Welcome to our Blog!

We hope you enjoy our first attempts at blogging! This is to prevent you from receiving long boring messages that arrive on your screen when you're not ready to sit back, relax and read about our life. This way, you can come into our blog on your time, when you want and check up on us.

We hope you like our stories! See you soon.
Gail and Rick

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Goodbye from Kadina

On December 26th we depart for Canada from Sydney. Our one year adventure of working and vacationing in Australia will have come to an end. We left Kadina on December 11th and plan on spending our last few days in Perth and Bali before heading home. So this will be our last blog entry. We hope you have enjoyed reading about our experiences while living in Australia and have learned something about this most beautiful country.

We left Kadina with mixed emotions. On the one hand we are anxious to get home to see family and friends. For example, we haven’t seen our daughter Fran’s engagement ring; let alone Fran! On the other hand, Kadina has been our home for one year and we have left new life-long friends who we know we will see again sometime in the future. If our paths do not cross in Canada, they will cross again in Australia; or perhaps at another destination equal distance between the two.

It is hard to express in words what this year has meant to us. Consequently, we elected to put together a collection of miscellaneous photos to help capture this most incredible year. Remember a picture is worth a thousand words.

Skippy, Rick and Gail sharing a moment. Of course no trip to Australia is complete without seeing a Kangaroo.

A year of wine, wine, and more wine. Before we came to South Australia, our understanding of wine was that there are “Reds” and “Whites”. Never before had we bought wine by the case! Now we know a little more about the subject and won’t hesitate to purchase the occasional bottle.

We experienced our warmest day at the Cricket match. Temperatures reached 44oC. Within a three month period, between living in Canada and Australia, we had experienced temperatures from minus 40 to plus 40. For those Australians reading this blog is minus 40 cold enough for you? Your freezer is outside. For those Canadians, is plus 40 hot enough? You can fry an egg on the hood of your car.

One day a week Rick worked with Leon and Doug at Desi’s, the local butcher shop. In Kadina, no one was familiar with Kolbassa, so Gail contacted Stawnitchy’s in Mundare to get the scoop on making this Alberta famous meat. Stawnitchy’s would not provide their secret recipe, but they did provide the process. After a couple of trials, Desi came up with “Ricky Boy’s Furster Wurster”. The sausage is a hit, is gaining in popularity and is now a regular on the shelf. The Three Amigos below look happy as the recipe for the Furster Wurster has been finalized.

We enjoyed many outdoor get togethers. For example, we had the “Burger OFF” at Jane and Andrew’s place for Andrew’s birthday. The South African burger vs. the Australian Burger vs. the Canadian Burger. What better way to compare international cuisine! After considerable schmoozing with the birthday boy AKA Judge…it was no contest. We had him at Hello! Then again who would want to eat an Aussie burger complete with a soft egg and a slice of beet and pineapple? The South African burger was meat, meat and more meat. Sooooo plain! So when the Judge bit into tomato, lettuce, cheese, mustard all on a sesame seed bun….it was no contest.

Every Thursday was “Movie Night” at Leon’s. We had rules – the movie had to be either made in Australia, have Australian actors (Mel Gibson still counts!) or be directed/written/produced by an Australian. We are not movie goers so movie night was a real change for us. We learned a lot of Australian colloquialisms, and a lot about the country’s culture. Leon – those nights are going “Straight to the Pool Room”. We enjoyed movie night so much that we look forward to keeping up the new practice when we return to Canada…..Are you reading this Bill?

Doug and Dawn took us in as part of their family. Attending their granddaugther’s baptism was a special moment and we were thrilled to be invited. Gail was so pathetic and wept through the whole thing.

In late November – December the purple flowers on the Jackeranda tree blossom and are spectacular. We will miss the Australian flora as it is all so uniquely different and often so stunningly beautiful.

We first met Jill and her son Micheal while they were on exchange in Edmonton in 2003. Jill became our exchange buddy and took us under her wing to show us the ropes. She recognized that when people first arrive in a new country they can easily become lost, overwhelmed and confused over simple things like grocery shopping, and coping with day to day living. Jill and others like Leon helped to explainto us many of Australia’s customs and traditions.

This picture depicts the number of teachers on exchange in South Australia in 2010. They came from Canada, Great Britain, United States, New Caledonia, Germany, and France. There will be almost the same number of participants for the 2011 school term. In 2010 South Australia celebrated its 90th year of exchange while Alberta celebrated its 30th. It was cool to be part of that!

Here’s the usual Aussie barbecue and fare of snags and chooks (sausages and chicken) for a large outdoor event like the teacher’s opening school picnic.

Galahs are a type of parrot. We learned to love listening to their cheerful squawk as we felt it to be uniquely Australian. They fly in such unusual and unpredictable patterns that the Australians have an expression about people’s behaviour being like a “silly galah”.

