Friday 29 July 2011

Christmas in July

Only last year did I became aware of the Australian tradition of Christmas in July.

Celebrating Christmas in the middle of summer, we miss out on snow, cold weather and warm foods - the typical postcard Christmas scene....instead Christmas lunch is celebrated with seafood, salads, barbecues and outings to the beach or swimming pools.
My visiting family (from South Africa and Portugal) and friends, on Christmas Day 2007

I confess I still enjoy celebrating Christmas the Portuguese way with the traditional Christmas menu of Bacalhau (salted dry cod fish) with boiled potatoes, boiled eggs and kale - we have managed to find the real Portuguese one here too, (otherwise Broccoli would do) or otherwise any other Codfish recipe, one of my favorites being Bacalhau com Natas (Cod fish in cream sauce).

Cod fish in cream sauce
Traditional boiled cod fish

Desserts would be Rabanadas (Tipsy Slices), Creme Caramel Pudding and Sweet Rice Pudding, and of course the Christmas Cake or the more traditional Bolo Rei (Crown cake) and little dishes with a variety of different nuts and dried fruits.
Arroz Doce -  Sweet Rice Pudding

Bolo Rei (King's cake)  - photo from the net

Of course Portuguese women slave for days before Christmas to produce a huge quantity of food that will be eaten over 2 or 3 days.

The Australians are a lot more practical with their food choice, because with temperatures between 30ºC and 40ºC, nobody wants to be in front of a hot oven, but to me a barbecue is just not Christmas fare. You can have a barbecue any day of the year!

So for the past 4 years I have been inviting my friends to my Christmas Eve dinner offering them my special Portuguese menu. On Christmas day I will then join any one who invites us for a barbecue and a swim.

In the States of Victoria, Tasmania and Australian Capital Territory, in the snowfields, during the month of July, being the peak of winter, various hotels and clubs, offer their guests the traditional Christmas menus, and many Australians travel to these areas to enjoy the snow and to take part in these festivities.

In other parts of the country, even though we don´t get snow or the winters are not that cold, many restaurants offer Christmas in July menus, and a
Fruit Mince Pie
lot of big companies book out restaurants and clubs for their employees to celebrate this date - any excuse for a nice meal,  a couple of drinks and a dance is a good excuse!
Sadly because I work in a small office we don´t get such luxuries, but one of our Doctors who loves Christmas cake and has a sweet tooth, brought in a dozen delicious Fruit mince pies for us to have with our morning coffee, which made me think about this tradition and hence this post.

I don´t know if other countries in the Southern Hemisphere have such a tradition, but when I lived in South Africa we didn´t have it.

Do you know of any funny or special traditions that are just celebrated in your country?

Thursday 28 July 2011


HANHDORF is situated about 27km South East of Adelaide in area know as the "Adelaide Hills".
On the drive there we stopped at MOUNT LOFTY, where from the summit at the height of 700mt you can get a view of the whole city of Adelaide. Unfortunately the fog was very thick and we couldn´t see a thing!!

The thick fog...
Cold and foggy on top of Mt.Lofty

I was very keen to see the view, so I had to drive back the following day and I was lucky the day was nice and sunny and I managed to get some lovely pictures.
There are walking trails for the adventurous, and a wildlife park in the middle of the Botanic Gardens. There is also a kiosk and a restaurant as well as a Tourist Information Center.

Obelisk at top of Mt.Lofty
View of Adelaide, 17km away, I should have zoomed....

On to Hanhdorf then!

This small town was first settled in 1839 by Prussian Lutheran families (around 200 people) who traveled to South Australia on the ship "Zebra" whose captain was called Dirk Hahn. The town was named after him as a tribute to his efforts in helping to settle the travellers.
There is a memorial to Hahn and the pioneering families in the Pioneer Garden in the Main street and a lot of the original buildings still stand, fully restored and being used as shops. 
Don´t miss the Leather shop with a huge collection of leather hats, belts, bags...and an open wooden fireplace burning inside the old shed.

The quaint Leather shop
It is a very touristy spot and apart from the historical value of the town there is lots to see and experiment.
In the Main Street, there are a few shops where you can buy traditional German foods - wursts (sausages), tins of sauerkraut and gurkens, pumpernickel bread and lots more. Traditional German food can be eaten at the German Arms or at the Hanhdorf Inn restaurant, and you can have afternoon tea at the German Cake shop.

