Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Our first Christmas in Australia has been lovely. Everyone here keeps asking us if we miss the snow, and we can honestly answer that we do not. There are things about winter that I love, but as we finished off our evening in the breezy backyard of a friend I couldn't help but think that a summer-time Christmas wouldn't be difficult to get used to.

Christmas morning was delightful this year as Eliot is becoming more involved in the festivities. We didn't have a chance to get up a tree this year but he and I have been singing carols out of a little book that he loves and rearranging the Nativity to the tune of Away in a Manger. He enjoyed handing gifts to others as much as he enjoyed opening his own and was happy to assist Peter. He helped bake cookies and assemble a plate for Santa, which of course involved a lot of sampling (no second best for Santa).

Peter breezed through his first Christmas with as much grace and charm as can be expected of someone who's cutting teeth. He liked the puzzle he received, and the books, but thought that the wrapping paper was especially delicious.

A couple of weeks ago someone asked me if I was upset to have to celebrate Christmas in summer-time. It made me a little sad to think of what this indicated about encounters this person has probably had with others from my homeland, but that's for another blog post. I told her (partly because I've also had to deal with people griping about a home that I love, but mostly because it's the truth) that Christmas is still Christmas, no matter the season, and that we are delighted to be in this beautiful city and celebrate the birth of the Savior with new friends. We miss family and friends back in North America and are thankful for the technologies that help us to feel close to them. But Christmas is still Christmas, with or without the snow, and always will be.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

More kangaroo please.

The other day I bought a brownie mix and on the back of the box there was a 'Creative Tip' that suggested I serve the brownies with ice cream to mix things up. It even included step by step instructions for accomplishing this. I mean, where I come from that's what we call Eating A Brownie Properly. If they offered a recipe that used the brownie mix as the principle ingredient in a savory chicken dish, that would be a creative tip.

We have dabbled a little in culinary adventure since we've come here. Lamb is a popular protein source, particularly in the spring, and I think I ate more lamb in the first month here then in my entire life up to that point. Even Peter got in on the action.

But the best was our first meal in our new apartment. Kangaroo steaks. We found the steaks in the meat cooler of our local grocer and since they were already marinated I thought, why not. I seared them in a pan and then popped them in the oven to slow cook them a bit. Eliot supervised and was pretty impressed with the finished product. In the weeks to come, even if we were eating some other meat, he enjoyed asking for 'more kangaroo please.' Let's face it, it's just a lot more fun to say 'kangaroo' than it is to say 'beef' or 'chicken.' For those of you who are wondering, kangaroo is pretty good. It is very lean and has just a slightly wild taste, but not too much. We've since had it for supper a second time.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Cleaning Check

So evidently it is very common, here in Perth, for rental companies to conduct regular cleaning checks on the apartments they manage. Let's be honest, the only good thing about being subjected to cleaning checks is knowing that the previous tenant was subjected to cleaning checks. But so it is. Our first check was last Friday, so Spencer and I spent Thursday evening giving our hollow little apartment a good scrub down.
I know that most of you have come to the blog looking for photos of our Little Guys, and it would take too long to explain why loading photos will have to wait until our desktop computer arrives. (The previous post with the videos of Peter was something I created while we were house-sitting) So I apologize for the photo hiatus, but know that it will end sometime next week (!) when our things are delivered. Hope everyone is doing well!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Peter talking and laughing...enjoy.

The kindness of strangers

Yesterday Peter, Eliot and I went to take a gift to Avery McWilliams, the brand new baby of our friends Paul and Christina. The McWilliams rent a small apartment from Fritz and Margrite Grader, a sweet couple from the Netherlands. Paul and Christina are both from Edmonton, Alberta, but that's not how we know them.

Back in July we were out of town a lot. But on the one Sunday that we were in church in Toronto, Paul and his father were visiting. Paul introduced himself to the Sunday School class and mentioned that he has been living in Perth. After class, Spencer chatted with him and from that time the McWilliams have been very helpful, giving us information about moving to Australia and arranging for their neighbors/landlords, the Graders, to take us in that first night we arrived in Perth.

