Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Day Trip to Healesville Sanctuary

Pleased as punch!

Last weekend, Justin and I took our rental car to the Yarra Valley.  The main purpose of our trip was to visit Healesville Animal Sanctuary, but we also did a lot of driving around the countryside because it is oh-so-pretty in the valley with all the vineyards and mountain scenery around.  Luckily, we encountered no wild animals.  In particular, there were signs everywhere warning us of wombats crossing the road.  Wombats may be small in stature, but they are solidly built like tanks and will most definitely wreak havoc to your vehicle if hit.
In addition, there are signs everywhere with a number to call if you accidentally do hit an animal.  Should the unfortunate happen and the scene is safe, you are to wrap the animal in a blanket and wait for the authorities to arrive.  The animal is then brought to a place with veterinarians, like the Healesville Animal Sanctuary.
Next time we're out there, I'll take more photos.  However, here are some shots (mostly animals) to tide you over until then. xo

We were a driving advertisement for our car share company all day long.  There's Justin getting ready to take the wheel.  I am much less confident in regards to driving on the opposite side of the road... he's quite good at it.

Emus at rest.  The emu is one of the two animals on the Australian coat of arms (the other animal is the kangaroo.)  Interesting fact #1:  Both animals can only move forward and cannot move backward (symbolizing Australia's progress as a nation... I love this!)  Interesting fact #2: You can often find emus and kangaroos on the menu, particularly in nicer restaurants.  Are there any other countries in the world that eat their own national symbols?

Galah cockatoo.  You even see these birds in the wild around Melbourne.  A lot of them like to congregate along the bike path I use to go to into the city.

My favorite of all the Aussie animals!  He needs no introduction!


These bats are humongous and are found in our neighborhood.  They are the size of cats, I kid you not.

Common wombat
Roos at rest

One last visit to the koalas... We tried our best to take pictures of the koalas jumping from tree to tree.  They were so adorable and moved like Ewoks.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Food: Part 2: The Grocery Store

Three of the major grocery store chains here in Australia are Woolworths, Coles and IGA.  (Note: Woolworths in Australia, like Target, has no affiliation with the American Woolworth's chain.)  There are smaller chains, but these three are the ones that I see around Melbourne the most.  There's not too much of a difference from grocery stores here than in the States.
However, there are three obvious differences that come to mind, mostly regarding products sold.

Number 1: You can buy sheets, towels and blankets (sometimes labelled "Manchester") at some of the grocery stores.
Number 2: There are small sections of some grocery stores that sell other household goods; like plates, toasters, tools, dvds, etc.
Number 3: Pretty much all the grocery stores have bottle shops (liquor stores) attached to them.

As usual, I had my phone with me to take some pictures on some recent grocery store trips... of course, I waited until the aisles were all clear of customers and employees, as I didn't want to have to explain myself, the foreign chick, with an obsession for documenting the humdrum of daily life.

I've also added in some photos from the chemist (pharmacy) that I found somewhat interesting as well.

Vegemite: The National Spread
This time around, I am going to try to acquire a taste for this black, salty, yeasty spread.  It's supposedly chock full of vitamins.  A decade ago, I gave it a try once or twice, but wasn't fully committed to the cause.  As of now, I'm serious about it.  I'm trying to figure out the best way to ease into it.  I'm told bread with butter, with Vegemite on top.  Aussies: other advice?

Vegemite made easy by Snackabouts!  This is reminiscent of Handisnacks (also made by Kraft), the crackers that had the "cheese" (if you could call it that) that you needed to spread around with that red, plastic rectangle (which I would always chew on afterwards and I know that I can't be the only one that did that!)

This would be dog food.   It's refrigerated and some of it is in tubes, like pre-made Tollhouse cookie dough.

Eggs aren't always in the refrigerator.  Americans, do not freak out... I assure you that there are many, many places around the world that do not refrigerate their eggs.  I believe that refrigerating/not refrigerating depends on the process in which the eggs were collected, farming practices, temperature in which eggs are kept, etc.
Billy Tea:  A "billy" is a pot.  I assume it's used when you are out in the bush boiling water for tea, per "Waltzing Matilda."  This particular brand of black tea has a bit of eucalyptus added to it.
Crispbread = Crackers, just like Biscuits = Cookies
The first few times I ordered a scone here, the baristas couldn't understand me.  I thought to myself, "I'm loud.  I have a flat American accent.  What's going on here?"  But then I remembered... it's not pronounced 'scone' with a long o (as in rhymes with bone)... it's pronounced with a short u (as in rhymes with bun).  Also, these chocolate scones probably taste like just like chocolate cake, which means they are probably delicious.
I am a condiments girl (mayo, ketchup, mustard, srichacha... bring it!) so you can imagine my delight when I have tons of relish to choose from.  Also available: spreadable sweet brown pickle relish, which is a prime ingredient in a yummy ploughman's sandwich, along with cheese, tomato and lettuce.   
Do we have such a thing as puppy milk in the United States?
Cereal 1: Yeah, whenever I see this brand, I find myself singing Metallica.
Cereal 2: Note that these are not General Mills' Cheerios, but Uncle Toby's Cheerios.  Uncle Toby's is a brand that  makes all sorts of (processed) health foods, like oatmeal, cereal and granola bars.  These Cheerios are not very similar to American Cheerios.  They are shaped like Fruit Loops, which American Cheerios eaters will recognize as being larger and bulkier than Cheerios.  For me, Honey and Oats has got nothing on Honey Nut!  Also, I kinda miss that annoying little bee that hawks General Mills' Cheerios.