Uluru was spectacular at sunrise. It was truly a moving moment to be at this iconic spot during day break. We also enjoyed our evening cuisine experience titled “Dinner Under the Stars”. It was an open air dining experience we will never forget. Our table was full of guests from around the world. What a night of conversation!

The War Memorial has been described by some Australians as being the “Soul of Australia”. We found it to be an interesting description and wondered what we would consider to be the soul of Canada?

Meet our good friends Jan and Hanlie. They are either wincing from their sore butts or they are genuinely happy to be bike riding the Clare Wine Valley. See the dormant grape vines in the background? It was stunning countryside. Along with Doug and Dawn, we rented 3 beautiful one bedroom cottages and ate and drank the night away before we realized how sore our bum bones really got!

Fiji; a tropical paradise. If you ever go, go on an all inclusive.

It’s not unusual to have miles of empty coastline. Australia is famous for its beautiful soft beaches.

No, there is nothing wrong with this beach. This is our 6’5” friend Jan looking very tiny on this gorgeous EMPTY beach. It was a heavenly day to have the whole beach to ourselves as we exfoliated our feet walking the dunes and beach.

Randy fishing. We love the bit where his shoes sit waiting for him on shore.

We loved the casual way we paid for our green fees at local golf courses. The course located in the background was well worth the whole fee.

In Australia drinking in a vehicle is permitted, even for the driver. The only proviso is that the driver must be under 0.05. Cousin Randy is taking advantage of this legal activity so that he can show his friends back home in Vancouver.

Remarkable Rocks on Kangaroo Island. This was the beginning of Gail’s year as a professional poser. Are you tired of seeing her yet?

Malaysia - Our friends Gay and Greig were just in front of us in the elephant train. They have pictures of us on their camera and we hope we get them soon.

Petronas Tower in Kuala Lampur. We took this shot from inside a bar on the 32nd floor of our hotel. This is a world iconic building and we were thrilled that the photo of this majestic building turned out so well.

Our Ozzie friends couldn’t get over the amount of water in Cooper’s Creek. We just had to take the free punt AKA ferry to share in their excitement. The last time this punt was operational was 1974 when the creek last had water in it!

The Australians are famous for this 5000+ km dingo proof fence. Our Ozzie friends couldn’t believe we wanted our photo with this barren background. As you can see, there are no dingos in the background. The fence is obviously working.

The Outback is really out there! As per this sign, there’s nothing else out there other than it is stunningly beautiful!

Doug and Dawn have become such dear friends and we have had many adventures with them. They’ve already purchased their flight to Edmonton for July 2011. We can’t wait to have more adventures with them but this time it will be on our soil. Here we are at another wine tasting session and we’re barking at Rick to let us get to stop with the photo shoot and get on with the business of sampling wine.

We had fun doing our walking tour of each city we visited. There were no agendas, no hopes; just walking around checking out sites and stopping for coffee to watch the city go by. Gail is in her posing position.

This is it - The Melbourne Cricket Club! This is Australia’s answer to the Maple Leaf Gardens of Canadian Hockey. It is the mecca for Australian Rules Football; 67000 rabid fans cheering for their team. It was very cool; even if we paid $9.00 per beer.

Who knew the Great Barrier Reef was an hour’s boat ride away? It was truly magnificent!

Sheep and Australia are synonymous. Sheep aren’t white! They take on the color of their environment from the dust getting into their absorbent wool. We came to Australia with a preconceived idea that there would be a huge lamb skin leather industry and were so what surprised to discover that there isn’t one. The hides are shipped to Asia for treatment.

What a fitting photo to say “Farewell” Leon said we are not to say Good Bye – only Farewell as we will meet our Aussie friends again soon, either in Canada or back in the land down under.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hello from "Can-bra"

Before we tell you about our weekend in Canberra, Australia’s capital city, we need to first give you a short lesson in understanding the Australian accent. MANY, or should we say MOST or should we say ALL Australians do not articulate their “r’s”. Therefore Canberra is pronounced “Can-bra”. Similarly Melbourne is pronounced “Mel-bun” and Cairns is referred to as “Cannes”. Hence the reason for the title of this blog entry.

Back in August Greig and Gay, our Canadian exchange friends, had done some sleuthing on the internet. They managed to find a cheap airline seat sale and immediately booked the four of us for a jam-packed November 13th and 14th weekend in Canberra. Is there a better way to spend a weekend other than flying half way across the continent to visit the site of Australia’s parliament and many of the country’s other national treasures? We were quite excited about our trip as we have a strong belief that it is important that everyone visit a nation’s capital. For those of you who have been fortunate enough to have spent some time in Ottawa, we think that you understand the national pride one feels when visiting their capital.

