Scenes from the Skeens

Archive for the 'Dan’s updates' category

Some Tasty Stuff

April 28, 2007 3:10 am

Well I figured that after exposing you all to the horrors of the meat-pie pizza that I should probably show a few of the tasty things we’ve found in our local supermarket.

Cherry RipeWow, probably the best chocolate bar I’ve ever tasted. Coconut and cherry bits covered in dark chocolate. So good you’ll want to cry. Why can’t we get this back home?

Heinz curryMaybe there really are 57 varieties. Heinz has a line of curry in a can products that are surprisingly good. So much better than baked beans!

granolaThis company makes an amazing line of granola bars. They also have a coconut and cashew bar that is outstanding.

bhuja mixHere’s an awesome snack mix of spiced peas and crunchy, thin cracker-like somethings.

Skeen's curryMy clever penmanship no doubt had you fooled, but this is actually called Keen’s curry powder.

Touhys pilsI’ve been a bit underwhelmed with local beers, but Touhy’s makes a pretty good pilsner. Another one I like is called Crown lager. I’d hoped for more micro-brew products but mostly all I see are big national brewers.

Meat Pie & Pizza: Together at Last

April 3, 2007 11:04 pm

It’s been a while since I posted anything (lots of good stories in the hopper for when I find time) but I have a piece of junk mail that simply must be shared. For those who haven’t visited, there’s a food item that Aussie’s simply love: the meat pie. It’s by far the most popular fast food item. Bakeries are loaded with about 20 different varieties, the supermarkets stocks a dozen brands, and they are on the kids’ tuck shop menu at school.
Given that, it shouldn’t have surprised me to see this, but something about the green peas poking out from the gravy and ground beef sauce on this pizza made me think of a mad food scientist’s experiment gone wrong. Note the awestruck look on the woman in the hat. Is it enthusiasm, or sheer terror?
meat pie pizza

On the Warm Side

March 13, 2007 6:47 pm

It’s been a hot week here on the Sunshine Coast. I know better than to complain to a group of Canadians, but earlier this week temperatures reached that far-too-sticky point where all you can really do is sit and swelter. Thankfully over the last few days a nice breeze has blown in and the temperatures are in the perfect 25-28 range.

Our New Set of Wheels

March 12, 2007 10:53 pm

A few days after we arrived in Brisbane I went out on a Saturday morning and bought a car. It was about an hour from the moment I stepped on the lot until I was driving off with a Toyota Camry. I paid with my PC Mastercard, adding to my growing stash of President’s Choice points. The sales guy let me drive it using their registration and insurance until I was settled in a permanent address. “If you get in a bang-up, just say you’re test driving it” he said. The absurdity of that occurred to me later as I loaded the car with groceries: “yes officer, I just went for a test drive and remembered my fridge was empty.” The registration and insurance are in my name now. Insurance rates are a beautiful thing here. I pay $12 a month for $1 million in liability.

Now I’m forbidden to tell anyone how old this car is, but let me just say it was manufactured during the Bush presidency … the elder Bush that is. Yep, it was careening around Queensland before Clinton, while in the movies Wayne and Garth banged their heads to Bohemian Rhapsody. But it starts great, runs well, and with a one-year warranty I’m not too worried about maintenance. It’s not much of a looker, but I figured some nice scenery (shown here in front of one of the Glasshouse Mountains) might help.

By far the most exciting thing about this car is the omni-button. Oh sorry, did I say omni-button, indicating a button with more than one purpose? I meant to write omini-button, indicating a button of ominous nature with no clear purpose whatsoever. Auto-eject? Nitro-boost? Pteradactyl wings? Who knows? It’ll take either a really bad day, or maybe a regressive influx of child-like curiosity before I flip this switch, probably best done as I floor it along some coastal highway. Geerronniimmooooo!!!!


