee-paying student."  That is, if you're not quite there, no worries, you just have to pay for it.  Oh, or if you're international.  Then they don't care what your score is (you obviously didn't take the test), they just want your money.  And tons of it.

The whole process of picking a college (er, university) is very different in Australia.  Aside from the whole most people stay in the same city and live at home thing is the actual process itself.  If I'm understanding things right, high school seniors (no doubt called something different because Australians always get really interested if I mention my "senior" year -- or "sophomore" especially.  It's such a funny word, and just something they don't have at all, you see.) fill out some vital form that lists their first, second, third, etc. choice of program at a particular school.  Then, based on the number they get on that all-important test, they may or may not get their first, second, third, etc., choice.

I think, for example, they could say they'd like to do law at Macquarie, but, failing that, journalism at UNSW, but, failing that, social work at Sydney University, but, failing that, social work at UNSW, but failing that, dance performance at Macquarie, but, failing that, whatever's left.  But I could be wrong on that.  It's all very convoluted,  Of course they understand it all perfectly (like we do with GPAs and sophomore years), but it's a mite tricky for outsiders.

Monday, December 13, 2010

quicko: children

I feel like I ought to have cultural observations on children, but I really don't.  It's not so much children are seen and not heard as I hardly ever see them.  Aside from knowing that they wear uniforms to school and that the little ones play in a "creche" rather than a "nursery" at church, I've hardly interacted with any children since coming to Australia.  Presumably they have them.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

photos: christmas party!!

update: backrub lines

No sooner did I blog that Australians don't do public backrubs then what to my wondering eyes should appear:

quicko: the nutbush

A great Australian dance tradition, I am told, stretching back thousands of years.

Either that or one of those tacky lines dances.  Your call.

photos: friday night games night!

quicko: destruction of gingerbread houses

A big, mean Australian destroying my cute little gingerbread house.

quicko: abilities

There's an ad campaign going around (when is there not?) that reads:  don't DIS my ABILITY.  I'm all for the message.  Don't know what they're actually doing besides circulating images, but I'm not really in the know here and I figure every bit helps.  Good, as they say here, on them.  Whoever them is.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

quicko: thai play

I've mentioned before that there's an abundance of Thai restaurants in Sydney.  What I'm afraid I might neglected to have mentioned is how very cleverly named many of them are.  Stir Crazy has to be my favorite, but Wok 'N Roll and Thai Me Up aren't bad either.  They feature word play of what I think could be considered rather epic proportions, considering that it sometimes uses gags in pronunciation -- such as Thai Riffic -- that are really just incredible based on the pronunciation exhibited by so many Thai speakers I've met.  I don't know who they pay to do their marketing, but they're clearly getting their money's worth.

Friday, December 10, 2010

quicko: coles moms

This probably isn't exactly a cultural revelation of epic proportions (probably more of a similarity, really), but I've noticed that weekdays Coles around 11 am is full of mothers and kids and have just been itching to blog about it.  Why, I don't know.  I think it's just so rare I am observant enough to notice something of my accord I want to make a to-do out of it and show the world that, amazingly, it can actually be done.  To further demonstrate my skills of observation, allow me to point out that there's even a play area where moms can plop their kids to play.  I think they're supposed to stay with them, but who knows if they follow the rules.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

reminder: writers' read night upcoming!

Hey!  Don't forget:  a week from tonight is the Writers' Read Extravaganza -- my writers' group is reading our works publicly!

It's a bring your own wine and cheese and picnic blanket (or rug, if you're Australian) from 7:30 at Manly Lagoon.  Hope you can join us!

quicko: semis

You just don't see that many here.  Maybe it's because I'm mostly in the city.  But huh.  I see way, way more when I'm home than when I'm here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

quicko: practice makes perfect

Australians are weird about practice.  They spell it alternate ways.  Practise when it's a noun; practice when it's a verb.  Or maybe it's the other way round.  I really don't know.  I can't keep track.  50-50 says I'm right.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

the best bathrooms in town

Girls, I have a secret:  the QVB has some of the best bathrooms in town.  They don't beat the lower level of the Opera House (which has pretty much everything besides couches), but they're by far some of the cleanest public restrooms in Sydney.  And, what's more, they're centrally located.

I've rarely seen them crowded and they're perfect for a quick "okay-let's-regroup-and-refreshen."  The doors open automatically when you walk in (what service!) and there's plenty of room to move about.  The ones upstairs have nice ledges you can plop bags on while you switch into heels or do whatever else needs doing.  I haven't straightened my hair or painted my nails in them, but I imagine you could if you really had to.

Hidden gem of the city, but don't tell too many people.  I'd hate for them to actually get used much.

Monday, December 6, 2010

quicko: dragon removal

I don't know what this, but I saw on painted (with a picture, in case there was any doubt) on the side of a truck the other day.  I had no idea they still had dragons in Sydney, much less that you needed a small-ish white truck to remove them, but clearly I was mistaken.

And you thought sharks were the biggest Australian hazard.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

quicko: ocean care day

I was on the bus the other day and noticed a sign that read "Ocean Care Day."  While it makes sense to have such an event (I'm sure coastal American cities must too), I had never encountered one before.  Also, it was for today -- December 5 -- which still just seems funny to me as a day to run around out by the ocean.  Shouldn't it be, like, frozen over or something?*

*Yes, I know the ocean does not freeze over.  Thank you for almost correcting me, though.  If only I were actually wrong!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

quicko: gingerbread houses

So, I'm having a bit of an open house ...
No, really, isn't it cute?  (You have to say yes.  Go on.)
But really, here's the thing (did I mention this last year?):
Australians eat their gingerbread houses.  How wrong is that?
I actually tried my gables (how often can you say that?) and was amazed to realize they were kind of chewy.
Kind of chewy!  I'd never had gingerbread that wasn't stale, unless of course you mean real, homemade gingerbread which is very different and one of my all-time top ten favorite desserts.

quicko: pink and green slips

Not related to work or watermelon.  These are for cars:  the papers the mechanics and RTA (Road and Travel Authority if I'm not mistaken) must sign off on to allow your car to drive.  They're pricey and there's a particular order and all they must be done in.  They vary from state to state, too.  New South Welshfolk have informed me that their requirements are particularly stringent, which is why you don't see bad cars in Sydney.

