Friday, June 29, 2012

Hobart: Day 3

A small bit of Hobart and Mt. Wellington in
the background, topped with snow.
Our last day in Hobart pretty much revolved around my visa medical, which mostly involved a lot of waiting. All in all, the thing was less invasive than a middle school sports physical. Well, other than the blood draw, which still mildly freaks me out for some reason. I'm actually quite intrigued by things like that, but my body seems to refuse that the person with the needles and vial knows what they're doing and it will only hurt for a moment and starts to panic. I mean seriously. I have to mentally force my hand and arm to relax, do yogic breathing, lean back so I don't pass out, all that. When I'd much rather be looking at the blood pump into the vial thinking, "Oo! It's so DARK and NEAT looking! That is MY blood in that vial there!". Stupid body.

But the person who took all my samples, weight, and information was nice, as was the doctor who made sure I had normal health... things. He was actually really friendly and interested in how we'd met (through a Bible conference), and then our faith, God, and was just generally really nice.

Then the x-ray. we had to trek (not a long trek, really) to the private hospital, wait for my turn for an x-ray (to check for TB), ask them to put a rush on it since we didn't live in Hobart (we had to bring the results back to the medical center I had my physical at, and I guess it's common practice to just wait for days for results to come through. But that's a whole different issue that I know next to nothing about). So we spent several hours walking around Hobart's central business district again.

The ketchup was for the chips.
Vinegar went on the fish.
Well, the half we hadn't eaten already.
We walked a few kilometers to an army base that had an old hospital you could walk through.... for $10 a person. Which we skipped and just walked back to Mures, favoring food over touring a small building. Yes, we went back to the same place to eat. We just wanted more of that fresh well prepared fish, and for the price, they seemed the best. Again.

So we split an order of fish and chips (again, the fish was so fresh and clean tasting!) and ate in the crisp sea air in front of the very ships that caught it (at least I like to think they were the ships that did so. I really don't know).

More walking back to the hospital, receiving my x-rays, driving back to the medical center, dropping them off, and then finally heading back home over another 3-hour drive through, again, some of the most beautiful scenery I've ever seen. Really, I haven't gotten tired of looking at most scenes here, yet, after almost a year.

A lot of seeming emptiness. And fences. And mountains far in the background.

I couldn't help trying to take photos through the window this time.
The gum trees, surrounded by nothing, in the sunset, are beautiful.
Also those bumpy things are sheep.
This photo does NOTHING to give this scene justice.
I mean nothing. It was just beautiful watching the scenes go by in the fading light.

And yes, even though we were only gone two nights, it felt nice to come home to our own bed, and our pathetically needy kitten, who greeted us with much mournful meowing and didn't stop purring for hours.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hobart: Day 2

Our hotel room was nothing fancy. Pretty stan dard and cheap. But we weren't really in Hobart for a grand get-away. Just the visa medical and some tourism. We stayed at Motel 429. The staff was wonderful. We even got a call before we reached the hotel to see what time we would be there so that they could be sure there would be someone to greet us and give us our keys (I'm assuming that this is because it was a Sunday and most things, if open Sunday, close early). The room was small and, I later noticed, had the exact same brownish-red laminate that our kitchen has. It also had the same shower door we have. This isn't really astounding, honestly, except it helped assure me that my dating of things in the house was fairly accurate. The was nice, warm, clean, homey, and comfortable.

And, it was stocked with your basic Australian necessities, like Nescafe instant coffee in travel pouches. This seems to be the coffee of choice in most homes we go to. People here like it, I think it tastes terrible. I mean just terrible. I avoid drinking it when we visit anyone for a hot drink if I can, unless I am in desperate need of a caffeine pick-me-up. Thankfully, we had some instant coffee of our own, all the way from the U.S., thanks to a wonderful friend back home. While I may not like Starbucks, their Coffee Via is wonderful. Especially for instant. So Phillip and I were able to enjoy some delicious sugary caramel coffees (a real treat, for sure), rather than endure Nescafe, or have to pay for coffee. Because we're just a coffee family and it's more than just a caffeine boost in the mornings.

The mini fridge also came well stocked with Tasmanian's own Boags Draught (visit the site, it's fun). But,. neither of us wanted to pay $5 for a beer, or are particularly fond of Boags anyway. But hey, it's Australian, and Tasmanian! So of COURSE the hotel needed to stock it.