German food store
Chilli sausages anyone?  (Bum burner...)

Also on the Main street there are a few restaurants, a couple of arts and crafts galleries and the town´s Museum, where you can read about the first settlers and their way of life.

During the First World War in 1917, the South Australia government closed all Lutheran schools, and all towns with German names in the State had their names anglicized. Despite the fact that most of Hanhdorf´s inhabitants were by now second or third generation Australians, there was a lot of anti-German feelings during the war, and the men joining the Australian Army also anglicized their names.
Hanhdorf became Ambleside between 1918 to 1935, after which the old name was restored to celebrate South Australia´s centenary in 1936 and in recognition of its German pioneers.
There are still a lot of the German descendants living in the town and a lot of newcomers attracted to the
town´s lifestyle and location. It has now a population of about 2000 people.

At the end of Main Street, on the way to Mt. Barker, there is a farm where you can pick your own strawberries (October to May) and where they farm various vegetables and fruits. Beerenberg Farm is the producer of jams, pickles, chutneys and sauces which are well know in various countries around the world.

We had a typical German lunch at the Hanhdorf Inn of Wurst and mashed potatoes and Eisbein (pork knuckle) with baked potatoes, far too much food. Then while walking along the Main St we came across a recently opened Portuguese Restaurant - Por2gal - where we had coffee, Portuguese Custard tarts (Pasteis de Nata) and a Bitter Almond liqueur. Yummi!!  On my next visit we will certainly go back, for lunch!!

The Hahndorf Inn Restaurant

Accordion player singing typical German songs

Pork Knuckle with baked potatoes
Wurst with Mashed potatoes
Inside the German restaurant

Pasteis de Nata -   Portuguese Custard tarts

Tuesday 26 July 2011

ADELAIDE - The city of Churches

I have just returned from my first to the city of Adelaide on the south east coast of Australia.
Adelaide is the capital of South Australia and the fifth biggest city with around 1,3million inhabitants.
South Australia is the only Australian state which wasn´t settled by convicts.
Map of city Centre and North Adelaide (grip pattern of centre)

The city is located by the River Torrens and the city centre is set out in a grid pattern surrounded by parks all around and the Mount Lofty ranges to the east.

It is known as the City of Churches with around 24 churches within the centre and in the suburb of North Adelaide across the river. It is also known as the Festival State, as there are many festivals and sporting events happening every month. The wine industry is a thriving business in Adelaide, with two areas within driving distance -  Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale. We had no time to visit these areas which will be left for another visit.

We visited Hanhdorf, a former German settlement which was a wonderful surprise and I will writing about this visit in a separate post.
So whatever your interests there is something for everyone and most of these areas are not too far away from the city and you can make your own way or there
are plenty of tours available.

Scots Church in North Terrace, the 2nd oldest church
River Torrens - behind the Convention centre

Rundle Mall

Two of the 4 bronze pig sculptures in Rundle Mall

I enjoyed strolling along Rundle Mall - a pedestrian only street surrounded by shops plus 15 arcades with a lot of unique shops. My favourite was Adelaide Arcade, an old fashion shopping area with very quaint  shops like a Button Bar, or a Hat shop or a bespoke tailor.
The area is open 7 days a week, and there is a huge choice of eating areas in each arcade, plus some live entertainment by street performers.

Inside Adelaide Arcade with its quaint shops


View of Glenelg from the air with Marina to the left and Pier to the right at end
We stayed in an hotel in Glenelg, a seaside suburb 10km from the city by the coast. Being winter the area felt a bit empty, but I can imagine it will be full of locals and tourists in the summer time. There was a tram line, and the trip into the city took about 20min, with a new tram coming every 15 minutes.

Glenelg Marina
Beach and Pier
Glenelg - Moseley Square
Sunset - taken from Glenelg Beach

Tuesday 19 July 2011

Foreign language experiences and life in Braunschweig

When my husband was seconded to his company´s head office in Germany for 1 year, I accompanied him on our first overseas trip together.
He had done a 3 month intensive German language course about 1 year before we actually left, so that by the time we got to Braunschweig much had been forgottten along the way...I knew nothing.
I stayed home, no kids at the time yet, so my activities consisted of house cleaning, window shopping in the city centre, meeting with South African women whose husbands worked on the same project, sewing, and a lot of tv watching. The fact that we watched an English TV channel - BFBS -  British Forces Broadcasting Service, didn´t do much for my learning of a new language.