The Graders were so welcoming and kind. We didn't do much chatting the night we arrived, but the next morning Fritz showed us around their backyard. You could smell the orange blossoms and the jasmine, and Fritz explained that he has an almond tree, but that the cockatoos keep eating the nuts. Cockatoos? Where are we?

After we had paid our respects to the new baby we went next door to say a quick 'hello' to the Graders and to deliver some oatmeal raisin cookies (Eliot had cleaned them out when we'd stayed with them) and it was great to see them. They and the McWilliams had been our first exposure to the kindness and willingness to help that has been a hallmark of our encounters with people here.

To say that I've never met so many generous people wouldn't be true. I know many many kind and generous people. I suppose our little family has just never found itself in such a vulnerable position, so it stands out a bit more. Here we are, clear on the other side of the globe. Far from the support of family and friends. So when total strangers, at church and in the community, step up and willingly offer help (everything from giving us directions to lending us a house and car) it's really humbling. The MO around here seems to be Pay It Forward. Whenever I thank people for their help, they always talk about how someone else has helped them. I'm looking forward to being settled soon so that we'll be able to start paying it forward ourselves.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Kings Park

Just North of the University of Western Australia campus, running along the Swan River, you'll find an expanse of wilderness called Kings Park. The first week or so that we were here, we called up two of our new friends, Paul and Christina McWilliams, and took in a small portion of the reserve.

One of the first things I notice about a new place is the vegetation. This is probably true for a lot of people. When you're accustomed to maple and elm lining the streets and now you find olive and eucalyptus it's a constant reminder that you're far from home, but in a good way.

So it was really neat to wander around Kings Park and take in all of the blooming flowers (remember, it's spring here) and the native bush plants, and the not-so-native boab tree. The view of the Swan River and the surrounding city was beautiful. It's definitely on our list of Where to Take People Who Visit Us Here.

Eliot is not making a funny face here but, rather, stating the name of the thing he's holding. "Gum nut."


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Leaving Toronto

So now that we're here in Australia, and I've had a chance to breathe, I can't help but look back a bit at what we've come from. Our departure from Toronto seemed like such a whirlwind. The University of Western Australia had arranged for a moving company to handle the packing and shipping of our things which meant that all we had to do was decide what we were taking with us, get it all sorted out for the movers, keep Eliot and Peter out of their way when they came to pack up, sell off the remaining items, and camp out in our empty apartment for a couple days until it was time to leave for the airport. Friends helped us haul things to Goodwill (we'd sold our car during an earlier visit to Milwaukee), lent us an air mattress, helped clean the apartment, and drove us to the airport (a task that required two vehicles). Thank goodness for good friends!

Take that Atkins! We couldn't leave Toronto without enjoying a hot dog from one of the street vendors.

To say that I miss Toronto and the people I met there isn't to say that I'm not coming to love Australia and the people I'm meeting here, just as I've come to love other places and friends. We only lived in Toronto for 12 months. We experienced each season just once. But I really think it was one of my favorite places to live. Perhaps it was because we lived in a sleepy neighbourhood that was nestled in the heart of the city so we were a few minutes away from bustling urban activity but could hear the crickets at night. I'm certain it was the fantastic people we met and the good friendships we formed. And of course, the city itself had such a fun energy. Something was always going on--very unlike Perth where everything closes at 6pm. Don't get me wrong, Perth is lovely and has a lot to offer, but those late-night gelato runs are at an end. Possibly for best ;)

Eliot was eager to be of use.

Peter secured his nomination for Easy-Going Baby of the Year by drifting to sleep, quietly and unassisted, right in the midst of all the commotion.

Peter is ready for the flight to Edmonton. Eliot seemed to think he was going straight to Australia.

I'm glad that we had that year in Toronto. Looking back at it makes me smile, and you can't ask much more than that from a city.