Monday was our sight-seeing day. Unfortunately, the big attraction, Port Arthur, was closed that day, so we trekked 20 minutes out of Hobart to Richmond, instead, to visit another convict gaol (which is apparently how ye olde England spelled "jail" back then). Also, ALL of Port Arthur is gated off, and you pay a lot to get in (though I guess not a lot based on the amount you get to see), and can't see any of it without paying. So no self-guided tours. Someday, though, we hope to make it there.

The Richmond Gaol, built in 1825
But Richmond was just as old, if not as historic and famous. But it was interesting and fun and a beautiful little town. The gaol was fascinating. You pay $7 per person to walk through it, and they have very well placed signs that you actually WANT to read because there's JUST enough information on them to make them interesting, but not enough to make you want to stop reading (or I'm just a nerd and I'm really enjoying learning about the history of this island). Then there are interesting tapes playing in the background. Either bits from trials or the mumblings of angry prisoners. The Richmond Gaol is also pretty run-down and used looking, but in a nice way. It's kept up, but hasn't been restored. So you get that real old and historic sense from it.

Click to enlarge, but man did England come up with
harsh sentences for things like, stealing bread
Really the gaol was probably the highlight of the trip (well, that and eating at Muers and celebrating with my husband). It was just interesting. Reading bits about some of the prisoners who were more notable, the treatment (or mistreatment) of men and women in the gaol, how most of the people RUNNING the gaol were actually former convicts themselves and were sometimes still just as corrupt as the prisoners themselves (though, does that ever really change throughout history?). Also, you could shut yourself in the solitary confinement cells. They were TINY. And DARK. And the day we were there, COLD. It was icy that day. And heat or cold, all the prisoners got was a wool blanket, their woolen garments, and maybe some sort of pillow-thing. Of course, when Phillip went into the solitary cell, he ca+me out of the darkness talking about how you would still be able to do body weight training in there. There was also a man-trap. Imagine a bear or rabbit trap. You know, the kind from cartoons with teeth and a spring. Now imagine one large enough to trap a man's leg. And probably totally destroy it. And big enough you can't drag it off into the bush while it's attached to your leg.

Phillip playing prisoner
Down the hall to be clapped in irons

Richmond Bridge, on the "Convict Trail"

We toured around Richmond a bit more, and, pretty as the town was, there wasn't much more to see, except more old buildings, and it really was just cold. So around 2PM we ended up driving back to Hobart, but not without a stop at Wicked Cheese for a free cheese tasting. It was GOOD. Good enough that, on our budget (though mostly because I convinced Phillip to splurge for his birthday because he loves cheese) that we bought some whiskey cheddar.

Walking around Hobart more, we ended up in a free museum, the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG) with some surprisingly good exhibits for, well, a free museum. They featured some Tasmanian art work, old and new, and then we wandered into their Arctic exhibit celebrating... something. The first Australian expedition or science or something. I was mostly taken with all the equipment, stories from scientists, and the display of taxidermy baby Emperor Penguins. They even had a case that opened and you could touch two specimens. Kind of gross, maybe, but still, cool. The museum was just really neat, and again, being the nerd/geek that I am, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. we overheard a little girl (3 or 4) ask her dad where the dinosaurs were and an attendant telling her dad that they were in storage at the moment, because the museum was undergoing some construction and expansion. So as impressed as I was at the little they had, this place sounds like it might be much more interesting.
Disturbing? Maybe a little. Interesting, educational, and fascinating?

Also, we treated ourselves to coffee. Really good coffee. 

We ended our cold day out of walking scarfing down massive burgers at a place called The Hogs Breath, because it was a good mix of lots of food for not a lot of money, and after walking all day eating only fruit, nuts, and some cheese samples, really hit the spot.We spent the rest of the night watching Olympic Highlights and Bear Grylls, wondering how in the world that man manages to drink and eat the things he does.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Hobart: Day One

Part of the requirements for applying for my new permanent residency visa are having a health check. This health check, however, can only be performed by doctors/centers who are certified to perform such a check. The only place in Tasmania that contains said doctors and centers is the state's capital: Hobart.

By car, it's about a three-hour drive (as opposed to driving by truck, which my husband does on occasion). This meant that we could either make a day trip of it, waking up ridiculously early and leaving whenever the health check was finished, or we could spend the night at a hotel.

Phillip and I decided that we would go for two nights, spend an extra day doing the tourist thing (since I haven't seen much of Tasmania or Australia other than the few towns we live by and one night in Melbourne), go out for a nice meal, and just enjoy ourselves and relax together, almost like a sort of mini vacation/ celebration of our nearly-one-year-anniversary. And to kind of make up for the fact that, in spite of our "one date a month" rule, we have allowed ourselves to get too busy or taken up with things this year to keep that up, even with very small at-home dates, and just wanted to spend some time together with no distractions. At least for one day.