Eventually I decided that if I lived in Germany I might as well learn German, so I enrolled in a 3 month Basic course. I learned enough to get me by while shopping, to watch and understand a bit of what was being said on German TV. Our original 1 year was extended to another year, and that by the time we left we had been in Germany for almost 6 years.

Our first hurdle with the German language came when we had to go to the doctor the first time we fell sick with a very bad cold. The Doctor managed to tell in a broken English that we had an African virus - this because we had told him we had recently arrived from South Africa!
Another South African couple who happened to have taken a detour via New York on the way to Germany, was diagnosed by the same doctor with and American virus! We had a great laugh at this diagnosis.

The first couple of times we went shopping we used to take an English/German dictionary with us and we would peruse the products and try to figure out if they were what we wanted.
What was "dandruff shampoo" or "shampoo for dry hair"? What about the names on meat cuts, some of them we couldn´t even find a translation for them.

The very first time my husband went by train to Hannover, he asked for "Ein Ticket nach Hannover". The vendor asked him "Ein weg oder Zuruck"? (one way or return?) and he would just repeat "one ticket to Hannover". Eventually after asking 3 times, he just issued a one way ticket.

Another time, sightseeing in the city, we were trying to locate a street in our map, as we stood under a sign that said "Ein Weg". We looked in the map directory and we just couldn´t find such a street name, and were puzzled that the map was recent so it should have that street. After a while we decided to ask a passerby to show us on the map where we were. He was a bit puzzled, but explained to us that it wasn´t a street name, but meant that street had only one traffic direction (One way street).

Me and the kids 

Since I was home we decided it would be a good time to have children. Germany was also a very child friendly country who welcomed any addition to the nation, as their birth rate was very low - so our two babies were born there 18 months apart. 
We were lucky to find a "Hebamme" (midwife), Frau Franke, who worked with the Obstetrician, who wasn´t afraid to speak English, as she had an English partner. 
She even told me to phone her at home if I had any queries and she would get her boyfriend to translate if she didn´t know how to explain. What a darling!

It was a lovely experience for me, I met some nice people and made some friends, despite the fact the Germans are a bit cold and closed.
But the weather was for me the worst to get used to, with long snowy winters and summers with not much sun or warmth.    
I couldn´t wait to get back to South Africa and it´s beautiful weather.

Due to the instability and crime rate in South Africa, we left a few years later and settled in Portugal....and much later we moved to Australia.

Monday 18 July 2011

1 Month Blogging Anniversary

Today is my first month blogging anniversary.

I can´t believe I´ve managed to get a few followers, and well over 500 viewers looked through some of my posts. I´m enjoying every minute and making new virtual friends.
I have evolved a tiny bit, have learned a few things along the way and I´m ready to learn a lot more.

I enjoy looking at other blogs for design inspiration and to see what I could improve in mine.
I have found quite a few interesting blogs, and every time I look at a blog, one or more of the blogs that person is following catches my eye, and I´m opening another page to have a look.
It´s addictive I think! Some nights I find myself sitting at my desk for a few hours at a stretch just reading blog after blog...and nothing else gets done around the home.

I have so many art projects on hand, waiting to be finished, so that I can take photos and post them... I really need to set out a schedule to work on these or I run the risk of not fulfilling the aim of my blog which was to show my crafts.
One of my favourite oil paintings
Do you all spend countless hours blogging every day?

