Friday, November 23, 2018

Black Friday in OZ

      It's Black Friday in Western Australia.  This would normally mean that a great disaster (often a horrific fire) has happened.  This year it means something entirely different.

     Black Friday is the first official Christmas shopping day of season in the U.S.  We've eaten Thanksgiving turkey, watched the holiday parade and/or football game on TV and packed up the leftovers for the following week on Thursday.  But many people get the Friday after Thanksgiving Thursday off work and school as an unofficial part of the holiday. Soooooo, let's go Christmas shopping!  Wooo hooo! Retailers hang their fortunes and futures on this opening weekend of Christmas shopping.  Sales start earlier and earlier on Friday morning in order to get the jump on the competition.  Consumers follow their cue and get in the queue for bargains or the latest kid craze toy.  All expected and part of the social dance in North America.

     I've watched for 10 years to see when the Christmas shopping 'season' starts in a country that does not celebrate any kind of thanksgiving at any time, let alone one near the end of November.  There is no clear cut day or week for the Christmas 'season' to start here as there is back home.

     This year it has all changed. Australian retailers (and more than a few consumers) have been watching retail madness on the other side of the Pacific Ocean for years. The notion of Black Friday in world with increasingly fluid commercial borders has made it less an odd novelty and  more a reasonable concept.  To retailers, of course.  And not just large international businesses.  This year is the first I've seen major domestic-only businesses tout their Black Friday sales. Lots of them, all at once as if there was some secret collusion amongst them. Or maybe they all just independently decided to jump at once at this potential  commercial bonanza.                                                               

      Will it work?  Will this American notion (or nonsense) get a toe-hold in Australia the same way Halloween seems to have inveigled its way in--which is, through retailers primarily fueled by American movies and TV shows?  Hard to say.  Everyone loves a bargain and a firm holiday starting line, for that matter. But no one is getting off work today either to recover from gorging themselves on that fantastic Thanksgiving supper, visiting relatives you hope to see only once a year or to go spend money at the mall or online.

     As for me, I kind of appreciate the reminder of I hide my wallet from any retail temptation.

 Black Friday Sale On Now!Black Friday Sale On Now!Black Friday Sale On Now!Black Friday Sale On Now!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Laughter Yoga

     Today I had a rather unusual but happy experience.  What had been billed as a Mindfulness workshop actually turned out to be a Laughter Yoga session.

      Laughter Yoga? What's that?  Yoga is all about beneficial breathing (morphing into a human pretzel or other impossible poses are more of an aside) and Laughter Yoga takes it one step further.  There is healing in laughter--natural endorphins and serotonin is released when one laughs--and the body does not distinguish real laughter from forced laughter. This makes laughter a natural therapy and antidote to stress of all kind that builds up in our daily existence.  

    Janni Goss- a physiotherapist, Wellbeing Educator and Laughter Yoga teacher-led us through some exercises.  Clap your hands while saying Ho Ho Ha Ha Ha [much like dancing- Step, Step, cha-cha-cha]  and  (clapping twice) Ha Ha (two thumps way up) Yes   and   do a witch's cackle while stirring an imaginary pot  and    Ha Ha  laugh while tossing an imaginary hot potato to someone else.  Did it feel a bit foolish or forced at times? Well, yes, but at the end of the session it was easy to see that laughter--real or forced--is quite the aerobic activity even if one is seated the entire time. My heart was pumping! (This makes it a good workout at senior centers and for dementia patients.)

    This is not just something we at the far end of the planet do to amuse ourselves. The Laughter Yoga movement started with five people in 1995 and  has mushroomed into 16,000+ laughter clubs in 104 countries.  There is an international Laughter Yoga resource where you can find a club near you.  Here are the links for North America  and Australia.   Want to sample this experience anonymously and without pressure?  You are in luck.  May 7th is World Laughter Day and public Laughter Yoga sessions are being held everywhere. In Perth, the session will be in Kings Park between 12noon and 2pm. Check the Laughter Yoga International link or your local website for the location nearest you. 

     Laughter is contagious.  Can you think of any other contagion more worthy of catching?

Dining Out in Victoria Park

     Cities are no more static than the individuals who live in them. The demographics change, the main drag changes as do our tastes in food.  Victoria Park, just south of the river that rings Perth, has a rapidly changing face along its main road, Albany Highway.  So many more restaurants are there that one is spoiled for choice.  Don't prefer the current choice? Wait a bit, some of the restaurants have changed owners/styles of food three times in one year!  
     The following current review was written by my own Kev. Not big on blogs or writing in general, he was moved by his own curiosity and research into the various eateries to report on the current state of Dining Out in Victoria Park. (I have made minor changes like proper punctuation, capital letters--that sort of thing.)