Canberra is a most beautiful city. Like Brasilia and Washington D.C., Canberra was designed and built as a planned city. Australia was not recognized as a country until 1901. Prior to then, the states and territories of Australia were separate colonies of the British Empire. At the time of federation, both Melbourne and Sydney, the two largest cities in the country, were competing to become the capital of the country. The western colonies of West Australia, South Australia and Victoria supported the selection of Melbourne as the capital; whereas the other colonies backed Sydney. The nation could not reach agreement on which city should become the capital. Recognizing the deadlock, a sheep station owner whose ranch just happened to be somewhat equal distance between Melbourne and Sydney forfeited his huge land holding with the proviso that it become the capital city of Australia. The sheep station became the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) and an international competition was held to design the nation’s capital within the ACT.

Construction of the nation’s capital was finally completed in 1927 and the city is a beauty! A manmade lake is located centrally within the city. Connected to the lake are many gardens as well as a huge area of green space which sprawls throughout the city. Thus as one travels on wide tree-lined boulevards through the city from one suburb to another, one gets a very cosy sense of “community”. In addition, the result is many green-scape vistas; rather than the usual endless city-scape view of concrete, mortar and brick. The city’s main design layout features many geometric motifs such as circles and hexagons which are aligned with surrounding regional landmarks. In accordance with this geometric design, the roadways generally follow a spoke and wheel pattern rather than a typical square grid outline which most of us know. Without our GPS - Garmin Girl - we would have been lost traveling along the wagon wheel road system!

Lake Griffin with National Library in the background

The manmade lake essentially divides the city in half. On one side, Capital Hill, the site of Australia’s Parliament, is the focal building which is prominent from a number of viewpoints. Similarly, the Australian War Memorial which looks directly towards Capital Hill is the central structure on the other side of the lake. Scattered throughout the lake area are the nation’s social and cultural landmarks such as the national art gallery, library, and many museums. In some aspects, the design reminded us of Washington D.C.

Australia’s House of Parliament with Coat of Arms shown below

Vista of Parliament House from War Memorial. Note Man made Lake Griffin in foreground with “Old Parliament House” (the White Building in the middle of the picture). The new parliament building was built in 1988 as the old building was too small to house the present government. Old parliament is now a museum.

Vista of War Memorial from Old Parliament House

Of course, no capital is complete without housing a bevy of embassies. We were quite flabbergasted as we stopped at the American Embassy to be politely told by security to “Move Along”. However, given everyone’s heighten awareness with respect to terrorist activities; we concluded that we should not have been that surprised.

Our weekend was full of doing the usual tourist activities. Aside from the visits to sights such as parliament, the war memorial, and the art gallery, we still managed time to enjoy a few beverages at the local watering holes.

Monuments commemorating the Vietnam and Korean Wars- Part of the Boulevard enroute to the War Memorial

Inside War Memorial - Wall commemorating all the soldiers who have died in combat. The red are individual poppies that have been placed along side fallen loved ones by family and friends.

Old Parliament House – Now a museum

Old Parliament House – Sitting inside the Senate

National Art Gallery – Notice the nice collection of pears!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thanksgiving in Australia

On October 16th we promised our Australian friends that we would host a traditional Canadian Thanksgiving Dinner. Our Aussie friends had indicated to us that they were very excited about having a Thanksgiving Dinner since they had only witnessed this special event in American movies. Sadly, they do not celebrate the thankful time of harvest. They have told us that they felt that it was a very good idea; especially in Kadina, which is a farming community. So for many, this Thanksgiving would be their first! We recognize that October 11th was officially Thanksgiving Day in Canada. However, because we had just arrived back from our holiday to Malaysia on October 10th, we elected to postpone our Thanksgiving Dinner until the next weekend. What started out as a dinner party for five people quickly expanded into a festive party of more than twenty! We also figured that it wouldn’t matter much whether we had Thanksgiving on the 11th or the 16th considering that this was our Aussie friends' inaugural dinner.

Prior to getting started we wanted the dinner to be as traditional as possible. This meant that the dinner had to be “Sit Down Style” rather than “Buffet Style”. As you can imagine, with only one oven to cook the turkey, we had a number of logistical problems to overcome. How would we cook all the vegetables? How would we be able to serve the food piping hot to the table? Where would we get the tables and chairs to seat everyone? Where would we find the room to seat everyone? Where would we get the cranberries to make the sauce? Finally and most importantly, where would we get the turkey, let alone find a bird big enough for twenty people?

Well not to worry….when there’s a will, there’s a way. Everyone pitched in, showed how resourceful they could be and as a result, all problems were solved and a good time was had by all. There was an abundance of food, as well as plenty of mirth and merriment. Wait, we are getting ahead of ourselves, so we’ll digress a bit and start at the beginning.

