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When Leah and Jordan visited, they, like any other visitor to Australia, had to see the famous Sydney Opera House.  After modifying our road trip to cut out Sydney by campervan, we picked up a cheap day flight to see Sydney: fly-in, fly-out style.

Pictures and story of my day in Sydney with Leah and Jordan are up.  (Steve stayed behind, as walking around a city is not much fun for a guy in a cast!)

This weekend was the annual Melbourne International Flower Show.   I was interested to check it out for two reasons; one, we love flowers and photographing flowers, so it was sure to be a fun afternoon, and two, it was being held at the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton, which was rumored to have been bestowed with World Heritage listing status along with Australia’s natural beauties, like the great barrier reef, Uluru and Daintree.

The flowers did not disappoint–inside the Royal Exhibition Building were various floral exhibits and arrangements ranging from table settings to “dressed” mannequins to full room-sized artistic expressions using floral and other components. Outside, among the hundreds of home and garden vendors were award-winning landscape and terrace exhibits showcasing some seriously upscale outdoor living concepts!

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The Royal Exhibition Building, however, was a bit disappointing.  One of the world’s oldest remaining exhibition buildings, it was the first building in Australia to achieve World Heritage listing and is apparently “a symbol of the great 19th-century international exhibition movement”.  It is quite massive and has some interesting arches and paintings on the ceilings, but I’m not sure it quite lives up to the hype (or perhaps, I over-hyped it in my mind…)

Mixed among the classic English gardens favorites–roses, gardenias, lavender and rosemary–the Richmond suburbs have an abundance of fruiting trees:  heaps of lemons and limes, but also apples, olives, figs, apricots, tangerines, and yes, even pomegranate.  

And I’m not talking about the greater Richmond area here, these are the trees I’ve spotted in a 4 block radius around our house.  These tasty trees have peaked at different times of the season and offer an eyeful to the watchful dog walker (and mouthful to the homeowners I’m sure!)  As we transition into fall, sweet yellow-skinned figs and rotund green olive fruit are the main morsels dangling from the stems of the trees, so this splash of red in the afternoon sun caught my eye.

But, while these urban gardens are a beautiful addition to the sidewalks, they are also, a public nuisance.  Like the apricot tree whose owners have a “not-on-my-side-of-the-fence” mentality and don’t pick up the rotting fruit that collects on the sidewalks for two weeks in December, the stench of which hits you when you round the corner as it mixes with the hot breeze.  Or the birds that inhabit the neighborhood to feast on the tasty fruit, and announce their presence at 4am with a cacophony of squawks, squeaks, and squeals.  Or the down right menace to society that is the combination of birds + rotting sidewalk fruit, which I have the battered hand, scraped spine and 4-inch diameter bruise on hip as proof of.

On Friday, Steve had to “put in a few extra hours” with the guys at work (aka, happy hour).  Scrambling home at 8pm to a very anxious and pent-up little dachshund, Bentley tore off in a near-sprint down the sidewalk with me in tow, clicking in my high heels I hadn’t had time to change out of, and towards the nearest patch of green 2 blocks down.  We approached the corner, which is covered overhead by a large fig tree that spreads out from the neighbor’s front yard into and over the streetcorner, and Bentley lunged into the “bathroom”.  These antics startled a bird roosting in the lower limbs of the fig, causing it to fly directly into my face at the precise moment my heel came clicking down into a fallen fig fruit.  Fast forward 5-7 seconds later, I am dizzily looking up from the square of my back, trying to remember what happened, while a very confused dachshund at the end of a red rope stares back. 

Fruit trees = public enemy number 1.

Sadly, we don’t have quite the outdoor space that we did in D.C. (the pool really takes up a lot of space, it’s a terrible shame…). Nor do we plan to resume such a grand garden, since our two-year time horizon makes it hard to invest in too many living things that we can’t bring back with us.  But since my tomato consumption rivals that of a small village, and we figured that veggies and herbs that will just die off at the end of a well-picked season are the best gardening investment, we have a few pots here and there.

Now, the greenery is under attack!  When we first moved in, we noticed a few snails climbing the walls of outdoor terrace after it would rain.  And then, a few nibbles on the new basil and lettuce.  So I moved most of the smaller herb pots and lettuce planter to our second-story balcony, and that seemed to be the end of it.  Sunny skies, no more nibbles… all was solved.  Then one Friday night, it was cold and rainy and we decided to stay in and make some delicious pasta my favorite way – saute al dente pasta in oil and crushed whole garlic cloves, top with fresh basil and a heavy sprinkling of cherry tomatoes.  Out I went to the garden to grab a fistful of basil and got nothing but shell! Totally freaked, I grabbed out flashlight and there were literally snails everywhere. 

We started collecting them (they especially enjoy hiding among the tall grassy leaves of the bush in one corner of our terrace) and collected a total of 42 snails. Yes, I am guilty of mass extermination of slimy creatures. Since then, our garden has continued to be demolished by more and more snails, caterpillars, grasshoppers, and goodness knows what else lurking in the dark corners.  Heirloom fingerling carrot seedlings that had just sprouted from seeds I smuggled here from the U.S…. gone.  Delicious purple sage, decimated.  House cat, intrigued, but not useful as a side-kick exterminator.  Seriously…not cool.

For those of you that don’t wander off the home page, pictures from Sydney, Vancouver and Costa Rica are posted on the out and about page. Enjoy!

ahh, to breathe the sweet smell of spring… 

Spring has finally sprung in Melbourne, and it was a beaut of a weekend.  Sunny, bright blue skies, warm (nearly blistering sun), crisp but sweet breeze, ripe with the smell of pear and cherry blossoms.  We had planned a Sunday afternoon excursion to the Yarra Valley, but after a series of mishaps we opted to stay in Melbourne for the afternoon and spend a lazy afternoon relaxing on the banks of the Yarra River. 

 After a leisurely and late breakfast at Picnic, we strolled up to the river and towards the CBD, plopping ourselves on a particularly sunny knoll with views of the CBD in the near distance to the left and soft reflective waves of the river in front of us.  It was the perfect day for reading, gazing, reflecting, talking and general relaxation.  After some time in the sun, we wandered down into the CBD to grab a snag (sausage) and a beer under the Flinders St. bridge, and sit back on the banks and enjoy a nibble.

 Then, it was back across the river to the southside to find a spot of shade in the Royal Botanical Gardens.  We flipped our books back open, and resumed our leisurely laziness. 

Utter and total perfection for a Sunday afternoon in every way.