Well, looks like Vic Park is trying to go cosmopolitan (for Perth that is). There has always been  a unhealthy choice of restaurants here but now the choice is getting more exotic.

When I got here there were the usual cheap Chinese and Italian  & a few pizza places, the local kebab shop, a couple of Indian, as well as a few other Asian  ones like Thai, Malay, Viet and one long standing overpriced Mexican (plus the pubs).

But now there is an explosion of choice, Nepalese, Japanese, vegan, a few other Asian but most of all Korean. We seem to be little Seoul here. there has always been a bulgogi place (that is only open half the time), but now there are about five , complete with hot plates at the table so you can cook it yourself (seems to defeat the purpose?) and exhaust fans for the smoke (doesn't work but it makes it really high end??). There are about ten Korean shops of one sort or another so Kimchi  and gochujang are readily available. Also all the bottle shops have Soju on sale, and the odd Korean Beer. I did try Soju with my friend Wally years ago, Wal wrote it off but I was prepared to give it another go. So in Korea I tried a few and different flavors ( pomegranate- cough mixture, blueberry - Boones Farm (cheap US rotgut), peach - not so bad) at best it was  cheap and not so nasty. The only good thing is it comes in small bottles, The Wal was right , I notice in Korea they would drop a shot of Soju into their beer, would help improve both.

The Chinese Restaurants have gone high end as well with the hot plates and exhaust fans and specific styles or regions to choose from  (A lot of Asian type restaurants have a short life span, particularly the Chinese, only the Chinese can see the snob value). But also there is now other types sticking their plates in. A Eritrean (same as Ethiopian) restaurant set up shop a few years ago and is still there, probably as there is nothing else like it, I get a take away occasionally.

Also unexpected (and a bit silly) is a "traditional American Tapas Bar". Yep, you can get a selection of sliders and mini hot dogs with your favorite bourbon, just like in the USA???. I went in and asked over a beer (Estrella, a Spanish beer!) and they confirmed it. 

Across the road from the Eritrean is a cuisine I never though I would see anywhere, particularly here, Silk Road Uyghur (WEE-GAR) restaurant (the far west of China, Muslim, splitists), more central Asian than Chinese. I had to go opening night (before it closes) and had the saltiest dish possible.

There is also a place just off the main drag for pop-up restaurants, a Peruvian place had a few goes there. There is also a Venezuelan in Perth doing well, although it is more street food than mains (and rum). Other Asian attempts and a regular at the pop up has Japanese burgers and rice???. One restaurant that started there has now moved onto the main drag (into a place vacated by a flash Chinese place) is a Caribbean restaurant, had to try it, particularly for their proper (AKA not Australian) Rum selection and buckets of Cuba Libra for $17, the chicken jerk was a bit bland but they have a gluttony challenge off which I had a front row seat, to watch some man try to eat a burger the size of a leg of lamb, plus chips etc,.  He failed. He was filming himself and was referred to as a pro at this. No one has done it yet (around 50 attempts so far, it's free if you finish.)   

Will have to go back for the goat curry.

     He'll be going to that goat curry without me.  I wrote up on the Silk Road Uyghur restaurant after that visit. (Click on the link to read.)  
     And now that you see that the selection is impressive, feel free to skip Subiaco's standard selection or Fremantle's Cappuccino Strip and come to the very friendly Victoria Park gastronome experience.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Opera In The Park

     My mother is a huge fan of opera. Youthful memories of opera programs on the old Grundig radio with the volume turned up full blast while Mom ironed clothes are easily summoned. And for a few years when we were old enough to sit still but not old enough to rebel, Mom would take some of her younger kids to an opera matinee annually to raise our appreciation of the arts. 
     Didn't she know that our art consciousness was being raised every Saturday morning while watching Bugs Bunny cartoons?  Mel Blanc must have been a huge fan of opera as some of the more memorable episodes featured operatic numbers.  What about TV commercials?  Pasta commercials would feature some Italian favorite aria on occasion.  And a true American commercial advertising icon, the No More Rice Krispies ad, cemented at least one opera song into the minds of even the least cultured among us.  [Go ahead, click on those links to enjoy these old favorites yourself.]  
     Wisely, Mom picked operas that were sung in English and contained a fair amount of comedic relief.  And all of us were amused by 'young lovers' portrayed by some two-ton Tessie tiptoeing coyly behind a trellis while her eighth of a ton beau bounded after her.  We sat, we saw, we survived the cultural indoctrination.