Skink vs. Roach

February 15, 2007 4:06 pm

We had heard rumors of roaches being everywhere here in our new tropical home, but we were pleasantly surprised by the dearth of critters upon arrival. We did find loads of skinks, small lizards ranging from 1 to 3 inches. They scurry through the lawn with each step you take. I’d thought that catching them would be impossible as they move so fast, but the kids proved me wrong and had relocated a half dozen to their Tupperware lizard habitat within an hour.

skinkPerhaps we got a little too comfortable, as we foolishly left a pan full of ground beef (minced beef, that is) in the kitchen. In a less than common scenario I was the first one out of bed, and happened upon the first roach sighting. The poster roach for gluttony, this two-inch buffet aficionado had gorged himself so greedily on our taco meat that he appeared to have tumbled from the counter, landed on his back, and couldn’t muster the strength to flip his frame over. I normally help bugs out the front door but this was one I didn’t want to risk seeing again. Using Melissa’s sandal (mine were outside, honest!) I nailed him with the sandal resulting in a greasy crunching sound.

cockroach(sorry for the awful photo, but I don’t expect many people will crave more visual detail) My next roach sighting was prompted by Maddy’s comment, “Dad, there’s something moving in my suitcase.” Sure enough, a roach had gotten in and couldn’t climb the slick fabric lining. I took the suitcase to the porch and gave the back of it a hard knock, sending the roach flying into the nearby sand. To my surprise I then witnessed what may be the Aussie version of a classic animal rivalry like coyote vs. roadrunner. As the roach scuttled away, no doubt feeling horribly exposed in the harsh light of day, a skink ran up and took a good bite of one of his legs. Soon there was a grand chase going on with the skink getting the best of the deal.

We’ve since moved from that holiday rental to an apartment that uses a pest control service. No more sightings to speak of thankfully.

Waiting for Telstra

February 13, 2007 5:39 pm

We’ve got more updates ready to go, but we’re waiting on Telstra (think of Bell Canada in slow motion) to setup our DSL internet access. Right now I’m using a terminal on campus at the University of the Sunshine Coast, a lovely campus. It’s set on a wildlife reserve which leads to some uncharacteristic uni conditions. For example, right now through the window I can see a pack of grey kangaroos just lounging about.


Touching Down in the Land of Oz

February 3, 2007 5:02 pm

Too much travel, airports, airplanes. We’ve logged 13,000 airmiles within a few days by my count. That’s the equivalent of three return trips from Toronto to Vancouver.

The only pleasant surprise (other than watching all of our luggage actually appear at the baggage return each step of the way) is the airplane food. I had some chicken curry on our Air Pacific flight that was REALLY good. On my previous flight I was tempted into eating my fourth meal of the day because they offered an eggplant and mushroom sandwich. The snack peanuts are coated in a fiery South Indian spice mix. All the foods I like that are seemingly exotic to the North American palate are here, being served not just to me but to every young child and 80-year-old on the plane. I’m going to like this place.

We arrive at Brisbane International Airport at 10:30 pm local time. Thankfully, Melissa had the foresight to book us a shuttle from here to our vacation rental in Caloundra, about an hour and half’s drive North. Our driver, Chris, is a good British chap who happens to have spent his last 35 years in Australia. I’m terrible with accents, but I can tell early-on he’s sounding more like Peter O’toole than Steve Irwin. He gives me the tourist spiel as we head north, talking with barely subdued excitement about the size of the country. Bigger than China, wow. State of Western Australia is six times bigger than Texas, wow. These are the facts that probably drop jaws of American tourists, so I try to act suitably impressed, but the polite-but-proud Canadian in me says, that’s nothin’ I’m from Canada. You want to talk land mass, look at this big red area on the map here.

I’m quite glad that I don’t indulge in one-upmanship with Chris however; as it turns out I’m soon quite in need of his help. We arrive to pick up the keys for our rental a half-hour after the store has closed. It’s 12:30 am local time and apparently hotel owners might like to listen to Midnight Oil but they don’t like to burn any. Chris is quite worried about what to do with us, and his good British poise is a bit shaken as we move from hotel to hotel, then motel to motel, finding no-vacancy signs posted everywhere. Then we see a hotel with a vacancy sign. I head up and ring the after-hours number. Someone answers, groggily. I reply: “Hi, sorry to call so late, but we’ve just arrived in town and we’re looking for a hotel room.”