Friday, December 3, 2010

quicko: backrub lines

I've only ever encountered these in America.  The concept of a group of people sitting in a row and giving a backrub to the person in front of them seems to be mostly high school sort of thing, though, so quite possibly it's done here, too, but I just came over a bit late.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

update: the $3 rule in further action

Stickers.  Cute little packet of paw prints, cute little packet of stars.  For cute little students.  Aww.  For cute little price of SIX BUCKS?!

(Yes, for those of you counting, that was exactly $3 per packet.  I'm telling you, this $3 thing isn't a joke.)

update: further bus bloopers

Here's another possibility:  you can be talking on a cell phone on a reasonably populated bus fairly late and suddenly realize that it has passed your stop because no one pressed the button.  You can be going to a wildly popular stop -- one that someone always gets off at -- but yeah.  Whoosh goes the bussie!

update: another game australians play

Cornering.  I learned it in the elevator yesterday, though forgot the name and tried to call it "crowding."  That's wrong.  Cornering is so named because it's when someone's standing in a corner (or, say, sitting in a corner on a bus) and you hurl yourself on to them and there's no where they can escape to because, well, they're cornered.  Point of clarification, though:  this game is not meant to be played with strangers.  I checked.  Which put my friends into hysterics.  "What if she hadn't asked?!" they cried.  "Can you imagine?  She'd have been throwing herself on strangers on the bus!"

No, no.  While ghosting is done with strangers, cornering is played only amongst friends.  Fair warning -- game on!

quicko: care package delights

So I got a care package from my mom the other day (the same day as the afghan package).  It was so exciting!  Besides an assortment of make up I'd ordered, she also sent some comics, various office supplies, Tide sticks and ... well, why don't you guess?  Go on, it'll be fun!  What else might my mother have sent to me?  Stickers?  No.  Purell?  No.  Bath and Body Works?  No.  Victoria Secret?  No, but I had my suspicions at first that she'd try to go there and something had gone horribly wrong ... Did that help?  Have you figured it out?  No?  Give up?  Okay, I'll tell you (and I owe you 500 words of congratulations if you actually managed to guess without being told) -- a Bavarian beer girl costume!!  Of my very own!  Can you believe it?  Neither could I.  Neither could my flatmate.  ("Is that your ... Christmas costume?" she asked, clearly trying to be as culturally sensitive as possible.  I assured her that it wasn't, but did try it on for kicks and giggles.  "You've ... certainly got the hair for it," she managed.)

My mother doesn't send me cookies or stuffed animals, oh no.  She sends me Bavarian beer girl costumes. I think it could also double as a piratey, wenchy sort of number in a pinch (mom told me that was what it was technically billed as, though she thought it was a bit more Oktoberfesty as well).

And there I have it.  A brand new addition to my costume box.  Ask on the blog and ye shall receive!  Thanks, mom!

Oh -- and another of those light weight wrap-y things that goes over anything would be great, if anyone happens to need gift ideas.  White, ivory, tan, gray, black, a couple, whatever!  I wear the ones I've got all the time!  Oh!  Oh!  And long white or black kid gloves would be great, too!

quicko: morning/afternoon tea

An Australian (and, yes, British) concept just not part of American culture.  A precise definition is probably a bit elusive, but the general idea is that, in the morning or afternoon respectively, a group gathers for tea and biscuits or something similar.  Biscuits of course are small-ish cookies (about the size of Chips Ahoys), generally store bought.  The something similar though could be homemade, which would make it a particularly lovely occasion.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

quicko: a hit and a kick for being so quick

The response to "a pinch and a punch for the first of the month."  May the record just stand:  after nearly three years, I finally managed to beat Jo to the punch (ha) and got her first today!

Though she did then teach me the helpful "and no returns" so I could guarantee she wouldn't do it back to me!

Consider yourselves pinched and punched!

quicko: afghans

I got a care package (two actually!! but this is just about one of them ...) in the mail yesterday and inside was what I call an afghan from my grandma.  ("Just in time for summer!" my flatmate pointed out helpfully.)  My Australian co-workers, though, had never heard this kind of blanket referred to as an afghan before were a bit confused.  Here's a picture to set everyone straight.  Behold, the afghan!

quicko: the boys are back in town!

Hurrah!!  The apes have gone and the boys are back!  Viva la end of Movember!

quicko: save 9 cents!!

Another grocery gripe:  I was in the store the other days and saw an enthusiastic ad pointing out that I could get nine -- NINE! -- whole cents off my purchase.  It was printed as exuberantly as the ads marking $1 or $2 off the price and was clearly designed to draw attention to the SALE! rather than the actual amount.  But really?  Nine cents?  Why bother?

It reminds me of the Big W (i.e., Wal-Mart) ads here.  They feature a similar happy bouncing smiley face knocking back prices -- but instead of by 20%, 50%, 70%, by 20 cents, 50 cents or 70 cents.

Why don't they just save -- SAVE! -- themselves the trouble?