We arrived Sunday night, after driving through what is some of the most beautiful and breathtaking scenery. Tasmania is just plain beautiful. And this is just the small portion of it that I've seen. Driving on the Heritage Highway was stunningly beautiful. Rolling misty hills surrounding golden or green plains, massive gum and other eucalypt trees scattered across pastureland and eventually joining into small clumps of trees and meandering into forest. The sky was nearly completely clear, except for a few massive clouds, so sunset was spectacular. And the thing about Tasmania is, the air is just CLEAN. There really is something about the atmosphere here, the air, that is just clean. So colors look crisp, clear, un-muddled, except by natural fogs or rains, and sometimes the smoke from houses. So driving along this highway through almost nothing but pastureland, what I saw was just... natural. I saw why Tasmania is called "Your Natural State".

Not that this highway went through nothing. We did go through a few towns. Like Baghdad, Epping Forest, and Brighton. We even passed The Walls of Jerusalem and the Lower Marshes (that last one made me feel very in the mood to read Lord of the Rings). But they were all so small, a few seconds and they were behind you.

But it was all only three hours. It was... weird. I'm used to 5+ hour road trips with, mostly my cousins, and a few friends. Depending on who I travel with, we have very few, if any, stops in that 5 hours. And pass a lot of nothing. Traveling 3 hours with my husband was, well, an entirely different experience. Especially when you get into a road-trip state of mind (you have to mentally prepare, you know), and you're done before you even feel you've started. But that's Tasmania, for you. At least the habitable parts. Small.

Unfortunately, we had dinner reservations we had to make, so we didn't stop to take photos of the beautiful scenery. You'll just have to take my word for it. Or look stuff up on Google Earth or something. I can't even do the "roll the window down and take photos while moving fast and HOPE they turn out well" because my brother-in-law broke the window a few years ago. It doesn't roll down ever. It leaves you with a nice trapped feeling.

Us, after a very satisfying meal
Dinner was at Mures. I larg-ish place on the docks in Hobart that apparently has it's own fleet of fishing ships. So, fresh seafood DAILY. Phillip and I were starved and ordered the two-tiered seafood platter that had cold dishes on top and hot ones on bottom. Basically a nice sampler platter for two. It. was. Delicious. Everything on there (except for maybe the first oyster, but only the first as the second was one of the best things I've ever tasted, and the muscles) was delicious. And FRESH. I mean, I've had fresh fish before when I've gone fishing with my dad and actually managed to catch something big enough to eat. But this... you could taste the difference. And prepared really really well. Really, I could rave about it all day, but that'd be more boring than the rest of my writing. So we'll just leave it at fresh and delicious, shall we?

The next day, Monday, we spent wandering around Richmond looking at historic buildings and landmarks, and further wandering around Hobart itself. But that is for a later entry, as I am tired and want to go to bed.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Marry HAD a little lamb...

One of the (surprisingly many) benefits to living in the middle of nowhere is plenty of land and having friends who raise animals on it.

My husband's family is friends with just such an family, and we just bought a yearling lamb from them.

The lambs were delivered to the abattoirs last weekend, and this Friday, we got the meat. Came out to about $6 a kilo for the lamb (which is what the sale price is on BBQ lamb chops at the butcher we frequent).

Not only is the a free-range lamb (not sure if there is any other kind?), raised by people we know, but it's cheap. And tasty. We ate some last night, right after I'd divided up the cuts into two-person-meal sized bags and put them in our freezer. The whole lamb, by the way, will provide us with over a months worth of meals.

Back to cooked lamb, though. Neither of us are big fans. Unless it's roast lamb. Roast lamb is fantastic. Lamb most other ways I'd had before, not so much. It's just... gamey, tough, and, well, it's lamb. But it's everywhere here (the unofficial meat of Australia I think. I haven't looked it up), so I looked up and invented a few recipes, and now we quite enjoy eating lamb (which is good since, you know, we bought a whole one).

The first night of lamb was something I have affectionately titled "Goin' on down to Egypt Lamb". Because it's made with as many leeks and garlic as I can put into it. It's a funny name if you like Bible humor.

But anywho, I chopped up some of the undersized leeks from our garden (I'll be the one planting the leeks next season. Or at least making sure it's done properly by a certain husband of mine). Salted and seared the lamb chops a bit, threw in the leeks, chopped some garlic and threw that in, and then used the chops to kind of stir the whole concoction to coat them a bit with leek-y garlic-y goodness. Put in a tablespoon or so of water, put the lid on and let them cook away.