Sunday 17 July 2011


I’ve just been tagged by  Piglet in Portugal  and now I’m “IT!…”Thanks Piglet!  It´s lovely to have virtual friends all over the world!!
I've been tagged!
I´ve been tagged
Who made this game up? I have no idea! But the way it works is a blogger tags you, you match your own posts in specific "Most this" and "Most that" categories, and then you tag another 5 people. 
I don´t know if I really deserved such an honour, you see I´m a new blogger, so Piglet was really trying to help me get started in my new adventure and helping me get new friends and readers. Thanks again Piglet, you are a star*
In fact tomorrow will be my FIRST MONTH ANNIVERSARY!!  I have managed to write 9 posts, this will be my 10th and over 500 people have viewed my blog.
In the first days, oh well let me be sincere here - every single day when I get back from work the first thing I do is open my page and check how many more people visited, and I feel real excitement at seeing I get visitors from many countries. A few days ago I put in a flag counter and just today I had 2 visitors from the Russian Federation, how exciting is that? The day I did my blogging course just after the students had all posted their blogs into the blogosphere, we were asked by the teacher to go to one of our colleagues blog and leave a comment.
Then we were taught how to interpret the "Stats" on our blog, and to my amazement just 1 hour after it had been posted I had my first visitor from Germany. WOW, I had been the only one with a foreign visitor. I felt like a real star***
What I find sad is that although so many have visited, very few have either become followers or even left comments to my posts. I know that I also follow a few blogs and don´t always leave comments, so I´ve now promised myself that from now on I will always leave a comment on any blog I read - if it makes me happy, I should be able to make others happy too.

So I will review my top  “Seven” posts in the various categories and will then tag the next 5 bloggers!

Most beautiful:   My cats (no dogs) Part 11      Of course being a cat lover this has the most beautiful photos of all my cats, past and present.
Most proud of:    My interests and my first blog   My first post was done in a blogging class, and I am very proud that I have been able to continue my learning curve, searching out things on the internet, I have even been able to make my own grab button...LOL
Most controversial:   Don´t have one yet...
Most popular:  The popularity as been the same for most posts, so can´t really give a specific one.
A post whose success surprised me:  Don´t have one yet...
A post that didn't get the attention I felt it deserved: Don´t have one yet...

                                               * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
So now I will tag the next 5 in no specific order. Please go and spread the tags to your favourite blogs.   - A literary blog in Portuguese, also some poetry and natural health issues. - An Australian blog about life in the country.  - Another Australian blog, from a young lady about her passion for crochet.   - A Portuguese blogging about her life in the Netherlands.  (most recent posts are in English, earlier ones in Portuguese)  - This blog is about an Australian living in Portugal.
(I seem to be attracted to all these expat blogs, but they are funny to read I guarantee you!)

Wednesday 13 July 2011

PERTH - the city I live in

I have been living in Perth for the past four years, having moved here from Portugal, and before that South Africa.
PERTH is a modern city divided by the Swan River, and spread out along the Indian Ocean, extending to about 140km from north to south. The most expensive suburbs and the central business district are located along the Swan river banks.
It´s the 4th largest city in Australia with around 1,500,000 people, the capital of the state of Western Australia. It´s considered a sleepy city, very conservative, the most isolated in the world, but has also been voted among the top 10 World´s most livable city.

The black swans after which the Swan river is named 
Perth has had an enormous development in the last 15 years or so, due to the mining boom - the northwest is rich in petroleum, gas, iron and coal mining. Due to the fact that a lot of people working in the resources industry earn very well, and the strong Australian Dollar, means that Perth has become a very expensive city, now ranked in the top 30 most expensive cities. It´s obviously presumed that every one earns as much as the miners...
Late night shopping was only recently introduced, where supermarkets are open until 9pm on weekdays, on weekends it´s only until 5pm and in a few suburbs you will find the supermarkets will open on Sundays until 5pm. Every Friday all shops in the city centre stay open until 9pm, and in the suburbs that falls on a Thursday. It´s actually interesting to go into town and just sit around the pedestrian zone and watch the crowds, the clothing, the hair styles...
Australians are very relaxed about their way of dressing - shorts and thongs (or flip-flops made of rubber) are the usual attire. The mild Mediterranean weather helps for sure, as winters are very short and not too cold. Even in winter when I see people wearing shorts and thongs, I wonder if they don´t feel the cold like I do. I noticed when visiting Melbourne that the Melbournians dress a bit smarter.