Our planning started in August with Rick busy in the kitchen making fourteen dozen perogies and heaps of cabbage rolls. Heaps is an Australian expression meaning LOTS! For example when dining with a number of Aussies, it is not unusual for someone who has enjoyed his meal, to remark that, “The food was heaps yum!” In addition to not having experienced Thanksgiving Dinner, our Australian friends had also never experienced either one of these Ukrainian dishes. Therefore, we felt it necessary that we make heaps of them and make sure that they be included on the menu. Desi, the butcher, offered to store these tasty savouries in his freezer until Thanksgiving, but advised that a storage fee was in order. To waive a rental fee, the sly and crafty Desi stipulated that he and his wife, Anne, be treated to some Ukrainian mouth-watering delectables prior to Thanksgiving. We felt that this was a good trade and it also solved our storage problem!

When Desi and Anne showed up for their promised dinner, we were completely astonished as Anne had made a pumpkin pie! We were surprised to learn that most Australians had never had pumpkin pie for dessert, and of course in Canada, pumpkin pie is a Thanksgiving Dinner staple. In Australia, pumpkin is considered to be a vegetable that is served with the meal. So you can imagine our astonishment when Anne arrived with pumpkin pie! We had been wondering how we were going to make pumpkin pie as there are so many different varieties to choose from, and you cannot find one can of pumpkin pie filling on any of the grocery store shelves. Anne, bless her heart and in true Thanksgiving spirit, had gone onto the Internet to learn how to make a pumpkin pie. When she arrived for dinner with pumpkin pie in hand, she asked us if this is what the pie should look like and more importantly, did it taste like pumpkin pie? We didn’t hesitate and dove into our “trial” dessert before serving our Ukrainian dinner of perogies and cabbage rolls. The pumpkin pie was a10 out of 10. Another problem had been solved!

When it came to sorting out the cooking and dining logistics, everyone came to the rescue. We witnessed Aussie resourcefulness at its best! Desi really wanted to deep fry the turkey even though he had never done one before, let alone have a deep fryer big enough to house a bird to feed a hungry mob of twenty. So he built one out of an old beer keg! Desi, as well as Scott and Leon made sure that we had chairs and tables to seat everyone; a refrigerated storage truck to keep the victuals from going off, two portable ovens and barbeques to cook the feast, and finally a bain marie to ensure that the food would be served all at once and most importantly, hot. Jane made two absolutely gorgeous native flower arrangements as table centers. Doug and Dawn opened their home to host the meal and provided everyone with googled information on the tradition of Thanksgiving. Leon, Alli, Jill, Dawn and Desi went full tilt helping to prepare the food. The list of helpers just goes on and on. All our problems were delightfully solved with the exception of one. We could not keep Scott from stealing and sampling the sausage that accompanied the perogies. By the time dinner was being served, we discovered that there was a noticeable absence of sausage! It was Desi’s first attempt at making kobassa. We understand that it was wholeheartedly enjoyed by those who were fortunate enough to find some hidden in the pile of perogies.

A sizeable serving of appetizers, appreciatively and deliciously made by Leon and Desi, kept our guests at bay while the turkey was being cooked. Spring Rolls, Samosas, Raw Oysters and Oysters Kilpatrick were delightfully devoured by all. For the main course, a beautiful ham was also baked to compliment the mouth-watering turkey. In addition to the perogies and cabbage rolls, the usual accoutrements of mashed potatoes, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, and gravy were also served. Our guest’s were most captivated by Rick’s mother’s dish of sweet potatoes served up with marshmallows.

For dessert, our guests had a choice of Blueberry Cake, Banana Bread, Pumpkin Pie, Pecan Pie and/or Quandong Pie. Quandongs are a truly unique native Australian fruit found in arid and semi-arid regions of Australia. It is used in making jams, chutneys and pies. Coffee laced with Kahlua and Baileys rounded out the evening.

For us, the highlight of the dinner was the moment when everyone had their moment to give Thanks. Prior to coming to dinner, we had informed our guests that in true Thanksgiving spirit, they should be prepared to speak on why they were thankful. We had explained that this was a tradition in our family that usually took place after the main course, but before dessert. The Aussie’s embraced this custom and they were “AWESOME”! It was a true Thanksgiving moment as heartfelt moments were shared amongst friends accompanied with the usual jibes of jocularity that are usually bantered back and forth when good friends get together.

It was a very special Thanksgiving and one that we will never forget!

Leon and Anne enjoying the “Test” pumpkin pie

Leon playing in the kitchen – equipped with ovens, BBQ, bain marie, and coolers

Our self-contained fridge

Jane’s beautiful native Australian flower arrangements

Jill and Cheryl sharing a moment dressed in Canadian red

The moment before the cooking of the bird!

Into the deep fryer

The end product – Heaps Yum!

Did we forget to mention the Yorkshire Pudding?

Where are the people?

They showed up at chow time

Scott and Ali enjoying a Thanksgiving moment