It's delicious. Unless you don't like leeks or garlic or red meat.

*Note: I am aware that you're not meant to use the green part of the leek. But these leeks were severely undersized. And we really really wanted leeks, so I caved a bit and used only JUST a little of the green bit, right were it starts to go from white to green.

Also, those mashed potatoes were full of New Zealand spinach, also from our garden. I've taken to putting it in mashed potatoes because it's a really bitter, and sometimes it's just easier to use one pot instead of two, or adding a steamer.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Our one year anniversary is coming up

That was FAST. Today is, in fact, the 11-month mark. Not that we celebrate those month-marks, we just... note that they pass.

But yes, it's been nearly a year since we said "I do", which means it's one month more until I've been living Down Under.

To celebrate we're.... not entirely sure what we're going to do. Both our birthdays fall very close to our anniversary (Phillip's a few weeks before, mine a few days before) so we just decided to simplify things this year and combine gifts for both occasions. Which meant, in our minds, we could spend more on one nice gift that was really wanted/needed, rather than budget for both birthdays and an anniversary.

So Phillip got a Kindle (he's been envious of mine for quite some time) and I got a new camera (since mine was dying). Phillip seems quite taken with his Kindle, and is enjoying looking up free ministry books and turning them into PDFs to put onto his Kindle so he can read them in better form on it's nice e-ink screen instead of looking at the computer or printing out hundreds of pages (he got the Kindle Keyboard, not Kindle Fire, because other Kindles have a screen that is better for your eyes). My camera isn't anything super special. Just a Canon S95, enough like the G10 I loved so much, but compact. Still just a point-and-shoot, but with some pretty nice manual controls, and takes really good photos in low-light conditions (that's about all the playing around and getting used to it I've done as of yet). It's nice. It takes quality photos. And still fits in my pocket so I don't walk around looking like I'm pretending to be a professional photographer.

As for actual celebration, we'll probably end up holding a family and friends get-together for everyone on this side of the globe who didn't get to make it to the wedding. Play the video, go through photos, eat food, hope that our house somehow holds the 50-something people that are on the "invite" list (we have space, just not a lot of seats), that sort of thing.

As you can tell, were not extremely romantic. At least not with what a lot of people would look at as big gestures for important occasions. We have our moments, like pancake breakfasts every Saturday, Brinner (breakfast for dinner) nearly every weekend (when we're not able to do our pancake breakfasts for one reason for another, or just because I make some killer scrambled eggs), walks in the bush, indoor picnics, trips to the beach, or grocery shopping, second-hand shopping, or even just sitting on the floor in front of the fire talking about random stupid things, or really important things with a mug of Milo. No, we don't often do big gestures, but the little ones over the past 11 months have been quite wonderful.

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Yesterday I woke up (at 8mumblessomething) to a freezing bedroom.

Typical, since we heat the house with a wood heater and, because of the way the house is built, the heat doesn't reach the back rooms very well.

But then I opened my curtain and squeeled with glee.

There was frost everywhere! It's... the closest thing to snow we'll get at this elevation. Or something along those lines. But frost! Beautiful, fully-coating, white frost! And a most beautiful sunny day too!

I jumped in my gum boots (still in my pajamas which, as cold as it gets, consists of many layers of warm clothing) and took off for a quick walk outside to snap some pictures and just enjoy the actual winterness of it, since my previous experiences of winter here have been filled with almost nothing but cold rain and damp air.

I felt like I should run inside and turn on Christmas music and start baking cookies. My seasons feel so messed up at the moment, seeing as how they're literally backwards from what I'm used to.

Our view of Mt. Roland from the chicken shed
(The house is somewhere hidden to the left)

Fall raspberries
Not nearly as good as summer ones, but still fresh,,
And the ones left are attracting some really pretty birds

My frosted rosemary bush

The neighbors horses. Some of them anyway.
They loved the cold morning and were quite frisky.
(Except for in this photo...)

Our landlord's cabin (he lives just behind us behind a copse of trees.)
His view of the mountain is spectacular.

As the sun rose higher, the frost very slowly melted from the grass and made quite a romantic mist, while still leaving trees and flowers beautifully frosted. I felt as frisky as a foal walking around the small bit of property in the cold. It was just wonderful. And even better, to come back to the toasty (front of the) house where my husband had stoked the fire before leaving for work at 6AM.