Cereal 3: I can never say no to chocolate rice cereal.  Never.
Sensing a theme: Cheese and Bacon!

Meet Huggie, the Australian cousin of Snuggles! 
100's and 1000's, or what Americans would call "sprinkles."
Original flavor here: not "Nacho Cheese," but just regular old corn chips.
That said, still yummy!
A lot of pharmaceuticals available are the same as in the U.S., but the name brand slightly differs.  Here we have Claratyne, not Claritin. 
Room spray: I read the label and I guess you are supposed to spray this in a child's room right before they go to bed.  The chemicals are supposed to be soothing and induce sleep.
I don't know if AIM toothpaste is still sold in America, but all my followers should know by now that I do love a blast from the past!

Friday, September 23, 2011

K-Mart versus Target

Australia has both K-Mart and Target.  However, I am not sure who owns K-Mart, but the Australian Target is in no way, shape, or form affiliated with the American-based (Wud up, Minnesota!?!) chain.  It's funny though, because everything at Target is red and they even have the bullseye logo.  However, I do not think they have that adorable little dog representing their brand, as we do in the States.
The nearest K-Mart and Target are located in the Northland Shopping Centre.  It's a twenty minute bus ride from where I live.  The stores are both similar to the U.S. stores in the sense that they are "general" type of stores.  The stores here, however, are physically smaller and have a much smaller selection than their U.S. counterparts (then again, having an enormous store with a seemingly limitless selection of goods is a very American thing... in all my travels, I find it safe to say that the United States offers more products than anywhere else in the world... which begs another question: How many different varieties of cereal, yogurt, toilet paper, etc. does one really need access to in the first place?)
K-Marts and Targets in Australia have clothes, beauty products, electronics, books, some groceries, kitchen appliances, etc. like we do in the States.  K-Marts and Targets in Australia do not have cafes, pharmacies, grocery stores, photography labs, MinuteClinics, and Optometry Clinics.  (Side bar: Am I missing anything from that list?  Considering how much time I spend at Target back in the States, I would assume that I have covered it all.)
Anyway, I've taken some photos for your viewing pleasure:

Like most stores here, if you want a "trolley," you need to deposit a $1 coin in the lock slot to unlock the trolley.  When you put the key back into the chain of trolleys, you get your dollar back.  It's hard to tell from the picture, but carts here (like in most of the world) are much, much smaller than in the States.  This is something that always gets me when I return to the States after living abroad or traveling for a long period of time abroad: American shopping carts are HUGE!!!
(Sorry, you'll have to turn your head sideways for a better look:  apparently blogger doesn't let you rotate photos???) 

I love the English-looking hats.  I'm going to try and bring this style to America.
They've got Father's Day here, but it is in September.

Good old Layby (or what Americans would call Layaway.)  The layby option is available in most stores in Australia. 

Well... couldn't get any worse...

I take that last statement back.  Yes, it can get worse and it did. Watermelon flavoured margs?!?! Blech!

They also offer gummy worms, but I can't quite tell the difference between snakes and worms.

Who else loves the old school logo besides me?

Narrow, shorter aisles.  I think the aisles are only about 6 and a half feet tall.

I love this, for nostalgic purposes alone.  I remember the yarn aisle of K-Mart from when I was a kid.  I think when I worked at K-Mart in the late nineties, yarn was just being removed from the product line, as less people were buying it.

Serious sun protection is the protocol! 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Just another day at the office

Hey guys… I’m still here.  Just really busy.

School, in particular, is starting to hit full-on. (In other words, it’s pretty intense.)

The university I attend is one of Australia’s “Group of Eight,” which is network of universities that are notoriously rigorous.  Believe me, I have my days when I wonder why I took on such a challenging program at an arduous institution.  Sometimes the learning can get pretty overwhelming, but I am beginning to see much of this newfound knowledge come to fruition, which feels pretty great.  Sometimes feeling frustrated and anxious and confused at times can be a good thing.  It provides space to learn and grow as a person.  Maybe I’m becoming more mature?  Peter Pan is growing up!  Maybe I’ll even consider settling down in a few years…

Today, I turned in my first two assignments. It felt good that I could complete those assignments, especially since I haven’t turned a research paper in for nearly a decade!  I’ll turn in my last assignment in on November 7th.  My program appears to be about 80% research, so self-motivation is essential.

Thankfully, I have a desk (a cubicle, actually) on the seventh floor of one of the graduate school’s brand new buildings, which is a perfect place to work.  It’s quiet, sunny and boasts fabulous views of the city.  Plus, my thesis supervisor, who I absolutely love, is just fifty feet away.  I even have my own “special” key card, which grants me access through the security doors.  You know what you are thinking… I am pretty fancy!  It’s so nice to have this space. 

The library and the computer labs are practically unbearable, with so many obnoxious undergraduates chatting away on their mobiles or meeting up with large groups of friends, gossiping away.  Yeah, I realize that I sound pretty crotchety.  It’s probably because I am.   Seriously though, my doctoral program is so much more difficult than other programs that I have taken.  I need to be able to stay focused and concentrate.

So, yeah… busy busy busy!  If you don't hear from me in awhile, you now know why.  Back to work… xo

The desk

The views!