     Fast forward to the Opera In The Park, a 50th anniversary gala performance of the West Australian Opera company last night. [50 years! Perth is not a fishing village, thank you.]  It was the annual free concert held on the Supreme Court Gardens, a huge grassy area lying between the Swan River and the skyscrapers of the central business district. Simulcast to country towns that have limited access to opera, there are also large screens for the huge crowds to get a close-up view of the action on the stage.  Being a "gala", many people dressed to the nines or in sit on blankets on the ground.  I missed this rare opportunity to wear a sparkly sequined cape and fascinator. DRATS.  The capacity crowd makes one wonder: is opera (or opera curious) this big in Western Australia?  I think the "free" tag brought in more than a few thrifty souls, but that's OK.  People can nibble at the product for free and then maybe want to take a bigger bite by buying a ticket to an upcoming season performance.
Opera In The Park Instagram
     The program was a predictable mix of opera's greatest hits and this is OK, also.  People may not recognize the name of the piece but may certainly recognize the tune (thank you, Bugs).  For those keeping score, some of the line-up included: Don Giovanni, Rigoletto, Carmen's Toreador Song, Il Trovatore Anvil Chorus, the Lakme duet, Tosca and Turandot's Nessun Dorma. The latter I've heard so many times I can sing it myself. The featured singers did  a fine job on a cool night and the chorus was as diverse as the audience.  Opera has moved away from the bigger-is-better mentality but the cameras couldn't hide the ages of the 'young lovers'  or what must have been some of the original chorus members.  And this too is OK. What was onstage reflected what was in the audience.  A nice touch was the encore, "With hope in your'll never walk alone" by Rogers and Hammerstein.

     And my annual arts appreciation commitment fulfilled, Mom.


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Smooth Transition of Power

Donald Trump takes Presidential  Oath.  c.Getty Images
    Today's images and rhetoric about the inauguration of the 45th US President Donald Trump brings back the same memories and thoughts that every other presidential inauguration has.
    There is always talk of a  "peaceful or smooth transition of power". I always thought this rather odd  as if anything else has or could have happened. It has always been this way every time my young self mused. This youthful 'Duh'  response got its answer as I looked around the world and saw that not all transitions of power were easy and without mayhem. The outside world gawks at this docility (we're talking the inauguration here, not the less docile campaign seasons) while their own leadership eviscerates their opponents verbally, tactically or in more bloody ways. This smooth transition of power is still my expectation and it finds me gawking at all the rest of leadership transitions.
    In Australia, it seems Prime Ministers change more often than toilet rolls in an outhouse. A party is, in reality,  elected and if the current PM loses favor or is the object of some backroom political jostling and intrigue he/she can be replaced by a simple party vote. OZ had five PMs in five years--need I say more?  There is not a lot of fanfare going on with the actual hand over of power. My Australian husband is flabbergasted to hear that a US presidential inauguration (pre-, during, and post-event) is covered live  by all of the US television networks. Duh, again. Of course it is, it is a big deal.  In fact, Australian television (The public supported Australian Broadcast Corp.) had the inauguration on live as well but watched mostly by night owls  as the time difference put the event inconveniently in the middle of the night.
    Puzzling to me are the protestors in Washington DC and elsewhere. Celebrities and muckrakers calling for a 100 day protest. Really? And just what is getting angry and staying angry for over three months going to do? It will not and cannot produce change.  At least not any change protestors hope it will. Trump is in. Period. Screaming and burning things are not replacements for vigilance and constructive dialog. So you over-excitable and misled folks: take a breath, grow a brain and take the action that actually will produce results. So much energy so misspent so unwisely.
    Another, and final, puzzlement is how much I look like every US president since Abraham Lincoln. No really, I do. Over the years when traveling overseas or just out and about here in OZ,  I've been constantly stopped  and harangued about 'my' policy in Vietnam, Watergate, Irangate, Tibet, the Middle East, any/all military moves or lack of movement, monetary issues, roads, education, farming subsidies, slavery in the 1850s, etc.,etc., etc. What a chameleon I am to look exactly like whoever is residing in 1600 Pennsylvania Ave!  Or do people think that I am the puppet master pulling the strings of all  political being in Washington DC?  More wasted energy of people barking in my not-like-any-president's  face thinking it will make a difference.  
     And  for the record, I was not on the grassy knoll either.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Spring Wildflower Season: In Search of Orchids

     I have long maintained that the Spring Wildflower season in Western Australia is  an incredible visitor experience undervalued by various tourism organizations in this state. (Click here to read previous rant and rave on the topic)  Due to the size of this state, the season is long and the flower variety changes with geographical latitude.  If one does not have a car, a formal bus tour or very sturdy legs on a more sturdy bicycle would be required as the flowers are not all nice and neatly arranged in one area.  Bit of a treasure hunt really.  And we have a working car and a free weekend. We're off.