“Yeh, well look somewhere else ya bloody idiot.” Click.

I’ve just had my first conversation with an Aussie.

Thankfully, the next hotel manager was wonderfully polite and helpful, and pointed us to a nice hotel where we found, gasp, disbelief, a full night staff available to book us into a room. It’s 1:30 am and at last I can rest my tired head in Australia. ZZzzz.


Safely Sunned in Fiji

4:56 pm

Ahhh, Fiji. Bula, bula, bula. Our first taste of South Pacific warmth, we exited our plane into a pleasant evening with temperatures in the low 20s, the sound of exotic birds making all sorts of unknown but welcoming calls, and the pleasant smell of plant life and blooming flowers. We forget the olfactory hibernation that Canadians experience during Winter months. When plants take a break and the cycle of life slows, our air is crisp, clean, cold, but utterly lifeless. Here, a thousand blooms waft through the air, instantly giving the heady sensation of life and growth.


We had a bit of apprehension about Fiji. Frank Bainamaira’s military coup had put a damp air on Fiji’s international relations. Their actions included deposing many prominent officials, in some cases deporting them from the country. More disturbing, they’d attempted to influence the media and had tried to get pre-approval rights to the local newspaper (not a good sign for me, as I was using this to read about the situation there – also, military guys make horrible copy editors). We’d also heard of military checkpoints in Suva. Generally, I’m not wild on military checkpoints.

Well, it turns out our fears were unfounded, at least during our stay. Countries like New Zealand may be threatening Fiji with trade concessions, but the sun and salt water are still Fiji’s very willing trade partners. We spent a few days as a stopover in Nadi, touring little, eating well, and swimming in the ocean and our pool.

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The kids really loved the tropical scenery. Despite all our coaching on potentially dangerous animals at our travel destinations, while we were checking in Nate immediately ran off and suddenly plunged both arms into the darkest, densest vegetation he could find. “Look” he said, his face beaming as he produced his prize, “a coconut.” Later we’d watch a team of native islanders scurry up the trees and kick coconuts down, tossing their machete to one another from tree to tree, occasionally pausing to lop the end off a coconut and drink the milk to keep the 32-degree heat at bay. As a Three Stooges fan, I was pleased to see their sense of humor matched well with mine. At one point a coconut fell from a tree and bounced off the noggin of one of the crew. All of them, including the one rubbing his head, laughed hysterically. Nyuck, nyuck, nyuck.

Life, in 50 pounds or Less

4:54 pm

If you’re feeling your life is getting a bit cluttered, consider a move to another continent. That might seem extreme, but somehow the exercise of reducing your worldly goods to one suitcase and one carry-on item is wonderfully cathartic. Of course the last step is where the break-through happens – when you weigh your suitcase and find that it’s 15 pounds over the weight allowance. Goodbye comfy pants I never wear – but they’re so comfy! Goodbye to the extra underwear and socks – sheer luxury at this point. Goodbye every non-essential contingency item, every impractical ounce.

It has a similar effect on your calendar. To the one-time friend that simply can’t let go and you must constantly avoid: “Aww, dinner would be fantastic. But I’m leaving the country tomorrow. How does 2008 look for you?”

During this time, everything is contingent on that departure date. Your world revolves around it. And you pour so much effort and activity into the planning, that it’s easy to get lost in the effort and lose sight of the outcome. There’s a great adventure waiting for you, but for now it’s nothing but a heap of unresolved details, loose ends and a constant worry that you’ve forgotten something – that one thing that you know you’ll kick yourself for and say “why didn’t I think of that when I had a chance.” It’s kind of like retirement planning at light speed – putting a great deal of effort (and money) toward a future event which is so unfamiliar that you have no reference points to even imagine it with.

Still, the happy moment for me is when I hear that click of the airplane seatbelt sliding into place. The sweat and restless sleeping is over – and the journey, another great, wondrously liberating journey, is at hand.

Welcome to our Travel blog!

3:05 am

Welcome to our travel blog! It’s a place for friends and family to check in on our latest activities. Feel free to leave comments.