Ferry from the suburb of South Perth to Perth just across the river Swan

The city has only a few skyscrapers in the city centre and a few apartment buildings for the people that like the convenience of living close to their offices or near restaurants and nightclubs. Apart from that, the suburbs are full of houses surrounded by gardens, and all suburbs have a small shopping hub where you can find most things. 
A mix of old and new in the city centre
The modern Queen Victoria I Building

There are a lot of parks in all suburbs and people like to take advantage of these, especially on weekends when they barbeque or play sports or just relax on the grass - and of course you are allowed to walk on the grass, unlike in most European cities. The beaches are very nice and clean, most have a strip of grass before you reach the sand, with free public barbecues and children´s play areas.

In the centre of the city is "Kings Park and Botanic Gardens" a huge 400 hectare park on a hill with beautiful views of the city, river and some surrounding suburbs. It´s so huge, and I have been there so many times but I don´t think I have ever seen the whole park. The Spring flower festival in September is the best time to visit when all the wild flowers are in bloom.
View of South Perth from Kings Park

Of course no city is perfect, but I enjoy living here, I find the city organized, it has a good public transport system, relaxed lifestyle, and good quality of life. I enjoy waking up to the sound of singing birds, to watch the birds fly across the streets from tree to tree, the friendly ducks in the park who are used to people feeding them.
When I ride by train to the city we cross the river and I just love seeing the blue waters with hundreds of white yachts and the beautiful mansions scattered along the Swan banks. It always brings a smile to my face. Bliss!!

            What makes you happy about the city you live in?

Thursday 7 July 2011


The day we came to sign the purchase contract of our home in Perth, we saw 2 small cats in our front garden, both had pink collars so we presumed they belonged to a neighbour, as the house had been vacant for over 1 year.
A few months after our move, both cats started coming into the house if we left the back door open. I started feeding them and they just moved in!
I put up a few fliers in the area, but no one claimed them, so they just stayed. I didn´t realize then that they were both pregnant. (who knows the owner kicked them out, and that´s why they adopted us...).


Baby and Mommy
"Mommy" and "Baby" gave birth on 17th September 2007, to 4 kittens each, just outside my son´s bedroom window, under a bush - two ginger, three cream, one grey and two tortoise shell.
I know the mother´s names are not very imaginative, but I never thought they would stick around, so didn´t bother giving them a more permanent name...later I just got so used to it I couldn´t think of any other name.

It was cold and raining and I thought the kittens would not survive if we didn´t bring them in, so I prepared a big box and brought them all in.

It was so moving to see the love and care the mothers lavished on their young. For about 3 days they would hardly leave them alone, I usually brought them a plate with food, otherwise they wouldn´t eat.

Mom with all 8 kittens, a very dedicated mom and aunty!                                

I contacted SAFE, a wonderful association in Perth that saves cats from euthanasia. I gave them details and pictures of all the kittens, had them sterilised and tagged at a cheaper rate through their association, and kept them at home until they got adopted through them.

Both mothers feeding their respective babies
Aren´t we just too cute? (Fluffy, our ginger cat, is the one at the back, the others were adopted)

Mommy in the middle, squeezed in by 6 kittens

A few months later, from the 8 kittens, there were 3 that didn´t get adopted. My son wanted to keep "Fluffy" our now huge ginger male, and the other two "Twiggy" and "Shelly", the tortoise shell cats, were obviously a bit ugly for anyone to take a fancy to them!
Today we are a household of 5 cats - Mommy, Baby, Fluffy, Twiggy and Shelly - they all have different personalities and they bring us great joy and a few laughs a day.

Just check the pictures and tell me you don´t find cats ADORABLE?
Dinner time in our laundry!

Our Mommy certainly loves her "relax" time

(left to right) Twiggy, Shelley and Fluffy

Fluffy and Twiggy inside their former sand box 

Mommy and Twiggy are the best of friends and we usually find them cheek to cheek!

Twiggy decides to take over the lemon box -  it can´t be too comfortable!

Fluffy, the only male in the Cat family, as a kitten sleeping inside a egg carton

Twiggy inside a small box (she is not the prettiest girl, but we love her anyway)

Our huge Fluffy snuggling up to Mommy

Mommy - the TV is above you, you cannot see anything!

The basket I bought for them to try, but only Fluffy and Mommy will go into it, it creeks too much!

Winter is the best time to sleep in the warm tent - Twiggy and Mommy, together again.

Twiggy, Shelly (the fat one at the back) and Mommy in front

Baby is the intellectual type - she loves to sleep over our keyboards, usually while we are trying to type away...