     We've had great success finding fields of Everlastings and a bumper crop of Wreath flowers. This particular trip I wanted to see orchids in the wild.  And like many flowers (not of the Everlastings or Wreath variety) one has to get out of the car and do a bit of bushwalking to see them.  None of this whizzing past at 60 miles per hour to 'get as much possible in' stuff. But this is OK.  A little exercise won't kill anyone and I did mention that it is a bit of a treasure hunt, didn't I?
bushwalking for better viewing
delicate lovelies


I never could have spotted these tiny flowers from a speeding car window.

       A name a remember from a book read in my youth, "Cowslip, A Slave" by Betsy Haynes.  A young slave girl whose master had named her Cowslip. Such an unflattering name, she pouted. But her mother told her otherwise saying it was a beautiful flower.  And Mom was right.  Cowslips were plentiful this spring and far from the only oddly named flower around.
Kangaroo Paw

Running Postman

Need I say more?

I couldn't begin to tell you how some of these flowers  got their names.  But Snottygobble?
Really?  Even the posted explanation doesn't quite cover it.

Fuxxy Ground Flower

Bird in Red Wattle
OK. Some I have no idea what they are called and not sure I care but they sure were fun to spot. The bird in the very common Red Wattle was actually spotted in Kings Park which boasts its own Spring Flower extravaganza.

Cute pink pine flower and purpley durpley.  Not very scientific sound but worked for me. Non-poisonous spiders aplenty.
Spider Orchid

Metropolitan Gnomeville
     And what would any road trip south of Perth be without a quick visit to Gnomesville? Started organically by some larrikin, G-ville is now being cared for by the shire which finally recognized its tourism potential.  A bit of urban sprawl now as Gnomesville seems to have suburbs and squatters on neighboring private property.

Dardanup Bakery
Let's keep the fun and  wheels going. By chance I spotted this bakery hiding in a shed behind  the owner's home. [Hey, maximizing one's resources is a wise move.] The Dardanup Bakery has some seriously good bread. I rarely find a good sourdough bread, so naturally I had to bring some of their superior goods home.


Boyup Brook Museum.

Oh, let's pop into the Boyup Brook Museum.  Boyup Brook is best know for its annual country music festival, but it has its other charms. Like the museum. A small back room to its visitor center that features the locally donated  doll, butterfly and scarab collections.

And now we have crammed in as much as possible in one weekend.  Officially, a rather successful treasure hunt. 


Thursday, December 29, 2016

Our Christmas Feast...Water Buffalo

      My hubby does not always walk life's usual paths.  He likes being quirky.  It's the Australian in him.  But his tradition of unusual Christmas suppers has more than a few Antipodeans scratching their heads.
      The very idea of a holiday ham or turkey on December 25th leaves him cold.  He greatly warms up to non-conventional meals and starts menu planning a few months ahead.  As this relieves me of planning and cooking (and keeps him busy enough to not bother me in planning everything else) I encourage it.  Each year I anticipate a meal I could not possible have anticipated: squab, crocodile, guinea fowl, ostrich sausage, and the like.  Notice these "meals" are all meat. In Kev's book, a vegetable is merely meat that has turned green. I make sure that a few plant based vegetables are in the house just to round out the selection on the plate.
      So what did we have as a Christmas luncheon this year?  Bubalus bubalis  or water buffalo.  Really.    Some of the water buffalo had been marinated in a garlic/tarragon/vinegar mix and some just as it came off the hoof.  Served with asparagus and potatoes.  Rather disappointing it was.  Tasted just like tough beef.  But more expensive.  Officially now checked off my life list.
       Where does one find such a delicacy?  It is only available at very specialized butcher shops where crazed carnivores hang out. O.K., but where does the butcher get his meat?  Hard to believe, but right here in Australia.  Really.
        According to the Australian Government Department of Environment and Energy website (where I go for all my party menu planning):

             Water buffalo were imported to Australia in the 19th century to supply meat to remote  northern settlements. The settlements and their buffalo were abandoned in 1949 and, despite harvesting for meat, hides and as hunters' trophies, feral buffalo spread across the northern floodplains. The Brucellosis and Tuberculosis Eradication Campaign reduced feral buffalo numbers significantly in the 1980s and 1990s but numbers are again very high right across northern Australia causing significant damage to wetlands.

Water Buffalo in the bush.
          Oh, so right here in Western Australia and Northern Territories.  I could have big game hunted my supper!  More surprises--there are city slickers here who actually know that one does not have to travel beyond our shores to find these...Bubalus beauties.  I learn something new everyday.  And anticipate next year's unanticipated holiday meal.

    And now that we've eaten, let us take a quick drive around to look at Christmas lights. And again, an Aussie touch ever present here as well.  This festive lighting  was found at the airport of all places.  Happy Holidays, one and all.
Perth Airport boab tree
Perth Airport reclining 'Roo